Should you make a birth plan?
When I first was introduced to birth plans, I thought, well of course you need a plan. How else will someone get what they want for their birth and how else will everyone else know what they want if it is not planned? In my doula practice, I was working with clients and their birth plans, if they had one all, mostly looked the same. Almost 100% of them were geared to an unmedicated, vaginal birth, little to no interventions, low lighting, music, immediate skin-to-skin, delayed cord clamping and the baby doing the breast crawl. Everyone wanted the same thing. What they had in their plan sounded great & is completely obtainable. Can you feel the however coming on?
Many mothers use the birth plan template that comes with the specific childbirth education class or system they are studying or they pull one off the internet. The templates usually look like check boxes and people check what they want off the list or they are very specific for one way of birth and do not show all the option available. This limits the choices and options women would have, before they even start labour.
In reality, the experiences clients were having were not turning out to look like the birth plans they had. There are many different reasons as to why that is, almost as many reasons as there were births. Some people were a-ok with the deviations from their birth plans and others very much were not. I was curious about they why behind these feelings and was determined to figure out the differences. I will also mention here, that the people without birth plans had a mix of being very pleased with their birth experiences and others that were not so content with their experience. Just going with the flow of birth and avoiding a birth plan also wasn't working for the majority of people.
I have also seen doulas and childbirth educations encouraging birth preferences. This began in response to the idea that a “birth plan” is too rigid and mothers were feeling like they “failed” their birth if it wasn't in line with the birth plan. There are also concerns that showing up at the hospital with a birth plan is too strong and is being interpreted by the staff as being told how to do their jobs. Birth preferences is a lighter tone and just means that you would prefer a certain way but would be fluid in the desires, if needed. The hope would be that this results in less failure for mothers & appear less aggressive to the staff. I have always thought preferences was too weak, to be honest.
I had started to encourage birth visions with birth plans. Imagining what someone would like for their birth and think that desire through often. This came from the idea that “thoughts become things”. Rather than focusing on the things people don’t want and being more negative in tone, that people should focus on the positive aspects of the birth. Ideas like who they see attending the birth, what position they see themselves birthing in, what things do they want to see and hear, what do they imagine themselves and baby doing after birth. This felt a little better and like I could really get an idea of what people wanted to feel at their birth. But these visions were still harder to put down on paper, so it was not much stronger than birth preferences. I preferred this way the most but it sure had room to improve.
The Discovery of Your Birth Experience
In trying to make peace with birth plans and make them into a workable, viable option, I discovered Your Birth Experience (YBE). I was the first in Canada to start using YBE. Before I started, Missy and I had talked about Canadian relevance. Missy offered me the chance to critique the program and see if I felt it would be a good fit for birth in Canada. I have to admit, I opened it, saw “Birth Plan” and wanted to close it up. Another program based on Birth Plans! This isn't what I wanted. But, I told Missy I would review it all, so I started reading. Page 2, I started to feel curiously optimistic. By the end I was friends with Missy again and knew this would work for my clients.
In YBE, we help clients make birth plans, but the birth plan gets built as clients become educated about themselves, about birth & about the choices they have, options available to them and the interventions they may be offered. The building of the birth plan is actually the finished project of the exploration and evolution of learning. It is not a check list of nice sounding ideas. It is used a tool to prepare for the experience.
Many of the outcomes of previous experiences made sense as I would work through the YBE content and training. What so many clients were doing was just pulling birth plan templates off the internet or out of a birth book, checking off what sounded nice or what they thought they should pick. What they didn’t do was any learning about how to actually achieve what they checked off and missed creating the actions of that birth plan. If they want an unmedicated, vaginal delivery, do they know what they need to do to make that a reality? Do they have coping techniques planned out? Are they practicing those? If they know they want an epidural, do they know what that really means? Do they know they would then have an IV, have limited movement and usually a catheter? The choices are theirs to make, so long as people know what it all really means and are prepared for what comes with the choices. If people understand and say “yes” to that, then they feel good about the experience.
In YBE, we give you want you need to make a birth plan but more importantly, we give you the tools you need to achieve what is in your plan. I emphasize “your” plan, because it is about you and your experience and no one else’s. I invite you to learn more about YBE, schedule a private or group class or join an already scheduled class.