BirthTruths: The Truth About Birth Plans

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Birth plans can be a controversial subject. Some birth professionals advocate for them, while others discourage them.

Some women choose to write out a birth plan to give to their care provider, some write one but reserve it for themselves and their support team, and others don’t write anything out but know what they want and are comfortable advocating for themselves.

Some women feel they don’t need a birth plan because they are comfortable with their care provider. Some think that writing a birth plan is just setting themselves up for disappointment or that it’s foolish to plan something as unpredictable as birth.

I don’t know, dear expectant mama, where you fall on the birth plan continuum. I’m not here to tell you that you should or shouldn’t write one. But there are a lot of misconceptions out there about birth plans, so I want to give you some truth to counteract all those lies, so you can know if a birth plan would be a beneficial tool for YOU.

Truth #1: A birth plan is an education tool.

A birth plan is first and foremost a way for you to learn about birth, learn about yourself, learn about your options, discern what’s most important to you about birth, and then to prepare both for the birth you want and for the unexpected.

In this way, a birth plan is very much about the process. The process of educating yourself, the process of uncovering your beliefs and values and desires around birth. Some women will go more in depth with it than others. What matters to you might not matter to your best friend.

But knowing what IS important to you about birth and then making choices that align with that is a healthy thing for any mother. And writing a birth plan helps to facilitate that learning.

Truth #2: A birth plan is not a guarantee.

You don’t hand your care provider a birth plan as if it’s a legal contract, nor can you predict exactly what will happen in your birth. Almost every mother I’ve talked with has had something unexpected happen during birth, maybe a little thing, maybe a big thing. Whether or not she had a written birth plan, she did have expectations.

It’s important to have a care provider you really trust, so that in an emergency or when something comes up that presents you with unexpected choices, you can still have confidence that the choices being made are the best ones for you.

Truth #3: A birth plan is not a substitute for face to face communication with your care provider.

As you’re learning about your options, bring up any questions you have to your care provider and talk to them about your hopes and fears for your birth well before you’re in labor. Sometimes it can be hard to have these conversations in the typical short appointments we’re accustomed to, but at least ask about the most important things. The process of creating a birth plan should help facilitate communication with your care provider, not shut it down.

Your care provider has a valuable knowledge of birth, and you have a valuable knowledge of yourself. Take both into account. You may find that much of what is important to you about birth is standard practice for your care provider, or you may discover that your basic philosophies of birth differ greatly and decide to switch care providers.

Truth #4: A birth plan starts way before birth.

It starts even before conception, with your attitude toward pregnancy and motherhood. I would argue that it starts even before that, with the expectations you build from the stories you see and hear from your mother, your grandmother, your peers, and in art, literature, and media.

It includes the very first decisions you make about your pregnancy and your care, decisions like where you will give birth and who will attend it. These decisions will dictate some of your options, so as much as is in your power (because I know sometimes options are limited), don’t choose a setting or provider that you know doesn’t support what you want.

Early on, when you first make these choices, you might not know what’s important to you, and that’s ok. But if your care provider or birth setting is no longer a good fit for you, consider changing. I know it’s a hassle, but it’s worthwhile if it’s what’s required for you to have safe, respectful care you can trust.

Truth #5: A birth plan serves as a guide to help you prepare for birth.

As you learn about birth and learn about yourself, you can take steps during pregnancy to help prepare for the birth you want. Making sure you’re comfortable with your care provider, nourishing your body, trying to keep your baby in an optimal position, learning some comfort measures (or learning lots of comfort measures if you’re planning on an unmedicated birth) – these are all things you can do that have an impact on your birth.

And then think about what you don’t want during birth. Are there situations in which that thing you want to avoid might be helpful or needed?

For instance, when I was planning my first birth, I wanted to avoid an epidural. I even chose to birth at home so that it simply wouldn’t be available to me without the significant inconvenience and stress of transferring to the hospital.

But I knew from the beginning that if labor was really long and I was too exhausted, if I simply couldn’t relax enough to dilate, or honestly, if the pain was far worse than I was prepared for and the natural comfort measure I had learned weren’t helping enough, then I would transfer to the hospital and have an epidural.

