Hey y’all! It’s due date month around these parts! I’m 36.5 weeks along, and in honor of that I thought we’d spend some time chatting about birth in general, beginning today with making a document called “Birth preferences” to help you and your OB/midwife to be on the same page.
Let me step back and say that I’m not usually the type of person who tells you that you should do something. That’s not really my style. But birth is a big deal, and birth in Catholic families that are open to life, is even more so. At the risk of sounding bossy, I think writing your birth preferences should absolutely be a priority for you, and here’s why.
Why you should consider writing out your birth preferences
If you’re a Catholic young woman, consider this: you might be planning to have a larger than average family. If God grants your prayers, there are simple steps you can take to help protect future babies and fertility. Avoiding an unnecessary c-section tops that list.
C-sections, while miraculously life-saving in some cases, also increase the risks of complications in future pregnancies. I’m not saying that to scare you: I’ve had a c-section and am grateful for it! But there are a lot of unnecessary c-sections done each year, and if you can avoid it, do it. It may save you heartache down the road, and will most certainly help you avoid a painful recovery from a major surgery.
Many women think the only reason to write a birth plan is if you don’t want an epidural, but that’s absolutely not true. Even if you decide to go the epidural route, having your wishes written down can be really helpful to your birth team. There are so many factors and variables in hospital routine, and you have a lot of say in what will happen to you and your baby during your labor and delivery. Spending a little time in study and preparation could very well alter the entire course of your birth.
Birth is a huge, profound, life-altering event. It’s going to be profound whether you prepare or not, but it’s going to be a heck of a lot less scary if you have an idea of what you’re in for. And I’m not talking about labor war stories told at the baby shower that make you want to shout, “Fine! Go ahead and put me under now and let me know when it’s over.” (No no no, don’t listen to those stories! Run far, far away!) I’m talking about knowing just a little bit about what to expect in a normal, uncomplicated birth.
How to write a birth plan:
1: If at all possible, take a birth class. And if I may be so bold as to suggest it, take an out-of-hospital birth class. Hospital classes are often better at preparing you to accept hospital routines than actually informing you about all your options. There are exceptions, of course, but that’s largely been my experience. If you really, truly can’t take a birth class, consider choosing some books from this list and getting them from your library or Amazon.
2: Talk to your husband and dream up your ideal birth. How exactly would it go? After you’ve nailed that down, anchor it in reality. Most likely you won’t be able to give birth in a seaside resort in Phuket, but you may be able to have a birth tub if your hospital offers it. At the very least you can close the blinds and play your favorite music on your iPhone to drown out the hospital din.
3: Talk to your doctor or midwife and find out what his/her regular practices are, and about the routine practices at your hospital. Find out how open your OB and the hospital are to your preferences and make concessions if you’re able. It’s okay to have non-negotiables, but not everything should be non-negotiable. Showing some flexibility might earn you some in return.
4: Write out your birth preferences. Follow these guidelines for maximum success:
- Keep it positive. Whenever possible, say what you want, not what you don’t.
- Keep it short. One page, maximum, in a font style and size that’s easy to read.
- Use bullet points and bold-faced type so busy nurses can skim it rather than needing a cup of coffee and a magnifying glass to read it. 😉
5: Bring the birth preferences sheet to your doctor at your 36ish week appt. Have your doctor sign it and slip it in your file, and keep a copy for yourself. Actually, the copy you keep will be more useful to your husband; you might be a leeeeeeetle busy during labor. In the off-chance that he wasn’t taking notes during your long
monologues romantic conversations about cord clamping etc, he might want a handy-dandy reference.
6: Prepare yourself for things to go differently than you dreamed up in #2. This is real life after all, and birth is as wacky and unexpected as the rest of it. “Pray, hope, and do not worry,” as Padre Pio said.
And now, just for you and all of your friends, here are my birth preferences. Feel free to download them to your computer and change as you see fit.
Download: Unmedicated Birth Preferences
Download: C-section Birth Preferences
(I keep that second one tucked into my hospital bag just in case it ever comes up again.)
Just in case you were wondering why I care so dang much, here’s a very short summary of my birth history.
I had a scheduled c-section with my oldest child, Gianna, which you can read about here. When I became pregnant with my second daughter, Aliya, I knew I had to do homework in order to advocate for myself. I knew I wanted to have several kids (ha) and I didn’t want repeat c-sections to endanger me or any future babies I might have. After I had an amazing VBAC with Aliya, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and I became certified as a childbirth educator. I taught classes for a couple years and had a couple more babies (Gabriel, Ezekiel) but after being in Korea for a year or so, I let my certification lapse and just helped my friends and family informally. 17 months ago I gave birth to Rosalie in a parking lot and while it makes for a great story, I’m hoping this next one will be a little less exciting.
TL;DR: Lots of babies, childbirth educator, getting ready to birth #6.
Your turn! What are your must-have requests during labor and delivery?