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Prefer to Listen? Find the accompanying podcast episode on the Unschooled Homebirth podcast, Episode 48, wherever you get your podcasts!
If you're like most hopeful homebirthers I talk to, you have probably been looking all over for information about birth plans for homebirth and seen all the templates, and maybe even asked other expecting homebirthers whether they had one and if so, what they included or didn't include. When it comes to birth plans, all that inquiring about them is exhausting, and in the end, making the right birth plan for your homebirth isn't about acquiring more external information and making a big list, it comes from awakening your own inner knowing and having some traditional knowledge of birth that will help you understand the purpose and use of a birth plan that is supportive of your birth.
So in this article, I am going to share three common mistakes hopeful homebirthersvmake in their birth plans by looking all over the internet, using all the templates and apps and how you can better align your birth plan through your inner knowing.
Recently a fellow birth educator was teaching a birth plan course for natural birth as birth plans are one of the common topics expecting parents want to know about. They want to know what should go in their birth plan, what they can leave out, how long it should be, how to get their care provider to read it, and how to simply make it effective.
So this educator was getting ready to teach this class and she sent me the template that was going out to the students, and I saw that she had made all three of the mistakes I warn my students against making in their birth plans.
And I get why these things were glaring at me in her template, even though she is a birth educator with lots of experience around natural birth, we're all essentially taught the same things about birth plans. Now some people think they are doing something different, something that's going to finally get noticed, something that breaks through all the noise around birth plans, like the picture based birth plan, but all they have done is change the way the information is presented, but they haven't realized the purpose and potential of a birth plan.
So when we learn about birth plans as birth educators, we learn templates and we learn the best way to form the wording to keep it concise, to keep it respectful, all to try to get it followed by the caregivers the best we can, but, what I came to learn over my years of supporting families is that this is exactly the opposite of how we should be thinking about birth plans.
This approach of thinking your birth plan is supposed to be about the things you want or don't want in your birth, this turns something that has the power to hold the purpose of your birth experience and provide the vision of the transformative experience of your birth into a list of do's and don'ts. Your birth plan should be the document that serves as a reminder of why you are doing this if things get tough and should be a guide for your birth team to remember what they are doing there in your birth environment and how they can support you, not just a list of what you do or don't want at your birth.
Before we can even go on about birth plans, we have to first consider who is at your birth, because that impacts your birth plan. I don't believe you should be inviting people into your birth environment just because you think you're supposed to have them there, even when it comes to having a midwife or a doula. I believe you should be inviting people who are there to witness your transformation and elevate you in your birthing power, and your birth plan helps them to see how they can do that for you in the best way possible.
That type of birth plan doesn't come from gathering all the templates and learning all the things that could be done at your birth and making them into a big list, it comes from really getting clear on yourself, on first journeying deeper into you, attuning your Natural Birth Bompass to the sacred cycles of nature that influence birth, and when you do this, you begin to awaken your inner knowing of what you need and who you need for your birth. With the constant guidance of nature's cycle and tapping into your inner knowing, you become connected with the divine purpose for your birth, with direction for your birth, and this is where your birth plan should come from.
So when I looked at this template my colleague was using, none of this was there, there was no journey, nothing about the guiding cycle of nature, nothing about instincts or physiology even, it was very,….typical, and as I said, it included the three biggest mistakes I see in nearly every birth plan, even the birth plans I used to teach when I first started teaching about birth preparation, because like I said, that's what we all learn!
So what are those three mistakes, I'm sure you're ready to know what they are!
Most commonly, I see at least two, and often all three of these in birth plans, and I saw all three of them in my colleague's course. And again, she is far from the only one, and I used to teach the same thing, but I now know they are a dead end, that something was wrong with this presentation and it took me years to figure it out, it took me years of studying things like philosophy and permaculture, and watching native habitats grow to figure out what we really should be doing with birth plans. I know that's a different way to look at birth, a different lens completely from the medical paradigam we know today, but that's because as I watched birth transpire in nature, I realized we were looking at it all backward, even in homebirth midwifery.
