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Birth has left me feeling like a failure

(16 Posts)
RegLlamaOfBrixton Sat 23-Jul-11 21:45:31

DS (first baby) is nearly 6 months old and I've had a few problems coming to terms with the way his birth went. DS was born in theatre by Kiellands forceps (I was prepped for EMCS if the forceps failed) because he was malpositioned (LOT and asynclitic). I've done the birth debrief, which did help me understand what exactly had happened and I do feel more positive than I did. I know that the only thing that matters is that DS and I are healthy and I'm really grateful for that and feel pathetic for even caring about anything else, but I still can't help feeling like I failed at the birth and wishing things could have been different.

Had fairly long latent phase (52 hours from feeling first contraction to birth) so was already exhausted on arrival at hospital when VE confirmed that DS was LOT but was told he should turn during labour. Had my waters broken at 4cms dilated and keep wondering if this had any affect on DS positioning. Coped way better with contractions than I'd ever imagined I would with TENs, G&A and pool (pre-pregnancy I had major childbirth phobia) so was on a real high with how well things were going.

It was when it got to pushing that it all went downhill. Senior MW said that DS had turned to OA so position no problem. Pushing was probably the most painful part of the whole thing, felt like my pelvis would crack open across the back, and like I was pushing against something that wasn't moving. I was convinced I wasn't doing it 'right' as nothing was happening. After 2 hours going nowhere, senior MW said that I was just exhausted with the long labour and needed to be transferred to labour ward (I was upstairs on the MW led unit), put on synto drip as contractions were now stopping, and ventouse would be used to get DS out. I felt like such a failure, what kind of mother was I if I couldn't even give birth to my own baby? My notes even confirm it; 'failed to progress in second stage'. On labour ward the registrar immediately identified DS as LOT plus asynclitic and tried a manual rotation which failed. Was prepped in theatre for EMCS but thankfully the forceps rotation was successful. I was utterly shocked and just couldn't believe that I had gone from MWs preparing for a natural, straightforward birth 3 hours previously, to this.

I thought I'd done all I could during pregnancy to get DS into the best position; swimming, yoga, bouncing on ball, not lying on back, and used upright positions in labour, but now keep feeling that I should have done more. I wish that antenatally MWs would emphasise how important a good position is. I know that it might not have made any difference but I now feel guilty for every time I sat on the sofa instead of that damned ball!

I stayed calm by trusting my body to give birth and feel that it let me down. I really want more children, and my birth experience hasn't put me off, but I currently feel that it would be an attempt to 'right the wrong' of this birth, which would make things worse if I had any complications. I worry that there might be a problem with my pelvis which would lead to the same thing all over again.

Is it normal to feel this way? And anyone who has, how did you get over it?

nenevomito Sat 23-Jul-11 21:56:16

You are not alone. Its normal to feel cheated. I got over it by talking about it and counselling. I didn't really get over it completely until I gave birth to my second child when everything went right and I felt I had the birth that I should have had first time around.

I didn't have the same experience as you, but I gave my first child a GBS infection as he was born and he spent the first two weeks of his life in the NICU, for some of which he was seriously ill. At a time when I should have been cuddling my beautiful new baby, I was watching him being poked and prodded and canulated and tube fed and a million other invasive procedures. And the hideous guilt knowing that he was like that because of an infection I had had and I had given him. I felt like I'd almost killed my own child.

No one plans for a difficult birth or a sick baby which is why when it happens you feel so hurt and cheated. However forewarned is forearmed and second time around I was ultra prepared, knew all of the questions to ask and had lowered my expectations significantly. You will be the same and will be able to prepare yourself and when it comes right - which is may well do as no two births are the same - it will be healing.

My advice is to talk about it as much as you need to talk about it. You may not ever be happy with what happened, but you will be able to deal with it better and accept it better. In my case, it took talking to a professional before I was able to deal with it properly.


thisisyesterday Sat 23-Jul-11 21:56:38

you didn't fail at anything. you did everything right.

sometimes things just don't go the way they "should". and there isn't necessarily a reason for it, it just happens. baby in a bad position... that's no-one's fault, it's just bad luck.

I feel quite strongly that my waters being broken when i was only 4cm dilated had similar implications to yours... baby could no longer move enough to get into a good position, wanted to come out wonky, ended up with ventouse delivery.
But there is no point thinking of the what-ifs. I can never know whether it would have been different had I not let them break my waters, so I guess I just try not to think about it

The way I view it is that when you ge pregnant your aim is to eventually come home with a baby. Sometimes the journey to that point doesn't go how we want/expect... biut the end result is the same. I know it's cliched, and possibly not much help, but try to cling onto that. you have your baby...

