Many pregnant women start to get that urge to come up with a rigid birth plan. You’ll be hours in from taking your pregnancy test, you’ll watch one or two birth documentaries, and next thing you know, you’re laminating your Official Birth Plan, Ross Gellar style, detailing how you’ll definitely be having an orgasmic birth in a natural spring or a pain-free HypnoBirth at home or an epidural with a specific doctor or a scheduled C-section on Beyoncé’s birthday. Whatever the idea in your head about exactly how you think it should go, scrap it as soon as possible. It’s not enough to just crumple up the piece of paper and throw it away. You need to mentally and emotionally release as much expectation as possible from the labour and birth event. Letting go can be a difficult task because it can feel like there is an empty space is left in place of the object of focus that you are trying to let go of. Something that I have learned to do when I’m unsure of how to fill that space is to anchor myself with a visualization or affirmation that makes me feel safe and supported.
It’s completely understandable that much of your thoughts throughout your pregnancy will center around the birth itself. It’s natural to feel nervous or anxious, incapable or uncertain. Having a too-specific birth plan is an attempt to exert control over an unpredictable occurrence. You cannot guarantee the time labour will start, the length of labour or the type of birth it will be. The mom who scheduled the C-section could spontaneously go into labour weeks early. The mom who planned to have an epidural could be one of those unicorns who feels like she has to pee and has the baby over the toilet at home. The at-home Hypnobirther could be hitting the highway to the hospital for some pain medication. And, let’s be real, the orgasmic birth will probably turn out, at best, a little less fun than it sounds. Your labour could last four hours or twenty-four hours. Your doula could be attending another birth at the time you go into labour. Your spouse could get stuck in traffic. You could have a birth pool set up at home and end up having the baby in the bathroom. You could be too far along to have an epidural administered. You could get sick or fatigued. The baby could show signs of distress. You could change your mind. Any of these examples could be true, and, by the same token, any of them could still render a beautiful and meaningful birth experience. A change in plans does not equal failure. Your job, in that moment, is to resist the urge to resist the plan that your baby has in store for you. My son was "planned" to be born in the tub at the birth centre but he was born on my bed in my apartment. It wasn't bad or wrong - it was the birth that was meant for him, and it was beautiful, peaceful and positive in every way.
Let's clarify one thing, though. Not having a rigid birth plan does NOT mean being unprepared. Replace 'plan' with 'preparation'. You can and SHOULD know your options and voice your preferences at every point along the way. Your preferences should be respected. You can and should be prepared for Plan A, B and C. You deserve to have control over the things you can control and to feel that you are in the driver's seat of the experience as it unfolds. If it makes you feel better to have those preferences printed out on a piece of paper, absolutely, by all means, do that. I simply want to encourage you to let go of the idea that you can make birth go a certain way. Make peace with that before entering labour.