Let's face it: before you actually give birth, you have no clue what you're about to experience. Even if it turns out to be better than you imagined, it's still likely to vary wildly from your pre-birth expectations. I guess childbirth is just one of those life-changing events you really have to live before you can speculate, which is precisely why there are more than a few differences between your birth plan vs. actually giving birth.
I recently found my 3-year-old birth plan, along with my pregnancy journal, and there were more than a few surprising entries that gave me the giggles. Yes, there were even some very naive assumptions about what I might feel or want during labor and delivery, as well as what I considered to be (at the time) the definition of a "successful birth." I ended up having almost the exact opposite birth experience from the one I planned (and for very good reasons). Without those very necessary interventions that I couldn't possibly have planned for, the life of myself and my baby could well have been put in jeopardy.
Having a positive birth experience is incredibly important, not only because it's your baby's entry into the world, but because it signals your entrance into the crazy life choice called motherhood. Just don't be surprised if it doesn't go exactly to plan.
Where You Plan To Give Birth...
I really wanted to give birth at home, initially. I imagined myself swimming around in a warm pool, having my baby in my comfortable, familiar house and not having to stay in hospital at all.
...And Where You Actually Give Birth
Not only was I in a hospital room but I was on a bed which (before giving birth) I had sworn I wouldn't do. I equated birthing in bed to an extension of female oppression, a position designed to aid male doctors not female patients. I ended up in hospital because my baby was in a strange position. I ended up in this particular birthing position because it was simply the most comfortable.
I suppose it could have been worse. I had a few big contractions in the washroom and had to be moved pretty quickly back to my room. I mean, I know a girl who gave birth outside at a bus stop. It's not like that birth was planned.
The Birth Coaches You Plan To Have With You...
I wanted to hire a doula, and imagined a room of powerful women affirming my Goddess status and welcoming my child while chanting and playing the bongos.
...And Your Actual Birth Coaches
The doula (as amazing as she was) turned to be a little out of our price range, my husband went down with a migraine from hell and was sent home from the hospital, and a slew of emergencies resulted in more than 15 medical professionals being present while I gave birth. No, there were no bongos.
Two things happened after this experience. First: birth just didn't seem so serene all of a sudden. Second: I lost all sense of modesty and self-consciousness, so at least I have that going for me.
The Peaceful Experience You Plan...
I had a birth playlist organized. A playlist. And to think I actually had all that free time before becoming a mom (sigh!).
It contained new age whale song, some Enya, a little of my favorite Tricky for when the going got tough and some old school soul for bonding with baby.
...And The Sh*tshow You Actually Experience
At first the sound system wasn't working, so my husband searched all over the hospital to find the right equipment. This little quest took his mind off what was happening and gave him something useful to do, sure, but by the time he had everything set up, I had decided music was like needles on my skin and I needed total silence.
The list of things that went wrong from this point on are endless, but suffice to say, no amount of back massage, soothing music, low lights, or any of my other planned for "essentials" were really going to help.
The Comfort Measures You'll Plan...
My birth plan explained how I hoped to "control and manage the pain" through breathing, mindful meditation (whatever that is), visualization, and dance. Yes, I said dance. I kid you not, I really thought I was going to"Earth mama" my way through this entire thing.
...And All The Drugs You'll Need
OK, not every laboring mom asks for drugs and those women are simply awe inspiring. But I, for one, wanted that epidural as soon as it was available. I had already been in labor for over 24 hours and I was exhausted and needed some help.
For me, and many other women, birth is the pinnacle of any painful experience we could endure. If you need any help to get through it intact, take it. Take all the drugs. Seriously.
The Way You Imagine You'll Feel Afterwards...
I was pretty sure I would feel tired (although, my pre-baby definition of "tired" is very different from the actual post-baby definition). However, I also knew I would feel proud and totally in love with my new baby.
...And The Way You Actually Feel When It's All Over
Sure, I felt exhausted. In fact, it was like no other fatigue I had ever experienced. I was also starving and couldn't wait to have a shower. However, and for the most part, I wasn't quite prepared for the overwhelming love I felt for my new little one.
I was very lucky, in that I felt an immediate connection with my baby. Many women don't and they can be made to feel guilty about that, which is awful. Sometimes bonding just takes longer than you expect and sometimes it's a sign that you may need some help with feelings of postpartum depression or anxiety.
Birth may not turn out exactly the way you planned it because, well, I know mine didn't. Regardless, it does come with some pretty sweet perks: your precious beautiful baby and a lifetime membership to the exclusive "Mom Club." Welcome.