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What if my Birth doesn't go According to Plan?

So many of us have really strong ideas of how and where we want to birth our babies. More often than not, things don't go exactly as we planned.


What does the unexpected look like? That might mean that we may deliver in a different location than we had planned. We may have a different care provider than we expected. We may have a different outcome than we had anticipated. I believe that part of the planning process should be talking about all of the potential possibilities. All the: What if’s? So what if I end up having to have a Cesarean birth? What might that look like? What are the things that I can still choose for myself in that process? Can I still have immediate skin-to-skin? Will that impact how I feed my baby? Knowing all of the what if’s and kind of imagining what that might look like is an important part of the planning process. 


When I work with Doula clients, I have them imagine what it might be like to have a Cesarean birth (I’m just using that as an example). What might that look like? And I have them go through that exercise and then I encourage them to light it on fire. They might want to write it out and then literally light it on fire or just as a sentiment of processing through it and then not dwelling on it. I think that the power of manifestation is a really powerful tool for having a positive birth experience. Try this exercise for yourself. Think of a “What if” scenario and go through the options and possibilities. These exercises can help to empower your birth experience!


I planned to have a home birth and I was able to have a home birth, but I knew that a transfer might be something that unfolds and might be something out of my control. I had to kind of journey with what that might look like. With my first birth, I had really hoped to have an unmedicated birth and use a doula and I did all of those things, but I wasn't really prepared for the intensity of the labor and the birth. That was really unexpected for me and recovery was harder than I had anticipated. I had some postpartum anxiety and some struggles in the postpartum space that I hadn't really processed through.


So when I work with a family, I go through pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond and talk about all of the what-if scenarios and I try to provide resources in advance for certain things. If they pop up during any part of the process, having a resource or having someone to reach out to. Doulas are a wonderful system of support for people, especially when things go in a direction that wasn't anticipated. If I have a client who is really struggling with infant feeding, I often will get a phone call: “Hey, can we talk about what my options are? Can we talk about what systems of support I have available to me? What might that look like?” I think preparing for unexpected outcomes before the unexpected arises is a really great way to feel engaged in the process and not feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under you. You feel empowered because you are making informed decisions, even if something unexpected comes up so that you are an active participant in your birth and the birth is not happening to you.


Photo:  Naomi Vonk