Aim: To develop a birth plan for the birth of my own baby.

Date: January to October 2015

Client: Personal Project

Status: Completed

Principles: Holmgren

Framework: Design Web

Tools: Client interview, Visioning Exercises, Helps and Limits Analysis, Patterns Analysis, Principles Analysis, Systems Analysis, Yields Web, Action Planning / Schedule Development, Six Thinking Hats.

How does the design reflect the Permaculture Ethics?

Earth CareBy creating a birth plan which aims to use the least possible resources and which is as natural possible
People CareBy focusing upon my own hopes, and the hopes of my partner, for the birth of our baby
Fair ShareBy sharing my experiences and learning through my diploma, and in person when the opportunity arises

How does the design reflect my personal learning objectives?

Permaculture design as underlying foundation to the work that I do– Using permaculture methods to design this important personal experience, learning that will be applicable in my work in the longer term.

–       Application of permaculture design within a “real” situation working towards a non-negotiable deadline.
Build links to the Permaculture community– Share on my website.

–       Share within the local permaculture community.

–       Share on social media.
Develop learning within the structure of the diploma– Exploring a new design framework (the design web) which I have not previously used.

–      Explore different use of design tools in relation to personal experience.

Resources / Support

The Design Web

People and Permaculture by Looby Macnamara

Effective Birth Preparation by Maggie Howell

Pinterest Board created to support the design

Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin

Natural Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Greater Manchester Homebirth Support Group

Local Positive Birth Group


In April 2015 I found out that I was expecting my first baby. As soon as initial exhilaration and emotion passed I began to think ahead to how and where I would like my baby to be born. I was determined that I should take a proactive approach in order to ensure the greatest possibility of birthing my baby in the way that I wanted to. My initial instinct pointed towards an experience that was as natural and un-medicalised as possible.

Visions, Helps, Limits

Vision: To begin this design I focused upon VISION which is described in “People and Permaculture” as allowing yourself to “dream and create goals”. I took myself through a client interview process and thought carefully about the “ideal” birth experience that I would like to have, and wrote all my ideas down. It was clear even then that I wanted to be actively involved in my pregnancy and my baby’s birth, that I wanted the experience to be as natural as possible, and I possible I would like my baby to born at home. (Appendix 1)

Helps: At that point I moved on to focus upon HELPS to identify the internal and external resources that would help me achieve my VISION (Appendix 2). I took time to consider my internal resources as well as reflecting upon ideas of physical fitness alongside emotional qualities such as determination, confidence, belief and courage. I also reflected upon external resources such a key people (ie my partner and my midwife) and physical resources such as the local homebirth network, peer support networks online and in reality, and useful books and websites. Once I had identified these important physical resources I drew them together  / made contact with them in order to maximize their benefit within my design.

Limits: Finally I took time to focus upon possible LIMITS that could keep me from achieving my aspirations within the design (Appendix 3). It was clear that these fell into three main areas:

  • My own feelings and preoccupations.
  • The feelings and preoccupations of other people.
  • Logistical needs and challenges.

Patterns, Ideas, Principles

Within this section of the design I began drawing all of my thinking together to see where patterns lay, and where natural groupings may be emerging.

Patterns: To begin with I analysed the different elements that I had observed earlier in the design process to see if they were falling together into groups naturally. Within this grouping I placed HELPS and LIMITS alongside each other. It was apparent that things seemed to fall into five main areas:

  • Emotional – ie feelings and emotions about homebirth that I had, and that other people had.
  • Physical – ie the physical implications that my be necessary from a personal perspective.
  • Support – ie what support would I need from other people in order to achieve the design?
  • Knowledge – ie what would I need to know, and not know, and where may that knowledge come from.
  • Logistical – what physical resources would be necessary.

It should be noted that several aspects fell into several different groups . Once I had gathered ideas into these groups I looked at each group in more detail looking at HELPS and LIMITS alongside each other once again. Where there were limits I spent time to think about practical things that I could put in place in order to minimized the potential impact of each LIMIT. For example, where I noted that physical fitness would be important I observed that I could easily maintain fitness by exercising regularly during pregnancy. And the exercise that I thought would work for me best was yoga, walking and swimming, all of which were already part of my life and which would be easy to continue on a regular basis.

You can explore my analysis of the different patterns in the gallery below.

  • The first image outlines the different aspects I identified in the project alongside the possible HELPS (in grey) and LIMITS (in red).
  • The rest of the images take each aspect and detail the HELPS (in green) and LIMITS (in pink) more closely. On these images possible solutions / mitigations are provided alongside each LIMIT in black

INSPIRATION: Next I moved to look further afield for IDEAS and to gather inspiration. I did this in a range of different ways including books, gathering inspiration online and through peer support. I have provided a list of the mains ways that I did the image below.

Principles: Finally in this section I moved to use the PRINCIPLES To guide and shape my thinking. I took each of the Holmgren Permaculture Principles and used them to explore my ideas in more detail. Once I had done that I made note of the observations that seemed to have particular resonance or interest in relation to the design. This gave me clearer ideas of the idea and direction that I wanted to take within my design. The PRINCIPLES that seemed to bring most to the design were:

  • Observe and interact
  • Catch and store energy
  • Use and value renewable resources
  • Use and value the marginal
  • Integrate rather than segregate
  • Creatively use and respond to change.

