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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Labor and Birth: Design Your (Flexible) Plan

By Erin Kaspar-Frett, Abundant Moon Birth & Wellness

Let me share a recent curveball in my life. We were traveling from Botswana to Namibia so I could teach midwifing techniques to the San people. We knew the border had a closing time, though no one knew exactly what it was, and upon arrival at 4:50 pm, we learned it had closed 20 minutes before. We were in the middle of nowhere. Rural to the rural. We had an 8- and 12-year-old, as well as three young adults, in addition to us two parents. Our friend and guide could not find the immigration folks to ask for an exception. No cell signal, no food, and we were extremely dirty. There were feelings….lots of them.

We surrendered. We drove back to the closest village and found a shop with enough food for the night and morning, and a place to camp out. I realized I could stay upset about the delay and inconvenience, or I could make food for my family and enjoy the stars together. I couldn’t change the circumstance, but I got to have my feelings and, in the end, I got to decide how to move forward. We were safe at least.

This experience reminds me of birth. It’s messy, beautiful, terrifying, exhilarating and deeply impactful. As a midwife, I get to know people before their birth—their communication styles, needs and desires for birth and postpartum. Sometimes they ask me if they should write a birth plan.

A birth plan should be written as a way to communicate your needs and wants. However, approach it as just that: a communication tool. If you write a birth plan as a prescription or agenda, know that it will not all turn out exactly as written. Almost always something happens differently. It can be as simple as an unexpected time of day, or as large as needing pain medication or fluids for exhaustion when not planning either.

Life has a way of changing on us, and this includes our births.

Write your wishes in the spirit of sharing your desires and needs with those around you. The simple act of writing it can also clarify desires for yourself. You may find that you want your other children there, or that you don’t. You may discover a desire or need that wasn’t conscious.

Take the time to know what is important to YOU.

But then approach it understanding that we cannot control it. The path labor and birth take is ultimately its own journey.

What to do if it’s a large curveball that feels insurmountable? First, have your feelings. Let them roll over and through you. Unless it’s an emergency, give yourself some time to feel and process. For some people that is only a few minutes to understand the details and information. For others, it’s an hour or days. A doula is wonderful here for support. Partners have their own process happening, so sometimes processing together can be beautiful and sometimes it is not exactly what each of you need (and that is okay, too). Some midwives provide this level of care as well, though not all.

It is not always safe to delay birth, however. In this case, make your needed decisions and allow yourself time to process later with your partner, a therapist, your midwife/birth team or a dear friend. And when you’re ready, you can focus on the gratitude for what you do have. For those of you reading this that have experienced a loss of a child, this might be too simply-stated to be of use for you.

No matter how your labor and birth goes, shift the best you can with unexpected changes, and rely on your people for the processing you need. Feel. Your. Feelings. No matter who you are, allow your process to be your process.

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