10 Amazing Birth Stories from Women Whose Deliveries Definitely Didn’t Go As Planned

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In our head, birthing a child goes down exactly as it does in the movies. A couple of pushes, some ice chips and boom—a sweet little baby that’s all yours. If only! These amazing birth stories from 10 women are equal parts “OMG!” and inspiring. They’re also proof that not a single birth experience is the same.

The One Who Delivered During COVID…Without Her Spouse

“I delivered my son via c-section while the hospital partner ban was still in effect in New York City. My husband and I had found out about the policy change three days before we were scheduled to come for the surgery. Initially, my parents had intended to fly in from Texas to help watch our two-year-old during the delivery; however, we asked them to cancel as soon as COVID cases started to spike here. (They’re both in their late 60s and my father is immunocompromised.)

We were racking our brains trying to figure out who could watch our older son in their place, and all the while the hospital policy seemed to be changing almost by the hour: first it was no children under the age of 18 (makes sense), then only two visitors allowed, then only the same two visitors allowed throughout your stay and if anyone left they couldn’t come back in. It was crazy-making and no one (not my Midwives, not a representative from the hospital) was directly communicating the changes to us, so we were just compulsively refreshing the visitor policy page on the hospital’s website over and over. I half-jokingly said to my husband at one point, that we should prepare ourselves for the possibility that they wouldn’t let him in, but he was adamant that wouldn’t happen. That he wouldn’t let that happen. You can imagine the gut punch we both felt, when he drove to up to the curb that Wednesday morning and I had to walk into the hospital by myself. I am forever grateful for the exceptional care I received once I was inside, but it was absolutely terrifying and I had to do it alone.” — Katie H., NYC

The One Who Had Zero Plans to Get an Epidural

“I am a planner and a researcher by nature, so even though I knew deep down that I would have to ‘go with the flow’ when it came to childbirth, I still read all the books and went to all of the classes. I was sipping raspberry leaf tea every day, chewing on dates and I even gave myself a night perineal massage. I also enlisted a doula since I wanted to stay home for as long as possible going into the hospital to have my natural, epidural-free birth. Ha! My baby was measuring pretty big—8 pounds, 5 ounces—at my 38-week appointment, plus I was guzzling all that tea and eating all those dates, so I thought for sure I would deliver on time. But then my delivery date came and went. And my doula told me that she was going abroad so if I didn’t deliver soon, then she wouldn’t be able to help.

I walked for miles and miles to try to get the baby out and I tried two acupressure massages, but there was no progress. Exactly one week past my due date—and two days before my doula would be leaving—I went to an acupuncturist in a last-ditch effort. I went into labor that same night. All the books told me that I would be in labor for hours (or even days!) so when I felt my first contractions at 1 a.m., I thought I would just walk around the house, maybe watch some TV and then tell my husband what was happening when he woke up in the morning. Except two hours later, my contractions were coming three minutes apart and I was screaming in pain! So yeah, I woke my husband up. The doula came over, but it wasn’t long before we got into an Uber (that poor driver) and drove to the hospital. I got the epidural and my son was delivered a few hours later. Not only did I not do a natural birth like I had planned, but the other big surprise was that the doctor had to use forceps. Oh! And I didn’t use any of the things we packed in our hospital bag. Not the music. Not the massage oils.” — Jenna K., NJ

The One Who Went Into Labor Prematurely With Her Two Young Daughters in the Next Room

“I was alone in a strange playground in my new town of Hinsdale, IL, playing with my five- and two-year-old daughters when I experienced extreme bleeding at 33 weeks pregnant. I drove myself and the girls to the ER where I quickly learned I was suffering from placenta previa and needed an emergency c-section. My husband was on a work trip in our former hometown of NYC. There are not enough words to explain that this was indeed my worst nightmare. Delivering a premature baby alone in a strange hospital with my two young daughters sitting in the same room as me, not to mention my own health and safety at risk was a challenging situation at best. If it was not for the outstanding care I received by my amazing OBGYN and the incredible team of superheroes and NICU physicians who cared for us for the next 32 days, we would not be here. I had nurses taking care of my children, an OB who would not leave my side and talked to my husband and mother over the phone, and a nurse who graciously called my husband post-delivery and put the phone to my ear so I could quickly tell him we had a son before he boarded his flight to get to us.

