A Plan for Writing Your Birth Plan

A computer to research birth plan considerations and a notebook named 'Full of ideas' to write down thoughts.

If you enjoy researching and planning, the topic of a birth plan may seem exciting and fun. But for some pregnant parents, it can seem daunting and even stressful. Planning to welcome a new baby is mostly exciting and fun; from celebrating with family and friends to decorating a nursery and picking out the cutest home coming outfit. However, talking about birth and the potential pain labor and the possibilities of what could happen can seem overwhelming.

Birth preferences or wish list are terms that many birth workers use in place of birth plan. These terms are more closely reflect the true nature of labor and birth. Every birth unfolds differently and there is never really a way to plan for all the possibilities. So for some, simply by calling it birth preferences can ease your mind enough to get you thinking about those preferences and to start writing them down.

Many examples of birth plans are detailed and long but ideally a birth plan would be 1 page and easy to read. In doing so, you make it easy for your providers, nurses, and other staff to read through it in a time crunch or shift change. This should also give you confidence that your support staff has read through your wishes.

Doctor discussing pregnancy, labor and birth with a group of pregnant people.
What NOT to include

In order to simplify your list, let’s talk about what you can eliminate from your list. There may be some things that are important to you for your labor that don’t have to be listed as a birth preference. First, talk to your provider, talk to your friends that just gave birth at the same facility, your doula, or take a hospital tour and talk to the staff. Gather information about the standard procedures and protocols for the location that you are planning on laboring.

Then, take that information and remove anything that is already the normal practice of the birthing facility and/or your provider. For example, if it’s important to you to have dim lighting but the hospital allows you to fully control the room’s lights, there is no need to include this in your preferences. Another example could be, if you want to avoid an episiotomy but your provider has only ever done 2 in their 15 year of practice, that’s one more thing to eliminate from your list.

What should be included

Once you have eliminated what doesn’t need to be in your birth plan, you can look at things that are not in line with how you imagine your birth. Focus on the preferences that you and your partner consider the most important for your birth and baby. For example, if you are passionate about giving your baby’s their first bath at home as a family but the hospital gives baths around the 12 hour mark, this is something that you should add to your list.

A pregnant person seated on a couch with a note pad and pen for writing her birth plan. A pair of baby booties and ultrasound photo sit next to them.

A top 10 list is a great way to set the framework for your lists by prioritizing and simplifying. If you end up with fewer than that, great! If you have more than 10, that’s great too! Keeping the list shorter, is just a guideline. Knowing what is important to for your birth and baby is the most important part of creating your birth preferences.

Managing Expectations

Once you have completed your list, it’s important to have realistic expectations around labor and birth in relation to your preferences. Due to the unpredictably of birth, the course that labor takes can change in a way that is not ideal to your wishes. Sometimes this can happen very quickly and unexpectedly. If you can, take a moment to breathe, re-calibrate and then move forward.

No birth plan?

Ultimately, you may decide to forego a birth preferences list all together. There is no rule stating that you need one. You may be completely comfortable and confident in letting your labor unfold in the moment. And furthermore, you should be supported and empowered to do so.

Confidence for birth

Throughout your pregnancy, you receive advice (solicited or not) about your pregnancy, birth and baby. In putting together your list, you may consider what others have said but remember that ultimately this birth is belongs to you, not anyone else. What is important to friends and family for birth, may not be what matters to you and your partner. That’s okay! Every person deserves to welcome their baby in the way that is matters to them.

In determining your birth preferences, if you a have a partner try to include them in the process. Some partners may not have interest where others may be excited to have input. This process can be a great bonding experience that helps to be on the same page with one another.

Next, be sure to discuss the preferences with the rest your support team (provider, doula, or anyone planning to attend the birth). Whether you write them down or not, by talking about what your birth goals and wishes are you can gain confidence as the arrival of your baby approaches. Knowing that your support team knows your wishes could also relieve some of the stress surrounding the impending birth.

Building your confidence and strength regarding birth preferences and goals is one of the best ways to prepare for labor. It gives you the power to welcome your precious baby in the way that you and your family deserves.

An affirmation note that says "You have got this."
A man embracing a woman as she holds their newborn baby.

Doing the Holiday Hustle with a New Baby

Most of us love the holidays and the connection of family and friends that comes along with it. Decorations on display, lights twinkling, the joy on the faces of children and an overall sense of magic in the air makes this time of year so special and my personal favorite. Sharing your traditions and celebrating with your baby makes this year especially precious and full of wonder.

Along with the excitement, comes the additional planning, organizing and juggling our hectic everyday life along with the extra activities of the season. If you are anything like me, you try to juggle it all, fit in as much as possible, and find yourself overwhelmed more than one time in the process.

Plan and Set Boundaries

Holiday celebrations bring together friends and family that you may not see frequently; some of them may not have even met your newest addition yet. While it’s an exciting time to introduce your amazing little bundle, sharing your newborn with loved ones can be difficult and anxiety ridden. Talk with your partner and establish a plan and boundaries that you both are comfortable with.

Possible things to discuss:
-How many parties/dinners/activities you should attend
-How long you will stay at each activities
-Who is allowed to handle the baby
-How long to allow baby to be held by others
-How to incorporate baby’s schedule (naps, feedings, etc.)
-If breastfeeding, where and when to nurse the baby
-A code word to indicate that either of you want to leave an activity early

Connect with Your Partner

A new baby in the house definitely changes the dynamics of a relationship; then you add the holidays and things seem to speed up and it’s easy for anyone to find themselves stressed out. Remember the holidays are the time to appreciate your loved ones, so set aside some time dedicated to your other half.

Flexibility

One thing becoming a parent has taught me is the need to be flexible. Although having a plan is important, the unexpected is a guarantee when you have a baby. Having to change or cancel plans is a regular occurrence in parenthood. By being prepared to shuffle things around is a true asset to juggling life with a baby.

Take a Moment (or 2) for You

Taking care of yourself is important during postpartum. The holidays are great but often come with added stress. Make sure you take some time for you and put your feet up. Self-care is one of the best ways to ensure that you are being the best partner, parent, daughter/son, and sister/brother that you can be.

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Life can be overwhelming and when things get super busy, such as holiday time, and everyone deserves a little R&R. So snuggle up with a book and a glass of wine while your partner puts the baby to sleep; you have earned it.

Take Note of the Little Moments

The little things that happen are often what stick with us the most. Take a moment to soak in the feeding that pulled you away from your baking marathon. Snap a quick picture of your husband or wife napping on the couch with the glow of the Christmas tree lights behind them.

These are the moments that make all the chaos worth it and they happen so fast. We want to make this holiday perfect for our family, especially when we have a new baby. They only get 1 first holiday and we want to make as many memories as we can. Finding the happiness and joy in the little moments and allowing them to fill your heart, will make the best memories for you to reflect on.

Gentle and Kind

Everyone is under pressure to get a laundry-list of things done for the holidays and we all struggle at some point. I believe that as parents, we tend to put a lot more pressure on ourselves than anyone else. Remember that as we share holiday cheer and forgiveness with our family and friends, and spread kindness to strangers (hello, Dunkin Donuts pay-it-forward), we also need to be gentle with ourselves.

Most people tend to be their own biggest critics. From forgetting to dry the shirt you wanted to wear to dropping the plate of cookies you spent the afternoon baking to packing the wrong lovey for your little one, you might spend the rest of the day beating yourself up about it. It happens to the best of us and the best way to make the most out of the rest of your holiday is to not dwell on those little mistakes and make the most out of all the good to celebrate this year.

Forgive yourself, be kind to yourself, be gentle with yourself.

Happy Holidays!