The Birth Plan. The what? I looked cluelessly at my midwife. Honestly, I had no idea. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. A Birth Plan? Hmmm, like “waters break, contractions start, take drugs, have baby. Preferably in fifteen minutes”?
Once she realised I genuinely didn’t know what she was talking about, she started to explain. A Birth Plan covers all your options. Where would you like to have the baby? erm, in hospital with as many qualified people surrounding me as possible. Had I considered a home birth? erm, no. I live in a tiny rented flat with very thin walls. My loud, shouty, next door neighbours may look even more disapprovingly at me after they’ve listened to 12 hours of contractions. You could consider a maternity unit rather than a full up labour ward? er…. I looked blankly at her again; at which point, I think she became pretty convinced that I was either stoned or stupid or just badly prepared (the last of which was spot on). Maternity unit – straight forward births, no complications, often attached to main hospitals where you’ll go if complications develop, no epidurals available. Labour ward – for complicated births and drugs. There’s far more to it obviously but you get the gist.
Perhaps you ought to go away and have a think about the options. There’s a sheet in your maternity notes to write your birth plan on. There is? Oh, yes, I see, there it is. On page 9 of the notes I haven’t read. Look at all those options.
A water birth. In a mini warm swimming pool. That sounds nice. With music. Of my choice. What would I want bump to emerge to? Perhaps an opera, La Boheme? A bit tragic. Maybe… Don Giovanni? maybe not.
What else? Hypno birthing. Hypno what? seriously? Yes, apparently. And for those who got the practice in and understood it far better than I did, apparently it was quite helpful.
Use of drugs? Would I want to go a bit earth mother and try and do this without drugs? Or would I want to have an epidural from the moment I arrived* until the bump was, oh, eighteen and financially independent? Well, hey, I’ve been through some pretty tough stuff so you know I’ll give it a shot without but if the consultant thinks I need drugs (or I begin weeping) then perhaps I’ll take some gas and air (ha!)
Who is your birth partner? Do you plan to use a doula? Again, I had to turn to Dr Google. Who knew a doula could be available on the NHS! A great idea and a thousand pent up, nervous husbands breathe a collective sigh of relief.
So at my next appointment, I presented my Birth Plan to my midwife, not without a little pride in this complete work of fiction I had created. She read down, nodding. This looks great, she said. But I need to warn you. Birth is a complex and long process and lots of variables can change throughout. While I see you’ve gone for the hypo birthing, whale song, water birth, I should warn you not to hang your hopes on it entirely. Yes, it may well happen like this. But if things change, then you will need to be flexible. A lot of women often feel they have failed if the birth doesn’t go how they wanted it to go. You haven’t, its just the team around you need to change the plan to ensure you and bumps health. Wise words as it turned out.
*note to self, “from the moment I arrived” was what I expected. It got explained to me once in hospital that that wasn’t quite how it worked.