Pregnancy is a profoundly spiritual period in a woman’s life as she is connected with the incoming soul of her preborn child. It is an opportunity for deep reflection and meditation on the meaning and purpose of one’s life, an opportunity to face life squarely and truly take responsibility.
30 years ago, my birthplan was radical, in that I knew I did NOT wish to give birth in a hospital and I searched for and found a local midwife who helped me birth at home. I did NOT want an episiotomy and I did NOT want to be separated from my baby or my family. My requests were granted and I was not dissapointed. However in retrospect, when the midwife vigorously bathed my baby son as if he were a naughty boy found playing in the mud, I wished she hadn’t . I would have preferred to bath him myself. I subsequently did so after the gentle births of my second and third sons.
Thinking about these kinds of details for a birth plan beforehand is hard, because with our first baby we do not yet know what to expect. We read pregnancy magazines with frontal spreads of glamorous model moms full of glowing advice and beautiful outcomes(that gorgeous woman in skin-tight tops with a spotless baby smiling at the camera). Then, when we present our birthplans to our obstetricians, we cannot understand why they don’t seem to be paying serious attention.
For those of us who choose to follow the medical model of care, wish to have an epidural and/or an elective caesarian section, writing and presenting a birthplan is easy, because it fits in with the obstetrical and technological paradigm. For those of us who are trusting of the medical doctors until we are taken by surprise in labour, or those of us who require emergency interventions, birthplans dissipate in the clanking of bowls, the brightness of the lights, the wheels sliding on the shiny floors, the orchestra of faces that explain in sotto voce what will ‘happen’ next.
For those of us who intrinsically know what we want, such as a homebirth, we seek out caregivers/independent midwives who are more likely to fulfill our requests. And even then, we cannot always be sure we will get what we want. Women are vulnerable during labour and birth. It is the worst time to be fighting for change. This MUST be done during your pregnancy and in good time, so that you can change to an independent midwife and or an obstetrician who is willing to support a midwifery/women’s model of care.
No matter what type of birth a woman chooses, she deserves to be treated with RESPECT, with HONOUR and CONFIDENCE in her ancient ability to give birth to new life. If these attitudes are not displayed by your doctor/midwife, it is time to think about finding a person who does treat you with respect. (I feel quite torn saying this, because there are thousands of women out there who don’t have choices, who are forced to attend government service clinics where they are treated with less respect than they deserve).
I was recently privileged to attend the birth of Hannah Rose at home. Her Mom, Claire, had sent me explicit wishes for the birth and we made a point of familiarising ourselves with her birth plan. I include Claire’s Birth Plan below to show the kinds of issues that need to be thought about, the questions you need to ask yourself before the birth.
Claire’s Birth Plan
Basically, I’d like the birth to be calm, peaceful, serene and quiet. I’d like the room darkened, with candles and essential oils burning, and I’d like to be free to vocalize, change position, keep my eyes closed and be left to turn inward to mentally deal with what is happening. If I do start to get tense, I’d like to be reminded to keep my mouth loose, touch myself, relax between contractions, vocalize, relax my shoulders.
I’d like to:
– be able to eat or drink whatever I like
– get in the pool when I’ve dilated to about 7 or 8cm
– burn candles and essential oils while in labour
– film the birth with a video camera on a tripod (will try to keep it out of the way)
– keep noise and talking to a minimum, I like it really quiet so I can focus on my visualizations
– be touched as little as possible
– be talked to as little as possible (last time you only said 3 things to me, and they were exactly what I needed to hear at that point, nothing more)
– no rupturing of membranes
– touch myself to help myself open up
– be able to vocalize while I’m opening up
– be able to change positions as I feel the need
– have Jason involved as much as possible, so that he’s very much a part of the birth, if possible, I’d like him to “catch” the baby and bring it up to me
– wait until I feel the urge to push, and if I don’t feel the urge, to be left to just breathe the baby out (if after a while you can sense that it isn’t happening, then by all means, tell me when to push)
– stay in the pool after the baby is born
– breastfeed the baby in the pool
– let the placenta come out of its own accord while I’m in the pool
– no tugging on the cord
– only get out of the pool with the baby when I feel ready
– only clamp and cut the cord on the baby’s side, after it’s stopped pulsating, I’d like Jason to cut it
– keep the baby with me as much as possible, I’d really prefer if it isn’t whisked away immediately to be checked, washed (if possible, check baby while one of us holds it)
– after we get out the pool, I’d like to rest quietly in bed with the baby and Jason
* I don’t want the baby to get a Vitamin K injection. I’ll be breastfeeding, so it will get plenty Vitamin K in the colostrum.
* Instead of silver nitrate drops in my baby’s eyes, I’d prefer it to get Erythromycin, which is said to work better and is Should I also effective against Chlamydia, otherwise nothing.
* I’d like Emily to come home very soon after the baby is born to meet him or her and snuggle up with us.
In Fact,we were able to facilitate all these requests, except the request that Jason(her husband) catch the baby, because the baby was born at 4am in the caul and Claire brought her up out of the water herself!!
Jason cut the cord and Hannah latched onto the breast within the first 30 minutes after the birth. The Dad had skin to skin time with Hannah before Emily came home after sunrise and met her new sister!
I weighed Hannah Rose several hours later and noticed that jason had laid out the ‘caul’ with frangipani flowers to dry on a towel. So Beautiful!