“Complete your birth plan.”
Throughout my first pregnancy, I continued to avoid this item on my pre-baby to-do list. I had a million other things to worry about and it was the last thing I felt like dealing with it. But I eventually bit the bullet and looked into this birth plan thing.
A quick look at an online template had me instantly overwhelmed. Take, for example, the question about whether (among other options) I’d like labor augmentation: first attempted by natural methods such as nipple stimulation, performed by membrane stripping, or performed with prostglandin gel.
I didn’t even know what the hell prostglandin gel was, much less whether it was okay for them to use it to induce me. Should I really be the one making these decisions? Isn’t that what people go to medical school for?
Beyond the questions themselves, I just got this gnawing feeling that the whole birth plan thing was a sham. I tried to picture the frantic hospital scene, and the doctor shouting “the baby’s having trouble exiting the birth canal! Should we use forceps or the vacuum? Somebody grab the birth plan!”
I get it – pregnancy is a time filled with doubt and uncertainty, and the birth plan helps give us anxious mamas a sense of control. But newsflash: delivering a baby is not something you can choreograph.
Maybe you want to give birth in a dimly lit room while burning dried sage and listening to chanting Buddhist monks, and birth your baby in a pool of free-range goat’s milk. But if your baby is in danger and you end up needing an emergency C-section, everything about that precious birth plan goes straight down the toilet. It doesn’t ultimately help women to believe the myth that they can control how their baby’s birth happens.
I understand that good intentions underlie the whole birth plan thing. Mamas should go into the delivery educated about their options, and empowered to advocate for themselves if they feel uncomfortable with their physician or midwife’s recommendations.
So read up on methods of induction, and their risks and benefits. Research pain relief options, different positions for delivery, and the role of doulas. Figure out your hospital/birthing center’s policies on visitors, “rooming in” and “skin-to-skin.” Do your homework, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and stand up for yourself if your preferences aren’t being respected.
But ditch the birth plan.