The best advice I was given about preparing a birth plan was to throw the plan out the window once labour begins. You can’t predict what will happen and feeling stressed when things don’t go exactly how you’d expected is the last thing you need at that time. There are a few things worth contemplating and preparing for though. Here’s my quick list:
1. You may have strong feelings about pain management, surgery, and/or breastfeeding but things don’t always go according to plan. Hopefully they will but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared just in case. I’d suggest spending a bit of time thinking about how you might feel, and what you might need, if you weren’t planning on having an epidural but change your mind in the moment, weren’t planning on a cesarean but end up requiring one, were planning a cesarean but baby comes quickly, and/or were planning on breastfeeding but aren’t able to once baby comes (what pump will you need, which bottles do you plan to get, what formulas are available to you). Taking some time to plan for these events before going into labour can save you a ton of anxiety if things don’t go as you’d hoped.
2. After baby/babies arrive you will need support. Supermom is a wickedly unfair and unrealistic archetype. We are tribal creatures and need the support of our community. You will need people who will show up for you without being asked in those first weeks and months. Talk to your family and/or friends in advance about what you might need (people to bring food or come over and cook for you, people to help out with laundry and cleaning in those first few weeks, people to watch your little one/ones while you rest or take a bath, someone to do the grocery shopping, etc).
Supermom is a wickedly unfair and unrealistic archetype. We are tribal creatures and need the support of our community.
3. If you don’t have anyone available to assist once baby arrives, or if you do but want extra support, and can afford to hire help there is no shame in doing so. Hiring people to help you adjust to your new life does not mean you aren’t good enough or not capable of being a good parent. We were never intended to raise children on our own. We used to live in community with our parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts/uncles, cousins, in-laws, etc. nearby for good reason. The old saying, “It takes a village” exists for a reason. Exhaustion can take a very real and very serious toll. If you think you might want a postpartum doula, night nurse, daytime or live-in nanny, housekeeper to help with cleaning and laundry, meal or grocery service, dog walker, etc., I’d recommend finding one you connect with in advance. Trying to find and interview someone in the immediate postpartum is a headache you don’t need.
Hiring people to help you adjust to your new life does not mean you aren’t good enough or not capable of being a good parent. We were never intended to raise children on our own.”
4. Talk to other parents about what worked for them and what didn’t. Even if you decide to do things differently it will give you ideas for backup plans.
5. If you are stressed and experiencing a different reality than the one you’d expected in the postpartum, or are struggling with baby blues or postpartum depression, know that you are absolutely not alone, that it is so normal (a cruel trick of Mother Nature but normal nonetheless), and that there is help. Reach out to family, friends, and healthcare providers. You’ll be amazed at how other parents open up about their own experiences once they know it’s safe to do so with another person experiencing similar difficulties. You’ll also be surprised at the amount of support available to new parents in the healthcare system (Women’s College Hospital in Toronto has an incredible reproductive life stages department). Keep in mind that with each day that passes, as you and your baby learn and grow together, things get easier.
All that said, parenthood is by far the best thing I’ve ever done. When you aren’t exhausted and have the right supports in place you’ll be able to enjoy the magic of it all.