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Not the Birth I Planned (but I loved It Anyway) – 5 moms’ stories

5 moms' stories

By Amy Levin-Epstein |

Being pregnant is the longest waiting game of most women’s lives. For nine months we plan – a nursery, a name, and, in most cases, the birth. For some of us, that could be as simple as choosing between hospital and home, drugs or natural. For others, a formal birth plan can read like a Hollywood starlet’s requests, from mood lighting and music in the delivery room to what baby and mommy will wear postpartum. But as the women below explain, birth is rarely like you expect it – even if it isn’t your first trip to the maternity ward. Here’s how five moms felt about things not going the way they planned. Their stories (in their words) will amaze you.

I Planned A Natural … But I Had to Have My Water Broken and Get Pitocin

Holly Whitmore, 33, Orange County, California. Daughter, Brett, is 16 months.

My friends and family would describe me as a very organized person. I live by the rules and have tons of spreadsheets to plan out different aspects of my life (from my wedding to my baby registry). It just fit that I would create an elaborate birth plan. I looked online and created a four-page list. I wanted my husband to cut the umbilical cord and tell me the sex of the baby. I wanted to have natural lighting. Initially I wanted a natural birth, but I thought maybe I’ll do some of the pain meds instead of the epidural. I didn’t want an episiotomy, but I did want massage and stretching so I didn’t have to be cut. I didn’t want an internal monitor on the baby. I wanted to be able to go to the bathroom on my own afterwards instead of being catheterized, if possible. My husband and I went through it and he gave me the ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ look but said, “Whatever you want to do is fine with me.” So, we took the plan in my OB/GYN. She said that she was happy to try to follow the plan, but that labor can be unpredictable, and I would have to go with the flow on the day of. I went home and thought long and hard about it. I thought ‘Do I want to be worrying about all these plans on the list while I’m in labor, or would it be easier to just throw it out the window and go with the flow?’ I decided to throw the birth plan out the window! I could hardly believe it myself. I am so glad that I did because, due to many circumstances, basically everything I said that I did or didn’t want to have happen happened just the opposite. I think the only thing that went as planned was the Jack Johnson music I wanted playing (which I don’t even remember). In a nutshell, the baby’s heartbeat was irregular, so they had to do an internal monitor. Labor was progressing too slowly and they gave me a bit of pitocin and ended up breaking my water. Even though I didn’t want an episiotomy the baby had her head sideways so they had to do one and use a vacuum to get her out. I try to tell my friends that you need to be realistic. No matter what, your husband probably can cut the umbilical cord. But as far as the medical things, you have to be open-minded.

I Planned a Home Birth … But I Had a C-Section

Esther Brady Crawford, 26, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Son, Jude, is 1 year.

I didn’t have any preconceived notions of what labor I wanted, but every pregnant person buys the books and rent the movies. I watched The Business of Being Born. It planted the seed of ‘Maybe I should consider a natural birth.’ We spent eight weeks attending Bradley Method classes, but I always felt if that didn’t work out it wasn’t going to be the end of the world. Everything changed after I went into labor. My midwife came over as planned after my water broke all over my accountants floor at 4 pm. By the middle of the night, I was in full labor, laboring in my bathtub as my husband and midwife napped. But at 6 the next morning, my midwife started to get concerned that I hadn’t dilated any further. I was still at two centimeters and my son’s heart rate was dropping dangerously low. After two hours of trying a variety of positions, she decided we needed to go into the hospital. We still thought I’d end up with a natural vaginal birth, but she wanted the security of the heart monitor to watch my son. Unfortunately we just couldn’t get him to bounce back, and, coupled with the fact that I couldn’t seem to dilate, the midwife and my OB told me the bad news. My midwife said, “I think were going to have to start talking about the C word.” Knowing how staunchly against c-sections she is, I figured it was medically necessary. At 11:30 a.m. my baby Jude was being pulled out of my belly, and while it wasn’t the experience I wanted, I felt at peace with it because I had tried really hard to avoid it. With the help of my husband, [my son] was able to lie on my chest and start nursing while I was still in the recovery room – something that had been really important to me. I think so many women get stuck in the rut of whatever their friends or family members did, whatever that is, whether it’s scheduling a c-section or doing it all natural. For me it was so important to know the different possibilities, so if something happened I’d be emotionally prepared for it. Also, choosing a doctor was so important – someone who was going to support my decisions. When I went in for the c-section I didn’t have time to tell her breast-feeding was important to me. But she already knew that – and it made the potentially disappointed feelings go away because there were so many other things that went right.

