Mourning the perfect delivery

Although you knew that childbirth could be full of unexpected events, you might not have planned to rethink about it with so much regret, guilt or the feeling of failure.

Just like you, many women have to mourn the “perfect” delivery they had hoped for.

Several moms-to-be plan their delivery the best they can. They get ready by taking prenatal classes, reading, talking with friends, etc. Pregnancy, childbirth and maternity can be idealized by most expectant mothers. With all the sources of information around you, you most certainly had an idea as to how you wanted your delivery to happen. You often build your hopes and desires on your research, but also on preconceived ideas, values and popular thoughts. For example, if the general trend is to opt for natural childbirth, you might choose that option because, after getting a lot of information on the subject, you realize that it fits with your values and aspirations. Sometimes, simply being a part of the trend can be reassuring.

Where does this grief come from?

But the thing is, even a world-class preparation can’t guarantee that everything will happen as predicted. Even if you can influence certain aspects (atmosphere, relaxation, reassuring companion, etc.), mother nature will always have the last word. Baby can decide to show up earlier or later than anticipated, complications can lead to an emergency C-section, pain can be worse than you had imagined, daddy can be stuck in traffic or baby can be a girl although you’d prayed for a boy. These are just a few examples of situations on which you could have created conscious or semi-conscious desires. In fact, mourning the perfect delivery occurs when an idealized image faces a completely different reality. You are disappointed, and understandably so.

Why am I so disappointed?

Although you understand that you couldn’t control the delivery entirely, it’s hard to manage the emotions caused by your shattered expectations. You can experience sadness, anger, guilt, failure, etc.

Is it because we’re so used to having control over all aspects of our lives and we're giving too much importance to our performances? This is one of several assumptions for which women grieve the perfect delivery. By doing overtime at work, you got your promotion. By studying more, you ranked in the top group. By taking an advanced course in photography, you improved your technique. And this can make you feel more accomplished as a woman. These are all areas where we have the power to act.

But should childbirth be such an area of performance? If so, it may come with a sense of failure and disappointment just as if it were completely up to you, which is not the case. There is actually no perfect delivery. All deliveries progress differently and are experienced in different conditions for each woman. For example, contractions beginning in the middle of the night and prevent a good night's sleep will affect the tolerance to pain. Because the body is not as well rested, you might well need an epidural if your energy levels are too low. So being envious of a friend who didn’t require an epidural (but who only started having contractions after a good night’s sleep) might make you feel like you’re not as tough as her... which is really not the case.

During the delivery, you must focus on and meet your immediate needs. You're not there to meet the needs of others, but to bring your child into the world under the best conditions possible. To the contrary, not listening to your inner needs could make the delivery even more difficult. The needs you had planned for before the actual delivery may change completely during labour, which is quite normal.

What can cause this grief?

You may experience dissatisfaction or feel the need to mourn the following situations:

  • Start of labour (contractions, breaking of waters, early/late delivery, etc.);
  • Planning the labour (induction, planned C-section, choosing the birth place, impossible VBAC, etc.);
  • Progress of labour (complications, emergency C-section, duration of labour, epidural, etc.);
  • Delivery of the baby (tears, use of forceps,  being asleep when the baby is born, etc.);
  • Type of support (presence of the father or other trustworthy person);
  • The baby’s gender or appearance;
  • Not feeling unconditional love for your baby the second he’s born;
  • Experiencing some type of difficulty with breastfeeding.
How to get over this grief?



  • Before the delivery, ask about the risks and different steps. This will give you a better idea of what can happen during childbirth while allowing you to stay realistic.

  • Accept that you can’t control childbirth. You can influence it, but nature always has the last word!

  • Accept that you are not responsible for how everything unfolds.

  • Remember that a birth plan is not a fixed contract, but rather a guide to inform others about your desires to the extent that they are possible.

  • Remember that giving birth is not a performance, it’s a unique moment.

  • Understand that your reality is not that of others and that it does influence the delivery (for example the length of the delivery, health conditions, support system, number of children, etc.).

  • Avoid isolation. You are not the only one feeling like this. When we feel inadequate, we tend not to talk about it by fear of being judged. But talking to others will certainly make you feel better.

  • Look at the bright side. For example, thanks to the C-section, your child is alive and perfectly healthy.

  • Stop using terms such as “having a successful delivery” or “Making it without an epidural”. Such thinking conveys the idea that you can fail, and that is precisely what we want to avoid. You all “succeed” at childbirth, no matter how you delivered. You didn’t go back home pregnant!

  • Accept that grief requires some time.

  • Remember that no matter how your delivery went, it has no connection with the great mom you can become.

  • Seek help if the mourning continues or if it occupies your thoughts to a point where it affects your daily mood, prevents you from working or if you experience symptoms of depression.




Véronique Boisvert
Clinical sexologist, psychotherapist, doula

Veronique Boisvert holds a BA and an MA in sexology. She works  in a private practice as a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist to treat marital and sexual difficulties. As shehas always been passionate about the perinatal field, she also followed a doula training and  now gives a prenatal class, assists parents during the delivery and offers them support  after. Her professional experience and research has led her to specialize in postpartum disorders. That's what inspired her to write the book  Bien vivre ma période postnatale : prévenir les difficultés et devenir une maman heureuse (meaning “Living my postpartum period well: preventing problems and becoming a happy mom”). You can find more information about her practice and clinic on her website (in French only).

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