Visualizing and Realizing Your Ideal Birth
Creating a birth plan can be both exciting and a little overwhelming. I want you to try a little visualization for me, even if you feel silly, even if you’re strapped for time. Take a few moments to ground yourself in your preferred method. Many people like to focus on their breathing. As someone with asthma, I’ve never found this very comforting or calming so, instead, I like to simply notice/acknowledge what my senses pick up around me.
Right now, I’m sitting outside. There is a strong wind coming from the west, and it’s causing a rise and fall of the rustling of the leaves/branches. There are some deep choral tones coming from some wind chimes. There is a sweet, pungent smell of jasmine. It seems as if the weather is changing and growing cooler. I hear the siren of a fire engine in the distance. I can feel the restriction of a Band-Aid on my left thumb and a small insect crawling across my sandled foot. This technique has helped me to feel grounded in even the most emotionally uprooted moments in my life. All you do is list off the things in your environment with no emotional attachment (red chair, blue sky, brown table, etc).
Okay, I hope a few minutes of detaching from work or time constraints or the dirty dishes has brought you more into the present moment so you can do the very important work of imagining your ideal birth. What is the first color that comes to mind? Is it a color that makes you feel good? If not, keep changing it until it does. I’m going with gold. Now, let that color fill you. Imagine it starting at your heart and emanating outward in slow pulsing waves until you are saturated with the color you chose all the way to your fingertips.
As the color begins to lift like a fog, you find yourself in a room. I want you to imagine the room you would like to give birth in. This is an ideal, so be as elaborate as you wish. I want you to imagine as many of the details as possible. Is there furniture in the room? A canopy bed? A futon? A swimming pool? A yoga ball? A hospital bed? Maybe it’s not a room at all. Maybe it’s the deck off the back of your house overlooking a forest. Are there pictures on the wall? What are they? Family photos? A favorite piece of artwork? What about smells? Incense? Flowers? Clean and disinfected? Is there music playing? Can you hear the ocean? Birds in the tress? Now let’s place you in the room. What are you wearing? Something loose and flow-y? A favorite old t-shirt? Pajamas? Hospital gown? Nothing at all?
Now let’s assess how you’re feeling as you start to go into labor in this room you’ve created. What do the contractions feel like to you and how do you manage them? Maybe they remind you of ocean waves? Do you breathe deeply? Do you sway back and forth on your hands and knees? Who is there with you? How quickly does your labor progress? You’ve been anticipating this day for a very long time. Do things happen faster than you had imagined or do they take their time?
As your contractions get stronger, what are you thinking about? Is your mind able to focus on something? Perhaps you use the grounding technique we tried earlier. Or do you let yourself go and simply succumb to what your body is trying to do. It’s time to push your baby out. You can feel an intense pressure, heat and burning sensations as your baby’s head starts to emerge. Just as you thought you might not have any more energy to birth, you’re going to have to pull from someplace deep within to push the rest of the way to bring your child into this world.
The pressure releases and you let out a huge relieved sigh. You’ve just taken yourself to depths you’ve never been before and come out on the other side. You look down at your baby catcher (who is it that you see? A trusted midwife? Your partner? Your obstetrician?) You see your baby for the first time. What goes through your mind when you see your child? Does your baby look the way you had imagined or are you pleasantly surprised by something unexpected?
What happens next? Is your child placed on your chest? Is the cord cut immediately or do you wait until it stops pulsing? Maybe your dream is to have a lotus birth. Does someone in particular cut the cord? Do you breastfeed at this time or do you spend some time cuddling first? Is your baby weighed and measured and cleaned off, or do you spend some time rubbing in the vernix caseosa? What about the placenta? Do you have other plans for it, such as placenta encapsulation or performing a ceremonial burial, or do your providers handle disposal of it?
How did the whole experience make you feel? Complete? Loved? Tired? Maybe you’re not sure how you feel yet. It’s a lot to take in.
Now that you have a feeling for how you would ideally like things to go, let’s get to work figuring out how to make that happen by creating a birth plan.
‘The first place to start is to figure out where you will be birthing your child. Are you planning on a homebirth, birth center, or hospital? Which setting most clearly matches your values, your concerns, and your ideals? Perhaps you would only be relaxed surrounded by modern medical technology in the event that something were to go wrong and you only feel comfortable birthing in a hospital environment. Perhaps you believe strongly that medical interventions interfere strongly with a woman’s innate power to birth her baby and you would most be able to relax into the experience in the comfort of your home. You will want to do some thorough research into cost, insurance coverage (if you have it), and any limitations that might present themselves in your area (For example, perhaps you can’t locate a midwife within a reasonable distance from your home. You may have to rethink your location or make plans to travel close to your estimated due date).
Once you have nailed down the details of location, you can get into the details of how you would ideally like to birth. I want to throw in a quick reminder that birth can be unpredictable and, sometimes, our bodies and our babies may have different plans for us than what is written in black and white on a birth plan. That being said, there are lots of things that you do have control over and, even if nothing in your birth plan goes as planned, you can make sure that you have control over some of the aspects of your external environment. Maybe it’s important to have a picture of your grandmother by your side during labor. Maybe it’s important that your baby be born while a certain piece of music is being played. Seemingly small details like this can go a long way in making you feel empowered during your birth.
Things to think about:
- Medicated or un-medicated? If you do plan for medication, which types are you okay with taking? Shot of narcotics? Epidural? Do you hope to be able to move around during labor or are you okay with being in a bed? If you are planning on an un-medicated birth, how do you plan to manage your pain? What are your thoughts on fetal monitoring?
- Who do you want present at your birth? Your partner? Your doula? Your mother, siblings, or older children? Think about how having each person at your birth would make you feel and decide whether it’s appropriate for you or not. Will they make you feel relaxed and supported, or will they make you anxious and distract you and make it more difficult to relax deeply?
- What about food and drink? Is it important that you be able to have the option of eating and drinking during labor?
- Would you like to wait to have the cord clamped until after it has finished pulsating?
- Do you have plans for your placenta? If you deliver at a hospital, you’ll want to bring a cooler with you and ensure in advance that the hospital will allow you to take it home with you.
- Do you want to wait to have your baby cleaned and measured to allow time for bonding?
- Do you plan to exclusively breastfeed? If so, you may want to specify if you are delivering at a hospital that no one give your infant formula in the event that you have to be separated from your baby due to surgery or some other medical intervention that becomes necessary. Or you may want this to happen to ensure that your newborn receives nourishment right away.
- Are you hoping for a water birth? Is this something that is possible at the location you’ve chosen? Do you need to rent a birthing tub for your home or is this something that is offered at the birth center or hospital of your choosing?
- If you are planning on a home or birth center birth, what are your plans if something doesn’t go as planned? Have you specified a hospital that you will be transferred to?
You will look back on this day for the rest of your life. With every journey, it’s the unexpected little moments that are often the most memorable. May your journey be special, everything you dreamed of and more.
Katie Herlihy makes her nest with her bright and beautiful daughter and beloved mate and confidant in Berkeley, California among stacks of books, piles of laundry, dirty dishes, plumes of rose-scented incense and a plethora of art and craft projects. She enjoys writing, making jewelry, taking road trips and reading murder mysteries.