OPINION: 'No offence, but birth 'plans' are bullsh*t.'

When I was pregnant with my first child, my obstetrician and I made a plan. 

I can’t recall exactly how it came about, except that, like buying a bunch of teeny-tiny newborn socks and doing my pelvic floor exercises, it was something that was expected of me as a mother-to-be.

My birth plan wasn’t a complex one - I already knew I didn’t want a whole bunch of rules to follow but it did contain three points I perceived as non-negotiables.

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I was planning for a vaginal birth with my obstetrician at my selected hospital. 

I was planning to have pain relief. (I was actually interested in planning for this one very far in advance - how soon could they administer the epidural? Should we pop one in at 35 weeks just in case?) And I planned to hold my son when he was born. 

As birth plans go, mine was not complex. It didn’t involve fairy lights or candles. 

There was no playlist. I didn’t specify the position I’d like to labour in, or how often I wanted to be examined. 

I didn’t really care who was in the room with me or if I had access to a bath.


Honestly, I thought I was being clever - I had only specified the three really important things. 

I had written them down neatly on a little card with my name on it. I had made things very simple for the universe, and I hadn’t even asked for much, so I was pretty certain that everything would go to plan.

But that’s not how the universe works, and it certainly isn’t how birth works. Because neither of those things have any respect for “plans”. 

I wasn’t planning on an emergency c-section. I certainly wasn’t planning on the ambulance transfer away from the safety of my chosen hospital, to a new location where my obstetrician wasn’t authorised to operate. 

Image: Supplied


I wasn’t planning on meeting my new doctor only minutes before my son was born. 

I wasn’t planning for my baby to be eight weeks premature (I forgot to even write “full term” on the stupid birth plan!). And I wasn’t planning for it to be hours until I got to meet my son.

In the aftermath of my birth, I thought a lot about my neat little birth plan and how ultimately futile it had been. Of course, there’s no other decision I would, or could, have made in the moment the “failures” were all results of medical necessity. 

But the very existence of the plan in the first place made me feel like something had gone “wrong”, when I should have been celebrating that my child had come safely into the world in the midst of a complicated medical emergency. 

The more I thought about my plan, the more resentful I felt. 

It took a little while to come to terms with the fact that maybe, it was the plan, and not the actual outcome, which had been the problem.

The thing is, there is a significant difference between having a general idea of your birth preferences and setting down those preferences like they are the law. It is important, and empowering, for women to know their options and feel confident in vocalising them to their birthing team.


But the word “plan” suggests control. “Plan” suggests that birth is an experience which can be shaped to your liking if you only prepare well enough, like writing an essay or packing for a trip. “Plan” suggests that, if things don’t go to “plan”, then something has gone wrong - that someone, and possibly you, has failed in some way. 

“Plan” is a fundamental misunderstanding of how babies come into the world, which is haphazardly, unpredictably, and sometimes dangerously. “Plan” can, in some cases, cause women to doubt critical medical advice because it isn’t in line with exactly how they saw their births progressing. “Plan” fails to recognise that, scary as it might be, some eventualities simply can’t be planned for.

Listen to This Glorious Mess, On this episode, Pamela Palonis shares everything, from how she felt leaving the hospital without her baby to the words of encouragement she has for other parents going through it. Story continues below.

So for my next pregnancy, I’m not making a “plan”. I’ve chatted with my obstetrician about the basics I’m hoping for an elective c-section given my first but I don’t have much interest in letting it get further than that.

Because when I look back on this birth, I don’t want to be thinking about all the things that didn’t go “to plan”. All I really want – the only outcome that really matters – is my baby.

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