You can explore my analysis of the principles in more detail within the gallery below.

Integration, Action, Momentum

This aspect of the design began to draw together the different elements and consciously explore how they may manifest within the final deisgn.

Integration: I analysed the different patterns that had emerged so far in the design process and thought about how they could be reflected in terms of the functions that I hoped to achieve. These were:

  • Intuition
  • Simplicity
  • Individuality
  • Energy
  • Personality
  • Responsiveness

I then reflected upon how these functions were served by the different systems which would be present within the birth that I was working towards. These were: hypno-birthing, setting, support, yoga and active birth. I also thought about the elements that would be needed in order to create each system.

I then went on to analyse each of the systems that I had identified in more detail, and to think about the different yields that they would produce, many of which linked closely to the key aspects of the vision that I had outlined at the earliest stage of the design process. The yields that emerged were energy, calmness, control, relaxation, empowerment, calmness and focus. For the final stage of this element of the design process I created yields web to explore how the yields linked to the systems and also to each other. This was particularly useful to understand better where different aspects of the design came together, and where different yields were produced by multiple systems.

Action: The next step focused upon ACTION. Here I made a practical plan to think about how I could make the birth that I had imagined. To do this I created a simple timeline working back from my baby’s due date to think about what needed to happen when in order for my design to happen. I also detailed in simple terms the supplies and materials that I was going to need and any modification to our house that we would need to make . This was done supported by my midwife, my hypno-birthing teacher and others who had had a home birth. I wanted to ensure that we were fully prepared, but at the same time to make sure we were not hindered by unnecessary or excessive equipment.

Momentum: The final focus of this area of my design was MOMENTUM when I thought clearly about things that I would need to do, and the key milestones to ensure that my design kept going I did this by detailing the key moments in the design process and giving them a specific date by which they needed to happen. I then added further detail to this by thinking clearly about the support that would be needed to ensure that I met these deadlines.

Appreciation, Pause, Reflection

Appreciation: I took time for APPRECIATION to focus upon thinks to be thankful for during the design and that would occur as a result. To do this I highlighted the specific milestones once again and the different things that I would be thankful for at each different moment.  This made it clear that although the safe arrival of my baby was the key thing that I was working towards that there were also many things to be grateful for along the way.

Pause: I also thought about where there was time to PAUSE within the design allowing space for rest and rejuvenation. It became clear to me that within this design these pauses needed to be points of physical connection, emotional connection and space for thinking and preparation. As the timeline for the design had a fixed endpoint I wanted to ensure that these moments would happen so I defined the nature of each specific moment of pause, when they would happen and with what frequency. I also thought about what the pause would yield. For example, swimming would be an important moment of pause, my intention was that it should happen every couple of days during my pregnancy, and that it would allow me quiet time and time for physical focus.

Reflection: Finally I completed the process by reflecting:

  • What went well: I really enjoyed using the Design Web. It worked brilliantly and I found it to be a great way to pull together all aspects of the design. It was a great tool to help me clarify the main aims of the birth plan, particularly in terms of the five main areas that I identified within the design. These were: emotional needs, physical needs, practical and emotional support, knowledge and logistics.
  • What didn’t go so well: I found it difficult to find points for reflection within the design process when working towards such a definite end point ie the date that my baby was due to be born! I also did much of the write up for the design retrospectively and this is not always the easiest way to document the process – I will try to find ways to document more clearly as I go along for future designs.
  • What the highlights of the process were for me: An obvious highlight for me was the birth of our son at home as we had hoped for, and as we had outlined in the design. Clearly much of this was to do with luck, but I also feel that the planning that I put in place helped me to remain calm and to focus on the birth experience that I was hoping for. Another highlight was the brilliant sense of partnership that I had with others who enabled the design – particularly with my midwife Cathryn, and also with Natalie my hypnobirth teacher. The sense of collaboration within this design was very strong and that sense brought great empowerment. Finally it was a great thing for me that the process of design and thinking allowed my partner to reach a place where he felt totally engaged within the birth of our son, another thing that I had really hoped for and which I feel the design was instumental in facilitating.
  • Final reflections going forward: I really loved working with the Design Web as a framework. I feel it was perfectly suited to the nature of this design and would love to work with it again on future designs and explore different ways of getting the best out of it. I will also think more about how I write up as I go along rather than doing everything retrospectively ie how can I make the documentation more part of the reflection and pause that happens within a design process rather than at the end of it?

This is documented in the image below. In a longer project I would have included more points for reflection, but as this design took place over a relatively short period of time I only allowed time for more detailed reflection once the design was completed.


As the “evaluation” within the Design Web is more reflective I decided to also add an evaluation which focuses more specifically upon the aim of the original design exploring to what extent this has been met by the design which I have created. In order to do this I created a simple survey.

What did you aim to achieve with this design?-I wanted to create a birth plan for the birth of my own baby.

