Why Every Birth Plan Deserves Support

I was in my third trimester when I switched my prenatal care from a regular obstetrician at a hospital to a midwife at a birthing center. When I excitedly exclaimed to my friends and family, at 30 weeks pregnant, that I was now planning to have an unmedicated water birth, most people looked at me like I had lost my damn mind. “You’ll be begging for the epidural once the contractions start,” they said in partial jest. I also got a lot of concerned comments like, “What happens if there’s an emergency and you need a doctor?”

I did my best to rationalize my decision to the doubters: I believe my body is capable of giving birth without intervention, my midwife is a trained professional, if anything goes wrong we have a hospital transfer plan, etc. But I soon became emotionally exhausted by the skepticism. My once exciting birth plan began to feel like a burden on others, so I eventually stopped expressing my enthusiasm to those around me and looked elsewhere for support. 

Eventually, I found a community of women who were supportive of my birth plan (hello, Facebook groups) but to a fault. “Epidurals are selfish,” one commenter said on one of my posts. “Good for you for putting your baby first.” While I know this statement was meant to be encouraging, it felt like anything but that. While I personally wanted an unmedicated birth, I had never once considered women who choose to get an epidural to be selfish. Why did my birth plan have to invalidate anyone else’s? I felt dirty. The kind of support I received seemed to stem from the same place as the criticism: shame. And to be honest, it didn’t feel very good.  

I don’t know who needs to hear this: but there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to choosing a birth plan. The mom-to-be might have medical conditions, phobias, financial constraints, sexual traumas, and a variety of other circumstances influencing her decision. Factors you know nothing about, and factors that are probably none of your business. So before you open your mouth to dictate how someone dilates, don’t. Just don’t. 

So hear me well, friends. There is no childbirth Olympics. There is no right or wrong way to give birth, and there is no medal ceremony that happens after you pass the placenta, although we all probably deserve one. How women choose to give birth ultimately doesn’t matter. What DOES matter is women receiving informed consent, being made aware of their options, and having the ability to make a decision that makes them feel safe and empowered. Any birth plan that checks those three boxes and brings a baby into the world safely is a good birth plan. Period.

And just in case you’re wondering, I did get my unmedicated water birth. There was no medical emergency, and I didn’t beg for the epidural, although I did spend a good portion of it wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into. It was challenging, messy, beautiful, and exactly what I wanted. I know it’s not for everyone, and it might not look like your birth plan, but that’s okay. We can still support each other regardless. So whoever you are and whatever your birth plan might be: you got this. I think you’re amazing, and you’re going to do great. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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