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Labor Expectations and Experiences

When Dantzel Averett found out she was pregnant, she knew exactly how she'd give birth: in the hospital, without pain medication. "I thought I'd labor for a while, and then have the perfect delivery where they put the baby on my chest. We'd immediately start breastfeeding and bonding," says Averett, 20, who lives in Orem, Utah.

Everything went according to plan until her 32nd week of pregnancy, when she developed preeclampsia. The next week, doctors delivered her son, Elisha, by c-section and whisked him to the neonatal intensive care unit. Averett didn't see him until she was out of surgery, and she couldn't snuggle with him until the next day.

It was hardly the birth she'd expected, but then, do women ever have the delivery of their dreams? And if they don't, does that matter? To find the answers, Babytalk teamed up with, a website where moms across the United States share advice and information. We conducted a national survey of more than 900 mothers, who described their birth expectations and experiences -- the good, the bad, and the unimaginable -- in page-turning detail. The women, of course, confirmed some commonly held beliefs, but they also kicked some gospel truths to the curb. Most exciting: Their insights reveal that you can have a birth experience you love (or at least feel satisfied with), even if the big day is behind you.

"Almost every first-time pregnant mom has a preset, even fairy-tale notion of what labor will be like, and that's only natural," says Wendy Wilcox, M.D., an ob-gyn with Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. After all, you've been thinking about this day for as long as you've wanted to become a mother, and unless you have an especially frank friend or have witnessed a birth yourself, much of what you've seen and heard has probably been coated with a thick layer of sugar.