This is a post in my series on Owning your Birth.  It is my strong belief that your birth experience profoundly impacts your early days with your new child.  The way you feel while birthing your baby can inform how you feel about yourself as a person, mother, and partner.  If you feel respected, strong, and supported during pregnancy, labor and delivery, you will improve your chances of beginning your mothering journey with confidence and hope.  If you feel disrespected, controlled, or unheard during pregnancy, labor and delivery, you may enter your mothering journey with fear and sadness. 

Birth is normal and breathtakingly beautiful.  But it is also mysterious and unknown, sometimes overwhelming and scary.  With any labor and delivery, you can have an experience that is woman- and mother-centered.  Feeling respected and heard, and experiencing your own strength and power during birth, comes down to owning the experience, even in its uncertainty. And often still, things won’t go as you expected. If you are surprised, overwhelmed, or sad about your birth experience, you will be better able to confront it and work through it if you feel prepared, strong, and confident enough to reach out for support.  

You cannot plan your birth.  Birth will takes its own course and we do best when we can let birth happen.  But birth can happen best when we are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually at our best.  In this series, I’ll share ideas about what you can do to own your birth experience. 

Own Your Birth: Part 13 of 24
Write a Birth Plan

Why write a birth plan

There is some debate about whether or not mothers should write birth plans. Some people fear that this will cause moms to be inflexible and to expect their birth to go exactly as planned. I don’t see it this way. Discouraging moms from making birth plans potentially discourages them from doing research and being informed about their options. I’ve shared some thoughts on being flexible about your birth (spoiler alert: it’s important to be flexible!), but the process of writing a birth plan is so crucial to the process of preparing to give birth. If you write a birth plan, you will benefit because you will be gathering information and becoming informed in the process. It will likely inspire you to have conversations with your birth partner so that you are on the same page about your wishes. Finally, you’ll share it with your care provider and that conversation will be a great indicator of whether or not he/she will support you. I always remind clients that just writing a birth plan is not enough. You need to share it, discuss it, bring it to the hospital, and continue to advocate for your choices while at the hospital. Your plan is a great starting point and a good way to get everybody talking and thinking about your vision.

Five Birth Plan Essentials

5 Birth Plan Essentials (1)1. Research, research, research. Know your options regarding procedures, comfort measures, pushing styles, interventions, and newborn care and take your time to decide what’s really important to you.

2. Keep it short. If you share pages and pages with your provider and nurses at the hospital, they will likely be overwhelmed. Try to boil your plan down to the things that are most important to you so that you will be supported in your choices. Aim for one page if you can.

3. Keep it sweet. Try to phrase things positively. For example, you might say, “I plan to move according to my body’s instincts to help labor progress smoothly”, instead of, “I don’t want to be restrained to a bed.” Positive language is likely to make care providers more receptive to your wishes.

4. Share it. Take your birth plan in every time you see your provider – especially if you have a few providers at the office you attend. Make sure everybody there is on board. Share it with your birth partner(s) and your doula. Print out copies and have them ready to share with nurses at the hospital.

5. Remain flexible. Understand that birth sometimes changes course from our anticipated plan. In some situations, you may need to make a change. As long as you continue to be informed and make sure that your provider is practicing informed consent and refusal, you can rest assured that even if you deviate from your birth plan, you have remained an autonomous decision maker in this process.

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