PARENTS

Why I'm Not Writing A Birth Plan

25/03/2015 00:16 | Updated 24 May 2015

Young pregnant woman making a list.

"Have you got a birth plan?" the midwife asked me the other day. I stared at her blankly for a moment, then shook my head and laughed.

"No, and I'm not going to either," I scoffed. For a woman in her third trimester, it might sound unprepared, irresponsible even. I promise you, it's just the opposite.

I've been zoning out to hypnobirthing CDs, practising my breathing and I'm all too familiar with my pain relief options. I'll be as ready as any woman who's chosen to take pen to paper and declare what she wants from labour. But that's where I draw the line.

You see, I learned the hard way that I'm not in charge of this birth. And trying to control it will only make me miserable.

When I was pregnant with my son, I proudly placed a typed up page of birth plan bullet points at the front of my notes. Writing them meant I had choices and I could make my labour take whatever shape I wanted.

Didn't it?

Those notes are still saved somewhere on my computer but I can't even bear to look at them. Because instead of the soothing water birth with little pain relief that I'd hoped for, I wound up spending weeks trying to coax my body into labour before being induced, loaded up with more drugs than a chemist's shelf and, in the end, having an emergency Caesarean.

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And for a long time afterwards, despite having a healthy baby boy, I felt like I'd failed. All because I hadn't been able to stick to my plan.

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A quick scan on some pregnancy forums shows that I'm not the only one. 'What's the point in writing a birth plan? It'll all go out of the window anyway,' one mum-to-be commented.

'I made the mistake of writing one and felt cheated when it didn't go my way,' wrote another.

Of course, it's not always like that. I'm always amazed when a mum tells me her birth actually went to plan.

"My birth plan was so successful I used it the second time around too," says mum-of-two Eli.

With labour just weeks away it's comforting to know that can happen, even if it won't be my approach this time. I have to admit, if I'd been able to have the water birth I'd hoped for, perhaps I'd be printing off another copy of those notes right now.

Some mums use writing a birth plan as an exercise in exploring their options, whatever the outcome may be.

"I think it is very hard to write a plan for an experience you have yet to have, but I did think that it gave me some sort of feeling of control prior to the birth," says Becky, who has a three-year-old and twin babies.

"I saw it as a chance to try to state my opinions, when I might not be thinking as straight as I normally would. It was an idealistic plan and none of it really turned out the way I had written it, but I was aware that it was really more of a wish list. That said, with my second birth, I still wrote one."

The trouble is, for me, the feeling of control is a fallacy. I won't be able to control my labour any more than I can control my digestion or my heartbeat. They all happen as a natural part of life, only sometimes they need a little medical help, too.

I'd never consider someone who had to take stomach medication or have heart surgery to be a bad person because of it. I'd also never expect them to be able to control their body through sheer willpower and old wives' tales. Yet somehow, we see birth differently.

Not anymore. You won't find me washing down pineapple and hot curries with a cup of raspberry leaf tea in the hope that it'll get things going. I know that trying to take charge like that will only make me feel frustrated and anxious. So this time, I'm letting go of the responsibility.

I've realised this is my baby's birth, not mine. Instead of trying to make things happen I'll respond to whatever my body - and my baby - need. That doesn't mean I have no opinions on the matter. But I will voice them, loudly, when I need to.

Sure, I'd love to get in the birthing pool - if I can. I'm also open to pain relief, depending on how I feel. And, if I need a Caesarean, I'll have one.

In the end, it makes no difference to me if I wind up in a birthing pool or on an operating table, I want the moment I meet my baby to feel magical not tinged with regret.

So this time, if I were to attach a typed-up page to the front of my notes, it would simply say: 'Have a healthy baby'.

That sounds like the best plan to me.

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