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What if my birth doesn't go according to plan?

So many of us have really strong ideas of how and where we want to birth our babies. More often than not, things don't go exactly as we planned. Let’s unpack the “What if’s” and see how we can still have agency in these scenarios.

What does the unexpected look like? That might mean that we may deliver in a different location than we had planned. We may have a different care provider than we expected. We may have a different outcome than we had anticipated. I believe that part of the planning process should be talking about all of the potential possibilities. All the: What if’s? So what if I end up having to have a Cesarean birth? What might that look like? What are the things that I can still choose for myself in that process? Can I still have immediate skin-to-skin? Will that impact how I feed my baby? Knowing all of the what if’s and kind of imagining what that might look like is an important part of the planning process. 

When I work with Doula clients, I have them imagine what it might be like to have a Cesarean birth (I’m just using that as an example). What might that look like? And I have them go through that exercise and then I encourage them to light it on fire. They might want to write it out and then literally light it on fire or just as a sentiment of processing through it and then not dwelling on it. Try this exercise for yourself. Think of a “What if” scenario and go through the options and possibilities. These exercises can help to empower your birth experience!

Doulas are for everyone 

A birth doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the parent/s before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. Doulas do NOT catch babies or offer clinical support. 

You may be wondering if you could benefit from the support of a birth doula? Well, doulas are for EVERYONE! Studies show that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they nurse more easily. Doulas attend births in the hospital, at birthing centers, and in people's homes.  The goal is for a pregnant person and their partner (if applicable) to have an informed birth. Doulas may also serve as your advocate. A popular misconception is that doulas are only for people wanting an unmedicated vaginal birth. Doulas work with clients that plan on getting an epidural but would like some tips and techniques for managing labor at home before heading to the hospital. Doulas can also assist clients through planned cesarean births. Doulas work in hospitals, birthing centers, and homebirth settings. 

Every birth is different and having a knowledgeable advocate throughout the process is a huge asset. 

Postpartum Plan 

Creating a postpartum plan lays out your preferences for the early weeks and months of the postpartum period. We put so much energy into preparing and planning for the birth, that we often neglect planning for the postpartum period, also known as the fourth trimester. I know that postpartum is forever! Creating a postpartum plan is about self-advocacy. Creating a list of your preferences can really help to support successful parenting and aids physical and emotional healing. Your postpartum plan may include:

  • Parenting roles

  • Support team

  • Household chores

  • Visiting hours

  • Self-care

  • Sleep

  • Nourishment (

  • Hydration

  • Mental Health concerns

  • Infant feeding preferences

  • Parental leave

  • Sibling care

  • Pet care

Taking care of yourself postpartum 


Your postpartum plan can be a written document that you prepare to express your goals and preferences. I use the word ‘plan’ very loosely. A lot of things may NOT go exactly as you had hoped postpartum. It’s a good idea to have resources and support in place if things don’t go as “planned. 

Caring for yourself postpartum can be challenging as a new parent. Your newborn may take up all of your energy and attention. It can be hard to find the time to take a shower or go to the bathroom when you want to. You may even need reminders to eat and brush your teeth. Parenting a newborn can be an all consuming job! Your self-care is going to look different now that you are a parent. Self-care pre-baby may have meant meditating, going to get a massage, or regular exercise classes. Letting go of the fact that self care won't look the same will help you surrender to the new flow of things. Creating a ritual of caring for yourself is important for your overall well-being and mental health. Here are some ways for you to implement self care: 

  1. Nourish yourself. Eat nutrient dense food. 

  2. Accept help if offered. 

  3. Ask for help. Asking for help shows strength. 

  4. Move your body. Walking is a great choice postpartum. 

  5. Sleep. Cat nap when baby naps. 

  6. Connect with nature. Put your feet in the dirt and look up at the sky.

  7. Fresh Air. Take 5 deep belly breaths. 

  8. Aromatherapy. 

  9. Set boundaries. No is a complete sentence. 

  10. Meditate. Try 5 minutes in the morning. 

  11. Hobby - Do something that you love. It's important to have heart work outside of parenting.

  12. Date night with a partner, friend, or yourself! 

Setting the intention to practice caring for yourself during pregnancy will get you in the habit and will follow you into postpartum. Modeling self care for your children is so important. It shows that you value yourself and will teach your child/children to value themselves.

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