Of birth plans and Michael Parkinson: is there any point?

Michael Parkinson/BBC

I wonder how many other women accidentally associate Michael Parkinson with childbirth (pic: BBC)

My hopes and dreams for the birth of my first child were pretty simple.  Actually I can pretty much sum my “birth plan” up in one word: survival. Primarily of the baby but obviously I was hoping to emerge from the experience with a pulse as well. TV personality Michael Parkinson certainly wasn’t supposed to be part of the proceedings.

Nonetheless, my firstborn ended up emerging to the dulcet tones of Sir P  on the delivery suite’s tinny FM radio, because it only seemed able to receive BBC Radio 2 and wouldn’t play any CDs. Although I do have a vague memory of my husband discreetly hitting the mute button when the theme tune to Psycho started playing. Michael Parkinson must have a sense of humour, after all. I couldn’t have planned that if I’d tried.

Now, three weeks and five days until the due date of Number Two, as the app on my phone helpfully keeps reminding me, I can honestly say that nothing has really changed in the  “birth plan” department. This includes potential birth-related cameos by ageing celebrity interviewers (sorry, Parky).

I haven’t stocked up on Diptique candles or lavender-scented scatter cushions. There is no music playlist under curation which will take me and my poor cervix from 0-10cm and I haven’t even googled the “golden thread” breathing technique I vaguely remember from the ghost of yoga classes past.

I honestly don’t see the point in attempting to control the event. Both my body and my baby are going to do whatever it is they’ve got to do. How can I possibly anticipate that? Last time round I remember a midwife warning me not to be “bullied” into having a C-Section if I needed one. If I need a C-Section, that is exactly what I intend to have, I replied.

In the event, nobody listened to me anyway. Plan or no plan, two hours before I gave birth they were still refusing to believe that I was even in labour or give me as much as a paracetamol to help with the pain… so being bullied into having a C Section turned out to be the least of my problems. All of which kind of proves my point, I suppose.

Recently I went to meet my new health visitor, who has the job of seeing me through the arrival of Number Two. She instructed me to be very clear “in my birth plan” about how I intend to feed the new arrival because apparently, if I want to give breastfeeding another chance, I must write in this mythical plan of mine that my baby is NOT to be given formula.

Needless to say she got short shrift. I think we can all agree that, one way or another, this newborn is going to need to feed. Either my boobs and my baby will rise to the occasion or they won’t. Last time ended in a spectacular no-show on my part. So – where does that leave us? Open minded, perhaps – but also prepared. This time there are both bottles and breast pads in the hospital bag and I’m sure as hell not ruling anything out.

I actually thought that was quite a nasty little trick – to try to force a woman to make such a vital decision before she’s aware of the reality of her own unique situation. What a neat way to set yourself up for failure if it doesn’t work out. This particular jelly is extremely hard to nail to the wall, in my experience.

That said – almost every other mother I know has had a “plan”. Am I missing something here?

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4 thoughts on “Of birth plans and Michael Parkinson: is there any point?

  1. I wrote a very detailed plan for the birth of my son including how I wanted an active birth to what I would like to happen in the event of an emergency Caesarian (mainly that my husband be given scrubs in good time so he could accompany me into theatre) – even that the hospital disregarded…

    So yes, I completely see and agree with your point about the pointlessness of birthplans. I do get why they try and get women to write birthplans as it’s meant to make you feel in control blah blah blah etc. etc. but I shan’t be writing a birthplan if and when we have another baby, except maybe to say that at the very least, I would like to be spoken and treated with respect by staff — who unfortunately for me last time, were so utterly rude. One midwife on the postnatal ward on pulling the curtains back around my cubicle and seeing my Chinese face, looked alarmed and said “Oh no! Do you speak English?!”. I mean, come on, seriously?

  2. Can’t help thinking a birth plan is a lot like a personal development plan or an appraisal – something that “the people in charge” ask us to write just so we get out of their way for a while. No-one looks at the ruddy thing, after all, do they?

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