YOUR BIRTH plan
Everybody’s writing one, and so can you. Here’s what it entails, writes Margot Bertelsmann
WHAT’S A BIRTH PLAN?
If you’re thinking, “I plan to give birth, I guess that’s my plan,” then it’s possible you’ve missed just how intensely some of your peers are preparing for the big day of baby’s arrival. These days we’re accustomed to being able to choose anything and everything, in three sizes and custom colours too. And in the same way, the number of choices a woman can make while giving birth is growing exponentially. Will you choose a caesarean section? A water birth? To be shaved? Have an enema? Be allowed to choose your pain relief options? To have your waters manually broken, to be allowed to walk during labour, to feel the baby’s head as he crowns, to have skin-to-skin contact straight after delivery, to avoid an episiotomy if possible, to room in with your baby, your partner to cut the umbilical cord, to have no student doctors or nurses on your delivery team... and so on, and so on (and on and on and on)? As is the case with many designer items, the more money you have, the more bespoke your birth can be. You can specify to your doula what music to play, how loudly and when, as long as you’re giving birth in an expensive private birthing centre or even in the birthing unit of a private hospital. If, however, you expect the matrons and nurses at our state hospitals and clinics to both read and respect your birth plan, you’re probably setting yourself up for failure. They’re too busy, and the care too uniform and standardised in a government hospital setting. (Note: this doesn’t mean the care is worse, just that you can’t tailor the events of the day of your baby’s birth exactly to your tastes.) At its best and most concise, a birth plan is a document that lists your wishes about anything you feel strongly about involving the delivery of your baby. But here are three crucial things to remember before you write yours:
1 IT DOESN’T HAVE TO LIST EVERYTHING
Doctors and midwives are busy, and they’re professionals. They don’t have time to read or care about your wish for the candles you’re going to light NOT to be lavender-scented because lavender makes you sleepy. Write your birth plan about the important details, the stuff that is really stressing you out. If you don’t really have an opinion on whether you’re going to want an epidural or not, leave it off the birth plan and decide on the day.
2 IT’S A PLAN, NOT A ROADMAP
Birth is unpredictable. In the case of an emergency, your birth plan won’t be consulted – get on board with that as you trust your team to make the decisions to keep you and your baby alive. Try to maintain perspective as you remind yourself that that is the most important thing. Chances are that you might change your own mind about certain details as labour progresses, anyway. You might have fought hard for the right to walk the corridors during labour instead of being forced to lie on a bed, only to find that the last thing you feel able to do is take a stroll at 5cm dilated...
3 IT CAN BE ALL IN YOUR HEAD
Just because you don’t have a piece of paper with you doesn’t mean you don’t have a “birth plan”. A birth plan is your set of ideas and preferences for what happens on B-day, regardless of whether it’s in your head or in black and white in front of you. If you don’t feel like writing it down, make sure your partner (whoever will be at the birth with you) knows how you feel about at least your top priorities and wishes for the birth. If there is medically relevant information on your birth plan, though, try to make sure that’s written down somewhere, such as on your clinic antenatal card. Birth plans have an important place. Knowing what your fears, hopes and realistic expectations are when you’re experiencing childbirth is helpful, because knowledge is empowering. If you know the difference between entonox and an epidural it means you have spent some time thinking about and researching what happens during a birth. And that is a good thing. Well done!