After a recent birth I had to pose a question to myself: “Was this mother better off having a birth plan?” While I believe a birth plan is essential for expectant parents to create and provide to care providers in a hospital setting, there also has to be a willingness to diverge from it whenever necessary. To be flexible and roll with the punches, no matter how hard the curveballs may be to accept, is a critical component of the birth plan.
While all expectant parents should experience childbirth on their own terms, where each decision is arrived upon with their full understanding and prior consent, the possibility exists that there may come a time when choices are replaced with orders if baby’s or mother’s health is at risk. It is in these circumstances when the birth that was aspired to must cease to exist and the only goal becomes delivering a healthy baby. A birth plan is just that – a plan. If a mother is lucky enough to have the actual birth follow this plan, that’s a wonderful thing and she should feel extremely fortunate for that. If, however her birth experience doesn’t adhere exactly to the plan, it should not become a heartbreaking experience that devastates the mother at the precise moment in her life when every fiber of her being should be focused on her newborn baby. As tough as it is, it’s important after preparing a birth plan to be willing to let it go when unforeseen circumstances arise.
It is agonizing to watch a mother grieve the loss of her beautifully imagined birth – when she has planned and prepared for all the things that are important to her, whether it be no medications, delayed cord clamping, prolonged skin to skin with baby on her chest – and then to watch each of them disappear. It causes additional pain and distress beyond the immediate concerns of how baby is doing – and compounds the trauma. If I could impart any wisdom on parents to be, it would be to 1) keep their birth plan relatively brief, 2) remember that planning it in no way guarantees the desired outcome and 3) focus more on how they want their birth to feel than the exact things that must happen in order to successfully accomplish that feeling. Remaining open to unforeseen changes and letting the birth unfold the way it is going to unfold allows parents to stay present in the moment and making peace with a certain lack of control (welcome to parenthood!).
Just remember, there is another very active participant in this birth – your baby! They may have entirely different plans in mind than the ones you have made. But don’t be afraid to share your plans with your baby before the big day – tell them out loud one day when you’re in the bath or getting ready for bed how you envision your (collective) birth. Manifesting this plan takes a partnership between mother and child, so share what your vision is. This may sound crazy to some, but there is also a chance that communicating your wishes to your as-of-yet unborn child could prove to assist in having the birth of your dreams. But then, let it go.