I Planned a Hospital Birth … But I Delivered at Home

Corina Kuban, 30, Vancouver, Canada. Daughter Anika is 5, son, Jonas, is 3, and daughter Mathea is 10 months.

My firstborn was meant to be a hospital birth. At our prenatal classes they kept emphasizing that we not come to the hospital too soon, otherwise they’d just send us home. After labor began I called our doula and she suggested taking a bath and going to bed. If the labor was true, the pains would wake me up. I followed her advice and kept expecting things to get worse. It wasn’t until I had the strong urge to push that the doula suggested meeting her at the hospital. I tried to stand up but couldn’t, so my husband called 911. The operator asked if it was our first, and when my husband told her that it was, she was pretty skeptical as to the severity of the situation but dispatched the fire department anyway. They came and assessed the situation and the paramedics were shortly behind. Our daughter was born within ten minutes of the paramedics arrival, on our bed, in the comfort of our own home. The paramedic who delivered her read the manual on the way over! I think it paved the perfect path for me having a home birth the next time around. It took the fear out of planning it because we had already one it without planning it. Our son was a planned home birth with two midwives present, and it went by the book. This was also the plan for our third child. However, after I began laboring around 5 a.m., we called our midwife to let her know that she should come over, but she was stuck at the hospital with another laboring mom and our choices were to either meet her there and deliver the baby in the hospital or to have her try to track down another midwife. We opted for the hospital option because even though the territory was unfamiliar the midwife would be someone we knew. We quickly made arrangements for our other two kids, threw together a hospital bag (which we thought would be unnecessary) and drove downtown, in the middle of rush hour, to have our youngest daughter. The contractions were about two minutes apart for the duration of the drive. When we arrived at the hospital my husband dropped me off at the ER and went to park the car. I’m pretty stoic when in labor, so the admissions staff didn’t realize how imminently the birth could happen. They showed me the way to the maternity ward, and I walked that long walk by myself, the contractions becoming more intense from the walking. Needless to say, I was quite relieved to get settled in my room and began pushing within ten minutes. Our youngest was born minutes later and we were discharged in time to have breakfast at our favorite bagel shop on the way home! We’ve had to change our birth plans, but in hindsight I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s good preparation because parenthood is so unpredictable and you can only plan so much. As a parent you have to learn to go with the flow.

I Planned a Natural Birth … But Asked for an Epidural

Jennifer Reich, 39, Hellertown, P.A. Son Tyler is 4, and son Austin is 3.

I really wanted to have an unmedicated birth. I had talked with my midwives about it and was really mentally prepared. The hospital had two homey birthing rooms that were pretty removed from the rest of the labor-and-delivery area. My husband and I walked up and down a long, quiet, lowly lit hallway. I knew that when a contraction hit, I could walk down the hall and by the time I got to the end of the hall, the contraction would be over. I was in labor for around ten hours, pacing that hallway. After that, the labor was getting to be very painful; my midwife said I was very dilated but the baby was facing the wrong way. I didn’t want to have any medication, but she strongly urged me to take a shot. I had a strange reaction to it – it didn’t help the pain and it just made me feel “loopy,” disoriented and out of it. So at my midwife’s recommendation, I gave in and got an epidural. The epidural was great! I was able to fall asleep for a bit, and then when I woke up, it was time to push. The midwife helped me to time the pushing to work with the contractions – even though I couldn’t feel the pain – and I didn’t push for long. Looking back at it, labor was a comedy of errors. However, I don’t think I would do it differently if I could. Having the ten hours of labor was an amazing bonding experience with my husband, and I wanted to do that so desperately. With my second son, 21 months later, again I wanted to have an unmedicated birth. But this time I was delivering in a different hospital, with a different midwife and they wouldn’t let me pace the halls. I felt so trapped in that tiny room, unable to move around, and the pain was unbearable. I remembered how that epidural had taken all of the pain away with my first baby. ‘Why am I torturing myself?’ I wondered. I couldn’t come up with a good reason, so I asked for an epidural!

I Planned an Epidural … But Went au Naturale

Berit Brogaard, 36, Saint Louis, Missouri. Daughter, Rebecca, is 6.