A birth plan helps you prepare for the birth you want and take positive, proactive steps to make it happen, while still preparing for the reality of the uncertainty of birth.

Truth #6: A birth plan serves as a guide for your support team during birth.

It’s a good idea to have your birth team know what’s important to you during labor so that they’re able to support you toward those ends. Your birth plan for your support team (partner, doula, and any other family members or friends who will be present) might be more detailed than the one you give your care providers, and it’s something they can refer to if you’re offered different interventions. You are always free to change your mind and be flexible, but they can remind you of questions to ask or provide comfort measures that you’ve perhaps practiced beforehand. If you’ve communicated your hopes, even just verbally, your support people will be able to be more helpful to you during labor.

Truth #7: A birth plan is not an indicator of a control freak mom. A birth plan is an indicator of a thoughtful and engaged mom.

Every woman has expectations and values and desires around labor and birth. Even if a woman hasn’t taken the time to figure them out, even she’s not honest about them, even if she doesn’t care about all the same things you care about, even if she doesn’t have anything written down on paper, she still has hopes and expectations and is probably at least in some way trying to prepare for what she wants. Even the decision to “not have a birth plan” is often an effort to not be disappointed in birth.

I don’t say that to criticize the moms who aren’t interested in written birth plans. A written birth plan isn’t helpful to everyone and that’s ok. I just say it because sometimes anti-birth plan voices are loud and an unnecessary point of tension among mothers. But the process of learning what you want and how to prepare for that along with how to prepare for the unexpected is a valuable one for any mother.

Know What You Want

So write a birth plan or don’t write one, but do know what you want and prepare for it. You might be disappointed, yes. Disappointment is a possibility whenever you have ANY sort of expectation, but not being honest about what you want doesn’t necessarily protect you from disappointment either. And through doing the hard work of learning and knowing what you want, you might have an amazing birth that you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t taken the time to prepare for it now. You are the person who is most invested in your baby. Your hopes for birth, your hopes for how your baby is welcomed into the world, and your hopes for those first moments with your baby matter. Don’t be afraid to know what you want and go for it.

Want to delve deeper into the truth about birth plans? Click here to receive your Brave Womanhood Reflections Worksheet!

Don’t Waste Your Wedding: Three Ways to Glorify God on Your Wedding Day

This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting this free resource! See full disclosure here.

If you’re of my generation and active in certain theological circles, you’re probably familiar with John Piper and have at least heard of his book, “Don’t Waste Your Life”. I read it when I was 15 and it definitely had an impact. In it Piper laments the tragedy of people who live their lives for meaningless pursuits instead of living their lives for the glory of God.

The catechism asks the question, “What is man’s primary purpose?” and gives the answer, “Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” I knew the purpose of life, but until I read Piper’s book, I had never been gripped by it with so much intensity, both in my desires to fulfill it and my sobering awareness that I presently wasn’t.

The fact is all of life is worship and all of life is meant to glorify God. How we do the everyday things of life, how we celebrate milestones and the forming of families, says much about our values and what we’re living for.

Your wedding provides a tremendous opportunity to share the gospel with unsaved loved ones and to exalt Christ in the very beginning of your marriage, and this will hopefully set the stage for a lifelong commitment to the glory of God in your marriage and family life.

Three Practical and Tangible Ways to Glorify God in Your Wedding

 

1. Make the gospel clear in the ceremony.

There will be both believers and unbelievers present, some who wouldn’t come to church with you no matter how many times you asked them, but wouldn’t dream of missing your wedding. You have a really unique chance to share the gospel, and the picture of Christ and the church in marriage lends itself well to doing so. If you are a believer, the gospel is a treasure, a treasure you ought to desire others to possess. So talk to your pastor about the message he plans to share in the ceremony and your desire for the gospel to be clear in it.

