Do you want to have an empowered home birth? Today's episode of Apothecary Wisdom is all about planning and preparing for your safe and empowering homebirth by writing your birth plan.
As a midwife, I really enjoy the anticipation that comes before birth. The way women prepare, expect, and dream about birth is absolutely beautiful and powerful. One aspect of preparing for a safe homebirth, is knowing how to write an effective birth plan.
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Over the years, I've helped hundreds of women write their homebirth birth plans. One thing is abundantly clear, the women who feel good about how their births went (no matter how it unfolded) were realistically prepared for the intensity and reality of birth. They were not simply lucky. They actively prepared their minds, bodies,partners, and homes for the birth experience.
Writing a Homebirth Birth Plan
Birth is an active process, and simply planning to give birth at home does not magically grant you the birth you're envisioning. The purpose of a well-written birth plan is to effectively communicate with your midwife, partner, and other support team members. A well-written plan gives a clear picture of your informed choices. Essentially, it helps you say "yes" to what you want in your birth and say "no" to what you don't. Creating a realistic plan confirms that you have gone over everything, and everyone is on the same page. A birth plan is a powerful communication tool that once it is in place, it's easier for you to trust and allow the birth process to unfold in a way that is in alignment with your core values about birth.
What a birth plan is not:
A birth plan is not a rigid script or set of rules.
A birth plan is not a magic wand.
What a birth plan is:
A birth plan is the written reference point of your informed choices. It is meant to help you reach your goals and make your preferences known before you go into labor so that when you are fully engaged in the birth process, you can focus on your breath and you feel confident knowing that your birth team remembers and will uphold and to the best of their ability will make your desires for your birth happen.
From my perspective, you should write two birth plans.
One birth plan is your deepest heartfelt desire plan. It's the plan that you write from your larger, wiser, deeper self. When you write this plan, it is more like a journal entry or a stream of consciousness. In this plan, you get to dream of your birth without limits. There are no limits on time, money, location. You get to birth on your terms no matter what.
- What are my core values about birth?
- What do I believe about birth?
- What am I nervous about?
- How does my baby want to be born?
- What do I want more than anything else for my birth?
- Engage your senses, what does my birth look like, feel like, taste like, smell like, sound like?
To write this plan, you start by setting the intention and then take a walk outside, a yoga session, or even a guided meditation like this one to relax and open your heart and mind putting you in a creative space. When you're ready, place one hand over your heart. Connect with your heart. Ask your heart what your heart desires for your birth more than anything else. Then, pick up the pen and write. (One that flows really well.) Go for it. Do not pause and think about it. Don't correct your spelling. Just write until the words no longer come. That is your deepest heartfelt desire birth plan. There is so much wisdom and creativity in that plan. It reveals lots of underlying beliefs about birth. Some of these beliefs are amazing and others are outdated and limiting.
As I said, you have two birth plans. The next plan is a blend of your heart's desires and your brilliant practical mind. In this plan, you come into alignment with your heart, your core values, and with the realistic and down to earth part of yourself.
I suggest writing both plans. Start writing your deepest heartfelt desire plan as soon as possible, ideally, in early pregnancy. Share that plan with your midwife. I loved it when my clients shared their unbridled desires for birth with me. Write your second plan after you complete childbirth classes. That way, you will have all the facts and the information still fresh and top of mind. This plan will become your empowered Homebirth Birth Plan.
When you are writing your home birth plans, ask your self these questions:
"Who am I? Who am I physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
What will bring me physical comfort? Think about things like the lighting, music, pillows, yoga mat, birth balls, birth supplies, the fan, hot packs, ice chips, nourishment, showers, water birth pools, and postpartum herb baths.
What will bring me comfort emotionally?
- Who is with me?
- Should your mom be at the birth?
- What environment do I feel safe in?
- What do I need when I'm in pain?
- What helps me stay motivated to get through the tough stuff?
- What words or affirmations will help me stay focused and engaged with the birth instead of trying to resist and escape it?
What will bring me comfort spiritually?
Some people don't specifically bring spirituality to their birth, and that is great. For other people, their birth is a spiritual experience. I'm bringing this up because one of the main reasons women choose homebirth is because they want to be uninhibited. They want to express themselves as they birth.
Here are a few more practical questions to ask yourself:
- What are you going to eat in labor and after birth?
- What about your family and other children?
- Are your children going to be at the birth? If so, who is with them?
- If not, where do they go?
- Do you want your partner to catch the baby and cut the cord?
- What are you going to do with the placenta?
- Do you have your birth supplies?
- Do you have your postpartum recovery herbs?
- What about all the newborn decisions?
- Do you want photographs?
Sometimes, these preferences change during birth, and sometimes we just forget. Having a written birth plan helps your support team remember to ask you, "You had planned on this specific thing -- would you like to try that now?"
When you are planning a birth plan, you have prepare for every possible scenario. Plan for the long haul. You might go over your due date and have a 3 day labor. Or, your birth could go even better than you can imagine. Or you might transport to the hospital. If a hospital transport is necessary, It is essential to know your midwife's plan for hospital transports and what to expect from the hospitals in your area. So, as a part of your birth plan, you have a section called the hospital transport plan. This should be clear, one page, easy to read.
Transport plans are slightly different than homebirth plans because they have to be more concise. Keep in mind; if you're transporting, you are doing so because you need a higher level of care. You should expect and accept receiving some medical interventions. If you didn't need them, you would not be going. Your midwife will give you specific details based on your situation and local hospital policy.
But as a general overview, think about who is being allowed in the room with you? Include your midwife or doula on that list, by name, if you'd like them to come with you. Mention any allergies to medications, instructions for interventions such as episiotomy, induction, or a cesarean. Remind them that you'd like to be skin to skin with the baby as soon as possible. Your partner is with the baby at all times etc.
We don't like to think about the worst-case scenario, but thinking about it in terms of active participation, preparedness can help face some of the fear of the unknown and turn the worry into empowerment. I've included some examples in my homebirth birth plan template that you can download.
Putting it All Together
All in all, a birth plan is a tool. It should be brief, clear, and easy to reference. Please go over it with your midwife at your home visit about a month before birth. 36 weeks is a good time because the birth feels imminent, and you more than likely have enough time to process and ask questions, make necessary adjustments, so everyone's on the same page. Make sure you have a copy of your birth plan in your chart, have a copy at home in your supply box, and keep a copy in your transport bag.
I created a template for you! Remember, this is a template. That means you can choose which options are right for you. I created a Google Docs so you can edit it. You can delete sections and add your own. Several options seem similar, so read carefully and find your best answer. At the end of the day, you want to customize and personalize your birth plan to accurately fit you and not you trying to fit it.
This is what I'm inviting you to do:
- Write your deepest heartfelt desire birth plan first- take your time and have fun with the process of self-discovery.
- Share it with your partner, midwife, and doula.
- Download the Homebirth Birth Plan Template. Linked below
- Go to File- Make Copy
- Save it to your Drive.
- Rename it
- Read it
- Customize it
- Share it with your birth team- sooner than later.
- Make necessary adjustments based on feedback.
Print and sign at least 3 copies. One for your midwife to put it in your chart, put a copy with your birth supplies, and the other one in your hospital transport bag.
Remember birth is a powerful and amazing experience that always goes better when you are well prepared. Be practical, be humble, expect the unexpected, allow the process to unfold within a container of safety.
Download and use this birth plan template to create your home birth plan that works for you. It is my sincere hope that you have a beautiful birth experience that you feel good about at the end of the day. You got this girl!
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