Bron from Kindred Birth chats with Catherine Bell, Birth Cartographer and creator of the book The Birth Map.
Bron: Tell us what is a Birth Map and how does it differ from a Birth Plan?
Catherine: The Birth Map is a powerful, and legal, document produced through the process of informed birth preparation. This document is used by your support team and care providers and contains your informed decisions regarding various possibilities. It covers risk assessment and informed decision making. It comes with a guide that does not give you the answers, but asks the right questions to help you make the best decisions for you.
Bron: How did you come up with the idea of a Birth Map?
Catherine: The first versions of The Birth Map were created in 2011. With each birth I attended (as a doula), and each of my own pregnancies and births, the process was adapted. More and more questions were added to the birth plan template, more details included and more alternative explored. It was no longer a ‘birth plan template’, it had evolved to the Birth Map. What became really obvious was it was ‘The Questions’ that mattered, knowing what to ask, and being able to ask well in advance, meant really exploring the options. In understanding the various pathways and how they intertwine we have the power to make informed decisions.
Bron: What’s wrong with just relying on informed consent over making an informed decision?
Catherine: The trouble with consent in birth, is that not enough time or information is given. Usually a ‘need to know (NOW)’ approach is taken. This is stressful and not conducive to making informed decisions. Coercion is also a problem, as insurance-driven policies put pressure on care providers to direct birth towards medically ‘controlled’ options. The Birth Map is the solution to the maternity problem. The ‘Maternity Problem’ stems from the medicalisation of pregnancy and birth, and Birth Map is the result of Informed Birth Preparation. It is a powerful document that works like a ‘choose your own adventure’, where the birthing woman is the author.
Bron: So what about the book itself?
Catherine: I designed the book to be written in, to make notes, to decorate, add affirmations, and journal in. There are pages dedicated for ‘Your Birth Story’. The first section give you the Insights, the foundations for understanding the maternity system and your options within it. The second section contains ‘The Questions’, takes you through each pathway (fast birth, expected and contingency). This is where the personal Birth Map is developed. The third section takes you beyond the birth, and helps you to set up a support network for the early days of parenting. Lastly an appendix gives you a glossary of medical terms, a list of recommended reading, and resources for special circumstances. More than ‘just another birthing book’, The Birth Map is linked to the free Member Area on bellabirth.org: a portal of resources and a hub of support.
Bron has copies of The Birth Map book in her lending library and each client is given their own copy of the workbook to help carefully prepare their own map through the duration of their pregnancy. The workbook is designed to take to antenatal appointments, small enough to carry in your bag, has space to write notes, questions, thoughts or feelings.
Bron Arnold-Briggs is a mother of 2 adult children and has lived on the Sunshine Coast for over 20 years. She is a Sunshine Coast Doula, mentor and professional Birth + Motherhood Photographer. Bron passionate about working with women during during this ultimate rite of passage, a celebration of motherhood! You can find her at www.kindredbirth.com.au