I had planned a full epidural. They waited because it was a 34-hour labor, but eventually it got really intense. They attempted an epidural but couldn’t hit my spine as I couldn’t sit still. Suddenly I thought ‘Okay, women have been doing this for millions of years, and I can do it without one.’ I had a really good doula provided by the hospital. I used a lot of walking, baths, massage, a birthing ball and just pure strength. I pushed out my baby in 20 minutes because I went natural. I could move around whereas if I had had the epidural, I wouldn’t have been able to move around right after. When my OB-Gyn had to stitch me up, I didn’t feel a thing, because at that point the area was completely numb. I had heard all these horror stories about not getting epidural or how horrible it was. In my mind I was like ‘Yeah, put me out. I don’t want to experience this.’ But when this doctor came to give me the epidural it became very sterile – plus it didn’t work. By the next day, I had forgotten about the pain.

Now tell us your story!

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About Amy Levin-Epstein


Amy Levin-Epstein

Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in magazines like Glamour, Self and Prevention, on websites like, and and in newspapers like The New York Post and the Boston Globe. She blogs about career/work topics for CBS Moneywatch. You can read more of her writing at

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17 thoughts on “Not the Birth I Planned (but I loved It Anyway) – 5 moms’ stories

  1. JBoogie says:

    I totally planned all natural, but I distinctly remember the ride to the hospital (while turned around backwards squatting in the front seat and biting the head rest) gasping to my husband “That was the dumbest thing I have ever said”. Things change. :-) Good article!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had four babies in a variety of ways. With the first, it was fully medicated- induced labor, epidural, no pain. Great delivery! With the second, everything went so fast I got to the hospital when I was transitioning and there was no time for any medications. I had fourth degree tears, au natural, because he was big and in the wrong position. But he was healthy. The third, I had no medication but it was easy, no big deal delivery. The fourth my water broke at home, but I made it to the hospital in time for an epidural. The only sleep I got for the next six months. Well worth it.

  3. MaileMia says:

    Great article! I had planned for a hospital birth and like Corina wasn’t instructed to call the hospital right away. As it was my 2nd birth, I had thought it would take some time before I went into labor through delivery. Turns out as soon as we contacted the hospital (and they had found a room), I gave birth en route in the backseat of my car, harnessing my older daughter with my free arm. It’s amazing how our bodies work!

  4. nappingkat says:

    I planned to have a homebirth at The Farm in TN (home of the famous Ina May Gaskin). We were going to arrive there about 2 weeks early but our son came 2.5 weeks early. We couldn’t get a hold of our midwife and didn’t really believe I was in labor until I lost my mucus plug 7 hours into it. By 9 hours in I was in transition, and we were going to try to drive the 2 hours to our midwife! While still in town I freaked out over driving with back to back contractions and my body spontaneously pushing. We got to the hospital just in time, 20 min later my son was born into his father’s arms as planned in perfect condition. I had no tearing and we were able to go home that evening to spend the night all together in our bed. Currently pregnant with #2 planning a homebirth with LOCAL midwives! :)

  5. Rebecca says:

    my first – I not only wanted a c-section, what I really wanted was the 1960′s c-section where they put you to sleep! (only half serious, I know it’s not something to joke about, but dang, I was SCARED and I don’t deal well with pain, was also terrified of an epidural). Wouldn’t you know… I managed to have my son with no drugs, shocking everyone including myself.
    This time around (due in July), I am using the midwives at my doc’s office and plan to go drug-free again… but who knows, this is the time the baby will be breech and I’ll HAVE to have the c-section, right?
    Bottom line… man plans, the universe laughs. : )

  6. Laure68 says:

    What a nice article. It is so important to understand that birth can be unpredictable, and these stories demonstrate how things can not go as planned but it can still be a wonderful experience.

  7. ChiLaura says:

    This sort of thing should be required reading for mothers already and mothers-to-be. And husbands/daddies/partners, now that I think of it — my husband is convinced that I purposely waited too long before going to the hospital with Baby 2, who was nearly born in a car. (The labor was bizarrely FAST.) I really believe in thinking thru and planning for one’s ideal birth, especially if you’re trying to go drug-free, but it is so, so true that ANYTHING can happen, and with any birth, first or otherwise!

