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.