I honestly don't think your body let you down. your body did everytyhing right, but the process was hampered by something else not being quite right. maybe they were mistaken when they thought baby had moved (my midwives with ds2 had no idea he was OP until he was born)...

I know this is only anecdotal, but a friend of mine had a c-section with her first due to her being brow presentation. She went through a lot of heartache over it, many debriefs, many talks with consultants and midwives, lots of talking over whether her pelvis was too small to deliver a baby... all kinds of things.
she had her second child at home, in a pool... no problems at all!

I hope that in time you can come to terms with your birth experience

FingandJeffing Sat 23-Jul-11 22:00:41

I had a straightforward labour. I tell you this because I believe a lot of what happens in labour is luck. Lucky that positioning is good, lucky that you had good support, lucky that the right decisions were made at the right time. You sound like you did a brilliant job and were very brave.

My 1st was Op and I also did active birth, yoga, ball bouncing,floor scrubbing etc and nothing made any difference. My second was a normal presentation, no yoga, no ball, just too busy and a much quicker delivery, just luck I tell you smile

DuelingFanjo Sat 23-Jul-11 22:05:58

hi there, apart from the drip your labour sounds pretty much like mine. I had my waters broken at 6cm after a latent labour of around 4 days. I was prepped for a C-section and had forceps too. I managed to push my son out in 3 pushes and he is now 7 months old. He was in neo natal for many days, during which I was on auto-pilot and so I have had to deal with all the feelings I had about missing out on the cuddly babymoon stage.

I also had a de-brief but have never actually requested my birth notes - I sometimes think I should. The Dr told me afterwards that I was never in an emergency situation but I really felt like I was from the way they were behaving. I also feel like I got no help RE when or how to push, I remember asking at 10 cm - should I push now then? I was very calm through my whole labour.

I really don't know how you deal with it, I just try to tell myself to stop trying to get answers and to enjoy the fact that I recovered well and now have a lovely son. However I would be quite worried about giving birth again and I do also worry that I was partly to blame for being so shit at giving birth. However I have decided that some people just have easier births and are very lucky and I remind myself of that every time I start to think about what went wrong during my labour.

TrinaLuciusMalfoy Sat 23-Jul-11 22:19:50

I don't know if it's normal, certainly no-one I speak to about my experience thinks I have any right to feel cheated or a failure.

But I do. 70 hours in labour, eventual EMCS - so in a way (and I'm REALLY not trying to negate your own feelings here) even more cheated than you as they couldn't even try forceps. I get completely fed up with people telling me THEY had a hard time of it when it was six hours from start to finish and ended in a natural delivery. I get fed up with people (including current midwife) saying 'but you have a healthy baby, what's the problem?' These people DO NOT GET IT.

I saw my notes the other day. At 7am on the Monday morning it says 'starting to get tired' - it was another 12 hours before they gave me an epidural, and another 8 and a half hours AFTER THAT that DD was ripped out of me. I'm angry that they left me as long as they did. I'm angry that they didn't figure out she was OT before they did. I'm still angry enough that if the midwife who saw me through (I won't say helped, because she didn't) the final few hours is present this time round she will be told to leave in no uncertain terms.

I don't know how you get over it. I haven't managed it yet. It just gets easier, little by very very little. I'm hoping that a positive experience this time round will be a healer as it was for babyheave. I'm shitting myself that this one will go the same way as I honestly don't know how I'll cope with that mentally. I've been a lot firmer about what I want this time around (no induction, labour no longer than 12 hours unless it's obvious 12 hours 10 minutes will 'do the trick', get to use the pool this time, ELCS booked if nothing happens spontaneously, absolutely under no circumstances to be given an epidural and then left completely on my own for ten minutes, simple things like that) and there's no way I'm letting the staff walk all over me. I'm just going into this birth (due tomorrow, ARGH) determined to maintain some level of control, however small.

BagofHolly Sun 24-Jul-11 04:01:34

OP, I really feel for you. But i think you're a really good example of where your antenatal providers have let you down by allowing you to build up expectations like this. This is where NCT and the like could make a MASSIVE difference - currently the emphasis seems to be on writing birth plans, importance of BF, and what to expect during labour. However there's a real gap in expectation management, and explaining that there's a HUGE element of luck involved, and that it's absolutely no reflection on you if things aren't the way you'd like them.

