This post is going to be about our birth plan, which I know is a pretty personal topic. Before I start I want to say a few things. First, I believe that every couple is entitled to make choices about their birth experience in regard to what they feel is best for the baby and for themselves. Second, those choices can be very different from couple to couple and that is OKAY! Third, I would never judge another parent for wanting to have a labor and delivery experience that is different than what we personally want.
With that said, Kevin and I have put a lot of thought and research into our pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Now that I am almost 30 weeks (!!!) I think it’s a good time to share what we’re hoping for when it comes to our baby’s birth. From the beginning we knew that we wanted a natural and unmedicated childbirth. It was really important to me to experience labor and delivery the way women are intended to and what our bodies are meant to do naturally. When I told Kevin this and explained my reasons he supported me 100%. I want to feel my labor and be connected to what is happening to my body when I deliver my baby.
Don’t get me wrong – this idea scared me to death at the time, but I knew I could handle it. As someone who trains for and runs marathons, I think I have a lot of physical and mental strength that will help me accomplish this. For example, even though I completely understand that labor pain is ENTIRELY different than the pain I’ve had while running a marathon, I know what it’s like to push past pain and go farther than I thought I could. I know from running that the pain is only temporary, there is a finish line, and that it will eventually end. When it does end we will have the best reward ever – MUCH better than crossing a finish line and getting a medal – we’ll have our baby.
Our decisions about our birth all started with who we chose as our doctors. I was going to a regular OBGYN office for my annual care, but decided to switch to another practice to hopefully have a better experience with my pregnancy, labor, and delivery. The OBGYN office I was going to was pretty much an “in-and-out” office. The doctors never remembered who you were, they were extremely slow at getting back to you by phone if you had an issue or got tests done, they were quick to diagnose you and prescribe you medicine for every little thing without discussing any natural alternatives, and I just didn’t like the ‘vibe’ of how they did things. They also delivered at a hospital that I had heard negative things about in regard to their labor and delivery unit.
All of these factors led me to look for somewhere new to go for my prenatal care. I found a collaborative practice in my area that had a staff of both physicians and midwives, and I made my first appointment with them when I was about 8 weeks pregnant. I was really excited that they had midwives on staff, because I knew they would be more on board with the natural birth that we wanted. I was immediately convinced after my first appointment. I met with a midwife who was so patient and answered all my crazy first trimester questions, she was encouraging about the kind of birth we wanted, she loved that I was a runner, and just made me feel so comfortable. I didn’t feel like I was in a doctor’s office at all. She spent about 30 minutes with me which was so nice. I never felt rushed. It was exactly the type of personal prenatal care that I wanted. After that appointment they wanted to schedule me for my first ultrasound and I asked them if there was any way I could get it done that day, because I was going home to Pennsylvania and wanted to tell my family that I was pregnant by showing them the picture. The ultrasound tech offered to do it on her lunch break out of the kindness of her heart. I was so happy and impressed. Ever since that first appointment I have had nothing but great experiences when I go there, whether I meet with an OB doctor or a midwife. Even the OBs are accepting of natural birth and birth plans. They also deliver at a different (and better- in my opinion) hospital than the other one, and they always have both an OB and a midwife there 24/7. The midwives are the ones that typically deliver the babies, and the OBs step in if they are needed.
After choosing a doctor, we started to think about the various childbirth classes that were out there and what would be a good fit for us. We knew we wanted a natural and unmedicated childbirth, so we did some research and decided on the Bradley Method. The Bradley Method is also called “Husband Coached” childbirth because it involves the husband a lot, which was something Kevin really wanted. He said since he can’t experience the actual pregnancy, that he wanted to be involved as much as he could in helping me through labor and delivery. Obviously I love this concept, because Kevin is my best friend, my husband, and my coach anyway! He’s coached me through a lot of rough times personally and in races. He knows what to do and what to say to help me feel better. I knew it would be a good fit for us rather than other programs (like Hypnobirthing) that involve you going into yourself and don’t involve the father very much. We found a local instructor (who is AMAZING), paid the fee, and started going to class. We are currently 8 weeks into the 12 week program and we already feel so much more confident about giving birth. It went from something I was scared of to something I’m actually looking forward to.
Through our Bradley classes we’ve also learned about a lot of the different options we have in regards to our birth experience. I learned that there are many things that parents can request in the hospital that may be different than standard protocol. These requests go into your birth plan, which is a one page document that outlines everything you hope for during your labor and delivery. Rather than call it a birth plan though, Kevin and I call it our “Birth Wishes.” While we are very confident in our decisions, we want to remain flexible to alternatives if anything unexpected occurs or if we have any complications. That’s why we like calling it our wishes instead of a plan – because the word plan sounds very set in stone and there are many things that can happen during labor and delivery.
With all that said, here are our “Birth Wishes” 🙂 I will explain the reasons for each choice after each bullet, but these aren’t actually in the document. Only what is italicized is in our Birth Wishes page that we will bring to the hospital. *Note: I omitted the names of our practice, the hospital and our doula for privacy purposes*
KATIE & KEVIN’S BIRTH WISHES
(Our Hospital’s Name) Labor and Delivery Team,
We are interested in a natural, unmedicated birth without unnecessary medical or chemical intervention. We have taken Bradley Method classes and feel prepared to do this with the support of our doula, _______. Our wishes may be different than your standard routine and can be found below.
