Birth Intentions not Birth Plans

Writing your Birth Plan?  Consider reframing it as your Birth Intentions.

We all know births don’t go according to plan, right?  I’d love to see a shift away from calling the birth plan a birth plan and more towards something that allows for sharing our ideas about how we want our birth to go without the “commitment” of a plan.

The Problem with Birth Plans

One of the problems with birth plans is that they can be perceived by hospital staff as a setup for failure or disappointment.  The joke is sometimes bandied about that the birth plan is a ‘ticket to the OR.’   I don’t think anyone who is planning a vaginal and/or unmedicated birth wants to invite that presumption to their birthing space.  A slight change in our language can help hospital staff see what we hope for our birth experience while also showing them that we understand the situation is fluid.

I’ve also heard people call the birth plan their “Birth Preferences”.  While this does acknowledge that birth is no place for a rigid plan, I think that the word ‘preferences’ is too non-committal for the hospital staff because preferences are perceived like this:  I would *prefer* to have black olives on my pizza, but it’s okay if I don’t get them.  Using preferences for your birth:  I would *prefer* that you don’t stick your hand in my vagina, but it’s okay if you do.  <—-  That doesn’t work for a lot of reasons.   But, the main reason I really don’t like the word “preferences” is because it gives the power to someone else.

Why We Should Call Them “Birth Intentions”

Showing up with your Birth Intentions conveys a few ideas.  First, that you the birthing person are, in fact, the person with the power.  You are asserting your autonomy.  Second, it creates a space where you can say what you want about your birth without feeling guilty or disappointed if things go differently.  Third, naming your birth intentions clarifies for your birth team what you expect to happen, unless you deem otherwise.  Intentions are hopeful versus dictatorial (plans) or submissive (preferences).

So let’s say a few birth intentions together, shall we?

My Birth Intentions
i intend To receive my child skin-to-skin immediately after birth and remain this way for as long as we desire.
i intend To keep the umbilical cord attached and intact until it appears white, allowing my baby’s blood to return to their body from the placenta.
i intend To remain undisturbed during active labor unless I specifically ask for support or interventions.
i intend To labor and birth in any position that my body tells me.

 

Now, create your own Birth Intentions.  You can do something as simple as changing the title of your document from “Birth Plan” to “Birth Intentions”.  But, because I’m a fan of the law of attraction, I highly recommend trying to phrase your intentions in such a way that you are inviting them to happen.  This has a way of shifting our mindset if we are in need of reclaiming our power.

I’d love to hear your birth intentions so please share in the comments if you’d like .  It feels empowering to put them out in the world and inspires others to create their own.

Power to the Birther,

Earth Mama Jenn

#MeToo and How Kesha Woke Me Up

Kesha._MMVA
By Jeff Denberg (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I am writing this as my child interrupts me for snacks, potty breaks, passwords, and snuggles. Kid TV shows are playing in the background while I flesh out these words to convey my thoughts. This is my life, and it is good. It’s a far cry from where I was 20 years ago, trying to make it in the music industry as a singer/songwriter. I was happy then, too … but in the background of my songwriting season was a different kind of noise: the sexual harassment kind. The majority of men I encountered during my music career were trying to “make it,” just like me. All but a handful were incredibly kind and respectful of me as a human being. I don’t want to paint all men in the music industry with the broad brush of “sexual harassment perpetrator,” because that is not at all true. But there were some who were overly kind or generous—and I knew they were the ones who expected something more.

Last night I sat down to watch Kesha’s performance of “Praying” on the Grammys. It was late for our family, and my 3 year old was begging me to put her to bed, exhausted from having spent the day playing outside. But, knowing how that song affected me—always bringing a tear to my eye—I told baby girl, “Just a few more minutes. I really want to see Kesha perform.” She curled up on my lap, asking to nurse, and I obliged. I nurtured and fed my daughter as I watched someone else’s grown daughter rise up with fire in her eyes and thunder in her voice to confront her abuser. Again. She did it with her sisters around her this time. She spent her voice as they sang with her, lifting her up with their voices any time she fell back a little. I don’t know how she felt when she was done, but to me, she looked relieved and exhausted. The performance ended with her sisters shrouding her with their arms and catching her in hugs as if to say, “Me, too, sister. Me, too.” Then my feelings about my past life as an aspiring songwriter came bubbling up, and the tears flowed freely down my cheeks.

Back in the ’90s, things were different. I doubt that any amount of #metoo would have mattered. In fact, after seeing how the victims of a sports doctor were repeatedly ignored when they complained about his sexual abuse, I know it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d said something back then. The problem was cultural, systemic, and widespread. It was like a chronic disease that our world had learned to live with. Women were habitually not heard.

Now that I have this girl-child to raise, along with her older sister who is much more aware, my soul is assuaged with the hope that they might be protected from the harsh reality that I endured. Sexual harassment was a normal part of life. It was a fact not just in my efforts to get my music recognized and published, but in my non-musician life as a food service worker, as a marketing director, and as a woman walking to and from work in downtown Chicago. Knowing that there is a movement—in every realm of life—to bring equality to women, to protect my daughters, OUR daughters, from this type of abuse—buoys my heart. I want to keep them safe from the Dr. Lukes, the Larry Nassars, and the Donald Trumps of the world. The ones who make us think that we owe them access to our bodies; the ones who make us think that because they take care of us, we should believe them when they say that they aren’t doing anything wrong; the ones who will take what they want from us, whenever and wherever they want.

The culmination of Kesha’s performance, Nassar’s conviction, the #metoo and #timesup movements … it’s all so overwhelming. Couple that with the abuse I know still happens in the maternity care system, and I am almost frozen with shock at times. But I can’t be shocked anymore. We have these girls to raise until they spread their wings and fly. It’s heart-wrenching to think they could possibly venture into a world like the one I experienced, or worse. Seeing how pervasive the abuse is angers me, but it also emboldens me. Abuse survivors deserve change, and we all deserve to NEVER BE HARASSED OR ABUSED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Last night, seeing Kesha supported by her sisters while I felt her pain as I simultaneously held and nursed my girl was a significant moment for me, and I woke with fresh eyes today. My work for mothers and children continues with a new and wider lens. I see more clearly the interconnections between human rights activism and my work in maternity care. My new lens now sees allies in places where I previously thought there were very few. It sees into the future, when my children might never know what it’s like to feel obligated to please anyone out of fear or intimidation. May it be so.