When it came to making a birth plan, my husband joked that I should take the advice of English author Clive Barker who once wrote, “You can plan to be brave–it’s even better if you just try to be brave.”
That was easy for him to say. He was not the parent responsible for carrying a child for nine months and then going through the pain of delivering. Not to mention he would not have to experience the post-childbirth changes that happen, either!
Creating Your Perfect Birth Plan
We all hope that our baby’s entry into the world goes smoothly and makes for memories that we can look back on with fondness. A birth plan can go a long way towards achieving this. The best advice I found when creating my own birth plan came from a combination of friends and informative websites. For example, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center advises to “think of your birth plan as mental exercise for yourself and information for the people who are trying to support you, rather than it being a contract you can’t break.”
First you will need to get a journal. This is where you can write down and organize all of your thoughts and hopes for the day of your baby’s birth. It will help you list and prioritize your ideas and wishes.
In addition to details for both uncomplicated and complicated birth situations, here are some questions that you will want to answer in your birth plan. Most of these questions are specific to having a hospital birth, but can still be useful to think about even if you are planning a home birth.
- Who do you want to be present in the delivery room during the birth of your child?
- If you already have children, will your new baby’s sibling(s) be present?
- Do you want the benefit of mobility, or do you wish to stay in bed the entire time?
- If there is a certain position you wish to be in while giving birth, what do you have in mind?
- How do you plan to handle pain relief? Will you use medication, massage, breathing exercises, or a combination of methods?
- Do you prefer a specific way to stay hydrated during the birthing process?
- Are you will to have an episiotomy and are you familiar with its after effects, such as stress urinary incontinence?
- What do you prefer in regards to care for your new baby when it comes to feeding, sleeping, and diapering?
- Will you use your own clothing or rely on the hospital to provide you with a gown?
- Do you want to have music, a bathtub, or any other stimuli available?
- What are your requests in the case of an emergency cesarean delivery?
Once your birth plan is in place, contact your doctor and ask them to look it over. They may have suggestions that you have yet to consider, or they may be able to tell you what things in your plan will or will not be allowed due to hospital policies.
Every childbirth is different and special, regardless of if it is your first time becoming a parent or if you are giving birth to your sixth child. Because every childbirth is different, it’s important to remember that even the best birth plan cannot cover all aspects of childbirth.
It is especially helpful for new moms to retain a feeling of control if they focus on the positive when creating their birth plan. For example, instead of saying “We don’t want a cesarean birth” focus on phrases like “We plan to deliver naturally if at all possible.”
A Plan for Post-Childbirth Changes
In addition to a birth plan, you will also want to have another plan in place for what happens after you come home from the hospital. Without a plan, this could be a harrowing time that results in nothing but stress and chaos. Here are some things to think about for after giving birth to your family’s newest addition:
Meals: You will want to prepare some meals in advance and stick them in the freezer ahead of time, or arrange for friends and family to bring meals to you. This allows you to focus on what’s most important–your new baby.
Pain: How will you deal with pain after coming home with your new baby? Will your doctor prescribe a painkiller or will you tough it out with over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen?
Health: Some women experience health issues like back pain, heavy bleeding, or incontinence after childbirth. How would you plan to handle health issues such as these, and do you need to start looking for a stress urinary incontinence doctor ahead of time? This can be an embarrassing topic to ask a friend or family member about, so it may be best to do what we all do when we need more information about something we dare not speak aloud–head on over to your favorite search engine and see what comes up. Sites like www.bapelvicsurgery.com are a good starting point.
As you can see, a birthing plan does not have to be limited to the day of your child’s birth. It should really encompass all aspects of childbirth and plot out a strategic game plan of how you will take care of your new baby while making sure you are just as healthy throughout your recovery.
Photo by rockess/Flickr