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Damned if I Plan...Damned if I Don't?

There is a tonne of articles out there about writing a birth plan - what's in a birth plan, how to write one, what it's used for and so on. I have thus had conversations about birth plans giving mothers a false sense of hope, confidence and control.

"Jamie, how can you possibly ask mothers to plan for their birth? Isn't that going against nature itself?"

"Jamie, what if things don't go as planned - doesn't it just make it worse?"

"Jamie, I thought you were supposed to support the birth mother and her spouse? Sounds like you're giving them a false sense of confidence and control!"

These are the reactions I often receive when I speak to others - both female AND male peers - about birth plans.

It is easy to form the misconception that when writing a birth plan, the aim is to control nature; that nothing can or will go wrong as long as a birth plan is written, communicated and abided by. If this were gospel truth, it wouldn’t rain during garden weddings and eagerly-anticipated holidays would not be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In my opinion, birth plans are written so that birthing mamas may:

  • familiarise themselves with hospital protocols (so that they aren’t in shock or experience high stress levels when they arrive on the date of delivering their precious little ones)

  • think about their options, preferences, weigh the pros and cons and make good choices for themselves when they have the time and capacity to do so (not when we’re experiencing waves of contractions!)

  • can better communicate these thoughts that they have to members of their birth team - the gynae, nurses, midwife, doula and most importantly, partners.

This doesn’t mean that a mama rules out a Caesarean section if she’s choosing to have a natural delivery or doesn’t consider having an epidural if she wants a drug-free birth. It just means that she would rather have it one way and not the other BUT in the event that an emergency (or a strong enough reason) supports the latter, she’s given thought to what would make it a more bearable, more positive experience for her. It could be a simple request like ensuring a gentle C-section be performed or that an epidural be used only when she gives the signal.

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Upon reflection, I remembered something a wise friend and coach taught me recently which I’d like to share:

There is no like or dislike. It’s all just boundary work.

“Yes!!! This is genius!!!” I thought.

It’s all just boundary work.

As mamas, you’re communicating what your boundaries are, and how far you’re willing to push them. We all want to deliver healthy babies but we also have our personal limits. We should be aware of the boundaries that we need to keep to stay strong for both the life that we’re bringing into this world and for ourselves. Being someone in labour or the person who’s birthing should not mean that we forget what makes us who we are, what we hold dear and makes us whole. In fact, it is when we are at our most vulnerable that these boundaries matter and we should protect them all the more. Further, this helps us to be more at peace with ourselves to take care of this new life we’ve been entrusted with, postpartum.

So, are we trying to play God by writing a birth plan? Hell to the no! Writing one just helps mamas to illustrate boundaries, thoughts and what they know will bring them closer to a better birth. When you read a mama’s birth plan, you’re listening to their individual, authentic voice.

Hmmm...maybe we should use the term “Birth Boundaries” instead?



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