I never aspired to a "natural" birth, but as it happened, even if I had, fate stepped in, with placenta previa first time round and second time a baby that never even got close to engaging - he lay resolutely horizontal, with his head above my hip, and his twin lay parallel. Even Ina May would have had trouble reaching in [shudder] and turning them! There was no way I could have influenced either situation, never mind controlled it. (I had 2 ELCS)
I think you're being terribly terribly hard on yourself, and I think my question is why you're thinking the way you are - why you're bearing yourself up that there was more you could have done, instead of assigning the experience down to good/bad luck?

I think the notion of trusting ones' body is a generally good principle but if it were as simple as that, maternal mortality wouldn't have been as high as it was before birth interventions began to routinely take place. Certainly only a couple of generations ago, I, and my children, would without doubt be dead.

I hope you can find a way to give yourself permission to acknowledge that not everything is/was within your locus if control and find a way to look back on the experience with a sense if peace. Very best wishes. X

spudulika Sun 24-Jul-11 13:06:10

BagofHolly - do you really think there's a woman in this country who isn't aware of the possibility of things going wrong in labour?

Reg - you are a total heroine. You went through a long and difficult labour to safely birth your baby. I hope one day soon you will feel the pride you are due in carrying and birthing your amazing little boy.

Would like to add to those of you saying 'it's just luck' - it's not just luck how your labour turns out and how you feel about it afterwards. Really skilled care can make a difference to how some labours progress and turn out - even in cases when there are complications. Some midwives and doctors are more skilled than others and are better at caring for women emotionally in birth, so that they are less traumatised and saddened afterwards.

"I think the notion of trusting ones' body is a generally good principle but if it were as simple as that, maternal mortality wouldn't have been as high as it was before birth interventions began to routinely take place."

It is a good principle and a central one. It's not the be all and end all of childbirth and everyone knows that.

nickschick Sun 24-Jul-11 13:19:27

I cant bare to read everyones reply sad.
All I can say is my ds1 who will be 18 in August was born by cs after failed induction,ventuose and forceps,he had to have foetal monitoring then this bloody caesarian he wasnt breathing when he was born they gave him 12 hours sad he was in icu at the scbu they thought hed have brain damage and celebral palsy sadsadsad all because I couldnt push him out sad.

He was lucky he suffered none of the things listed above although he does have a bald patch on the top of his thanks to the suction and a scar on his right eye due to the forceps,hes off to uni in Sept to read Law so clearly none of this has held him back.

But I still look at that scar and think why couldnt I just push harder.

Its a Mum thing I think, this guilt.

ShowOfHands Sun 24-Jul-11 13:28:49

My advice about birth trauma is on this thread posted a couple of days ago. I didn't want to repeat myself, I'm a bit of a bore about birth trauma.

You might just be me you know. I stayed at home for a 2 day labour, pushed for 6hrs, blue light transfer, dd was LOT and asynclitic. They tried a ventouse and a manual rotation and in the end I had an emcs.

It took me 3yrs and a bit of a breakdown to get help over it. Don't let it get that far.

I'll tell you one thing now and I promise you this is true. We did not fail. I, like you, bounced on a ball, did optimum foetal positioning, tried for a natural waterbirth, I tried and tried and tried through an exhausting active, upright labour and hours of pushing. Sometimes, sheer bad luck and malpositioning win out. I know how you feel right now. You're angry, upset, confused. You want answers to questions that can't be answered. Like why me? What's wrong with my body? If I can't do this natural thing, what kind of pathetic failure am I? Will dd hate me? Could I have done more? Why did I sit on the sofa on the 4th May 2007 instead of on a birthing ball?

Oh God I've been there. And I've come out the other side of it. I still feel sad about how things happened but I've come to terms with them in a way I didn't think possible.

If you want to talk about anything at all or ask any questions or compare notes, then I'm always here. PTSD robbed me of the first months of dd's life. I was so desperately miserable over the birth. Please think about some of the things I recommend in the linked thread. Please talk as much as you want. And believe me, you did NOT do this.

BagofHolly Sun 24-Jul-11 17:59:10

Spudulika, I'm sorry my post seems to have been irritating. But I have to say that even if most women ARE aware of what can go wrong, expectation management by care providers can be absolutely key, helping women understand that there are sometimes circumstances which are outside their control and that beating themselves up about the position they adopted on the sofa/in bed etc is utterly pointless.
Yes, good care can lead to a good outcome but it's not an absolute correlation.
You said :
"I think the notion of trusting ones' body is a generally good principle but if it were as simple as that, maternal mortality wouldn't have been as high as it was before birth interventions began to routinely take place."

