Pregnancy is one of the most life-changing times in someone’s life — usually in multiple lives. My five year journey into reproductive health was ignited after attending my first birth as a doula (a non-medical support person). I’ve had the honor to love people through abortions, home births and c-section deliveries at hospitals. Spektra Wellness, a freelance project I started last year, offers my experience to those seeking holistic prenatal counseling.
It became clear early in my career that people don’t just need a birth plan, as is commonly told to care providers and patients alike. All of us deserve robust pregnancy plans. Not every pregnancy is expected, wanted, or viable — and people need support for all instances.
What is a pregnancy plan? How can I help with one?
A birth plan is more common and gets the parent-to-be and their birth team all on the same page about what they want. Example questions include: do you want an unmedicated birth? Do you want to birth at home, a birth clinic, at a hospital or somewhere else? It’s incredibly detailed, yes, but limited to only one sort of experience and timeframe.
At Spektra Wellness, we envision a robust pregnancy plan that guides people from the moment they see the positive test (and we’re looking into how we can also expand our plans to include fertility planning as well). What does your loved one want to do with this pregnancy? If they’re indecisive, the questions, readings and prompts in the plan help them arrive at their own decision.
Plans become tailored to the decisions of the pregnant person. It can eventually move into a detailed birth plan, abortion plan or a miscarriage recovery plan. Those plans vary wildly in many ways, but all of them can be supported by you! An abortion plan generally has a shorter timeline than a pregnancy plan due to state laws that curtail autonomy and decision-making. You may need a plan to overcome those legal and financial barriers with your loved one and perhaps with one of the many organizations a part of the National Network of Abortion Funds. A miscarriage plan can be done in advance if it’s helpful for your loved one to think about all possible scenarios. A holistic birth plan would also include some thinking around each trimester, such as finding an affirming birth location or care provider.
Support your loved one in creating their pregnancy plan. Then honor it.
Not everyone has a clear plan from the moment they see the positive test strip. Your loved one might need to talk to you or a pregnancy counselor to think through their options. If they don’t have a clear idea of what they want, encourage them to set up an appointment with whomever they trust with their pregnancy care. Offer to join them or think through the questions they can ask the provider.
Be sure to avoid crisis pregnancy centers, which are not medical facilities, but biased religious groups that have very limited understandings and conversations around pregnancy care (no matter what pregnancy decision you choose!). Make sure they are receiving truly unbiased care.
Once your loved one has a plan, you should help them see it through. It’s made all the difference in the world for people I’ve met when someone else deals with the logistics. When it comes to birth, that means packing the overnight bag, calling your loved one’s parents or doula, arranging child care for them. For abortion care, it’s being their escort to the clinic so they don’t have to walk past protesters alone and so they can be sedated for their procedure. It’s having a meal they like ready for them post-abortion (because trust me, not being able to eat the night before is not fun for most people). You may also have to advocate for your loved ones to healthcare providers who don’t honor their pregnancy plan without a well-communicated and well-reasoned explanation.
Anticipating and navigating loved ones through the tough times.
Not everything always goes as hoped. Planning is important, but it is also strategic for support people to anticipate changes or challenges. Your loved one may arrive at the abortion clinic and be told they aren’t eligible for care due to state laws. They may be told after 36 hours of labor that they must have an emergency c-section. They might need to have an abortion for a pregnancy they had been planning for. Almost anything can and has happened to many of us. Your loved one may immediately know what their next best step is, or they might not.
Affirmation and intimacy are strategies and tools that cannot be replaced in times of grief. They are two of the greatest gifts you could offer. Be open and available to just receive, listen and echo what your loved one is going through, encouraging them when and where they seem ready to move towards healing. Share your lived experience with pregnancy if it’s relatable to theirs and your loved one agrees to hearing it.
To be clear, if you aren’t a therapist or counselor for this loved one, do not take on that role. They’ll need friends, partners, parents, as much as they may need counseling. Be that friend. That may include helping them research and find a reputable professional in their area if they are processing a traumatic experience.
No matter what, know that you’re on this journey with this person for a reason. There’s something that they or the universe sees in you that has you in the role you’re in. Never shy away from asking for help, but also don’t shy away from your brilliance and ability to love a loved one through pregnancy. You’ve both got this.
For more tips, reflections and affirmations about pregnancy and bodily autonomy in all it’s intersections, visit Spektra Wellness and join my email list! For all things about reproductive justice more broadly, read the work of my comrades at Echoing Ida.