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5 Unexpected Childbirth Issues

In this two-part series, we examine the unexpected issues that can arise during and after childbirth, and -- surprise! -- they don't negate a happy ending.

Before I had my first baby, Mathilda, I knew exactly how my labor and delivery would go. I wouldn't use drugs, I'd remember my breathing techniques, and my husband, Tony, would be right there by my side, cutting the umbilical cord and presenting me with an adorable cherub.

Well... not exactly. My exhausting and painful labor -- bring on the Demerol, stat! -- ended with three hours of pushing and a baby who wasn't budging, followed by an emergency c-section as my blood pressure spiked. I barely remember Tony being there. About the only thing that went according to plan was I ended up with an adorable, healthy baby. The lesson? While it's fine to have a birth plan, sometimes sticking to it isn't an option. Read on for a look at some of the most common snags in labor and delivery, and why it's not the end of the world if they happen to you.

Surprise!: You Need Pain Medication

No matter how many books you read, websites you visit, or classes you take, you don't know what your labor is going to feel like until it happens. "Throughout my pregnancy, I was determined to have a drug-free birth," says Cincinnati mom Marcy Hawkins. "My mother and sister gave birth without drugs, and I was certain I could too." But after eight hours of excruciating back labor with her son, Jackson, Hawkins had a major change of heart. "I remember looking at my husband and saying, 'I don't think I can do this anymore.'" She asked for an epidural and soon after, her son Jackson was born -- and the pain was much more bearable.

If it happens to you: Repeat this mantra: There is no one right way to give birth. "We're taught that if we breathe right, it won't hurt," says clinical psychologist Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D., author of Pregnant on Prozac and past president of Postpartum Support International. "There is absolutely no failure in asking for an epidural. Many women are so relieved once they get it that they start to enjoy labor, and are able to participate more. Having some medication can be the smartest thing to do." Once her son was born, Hawkins felt an overwhelming sense of joy -- not guilt. Her advice for other moms-to-be? "Listen to your body. It's okay to change your mind about using or not using drugs. None of that matters after you hold your healthy, beautiful baby for the first time."