I love working with my clients. They’re smart. They’re inspiring. They’re determined. And they are focused on being loving, dedicated parents. Many of them have spent much of their lives getting what they want: setting goals, making plans, and succeeding. During our initial meetings, I learn what their hopes are, discuss possibilities with them, and I often help them figure out what they think will work best for their family during birth and postpartum.
Few people, even carefree mothers without five-year-plans, love how unpredictable birth and the first months with a new baby can be. To make sure that they and baby are safe, most parents want some sense of control. The common solution to this is a birth plan. After all, many of us have lived by the mantra that “if you fail to plan, then plan to fail.”
While birth planning is a feature of my prenatal visits with my birth clients, I usually provide a word of caution: rigid plans can set parents up for disappointment if they fall through. One of my key roles as a doula is to be present in the moment if something unexpected arises. And that can start by helping you plan effectively.
To make sure that my clients are getting the most out of their birth plans, I recommend these following tips:
1. Identify your priorities.
Every birth and family is different. There are many different ways to handle the physical and emotional challenges of labor and most of my clients have a couple of things that are most important to them.
I tend to summarize my client’s wishes in a few bullet points and suggest they share it with their provider.
2. Make your birth plan easy for your providers to read.
This is a time when less really is more. Your doctors, midwives and labor and delivery nurses are dedicated and compassionate professionals who want you to have the birth you want. They are also very busy. Plans that take this into account can be incredibly helpful. And don’t worry about needing to write out every word for your doula. I will be with you for your experience, and much of what I do to help you will be listening in the moment to what you need.
3. Consider plan B (and C, and D).
In birth, we have to expect the unexpected. You can handle this in different ways- some choose to think ahead in case they change their mind (about pain management for instance), or a medical need arises. They like backup plans, and your provider and doula can help with those. Or, if you choose to focus only on your desired outcomes, your doula can talk you through any new scenarios if the need arises. I’m there to be a resource, no matter when the question comes up.
4. Location, location, location!
As you simplify, first cuts should be anything that is standard at your birthplace AND requests that aren’t possible. Every birth center and hospital has standard procedures. Knowing them will help you ensure that your expectations will be met and your plan is in line with what’s likely to happen.
5. Sharing is caring (for yourself).
Your plan is most effective if your entire team is aware of it. The very best way to ensure that your birth plan fits with your location and provider, is to discuss it. Your doctor or midwife wants to be sure that you have a positive birth experience, and they can tell you if anything about your plan concerns them, or is not possible where you’re delivering. If you have put it in writing, consider giving them a copy for your chart. In addition to your provider, talk to your other support people about their roles. How involved would you like your partner to be? Will you want family members with you, or will they be asked to wait? As a doula, I can help delegate and direct your team, and work with your family and provider to be sure that you’re taken care of.
6. Think beyond birth.
Birth makes you into parents and changes your family forever. And forever is a long time. Rather than writing a birth plan that sees delivery as the end of pregnancy, think of it as the beginning of parenthood. Be sure to think about how you want to feel after the baby is born. Pro-tip: a postpartum doula can help you navigate baby’s first months of life and get through them feeling strong and capable.
Did you find these tips helpful? I have many more, and I would love to be a resource as you’re planning this exciting time.
Give me a call and let’s talk about your birth plan. I want you to keep meeting your goals for parenthood just as you have in the rest of your life.