  8. Naturedoc says:

    I planned a home waterbirth but 11 days prior to my due date, my blood pressure got really high and I started to spill protein into my urine. Midwife took me to hospital for tests, and I never left! 2 rounds of cervidil to open the cervix, and then intense contractions only 1 minute apart at only 3 centimeters. I begged for an epidural, something I never thought I’d do. I was very glad I did, in the end, not just for the immense relief, but because the OB had to reach up in there and manually remove my placenta. Apparently this is very excruciating if you’re not medicated. Glad to have avoided that!!

  9. JCF says:

    I love Esther’s statement “while it wasn’t the experience I wanted, I felt at peace with it because I had tried really hard to avoid it” about her C-section. In mentally preparing for my two natural births (which both went off without a hitch, thankfully), that was exactly the mentality I tried hard to cultivate. I fully believed women were capable of giving birth without intervention in most cases, that I could handle the pain, etc. but I knew that things do sometimes go wrong. In that case, I wanted to feel at peace with the outcome, knowing that I had done everything in my power to avoid unnecessary interventions. I think I succeeded, but then again, I never got to test myself…

  10. COLLEEN COOPER says:


  11. CANDY AND CANE says:


  12. k76 says:

    This is a great article — thanks for showing the variety of ways we plan and prepare so that we can make decisions in the heat of the moment, sometimes to scrap our plans. I’d love to hear more stories from moms whose plans changed after the birth. I planned to have a natural birth and did, but because of my 4th degree tear had to go into surgery for four hours after spending only about 15 minutes breastfeeding my baby girl. The recovery was long and slow (I wasn’t fully myself again until after she turned one) so my whole first year with her was not at all as I had imagined. As thrilled as I was to have brought home a healthy newborn, it was sometimes very isolating to have no one in my personal network with an experience remotely like mine. Stories like this one are so very helpful — thanks!

  13. Anonymous says:

    My birthplan was very much a ‘what will be will be’ approach and I like to think that’s what kept me together. I went to no antenatal classes, just knew I’d be going to the Midwife Led Unit so epidural and C sections weren’t available and it was a fast, natural birth that I felt totally in control of without ever being controlling!

    The only thing I had quite fancied was going in the birthing pool. There wasn’t enough time as my son arrive 20 minutes after getting to the hospital!

  14. Kimberly Miller says:

    My plan was to deliver au naturale and I did for both my pregnancies. However, my second daughter was born with a CHD. She has Tetralogy of Fallot and she had to be transported to Atlanta and had to have open heart surgery when she was 4 days old.

  15. Caitie Bailey says:

    I started going to an OB while pregnant with my first like i had always planned i would. He was pushing me into opting for a c section not because i was high risk, but because he had a vacation coming up around the time i was due. When we settled that i would not do that he then would not allow me to turn in my birth plan because i had stated i did not want any pain medication. He told me i was being unrealistic. So i started looking for other options. I switched to a midwife around my 30th week and had my son after 8 hours of natural labor at home. I could not imagine giving birth to him any other way.

  16. Atlantis Yancey says:

    I planned on going to the hospital for my 3rd child’s birth but I also tentatively made sure i had stuff at home for clean-up purposes, as my 2nd child’s labor was so quick we barely made it to the hospital. this 3rd time around, light labor pains woke me up early early morning so i went to the tub. by the time i was calling to my boyfriend, i was having full contractions, getting stronger and quicker w each one. we couldnt get ahold of our set sitter. he called the hosital at tha time and said we were on our way soon. i tried to get uup to go down the wall but couldnt walk and practically crawled out of my hall. in the living room, both our 9 yr old and 2 yr old daughters sat. i tried twice to get up and once made it on my couch and next was the floor. he asked what to do and i told him where to get a bedpad for under me . no sooner had that been placed under my butt that my boyfriend told me,”omg ur crowning omg what do i do?” i told him to ,”catch her!” and there was her head, he said push!, one push, two pushes pushed the baby’s body out! at that point, i sat up and took ahold of the crying newborn, my daughter grabbed receiving blankets and a nose sucker, while Bill called the hospital and told them he just caught the baby in his living room. they said call an amublance. they showed up w 3 male EMT’s, one cut the cord (we got told to tie it w string) then i put on a shirt and took my baby and climbed in!off to the hosital we went. baby was bruised from her quick coming which turned into jaundice, we had a bili blanket sent home for her for week. she is all healthy now, at 3wks2days old. both her and daughter number 2 were 16 days early and born in under an hr and a half! :)

  17. Touche. Solid arguments. Keep up the good effort.

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