As you prepare for birth, you may (or may not) have a clear picture of how you want that experience to look. You may wish to have a drug-free vaginal childbirth, or you may want an epidural. With both of these scenarios and any other scenario that may arise, birth does not always go according to the plan we set out in our mind’s eye.
At some point an intervention may be proposed, changing the birth plan. These types of situations may happen suddenly, or unfold slowly over the course of the birth. Preparation is key to coping well with these changes.
When preparing for birth, it is very easy to focus on the experience you wish to have, while ignoring or burying deep in your mind anything else that may occur by saying to yourself “That’s not what I want, so I’m not even going to think about it.” This can make it difficult for you to find satisfaction with your birth experience, and accept your story as it unfolds if there are changes you are not prepared for. However, the more prepared you are for the different paths a birth may take, the better equipped you will be.
When I work with clients prenatally, potentially the most valuable exercise we work on together is “Birth Preferences.” I use the word “preferences” over “plan” because it’s important to remember that you don’t have to be married to everything in the plan. Sometimes plans change, and it’s the preparation for this possibility that empowers you.
While doing this work, you prepare for all different outcomes. For example: How would you like labor to begin: Naturally, Stripping membranes, prostaglandin gels, Pitocin, other natural induction methods?
As you work through these different categories, you'll look at different options and get educated about them. For example: Some hospitals have nitrous oxide available as a pain relief, which is a gas that is inhaled as needed to help “take the edge” off contractions. This is an alternative to an epidural that you may find appealing because it is not invasive and the effects are not long lasting.
When you are informed on all alternatives, then you can make informed decisions. There is a quote that really stands out to when it comes to preparing for birth and that is:
“If I don’t know my options, I don’t have any.” -Diana Korte
Working through all the options, you educate yourself on what is available, and what are the benefits, risks, alternatives and medical indications for each. You ensure that you have all the information you need to make informed decisions should deviations arise, and then, having done this work to educate yourself on everything so that you are prepared, create a one-page summary of your top preferences.
The importance of the plan is not the fulfillment of every item on your list. It’s about making a truly informed choice when it comes to how your birth unfolds, but also being mentally prepared for the possibility that your plan may change, so that even if it happens, you can still have a positive experience.
After you have done that work and you have created your preferences, spend 5 minutes daily visualizing your ideal birth scenario. Don’t dwell on possible deviations, simply rest assured that you are prepared should they happen, and focus on visualizing the birth experience of your dreams. I suggest writing out the birth experience you desire in as much detail as possible, in the present tense. Then, totally relax and visualize it happening. Let yourself get emotionally involved in the experience you have created in your mind. Do this every day for at least 5 minutes, and rewrite it as often as possible! The mind is a powerful tool you have at your disposal and repetition helps solidify what you really want in your subconscious mind. Create a list of your favorite birth affirmations to read daily and create a recording to listen to daily.
"We become what we think about all day long." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
So arm yourself with knowledge for empowerment and then pour your energies into the visualization exercises I wrote about above to make sure you plant your dream birth deep in your subconscious.
Would you like to know more about creating your birth plan? Next Thursday October 26th at 7pm I'll be hosting a FREE workshop at the Brampton Library! You will receive a birth plan worksheet and informed consent coloring sheet. Register Here!
What was your experience with a birth plan? Did you find it helpful? Have you used visualization to prepare for labor?