Look at a seed, when an apple is eaten by a bird and a seed drops to the ground, is it asking permission of the maple tree or the dandelion to grow there? Is it expecting the surrounding plants to say, ok we can give it a try for two months, but if it doesn't look good to us, we're going to have to pull you up. Or is it trying to compromise with the microbiome in the soil, is it saying, I would really like to grow here if it seems safe enough to you, and your active management is welcome if things look a little hairy to you at any point. And does that apple seed come with a list things it wants and doesn't want to create an ideal environment? Nope, when a seed is in it's natural environment, the seed sprouting and growing into an apple tree isn't dependent upon the things in the environment outside of the seed except those things provided by nature, water, sun, and nutrients in the soil, everything else comes from within the seed itself. The same is true of birth, when you are birthing in a natural environment, like your home, and you have the health that nature provides, then you don't need anything outside yourself to give birth.
When it comes to homebirth, often your midwife will recommend you write a birth plan or as your birth gets closer, questions of how supportive your team will actually be starts to come up, so you to think the best way to protect yourself is to create a list of your wants and don't wants, and then you are told to phrase it in a way that has you asking for permission so your list of wants seems less demanding. Then just to be sure no one is offended that you created this list in the first place, you add some compromises in there to polish it off.
So when I see things in birth plans like, I would like to be consulted before cervical checks, if interventions are recommended, I would like a few minutes to discuss them with my birth partner alone, if baby is healthy, I would like to use delayed cord clamping. When I these lists and this style of wording, I see the birth plan of a homebirther who is still wandering through the never-ending stacks of birth information, asking everyone they know who might have insight into homebirth, posting in Facebook groups, and scouring the internet.
And maybe, maybe this is still where we are at for hospital birth in many hospitals, maybe this is the best way to protect yourself there, it's been a long time since I stepped into a hospital delivery room, so I can't speak from a place of knowing about that, but I can speak to the fact that this doesn't work for homebirth, or even in a birth center today.
What I recommend using a birth plan for is getting clear about who you are and where you are prepared to go in your birth, why are you having this birth, what is the thing that is driving you to do what less than 1% of American women do today. I want to know what nurtures you on all levels, what makes you feel heard and supported. These are the aspects of a birth plan that make it powerful, that make it a constant guide for you, so if it gets hard, you can dig deep into why you are doing this, and your team has real tools to help you, not just a list of things you read somewhere so you added them to your plan because it seemed like something that should be there, but that's not personalized to you, I want to see YOU in your birth plan.
When birth plans are written this way, when it's a representation of everything you are devoting to this tranformational experience, you have something more than a birth plan, you have a purpose, you have direction, you have something that brings everyone in your birth environment together in one single vision for the birth of your baby and the creation of your family; this is what a birth plan should be. Those lists aren't for powerful, holistic homebirthers who know exactly why they are here and why they are choosing to birth this child in this way. This is birth on another level, when you are ready to let the comfort of lists go and the safety from words of permission and compromise leave your vocabulary, that's when the knowing that's inside of you takes over and giving birth becomes more than having a baby or getting through labor, and that's when your birth partner sees the power in you even they didn't know you had and when you become the more complete version of yourself.
A birth plan may be something you've stressed about that's had you looking under every last rock to find out what you are supposed to include, or you might have thrown it together in haste just to check it off your to do list thinking it wasn't really that important, and I used to think that too when I was getting ready for my homebirths. But now, nature has taught me that we are not a list of things we want or don't want, and it's not about asking for permission or compromising on yourself and your baby. Your birth plan is an expression of you and your birth and a key to creating the birth environment that will make your birth so much more than just having a baby.
I hope you are feeling excited about writing your birth plan now, I hope you are feeling a little more free to put yourself in your plan, to stop inquiring everywhere for everyone else's thoughts and opinions because you see the power that's in you and that's the power you can put in your birth plan that takes it beyond the ordinary birth plan.
If you are resonating with this approach to going beyond the traditional, templated birth plan, I have great news, I have re-opened on of my favorite mini-courses called Beyond the Birth Plan for Homebirth. This is a video course with a guide and workbook to help you get into those places in yourself that will help you uncover the why behind the birth you are envisioning, and identify the types of support and communication that work best for you, not your best friend or your sister, but for you, and it goes over some of the most important things you need to know for your newborn once they make their way earthside. So if you're interested in going beyond the birth plan, you can learn more at naturalbirthcompass.com/homebirthplan.
Whether I see you inside Beyond the Birth Plan for Homebirth, or if this is where I leave you today, I hope you have been inspired to look at your birth plan through a wider lens and will include yourself in your birth plan!
If you would like to start to explore a new paradigm of homebirth preparation, download the free guide Three Cycles You Need to Know for a More Confident and Intuitive Homebirth, get your free copy by clicking here!
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