It is a good principle and a central one. It's not the be all and end all of childbirth and everyone knows that."

Sadly I don't think everyone DOES know that.

MoofyMoo Sun 24-Jul-11 18:48:12

Hiya, I had planned a natural home birth but when things didnt progress well I ended up at hospital, went into labour at 7pm on the Friday and at 6am on Sunday my waters finally broke - naturally! Pushed for 6hours before they prepped for forceps but ended up doing EMCS with bladder trauma so had go under general for coulpe of hours whilst they repaired me. DS was perfect though no probs. I always think couldn't I have pushed harder - but he was stuck, so really if they're so stuck forceps aren't going to work how can we expect them to come out naturally regardless of what we did or didnt do. I'm posting because I always wished theyd broken my waters so that labour progessed sooner and maybe would have prevented what happended so just shows what will be will be, I was also on the birthing ball in upright positions doing everything they recommend so felt abit robbed but still got the result I wanted in the end - my beautiful DS!!

Poppet45 Sun 24-Jul-11 20:32:26

Hiya, another LOT birth regular popping in.
In some ways my birth was much easier, as it was only 19 hours long with a two hour pushing phase, and I was terrified of Keillands so was given a reprieve as DS was too high up for them to reach. But I ended up with a section, and that caused a big bleed and a stay in HDU. So it's swings and roundabouts I guess. I'm pregnant again and its the section and bleed that appears to be the big issue with how I get to birth this time. I'm desperate to be in the pool again, but will only find out on August 4th if I'm going to be 'allowed' in the MLU to use it. The thought of doing it again without a pool makes me v panicky. I almost feel like chucking the towel in and saying strap me to the bed, drug me up to the eyeballs, I did everything 'right' last time and a fat lot of good it did me.
I remember feeling really good during the dilation phase like 'yeah I'm doing it!!!' and being able to not need gas and air til 7cms, and then just like you it all went horribly horribly wrong during pushing. For me it felt like trying to push my ear off my own head. Just utterly impossible. I tried telling my fairly rubbish second mw this, I said I had no urge to push whatsoever (a sign of a malpositioned baby) but she just told me I wasn't pushing right so I pushed in squats, on my side, kneeling, standing.... and none of it did any good. She looked utterly inconvenienced when the obstetrician called time up and took me off to theatre.
This time, I know I'm not over DS's birth almost 2 years ago, but I also know I'm now truly prepared for a good, middling or sodding horrid birth too, which I completely wasn't first time round. I'm going to use JuJu Sundin's birth skills book again. It really stopped my horrid time of it becoming PTSD, and it's ideal for women who did have a rubbish time of it before (unlike say Ina May who I haven't found very helpful tbh). Also I'm seeing a chiropractor as sometimes a malpositioned pelvis can cause an LOT labour. Turns out I may have a malpositioned pelvis. If this is the case and I can do something about it, I hope it will help boost my confidence. I know it will do more good than hypnobirthing as my nerve has gone too much for that. For me it all hinges on the 4th. So sorry for the ramble. Please believe me though, you have not failed. Truly you haven't. Be kind to yourself.

RegLlamaOfBrixton Fri 29-Jul-11 19:50:20

Hi all, really want to say that since reading all of your lovely and supportive responses I feel like a great deal of the weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I would have posted months ago but I found it difficult to put my feelings into words and to really think deeply about my labour and birth experience, although you all seem to be able to voice exactly what I’m feeling. It’s so reassuring to know that I’m not alone and that others have been through virtually identical experiences and ended up with similar responses to them.

I’ve been very reluctant to describe the birth as ‘traumatic’. I’d always imagined a traumatic birth as involving foetal distress or unmanageable, terrifying levels of pain, thinking that baby or I were going to die, none of which describes my experience (not saying it wasn’t painful though!). I probably should accept that there was something deeply traumatic about being in the mindset of ‘I’m about to push this baby out, it’s nearly over, this is how I imagined birth would be in my more optimistic moments’, then four hours later lying in theatre feeling completely helpless, having him dragged out.

One thing that keeps being mentioned that I think might be a big reason for why I feel like I do is down to the MW support. I had a brilliant MW for a lot of my labour, unfortunately her shift ended just before I got to second stage and I think that things would have been very different if she’d been with me until the end. Another MW plus a student took over from her and came with me when I was transferred to labour ward and theatre. Whilst the care I received from the new MW was quite competent, she was happy attaching me to drips and monitors, but she never really went out of her way to support me emotionally during the agonising two hours of pointless pushing and during my transfer to theatre when I was clearly very distressed. As Trina said, ‘saw me through’ rather than ‘helped’ probably describes it better.

