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How to Handle Baby’s Birth Doesn’t Stick to Your Birth Plan


If you’re expecting a baby, chances are you’ve heard the term “birth plan” on more than one occasion.  A birth plan is basically a written outline of your wishes for your birth to make them clear to everyone involved.  Sometimes, your birth will not only deviate from your birth plan, but go completely off the rails and throw you for a loop.

How you handle these changes can impact your view of your birth experience for weeks, months, even years to come.

In the case of my first birth, I knew exactly what I wanted.  I wanted an intervention-free birth with no medication, in a birth center, with my doula, husband, and good friend present.  I didn’t want to have our baby in a hospital, I wanted a calm, birth center birth instead.  I absolutely DID NOT want an IV.  I had needles.  I hate IVs.  I didn’t want to be even more uncomfortable throughout labor.

What ended up happening was quite a bit different from what I had planned.

My water broke at 34 weeks 6 days, and my amazing little Nugget was born just 6 hours later.  Because he was born before 36 weeks, we had no choice but to deliver at the hospital.

Because I hadn’t even reached the point in my pregnancy where I would get my strep test, I had to have IV administered antibiotics.  The nurse giving me the IV made two failed attempts, resulting in a very sore left arm and blood on the floor, before another nurse successfully gave me an IV in my right arm.

I wanted to labor in the water, but because I had to be hooked up to a fetal monitor, I couldn’t even get out of the bed.  Another thing I didn’t want.

My point is…a lot went completely different than I had planned or hoped for.

When this happens to you, no matter if it means you had a C section when that’s the last thing you wanted, or if you had to have a hospital birth instead of a home birth or birth center birth, there are some key things to keep in mind.

First of all, if you have a baby at the end of the day, you had a successful birth.

No, maybe it didn’t go according to plan with the beautiful music in the background and soft lighting, but you had a beautiful baby and that’s something to be proud of.

It’s also okay to not “be okay” with how your birth went.  Labor and delivery are extremely personal and intimate times in your life, and if your plans just didn’t happen, it’s okay to be upset about it.  Whether a medical emergency or disrespectful hospital staff are to blame, you have every right to grieve your anticipated birth plan and the fact that it didn’t happen.

It’s important to keep in mind though that the person this is going to bother the absolute most is you.  No, it isn’t fair that your birth didn’t go according to plan.  It isn’t fair that you didn’t get the experience that you wanted or maybe anywhere close to it.

It also isn’t fair to you to punish yourself for this loss anymore than you already have been.  No matter what, no one can turn back time and make your experience any different.  The only thing we have any control over is the present and how we handle the situations we find ourselves in.

Try to reframe your perception of the entire experience.  Did it go exactly how you wanted?  No, but instead a whole new experience that’s all your own was written for you.

Maybe you didn’t get what you wanted, but at the end of the day, you became a mother and got to meet your new little baby.  Your birth story isn’t just yours, it’s also your baby’s.

No deviation from your birth plan makes your baby any less special to you, I’m sure.  Try to focus on the things that you can still control, and work on letting go of the ones you can’t.

In my case, I had to let go of the fact that I didn’t get to deliver my baby in a birth center or bring him home to a beautifully decorated nursery like I would have wanted.

I ended up spending two days with my newborn husband and son in a hotel room because the water was frozen at our house and our dogs had been completely unattended to while we were gone, leaving our home a complete mess.  Certainly not somewhere fitting of a newborn, preemie baby.

Looking back on my son’s birth definitely isn’t the happiest memory for those reasons because of all that went “wrong” but when I look at him, I see the biggest thing that my husband and I ever did right.

Of course I wish I could have given myself the beautiful birth that I’d dreamed of.  I wish I could have given my son the amazing homecoming he deserved.  Unfortunately, our lives were in turmoil at the time, and within 5 weeks of his birth, we were moving 7 hours away to a place we’d never been in more bad weather, with no friends around to make the transition easier.

When those thoughts pop into my head, especially now that I’m pregnant with our second baby, I remind myself that the life that my son has now more than makes up for any birth plan gone wrong or any mess house that I couldn’t control.  He has the country lifestyle that I always wanted for him and two parents who love him more than life itself.  He also has a new playmate on the way to share all of those things with.

For everything that went wrong on my son’s birth day, a million other things went right.  He was healthy, I recovered quickly, I still managed to have a natural birth despite an unplanned change in scenery, and I had my best friend by my side to witness it all.

If your birth was completely different than your birth plan, allow yourself some time to grieve the loss of the day that you spent 9 months dreaming of.  Be upset, be angry, write it down or talk it all out.  Be frustrated and annoyed.  Then, take a deep breath, and start to count all of the things that went right, even if you have to look really, really hard.

That food that you were served was pretty good.  You had a great lactation consultant.  Your baby passed all of his or her tests with flying colors.  You were discharged on time.  The sun was shining that day.  Really focus on any tiny thing you can find that actually went right.

If you’re still struggling to cope, seek out the help of a qualified counselor.  Sometimes, working through an issue like this with someone who can offer comfort and guidance through the process is just what we need.

Did your birth go according to the plans you had laid out?  If not, what went differently?  How did you cope?  Let me know in the comments!

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