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Let’s start by taking a look at where we are and what we know. Take a look at what you were planning, and take stock of the facts. There are some things that you cannot control. These are the elements you have to accept.

There may be some elements within this that you can influence. What you can DEFINITELY influence are your own thoughts and feelings around the change.

  • Finding the why

    The type of motivation that is driving you towards a certain kind of birth may be worth looking at. Our motivation for most things can be desire driven. When you want something that will improve your health, wellbeing or life, the desire to achieve it is strong. However there is also fear driven motivation. This is equally powerful and worth a bit of exploration.

    Ask yourself where your motivation for a particular birth comes from. If your desire for a home birth is because you feel confident and relaxed at home then this is desire motivation. If it is because you are frightened of the hospital environment, then this is fear driven motivation.

    We hear from women who plan to free birth. This is birthing without a medical professional present. For some the motivation is desire – they feel more relaxed, confident and in control. The flip side is a fear based desire where the medical profession has not met their needs and they feel driven to this decision.

    Do you go to the gym regularly because you enjoy the feeling that exercise gives you? Or do you go because you fear putting on weight? The trip to the gym is the same but one is a chore and the other is enjoyable.

    Desire based motivation keeps us in a positive mindset. Fear based motivation keeps us in a negative state. It can be helpful to identify which is your motivation for your planned birth. 

    We are assuming that the choices you have made are based on sound clinical evidence. However if there is any doubt surrounding your choices, do speak to your midwife or obstetrician. If you are unsure of why your induction/caesarean birth/hospital birth is being planned – ask. You may be surprised to find there are more choices available to you than you expected.

    Please remember that your care provider is an expert in their speciality, but you are an expert in your body. The decisions made about your birth should be in partnership with you. If you feel you have been driven to fear based motivation, then talking it through with someone else can also be useful. There are many organisations that support women in their choices, Birthrights and AIMS being at the forefront. Go to the RESOURCES section for the contact details. There will be more information on making informed choices in the human rights and childbirth section.

  • The stock check

    Let’s do a stock check. What has changed? Some common changes may be a change of birth location. Are you now having to plan a birth in hospital rather than at home? Maybe this has come about due to the Covid 19 situation, maybe the home birth service has been cancelled, maybe your clinical picture has changed and you no longer fit the ‘criteria’ for home birth?

    You may have been planning a birth in your local midwifery led unit (MLU) and now are having to readjust to birth in the consultant led unit. This is also sometimes called the obstetric unit, the labour ward, the delivery suite or the high risk unit.

    Maybe you had your heart set on a water birth and now the location of birth offers no pool? Maybe there are clinical complications that may have an impact on your experience. It could be a looming induction, developing cholestasis, needing to be monitored continuously in labour or a birth partner that can no longer support you? Are you now expecting a caesarean birth when you had hoped for a vaginal birth?

    These situations are tough. No one will disagree. It is ok for you to grieve for the loss of your planned experience. It may be useful to clarify which part you are grieving for the most, and why. This sounds obvious, but can you begin by unpacking what the change ACTUALLY means to you? Without spending a lot of time on it, write the biggest change down, and what is the biggest impact to you? Can you do it now?

What is the biggest change to my birth plan?

What effect will this have?

Once you have clarified the effect the change will have, does that translate to a feeling? It may be:

the stock check

The feeling that accompanies the change is what we can work on, not the change itself.

Let’s not waste time and emotion on what we cannot alter.

  • Welcome to Holland

    When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

    After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

    “Holland?!?” you say.

    “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

    But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

    So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you never would have met. It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

    But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy…and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

    This is the readjustment…because the loss of that dream, that plan is a very significant loss.

    But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.

    What Emily Kingsley talks about so wisely in ‘welcome to Holland’ is something what we call the reframe. You may know it as looking for the silver lining. A glass half full instead of half empty. Thinking positively, looking on the bright side.

    By now you are questioning ever getting started with this program if all it is going to tell you to do is look on the bright side. But bear with it. There is more to this than you know, and more neuroscience to understand if you want to change how you are feeling right now.

    However, for now this section is concentrating on acceptance. Before some balance can be restored you will have to mourn and grieve for the loss of your plan. This is not about trying to change it from one thing to another thing, this is about acknowledging it, naming it and letting it go. We will work on replacing it with a new feeling in the next section. For now, get comfortable and listen to the short script below.