Birth Plans

February 1, 2018


Let's just talk about birth plans for a minute if we might. I was so determined to have a natural birth with Coco because I thought that it was somehow wrong or weak or a failure to get an epidural during labor. So I hired a doula for our birth and read tons of books by Ina May Gaskin and others, and got really into this school of thought that drug-free birth was actually superior to other births.


These photos of me are three days before Theo's due date. I was enormous. I did not hire a doula. I did not go into it determined to have a drug-free birth. I had had really debilitating lower back labor with Coco and I knew that it was less planning, preparation and will power than it was just sheer luck and genetics and body type that determine how a woman's birth will go.


So when I was searching for something else today and the website for The Bradley Method happened to come up in the Google results, I couldn't help but read the snippet which included a testimony declaring "People told us we shouldn't try to have a natural birth with our first baby -- 'find out what it's like first,' they'd say. But we decided we'd get it right the first time."

Oh man! That last line really made my blood boil. "...we decided we'd get it right the first time," as if there's such a thing as "getting it wrong." Arrrrgh.


I just want to say this loud and clear: If you are pregnant and fretting about getting your birth "right" just stop right now. Have an open mind, do your best to remain calm, surround yourself by supportive people or just have one or two trusted people with you if that sounds better, trust your body, trust yourself, don't approach it as a sport or competition, do what works for you, and place some trust in the professionals caring for you. When Theo was born, he was gigantic! But much to my surprise, never once did anyone mention a cesarean. I really believe that most of the time, if a recommendation is made, it is with the mother and baby's best interest in mind.


But I have to admit that this culture of "getting it right" is so pervasive that a huge part of my desire to have a third baby has come from wanting to finally "get it right" and have a drug-free birth. I still want to do it just so I can say I did. How stupid is that?! Seriously. I am forever grateful that western medicine has provided us with the tools and options not to die in childbirth at the numbers women did in the 19th century. And to suppose that using pain relief or a life-saving surgical option during labor and childbirth is not "getting it right" is incredibly narrow-minded.


Besides, childbirth is merely the rite of passage into being a mother. Just as a wedding is not a marriage, childbirth is not being a mother. Motherhood is a continual commitment. It's about the love and connection we develop with our children. It is the support and unwavering devotion we make to our babies throughout their lives. It's the relationship we cultivate, day-by-day, year-by-year to be meaningful, positive, caring and life-giving forces in their lives. "Getting it right" is to have a trust- and heart-centered relationship with our children. And that is all.

Okay, rant over. I should also add that if you are one of the women out there who managed to go through childbirth without pain relief or a cesarean, that is simply lovely. I do not mean to belittle your ability to withstand the pain and discomfort of childbirth. I admire your strength. Our experiences were not the same, and both were right.

Did you (or do you intend to) have a birth plan?

Join the conversation!

  1. My sister gave me a book on the Bradley method while I was pregnant and I threw that book right in the trash! It was so offensive. I completely agree with you. There is no "getting it right". I went into childbirth with the attitude "I have no idea what it's going to be like. Whatever gives me a healthy baby". In the end, I didn't need any assistance from drugs, but I don't consider myself lucky. That's just how my experience was. I do remember saying afterward- " Next time I'm getting the drugs!". :) Who knows. No judgement. Whatever a woman needs. Childbirth and early motherhood is hard enough without feeling like you didn't do it the right way.

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    1. I am in awe that your take away was "Next time I'm getting the drugs" rather than feeling like superwoman. My cousin had a home birth with her first and went to the hospital and got the drugs for her second! ;) Different, of course, but your reaction made me think of her! Well, I say your take is just about perfect. "No judgment. Whatever a woman needs. Childbirth and early motherhood is hard enough without feeling like you didn't do it the right way." Here, here!!!! Well said. xx

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  2. As a midwife (university trained) it’s really interesting to read the many different interpretations women have of an ideal birth.

    Every woman, baby, labour and birth is different. I do not believe at all that a “drug free” labour and birth is superior to a labour or birth where a woman has chosen to have pharmaceutical pain relief. It is however, important that we acknowledge the significant risks associated with pharmaceutical pain relief. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a woman choosing to have an epidural as long as she is supported with evidence based information and she herself has made an informed decision.

    Unfortunately, evidence tells us that Caesarean section is being performed at a higher rate than advised. The world health organisation recommends a Caesarean section rate of 10-15% however most nations have a rate of well over 30%. Counties who have implemented programs that have been proven to reduce Caesarean section rates (e.g Norway, Finland) are achieving the WHO recommended rate. There is also clear evidence that demonstrates an increase in Caesarean section rate in the private sector when compared to the public sector (especially when you include variables such as health and sociology economic status). There are also fewer interventions performed in the public sector such as episiotomies and instrumental births.

