Embracing the Unexpected: My Unplanned, Unwanted C-Section

“You have been pushing for over three hours.  We cannot get this baby out. I think we need to do a C-section.” These are words I always dreaded hearing. It felt like I had been punched in the gut.  Immediately, I cried. I cried because of fear. I cried because I felt like I was doing something wrong.  

My husband was right by my side and through my hysterical tears, he said to me, “It’s okay. You have done everything right. You are my warrior.” 

The month of April is C-section Awareness Month.  Is it just me or do you feel like the subject of c-sections is pretty taboo?  It just is not talked about, for whatever reason. This is the first time I have had the courage to share my story publicly. My hope in sharing our story is that if this is your reality, you will realize how brave, amazing, strong, and beautiful you are.  

Birth Plan 

You hear pregnant people talk about their birth plans.  They talk about how they want their deliveries to go and what parameters they have for their doctors and nurses, etc.  Some women I know hold on to this with an iron fist and do not want something that is not on that birth plan.  

A birth plan was never something I really put a lot of thought into.  The only things that were absolutes for me were 1) I wanted an epidural (can I get an AMEN?) and 2) it was important that my husband be the one to tell me the gender of our baby since we are those rare people who choose not to find out.  Everything else was free game, but in my mind I wanted as any woman wants: a somewhat drama-free delivery.  

I bet we have all heard these common words come out of someone’s mouth: “Oh, she took the easy way out and had a c-section.”  I never really believed that mamas who had c-sections were any less courageous.  However, I knew I did not want that for me.  I mean, it is major abdominal surgery–who would want that?  The truth is, maybe those mamas who have c-sections did not want that for themselves either.  For whatever reason, that was the best way to bring that baby safely into the world.

unexpected c-section birth plan

My story

My  husband and I were preparing for the birth of our second child.  Our first child, a son, was born after 36 hours of contractions/labor.  Once we were finally to ten centimeters with him, he was out within 45 minutes.  Life was good. When we were pregnant with our second,  I was excited to go through labor again.  I know that sounds crazy, but I was excited because I had done it before and I KNEW I could do it again, and hopefully in faster time.  

As our due date approached, my doctor was slightly worried about baby’s size.  My first was born at 8 lbs 10.5 oz on his due date.  They say with subsequent pregnancies that babies tend to be bigger.  This meant that she did not want me to go much past my due date in hopes that I would not have a 9 or 10 pound baby.  We discussed the option of induction if I was favorable at 39 weeks.  

At my 39 week appointment, I was dilated only to one centimeter.  That meant I was not favorable for induction.  So we waited until 40 weeks. At my 40 week appointment, I was dilated to one and a half centimeters.  I was not favorable, but not far off.  My doctor discussed the use of Cervidil which is a drug they insert to help soften the cervix.  The hope is that by softening the cervix, it will prompt your body to dilate and then they can do induction.  The best case and not very common scenario is that it puts you into labor.  The worst case scenario is that it does nothing for you and therefore you are sent home and the hope is that you will just go into labor on your own.  We decided we were willing to try it.

We went in to the hospital to have this done.  Within about three and a half hours, I was having contractions.  About an hour and a half after that, I was in full on labor.  It had worked! I was at four centimeters and progressing! My doctor ordered the epidural and was going to break my water shortly after that.  Just as the anesthesiologist finished up placing the epidural, my water broke on its own.  Everything was going as planned or better than planned.  I was progressing quickly, so they did not administer pitocin.  Within two hours of getting the epidural, I was at 10 centimeters!  We were ready to push. I was so excited. We were going to have this baby in the afternoon, and I would have the same nurse, rather than be in labor over multiple shifts of nurses as I had been with our son.  

Even though I was not someone who had a detailed birth plan, this was something that was most definitely not in my plan.

My doctor came in and wanted me to try pushing just so she could get an idea where the head was and how far down baby was.  After those first few sets of pushes, she said that we needed to let baby labor down.  So we stopped pushing for a bit to give baby a chance to get down further.  A little while later, we resumed pushing with every contraction.  No matter how hard I tried, we could not get this baby out.  My doctor discovered that baby’s head was turned a weird way and she tried to manually turn the head during a contraction.  That did not work, so we continued to push off and on.  

Finally, after exhausting every possible way to get baby out, my doctor came in and said, “You have been pushing for over three hours.  You are exhausted and we have done everything we could do to get this baby out.  I think we need to do a c-section while baby’s heartbeat is remaining steady.”  

To hear those words, I admit that I had a whole gamut of emotions going through me.  I was scared, I was nervous, and I felt defeated. Somehow, I felt that I must have failed. If I would not get to hold my baby right away, I was worried that would ruin our bonding time and ruin the breastfeeding relationship that I hoped to establish.  I was worried about what the recovery would be like.  I was worried about having major surgery. Even though I was not someone who had a detailed birth plan, this was something that was most definitely not in my plan.  

Before we went back to surgery, in the midst of all of my emotions and tears, my doctor said to me, “I know this was not your plan, but it was still the plan.  The plan is to have a healthy baby and we will still have that.”  

