Most doulas will spend time with clients to create a plan for their ideal birth. How do you want to welcome your baby into the world? Who will be at the birth? What are some comfort measures the parents would like to try? What interventions does the mother want to avoid at all costs? Does the mother want a peaceful birth that’s quiet with only a few support people? Or does she want an ecstatic birth with lots of family surrounding and supporting her? Birth plans are amazing; they are one of my favourite activities to do with clients. Seeing a mother and her partner grow from uncertainty to empowerment is so encouraging, not only to myself but also to the parents.
Why a Birth Plan?
A birth plan/map/vision (there are many names doulas like to use for birth plans) is a form of guidance for the mother and everyone on her team. In the excitement of labour it can be easy to forget the specifics of what the mother is and is not ok with, especially if the doula and care provider are working with multiple births per month. A birth plan allows everyone who is attending the birth to be on the same page as the mother and her partner. As well it helps to give the parents a clear vision of what they want their day to look like as they welcome a new being into their life.
I highly encourage women who are pregnant or thinking of having a baby to always be thinking of their ideal birth. How you envision your birth will affect your entire pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period. Birth is all about preparation during pregnancy. If you look after yourself by eating healthy, exercising, and building a positive belief system around birth then your birth will go more smoothly. A gentle birth with little to no medical interventions will have an easier and quicker healing period postpartum which gives you the chance to enjoy bonding with your baby.
Why Not a Birth Plan?
Mothers who don’t want to think of their ideal birth will often 1) not create a birth plan or 2) will skip on some details like whether or not they’ll want an epidural or water birth (for example). From my experience every time this happens and I ask the mother why, they have always said “because I do not want to be let down if my birth does not go to plan” or “I want to leave my birth in the care of my doctor/midwife.” My thoughts? It is very sad to think that birth is something that either we have to leave completely in our care providers hands or we hold ourselves responsible for anything that does not follow our original preferences.
A birth map is meant for guidance, it is not the rules for how a woman must birth. For example, many women decide early on in their pregnancy that they want a water birth, but once they get into the birth pool they instantly decide it is not for them: and that’s awesome! Labour and birth is spontaneous and requires a certain amount of mental flexibility. If you find something isn’t working for you then stop and try something different.
You don’t hear people say that they don’t want to consider their ideal wedding, home, or vacation because they don’t want to be let down. For example, my ideal wedding will be outside with warm sunny weather, if my wedding day ends up being cold or rainy then I will spend more time indoors: no worries. Sure, the aspect of weather is somewhat disappointing, but I’m not going to let it ruin the rest of my wedding experience. Yet for some reason birth is the one exception where we don’t want to let ourselves have an ideal vision.
We don’t want to be let down. We don’t want to be held or feel responsible for anything that “goes wrong.” Life is incredibly spontaneous, and there are times when we will have no control over what happens to us: birth included. But to just hand over the responsibility of your experiences to a professional with little or no knowledge of what is actually going on can be very disempowering. I want women and their partners to feel that they have control in their birth, that they deserve to be informed of anything that happens. That it is their birth and not their care provider’s.
And in the weeks before their birth, I want parents to understand that birth is about being flexible and welcoming: of ideas, suggestions, and of change. But with that in mind, parents do still have many options to choose from for their ideal birth. If something happens that you weren’t hoping for, what is your back up plan? How can you and your birth team make the rest of your birth pleasant? I want parents to have a vision for their birth, to help guide them and to allow their birth team to respect the parent’s desires and boundaries without rushing to make it someone else’s birth. Because this isn’t someone else’s birth. This is your birth.