Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

What to REALLY expect when having a baby

Birth stories make you wonder—are pregos as well-prepared as they think?

This post is in response to
Perfectionism and the Pregnant Woman

Jessica is about to be a first-time mom. And she is so ready. She and her partner attended a birth prep class. They’ve read the books. They know exactly what to expect, and they laid out a birth plan. I mean, at this age of openness and information, there’s hardly any room for birth surprises, or is there?

Well, it seems like birth is a classic case for the unexpected. My colleague, Yasmine Kalkstein and I were looking at birth stories posted online. We chose the ones that strayed from the birth plan. And, as one of the women said: “My birth didn’t go according to plan. Whose does anyway?”

Yasmine and I took each story apart for events that required the woman’s active coping. Almost ten of them in eacyh story. Ysamine called these events ‘challenging and unexpected’, which stopped me in my tracks.

Challenging, of course. But, unexpected?

Some of the events were getting a magnesium drip, having an induction, or getting an emergency C section. But others involved pain and the delivery taking a long time. How unexpected is that?

Who is their right mind expect their delivery to be as painless as ordering an espresso martini? Or that it would not last longer than an episode of Pretty Little Liars?

I thought no way this was unexpected Yasmine thought it was. I mean, these challenges are very often part of a birth journey. And so, should be expected. So I was right. But, ‘expectations’ carry a positive connotation. As in ‘what are your salary expectations?’ They are going to be pretty rosy. These women did not expect their delivery to be so painful. Or so long. So Yasmine was also right.

The dictionary defines ‘unexpected’ as ‘not expected or regarded likely to happen’. Synonyms suggestions include ‘unforeseen’, ‘unanticipated’, or ‘unpredicted’.

Were these events so unforeseen? Were they beyond the realm of what a woman could envision happening when she had a baby? To envision doesn’t mean to wish for it. But to not envision pain or an extended delivery as an option, this, as I said, has stopped me in my tracks.

What are women envisioning? How prepared are they for challenging moments during the delivery journey? And, looking forward, how can women like Jessica, couples like Jessica and her partner, be truly prepared, and truly supported when challenges arrive?

I’m on a quest for the answers. And for the new questions that will arise.

Please comment below to tell me what you think, and to share ideas about the ‘unexpected’ aspects of delivery.

More from Talya Miron-Shatz Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Talya Miron-Shatz Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today