Parenting

Will You Please Calm Down About Your Birth Plan?

A few weeks before I was due to give birth, the hospital where I was scheduled to deliver asked me to fill out a birth plan. It was, they told me, my opportunity to let them know exactly what I wanted from my “birth experience.” Wanting to make sure we were doing everything right, my husband and I diligently sat down together to fill out the form. But we couldn’t get past the first question.

“What are your goals for your delivery?” the paper asked, in cheerful purple lettering. We looked at each other. Our goals? Was this a trick question? Doesn’t everyone who is giving birth have pretty much the same goals?

“To have a healthy baby?” I asked, suddenly unsure if this was the right response. “That’s what I would have said,” my husband replied. We wrote that down.

Of course, I’m not completely clueless. I know that there are a million other things I could have written in response to that question. And, given the current popular mentality about birth, the hospital probably expected me to have a long and very detailed answer.

I could have told them my goal was to deliver in the most natural way possible. I could have said I wanted to deliver in a bathtub. Or on the balcony. Or in midair. I could have said I wanted my doula present. Or a yoga instructor. Or the Dalai Lama. I could have said I didn’t want any monitors on me. That I wanted the room to resemble, as closely as possible, my childhood bedroom. Or my nail salon. Or the plains of Africa. I could have said (and many women do say) any number of things.

But why would I? I was going to the hospital because it was the safest way I could think of to get the baby out of my body. I was going there because I have absolutely no idea how to deliver a baby. And they do. Because I have no idea what the best conditions are to ensure a speedy and safe delivery for me and my child. But they do. So, assuming this is a good hospital with good doctors who have the best interests of me and my baby at heart, I assume they know how to do this best.

I mean, sure, I had a picture in my mind of what the delivery would be like. A scenario pieced together from movies and family stories and wishful thinking. And yes, when it turned out that my delivery didn’t go that way at all, I felt a little sad and kind of disoriented. But then they handed me a baby and it turned out he was mine and that he was healthy and super, duper cute and it didn’t really matter anymore how it had happened.

And, furthermore, when we got to the hospital in the first place, no one even looked at my birth plan. Not a single person. I’m sure I could have forced them to. Waved it in their face and handed over some CD of Tibetan monks chanting and introduced them to my sherpa birth coach, or something. But, the point is, they know what they’re doing. Anything I add is simply my own neuroses.

Because when did we decide that the birth itself was anything other than a means to an end? My baby has to get from inside my body, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to house him, out into my arms. If I have any goal other than that, I’m bound to be disappointed.

Birth is messy, it’s complicated, it can change in an instant. My assumption is that the more detailed and specific your birth plan, the less likely it is to be followed. And then you feel disappointed and cheated instead of triumphant and joyful. Which is no fun at all, really.

So, will you please calm down about your birth plan? Have the baby, take him home. Feed him, change him, love him. Repeat. That’s your plan.