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The One Thing Parents Wish They Had on Their Birth Plan

At every birth, no matter what, there’s a dynamic that catches new parents off guard. Parents that have been there, done that, know all too well what this is. And these seasoned parents – they wish they had been better prepared for it. Knowing what was coming would have made all the difference.

The One Thing Parents Wish They Had on Their Birth Plan

You see, at every birth a little (or a lot) of the unexpected happens.

every. single. time.

No matter what, limits get tested and parents go where they didn’t think they’d go. Despite what’s on their birth plan, parents are pushed beyond their physical, emotional, or spiritual limits… or typically, all three.

This idea of being pushed past our perceived boundaries in an unknown way is quite difficult to process for anyone, but  especially for those in our western culture.

We want to…

  • know what to expect and when
  • to plan ahead and
  • be prepared for everything

*Before I lose you, I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, that won’t happen to me.” Or “OMG you’re freaking me out!” Hang with me for a minute because what I have to say will be incredibly helpful. Promise.

At every birth, no matter what, there's a dynamic that catches new parents off guard. Parents that have been there, done that, know all too well what this is. And these seasoned parents - they wish they had been better prepared for it. Knowing what was coming would have made all the difference. The One Thing Parents Wish They Had on Their Birth Plan

What’s Missing on Your Birth Plan?

Ok, so what if your birth got a little bit more intense than you thought it would? Or plans shifted in a *slightly* different direction? What would you do? Would you look for the next best thing? Would you “give up” and disengage with the process?

What if I told you that there are ways to prepare for the unknown, without knowing exactly what the unknown will be? This wisdom is what seasoned parents wish they had on their birth plan and were better prepared for.

To begin, follow these 2 easy steps.

STEP 1: Accept that the unexpected will be at your birth. Welcome it in and be open and ready for it.

STEP 2: Learn coping strategies for these unexpected moments.

Haha juuuuuust kidding. These aren’t easy steps. They’re simple, but not easy. 😉

The Thing Nobody Wants to Talk About – Losing Control

It’s good to learn about and plan for the stages of childbirth. My whole website is devoted to it.

And it’s also good to be an active participant in your birth and a part of the decision making process. This is my passion.

But there’s also an element of giving up control, loosening our grip on how we think things should go, and surrendering to the unknown and what can’t be planned for, that’s also required of childbirth. It’s a dichotomy of sorts.

Expect the unexpected.

Coping Through Unexpected Moments

Ok, assuming you’ve accepted step 1, let’s explore step 2 – Learn coping strategies for the unexpected at birth.

Medicated Birth

Imagine for a moment that you have made an educated decision and are planning for an epidural birth as described on your birth plan. However, when you arrive at the hospital you discover that it will be hours until the nurse anesthetist can come to your room. Or perhaps by the time you do receive relief it only works on one side and has to be re-administered. Or maybe birth goes too quickly to even try to get an epidural!

Clearly, these scenarios were not what was expected and can leave parents feeling caught off guard, frustrated, and afraid. How would you cope if an epidural was not available to you in the way that you had hoped?

Many parents that plan for a medicated birth sometimes don’t take the time to learn coping strategies for the parts of labor that are unmedicated. (Pssst… you need coping strategies for the administration of an epidural too!)

One way to cope through the unexpected in these scenarios may be to learn how to cope through painful labor before an epidural. An even simpler idea is to learn an easy breathing technique that does wonders. (You’ll thank me later!)

Unmedicated Birth

Believe it or not this woman actually has an epidural in place. Fancy!

On the other hand, for those that are planning an unmedicated birth, it’s important to consider the possibility that – under certain circumstances – you may choose to have an epidural. 

(Trust me. Not all women who choose an epidural in the delivery room had it written on their birth plans.)

Because of this, it’s important to learn about epidurals and under what circumstances you would think it wise or compassionate to use one.

Pause for a moment – with pen and paper – and answer the question:

“When would it be wise or compassionate to use an epidural?”

Cesarean Birth

Cesarean birth is one of the 10 most common surgeries in the United States. The cesarean rates are high, but unfortunately, cesarean preparedness is low.

All women should prepare for a cesarean birth… without expecting one. But they don’t.

Two reasons women don’t learn about cesareans are

  1. they don’t think it will happen to them and
  2. they think that if they prepare for one they’re more likely to have one.

The mama in this unexpected cesarean birth story did not expect to have a cesarean, but she sure knew what she would want if it were to happen to her. It did happen and boy, was she glad she was prepared.

If for whatever reason your next best thing were to have a cesarean, what would your preferences be? What sorts of things would you want medical staff to do or know about you to make the experience better?

Learn about a “gentle cesarean” and see what sticks out. Make a list of 3-5 things you would want to have happen if, for whatever reason, a cesarean birth were to be your next best thing.

Out-of-Hospital Birth

Ok, out of hospital birth mamas, it’s your turn. If for whatever reason it became your next best thing to transfer to a hospital, how would you cope?

Stay with me here, because here’s where things can get overwhelming.

You see, women planning for an out of hospital birth often feel overwhelmed and/or paralyzed when they think about the possibility of transferring care to a hospital. Lots of thoughts and feelings come up, all at once.

In light of the overwhelm, try to pinpoint one particular transfer scenario or situation that keeps coming to mind as you get closer to birth.

  • Could it be an epidural?
  • Being separated from your birth team?
  • Not knowing what’s going on with your baby?
  • A cesarean birth perhaps?

Take JUST ONE of these situations and brainstorm possible coping strategies you could bring to the table if this thing were to happen. While you’re imagining this situation, don’t wiggle your way out of it, sit in it and think of ways to cope with the scenario unchanged.

(I hope you decide to leave a comment and share your answers to these questions. There’s so much wisdom to share from one mama to another. We can learn so much from each other!)

What’s the One Thing Parents Wish They Had on Their Birth Plan?

Hopefully by now you’ve started to realize the one thing parents wish they had on their birth plan – to make space for and plan for the unexpected.

This is hard stuff. It’s hard because it acknowledges a lack of total control and requires parents to imagine themselves in scenarios that they do. not. want. to. be. in.

But I believe in you. You can do hard things. You got this.

With the utmost love compassion,


PS – Leave a comment and let’s start a discussion. I’d love to hear from you!