Why plan?

One of the things that is often discussed is whether or not a woman should make a birth plan. There are a few different schools of thought on this. One is, “Women don’t need any plan other than, ‘Go to hospital; have baby.'” Another is, “Birth can’t be planned, so you shouldn’t even try.” Another might be, “You can plan if you want to, but it won’t turn out that way so you’re wasting your time.” There are also some more positive constructions, obviously.

Some people are consummate planners — they have the Day Planner in which they put everything, and are super-organized, and know how they’re going to spend every minute of every day for the next year. They may even be called “obsessed.” Others are the polar opposite — even trying to figure out what to eat for supper that evening, or what to wear the next day to school or work is too restrictive on their “freedom.” Most people are in the middle.

Apparently, my father-in-law was (and still is) very much a planner when it came to family vacations. He would literally have the whole time planned — they would leave home by such-and-such time, and drive so far, eat in this town, drive some more, get to the destination by suppertime, eat, and go to bed. And every day of the vacation was similarly planned. Spontaneity was not smiled upon. There may be some slight variations allowed (You want to play ping-pong instead of foosball? Okay), but in general, he had his plan and it was followed.

When I got married, I paid a lot of attention to a lot of little details about the wedding. I planned a lot of things, obviously — you have to do that when you’re organizing a medium-sized church wedding. If you want to stop in at the Courthouse, not so much needs to be planned; but if you’re going to have a couple of hundred people in attendance (and to feed!), you’ll want to be prepared. For all of you who have ever planned anything, whether a vacation or a wedding, or anything that you thought of more than week in advance, I ask you, “Why plan?”

Are the same thoughts screeching through your head that are screeching through mine? “What?? ‘Why plan’?!? Is this person an idiot? Of course these things have to be planned!! I have to know how much food to buy, or clothes to pack, or money to take… I’ll have to take off work or get somebody to watch the kids or….

What if I said, “Well, you can plan, but you know it’s not going to work out the way you plan, so you’re just wasting your time!”? After all, nobody who gets married plans on having the groom pass out, or the flower girl showing off her pretty panties, or the ring bearer picking his nose, or the flowers getting lost, or the cake getting crushed — but all these things happen in weddings every day. Nobody who goes on vacation plans on having a car wreck, or the alternator going out in the middle of nowhere, or getting a stomach bug the whole week, or having the luggage get put on the wrong plane, or finding out the hotel has lost your reservation — but all these things happen, too.

The fact is, there are things that happen that are not planned, but that doesn’t mean that having a plan to start with is a stupid idea. In fact, it’s usually stupid not to plan. The inspiration for this post came from reading this article, “Homework is the Mother of Prevention,” which I first saw on The True Face of Birth.

This Australian author begins by saying that she was not known to “be prepared,” and in fact ended up quite sick when she went to Latin America, completely unprepared because she refused to read any of the travel literature.

But when I was pregnant I managed to break the bad habits of a lifetime. My motivation was hearing about the many apparently normal, healthy pregnancies that spiralled out of control in the labour ward, ending in unplanned and invasive medical interventions. I was told that labour is just like that — unpredictable, chaotic, terrifying. A bit like my Latin American adventure. But while friends and family didn’t hesitate to censure me for my haphazard approach to overseas travel, the opposite was true of my careful preparations for labour. If I had a dollar for every time I was told that birth plans were futile, since things would never come out the way I expected, I could almost have doubled my baby bonus.

I strongly urge you to go read the full article, because it has many salient points. But just to sum up what I’ve already said — just because life is ultimately unpredictable, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan.

Pregnant women already attract unjustified scrutiny and criticism. No woman should ever be judged for the decisions she makes while in labour, given how indescribable and unexpected that experience really is. But how a woman handles her preparation is another matter entirely, and maybe a lack of preparation deserves scrutiny. To just “wait and see” when the stakes are so high is simply negligent — both for the mother’s health and for her baby.


One Response

  1. I was just talking with my OB and she says that she knows the moms who are really serious about a natural birth are the ones who by about 20 weeks start talking about what it is they want from birth and asking their questions, etc. She LIKES the moms like that.

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