2. Sing hymns that exalt Christ.

Congregational singing perhaps isn’t so common in weddings, but it’s an element that can be included to create a beautifully worshipful atmosphere. As I think back to my own wedding, the whole thing was rich with meaning and each part was so precious to me, but I know the singing together was one part that stood out to many who were present, perhaps because it isn’t very common. My husband and I each chose a favorite hymn (“In Christ Alone” and “All I Have is Christ”) and also chose “Amazing Grace”, a hymn that many, even unbelievers, are familiar with. When my sister got married this past summer, she and my brother-in-law opened their wedding ceremony with “Oh Praise the Name”. The feeling of worship was overwhelming. Your wedding is worship because all of life is worship. Make it clear Who the object of your worship is.

3. Use traditional vows.

I’m sorry, I know this might rankle some people, but I’ve never heard vows written solely by a couple that truly captured the significance of marriage in the way that traditional vows do. You’re not here to promise to be best pals and make each other laugh. You’re here to promise to love, honor, and cherish one another for better or for worse ’til death do you part. I’m not saying that you can’t add a personal touch – I’ve seen some really beautiful and meaningful variations – but I am saying that there are some basic elements that should be present and that the promises you make should be promises to keep. You don’t need to vow to never again make imitation mashed potatoes out of cauliflower. It might gain a laugh, but it kind of detracts from the solemn beauty of what is being promised.

After the Wedding

In making your vows, praising God with singing, and sharing the gospel in the wedding ceremony, you’ve made a strong statement about what you believe and what is valuable to you. People, even unbelievers will now have a certain standard they hold you to and the way you continue in your life and marriage will have an impact on your witness.

The Reception

In all the planning of the ceremony don’t forget about your reception. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time at a wedding reception. It is a celebration after all. But in the celebration don’t create an atmosphere that makes it hard for your guests to honor God and easy for them to dishonor Him. You’re not responsible for other people’s actions, and I’m not going to tell you exactly how to plan your reception or what you should and shouldn’t do, but think about the crowd you have and about how your values are reflected in your choices in music, dancing, alcohol, and how you do activities like the garter toss or other entertaining pieces that are usually part of a reception. In entertaining your guests be sure you are also honoring and respecting one another and honoring God. It should be a joyous occasion, but not a raucous one.

The Rest of Your Lives

I know that sometimes as a young person from a Christian family grows up, unbelieving family members may wonder if the kids are really as crazy as the parents. They might not really know where you stand at the beginning of your life together unless you make it known.

And if you do make your faith clear during your wedding, the whole of the rest of your life and marriage is a witness to that truth. You won’t be perfect, and people, especially those close to you, will see your faults and your failures.

But hopefully they will also see you becoming more like Jesus, responding with grace, humility, and repentance when the usual difficulties and disagreements of life create rifts.

Hopefully they’ll see you truly loving each other for better or for worse. Hopefully they see husbands modeling sacrificial love and wives modeling submissive respect and both modeling tenderness, delight, and absolute faithfulness to one another.

Hopefully they’ll see you welcoming children as gifts from God with precious, eternal souls to nurture, not resented as mere inconveniences or leeches sucking away at their bank accounts.

Hopefully they see you as members of the body of Christ loving not just those of God’s family who are like you, but those who are not like you, because the earthly things of life are not the most important thing you have in common. The love of Christ, both His for you and yours for Him, is the most important thing you have in common. You are bound together by the blood of Christ, which creates a commitment even stronger than the blood ties of family.

None of those things make sense apart from the gospel. Sometimes your loved ones will see the way you live and just scratch their heads. Sometimes the way you live may even invite ridicule and conflict. But sometimes the way you live will draw others to you. They’ll think back to your wedding and they’ll know why you live as you do, and perhaps you’ll have an opportunity to again share the gospel with them.

God’s Word tells us to do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31). Your faithful witness, your glorifying God in your marriage starts with your wedding. So don’t waste it.

A few resources for those who are married, thinking about getting married, planning to be married, or planning a wedding.

What’s More Important Than a Wedding?” sermon by Voddie Baucham

We Two Are One” sermon series by Alistair Begg

This Momentary Marriage” book by John Piper

101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged” book by H. Norman Wright