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The Truth About Birth Plans

I was talking to a dear friend several months ago about her ‘birth plan‘ for the upcoming birth of her first child. A birth plan is an opportunity for you to discuss and plan ‘ideally’ how you’d like your child’s birth to happen with your health care provider. Just doing a simple internet search, I found several websites devoted to helping you create a birth plan which can be simple, or very detailed.

I’ve given birth with a doctor in a hospital, with midwives, and also in a military hospital. The interest level of the health care providers in birth plans varied significantly across these environments, as I’m sure you can imagine.

What I did find out from my birth experiences, all after high risk pregnancies, was that very little emphasis was placed upon the experience. It was more so placed upon the baby and doing whatever was needed to deliver a healthy child. Because of the stress surrounding the birth event, I had little time to think about if I’d like music played during the birth, or if I’d like to be in a birthing chair or not. I found, quite frankly, that different providers had different ways of doing things, and that some things were not up for discussion.

Perhaps it is different during a low risk pregnancy. What I did try to convey to my friend, and what I’d like to share with other women on the cusp of motherhood is that you should pack a hearty share of flexibility in your hospital bag. Don’t set your hopes on having ‘an experience’, and realize that your child’s birth may or may not go the way you envision, for many reasons.

A birth plan is an awesome way to mentally prepare yourself for the birth of your child, but realize that it isn’t set in stone, no matter how detailed it may be. It’s best to keep in mind that the goal isn’t creating the ultimate birth plan for the perfect birth experience; the ultimate goal is the birth of a child in an environment that is safe for both mom and baby. Prepare yourself mentally for the reality that all may not go as planned.

After checking back with my friend, I found that she did indeed need to deviate from her birth plan as last minute complications meant that she needed an emergency c-section instead of delivering the child naturally. She had a beautiful, health child, and yet she was disappointed and felt shortchanged because the experience had not gone a certain way. My heart broke for her because her emotional pain was very real, and there was very little I could do but listen to her relay her disappointment.

Parenting is a grand journey that begins during pregnancy. Birthing the child is just one event in that grand journey and lasts a comparatively short time in comparison to the length of time it takes to raise a child to adulthood. It is however, a preparation for what is to come. Just as you might need to deviate from ‘the plan’ during the birth, you may need to deviate from ‘the plan’ at some point during the parenting journey in the future too. Pack your flexibility for the birth, and keep it handy for the rest of the ride!


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