Lets talk about birth plans. A birth plan is an excellent tool to allow women and families to advocate and plan for a birth that best aligns with their values, preferences and informed choices. Can there possibly be a down side to birth plans? Well actually, yes. When a birth plan is written in an attempt to orchestrate and control every aspect of the birthing process, problems arise. A birth plan becomes a hindrance to empowered birthing when any deviation from said plan is experienced as a failure.
Please know this – birth will always, yes ALWAYS, carry an element of mystery that can not be predicted or controlled. So how do we prepare for birth in a meaningful and empowering way? Continue to do your research and make your preferences known. Understand common medications and interventions that may be offered by your care providers – learn the pros and cons, as well as the whens and whys of using each one. Understand that while they may or may not be your first choice of birthing support, some of the interventions may (or may not) be used in creating a positive birth outcome. Share your preferences with all involved, and then let go of the idea that you need to, (or that it's even possible to) control HOW the birth unravels. Trust that as you move through your labor, you will be supported by your own deep instincts and by your birth team, as you respond to the unpredictable unfolding of your own unique birth story.
When creating your birth plan, instead of focusing solely on external circumstances of the birth (HOW the birth will happen, the timing, the exact interventions that will or will not be used, etc) focus on your inner world - which you are entirely responsible for.
How do you wish to feel during your birth?
How do you wish to face the challenges of your birth?
What words, prayers, images, songs, movements, breathing patterns will bring you back to center as you navigate moments of overwhelm?
How can you meet the intensity of birth in a way that helps you grow in spirit, in resilience and in trust of your own being?
What is the highest aim of this birth – to simply endure and survive it OR to use it as an initation into higher states of being? Birth is truly one of nature’s great initiations. Taken consciously, birth can be used for transformative spiritual and personal growth... but I digress!
As your birth plan moves beyond a map of controlling externals (which is impossible) and begins to focus more on inner mastery, you set yourself up for an incredibly powerful birthing experience.
Another perk of moving your birth plan towards a more internal focus, is that you can create a daily ritual of birth visualization to practice cultivating the inner states of your choosing. Think of it as a mental rehearsal for birth. Birth visioning is a powerful practice that allows you to see your birth with broad brush strokes, and practice responding to it in empowering ways.
Sample Guided Birth Visioning
Find a meditative seat or come to lie down – make your body as comfortable and undistracted as possible. Close your eyes and begin breathing a little bit deeper, a little bit fuller. Inhale to the count of 4 , consciously directing the inhale to the base of the lungs. Then exhale to the count of 8, as you feel your body sinking down towards the Earth. (Note: if the 4:8 breathcount feels like a struggle, you can shorten it, just keep the exhales twice as long as the inhales).
From here, start to bring into your mind’s eye your birth. Imagine yourself feeling the gentle contractions of early labor– feel the excitement and wonder starting to fill you, and relax into it. Feel your awareness beginning to swirl inwards to really feel deeply into your body.
Now imagine the contractions beginning to intensify, starting to command your full attention. Feel your focus and concentration strongly pulled inwards, absorbed by the fullness of this experience. What are the mantras, words and prayers you choose to fill your mind with, as you dance in the intensity of labor? Hear those words echo in your mind, body and energetic heart as you consciously choose to surrender into the power that is surging from the depths of your being. Feel the contraction building to a peak, and then feel as it begins to taper off, as your womb softens and softens. As the contraction fully subsides, feel yourself sinking into the earth – fully releasing any physical or mental tension – and revel in this deep relaxation. Let yourself drift and soften, knowing that deep relaxation is an essential part of the process.
Now imagine the contractions come at an intensity beyond anything you have ever felt before. You may hear an inner voice saying, “I can’t do this,” and if/when you do, Sweet Mama, REJOICE! For this involuntary inner dialogue is the cue that you have already done most of the work and you are rounding the final corner in this marathon. This is transition, this is your body operating at peak performance. Feel the awe and wonder of this incredible power inside of you – know that THIS IS YOU! You are the power, strength and beauty of these contractions. Know this is part of your being. Allow yourself to FEEL the unbelievable intensity FREE from interpretation. Don’t try to make sense of it, just ALLOW it. Choose to open to it. Feel your whole mind and body saying YES, YES, YES. See yourself moving, breathing and vocalizing in ways that are guided by deep primal wisdom and by the wisdom of ALL the grandmothers who came before you.
Keeping this inwards awareness, imagine your body starting to push. Affirm to yourself with total certainty that your body was designed to morph in magical ways to open for your baby’s safe passage. With each push, baby descends a little more, and you feel baby’s head stretching and opening the perineum. With this stretch, you may feel a “ring of fire.” Respond to this sensation with a deep sigh, moan, or grunt of total relaxation. See yourself relaxing the jaw and softening your mouth, while your perineum and pelvic floor muscles totally relax and expand. As intensity builds, meet it with deeper and deeper softening and allowing and trust.
And finally feel the final push as your baby slips out of your body and into the world. Feel the instant physical relief wash over you. Feel the joy, wonderment and exuberance spilling out of your heart as you scoop your sweet baby up towards your chest. Feel yourself on the other side of this birth, embracing your healthy baby and relaxing as your body begins it’s incredible healing process. Know that you you have not only just given birth, but you have been reborn. Feel the confidence swelling up inside you and know that with each challenge that arises, there is a place inside of you that is wise, powerful, unshakable and full of light. This place is always accessible to you, because it is your true nature.