    I think a birth plan is a great idea because it allows couples the time and space to really consider what it is they want from their labour and birth and to inform themselves in the process. It also helps to inform your health care providers who will be better able to support you if they know what it is you would like. Of course things change during labour and birth and that’s okay. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said trust yourself and your body. As cheesy as it sounds, we’re all from a very long line of child bearing women. Even if things don’t go the way you had in your birth plan, it doesn’t mean you’re a ‘failure’ by any means! You’ve grown a baby!

    In the end, you only need to “get it right” for you. What ever that means to you is all that matters. Nobody else’s perception of “getting it right” matters.

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    1. Oh, yes. I agree that cesareans are overused and I should have stipulated that I meant emergency or risky situation cesareans, not "too posh to push" scenarios or cesareans of convenience. I like how you point out that things will change during labor and birth and that's okay. I think some of the trouble comes in where people think everything has to go exactly to plan. Nothing in life ever goes exactly to plan! ;)

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  3. You say it, girl! Absolutely! Although I disagree with the notion of having a drug free childbirth as "being able to withstand pain"- my first birth was my most medicated, but most painful. I had so many resources available to me - I am so grateful for that. With my second and third, I didn't have an epidural - honestly it just happened that way! They were all amazing for their own reasons and I am honestly simultaneously so glad that I never have to do that again (hopefully!) and also really sad because that moment when you meet your baby - omg it's one of life's truly most amazing things. However you get there!

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    1. I love your perspective here and it makes me feel so warm and fuzzy to think of that moment meeting a baby for the first time. Oh, gosh! That is an amazing moment, for sure. xx

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  4. OMG yessss. I felt like such a failure with my first birth because after 30 hours I had an epidural. So utterly ridiculous. I wish I could go back and help myself. I suffered so much more than necessary just for being bullheaded and immature (and scared!).

    My son was huge too and without epidural because I gave birth to him at a birth house in switzerland. Recovery was easier but fuck, that hurt. I would have 100% taken the epi had it been available. I wish this concept of “right” didn’t exist. I always joke that I had an epidural and not even a tylenol birth and they were equally horrible in their own ways. LOL.

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    1. Equally horrible! OMG. That's crazy. Thank you for sharing, Kristin. <3

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  5. I think (tentatively) that it's worth saying that I feel the O.N.L.Y. reason that I was able to have the births that I did, particularly the first back-to-back bazillion hour drug-free epic, was because of my midwife. If I had a different midwife, if she did not know me as well as she did and was not able to pull on every single piece of knowledge she had about my psyche and my life to help me make the choices I made, it would have been different. if I had been in a different hospital, it would have been different. So yes, I do feel increidbly lucky to have had two drug free vaginal births, but I absolutely do recognise the luck factor in this. Breastfeeding was a fucking disaster, meanwhile, and look at all the gold stars you got there -- we all have our battles and our stories and the hand that gets played to us with the people that are around us at the time. Can I also just say that the only reason I'd ever want a third is so just see if I could get breastfeeding happening properly this time?! Which is also completely ridiculous, so I feel you, mama. <3

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    1. Yeah...I did really well with the midwives when Coco was born. But she was stuck so their help didn't help. Sigh. And the epidural really was needed. Then, with Theo, I didn't have a midwife attended birth and the pain was so blinding (I literally blacked out during contractions) and impossible and I probably didn't have the best support. So having the epidural was a lifesaver. But I love how you compare breastfeeding and birth, which NEVER crossed my mind! And, wow!!! Thank you for the GOLD STARS?! Oh my gosh, I nearly cried, no joke! Really, thank you. It put everything into perspective. Well done on those births, too. xoxo

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  6. I had twins, and because of their position it was never an option to have anything other than a cesarean. I worried too much about the things they would miss out on by not having a ‘natural’ birth - exposure to vaginal bacteria, expulsion of mucus from lungs, exposure to drugs, diminished ability to breastfeed, immediate skin to skin post birth (which we actually did have!) etc etc) but you know what? I had two healthy happy babies, I was healthy, I successfully exclusively breastfed both those babies to 14 months, and now they are 4 1/2 years old and we are all fine.
    The ultimate goal is healthy babies and a healthy mother. How you get there is your own story, just as how you raise your children is your own story, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There is no shame - we are mothers and we are amazing :)

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    1. I hear you. I had to get antibiotics on an every few hours rotation during Theo's labor because I had tested positive for Group B Strep. I did tons of research and FREAKED OUT over it, but ultimately decided that the risk was worse than the potential lack of good bacterial exposure during labor. Then, he had some reflux and got a few infections in the first two years of life and I connected everything back to the antibiotics during labor. In all honesty, it probably had NOTHING to do with that! But I understand your stress and the pressure you felt. I totally do. I love that you got that skin to skin time and I admire you for exclusively breastfeeding TWO babies for more than a year! You're so right. We are mothers and we are amazing. xoxoxoxo

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  7. Oh my goodness. I COMPLETELY AGREE with all you say.