-I feel pleased with the plan that was created as a result of the design and the way that it helped me to achieve the experience that I had hoped for.
Which elements of the aim do you feel were achieved by the design?– I feel that all elements of the design were achieved.

– The way that the vision that was set out at the beginning of the process gave clear sense of purpose and direction throughout the design.

– The way that the limits and helps identified within the first stage of the design process led towards five main anchor points for the design. emotional needs, physical needs, practical and emotional support, knowledge and logistics. These anchors became crucial to the structure and success of the design and the thinking involved in its creation.

– I think the design works well to balance the practical and emotional. I think that is really crucial for such a personal design.
Were there any elements which were not achieved by the design?– There were not any elements that were not achieved by the design.

– Although the Permaculture Ethics are central to the design in terms of my thinking they are not analysed or explored within the design.
Did you achieve anything additional as a result of the design that was unexpected? -I feel that the relationships that were developed and / or strengthened as a result of the design were much stronger than I would have anticipated, and were not necessarily envisaged within the original aim.

– I was surprised by the clarity of the anchor points that were created as a result of the design, and the functions and systems that emerged as a result of these.

– I liked the way that the design that was created respresented a good balance between the practical / logistical and emotional.

– The creation of the design as a physical thing made it much easier to articulate my ideas and aspirations to other people.

Design Reflection

I used the Six Thinking Hats to reflect upon my own learning within the design within the context of my diploma as a whole.

White Hat – Facts and Data:

From a practical perspective the project was completed on time – though clearly I did not have control of the date on which my son was born I was able to make use of the time that I anticipated having available to myself to plan a birth experience that met my needs as the client.

It was an interesting challenge to be working to a deadline which I had no control over, and which contained many unknown factors, but it was also pleasing to see how the design process brought focus and calm within that context.

I appreciated the way that the analysis of principles worked so well as a tool within this design. I really valued the clarity that it gave and the way that it helped express aspects of the project which were more important.

Green Hat – Creative Ideas:

It was an interesting experience to use Permaculture Design to shape my own experience, but one which I enjoyed and which I found very beneficial.

I was particularly pleased with the way that the design framework (which I loved using for this design!) allowed me to create my own solutions which were shaped by ideas from outside the mainstream experience of birth.

I found the framework extremely positive as a tool to shape ideas and thinking in this way.

I enjoyed using the Visioning tools to think about the essence of the design in the widest sense – I love the way that these original ideas are reflected through the subsequent design process.

Blue Hat – Process:

The design process allowed me to create a strong, clear plan which I was able to put down on paper and refer to as I needed to.

I appreciated the way that the process allowed me to identify where key “flash points” may be and what I could do to mitigate these by design.

I really loved the way that the design process facilitated this sense of clarity and feel that the Design Web was perfectly suited to do so on this deeply personal design.

Within the process as a whole I struggled with the systems analysis – I often find it hard to identify what falls into what category. What is a system? What is a function…etc…? This is something I will explore in more detail in future designs.

Within the process I made direct use of the Permaculture Principles as tool but I did not do the same with the Permaculture Ethics as there is not a naturally occurring place to do this within the framework. Although the ethics were a foundation to thinking throughout the design process using them as an analysis tool, and writing about their use in more detail would have certainly added more clarity and depth.

Black Hat – Devil’s Advocate:

The comment could be made that the birth of my baby went to plan because of the forces of nature and the fact that I was lucky enough to have a very straightforward birth rather than as a result of the design that I had created. That is of course true to a certain extent, though I would argue that the planning and thinking that I had done would have been an excellent foundation even if things had not gone so well and I had not ended up with the natural birth that I hoped for. In many ways it’s a good demonstration of the way that the design process makes you aware of many different options and possibilities and although you inevitably choose one of them to pursue, you are also placing yourself into a much more comfortable position in terms of knowledge if you find yourself returning to the thinking stage of the process as a later date as a result of circumstances that may be beyond your own control.

Red Hat – Positive and Negative Feelings:

I had a really positive experience using the design web in this context and would love to use it again and explore it further.

I enjoyed the clarity of working to create a design for myself and value and acknowledge the support I was given by other people in order to make this possible eg the support of my partner, my midwife, my hypnobirthing teacher…etc…

There is a point of reflection in the Design Web but not a reflection of the design as a whole once it is completed. As a result I feel that the areas of the design where I reflect and evaluate contain elements of repetition.

I really liked using this tool (6 Thinking Hats) as a tool for reflection. I like the way that it allows me to think about the design from multiple perspectives and really pushes me to observe from perspectives that I may not naturally gravitate towards.

Yellow Hat – Value and Benefit:

Although Permaculture Design undoubtly informs much of my life I have never consciously created a design for myself in this way. I loved the process and the experience and feel that I had great personal benefit from creating my own experience.

I feel there was an intimacy and scale within this design which will inform the way that I design going forward – particulalry in terms of the clarity that a design process can bring in terms of planning and detail.

I hope that this personal value can be shared further by sharing the design through the Positive Birth Network and through the local Homebirth Network, both of which supported me greatly at this time in my life.