“The profound mystery and spirituality of birth can never be understood with
the mind, they are known through the heart…” –Pam England
You’ve taken the birth classes, read the pregnancy books, prepared the nursery, and the big day is almost here! Even with all this preparation, you may still be feeling slightly under-prepared for the birth. There is still one last thing to do that will help you navigate the birth process, calm your mind, and empower you to advocate for yourself during labor and birth, write your best birth plan!
What is a Birth Plan?
Although ultimately you cannot “plan” your birth, writing a birth plan will help you think about the medical support and interventions that may be presented to you during your labor.
Your birth plan is a written list of your preferences to be used as a guide for how you would like your labor and delivery to go. This list is given to the hospital staff as a way for them to know how to support your birthing choices.
The process of creating a birth plan can be very educational and empowering. While writing your birth plan you learn about various types of medical support, interventions, and pharmaceutical pain relief that may be presented to you in labor.
When you know the protocols ahead of time, and understand your options regarding whether or not to accept them, you can better advocate for yourself and your baby. You will take an active role in the decision-making process, and in doing so, make informed decisions that are right for you.
Having a birth plan will help you navigate conversations with the medical staff about the various options regarding medical interventions when they are presented to you in labor. If an intervention seems unnecessary or you are unsure about the benefits and risks it poses, your birth plan is there to help you ask difficult questions.
How To Write A Birth Plan
The first three steps to writing your birth plan.
Know the protocols at the place you will be giving birth. At your prenatal visit, you can discuss with your doctor or midwife which interventions are standard protocol and which ones are optional. I’m located in San Diego, California, so I’m familiar with the hospitals and birth centers here, but protocols will vary depending on where you live in the country.
Freestanding Birth Centers
Freestanding birth centers typically have different protocols than hospitals. It will be important for you to know ahead of time what your midwife may or may not recommend for pain relief and medical support.
It is also very important to talk to your midwife about the hospital transfer process, in the event it becomes necessary. You will need to know which hospital to transfer to and what their protocols are so that you can write your birth plan accordingly.
Licensed midwives have protocols that they adhere to and are able to provide some medical support in the home environment. It will be important for you to have a conversation with your midwife about her process for hospital transfers, and to establish which hospital you would transfer to, if the need arose.
In the event of a homebirth-to-hospital transfer, it’s best to be prepared when you arrive. A birth plan will help you have healthy discussions with the medical staff about your options regarding medical interventions.
I always have my homebirth clients write a hospital birth plan, hoping they won’t need it, but I can tell you that my clients who did transfer were so glad they had it! It made the whole process much less stressful.
Common Medical Interventions
Ask your doctor or midwife about the common procedures on this chart. If the hospitals in your area offer additional interventions, a local doula should be able to help add to this list.
Research the benefits, risks and alternatives to each of these commonly practiced interventions.
To learn about the benefits, risks, and alternatives to each of these interventions this is a trusted site I recommend where you can do your research:
- Go to www.evidencebasedbirth.com
- Sign up for the “free crash course on evidence based care”
- Read the handouts
- For information that is not in handout form, go to the blog page and type into the search what you are looking for
- If you have a birth doula, she should be able to help you with this and answer any questions you have about medical support
To make it easy, print out this MEDICAL SUPPORT CHART PDF and fill in the benefits, risks, and alternatives to each intervention.
Keep in mind that it is NOT possible to understand every single scenario that could play out, or know every detail about all the interventions that the hospital staff might propose to you. I am simply giving you the list of the main interventions that may be part of your birth experience at a hospital so that you can understand why they may be necessary and when you might be able to opt out.
Step #3 — Birth Plan Template
Once you have a good understanding of the benefits, risks, and alternatives to the medical interventions, you can fill in your birth plan using this template as your guide. Download this free PDF template and modify it per your preferences. Take this birth plan to your doctor or midwife and discuss each of the items and ask them to sign it. Print out two copies and put them in your hospital bag.
“The essence of childbirth preparation is self-discovery,
not assimilating obstetric information.” –Pam England
What is a Heart’s Plan?
Now that you’ve completed your birth plan, it’s time to work on your “Heart’s Plan!”
As you may have noticed, the birth plan primarily focuses on your physical body; as in, what you do and don’t want done to it. However, birth is much more than a physical experience. Birth is a psychological, emotional, energetic and spiritual rite-of-passage involving the mind, emotions and spirit.
The Heart’s Plan’s job is to help you prepare your heart and soul for facing the unknown elements of labor and birth so that you can come through the experience with self-love and compassion.
The irony in making a birth plan is that, ultimately, you cannot plan your birth and it is very important to keep an open mind and heart, cultivating an understanding and respect for the uncertainty of labor.
In fact, labor is synonymous with uncertainty. When I prepare my doula clients and Birthing From Within students for birth, I always include preparing them for ALL birth outcomes. Birth is unpredictable and the only thing we truly have control over is how we respond or react to difficult situations when they arise.
