The midwife looked at me with sheer horror as I repeated myself.
“You don’t have a birth plan?” She replied aghast, as if I had just told her our soon-to-be newborn would be sleeping in the garden shed.
“How do we know what you want?” She asked. I told her a healthy baby is all I wanted and I was happy to be told what I needed to do to make that happen.
Normally I love it when a plan comes together. I’m a list addict.
But I felt no need to write down any plan, instructions or guide as to how I wanted the birth of my first child to go.
I had a vague idea that it would be a bit grim – understatement of the century – but I didn’t see how insisting on a water birth, calming music and yoga poses would help me through that.
Keep calm and have a baby
That’s not to say I don’t see the value in things that will keep you calm during birth. Water births are apparently great for the pain, so if you want to request one, great.
Being at home surrounded by familiarity could also be a good thing for some women, but home births don’t appeal to me at all. I wanted the doctors and all their magic baby-saving tools right there if I needed them. My worry is how long it could take to transfer you to hospital if things do go wrong. Also you’ve filled a paddling pool and got water all over the carpet for nothing.
With my first I knew that I was so clueless about what was about to happen, staring into an abyss of potential pain and loss of dignity, that I didn’t want to try to exert any control over it.
My thinking was that births can go pretty well – all things considered – a bit wrong or very wrong. Having a list of demands like “absolutely no epidural under any circumstances at all” would be unrealistic.
When I gave birth to my second baby our very lovely midwife told me some shocking birth plan requests. One woman wanted a water birth with every member of her family in the tub with her, including her three young kids. I’m not sure who was braver in that scenario, the pregnant lady or the kids.
Another wanted the midwife to perform vaginal seeding on her baby after birth. Not heard of it? It’s started doing the rounds among C-section babies. After baby is born the mum puts a bit of gauze in her vagina to soak up whatever is left in there. This is then dabbed on the baby’s face, eyes, nose, and around the mouth.
The theory is the stuff in the birthing channel contains micro-organisms that help baby fight disease in their vulnerable first weeks. British doctors have actually spoken out against the practice as it has become more common in the U.K., raising concerns it actually does more harm than good.
Now I’m not one to judge. It takes all sorts to make a world, but I don’t think the midwife should have to get her hands any more dirty than she already has. Do what you want with your own baby though, if vaginal seeding is your thing.
No plan is no good
During my labour one midwife was totally happy with me not having a birth plan. We discussed a few key points and I gave answers to guide her on certain practical aspects of the birth and immediate aftermath, such as breastfeeding. But when she went on a break another was appalled that I hadn’t issued my demands in a printed, laminated document.
She went on to quiz me on various options and looked sceptical as to whether I understood the gravity of my situation.
So after that I gave in and did write a vague plan for my second birth, as I didn’t want another telling off while I was mid-contraction.
Here are the key points I focused on:
Pain relief. Gas and air are an absolute yes, otherwise I will see how I go.
Injection to speed up placenta delivery. I said yes to this, because who wants to drag out the process. Cutting corners is a good thing in this case.
Cutting the cord. Hubby was adamant he didn’t want to do it and so I wrote this one down, though surely it’s just as easy to say a verbal “no” when asked.
Vitamin K for baby, oral or injection. This helps with blood clotting, so I said absolutely and asked for the injection, as oral can be a bit more fiddly.
I filled this stuff in on a sheet of paper inside my pregnancy medical notes. I don’t think the midwife even looked as it as she just asked me the questions relating to all the above areas verbally.
We had a nice chat and it broke the ice after I had just arrived on the ward.
So I would say it’s nice to write your views down on certain aspects of the birth, like pain relief if you’re very against diamorphine for example.
Get through the birth in whatever way you can, try whatever methods you can think of to help you get through it.
Just don’t get your expectations too high. Your baby may show you their rebellious side early on and not conform to the master plan.
Did you have a birth plan? Did you stick to it or did you have to accept changes as your labour progressed?