Childbirth: What To Do When The Plan Hits The Fan

Bringing a human being into this world is tough stuff. First, you spend 10 months, not nine, carrying around extra weight like a dense bowling ball in your abdomen with your hips and back aching and crying. You get weird symptoms like a strange taste in your mouth, unwelcome skin changes, unexplainable cravings, a weak bladder, and then there's the whole morning sickness phenomenon. At the end of this thing, you just want it all to go smoothly. You imagine the end of the road a certain way, and you cling to that to get you through the sleepless nights and 23 bathroom breaks each day. When that third trimester closes in, you start to get excited, pack your hospital bag or rearrange plans. Suddenly, you're in labor (woo hoo!) and suddenly, it all goes wrong.


There are a dozen different things that can happen during labor that will totally change the direction of your delivery. First and foremost, you must accept this. Your body hasn't failed you, it simply had different plans. Click here to start thinking about yours and print out the guide.

When you put together your birth plan, you consider the who, what, where and how of it (if only every mom could decide when!). You want to know who will be there: doula, midwife, husband, mother and so forth. If you're being induced or planning a Cesarean, it's time to start mentally prepping. You want to feel confident in your delivery location, perhaps touring the building first and meeting some staff (are you planning a home birth instead?). Finally, you want to explore the options you have to make this birth magical.

>> Read more: Childbirth 101: Making the Best Choices for Your Birth

Cue the playlist, lighting, labor assistants (tub, ball, super long hallways) and start spouting your mantra. Here is a list of some common deviations to anticipate:

  • Really, really long labor. For first-time moms, this is common. Your body is figuring out how to do this childbirth thing and it might take a while. Sometimes, the baby's positioning can create a longer labor for Mom. You might end up asking for an epidural or pain medication.
  • Baby's heart rate drops. This can be monitored once your cervix begins to open, and a patch can be attached to the baby's head. If the baby's heart rate drops, mom might need to change positions, require an oxygen mask, etc... But this is not unusual during active labor or after the water breaks. There might be a bit of chaos in your hospital room, attachment of the monitor or direction to move.
  • Cervix stops progressing or contractions slow down. This happens more than you think. If you planned to do this all on your own, you might need to make some room for pitocin or other drugs that will help relax you and push the labor. This is usually when C-sections occur.
  • Baby's presentation is abnormal. Usually, a breech baby will be noticed before you go into labor, but if your babe is feet-first or positioning in an non-cooperative way, the medical staff will need to decide how to redirect this labor to avoid problems. Forceps, vacuums, episiotomies, C-sections — all become possibilities.
  • Umbilical cord compresses, prolapses or wraps around baby. Some babies can be delivered vaginally with cord issues while other are better off coming into this world via a C-section.
  • Meconium aspiration. Babies don't go "number two" in the womb, but during delivery, they can stress enough to make that first poo. It's more serious than that, though. The first poo, also known as meconium, can get into the babies' airways and lungs. Doctors will treat, test and observe the baby more than usual.


"My baby is here and healthy, but I feel disappointed, upset and frustrated about my birth." Understandable! As you're sitting there in the silence of a recovery room, looking at your new baby, you might be thinking, "What just happened?!" paired with a strange disappointment. Your body went through the biggest transformation ever. Your hormones are going crazy. You're exhausted. There's a baby staring at you and there are people walking in and out, poking and prodding you, asking you questions. It's a very vulnerable time!

Write it down. Girl, you have to share your story. Even if you never want to share it, walking yourself through the experience will help you understand what happened and accept it. Write it within the first week or two following birth, pulling the details from a fresh memory. Get inspired here.

Talk to your doctor. What were the other options? If your labor and delivery didn't go as planned, ask your doctor for a medical perspective. Learn what else could have been, if anything. Clear up the "what ifs" and put them to bed.


Share and discuss. Find a local mommy's group and join up. You'll be surprised how many other moms are willing to share their birth stories and experiences with other new moms. Welcome to the club.

Take it slow. Recovering from childbirth takes time, both mentally and physically. You're trying to wrangle a newborn's schedule and needs at the same time. Give yourself some credit! Be aware of an baby blues that try to creep in during this time. Click here to learn more about postpartum depression.

>> Read more: The Skinny on New Moms Getting Their Sexy Back