As a Plattsburgh Birth Photographer, I have the privilege of documenting a variety of birth stories. Some families choose to birth at home with a midwife and some choose to birth at the hospital. And birth is amazing and powerful and inevitable.
Anticipating birth can be exciting but also nerve wracking. Taking time to think through your birth preferences has many advantages – even if you never actually show it to your birth team. Just the process of researching and writing down your preferences can be empowering. There are so many unknowns when planning for birth – and that is what makes it unnerving. And birth is one of those things that you can plan for, but in the end, it is what it is. This doesn’t mean it’s not important to be informed. Information is power, and with that power, you can increase the chances dramatically of having the birth you feel is best (hiring a doula also increases this chance and your doula will want to know your birth preferences).
Reasons to Write Down Your Birth Preferences
- To be informed – this exercise forces you to research your options. You can research by reading birth related books, confering with other moms – including your own, taking birth education classes, search the internet… the more research you do, the more terminology you’ll be aware of in the birthing world. That means when decisions are being discussed while you’re laboring, you’ll have a better understanding of what is going on. This through different birth situations and what your preference would be in each. Consider alternatives. Research the risks and benefits of various routines and procedures. Familiarize yourself with standard protocols and your place of birth. Learn how a birthing body works (it does!).
- To open a conversation with your birth partner – birth is likely all new to your partner too. Discussing your birth preferences allows you both to process ahead of time, what your preferences are, so you don’t have to in the heat of the moment. This also allows your birth partner to be on the same page as you so s/he is able to advocate and ask appropriate questions if needed. This empowers your birth partner with knowledge – not only about birth and protocols – but also your preferences.
- To give encourage a discussion with your birth provider – the passion birth providers have is often unmatched. The hours are long and unpredictable and yet these incredible individuals show up to support families in their birthing season. They are skilled and competent at what they do. They have likely experienced many many births. Over time, they will have developed systems and protocols that they have found to be effective. This is your one birth experience as the finale to this pregnancy. While your provider will have positive intentions, their systems and protocols may not be in line with your birth preferences. By thinking through what you’d like your birth experience to entail, you are able to ask specific questions of your provider to ensure you are a good fit. Consider your birth provider as one of your tools when researching your birth preferences. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience! Ask their opinion on induction or delayed cord clamping or water birth or wearing a hospital gown or eating while in labor… or whatever you’re interested in including in your birth plan.
- To empower you – People often say: “as long as the mom and baby are healthy, everyone is happy”. Yes, that’s important. Obviously. But there’s more to the birth experience than healthy humans. This is a pivotal rite of passage for a family. The way a woman was respected (or not) during this time has life-long implications on her and her parenting. The ability to speak up and voice your preferences empowers your experience – even when birth progresses in a way you didn’t anticipate or desire. You still have a voice because you are informed. Through this process you will learn that you are a “client” seeking a “service”, you are not a patient who needs to be obedient.
- To be clear about your preferences – every birth, family, and woman is different. Whether you’d prefer an epidural, a home birth, a c-section, an induction , or any mix of any of that and more … articulating your birth preferences allows your provider to best support you and your birth goals.
After all the work of birth, you’ll hold that baby in your arms and know that you had the best birth possible for you and your baby. Your preferences are important. Knowing them allows you to be empowered throughout your birth experience, even if your birth is turned on its head.
I’d love to support you work through your birth preferences. Feel free to reach out while researching and processing your birth plans!