In all aspects of our lives, but perhaps most importantly during birth, the ability to stay focused on what is happening ‘right now’ brings us the ultimate freedom to keep us calm and positive.
Getting lost in what could, should or ought to have been done or said in the past serves only to make us angry or sad that things didn’t happen as we’d hoped they would.
When we’re stuck in these thought patterns we lose the ability to react flexibly to the situations that are presenting themselves right now. In other words, we are wasting our energy on things we cannot change.
In exactly the same way, if we concentrate on how we want things to be, planning right down to the infinite details, then we strip ourselves of the ability to be open to new opportunities as they present themselves.
Of course, by holding to these detailed plans, we also set ourselves up for the disappointment of things that could or should have been different. Sadly, I have heard too many women beat themselves up that their birth experience “did not go to plan”.
To say that is not to ban the plan all together. Neither am I saying don’t investigate options nor think about your preferences but rather not to remain fixed on anything specific. The invitation is to be open to the outcome – whatever it might be – as this might be a more relaxed and empowering way of approaching birth; avoiding the pressures that the past and the future bring with them.
In other words, having a long-term goal is one thing but being fixed on the destination is quite another.
A friend in Australia received some amazing advice from her doula, making exactly this point, in the form of the following story:
“Imagine you are preparing for the holiday of your lifetime [where would it be]…
You have packed everything you need, read all the guide books, planned a detailed itinerary of the places you’re going to visit while you’re there and you are feeling excited about finally making the journey.
Now, what if for some reason beyond your control or understanding you are dropped off in an utterly different place with no possibility of being collected until your holiday time is up. What do you do?
Do you spend the whole time wishing you were somewhere else, being miserable and blaming anyone and everyone for your predicament?
Or, do you take a deep breath and get on and enjoy your holiday regardless, looking for all the new and interesting attractions that this place might have to offer?”
So where does this leave us when it comes to preparing for birth?
In my experience as a birth doula, the most successful birth planning consists of simple principles to can be applied to any situation that arises. Not least, because they can be readily shared with the midwife (or midwives if your labour spans a shift change) in a way that’s easy to digest with just the quickest glance…as unfortunately, this is often all the time that they have.
For example, birth planning notes might read something like:
- Remind me to breathe deeply, I often forget
- Prefer to remain as mobile as possible throughout
- Interested in using birth pool, if available/appropriate
- No morphine – bad reaction last time
- Partner to cut cord, if possible