Updated: Nov 13, 2019
“If I don’t know my options, I don’t have any” – Diana Korte
This is a picture of my daughter, hours after birth. I was lucky in many regards as I was able to achieve most of what we set out for with our birth plan. But it was also a huge learning experience, because despite a birth that went more or less to the paper-plan, it was far from what I imagined. T’s birth was the un-medicated vaginal birth, with all the skin-to-skin, exclusive breastfeeding and delayed cord-clamping I wanted. It was also very painful, emotionally draining, a fight between me and residents that desperately wanted to stick an epidural in my back, and so exhausting that I never felt like I ‘properly’ appreciated the ‘golden hour’ after she was born. In the end, I was just so damn glad to be done. Having a plan in the first place afforded me the knowledge and will to advocate for myself through a tough labor. But that emotional response – the “ugh, thank goodness it’s over” – was so unexpected and disappointing to me that for months (years?) I have struggled with my memories of her birth, despite everything going ‘according to plan’. As I look back, I realize that there are so many ways that births can go according to or deviate from plan. The best we can really do is to set out are our preferences, remain flexible to the situation, and hope that a little luck is on our side.
If that’s the best we can do, is it worth doing? I say absolutely- and in fact, this week, we’re rehashing our birth plan for our baby due in a few short weeks. Writing and presenting a birth plan to your providers sets everyone’s expectations and opens up lines up communication between you and your providers. It allows you to put forward your most important desires, concerns and preferences for scenarios that deviate from your ideal plan. And perhaps most importantly, it provides you with an opportunity to think and learn and prepare for your birth so that in the moment, you can be your own greatest advocate.
In retrospect, I realize that I had an unwritten preference in the birth plan for my daughter’s birth: do all the hard stuff AND come through on the other side looking and feeling like superwoman. That's an extremely tall order. And that expectation was at the root of my disappointment. This time around, I’m writing a birth plan. But it doesn’t include any (written or unwritten) expectations about how I will feel when all is said and done. I’m giving myself the flexibility and permission to feel whatever feels come along with doing the extraordinary work of birthing a child.