When your birth plan doesn’t work out

*Sponsored by Bio Oil

I think every mom-to-be has some degree of a birth plan, some sort of vision of how she would like her child to come into the world. Even though I knew that I wanted a c-section from the get go, I soon found out that having a birth plan was incredibly important, not only to prepare yourself, but also to give you some peace of mind.

February is Pregnancy Education Month, a campaign that Bio Oil supports as it encourages woman to empower themselves by researching birth options, so that they can have the best birth experience possible. ‘There is a link between a lack of knowledge, fear and the experience of childbirth’ says national co-ordinator for the Childbirth Educators’ Professional Forum, Lynne Bluff and I have to agree. I didn’t have to do a huge amount of research into what having a c-section entailed, simply because I had been in theater over 10 times at that point and was very familiar with the procedures and how I react to anaesthetic. But if I hadn’t educated myself about what to expect directly afterwards, I would have been caught totally of guard. Educating yourself on your preferred birth plan is all good and well, but what happens when your birth plan doesn’t work out and your thrown into a completely different scenario?

Kate is my cousin, but in actuality she is one of my very best friends, and although we live in separate cities (she’s in Cape Town), we talk to each other so much throughout the day that we might as well be sitting next to each other. From the moment that Kate found out that she was pregnant, in fact, way before that, Kate knew exactly which route she wanted to go when it came to giving birth. And although it wouldn’t be my first choice, I really admired how much research she did and how intensely she educated herself when it came to her birth plan. There really wasn’t a question that she didn’t know the answer to – and believe me, I asked a lot of questions! But when D-day came around, things didn’t go quite according to plan. I chatted to Kate to see how she felt about everything now, almost a year later.

What was your birth plan and what influenced your choice?

I think I always knew I wanted to have a natural birth, I have an amazing mom that had two big (4kgs) babies naturally, un-medicated and she always said it’s not as bad as the movies make it out to be.

What did you do to educate yourself for the birth of your son? Did you attend classes, read websites, chat to friends and family?

The year my husband and I knew we would start trying to have a baby I surrounded myself with like minded women. I went to monthly meetings held by a very popular midwife in Cape Town and I heard stories of amazing births and I decided the most comfortable place for me to attempt a natural birth was at home. That ultimately became my birth plan! I spent months researching home births, the safety of them, what could go wrong and how my midwife would be able to intervene should things go south etc. Thankfully my AMAZING gynae was supportive of my choice and also supported the midwife that I had chosen.

For you personally, what was the most important piece of information that you leant.

I think coming to the realization that giving birth should not always be looked at and approached as a medical event. You don’t always need a sterile hospital to give birth and also that giving birth is not something to fear.

Although you had your heart set on your birth plan, did you also educate yourself on what else could possibly happen? 

To be honest, not really. I think that was my big mistake. I had indoctrinated myself so much with only giving birth naturally, without medication and the whole “I am women, hear me roar” story that I forgot (and was in denial) that my birth could go any other way.

I laboured for more than 20 hours at home before being transferred to a hospital

When you were told that you needed to have a c-section, even though you were understandably devastated, did you feel prepared in terms of knowing what was about to happen and what to expect.

No, not at all! Even when my midwife and doula told me we would need to transfer to hospital after labouring for hours at home, I didn’t think, even then I thought my birth would end in a c-section. We still tried for a good few more hours at the hospital for a natural birth with my gynae, but after trying and trying and trying, she said, “Okay you have tried hard Kate but you are not going to get this baby out naturally, it’s time”. At this point I was crying so much from disappointment that I don’t remember much more. I remember a really nice nurse (I think she was a scrub nurse but she could have been the assisting surgeon) telling me what to expect but I don’t think I took any of it in.

My gynae was incredibly accommodating when it came to my emergency c-section; she removed the screen and sat me up as much as possible so that I could see Tom being born

Looking back, would you do anything different? 

No, I don’t think I would. I was always so confident in my team of caregivers that I never thought my baby or myself were ever in danger. Even when Tom got stuck my midwife had me transferred to the hospital long before it became dangerous. We still tried for 5 more hours in hospital to try and get him to move into a better position. Sadly these kind of situations are totally out of anyone’s control.

If you could give moms-to-be advice on educating themselves for the birth of their child, what would it be?

I would say maybe be prepared for all events. Be confident in the birth plan you have personally chosen, but prepare for everything. Making an informed choice was key for me personally but where I failed myself was not doing any research into c-sections, especially post-op. Being open to any ending to your story is key. You will be less disappointed then if things don’t go the way you intended.

I think that Kate’s story, although it didn’t go according to plan, is encouraging. There really are incredible midwives, doula’s and gynaeclogists out there that will support your birth plan as long as it is safe for you and your baby and when things start going off trak, will react quickly to ensure both of your safety.

Thank you Kate for sharing your incredibly personal story, and happy (almost) birthday to Tom!

To celebrate Pregnancy Education Week, together with Bio Oil, I am giving away a R2000 hamper. Here’s what is included:

100% cotton gown

Handy storage basket

A soft grey storage pouch

2 x 100% cotton dribble bibs

4 x bottles of Bio-Oil (25ml, 60ml, 125ml & 200ml)

100% cotton blanket

Hand crocheted soft toy

Bio-Oil stretch mark guide, ‘Tips for Moms from Moms’ and baby scan album

To enter, simply use the Gleam widget below.

