I have seen birth plans that list every ingredient in every vaccinations and the toxicity level of products that should not be used on their baby. I have seen birth plans with more exclamation points at the end of every sentence then curse words on a ship’s deck. I have seen birth plans that are as detailed as a thesis, with all of the backup evidence to support them. Pages and pages, WAY to long, all to be dismissed with an eye roll and overlooked by the nurses. And I am in full support of nurses dismissing birth plans like this. Nobody’s got time for crap like that. The birth plans as mentioned above, show the people who are attending your birth that you are prepared for a fight, your dukes are up and you’re daring them to cross you. When you go into birth like that, things are bound to head south. Put yourself in the nurses shoes – she/he just came into work today to do their job and they get possibly four rooms with people who have birth plans like this? How patient and loving do we expect these nurses to be when they are immediately put on the defense for just doing their job?
Let’s remember how our pregnant, mammal bodies work best. When we are in a state of love and calm, it shows our autonomic nervous system that we feel safe and protected. When we feel safe and protected in our mind, our body is more likely to open up and allow our baby to come out. If subconsciously(or consciously) we feel we are under attack, not safe or have to keep our guard up, our body will hold on to our young(instinctual response) and/or slow things down to protect them. A big thank you to our bodies for protecting our babies but it’s birth time, we want them out.
Here’s a possibly fresh perspective on the typical birth plan. Old school ideas about birth plans, keep us and our care providers from joining the same team, going with the flow and supporting the natural progression of our labor. Simply written birth plans are usually received better by everyone and leave room for change if your baby shows up in their own way – which they often do. Things need to be flexible to have a good birth experience.
A few things to keep in mind when composing a birth plan.
1) Change the name!
Think about replacing the word “plan” with preference. The word preference already poses more like a request and that you are open for a dialogue with your care providers instead of a fight. Plans are made to be broken and they keep us in the mindset if things vary from our “plan” that everything is going wrong and we are doomed to fail.
2) This is your baby’s birth. What needs to be listed on this preference sheet should be about the baby.
• Do you want skin to skin with them for an hour to two after birth?
• Do you want delayed cord clamping?
• Do you want shots? Do you want to postpone shots until after bonding time and have baby on the breast for them? Or do you want to waive shots altogether? Some states do not allow that, so you will need current education about that(do your research on these shots, Vitamin K shot can be given in preservative free form, the benefits backed by science and can be given gently while baby is on the breast. Check early with your hospital so they can get the preservative free one if they don’t already carry it in their pharmacy.)
• Do you want your baby fed from a bottle or to be offered a pacifier while in the hospital?
• Do you want your baby to have their first bath in the hospital or at home?
This preference sheet is about letting others know how you want your baby treated while under their care and your baby needs you to advocate for them on paper so everything is clear. You can still change your mind at if circumstances change but having your ideas down, help start a conversation if one is needed.
3) You are ‘grown ass woman’ and you don’t have to list everything you are going to do as a laboring mother on paper.
Removing all of your desires off the preference sheet, will cut the size down dramatically! For example, if you are going to eat and drink during labor, then do so. “Food Police” are not a thing and nobody is going to arrest you for eating and drinking in labor. You have scientific evidence on your side that food and water consumption is perfectly okay in labor. However, most hospital policies (unless they are progressive and evidence-based) still have a no eating or drinking during labor policy. So please don’t throw your eating in your nurse’s and care providers face. You can(and should) be honest about when you ate and drank last so they can make whatever decisions they need about your medical care but it need not be a fight. You also don’t need to list all the different positions you want to labor and push your baby out in. That ‘grown ass woman’ thing comes into play here too. Instinctually, you will know what feels best for your body – whether it be all fours, sideline lying or a full squat. Just do it. You are the laboring mother(as well as the patient). YOU are paying the bill and are the consumer here. If you’re not endangering yourself or your baby, there are no police called in for laboring positions either. Own your instincts and push your baby out any way that feels right to you(doulas help with this).
4) Have a “backup” preference sheet if things switch themselves up.
You may have not planned on a belly birth but that may be what your baby needs due to circumstances out of your control. Remember – this is not your birth, your baby is the wild card in this mix. The only control you have in this labor and birth, are the feelings that you bring into it. Staying calm, focused and flexible, will assure the best outcome for everyone. If you do go into a belly birth your baby will still need an advocate for things such as shot preferences, immediate skin-to-skin with either you or your partner. A belly birth is still a birth and deserves to be honored with a calm experience. Do some backup research on family-centered cesarean and bring a birth preference sheet that reflects your wishes. That’s also a good conversation to have with care providers earlier rather than later.
5) Be kind to the nurses!
I can’t emphasize this enough! Nurses do the majority of the clinical work at your birth. You want the right energy in the room and you want to attract the right nurse for the kind of birth experience you’re wishing to have with your baby. I encourage my moms to bring sincerely written card for the nurses, thanking them for what they’re about to do to welcome in your baby on their first birthday. AND we always bring treats! If you don’t happen to get along with a nurse it’s simple to make a switch. Going into your birth place with a calmer, softer, attitude helps you attract the right nurse for the birth(unless you need practice finding your voice, then that’s what shows up). And afterward, don’t forget to send a thank you note to the nurses that were fantastic and the same note to the charge nurse so it goes in their file and helps them at raise time. Paying it forward to these lovely human beings will only help other mothers have good experiences when they come to the hospital.
So keep it simple. Be open to change and go with the flow. More education around your birthing options(and the science behind those options) will boost your confidence and give you the ability to ask the right questions if the need comes up. Most of all – enjoy this birth!