Before the birth you spend considerable time writing your birth plan which is supposed to stay in your medical notes and be waved at midwives by your tense partner, who will also be burdened with a birthing ball, cool ice and massage oil.
In your birth plan you may scorn an epidural, be determined to get in the hospital's only water pool and be adamant you want a natural birth. Fast forward to the reality - and births have a way of not sticking to the script.
Here, first time mum Hazel Davis details her birth plan - and then what actually happened. Does it sound familiar?
My first baby is due in two weeks.
Dear Midwife...here's what's going to happen.
On the morning of the due date, I am going to wake, eat a fresh grapefruit and a drink small coffee (I'm allowed). I might listen to Classic FM for a bit and then I will sit in the hammock and read the morning papers.
At 10am I might feel a small twinge. "Ooh," I will say, excitedly (but calmly) to the dogs, "it's time," before settling down to continue reading the papers for a bit longer. I will text my partner, who will steadily make his journey home from work and we will calmly time the contractions until it's time to go to hospital. During this time I will walk around the lounge, listening to Joni Mitchell and Rachmaninov, inhaling lavender oil and reading educative books. My partner may brush my hair and rub my back.
We will, of course, have followed the conventional advice to the tee and won't be arriving at the hospital until the very last minute, thus alleviating the need for any pain relief whatsoever. The bag will have been packed and will have no missing items.
In the birthing centre I will ease myself into the birthing pool (which will be available and will have been lovingly filled up for me to exactly the right temperature and be ready on arrival) and, after a few pushes (they'll hurt of course, but, as per my hypno birthing book, the breaths I take will act as nature's epidural) my baby will arrive.
My partner, who will be present at the birth, along with NOBODY else, will be rubbing my back as I squat (NEVER lie) in the bath. At no point will I lie down anywhere and I will have as active a birth as possible, marching around the room if need be.
My partner will be present the whole time. He won't be outside "getting some air" or "buying a paper". When I call him, he'll come running and offer his outstretched hand/change the ipod track for me (relaxing canyon music will be playing throughout)/spritz my face with Evian.
I will NOT have an epidural and I will rely solely on gas and air. When it comes to delivering the placenta I will be doing it naturally as I figure I will be so high on the euphoria of delivering a life form that I will hardly notice. At no point will I PUSH. I will relax and allow my body to do its own thing.
During the birth, the midwives will refer to the baby as "the baby" not "baby" and I will be called BY MY NAME not "mum". My partner will not be "dad". He will not be patronised by them and, as he has read the hypno birthing book from cover to cover and I have not, he must be treated as an authority on what to do.
My (the) baby will be born in the water with me in the squatting position. My partner will cut the cord (he'll probably shed a tear or two and note it as one of the most amazing experiences of his life).
Having done my perineal massages I won't need an episiotomy (and, naturally, my nether regions will snap back into place almost immediately). The baby will be placed on my chest. I will cry. We will both cry. There Will Be No Pictures until I have applied a full face of makeup and brushed my hair.
We will tell no one about the birth until three days later when we have had some sleep, the baby's head has stopped being pointy and she is all pink and adorable.
And the reality...
It all started so well. I woke at 3.30, with the familiar cramps I'd been having for the last few nights. I lay, quiet, waiting to see whether they would develop into anything more exciting.
By 4am I knew I was having contractions and, rather than calmly ride them out and inform my partner in the morning as I had planned, I BURST through the door to the spare room (where he'd been sleeping) crying, "OW!".
He immediately got up and we timed them for a bit (20 minutes) and I called the birth centre. Come in when they're closer together, they said, have a warm bath, drink sugary drinks, etc.
So far so good. My partner quickly walked the dogs while I had a bath, came home, made me an omelette, which I promptly threw up in the sink and he had to poke down the bits as I clung on to his neck and cried in pain.
About 15 minutes later I started bleeding quite profusely. I turned to Google and it didn't really sound like a bloody show, more a bloody mess.
The darling friend who was on standby to take us into the hospital would have taken about 40 minutes to arrive (once we'd woken her up that is) so we jumped in a taxi with the (mercifully prepared) hospital bag, me clenching my teeth all the way and singly failing to (a) breathe or (b) relax.
On arrival at the birthing centre, we were faced with one of their busiest days in the history of the world ever. We were shown to a room, asked how far apart the contractions were and what the issue was and then waited. And waited. And waited a bit longer.
By the time we saw a midwife, the contractions were three minutes apart and counting.
She examined me and I was only 2cm dilated but bleeding all the while, blood pressure rising. I was swiftly removed from the lovely birthing centre room and whisked to the labour ward, whereupon I was hooked up to monitors and, well, monitored.
The music playing when we entered the labour ward couldn't have been more different from the soothing Joni Mitchell I had planned (and even playlisted). Instead, the tinny radio was blaring out Disturbia by Rihanna. ("It's a thief in the night, To come and grab you, It can creep up inside you, And consume you, A disease of the mind, It can control you." You know? That one.)
Through the gas and air I managed to ask whether it could be turned off.
The contractions were coming hard and fast and rather than breathe calmly through the contractions and go limp like the hypno birthing book said, I grunted and snarled like a maniacal hog, all the while gouging out my partner's hands with my fingernails (something I SWORE
I would never do).
So, drip in hand I was suddenly 6cm dilated. Whereupon the machine took it upon itself to lose the baby's heartbeat. What seems like (but probably wasn't) seconds later, a swarm of medical professionals came in, like something from ER. "Let's get this baby out FAST," I heard one of them say, "We're just going to make a small incision...." (famous last words).
A few more seconds later (but maybe it was an hour) my beautiful baby Clementine slithered out of me with the aid of a ventouse. I wish I could say it ended there but, fully stirruped up and trying not to look at the table full of bloody implements I cradled my newborn as a doctor grinned up at me sewing my nether regions for what seemed like about two hours.
Because my blood pressure was high, I had to stay in on the labour ward overnight so our magical first night with the baby was not.
So, to recap, my birth plan was about as much use as calling a contraction a "uterine surge". But I suppose it's a nice idea and makes us feel more in control...
Did your birth plan go according to plan?
Or was it a whole different story?