R2000 Bio Oil Hamper


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  • Reply
    Kerry Sharper
    February 6, 2018 at 10:22 am

    I really enjoyed this post. Birth stories are so unique and special so I really enjoy hearing and reading about them.
    Congratulations to Kate and her family xx

  • Reply
    Jacqueline Engelbrecht
    February 6, 2018 at 10:51 am

    As I prepare for my third birth its good to realise that things don’t always go according to plan! And although I’m hoping planning and preparing for the birth I’d like. I need to be realistic to the fact that somethings are beyond our control

  • Reply
    J Something
    February 6, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Pregnancy is such a beautiful experience but can also be totally unpredictable and scary when things don’t go according to plan. Ive experienced this twice out of all my three births. Even being prepared doesn’t leave you prepared for unforeseen circumstances. Congrats Kate for taking it in your stride – you did great! @ Sarah thank you for sharing this wonderful story. I hope many expecting mommies get to read this. I wish i had.

    Lots of Love,

  • Reply
    February 6, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    What an excellent post. One always considers that things might not go the way you want, but actually planning and thinking on the other options is such a worthwhile exercise!

  • Reply
    February 6, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    This post was just what I needed to read right now considering that I’ve always been the structured planning type and tend to panic when things don’t go exactly as I plan. I feel like too many people and too many opinions have you feeling like you’ve got to be on edge and get every little detail in or else you’re DOOMED for eternity which is obviously not the case!

    Congrats to this beautiful mom and the achievement of birthing her little one!

  • Reply
    February 6, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    Such an insightful and inspiring piece! I think the key to situations like this is to be aware and educated about your options and to keep calm and take it in your stride.

  • Reply
    February 6, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Thank you for this. I will have plan A,B, and C in place for the next birth. Or maybe just go with the flow and see what the baby wants.

  • Reply
    Gill America
    February 6, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Real eye opener, thanks for the great story.

  • Reply
    Tiffany Lottering
    February 6, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    This is my 3rd pregnancy and 1st boy, This has been a complete different experiance than my girls. I really hope that I can stick to my birth plan but if not its ok as long as I have my healthy baby boy to love and hold

  • Reply
    Nicky Brunskill
    February 6, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    Great blog post, especially for a first time mom. Very informative! Thank you xx

  • Reply
    February 6, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    The minute I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted natural unmedicated child birth and 6 months maternity leave. 2 months into my pregnancy, I got a new job after being on the market for so long, a part of me felt like I was being tested. Why now? The timing was so out but I went ahead and accepted the job offer. Only to find out maternity leave is unpaid. I left it all in Gods hands. I birthed at Genesis to ensure I get my natural birth as my gynae was already introducing the idea of a csection. I went to work till my very last day. I gave birth on Saturday. My labour started Friday after work immediately when I got home, but I didn’t read much into it as I was expecting excruciating pain like how most women explain labour pains. The pain was totally bearable, by the time I got to the clinic I was already 8cm dilated. I had water birth and it was a beautiful experience. Loved it loved it. Being a woman is so special. God chose us for all these experiences. He chose us to give life. How loved we are by Him.
    Unfortunately I only took 10 weeks leave.

  • Reply
    Colleen Bailey
    February 6, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Such a real and happy ending story. Birth choices are so much like life itself, we have all these plans set up and then just like that, the plans change. We have to learn to adapt our attitude and roll with the punches. Good for you Kate, your story resonates with so many moms and your advice to educate yourself on all options is key.

  • Reply
    Carolyn Augustus
    February 6, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    What a wonderful eye opener.

  • Reply
    Anthea Williams
    February 6, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    I honestly never thought about planning ahead, although I gave birth to both my boys naturally I never thought incase something went wrong.
    For me it was just give birth at hospital and go home but your post is really an eye opener and I know of women who had really bad experiences during labour.
    In future I can maybe educate family members or friends on always being prepared but as for me, I’m done after having my very busy boy two years ago.
    The Lord blessed me with two beautiful boys and that’s a good number for me.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2018 at 12:30 am

    A great example of still having a positive experience even if it was not the one you planned to have!

  • Reply
    Ayanda Moloi
    February 7, 2018 at 6:16 am

    I gave birth to my 2nd child on the 22nd of Jan 2018,she is a preemie as she was due in April,(we still in hospital till she weighs 2 kg and can breathe with out a ventilator). My first born (18 month baby girl) was born through a c-section and I had planned to have a vbac with my second just to experience both worlds. Regardless giving birth early,I still had my vbac. But honestly I had no proper research done on my birth plan this was just luck. Next time I will start my birth planning research early on coz you never know when your little one is ready to pop out lol. Great post,really enjoyed it. *Fingers crossed on the hamper*

  • Reply
    Jeanne Skinner
    February 7, 2018 at 7:29 am

    Most consistent thing I have realized – throughout pregnancy and after my daughter’s birth – is that you can plan, but it’s probably going to go a different way. And that’s okay too.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2018 at 8:55 am

    I am afraid of over thinking into possible things that i may encounter…i pray for a super natural birth. Thanks for the amazing read its good to have an open mind.

  • Reply
    February 7, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    Approaching the birth of our little one (currently 35 weeks pregnant), nice to read other people’s birth stories!

  • Reply
    February 7, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    one has to realize that birth does not always go according to plan and keeping an open mind is important.

  • Reply
    Chereen Strydom
    February 8, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Loved reading this post! I’m sorry that Kate didn’t get to have the birth she planned, but I think it’s amazing that she’s shared this story with others. It’s so important to be open to all possibilities!

  • Reply
    February 8, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    My wife loves Bio oil and used it throughout her pregnancy

  • Reply
    February 8, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    I was always afraid of the birth process and thus only started trying to have a baby late in life when i could research on the net on my phone

  • Reply
    Ayesha Motala
    February 8, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    This will really help me with my stretch marks

  • Reply
    Janet Perry
    February 11, 2018 at 9:41 pm

    It’s so good to be informed before your birth and aware of the options at your disposal whilst keeping an open mind. Having said that, sometimes things are beyond your control. Well done for doing your best!!

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