I had a natural birth for both of my sons, at a birthing center and at home, respectively. When it comes to natural birthing, most moms fall into two camps: You may picture an old-fashioned 1800s scene with a woman biting down on a wooden spoon and a pot of boiling water beside the bed. The stuff nightmares are made of.

Or, if you drank the natural birth Kool-Aid and are all gung-ho about the idea (like me), you may imagine a drug-free birthing fantasy that will bring you the most beautiful connection with the baby you have yet to meet.

But with the first contraction, shit hits the fan, literally and figuratively. This is true whether you plan to birth in a hospital, a birthing center, at home, or in a barn.

Here are a few birthing fantasies that may go out the window the minute shit gets real in the birthing pool:

1. Lighting scented candles

lit candles

Scented what? In the midst of contractions, I forgot that I had a nose, let alone a preference for sandalwood or lemongrass. Candles may or may not have been lit during my “magical birthing experience,” but I was none the wiser.

(photo: Ravinder Maramamula)

2. Listening to my special birthing playlist

pregnant headphones

I vividly remember asking my midwife if she would be offended by 90s gangsta rap while I was giving birth. I may be a token white girl, but there’s something about hip-hop/rap jams that make me feel like running five miles or giving someone a roundhouse kick to the face. Silly me, I assumed that birth would be just like a grueling workout at the gym. When my husband asked what tunes I wanted to hear mid-contraction, I snarled at him to turn on my soothing “Grey’s Anatomy” playlist. Ah, much better.

(photo: clfx)

3. Eating my special birthing snacks

chips and crackers

With my first birth, I took painstaking care in my snack selection, like I was choosing goodies before a blockbuster movie. When active labor hit, I felt a sensation that I’ve never felt before: the complete absence of hunger. Ultimately, my midwife and husband forced me to drink old-people Ensure shakes the entire time to keep up my strength, and my delicious trail mix was left untouched.

(photo: Old Shoe Woman)

4. Wanting my partner in the birthing tub with me

partner in birthing tub

I actually knew from the start that I wasn’t planning on having a touchy-feely birth experience. Our midwives said my husband could wear swim trunks and get in the tub with me to “hold me,” and I was like, “Nope. That’s where I draw the line.” He can rub my shoulders perfectly fine from the side of the tub, thankyouverymuch.

(photo: Kamepyon)

5. Wearing a cute bikini top in the birthing tub

I totally pictured myself wearing a cute little bikini top as midwives and my husband gathered round while I gently pushed a baby into the world. But by the time the midwives gave me the okay to jump in the tub, I – to my surprise – ripped off my shirt and bra and free-boobed it. Come at me, bro!

6. Worrying about pooping in the birthing tub

toddler pooping birthing tub

Yes, I said it. Before birth, I was super paranoid about pooping in the pool, like a naughty 5-year-old at a birthday party. I asked my midwife about it, and she said that they used small fish nets to scoop any “debris” out. Awesome. When the big day came, I spent some time laboring and grunting in the birthing tub, and I’m pretty sure unspeakable things happened there.

(photo: conradzone)

7. Giving birth in the actual birthing tub

birth in birthing pool

When it was finally go-time, and I was pushing, the midwives had to move me into many different positions to get that stubborn baby out (both times). With baby number one, I was moved from the tub to the birthing stool to the bed before he popped out. With baby number two, I moved from the tub to the toilet to the birthing stool for my final hurrah.

(photo: krb_70)

8. Blessing the placenta

placenta smoothie

Believe it or not, my midwives generously suggested I say a special prayer or blessing over the placenta after birth. Once again, I decided to pass on that offer. As allisonjayne put it so eloquently in this Mommyish after-birth thread, “I’d really rather look at my adorable baby than that veiny-shit-bag kthanx.” Couldn’t have put it better myself.

(photo: paxye)

9. Enjoying the final birthing moments

drinking in birthing tub

I kid you not, when my second son was crowning, my midwife asked me if I wanted to reach down and touch his head. I said something like, “Hell, no! Just get him out!” I’m going to have 50 or so years to snuggle and touch that little guy, so let’s just get this pushing thing over with!

(photo: harryalverson)

10. Having an instant fuzzy connection to my new baby

mom and kitten

My midwives advocated skin-to-skin contact, letting the cord pulse out, the whole nine yards. Still, my husband and I didn’t weep tears of joy the moment we saw either of our sons. We were more like, “Sweet, glad that’s over with!” The love for that goopy, bloody, puffy baby grows over time.

(photo: whaas987)