Through the challenging moments that are inevitably part of the labor and birth process, we have an opportunity for personal growth, maturation, and connection to a deeper sense of self. It is because of the challenges we face in birth that make us courageous and wise mothers, not in spite of them.
The Heart’s Plan is a model I created to offset the planning aspect of the birth plan. The emotional and psychological journey of becoming a parent is as important as the physical journey. Making a Heart’s Plan connects you with your true self, tethering you to your mothering heart and soul as you cross challenging thresholds during the birth process. Your Heart’s plan is there to remind you of your inherent strength, love, and courage during the throes of labor.
When you are in the middle of Laborland (the endorphin haze that affects the thinking mind) and you can’t remember a thing you learned in your birth classes, you will be supported by your Heart’s Plan. When you are overwhelmed by fatigue, pain, and the unknown, the connection to Self is crucial. Your Heart’s Plan will be a comforting reminder that you are doing the best you can.
How To Make A Heart’s Plan
“You may have lots of questions about birth, but there is one, deep heartfelt question we all need to discover. Your Heart’s Question. This is the way we integrate the mind, the body, the spirit and the heart into birth preparation.” –Pam England and Virginia Borbro
The next three steps in writing your birth plan is to write your Heart’s Plan. Your Heart’s Plan is a reflection of your innermost true self. It takes time, patience, and stillness to access this aspect of yourself. No research is necessary, simply a willingness to look within and listen to your heart and womb.
Gather the supplies you will need to create your heart’s plan. You will need:
- This Blank flower PDF template (preferably on card stock) I recommend printing up 2-3 just in case you want to do some preliminary sketching
- Journal or paper and pen
- Art supplies for coloring or painting your flower. Here are my favorite mediums:
- Watercolor paints
- Prismacolor colored pencils
- Oil pastels
- Collage materials (you might want to put your baby’s ultrasound photo in the center of your flower)
Step #5 —
Set aside an hour or two to connect with your baby and cultivate stillness. Have your flower template and supplies laid out, then follow the steps below to reflect on your heart’s desires.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to center yourself and become very present. Imagine breathing in and out of your heart center.
- Imagine a flame inside your sacred heart. As you inhale into your heart, imagine this flame growing brighter, as you exhale, see that light expanding, spreading love throughout your entire body.
- Place your right hand on your heart and your left hand on the baby and breathe this love from your heart down into your baby’s heart. Feel the connection and affirm the partnership the two of you will share in the birth process.
“Our heart has spaciousness, love and wisdom….. intuition and deep freedom, all of which are beyond all of our stories. “ –Jack Kornfield
Ask yourself one or more of the following questions.
- What is it I need to know to give birth as a MOTHER or a FATHER….not just a health consumer?
- If my birth plan flies out the window, what does my heart want to get out of the experience?
- What energy do I want to embody while giving birth, even if the outcome is not what I hoped it would be?
- Who am I?
- What is my heart’s deepest longing?
- What is my heart’s deepest question?
- How is this experience part of my spiritual awakening and personal healing?
- If labor and birth are my teachers, what do I want to learn about myself?
Allow these questions to rest in your heart. Be open and allow the answers and inspiration to arise spontaneously.
- Journal the answers to the questions with stream-of-conscience writing. Let the deepest intent reveal itself to you when you feel inspired, and write it out!
- Remain open to spontaneous inspiration. When a word or phrase comes to you, no matter when or where, write it down!
- When you feel like you have your Heart’s Plan, write this vision or intent in the center of the flower. Upon each petal, write words that will support this Heartfelt Intent. Then, color your flower!
- Hang your flower up where you can be reminded to LIVE this intent daily. Put it on your altar, and make sure to use it in labor as a focal point.
Step #6 —
Now that you have finished your Birth Plan and your Heart’s Plan you are ready for birth mentally, emotionally and spiritually! Print out two copies of each and put them in your birth bag. The flower will be a wonderful focal point while you are in labor and a lovely way to keep you tethered to your deepest intentions.
In the final weeks of pregnancy, be sure to hang your flower in a place where you can see it on a daily basis. Let the heartfelt words sink in as you reflect on all the ways you will discover new aspects of yourself through the process of giving birth to your baby.
Keeping the Heart’s Plan alive and accessing it during birth requires that you release attachment to how you think your baby’s birth is supposed to unfold. When you release attachment to the outcome, you open yourself up to the possibility that each moment offers you.
Feel the Ease of Being Prepared
There are uncountable unknowns when it comes to giving birth, which can be very anxiety-inducing.
By writing your best Birth Plan and Heart’s Plan you will be able to reflect on how you will cope with unpredictability, and how to make decisions about medical interventions if they are presented to you. This will reduce anxiety and increase your level of excitement for giving birth!
When you prepare your body, heart, and soul for the realities of giving birth, you will be able to surrender to a higher power and give birth with great love.
Together your Birth Plan and Heart’s Plan will be a guiding light during labor and birth and you will come out stronger than you knew possible!