You might've heard people talk about writing their birth plans, but I approach this a little differently. For some women, getting caught up in all the do's and don'ts of their birth plan can become an added stress and if their birth doesn't go according to said plan, they struggle with feelings of failure, loss, inadequacy or a whole host of negative feelings. Instead, I work with clients to create a Birth Preferences List. There's no guarantee that the list of preferences that you lay out will be exactly how the birthing experience will go, but it can be helpful to think through what you do and do not want ahead of time. I encourage women to work on this with their partners and make anyone who might be present at the birth aware of the wishes. Having as many people on board as possible makes sure everyone is on the same page and will work towards a common goal.
I've narrowed it down to six steps to create an easy-to-read, clear and effective list.
- Keep it to one page. Remember K.I.S.S. - Keep It Super Simple! Use a basic font that's size 12 or larger, bullet points, and easy-to-follow instructions. The doctors, nurses, midwives and/or doulas who are present at the birth will have a lot of things on their mind when the day comes so making the list clear and to the point is in everyone's best interest.
- Put items in bold that are of most importance to you and narrow that down to five things. Sure, you're making this list because everything you put on it feels important to you. However, narrowing it down to the top five things that you really don't want to budge on is helpful.
- Do some research on your birthing facility and know what their standard protocols are that have to be the same for each birthing woman. Don't go against that and don't include that on your sheet. If, for example, every laboring woman is required to have an IV in place and its clear that there can't be any exceptions to the rule, don't include anything on your list about how you'd rather not have an IV. You've done the research ahead of time, it is what it is, this one particular thing isn't something to fight over.
- Be courteous and kind. Don't make the list sound like orders or demands and don't belittle the professionals who are caring for you. They know their stuff, they have lots more experience at this than you and they truly do want they same healthy, happy outcome that you want.
- Print a couple copies and have access to the document electronically, just in case.
- Be flexible. You might read that and cringe a little thinking "NO! I will not be flexible! I'm taking the time to research and really think through my desires and listing them out on this list is what I want, its what I should get!" All of that is true, however, you must keep in mind that this is a list of your strong preferences. Ultimately, you want a healthy outcome for you and your baby so if it becomes necessary to deviate from the list, you make it clear to do so on all accounts.
Making this list shouldn't be overwhelming or stressful and should give you a sense of preparedness, calm and confidence as you head into the day that you'll meet your baby.
Working with clients on these lists is one of my favorite things to do so if you have questions and want help in laying out your desires, let me know!