I loved every second of being pregnant. For my entire blissful gestation, I lived and breathed all things baby. I read every book ever published on the topic (or at least every volume I could get my hands on) and studied up on the best prenatal vitamins, most effective diaper creams and hippest nursery art. After all my research, the topic I knew the most about was labor. I began crafting my birth plan from day one—I knew just how I wanted every detail to play out.
Two months before my due date, however, my water broke unexpectedly. All the things I thought I knew about my baby’s birth instantly changed. Suddenly I cared nothing about my nonnegotiables but instead was focused only on making sure my bundle made it into the world safely.
Though I wish with all my heart that every mother’s labor would be as picture-perfect as she hopes, the reality is there will likely be at least one hiccup—whether big or small—along the way. Instead of creating a set-in-stone script, it’s a good idea to outline your preferences but prepare to be adaptable on D-day.
Developing a plan
A birth plan is generally a one-page document with clear and concise descriptions of your desires for delivery. Writing your plan is a great way to hash out your feelings about the day and to share your wants with healthcare providers. Doing so ensures everyone is on the same page and can clearly see your expectations without bothering you with endless questions while you’re in the throes of labor. “One hundred percent of my mamas having a hospital birth have a birth plan or birth preferences,” says Shari Aizenman, DONA certified labor doula in Atlanta. “It’s part of a beautiful triad: healthy mama, healthy baby, empowered birth.” In fact, Aizenman says no woman should walk into labor without one. “It is her voice when she is at her most vulnerable moment in her life, and answers questions that she has already asked herself many times before coming to those agreements,” says Aizenman. Laying out the groundwork will help you feel more prepared for any type of birthing scenario.
Stay calm and carry on
No matter how much you’ve prepped for the big day, remember even the best laid plans need to be revised sometimes. “While we admire any pregnant woman who comes up with a birth plan describing in detail how she wants her delivery to go, we know from experience that you need to be somewhat flexible—life is unpredictable,” agree Michael F. Roizen, MD, and Mehmet C. Oz, MD, authors of the book YOU: Having a Baby, The Owner’s Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy. Sometimes those unpredictable moments come in the form of medical emergencies that require inductions. Possible circumstances? “Maybe your water broke and it contained some fecal waste (meconium) or your baby is showing signs that he needs to be delivered faster. Maybe you’re suffering from preeclampsia, chronic high blood pressure or diabetes. Maybe your baby is getting too large. Or maybe you’re more than a week past your due date,” suggest Roizen and Oz.
There are also situations that require an unplanned Caesarean section, like a baby who’s breech or too big to be delivered vaginally. Like inductions, these situations can cause a mom’s road map of delivery to veer off course. “Usually mothers with very rigid or inflexible birthing plans are the ones who are thrown off by unexpected C-sections,” says Winfred Soufi, MD, OB/ GYN at Women’s Health Associates in Sandy Springs, Georgia. “They sometimes will forget that the ultimate goal is to have a happy and healthy baby.” Prepare for any range of complications by making a few versions of your birth plan that accommodate possible variables.
Being flexible doesn’t mean skipping out on writing your birth preferences nor does it mean taking everything your care provider says as the final word. Essentially, being flexible involves remaining positive while having a plan in place so your needs can be met no matter the situation. “Mamas have to know that all personnel in hospital birthing situations understand that they are coming from their own experience and desires and that everyone—nurses, doulas, midwifes, OBs, spouses and family members—only wants what is best for a happy and healthy outcome. We all bring our history into that room and hope that what we have to offer adds to rather than subtracts from the hopes and desires in mama’s dream birth,” says Aizenman. In the end, no matter how a baby gets here, it will be the most amazing experience of your life. Relax, roll with the punches, and revel in the joy of meeting your addition.
Good to know
There are some aspects of your birth that you don’t have to negotiate. When it comes to procedures you aren’t comfortable with (i.e., forceps, episiotomies, etc.), make sure to ask why the procedure is necessary.