Those words spoke volumes to me.  It did not matter how this baby came into the world.  The goal was to get baby there safely, and at this point, this was the safest way to achieve that.  

They wheeled me back to the operating room where I laid there, my mind filled with many unknowns.  As they began the surgery, the anesthesiologist was on one side of me explaining what was happening.  A short time later, my doctor said, “It’s almost birthday time, what are we going to have?” The nurses started making predictions.  Finally, my doctor asked my husband and me.  I thought this baby would be another boy, because I felt very similar to how I felt with our first.  My husband said girl because our son always said girl whenever we asked him what gender the baby was in Mommy’s tummy.  

About a minute later, we heard cries!  My doctor held our baby up and said, “What do we have, Dad?” My husband took a second, and through tears of joy said:

“We got our little girl!”  

unexpected c-section birth plan

They took her to weigh her, measure her, and clean her up, and then handed her to my husband.  He came and sat next to my head so I could see her and kiss her.  As they finished my surgery, he  sat there with her right next to me.  She was wide awake, calm, and just looked around taking everything in about her new world.  

I cried because I was so exhausted.  I cried because after all of that, she was finally here and she was perfect. Our little Magdalene, “Maggie” Jane was here, and even though I went through all of that, she was worth every frustration, feeling of uncertainty, and pain I ever went through during my pregnancy and delivery. They had me out of the OR within an hour or so, and so we still got to do our skin-to-skin bonding and nursing time.  She ended up being a champion nurser.  

As I mentioned, having a c-section was not my plan, but it was doable.  The recovery was not easy, but it was manageable.  With a great support system, the recovery and transition process can be smooth.  

unexpected c-section birth plan

What I learned from my C-section

The birth of my daughter taught me so much.  Most importantly it taught me four important truths. 

  1. No matter what your birth plan is, a healthy baby is always the goal.  Whatever method it takes to achieve that is the best method.  
  2. All mamas are brave, no matter how their babies come into this world.  
  3. A c-section does not mean defeat.  It means that for some reason, almost always out of our control, this is the best way to safely bring this baby into the world.  
  4. A c-section mama is brave, beautiful, and strong.  That scar is a reminder of the door the baby passed from one world into the next.  

If this is your scenario and you are about to go through it, just know that you can do it. If you have already gone through it, know that you are amazing!  All mamas, no matter how their children enter this world, are amazing.  Do not forget to fully embrace the miraculous beauty that is childbirth and motherhood!  


Brenda is an Iowa native who has lived in the Iowa City area since 2005. She is married to her love, Robert, since 2012. Brenda is an elementary teacher by trade. She spent almost nine years as a stay at home parent but is now back in the classroom spending time with her school kids and being a mom to her own kids. She is the mom of three; Gabe (April, 2013) Maggie (April, 2015), and Julianna (September, 2017). Brenda enjoys being active by running and working out. She also enjoys trying new recipes, volunteering, playing board and card games, and being involved in church. Brenda is an elementary teacher and loves cheering on the Cubs, UNI Panthers, and the Iowa Hawkeyes. It is a busy but beautiful life!


  1. This was exactly me! Only it was my first and 24 hours of labor, pitocin, and an epidural to push 4 hours with baby’s head stuck. My next two have been planned C-sections, one happening on the set day and the last coming a day early as I went into labor on my own. I have always felt like a healthy baby was the goal, and also I have felt lucky that modern medicine can get us there! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Two boys, both c-sections. My first one, born in November 2010, was hanging out sideways. We tried to turn him, he wasn’t having it. Then my amniotic fluid was low. Then this. Then that. Finally, my OB looked at me and said, “should we just schedule the c-section” and I said, “YUUUUP.” Turns out there was a reason we couldn’t turn him. That boy was 22″ long and was wedged pretty good. I don’t remember much about the recovery from that surgery because I was also dealing with a personal loss that happened the same day my first son was born. My second one, born in September 2014, was going to be a c-section by my own choice. I had no desire to push a child out (even with the first one, honestly) and although my OB was fine with VBAC, I just didn’t care. Also, I knew what I was getting into with the c-section. Baby boy had other plans, however, because I went into labor three weeks early. Apparently he was done baking.

    So, two c-sections and I’m perfectly fine with that.

  3. Beautiful story with a beautiful message! Thanks for the inspiration. I am also a c-section momma. I had planned on an all natural, no intervention birth, and I ended up having the least natural birth possible. But it gave me my amazing healthy son. I then chose to have a planned c-secrion 15 months later with our daughter. We all allstrong, courageous, powerful women!

  4. I love your story! Thank you for sharing. My story is much like yours. It is hard to deal with in the beginning but time allows you to see the real courage being a C-section mama takes!

  5. Thank you all for your kind comments. I feel we can all learn from each other and empower the women we know that have either gone through this or are about to. All mama’s are beautiful and brahe no matter how their children enter this world. Thank you do much for reading!!

  6. Thank you all for your kind comments. I feel we can all learn from each other and empower the women we know that have either gone through this or are about to. All mama’s are beautiful and brave no matter how their children enter this world. Thank you so much for reading!!


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