I almost didn’t write a birth plan, but after much convincing from my doula, sat down to write what goals I wanted for the birth of our daughter. I’d heard a lot about the ineffectiveness of most birth plans and how they are often dismissed by doctors in the hospital. However, if done correctly, a birth plan can be one of the best tools to having a birth experience you will remember fondly even if unexpected circumstances arise.
When I was dreaming about my birth experience, I wanted all kinds of specific things to occur — a natural, vaginal birth, the ability to labor without physical or time constraints, immediate skin-to-skin, and a relaxing labor experience (think low lighting, my husband DJing my tunes and the ability to eat and drink throughout the birthing process). Nonetheless, I realized that in a hospital birth, not all the things you want can be accommodated due to standard policies. I needed to pick and choose my battles and write a plan that was easy for doctors to read so our most important goals were met.
I went to work researching examples and I noticed one birth plan that stood out from the rest — an individual who covered various scenarios that might occur and her wishes if found in that particular situation. This resonated with me. It would be great if I was to have a natural, unmedicated and non-augmented birth, but that doesn’t always happen. What would we want in a situation where I might need medication, or if we were faced with a Cesarean birth or emergency delivery? The process of answering these questions allowed me to be more open and flexible about the birth experience… After all, the thing that truly mattered in the end was a healthy mommy and baby.
How did my labor and delivery turn out? After 26 hours in the hospital laboring naturally (with that low lighting and my husband playing my favorite tunes), I found myself having a C-Section after four hours of pushing (little did any of us realize I was carrying a baby that was almost 10 lbs and 22 inches long!) Luckily, because the birth plan covered our wishes if I was to have a C-Section, I was able to ask the right questions of the surgeon in what would otherwise have been a very confusing situation. Almost all of our requests were granted — I was allowed to have skin-to-skin during surgery, nurse in recovery and had special stitching that would allow me the best chances of a VBAC for our next pregnancy. None of this would have happened without having a plan and advocating for it.
Here are some tips for writing a birth plan that will be read (and hopefully followed!) by your doctors:
- Like a good resume, keep to one page.
- Outline each of the various scenarios you may find yourself in and list your top objectives if confronted with that situation. Be specific and concise!
- List who you want with you in labor and delivery and how much time you want for just you, your partner and baby once in your post labor room. I wanted another hour to nurse and bond uninterrupted and without visitors.
- Laminate! This sounds silly but it shows you are serious. Plus it won’t get wet, torn or discarded in the delivery room (and it makes for a pretty good fan when laboring… I kid you not!)
- Last, be flexible with your plan. Know that not all labors go accordingly, and in the end all that matters is getting to hold that precious new love of your life.