A clear and simple birthing plan is the most effective way to be sure the desires of both you and your partner are understood. Discuss ahead of time with your medical provider so everyone on your team understands your guidelines.
What is a birthing plan? The internet has sample documents to peruse. Simply put, it is a document that clearly outlines how you want your labor day to unfold, and who you want to be there. The word “want” is strategically utilized here. Why? Because it is labor, it is birth, it is an organic experience that is completely unpredictable, with one exception: your baby will be born that day. How? Where? With complications to your or the baby? Only time will truly tell, but you can envision, plan, discuss with your partner, your medical provider, your doula, and do your best to steer it in the direction that meets your values and desires. This is the template your birthing team will use, so make sure they understand it.
Before you write it, talk and read. Ask questions to friends, medical folk, your mom, and other women that have birthed. Allow yourself to think through all aspects of your birthing day. Fully visualize the ultimate outcome. Prepare for any changes, which might occur. Now is the time to discuss and plan with your birth team. It is better to prepare for potential shifts and know what your Plan B, C, and D is instead of needing to make a decision in a moment of shock. Do not feel that by thinking some of this through ahead of time, with your partner, and discussing the full range of possibilities with your medical provider that you are jinxing your labor day. You are NOT! You are actually taking a major step into becoming a parent, which is a constant state of decision-making: requiring choices to be made several times each day, that take into account yourself, your baby, and your family.
Write it out in as simple a format as possible. Share it with your medical provider, in person, a good month ahead of time. Mail in a copy with your hospital pre-registration forms.
A birthing plan for the hospital takes a slightly different function than the one you use at home births or at birthing centers. There will be nurses assigned to your birth team at the hospital that you have never met before, that do not know what you have been hoping for. Depending on how long your birth takes, there may even be a change of shift, where the original nurse assigned to you leaves and is replaced by someone new. This tool is to make sure that they understand your plan, and that your handpicked team members can communicate to the hospital staff with you.
Be clear. Be concise. Have your partner bring a copy to the hospital separate from the several copies in the folder that you bring. Have your doula bring a copy. Share a copy with the charge nurse and the nurse assigned to your room.
Why do you need to be explicit about what happens with the baby post delivery? First of all, you will be tired, very tired. Also, in the event that you are recovering from a c-section or other unanticipated medical intervention, the clarity of the written word will provide the direction that you may not be available to verbally remind or express at that time.
You have the right to create this plan. It will be as individual as you are. No birth plan is wrong. It is a personal choice put in motion. Congratulations on stepping into this journey.
Alisa Donner, MSW, LCSW, Mom and Co-founder Pregnancy Awareness Month®