When it comes to birth plans for labor and delivery, there seems to be two different types of people – those who think through every possible scenario and desire that might arise while giving birth, and those who decide to take it as it comes and make decisions on the fly. And when you’re delivering your own baby, either approach has its merits.
When it comes to surrogacy, however, some forethought is not only valuable, it’s necessary.
A typical birth plan addresses a whole range of issues, including (but not limited to) prenatal care leading up to labor, when a couple will seek medical care, where the woman will labor, how she wants the health of the baby monitored during labor, eating and drinking during labor, pain relief options she does or does not want, who may attend the birth and in what role, the lighting, temperature, and configuration of the delivery room, how she wants the pushing stage of labor to be managed (nurse/physician directed or not), birthing positions she’d like to use, who will catch the baby as it is born, who will cut the umbilical cord, who gets to hold the baby first, when and where the baby’s measurements and vital signs are taken, how the baby will be fed, where the baby will sleep at night, and more.
But wait, there’s more. If you’re planning a surrogate birth, there’s a host of other considerations to address in your birth plan, including the legal paperwork that may need to be executed while you’re at the hospital, or possibly even before the birth. These laws and regulation vary by state, and can even differ depending on the state the surrogate lives in, the state she gives birth in, and the state the intended parents live in. Therefore it’s essential to work with an attorney knowledgeable of the laws that apply to your specific surrogacy arrangement.
Also, because the baby will theoretically have three parents present (you as the person who gave birth to the baby and the baby’s two parents), it’s important to legally establish, through HIPAA and other hospital paperwork, who can make decisions on behalf of the baby and who will have hospital bands on their wrists for access to the nursery.
But back to the birth plan…how can you ensure that your wishes (and those of your gestational carrier) are respected while at the hospital? Not to mention that it’s very likely that a lot will be going on and everyone is prone to distraction? By writing up a birth plan, that’s how.
Many of the issues that you’ll address in your birth plan are topics that you’ve probably discussed already either in the process of matching with one another or in talks you’ve had throughout the pregnancy. For the most part, writing up a birth plan is a process of putting your wishes and expectations down onto paper. The only exception to this is any paperwork regarding the birth certificate and custody of the baby – this need to be completed in compliance with local laws and hospital policy.
Your birth plan should begin with identifying information – the gestational carrier’s name (and make sure she’s identified as the GC), her partner’s name (if applicable), the intended parents’ names (and specify that they are the legal parents of the baby) and the names of anyone else who will be attending the labor and delivery (e.g., a doula, a photographer, a grandparent, etc.). Remember, the goal of a birth plan is to eliminate any surprises, and this includes surprises for the hospital staff as well.
Topics for your birth plan that relate to labor and delivery are:
- Where you plan to deliver
- Who will be present for labor and/or delivery
- What pain relief options, if any, you’d prefer
- Any special requests for music, imagery, or other labor support tools
- How the pushing stage will be managed (physician/midwife directed or not)
- Who the baby should be handed to
- Who will cut the umbilical cord
- In the event of a cesaerean birth, who is allowed into the operating room
- What photos or videos may be taken
- How the baby will be fed after birth
- Where the intended parents will stay while the baby is in the hospital
- Who will have hospital bands that allow access to the nursery
Topics for your birth plan that relate to the legal paperwork are:
- What documents you may need to have on file with the hospital prior to the birth
- What documents you need to bring with you to the birth
- What documents you need to complete during your hospital stay
- What ID you need to have at the hospital
- Power of attorney or hospital form authorizing the baby’s parents to make decisions regarding their child once s/he is born
- Who the baby will be discharged to
As a separate document, you may want to have a list of names and numbers for:
- Emergency contacts for the gestational carrier’s family
- Emergency contacts the intended parents’ family
- Contact information for the gestational carrier’s attorney
- Contact information for the intended parents’ attorney
- Contact informationfor the surrogacy agency, if you used one
You may of course have additional topics related to your unique situation or preferences that you want to add to the birth plan, so by all means, do so. You want to be as explicit as possible in your document, without being overwhelming – remember, in order to carry out your plan the hospital staff needs to read and remember it! Most nurses and staff are attending to several patients at once, so making your birth plan too long and wordy will not help them read and digest it enough to act according to your wishes. Include everything you need to, but use clear, direct and simple language to make it easier for the hospital staff to help you.
Are there other topics that you included, or plan to include, in your surrogate birth plan? I’d love to know – please share your ideas in the comments below.