However, I am most angry with the senior MW who was oblivious to the fact that DS was NOT, as she stated, OA, and who allowed me to push on and on thinking that I was doing it ‘wrong’ and seeming generally exasperated by my continuing presence on her ward, never thinking of the possibility that perhaps she was the one who was wrong. I wouldn’t even mind so much her being wrong about the position, if she had actually shown me a bit of empathy.

BagofHolly – I completely agree with you that I had built up too many expectations, but I really can’t blame my antenatal care providers. I did the hospital antenatal classes rather than NCT. Myself and DH agreed that they were fantastic in giving you the facts about all types of birth, hence I knew how and why forceps were being used, why EMCS might be necessary etc. I think I focussed so much of my energy pre-labour worrying about how and if I could cope with the pain, that I really didn’t have thinking space for anything else. Then having got so far with the labour, being told that DS was now in the right position, I was completely unprepared for any problems occurring.

Babyheave – what a horrible experience. I also carried GBS in pregnancy, thankfully treated with antibiotics in labour so DS was fine. Glad things turned out better for you second time around.

Thisisyesterday, DuellingFanjo, Nickschick and Moofy – thank you so much for sharing your not so great experiences. Hope I will be able to offer the same help to others if they need it.

Trina – I’m guessing you might have had your new DC by now. If so, I hope that things went well for you and that your whole experience plus MW support was better this time. If you’re still waiting, all the best of luck.

Poppet – I’ve spotted your posts before and thought how similar our experiences were, although for me forceps were my preference over EMCS. I felt exactly like you up around the 6-8cms point, really hyped and ‘oh my god I can totally do this’ (felt rather less wondrous in transition, but I’m told that’s normal!). And yep, pushing, how impossible, and why oh why don’t the MWs pick up these signs that things aren’t right? Hope that you can use the pool and that next time will be a healer no matter what happens. When is DC2 due?

ShowOfHands – I’ve seen a lot of your replies about birth trauma and believe me, you’re not a bore. You always move me to tears (in a good way IYSWIM). You are such a massive, massive help to anyone who has had a traumatic birth experience. I will probably PM you in the near future as it would be really helpful to compare notes and I still have a few questions that haven’t really been answered.

QTPie Fri 29-Jul-11 20:36:36

Oh dear sad

You are not a failure at all - sometimes we do EVERYTHING right, but nature just transpires against us. You are a star.

I did everything you did (swimming 50 lengths twice a week until 4 days before delivery, prenatal yoga once a week, sleeping on my side every night, constantly sat on a birthing ball, lots of "turning exercises") and I had a breech baby by ELCS. I couldn't have done anything more right! At the end of the day "what will be will be" and in childbirth the mother is only part of the story - the baby has a lot to do with positioning too...

Time is a great healer and I hope that you are able to move on with time. Your body is THE most amazing thing: you grew and nourished a healthy child - that is miraculous. Sometimes we just need a helping hand occasionally.

Take care.

Poppet45 Fri 29-Jul-11 20:47:19

Hi Reg, I've been thinking how you've been getting on mulling it over. I really really hope our posts are helping you to believe it wasn't anything at fault with 'you' it was a crummy situation that unfortunately happened to you, like its happened to others too, and you're just doing your best to deal with it. There may always be a sadness but it does ease. I hope this is now underway. For me it wasn't until I got my notes when DS was 10months and re-read over them that I realised my release notes had been inaccurate and DS was LOT not transverse/oblique that I began to piece together what happened.
I had a shift change too in my labour from a really emotionally engaged super keen student MW to an overworked night shift MW who frankly couldn't see past my well into labour moooing stage so rather than treat me like a person she regarded me as another burden on her busy labour ward to be delivered as quickly as possible. I feel the same way about her as you do your senior midwife, she made me feel like it was all my fault but actually she was the birth expert, I was the newbie and I knew something was wrong but she wouldn't listen. I'm still bitter she was in such a hurry to leave the theatre that DS went undressed for a day because I was zombied out in HDU and they sent DH home - most times in that situation the MW at least bothers to dress a poor helpless newborn before she disappears with a catbum mouth face of disappointment at the mother.
As for next time well wish me luck mid November when DD is due. I can highly recommend chiropractic treatment, or at least a check, if like me you've been left suspecting you have a duff pelvis. If nothing else it will put your mind at ease, or if there is an issue they can help in a positive practical way - something I'm finding v healing right now. All the best.

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