For me, the big lesson in planning came at 39 weeks, when my ob told me that my baby had flipped around into a breach position and it was too late to try to coax her head back down. In one hour, what little labour planning I had done was moot: I had to have a scheduled c-section a few days later. Up until that point, I had read a lot about what to expect and I was constantly changing my mind about my preferences since I really wasn't sure what to expect. Did I want an epidural? Would I take a cab to the hospital or would my parents have time to come pick me up and drive me there? What flavour of granola bar would I throw into my go bag? I was constantly mulling things over in my head, but I was hesitant to put anything into a written birth plan since I was so unaware of what labour would look like.
Honestly, though, in all my planning for getting to the hospital and pain medication and support people, I never even considered a c-section. I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me that it was a possibility I might face. Maybe, as an emergency during labour, but that didn't require planning - it would happen or it wouldn't happen. So, when I had to face the fact that I was having a c-section, I was scared. In the end, everything went smoothly, and my baby was born without complications. There were a few perks to the surgery: I knew when it was happening and could make arrangements and I didn't have to push, for example, but there are also different issues I had to deal with like a prolonged period of healing and worries about pain medication while breastfeeding.
Regardless of how you end up delivering your baby, planning for labour is an important exercise for your own confidence, comfort, and sanity. Here are some things to consider when making your version of a birth plan:
- Plan to be patient. Labour isn't usually like you see in the movies where it's less than an hour from the first contraction to the baby being birthed in a cab or elevator. In real life, there is a lot of waiting. My c-section was booked for 6:30am and they didn't take me into the operating room until noon. My sister started having contractions 5 days before her son was born, and had to wait patiently, through the pain, to be fully dilated. After the birth, there is waiting, too. Waiting to get the feeling back into your legs after a c-section, waiting for visiting hours, waiting to be discharged to take your baby home, etc. Be prepared to go at the speed dictated by the doctors and your body.
- Plan to be flexible. There are certain parts of the process that you can be steadfast about. If you don't want your mom in the delivery room, (or your husband to be on the "business end"), make it clearly known. These are reasonable requests that can be respected no matter what transpires. You have to be realistic in other wishes, however; it might not be a vaginal birth, it might not be able to happen at home, you might change your mind about not wanting an epidural once you feel the pain, or you might get to the hospital too late for an epidural even though you wanted one badly. If you are ready to go with the flow, and not married to a vision of a perfect labour, you'll be less likely to be disappointed with the experience. Save your emotional energy for bonding with your new baby!
- Plan to be exhausted. It is often suggested that you pack light reading or a tablet
Labour is an exciting time, in positive and negative ways. A birth plan is an awesome tool for people who like to feel prepared and in control of their situations. Whether you make one or not, however, it is prudent to manage your expectations in advance. That way, you can focus on the wonderful new life you've brought into the world instead of dwelling on the fact that your husband forgot to load your push song onto the iPod.