In 2018, I ran the Chicago Marathon for Every Mother Counts because every mother should have access to this kind of care, treatment, support and health insurance. I have since learned that the number of women who lose their lives giving birth in America has nearly doubled over the last 25 years. We must do better! Our son is now a happy, thriving four-year-old who loves to wear his mask and join his peers at preschool. We are grateful.” — Erin G., Illinois

The One Who Had Sudden On-Set Pre-Eclampsia

“I woke up with a dull pain in my lower back. I figured it was gas. (It's always gas, right?) Plus, I was still over a month away from my due date. After some convincing from my mom, I reluctantly called my OB. She said to go to the hospital and just get it checked out. I handed my husband my wallet—literally just my wallet—and hopped in a cab. At the hospital, they hooked me up to a bunch of machines and checked me and the baby. The baby was fine. I was not. My blood pressure was 180/100, and I learned I had sudden on-set pre-eclampsia with HELLP syndrome. I wanted to try to deliver the baby vaginally (I’m type-A and had not planned for a c-section!), but to do that, I had to go on magnesium to ensure I didn’t have a stroke because my BP was so high. Magnesium is no joke. You can’t get out of bed for 24 hours after you take it. After hours of trying to have the baby naturally, I was too sick. They had to do a c-section.

Our baby girl was fine, but small, and her lungs weren’t quite developed, so they took her to NICU. I didn’t see her for 24 hours—I couldn’t leave my bed because of the magnesium and she couldn’t leave the NICU. I actually looked at my husband at one point and asked if I had had a baby. When I went down to the NICU for the first time, it was hard—she was tiny and in an incubator with what felt like a hundred wires. But she was here and in amazing hands. I stayed in the hospital for a week as we tried to get my BP under control. Lucy stayed in the NICU for 17 days, which is nothing in the NICU world. She was a peanut, but she was strong. About six months after we were home, I found this piece of paper with numbers on it. It took me a minute and then I realized – it was Lucy’s weight in grams. I keep it in a safe place (and on Instagram) to remember how far she’s come.” — Ali G., PA

The One Who Had an Accidental VBAC

“My son was breech and born by c-section, so when I became pregnant with my daughter, a year and a half later, I decided it made the most sense to have her by c-section as well. (Devil you know, and all that.) We had the c-section scheduled for a Monday, but on Friday night, I started having tiny contractions. My doctor said not to worry—it was just “pre-labor”—but as the contractions got worse, I started to panic. My husband called a friend to come stay with our son, and off we went to the hospital to see what was what. After five hours of having me walk around (the hospital, the block, you name it), they determined it was indeed pre-labor and I was cleared to have my c-section, as planned, on Monday.

Sheepishly, I went home. My contractions progressed but, not wanting to cause another false alarm, I ignored them—assuming I was nowhere close to actually having a baby. (We did, however, ask my mom to drive up, just in case we needed her to stay with our son.) And wouldn't you know it, come 2 a.m. Saturday night, I was in agony. Though my water hadn't broken, my contractions were coming constantly, and I knew I had to get to the hospital stat. 

When I arrived at triage, they agreed, and called my doctor to hurry in to perform the c-section. Everybody kept telling me there was plenty of time, but in between begging the attending physicians for an epidural (no dice when you're awaiting surgery, it turns out) I could feel myself...starting to push. “I'm pushing!” I screamed. “Don't push!” the nurses screamed back. “Too late!” I yelled. And...there you have it. I delivered my daughter by accident, and via VBAC just as my doctor was pulling into the parking lot. As I like to finish the story, she's been surprising and terrorizing us ever since!” — Jillian Q., NYC

