Thoughts on Birth Plans

You probably know that the whole birth experience thing is kind of one of my passions, right? I spent four years being righteously pissed off about ending up with a scheduled C-section with Connor and the whole of this last pregnancy hoping for a different outcome. And I did get the med-free VBAC I was hoping for. (Yay!)

Last night I told Rich I kinda sorta wanted to have another birth just to know what it would be like. He looked at me like I was crazy. I don’t actually want another baby, and the thought of going through all that after-the-fact pain again freaks me right out, but I’m still curious about how it would go.

One thing I totally know — after my experiences and hearing others’ stories — is that you just never know how a birth is going to go. I knew that before I had a baby, and I really, really knew that once my first was born. And so I went into the experience with Ethan’s birth hoping and planning a little bit but trying not to get stuck on one particular outcome.

You’ve heard of people who write elaborate and VERY specific birth plans, right? Recipe for disappointment (in my terribly humble opinion).

A few months ago I read When Did I Get Like This?: The Screamer, the Worrier, the Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyer, and Other Mothers I Swore I’d Never Be by Amy Wilson. (I was hoping it would make me feel better about my own parenting, but it didn’t. The book is okay but it’s mostly stories about her kids.) Anyway, in the beginning of the book she writes about her birth plan for the birth of her first child. “Dear Hospital Caregivers and Staff,” it began. “Thank you for helping our dreams come true by assisting with the birth of our first child!”

Gag.

contraction-logI’m not a doctor or a nurse or a midwife and I haven’t attended hundreds of births, but I suspect those who have roll their eyes when they see this sort of thing.

I think having some sort of birth plan is a good idea (though I would never be one to actually hand my doctor or midwife something on paper upon arriving at the hospital). That’s one of the reasons I really liked having midwives with both pregnancies – their philosophy fits with mine, and I knew they’d help us try to make the experience what we hoped for.

Because giving birth is an experience – at least I think so (as evidenced by the fact that I’ve saved a copy of my contraction log. I know. Total loser).

I think we should talk about the kinds of things we hope for when we give birth. I just don’t think a birth plan needs to include every tiny detail and I do think we need to be prepared to throw the whole thing out the window if necessary.

I recently had a chance to look at a copy of Birth Plans for Dummies and even though I don’t plan to give birth again I was interested. I wasn’t terribly hopeful, to be honest, because so many discussions about birth plans seem to imply that a woman should be empowered, dammit, and should be able to have and do whatever she pleases. But this book isn’t like that.

It does a really good job of laying out considerations for birth, like home vs. hospital and vaginal birth vs. C-section as well as options during labor, understanding interventions and medications, what to think about for right after your baby is born, and so on. And it does all that in sufficient but simple detail before getting into actually writing a birth plan.

The section on writing your plan is actually a good summary of the approach taken by the book, and includes suggestions like:
birth-plans-for-dummies

  • Using honey, not vinegar, to get what you want
  • Focusing on your most important wishes
  • Knowing your birth locations’s policies and capabilities

In a few places in the book — enough to be gently helpful but not so much as to be annoyingly repetitive or needlessly fear-mongering — the authors remind readers that birth is not something we can control. Case in point:

“You may want to open your birth plan with a statement making it clear that you know birth doesn’t always go according to plan but that these requests are for your ideal birth.” [p.282]

I really like that the book acknowledges the importance of a birth experience and gives women (and their partners) easy-to-follow content to help in writing a birth plan.

But, ultimately, I’m still glad I don’t have to worry about doing that again.

I’d love to hear your experience with birth plans vs. the birth experience you actually got. Indulge me and share in the comments?

 

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book to review but all opinions and birth experience enthusiasm are my own.


 

Comments

  1. I just wrote about this for Everyday Family. Where my 2nd birth plan was just: GIVE BIRTH. :)

  2. They knew my last 2 babies were going to be huge, so there was a greater chance of needing a c-section with those deliveries. My birth plan though? Give birth.

  3. I had the anti-birth plan for all three of my birth experiences. For my first, I had the planned C-Section. My doctor, throughout my pregnancy would perform exams and such that produced some excruciating pain (well, to my never-been-in-labor-before-so-I-have-nothing-to-compare-it-to self). Before she did she would say “you might feel a little pressure.” So, when she explained that my dear daughter was face-up and over 8 pounds and that delivery would be “very painful” I signed myself right up for that recommended C. Do I regret it? Nope. I did what I had to do with the knowledge I had at the time. My second was face up and even larger (over 9 lbs) and I had an epidural and a vbac (and obviously, a new OB). I told the doctor “you are my doctor, and I trust you. I am not going to insult your expertise by writing a birth plan.” My reverse psychology worked – she ran EVERYTHING by me, and told me if/when/why something was happening. I had the same OB and the same talk with my third – the only one who presented correctly and ended up being my smallest baby – don’t be fooled, he’s been a handful ever since! – and again, she was very open with me about what was going on. I truly believe that I “read” her personality well and that by saying “hey, I respect you, and I trust you.” she did more to earn that respect and trust from me as we went along. Worked perfectly. My kids are now 7, 5 & almost 2…perhaps I should write their birth stories soon, eh? :)

  4. Hi!

    I just found this blog post, but wanted to say thank you for reviewing my book! I’m so glad you liked it. :)

    It was really important to me that the book not give the impression that birth is “controllable”, while at the same time not making it sound terrifying or completely OUT of your control (at least some aspects of it.) I’m glad that was clear to you when you read it. :)

    Rachel

    • Hi Rachel, thanks for the visit! That control (or not) aspect of the book was my favourite part about it. I’d recommend it based on that quality alone, never mind the other good info included.

      • Yay! That makes my day. :)

        If you feel moved to do so, I’d *love* if you’d put a review to that effect at Amazon.com. Of course, only if you’d like to. It would be a great help, and I think others would like to know about this aspect of the book, which isn’t obvious from the title or back cover.

        Either way, thank you once again!

        Rachel