I’ll be the first to admit it: I love a good plan. I start every day with a to-do list, and sometimes I’ll even write down things that I’ve already accomplished just so I can check something off. I never go to the grocery store without first writing what I need to buy, and I am the queen of Google Doc spreadsheets for any and all purposes. Planning is something that truly calms me down, makes me feel prepared, and helps me a great deal when I’m feeling anxious. So it might come as a surprise when I tell people that I don’t have a birth plan – and I don’t intend to create one either. So please, for the love of God, stop asking me about my birth plan.
To be honest, that wasn’t always my intention. After my husband and I first found out that I was pregnant, I immediately started making a checklist for the next nine months, and one of those items was “draft a birth plan.” But as the months progressed, I started rethinking whether or not I actually wanted one.
I found a number of “birth plan templates” online, like this one from Parents Magazine. Most of them have pretty basic questions, such as: Who do you want in the room when you give birth? Are you going to bring music? Who do you want to visit after the baby is born? But in addition to those logistical prompts, there are plenty of others that are a lot more weighty: Do you want an epidural? Do you want to have a natural birth? Under what circumstances would you want a C-section? Do you want to avoid an episiotomy?
I’m sure some pregnant women are able to answer those questions at any stage of their pregnancy. And, if I’m being honest, I have an answer to each of them right now as well. But there’s a tiny voice in the back of my head that reminds me that I might change my mind. After all, how will I really know whether or not I want an epidural until I’m deep in the throes of labor and experiencing the pain for myself? Knowing my personality, I worry that if I make a plan now and “break it” later, I’ll be angry at myself for not sticking to said plan. If I pledge to have an unmedicated birth and then demand all the pain meds in the world once I get to the hospital, the entire plan goes out the window — which seems to defeat the purpose of having a plan to begin with.
When all is said and done, I won’t really be able to control what happens to my body when my daughter is born.
And let’s be real, there are some items on the standard birth plan that are straight-up out of my control. I can tell you right now that I’d prefer not to have a C-section, and I definitely do not want an episiotomy, but if my doctor feels that one of those procedures would be the safest route for me or my baby, I’m going to listen.
As someone who loves being organized and having a plan, there’s a lot of fear that goes along with labor, because it's so inherently unpredictable. And with that in mind, I can understand why making a birth plan might be helpful for some women. But when all is said and done, I won’t really be able to control what happens to my body when my daughter is born. Sure, there will be certain details that I can control, like the lighting of the room or my Spotify playlist. I can request that only my husband be present, and I can make sure that I have my favorite pair of slippers tucked inside my hospital bag. I’ll be able to arrange for someone to feed my cat while I’m away, and I can prep the nursery as much as possible in the weeks leading up to my due date.
At a certain point, what I’ve envisioned as my "optimal birth experience" has to take a backseat to what the medical professionals think is best.
But ultimately, I’m coming to terms with the fact that there’s going to be a lot that will simply be out of my control. My baby could come early, or she could come late. I might be able to tolerate the pain, or it might drive me batsh*t crazy. And, as much as I don’t want to think about this, something could go wrong. At a certain point, what I’ve envisioned as my "optimal birth experience" has to take a backseat to what the medical professionals think is best.
At the end of the day, I really have one goal when it comes to labor and delivery: to make it to the other side safely with a healthy baby girl. The rest of the details will fall into place, one way or another.