A couple years back, I was reading the excellent book by Cynthia Gabriel, “Natural Hospital Birth” and came across her suggestion for readers (pregnant people) to write their birth story in advance of their birth. It was brilliant. I thought, ” . . . but OF COURSE! This can help us manifest the birth we are hoping for because it’s like a long, detailed affirmation”. The more I pondered this idea the more I realized that our pre-written birth story can serve as a tool to help us examine if our birth team (doctors, midwives, partners, doula, friends, family, etc.) is going to help or hinder our birth plan. Who wouldn’t want to iron out all of the potential wrinkles in the birth plan? I know, I know, you’re thinking, “no birth ever goes according to plan.” Humor me for a minute.
Do you plan a wedding? Do you plan a birthday party? Do those things ever go exactly according to plan? No, they do not, but plan them, you do. Birth plans are useful tools, even if you don’t actually give them to your provider. They provide us an opportunity to consider the information about many interventions we may encounter during birth. If you have the right provider, they will be welcoming of your birth plan and will recognize that your values and preferences are an important part of evidence based care.
Now that you know birth plans are useful, and you love the idea of writing your birth story to test the viability of your birth plan . . . Are you like, “WHERRRRRE do I even start?” I can help you!
Set aside a morning or afternoon in your schedule and devote a good chunk of quiet time to really dig into your heart and intuition about how your birth story unfolds. Listen intently as your deeply knowing self relays the story to your conscious self about your birthing day. Ask questions if you get stuck, or use the prompts below for a jumping off point. Once your birth story starts coming to you, you may feel it flowing faster than you can write.
Here are some writing prompts to help you get started on your dream Birth Story:
The first time I knew I was in labor was when . . .
My support person was able to help me by . . .
When my labor began, I was . . .
When my labor began, I felt . . .
. . . and some more prompts for when you are writing about being in your birth place. Think about active labor and transition, as well as the pushing stage and delivery of the placenta while you consider these prompts:
When we arrived at the . . .
When I settled into my chosen birthing space, I felt . . .
When I felt the next one come, I . . .
The people who were around me were . . .
The staff at the birth center was . . .
My care provider helped me when . . .
My baby was . . .
Don’t forget the Golden Hour: the magical first hour after baby is born. How do you see your first hour after birth being spent?
After my baby was born, I . . .
When I held my baby, I felt . . .
My baby’s eyes were . . .
My baby’s body was . . .
Feeling my baby skin to skin, I noticed . . .
And finally, think about your postpartum care. We are still being cared for up to 4 days after we give birth in a medical setting. The baby is out, and you are now two (or more!) people instead of one. Consider how your baby is being cared for, as well as yourself.
After the golden hour, I decided to . . .
I asked for something to eat, it was . . .
My partner was . . .
The staff was . . .
My baby was . . .
When we were discharged, I felt . . .
Now that you have written your dream birth story, reflect on whether the actors who compose your dream ‘birth team’ represent your current reality.
About your birth partner: Is your partner capable of supporting you the way you envision? If not, what might help them provide the comfort and advocacy skills you will need from them? Childbirth classes? A virtual consultation with a birth professional? Would it be best to have a doula join your team to support both you and your partner with these things? Be honest with yourself and your partner about their abilities and your needs and work towards a solution that you feel good about – one in which you are making a conscious agreement. As you consider your options, keep in mind that sacrificing your birth experience for your partner’s comfort is not an option. You don’t get to have a do-over, so remember that even though your partner’s feelings matter, yours are more important in this situation. They won’t be the ones carrying around this life-changing physical/mental/emotional/spiritual stuff around with them their whole life. If they need help understanding this, please consult a couples counselor or marriage therapist. It is that important.
About your care provider: If your birth story is representative of the social/midwifery model [see table below] but your provider is giving you something that looks more like the medical model . . . how can you change your reality to more closely match your birth story? Bring these into alignment and your birth experience will be more likely to resemble your birth intentions. You may need to change care providers to get the care you are seeing in your birth story. Your doula or childbirth educator can help you find a provider who aligns with the model of care you want.
About your birth place: where are you in your birth story? The hospital? A birth center? Home? If your birth place aligns with the type of care you are seeking, awesome. But if you find yourself dreaming of birthing in the woods and this is not your plan because you feel safer in the hospital, then the birth setting you have planned is leaving something to be desired. Your deeply knowing self wants to be left alone during birth, as much as possible. How can you arrange your birth place so that you can feel undisturbed, as in your dream birth? What can be done to protect your birth space? Your childbirth educator and/or doula can offer many suggestions to help you piece together a birth plan that more closely resembles your birth intentions revealed by your birth story. If you need help finding a certified childbirth educator or doula, you can search here and here.
Jenn D’Jamoos is a CAPPA Certified Childbirth Educator, Birth Coach, and Certified Health Coach. She offers childbirth classes via the Soshe app, and virtual birth coaching at EarthMamaBirth.com. You can learn more about her here.