To The Mama Whose Natural Birth Plan Fell Through

You spent countless hours throughout your pregnancy dreaming about your birth. You researched all your options thoroughly and decided you wanted to labor as naturally as possible. Maybe you picked out a midwife for your care, maybe you hired a doula, maybe you chose a birth center or home birth. You started practicing prenatal yoga to learn how to control your breathing. You drank gallons of red raspberry leaf tea. You saw a chiropractor and did all the right exercises to get your baby in an optimal position for birth. You carefully made your birth plan and you were oddly looking forward to labor. You were prepared.

But then along the way things got a little tricky. Maybe your baby was breach. Maybe your water broke but contractions would not start. Or you were two weeks past your due date. Your blood pressure spiked. Your baby was estimated to be quite large. Maybe contractions came on strong and 2 minutes apart when you were only 3 centimeters dilated and they never slowed down. Or you stopped progressing at 5 centimeters. Maybe you were just not ok with how out-of-control your body felt at 7 centimeters. Maybe your contractions stopped altogether at 9.5 centimeters. Or you pushed for hours and the baby did not descend. Honestly, maybe the pain was just way too much and you simply couldn’t do it anymore.

So you transferred to the hospital, you were given Pitocin, or they broke your water, you took narcotics, or you got an epidural, an episiotomy, or you delivered your baby via cesarean. You experienced first hand the dreaded cascade of interventions and your natural birth plan fell through.

At first, you’re relieved that it’s all over. You made it through, you’re holding your baby, you fall in love and just as they said you would, you forget all the pain. It becomes a distant memory. But then you start to wonder if it was really that bad. You start to think about everything you could have done differently. You question the decisions you made and you start to grieve for the loss of the birth you had been dreaming about. It’s the happiest day of your life and yet you feel sad at the same time.

When you open up to people about these feelings they recite that overquoted line: “All that matters is that you have a healthy baby and a healthy mom.” And then you feel guilty because that’s not all that matters to you. You aren’t content, even as you hold your perfect newborn that you love so much. You had a dream but you didn’t achieve it. And it hurts.

In this picture, I am in a hospital, dressed in a gown, hooked up to continuous fetal monitors, on Pitocin and an IV. The lower half of my body is numb and immobile due to an epidural and I am being coached on how to push while laying flat on my back. None of this was in my plan that I literally spent years dreaming up and yet its all part of my oldest daughter’s birth story. I know those feelings, mama. And I’m here to tell you, it’s ok.

It’s ok that you didn’t birth according to your plan. But it’s also ok that you feel the way you do. A healthy baby may be the most important thing, but it’s not exactly all that matters. Your feelings MATTER. The fact that you’re grieving right now MATTERS. Talk through these emotions with someone who will listen because your well-being MATTERS.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to master a process that we will only actually experience a handful of times in our life and there’s no way to truly practice for it. Be gentle with yourself. Remember that you sacrificed your desires to get your baby in your arms which is really what mothers do day in and day out. Maybe you need to reframe your mind to be grateful for medical interventions that got you through. And while natural childbirth is usually safe and it’s totally valid to continue to desire a natural process, maybe you need to remember that without many of these interventions, there were women and babies who died in childbirth. Interventions have a rightful place. Maybe you need to take this experience and use it to better prepare for a natural labor next time. We live and learn and grow and evolve and there’s nothing wrong with that.

There are women all over who are experiencing the same grief that you have. Reach out to them, let them encourage you, and build them up as well. Help them see that women are not defined by how they give birth. You will move on from this. Remember most of all, you matter and you are not alone.

Did your birth experience go differently then you had planned? Did you have trouble dealing with it? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

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11 thoughts on “To The Mama Whose Natural Birth Plan Fell Through

  1. This is beautiful! You know my story, you were there. For months as I laid in bed after a middle of the night feeding I would go back to me sitting on the edge of that hospital bed at 9cm, back exposed, waiting for my epidural. I remember the pain, I remember the sensation, and the feeling that none of it was fair. I wanted text book contractions but text book was not at all what I got. The one thing I couldn’t prepare for, contractions 2-3 minutes apart for 8 hours (the entire labor). I go back to that moment and think of any other way it could have went. But because I had a wonderful team, including you, that knew me and knew what was best for me mentally I am still confident in my decision to get that epidural so late in the game. I wish it was different, but knowing I had support and experience on my side gives me comfort now.

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    1. Thanks for commenting Danielle! I know it wasn’t how you wanted it to go but you labored with such grace and you were so so strong through it all both before and after the epidural. It was such a blessing for me to be there!

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  2. this is so heartfelt. i can only imagine the wave of emotions that must hit moms if their birth plan must be altered, or falls through altogether. Thank you for opening your heart in this way.

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  3. What I love about this, Kami, is that it applies to so many mamas out there. There is probably going to be something in every birth experience that is not going to go the way you had hoped/planned/dreamed. Just like with many wonderful “new” experiences in life, there are moments of grief to have lost what was/what could have been in the process of having something new. Birth is no exception. Throw all the ridiculous amounts of hormones rushing through our bodies in those moments, you get a recipe for deep seeded grief to occur. Acknowledging it is the only way to begin to deal with it so I’m grateful you are affirming and encouraging others that is is definitely something to talk about with someone. I have my own story of feeling like a failure in those birthing moments so I related well even though our situations were different. I love that you are heartfelt and hopeful for yourself and others traveling this road. Bless you for that!

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Angie! It’s true, very rarely does any birth ever go exactly according to plan. I think labor has a way of really humbling us and reminding us that we are never completely in control. These are complex emotions and even though I didn’t necessarily have a grain of truth to make it all better I do really want new moms to be able to talk about their experience honestly and with that raw emotion that we try so hard to mask!

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  4. I love this Kami! I remember well the disappointment of failed birth plan with Haddee. The second time around was a completely different story. And the third. And the forth. 🙂 Its so cool how each time is a totally different experience. And it is so important to have girlfriends to talk through those emotional experiences with.

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    1. I always remember you telling me about your birth experiences at my baby shower and letting me know it will be ok if this doesn’t go to plan. It helped so much to have that knowledge in my mind before it all happened ❤️❤️

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  5. I don’t even know what to say to this except that I can’t quit crying. I had an awful awful labor and delivery. I hurt so so bad deep inside. Feel so lost with how to even process it or work through it. So confused and angry at all of it. Don’t even know how to explain it💔

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