I love reading birth stories. As another of 3 myself, I’ve experienced the joys and frustrations of birth three separate times and reading about other people’s experiences is always interesting to me. But I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in comment sections around the internet. I’m seeing a lot of negative comments about Birth Plans. You can sum up the majority of these comments as saying “Ha! You can’t plan for birth. That baby is going to do what it wants and you don’t get a say.” But that’s just not true. At all.
Imagine you need to buy a car. You are walking into a car dealership, and the first sales person to greet you is Bob. Bob has been selling cars for years and he’ll tell you he knows what people want just by looking at them! He tells you about this car for sale here on the display room floor and you say “Great! I’ll take it!” But wait. No, you wouldn’t. What if that car doesn’t have any of the features you need or want?
What if Bob has no idea that you need to install car seats, or that you sometimes like to tow a trailer with a boat during boating season. I’m just saying, there’s a lot to consider when buying a car and you need to do your research. This is a universally accepted fact: that people need to research to find the car that’s right for them. Why isn’t planning a birth, a birth that’s right for you, a universally accepted truth as well?
Sure, you might not get all the features you want on that new vehicle. Maybe it turns out that the towing package won’t fit on the body package you wanted. (I have no idea if that’s a thing, but you get my drift). Your plan can be adjusted once you are in the throes of buying a car, and it can be adjusted when you’re in labor too. But you have to have one! You have to have an idea of all the options available, what they mean for you and what you can expect with each one. Because if you don’t, you’re going to end up with whatever car Bob is selling that day.
I went into my first birth young, naeive, and completely unprepared. I had the idea that the hospital knew what they were doing (Bob sold cars for years, right?), and I’d just walk in and they’d take it from there. But I was basically steam rolled through the entire process.
Moments that felt right to me were interrupted; and things that seemed weird to me or felt wrong, were pressed as important and necessary. The monitor wasn’t picking up my contractions, but they told me I had to stay out of the bath so they could keep it on anyways. And at one point I felt my baby crowning, but was told that was “impossible” and that “you can’t feel that with an epidural” and “your baby won’t be born before midnight.” But sure enough, he was crowning once the nurse finally appeased me and checked. There were so many things that felt rushed or unexplained. I didn’t even consent to the use of forceps, but they did it anyways. Without explanation of the process.
If I had made a birth plan, I could have researched all the interventions and methods available during the process of childbirth and chosen the route I wanted to take. I could have mapped the journey. Sure, we may have had to change course as necessary, but I’d have been prepared for that. But I wasn’t. My first birth experience resulted in permanent nerve injury due to the epidural. I cannot walk properly, due to leg paralysis. It’s been 14 years and I’m still using a wheelchair most of the time. Maybe I could have researched a different way to deal with pain and avoided the injury I received. Or at least I could have felt more in control and better able to accept the risks. It’s hard to accept the risks of something when they were never actually explained to you, and you never considered all the possibilities before they happened.
I’m careful not to criticize other women’s birth plans. Because I know they’re going at it with the best of intentions and researching everything to make the choices that matter to them.
Needless to say, I very adamantly changed my birthing approach with babies two and three. I studied everything. I made extensive birth plans and researched every available option to me. I wanted to avoid all interventions, unless they were absolutely required. We hired a doula with our second child and she helped us make our first birth plan. I can’t tell you how empowered that plan made me feel. I wasn’t naieve anymore, I knew that emergencies happen, and we may need to go off plan if necessary. But, my plan was in place and I knew exactly what methods I wanted for each step of labor. Just having a plan, and my doula in my corner, made me feel like I was in control and I was going to have the best possible outcome.
If I had shared my birth plan online with friends or family, or even complete strangers in places like birthing forums, and they had responded with laughter or joking that “babies can’t be planned”, it wouldn’t have been nice. So I’m careful not to criticize other women’s birth plans. Because I know they’re going at it with the best of intentions and researching everything to make the choices that matter to them. They’re not buying the first car presented to them, and that’s okay. It’s more than okay because it’s what is right for them.
Maybe they absolutely want an epidural, because they’ve researched it fully and know for sure that the other methods of pain control just aren’t right for them. That’s totally okay, because they’re prepared for that. For another person, maybe the risks of an epidural just aren’t sitting right with them and they read about some other ideas that sounded better: like birth affirmations, deep breathing, shower balls and counter pressure. Not everyone is the same and they respond to things differently. That’s why researching all your options is so important.
If you’d never heard of any other options, of course you think the floor model was right for you. A birth plan helps you learn about all the options.
Resources to create your own birth plan
It’s best to write your own birth plan, instead of a ready made checklist type. This article here is very good at explaining WHY you should write your own.
But let’s face it, we all need somewhere to start-up and those checklists and templates are a great starting point. They give you an overview of just what options ARE available, and you can then research each one from there. Once you’ve made a tough draft with a template or checklist, you can then type or write your own personalized once. Just use Google Docs, a free web based word processor, and then print it off.
Here’s some links to get you started!