Managing expectations – The laminated birth plan.

Managing expectations – The laminated birth plan.

So birth plans are incredibly popular, the idea of being in control and having your choices during your labour is an amazing opportunity. In the past, when we were born, it was just not a thing.

I have had the privilege (or the curse, depending on your point of view) of many “unusual” birth plans during my career.  I thought I may share my favourite requests I’ve heard throughout the years from other midwives and first hand:

  • “I don’t want to hear anything, especially anything my husband says”
  • “Midwives will use the bathroom facilities of the local Tesco, our facilities are not for use by tradesmen”
  • “I will be alone, the midwife will sit in the kitchen and will shout her assistance from there”
  • “No one must look at my ladybits during my labour, especially as the baby is delivering”
  • “I don’t want a midwife that looks younger than me, I’m self-conscious of my older age” (said patient was 24)
  • “You will not speak directly at me, but with my mother, she is contactable via 07-blah blah, but works between 9 and 1″
  • “If it is a boy I want to find out the sex myself, if it is a girl, you can let me down gently”
  • “If the baby is stuck, please commence burning this Yankee Candle, I’ve read it has muscle relaxing effects which will aid you in the delivery”
  • “In the caesarean I want all the lights off so as to not startle the baby”
  • “Don’t smile at me, unless I smile at you first”

And my personal favourite:

  • “Glee’s rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing” will play as the head crowns, we want it to be the first song and voice our baby hears” cue the song on repeat for the final 30 minutes of pushing!

On a more serious note, what do I want from my labour? I have simple tastes, all I want is to have my pain managed to a degree that I am relatively comfortable. The important word being “relatively”. I don’t expect to be drinking tea and writing up my blog post between pushes. But that would be rosy wouldn’t it!

An issue I have encountered throughout my career is the expectations of the parents coming onto labour ward to give birth. Some are unrealistically high (see above).  The idea of a “perfect birth” is a misnomer to me. Women are increasingly attending with a birth plan, quite literally laminated, with no wriggle room to allow for the unexpected nature birth undoubtedly has. It isn’t the requests I find alarming. As you can see, in some situations they give me endless hours of entertainment. In reality the majority are perfectly suitable and are easily followed, resulting in a positive birth experience. I just always feel a pending dread, knowing that even a small deviation from the plan can make a woman feel like she’s failed. How can you fail if at the end your baby is in your arms? You’ve grown that baby for up to 42 weeks, and because you have had an epidural, you’ve now failed as a woman?

My post today isn’t to laugh at the funny requests I’ve had over the years. Although they do brighten up my day! My aim is to empower you to know that the rigid plan you may want to make is fine, but don’t beat yourself up if you need to make a change. You may feel you’ve lost control of your labour. But as long as you communicate your “hard limits”, the end goal of having your baby in your arms is the true sign of success. Look what you did, does that dose of pethidine make it less of a baby? You don’t get a medal for following your plan to the letter. We all end up beaten and battered after a birth, no matter how you got there.

You can’t, and haven’t, failed. Not even a little bit. But if you DO want to request something… make sure it’s a cracker!

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