Let’s talk about birth plans, mamas. Today I want to share with you why I had no birth plan.
The idea of a birth plan first reached me through my American friends in the homeland. Writing a birth plan seems to be common practice these days. (I was unable to find any statistics, so this is just my gut feeling.)
But I wondered: How could anyone plan out a birth? More importantly, why would you want to?
Since then, I’ve come to understand more about birth plans. They’re less about customizing the experience and more about stating preferences for every eventuality.
But I haven’t changed my opinion: a birth plan isn’t necessary, or even desirable, for me. And I’m going to tell you why.
Have a double espresso with me and hear me out on having no birth plan in place.
No one can engineer a birth using a plan.
Everyone’s labor and delivery are different. The experience is impossible to predict. What seems so straightforward in Hollywood is almost never the case in real life.
My point is, due dates are a simple example to show that we cannot even say with certainty when you will deliver your baby. And what is the point of convincing yourself that you will give birth on X date? Will it make you happier? Will it make your baby healthier? The answer is no.
So if we cannot engineer a due date, we sure as heck cannot engineer the actual birth. We cannot know or guess how long labor will last, and we cannot know the delivery method in advance. What is the point, then, of making a plan for all these things?
Do you really care what music is playing in the background when your son or daughter enters the world? Do you really care whether you get to deliver in the birthing pool or on a bed, as long as you have a healthy baby at the end of it all?
If I had made a birth plan, the main points would have supported:
a completely natural birth,
with complete freedom of movement, and
with Papa present.
In real life, I got none of those things.
I know myself. Had I written out a birth plan, I would have felt more anxious and disappointed that I didn’t get the natural birth I had hoped for.
Birth plans make me concerned because I believe they pave the way for our endeavors to engineer other factors about our children beyond our control: “My baby will be X,” where X is:
Like her papa/mama/big brother
The list is actually infinite. Anything you can think of will be either a self-fulfilling prophecy or a simplistic label that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the complexity of human existence.
I can’t be disappointed that my birth didn’t go “to plan” if I didn’t make a birth plan in the first place. Likewise, I can’t be disappointed in my daughter when she’s not sweet, if I never expect her to be so all the time.
Is there no best way to plan for birth, then?
Don’t freak out here—there are things you can do to prepare for labor and delivery, even with no birth plan!
1. Inform thyself.
Do not rely on my blog or any other random site that you found through Google or Pinterest. Get off the internet and get yourself some books. The ones I read to prepare myself for birth were:
Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy by the Mayo Clinic—My mama and I realized one day that we both referred to this trusted book when preparing for our births.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin—A midwife shares her wisdom from attending over 2,000 births at the time of writing. The section written by others about their own personal labor and delivery shows the diversity of the experience, even among women from similar backgrounds and in a similar environment. If you can get past some of the woo-woo stories, you’ll find something to hold onto, I promise!
Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond by Nancy Bardacke, CNM—All about using mindfulness to manage the unpredictability of labor and delivery. As the title suggests, don’t stop there—take your mindfulness with you in parenting, too!
(The last two were recommended by Ruth over at A Model Recommends when she still had her family side-blog.)
In the meantime…
2. Speak to your doctor.
This is an obvious one, but it bears repeating.
Book appointments with your family doctor, gynecologist, midwife, or another medical professional you trust who can inform you about labor and delivery.
Have a candid conversation about your fears and expectations.
3. Take a tour of the maternity ward.
I realize that in some countries, women can’t be choosy about the hospital they deliver in, if indeed a hospital is an option.
If you have the option, I suggest you start with the maternity ward nearest to your home. If you really hate it, then go to the next nearest one. The important thing is to feel good about the place before you must go because you are in labor.
I was really adamant about touring the maternity ward with my husband for two reasons:
Previous hospital visits had been associated with sickness and death, and I wanted to change that mindset, and
I wanted to familiarize myself with the ward so I wouldn’t feel like I was giving birth in a strange new place. My goal was to eliminate just about the only element of the unknown I could control. I wanted to go in, in labor, thinking, “Yeah, I’ve been here before, I know how this goes.”
Next, there are ways you can constructively plan for success…
4. Fix your mindset.
I already mentioned informing yourself on labor and delivery and selecting a hospital. The other thing you need to work on is your mindset around birth. Here is what you can do:
Second, stop thinking about birth as something that will happen TO you. Sure, there are many factors that are out of your control. That’s sort of the point to my distaste for birth plans. But if you start to consider yourself as a driving force, you can feel more in-control.
Third, it’s imperative to stay positive and hopeful—but not at the expense of the regard you have for yourself if your birth doesn’t go as planned. Envision your plan, by all means. But also plan to adapt to an evolving situation.
So you’ve already made your birth plan? Here’s how to use it wisely.
Talk to your partner about the preferences you wrote down in your plan. Inform your doctor about them as well.
Do not bring your birth plan into the delivery room like a contract that must be carried out.
What your birth plan should do for you is make it easier to make important decisions during labor and delivery, when you’re knackered and in pain. And trust me, you’ll get to the point where you actually just don’t care anymore!
However your birth actually plays out, don’t let your birth plan disappoint you. Once your baby is safely in your arms, you will have a new focus that completely eclipses the where and how of birth. You won’t need to waste precious mental energy feeling disappointed that you didn’t get the acupuncture you envisioned.
No birth plan? No problem.
In a book I often quote on the blog to illustrate the differences between American and French approaches to parenting, Pamela Druckerman notes that “very few women make a fuss” about labor and delivery in France:
French moms often ask me where I plan to deliver, but never how. They don’t seem to care. In France, the way you give birth doesn’t situate you within a value system or define the sort of parent you’ll be. It is, for the most part, a way of getting your baby safely from your uterus into your arms.
Remember when I told you above that my earnest hope was for a natural birth? Did I think to myself, “Merde, this is not going as planned!” as I vomited all over the floor in the delivery room? Nope.
The “plan” was to get my baby out safely, one way or another. After 12 hours of unmedicated labor, I eventually relented and got an epidural. Then I was rushed for an emergency C-section, because C’s life was in danger. None of that was planned. Do I regret it? Not a morsel! And I would do it all again.
Trust yourself. Trust your baby. More importantly, trust your doctors during labor and delivery! You’ve trusted them this far.
And above all, enjoy the experience! You’re about to meet your new baby. In this instance, I really feel like it’s the destination that counts, not the journey.
For more on the journey to labor and delivery, check out my other articles:
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
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