I Don’t Understand Birth Plans

I don’t understand birth plans.

I mean, I know what they are, but I don’t really understand why they exist.

I did not write a birth plan. I am someone who likes to plan. I plan for a living. My husband and I planned for a summer baby. (And luckily got one.) I love lists. But I did not write a birth plan.

If I had, I think it would look something like this:

Birth Plan

  1. Get baby out of my uterus. Seriously, get him out now.
  2. Keep us both safe.

You know why? Because this is my first child, and I didn’t know how the labour would go. I did not want to feel pressured to stick to a plan I made before I knew what labour would be like. Plus I couldn’t sit down long enough to do it without barfing.

Sure, it is a good idea to understand the process of birthing a tiny human and to understand what pain relief and possible interventions may be necessary. Going into D-Day (Delivery day) with information is great. But going into it with a 5 page plan about how you want it to go?

Here’s the secret about labour: it will go how it goes. No amount of planning or perfecting each little detail will help prevent the unexpected. Sometimes things happen. I have talked to other moms who feel saddened or guilty about their birth turning out differently than the one they pictured and carefully crafted over their pregnancy.

A friend who planned to give birth in the hospital ended up delivering at home when her labour went too quickly. Several had unexpected emergency C-sections. Many ended up taking pain relief they originally didn’t want or not being able to have the epidural they expected. Many found that the pain management they thought would help was more irritating than soothing. Birth is messy and scary and unpredictable and things will probably not go as planned. A birth plan will not save you from this and it might make you feel worse.

It is natural to feel disappointed when things don’t go the way you planned, but you can’t beat yourself up about an unpredictable process not going exactly as planned. You can’t be mad at yourself for needing a C-section or for having to take the drugs you avoided for the first day of your labour.

Others have ideas about what they want, but worry that this will traumatize their baby. Unless you want to have the baby in the middle of a field of glass next to an erupting volcano, delivered by rabid raccoons, then I don’t think this is true. Your baby is being ejected from the only world they’ve known – this is going to be a massive adjustment, no matter what you do. Birth is traumatic! (For you, the baby and your partner. Not to mention the cleaners who have to tidy up that room. Yikes!!) But your baby will not remember any of it. They are fine.

Other moms feel guilt because of the judgement they perceive from their friends, family or even strangers they meet at mom groups. Let me just say this: Having a C-section does not make you less of a mom. Having a quick or “easy” labour doesn’t make you less of a mom. Saying yes to the epidural does not make you less of a mom. Having a bad birth experience does not mean you did something wrong for your baby. Did you have a baby? Then you are a supermom. You should get a medal. (But I’m not sure they sell those, so you probably won’t. Sorry.)

New mom, let go of that guilt. The way I see it, if you successfully got a baby from your uterus into the world, you have succeeded. (You made a freaking person!) This is already a Herculean effort. You are amazing for doing this – no matter how it happened.

So, write a birth plan if it will make you feel more prepared for the birth. If you are not sure your support people will advocate the things you want for you during labour, put them in writing. If putting things in writing will make your life easier, then go for it! You know yourself.

But don’t write one if you will feel stressed about doing it or pressured to do it by someone else or because your pregnancy book says to do it. I didn’t write a birth plan. You don’t need to either, but if you choose to do so, please cut yourself some slack on following it to the letter. Your best effort is enough.




4 thoughts on “I Don’t Understand Birth Plans

  1. I never really understood the birth plan, and thought this way, that I’d do whatever my body needed me to do. But after dealing with abusive nurses who bullied and literally threatened me into getting an epidural I didn’t want so they could leave me alone and stop checking on me until their shift was up, I wish I had something on paper to fall back on for support and emotional strength. Birth plans aren’t for good doctors and nursing staff.


    1. I am sorry that you had this experience! My sister-in-law told me something similar about her birth, but it was the doctor who kept telling her she should get the epidural. You are right, that it can be a source of emotional strength, especially because it is hard to express things clearly during labour.


  2. “Birth Plan

    Get baby out of my uterus. Seriously, get him out now.
    Keep us both safe.”

    ALMOST my exact words to my doctor when discussed birth plans! I think I said something along the lines of “I TRUST YOU, Do what you need to do to get her out and keep us both safe”.

    I am a firm believer in letting your body speak to you and tuning out everyone else’s advice, opinions, and experiences.

    Enjoyed reading your post. 🙂
    Mama Curtiss


    1. Thank you for reading! I had a lot of friends having babies around the same time as me and so I got a lot of questions about how I planned to do labour, and I didn’t have a clue so I felt like it was strange to plan for something I hadn’t yet experienced. So I did let my body tell me how to handle it.


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