Have you considered creating a birth plan? I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Rockstar Birth Mapper, Catherine Bell, of Bellabirth about how best to create an informed birth plan.
Catherine, your Bellabirth website provides a comprehensive planning tool for pregnant mums to prepare for birth. Where should mums start when preparing their birth plan?
Firstly, they should rethink the concept of the ‘birth plan’ completely. The way I approach this is with Birth Maps. Approaching birth preparation with the intention to create a map, means that several scenarios can be considered. A birth map differs to a birth plan, in that it is an “if this, then that” document. This makes being a support person much easier, as you have clear instructions of how to respond.
What inspired you to create the Bellabirth Informed Birth Preparation?
How we get to the destination leaves a mark, it becomes the foundation for next adventure: parenthood.
After three years of waiting to join the elusive Motherhood Club, I had expected some kind of fanfare. It seemed that there was secret knowledge, but that it was only given out if you knew the secret passwords. But what were those passwords? No one was revealing them, it wasn’t even given on a ‘need to know’ basis…and most knowledge was obtain after it was needed….Hindsight and Birthing seemed to go hand in hand.
Almost by accident, I found the password “like-minded support”. After my second was born, I sought support and company outside my immediate circle. My first point of call was the Australian Breastfeeding Association. I realised I was also was hungry for “knowledge”, and ABA provided it. I also began investigating the other password that had materialised at this time: “doula”.
By the time my third was born, I had trained as a doula and as a breastfeeding educator and counsellor. Both these traineeships revealed the lost information that all mothers need: The biological, innate knowledge we need in order to take ownership of our journey.
Of course, I had to share this knowledge. I was going to give out the passwords! So I created Bellabirth
Using my Science degree (majored in Anthropology and Biology), my honours (morphology), my Masters (Science Communication) and the specialist certificates in Breastfeeding Counselling and Education and Doula’ing, I set off on my mission.
I started out offering standard doula services, but my heart lay with the premise: Knowledge is Power.
I developed a birth planning guide, Plan Bellabirth: Informed Birth Planning.
ALL women need the opportunity to find their Own Way.
Bellabirth is a map and compass, providing information to help you navigate along the path that is most interesting and most comfortable to you.
The Journey is important.
What are your top 3 tips for pregnant mamas considering their birth plans?
The three elements to include in your Informed Birth Plan, or Birth Map, are:
- The Fast Birth Pathway
- The Expected Pathway
- The Contingency Pathway
Can you plan TOO much?
The idea is to stop planning when you reach a point of comfort, when you have run out of questions and feel you have reached an Informed Decision.
If you have fears or concerns, this is an indication of where to start asking questions. This may even be guided by the partner’s fears and concerns. Instead of letting these impede the process, we use them to empower us. Replace the fear with knowledge. This is also a great process for finding out if you have chosen the right care provider for you, and if you find that your birth philosophy does not match, you can change.
I encourage planning to extend to beyond the birth and take an early days reality check. This means including a post birth plan. This might cover breastfeeding, normal sleep and development, babywearing options, safe co-sleeping, and managing visitors. An important part of this process is a ‘Gathering’ in the last trimester. Some people call this a ‘blessingway’. This takes us from our thinking brain and into our instinctual self. We can relax, having covered all our bases, and sink into readiness. A wonderful element to include in this gathering is encouraging guests to bring a meal for the freezer to feed to family post-birth, or to arrange a food roster.
What are some of the most extreme birth plans you have come across?
If by extreme, you mean furthest from ‘standard care’, then the most extreme would be for the unassisted births or the maternal-assisted caesareans. These are the extreme ends of the ranges of available options. They both require informed preparation, excellent and supportive birth teams and flexibility.
How do most mums feel if their births deviate from their birth plans?
With a standard birth plan (that is, not a birth map), any deviation can be considered a failure. The plan is ‘thrown out the window’ becoming useless and the mother is now at the mercy of her care providers, often blindly trusting their judgement under very stressful and upsetting circumstances. This can lead to birth trauma, and even post natal depression, as the mother struggles to come to terms with the birth.
With the Birth Map, the deviation is covered with the contingency pathway. In making an allowance during preparation to have this included “Just in Case” means that the mother, and her partner or support, are better able to recognise if it is time to switch pathways. They can then proceed calmly and on their terms. Mothers (and partners) who approach preparation this way, report positive experiences, because no matter which pathway they end up on: It has been Their Birth, Their Way.
Catherine Bell is a Birth Cartographer, offering a unique preparation process called Birth Mapping. You can find out more at www.bellabirth.org. You can also follow bellabirth on facebook and twitter.