As 2012 comes to a close, I start thinking about the last year, and all the wonderful babies I’ve been lucky enough to meet. Since I also do birth photography through my sister business Maternal Focus, I decided to compile some of my all-time favorite images from 2012 into one slideshow. I hope you enjoy it. The song is by Beth Champion Mason, entitled “I want to Remember This”. I hope you enjoy seeing them!
You can find boatloads of information out there on birth plans. But most of them miss what I consider to be the most important part: Putting The Plan Into ACTION!
I consider there to be 4 steps in writing a birth plan:
- Researching your options
- Deciding what is important to you and what you want
- Writing the document
- Carrying out the plan
We will briefly go over the first three before discussing that fourth, often forgotten step.
STEP 1: Researching your options
There are the major choices like
- Where to birth (home, birth center, hospital, WHICH birth center or hospital)
- Who to hire as your care provider (Midwife, Family Physician, Obstetrician)
- Hiring a doula
- Whether to use pain medications or not
and more minor decisions like
- Which music to listen to during labor
- What to wear in labor
- To tweet or not to tweet
Consider all your options and figure out the pros and cons of each.
STEP 2: Deciding what is important to you and what you want
Once all the facts are in, spend some time deciding what is most important to you and what you want. For some, birthing with a midwife might be more important than whether or not they hire a doula. For someone else, the doula might be more important than the place of birth. There is no one RIGHT answer to all of these options, only the right answer for YOU.
If there is something you do not have a strong opinion about, it does not need to be in your birth plan. Save the most important topics for your plan.
STEP 3: Writing the document
Does the thought of doing this make you cringe? That’s OK! You can totally skip this step if you want to! While having a written birth plan can be an excellent communication tool for the nursing staff, the document is not what birth planning is all about. Everyone has different planning styles. Some people like to just think about what they need to do that day when they shower in the morning. Some like to make a list on the back of an envelope (that’s me!) and some like to have color coded calendars. All are perfectly valid ways of planning.
If you want to just think about and discuss what you want, that’s plenty. If you’re a “make a list on a random scrap of paper” type, you may find that filling in my free downloadable birth plan worksheets are all you need to do. And you can skip to step 4!
If you’re interested in a formal written birth plan, keep reading!
Some tips for a written birth plan:
- Make it yours! Don’t do a checkoff plan from the internet. You are not ordering off a menu, and you want the written plan to accurately represent the time and consideration you’ve put into it.
- Keep it to one page maximum! Bullet points are nice. This is where prioritizing is very important!
- Keep it positive in your wording. Your aim is to enlist the staff’s help in achieving your goal, not to put off the staff with “NO this, NO that!” I like to suggest wording like “I plan to birth unmedicated and you can help me by encouraging me to stay active and suggesting techniques you think may help.” or “Since I am planning a HypnoBirth, I would appreciate it if you would chart “Patient declined” instead of asking me about my pain levels during labor.”
- Address any non-birth related issues that you think might be helpful. I have had clients use the written birth plan to remind the nursing staff about Latex or iodine allergies, request a special diet, and inform the nurse how to best communicate with a client who was deaf and needed to lip read in order to understand the nurse.
Step 4: Carrying out the plan
THIS is where most birth plans fall apart, in my experience. Just like browsing Pinterest for 600 hours won’t get you the wedding of your dreams, writing the document without doing anything to make it happen won’t increase your chance of getting the birth that you want.
Some important things you can do to carry out your plan:
- Choose a birth place that does births similar to what you want on a regular basis. I have had many friends and neighbors choose to go to the hospital close by, just because it is close. They plan for and want a natural birth, but they have chosen to birth in a place with very high induction, epidural and cesarean rates. And (not surprisingly) they have a very high chance of being induced, getting an epidural, or having a cesarean.
- Choose a care provider who practices in the way that you hope to birth. A perfect example of this is episiotomy rates. I have yet to meet a pregnant woman who wants an episiotomy, so they often discuss it with their doctor or midwife. Invariably, they get the response “I only do them when necessary” so they feel good about that – but they don’t realize that everyone’s idea of “necessary” is very, very different. I’ve known providers who do 1-2 a year, and I once heard a doctor say that his idea of necessary was “every first time mom needs one, and every mom who had one before needs another one.” Dig deeper. Ask how often they do one, ask if they think you will need one, ask how they can help you not need one. But look closely at the care providers you are considering, and don’t be afraid to change in order to get care that is compatible with your values!
- Take a GOOD childbirth class, actually go, and PRACTICE what you learn! I’ve had moms tell me they only went to 2 of the 5 classes, never practiced a thing, and then be disappointed that hypnosis “didn’t work” at all. Practice will help you to master the techniques before you need them.
- Build a birth support team that will build you up and help you reach your goal. Choose carefully who will attend your birth. I hope you’ll choose to hire a professional doula (maybe even me? :)) and bring others who are supportive of your goal. If your mother thinks the natural birth you’ve planned is a stupid idea, you probably don’t want her fretting in the corner about how hard it is to watch you in pain (been there, seen that!). If your sister thinks epidurals are an anti-woman plot by the paternalistic misogynistic health care system, and you plan to use an epidural, maybe she should wait out in the waiting room. (Also been there, seen that!) You deserve to be surrounded by supportive, helpful people, not Debbie Downers!
So you’ve gone through all four steps, and your Birth Day is finally here! Will it all go exactly as planned? Not too likely. Keep in mind that life rarely goes exactly as planned, and birth is no different. If things do happen and you have to adapt your plan, that’s OK. It does not mean you need to give up EVERY aspect of your plan, it just means you have to improvise a little. Writing a birth plan is not writing a script, but rather a process to help you get the birth you wanted. Staying in the game as an active decision maker is an important part of having a birth experience you can remember as a good experience, and that is possible in just about any type of birth experience.