The One Who Started Her Mat Leave Just in Time 

“I worked up until the very end of my first pregnancy as I wanted to have as much time as possible for my maternity leave. My last day of work was on a Friday and I was due on Monday, but everyone told me that the first baby always comes after your due date, so I wasn’t super stressed. On Saturday morning, I woke up, had plans to have lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, see a movie, get a pedicure—just a really great Saturday planned to ease myself into my official mat leave start. One hour after I got up, I had a massive nose bleed, was taken to the hospital, and was told even though labor had not started they were requesting for me to stay and check in. So, I stayed—didn’t even have my bags with me—was induced and had my baby on Sunday. I was totally robbed of my Saturday plans and the anticipated days of relaxation between work and the baby…but she was healthy and perfect, so I can’t complain.” — Mirissa K., CA

The One Who Delivered Her Baby to “Fixer Upper”

“I didn’t have a concrete birth plan for delivering my son, but I definitely expected contractions to start, a mad dash to the hospital, etc. That was not the case. At a week overdue, my OBGYN began to talk induction—and we could pick the birth date. That felt weird in itself, but I strategized around the doctors I most wanted to deliver my son. (I went to a practice with five different OBs on rotation for delivery—I had met them all.) ‘Who’s on call this night?’ It was my fave OB, so that decided it. Of course, my induction took way longer than planned and that meant the doctor I least preferred would deliver my son. The upside? His expertise was in perineal tears. (I had a second-degree tear post-delivery.) The downside? Bored by my ‘lack of effort with pushing,’ he turned the TV on and started watching…Fixer Upper. To this day, I’m not sure if that was some sort of mental mind game to get me to try harder. What I do know is that I ended being the one telling my partner and OB every time a contraction was coming and it was time to push—everyone in the room was torn between watching the arrival of my darling son and the show. I’ll also never forget my spouse saying at one point, ‘Gosh, I really love Joanne Gaines.’ Mid-contraction, I shouted: ‘It’s Joann-a!’” — Sarah, MA

The One Who Almost Delivered in the Car

“My son—and second kid—came a bit faster than I expected. I went from taking ‘I’m in labor’ selfies to guttural primal screams in about 45 minutes…and we hadn’t left for the hospital yet. Our friend didn’t wake up for the middle of the night call, so we threw our totally clueless toddler in the back watching Frozen and I was on all fours in the front seat—yes, it’s possible—and off we went. As I screamed, ‘run the red lights!’, my husband called my father-in-law from the car and luckily he answered and met us at the hospital. I arrived at 10 centimeters, refusing the wheelchair, screaming ‘help me!’, lying on the floor of the elevator and pooping my pants all the way down the hall. It took all eight interns to wrangle me onto the table, but I got my epidural. Then, one push later, I met my son!” — Ana G., NY

The One Whose Water Broke at Work

“I was planning to stop working one week before my due date with my first born, but I went into labor eight days before…at work. Since having my son, I’ve heard from other moms that their water breaking was like a slight trickle down their leg. Mine was definitely not. Imagine an office water cooler being turned upside down. That’s what it was like—water gushing out of me. Fortunately, I worked in the hospitality industry, so we had plenty of plush towels and robes on standby, but it was definitely pretty awkward sitting in my open plan office while a pool of water gathered by my feet. I also had to walk through the hotel lobby in my robe to get to my husband’s car outside, so that was interesting and memorable to say the least.” — Tricia F., FL

The One Who Went Into Labor…Then Did Some Last-Minute Online Shopping

“I went into labor at around 1 a.m. and the stomach ache and cramping was pretty intense. For whatever reason, my first thought wasn’t to wake up my husband and get ready to head to the hospital, but instead to kick into gear and take care of any remaining to-do’s on my list. I downloaded a contraction app to keep tabs of the timing, but then I started to do some cleaning and final prep. I even ordered some Red Sox onesies and had them overnighted. (They were in the World Series and I’m a mega fan and thought it would be a cool photo op!)

Somehow, I lost track of how intense the pain was getting. Also, the fact that the contractions were five minutes apart. I have a high tolerance for pain, but it was getting pretty unbearable. I called my OB/GYN and they told me if the contractions were that close together, I could head to the hospital at any point. Walking into the hospital was so painful, I broke down in tears and started sobbing. They checked me out, I was so dilated that I almost didn’t have time for an epidural. (Thank God for one of the nurses that made it happen.) I had my son a short time after that. I still think about how my focus was more on organizing, then getting to the hospital. Denial? Perhaps!” — Carolyn J., MA

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Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...