Acknowledging the Sadness When Your Birth Plan Changes

Mom holding baby at home when her birth plan changes

As I count down the weeks of my second pregnancy, I find myself reflecting on the delivery of my first child. I am an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and even though Obstetrics is not my specialized field, I’ve seen my fair share of women arrive at the hospital with a laminated birth plan neatly tucked in a 3-ring binder only to have the rug pulled out from under them when the plan changes. Therefore, when my doctor inquired about the birth plan for my firstborn, I was determined to remain flexible and keep it simple.


The Birth Plan

Although I didn’t know what to expect from labor, I was confident in my very basic birth plan – to have an epidural and deliver at the hospital. When colleagues and friends would ask about my plan for an epidural, I would throw in the caveat “…if there is time,” never for a second believing there wouldn’t be time. Who doesn’t have time? I was totally unprepared for the whirlwind of a precipitous labor and the FIVE strange men (three firemen and two paramedics) who showed up in my bathroom to deliver our son!


The Surprise

My labor started with what I thought was a stomach bug in the middle of the night. Soon the back pain came and never went, it just climbed in intensity. I tried timing contractions, but they were sporadic and irregular. At one point I called the hospital, asking if I should head in, but the nurse calmly suggested waiting it out at home, since I was only 37 weeks and nothing “regular” was happening. Despite the nurse’s advice, I had a gut feeling that I was experiencing actual labor, so I woke up my husband and told him we should both shower and get ready to leave for the hospital. I never left the shower.

I typically say my labor lasted around 3, maybe 4 hours; it’s still hard for me to calculate the exact time because it crept in slowly and then took a wicked turn when the baby suddenly dropped and was crowning. Very quickly I felt like a runaway train with only one way off…delivery. By the time the first responders arrived, I was fighting a losing battle to keep the baby in as my body forcefully tried to evict him. Two pushes later and I had a squishy little baby staring back at me, leaving both of us to wonder, “What just happened?!”


The Unexpected Emotions

After spending the last two years telling and retelling the story of my firstborn’s birth, I’ve learned to embrace it and can highlight the humor (for example, they tried to hand my son to my husband before they cut the umbilical cord) while downplaying the scary details. It wasn’t always that way however, and it has taken time for me to own the story rather than hide from it.

In my postpartum hormonal haze, I was traumatized and embarrassed about the manner in which my son came into this world. I spent his first days lamenting about how I had failed as a mother right out of the gate because I couldn’t even make it to the hospital. Thankfully, I had a very supportive and understanding husband who showed me there was nothing to hide from and who taught me about my own strength in his telling of our son’s birth story.


The Truth

The truth is, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I had been planning my son’s birth since the lines on the pee stick changed color. I had to learn to let go of my expectations and embrace the crazy way he was born. No matter how basic or elaborate your birth plan is, it is just that – a plan – that is subject to change. When it changes, it’s okay to grieve the loss of the plan you made and eventually embrace the beauty of the birth you had.


Our next recos:

4 Ways To Mentally Recover After a Difficult Childbirth

Easiest Births Ever

7 Childbirth “Facts” I Was Completely Wrong About

Written By
More from Laci Lynch

Acknowledging the Sadness When Your Birth Plan Changes

As I count down the weeks of my second pregnancy, I find...
Read More

You May Also Like


  • I loved reading this! I struggled with the disappointment of my son’s birth for almost a year, but it was very heavy particularly in the beginning. My planned homebirth suddenly became an induction in the hospital for preecclampsia, and although I had an awesome team in the room they weren’t the midwives I had been working so closely with. Too often, we run into the extremes: one person has a horror story, while the other had the most perfect (and photographed, of course!) birth. Nobody seems to talk about feelings of inadequacy or guilt over a birth that ended up fine, but just wasn’t what we had planned. So, thank you for that. 🙂

  • I can so relate to this. I prepared my birth plan way ahead, like three months before my due date. I gave copies of it to my obgyne and the head nurse in the delivery room of my chosen hospital. Unfortunately, some requests were not followed even though everything was clear already. My baby’s umbilical cord was cut too early – I requested for delayed cord clamping. I requested my husband to be present with me and the nurse on duty during my delivery did not allow him to enter. I was just happy that my baby and I were both fine after delivery. Thanks for this.

  • This article really resonates with me. When I had my son nothing went as I had wanted: go into labor on my own and have a medication intervention free birth. What I got was a long induction process with subsequent inventions including and ending with an unwanted, and that fact was discussed in advanced, episiotomy. Regardless of what another mamma wanted its not what I wanted or envisioned. It all felt very traumatic. Good friends just weeks later yelled at me to just get over it! Definitely didn’t help. Time, sharing, reading accounts such as yours and ultimately a redemptive beautiful birth of my daughter healed me. Medication and intervention free.
    Thank you for sharing,

  • After my first became an emergency induction thanks to preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, where my husband and I, weeks later, walked past the hospital tour group we were supposed to be a part of on the way to visit our preemie son in the NICU, I laughed at the idea of having a plan with the second, at least around the birth itself.

    We did have a better plan to support us and kiddo #1 in several scenarios, like an extended hospital stay for me or a NICU stay for the baby, and doula support simply to focus on helping us understand what was going on. The playbook was enormously helpful when I needed a CSection at 32 weeks. We had a lot less stress knowing who would care for kiddo #1 while I recovered and we both supported #2 in the NICU.

    (Both boys are awesome – happy ending all around)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.