This letter was one I wrote to my brother-in-law when my sister was expecting her first baby seven years ago. I recently found it saved on my computer and thought it would make an excellent blog post. It has tips that would help just about any friend or family member supporting a laboring mom as well. I’m posting it below without any editing.
I know you’re not the one birthing, but I feel pretty strongly that childbirth classes are for the dads as much as – if not more than – for the mom. After all, when she goes into labor, who is she going to turn to first? YOU. And so it is important for YOU to learn how to cope with labor as well. She will not likely be thinking rationally and logically in labor, so you will be the one to think of what to try next and how to help.
So I thought I’d write up my very own “Top Ten Ways to help a Laboring Woman” just for you.10. Bring with you everything you’d pack for a quick overnight stay – toothbrush & paste, deodorant, change of clothes. Labor can be long, and laboring women are highly sensitive to smell. Plus, sometimes moms will pull a dad into the shower with them, or the mom’s water will break and they’ll be in the way, or something like that. It’s nice to have a change of clothes.
9. Keep an eye out to help her stay modest. Sometimes the nurses & doctors are not the greatest at making sure moms are covered up again after exams, etc. Or they leave the door open and the curtain pushed aside. She’ll appreciate it if you help with those things.
8. Try to stay calm. She’ll pick up on your tone, and she doesn’t need added stress from you. If you’re feeling anxious, talk to a nurse, the doctor, or even call me, anytime.
7. She’s queen of the room. If she wants the lights off – they are off. If she wants the TV off, it’s off. If she wants it on, SHE picks the channel. Even if it is Super Bowl Sunday, and she wants to watch Trading Spaces or something else.
6. Don’t rush her. Ignore the clock. Don’t complain about how long it is taking, how tired you are, or make predictions about when baby will come. Don’t go to the hospital too soon – it won’t make baby come faster. The time to go to the hospital is when she feels there isn’t time for a shower on the way.
5. Pay attention to the MOM, not the monitor! Too many dads make the bonehead mistake of saying “Honey, you’re having a contraction now!” when mom is struggling to cope. Or “This one doesn’t look like much on the monitor, why are you moaning for such a little one?” Or my favorite – one I’ve heard several dads say “Wow! This one’s off the charts! Does it hurt really bad?”
4. Take care of yourself – bring foods you can eat quickly and that won’t leave much smell behind. Scarf a granola bar while she’s in the bathroom, etc. Time bathroom trips so she’s not alone during a contraction.
3. Follow her lead. If she’s laughing and cracking jokes herself – it is OK for you to do it, too. If she’s quiet and serious, you should be too.
2. Stay positive. Tell her she is doing well, even if you’re not so sure. Help her stay focused on the fact there is a baby coming. As unbelievable as it sounds, many women forget the whole point. Reminding her that soon she’ll be holding Vale, soon she can count fingers & toes, etc. can be very helpful.
1. Stay close to her. Be within arms reach as much as possible. This is especially important if she chooses to have an epidural. Many women feel abandoned after the epidural, as everyone tends to back off once she isn’t as needy. Affection & love go a long way to making a woman feel supported in labor, and that’s something only YOU can provide. The nurses, doctor, even a doula cannot do that for a laboring mom.
I hope this is helpful. I mean it when I say you can call me any time. I’ve included in this package a book that I think you should read. It is one specifically meant for birth partners. If you don’t crack any of the other books, read that one!
Call or e-mail me with any questions.
Saw this on the internet and it made me laugh!
How many doulas does it take to change a lightbulb?
None. We don’t actually change the light bulb. We encourage you to change your own lightbulb in the manner you feel is most appropriate for you. We can discuss with you different lightbulb changing methods and help you develop a plan for changing your lightbulb. We offer emotional support and encouragement during the entire process, from climbing the ladder to turning on the light switch to make sure the bulb works, we are there for you every step of the way. It’s your lightbulb, your way.
There are so many sites out there for pregnancy, but not all of them are mother-friendly and natural birth friendly. Here are some of my favorite places for pregnancy information that respects a mother’s intelligence and right to make decisions for herself and her baby:
- Science and Sensibility A great blog to learn more about birth research, if I do say so myself. I am a regular contributor there.
- Giving Birth With Confidence A great blog to learn more about birth from childbirth educators, doulas, and other moms.
- Push for Your Baby A great site for expectant moms all about pregnancy and birth, and what you can do to improve your baby’s health.
- Spinning Babies Great site with information about how moms can help their babies be better positioned for birth.
- Kim James The web site of a doula I’ve only met once – she has fabulous information on epidurals.
- Birth Diaries Beautiful site with many birth stories shown in pictures or video. All are rated on a “graphic” scale, so you will know ahead of time if there is anything in the stories you might find objectional.
- DONA International Official web site of the doula organization that certifies me. Great information on what doulas are and do, details on how to become a doula, and doula boutique where you can buy doula-related merchandise.
- Lamaze International The childbirth education organization that certifies me. A great resource for parents, and also the organization I would recommend to anyone considering becoming a childbirth educator.
- ICEA Web site of the International Childbirth Education Association, which is the group I received my first certification through.
- La Leche League Web site of the best-known organization supporting breastfeeding. You can access articles on various breastfeeding topics, find a meeting in your area, or join in on online group. To find a group meeting in the Salt Lake Area, you can call (801) 264-LOVE.
- DoulaNetwork.com I’m listed at DoulaNetwork.com – you can check out my profile there.