During labor we would like:
- Not to be offered any pain medication or Pitocin. It is very important to us to use natural pain management and labor progression methods first. *Pitocin is used to speed up labor and make contractions stronger and pain medication (like an epidural) obviously take away the pain. But there are natural ways to keep labor going and relieve pain like walking, changing positions, going into a tub/shower, etc. Also, research has shown that women who receive Pitocin and/or an epidural are more likely to have a C-section because it can cause labor to stall out, make pushing more difficult, and put baby in distress. The Business of Being Born is a great documentary to learn more about the issues that epidurals and Pitocin can cause*
- Intermittent external fetal monitoring only. *Being hooked up to a monitor constantly restricts movement and can cause unnecessary concern when baby’s heart rate naturally goes up and down. Intermittent means that they will only monitor for 15 minutes out of each hour. Thankfully this is standard routine at my hospital. We do not want internal monitoring because it involves screwing an electrode into the baby’s scalp– no thank you!*
- Limited vaginal exams. *Too many vaginal exams (where they check to see how dilated and effaced you are) can lead to infection, can be discouraging if not as far along as you feel you are, and may prematurely break your water. They aren’t necessary if you know the signposts of each stage of labor and you’ll feel when it’s time to push. At my hospital, they only do vaginal exams if you request them*
- An IV with a heplock (only if necessary). *Again, it restricts movement to be hooked up to an IV constantly and also pumps baby and mom full of too much fluid. This can lead to a lot of other issues, like trouble with breastfeeding right after delivery and the impression that baby is losing too much weight when really it’s adjusting back to normal after having too much fluid inside of him/her*
- Freedom of movement during labor and the ability to try various positions for pushing. *Many women feel that it is much more comfortable to move around during labor than lay on their backs in bed. The same is true for pushing. Did you know that by squatting you open the birth canal 15% more? I think of that during squats in Body Pump. Gotta keep my legs strong! Our hospital actually has squatting bars in each room to help with this*
- To use self-directed pushing and breathing during second stage. *This is a personal choice. We don’t want a big crowd of people yelling at us and telling us when to push, and counting for 10 seconds. Women’s bodies instinctively know how to push and how to breathe. That type of direction just isn’t for me*
- To use natural techniques to prevent tearing (massage, warm compress, olive oil) rather than an episiotomy. *Many women end up tearing or getting an episiotomy to get the baby out, but there are natural ways to prevent this from happening. Also, if it comes down to it I’d rather tear than get an episiotomy. There has been a lot of research that explains why. For example, it’s easier to recover from and there’s less risk of causing permanent incontinence (not being able to control your pee!)*
- A positive birth environment. It would be helpful if the lights are kept dim, noise is kept to a minimum, and the door is kept closed for privacy. *This is important to us. Although we chose to deliver our first baby in a hospital just as a precaution, we want to forget we are in a hospital environment if we can so we are able to focus. The midwife said this is perfectly fine as well*
- Only Katie, Kevin, our doula, and the birth team to be in the room during labor and delivery. *Another personal preference. The less people in the room the better for us. I get distracted and overwhelmed too easily to have a bunch of family members in there*
After the birth:
- We are looking forward to Kevin assisting in catching the baby, announcing the sex of the baby, and cutting the umbilical cord once it has stopped pulsating.*We put Kevin announcing the sex of the baby in bold so that they (hopefully) remember and don’t spoil the surprise. Kevin also feels very strongly about wanting to help deliver the baby, which the midwives encourage. We want to wait until the umbilical cord stops pulsating because when it’s clamped right away the baby only has 2/3 of its blood supply. By waiting a few minutes it will get the rest of its blood and avoid becoming too weak or anemic)*
- We would like for the baby to be placed on Katie immediately for breastfeeding and for one hour afterwards. We would like to delay the eye treatment and vitamin K shot until after this special time. *There are so many reasons why skin-to-skin contact and immediate breastfeeding are important after delivery. Here’s a link to read all about the many benefits. We want to spend the special time after birth bonding with the baby and establishing breastfeeding (which is very important to us too), and are delaying all the after-birth procedures like weighing, measuring, and other tests until one hour after birth. The midwife says this is perfectly fine. Our hospital also allows the baby to “room-in” with us and doesn’t take it to a nursery unless we want that*
- We would like to deliver the placenta naturally and take it home with us. *Okay, I know this one is a little out-there, but there are SO MANY benefits of keeping your placenta, hiring a professional to dehydrate it and put it into pill form for you to take post-partum. Just trust me on this one 🙂 One of my favorite bloggers Kath wrote a great post about the benefits to ingesting your placenta. There’s honestly nothing to lose and everything to gain! As far as delivering naturally, that just means no Pitocin to get it out like some hospitals do after birth*
We do understand the need for flexibility if complications arise, but we are very hopeful and excited to have a natural childbirth. Thank you for your care and positive encouragement!
We created our Birth Wishes with the help of our Bradley teacher (who is also going to be our doula). Our Bradley teacher also delivered naturally at our hospital recently so she is very familiar with what they do there and was a great help when giving us feedback on our plan. I also brought our wishes to my last appointment to show it to the midwife and get it approved. The midwife thought it was great and had no changes to make. We tried very hard to word everything carefully and respectfully. While we do want these things, we want the nurses and hospital staff to be receptive to us and we didn’t want to sound demanding. We are also planning to bring them some special treats so that they are more willing to be nice and give us what we want 🙂
Although my hospital already does many of our wishes in their standard practice, it feels good to get them on paper so that they are clearly there in black and white. My goal is to just let my body do what it needs to do to give birth to this baby without any interference. I hope to not have to be induced, need medications, or have a C-section. Hopefully my body will respond and do what many other women’s bodies have done before to allow this to happen. Ultimately, what matters is a healthy baby and a healthy mother, but I can’t imagine a better way for our baby to begin his or her life than a natural unmedicated childbirth, and I hope all of our Birth Wishes come true!