    Four epidurals, right here.

    The first epidural was when our first son was born too early at 23 weeks. When I went into labor we knew we would be losing him. When my contractions started to get intense I asked for an epidural. He passed away in my husband's arms shortly after being born. The whole experience was painful enough. I needed something to not hurt.

    Then, with numbers two, three and four, I just wanted to enjoy the pregnancies and births, and for the most part, I did (you know, aside from being a totally uncomfortable and nauseous pregnant lady :). I am so glad. I never came-up with a birth plan for any of our kids. I suppose I could've, but after our first son and after feeling like I couldn't ultimately control anything, I didn't. So, last January when our fourth baby made his arrival, I drove myself to the hospital for the sole reason that I did not want to miss getting an epidural before the contractions got too intense for me to sit still for the big fat needle. It was 1 am. I blew through every red light. I parked the car and walked through the length of the whole freaking hospital to L&D. I thought nothing of any of this, but afterwards one of my girlfriends thought it was nuts that I drove myself to the hospital (regardless of my reason). Again, there was NO WAY I was going to miss my opportunity for an epidural. I mean. THE PAIN. My contractions had been coming fast and furious, so I was like "See-ya!" while my husband stayed back and waited for family to arrive for our other kiddos and then joined me about an hour later :).

    That said, I do believe a natural birth is ideal and before kids I always thought I'd go that route. But, we don't live in an ideal world. Part of me wishes I'd been able to do it, but for multiple reasons I let go of the "what ifs" on this issue. If it matters, I say this as someone whose attitude is pretty cynical toward Western medicine (I'm all about holistic/alternative approaches to health), but the whole birth and post-natal process is the grand exception to my cynical-hippy ways. It is all so precarious. So fragile. So delicate.

    So, cheers to all the mamas out there! However your babies got here :).

    Great post, and I love all the other comments.

    -Roxana

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    1. Oh, Roxana! Your comment is just incredible. Fantastic. Your genuine ability to at once seize the day and let it go is so fucking inspiring. Thank you. Thank you a million times! xoxoxo

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  8. By the way, that picture of you pregnant with Theo is awesome. Your belly is glorious! I love it! You should have another baby because babies are awesome, and maybe because you have such a beautiful baby belly ;).

    Also, have to add that these words of yours are so beautiful. They really resonated with me:

    "Besides, childbirth is merely the rite of passage into being a mother. Just as a wedding is not a marriage, childbirth is not being a mother. Motherhood is a continual commitment. It's about the love and connection we develop with our children. It is the support and unwavering devotion we make to our babies throughout their lives. It's the relationship we cultivate, day-by-day, year-by-year to be meaningful, positive, caring and life-giving forces in their lives. "Getting it right" is to have a trust- and heart-centered relationship with our children. And that is all."

    -Roxana

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  9. I did not have a "birth plan" with our three kids. I made sure I really trusted our obgyn and then that's it. Each experience was different, but I felt like I was in the right hands, literally, and it would all fall into place based on his expertise. I do have to say that my Swiss baby birthing experience was the most hands off and natural of all three births.

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  10. Such an amazing post! You are a superwoman for birthing such a big baby. Mine were so small, they might as well have just slipped right out!

    I did not go into child birth with a birth plan because the midwives at the practice I was going to were all like, "We are just going to follow you and the baby -- that's the plan." I really wanted to try drug-free birth after the older sister of my close friend basically gave me a sermon on "the business of being born." I wasn't even married at the time, but I was like, "Hell no, I am not letting some doctor make me birth on my back for his convenience!" I did go to my first midwife appointment like this, "I don't know what I am doing here. I am a big weenie when it comes to pain. But I believe I can do this." I birthed both babies at a birth center within a hospital. On my floor epidural was not an option. If I wanted it, I would have to go to another floor, so I just never considered it as an option. In the end, I think I was just lucky. My babies were in perfect positions, they were small, my labors were short. I actually don't know how women whose labors go past 24 hours do it without epidural. I am in awe of those mamas!

    Funny that even though I got the births that I wanted, part of me still wishes I had home births, and every time I hear a woman talk about how she had her baby at home, I get a little sad like I missed out on something. SO SILLY!

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