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Birth Plan, Shmirth Plan

I am a planner. A researcher. A question-asker. If I have a big decision to make or a new experience on the horizon, I consider all angles, call upon the experts and read the books; when I feel like I'm equipped with all the information, I make a plan.

Giving birth was no different. In fact, the births of my three children were probably the two most meticulously planned events of my life—perhaps more planned and researched than my wedding! I worked hard to create detailed birth plans that promised to give me the sort of experiences I wanted. But both times, I walked into the hospital with a very specific plan in mind … and promptly threw it into the trash—if not literally, then definitely figuratively.

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With my daughter's birth, I had planned to labor at home for as long as possible. But when contractions intensified, home was the last place I wanted to be and we hightailed it to the hospital. I had packed snacks and planned to eat during labor, but food was the furthest thing from my mind. I had hoped to labor in the bathtub but after about a minute in there, I wanted to be on dry land. I spent hours creating a playlist but ended up wanting complete silence. I had carefully chosen an outfit to wear during labor, but stripped it off almost immediately upon entering my hospital room. My birth plan specified that my husband and I would work through the birth together. But for me, labor was a solitary thing, something I wanted to do independently without much participation or dialogue from others.

The crazy thing? Even though the details of the birth looked so different from my birth plan, I still got exactly the birth I was hoping for—a beautifully intense, unmedicated water birth that ended with my baby on my chest and nursing right away. It couldn't have been more perfect.

So if I had it to do all over again, would I have skipped the birth plans? Not a chance.

A couple years later, I was pregnant with breech twins. So we scheduled a C-section and I spent even more time creating a birth plan than I did the first time around. My C-section research and planning bordered on obsessive. I was afraid that my C-section wouldn't feel as special or intimate as my daughter's birth, so I used my birth plan as a weapon against those fears.

And again, the preferences I specified on my birth plan were so different from what I actually ended up wanting during the surgery. I had requested my arms not be tied down, but during the C-section, I wished they were tied down because they kept falling off the table. I had asked that both babies' warmers be kept in my line of sight, but I just kept my eyes closed. I had wanted to be skin-to-skin with the babies in the operating room, but when they brought my boys to me, I was feeling nauseous and told my husband to hold them skin-to-skin instead. And you know what? It was still a wonderfully magical experience that exceeded my expectations.

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So if I had it to do all over again, would I have skipped the birth plans? Not a chance. Writing those birth plans was such an important process for me because it gave me a reason to learn about birth. It gave me a reason to have honest, open conversations with other moms who had given birth in a wide variety of ways. It gave me a chance to talk and write through my fears and concerns and to have important discussions with my medical team. It gave me knowledge and I felt empowered by the process.

And that's just it. I think that writing a birth plan is more about the process than the product. It's more about preparing your mind, body and emotions than it is about getting it down on paper. But for me, there was something empowering about having it all written down. And there was something even more empowering about throwing that paper in the trash and letting the intricacies of birth surprise me as I journeyed with my babies toward that amazing moment when we met face to face.

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