Natural births "gone awry" - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 04-24-2012, 04:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I’m a Masters student collecting information for my thesis project on midwifery care and natural birth, and to aid my research I would like to start a discussion about “failed” natural birth experiences. From reading social networking sites and forums, I’ve found quite a few women expressing their difficulty in coping with natural births “gone awry.” By this I mean, women who deviate from their original natural birth plans, but who still give birth to a healthy baby in the end.
 
Consider the following scenario: Imagine you have been planning a natural birth for months. You have a midwife, you’ve read books, you’ve chatted with other natural birthers online, you feel empowered and prepared for your natural birth. But during labor, for whatever reason (pain, emergency, etc.), you are advised to/decide to make changes to your original birth plan. This could mean allowing for tests to be run, taking pain medication/epidural, transporting to a hospital if you were planning a home birth, allowing for the use of medical tools, requiring a C-section etc. Because of unplanned interventions, you realize that you can no longer have your ideal, non-medicated birth.
 
Has something similar happened to you? How did you feel about your experience afterwards? How did it affect the way you see yourself; your body? Did it affect your bond with your child? Did your midwife have an influence in your decisions? Was she supportive or reluctant? 
 
If this hasn’t happened to you, how do you think you'd feel if you didn't get the dream natural birth that you'd planned for? Would you be disappointed in yourself, or would you feel OK knowing that you still gave birth to a healthy child?
 
As a side discussion maybe you could talk about where you conjured up notions about what constitutes an ideal natural birth experience in the first place?
 
I've never been pregnant myself, so I don't have any personal experiences of my own to share with you, but I'm very interested in what you all have to say on this matter!   ~ Nadia
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#2 of 16 Old 04-24-2012, 05:18 PM
 
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#3 of 16 Old 04-25-2012, 06:00 AM
 
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Just going on personal birth experiences, my only birth "gone awry" would be the birth of my second child. After laboring about 8 hours,I became discouraged by the number of centimeters I was assessed to have progressed to, I asked for some kind of pain relief. I was given a shot (likely Demerol). That is the last thing I remember about the birth of my oldest son. My ex husband later told me that our baby was born less than an hour later. I don't remember the first time I held my son!  Hell yes, I think receiving this intervention for pain was a mistake, and if the staff didn't keep asking me how much pain I was in, it wouldn't have come up. I have since then asked my midwifes to refrain from telling me any number during my assessment, they are irrelevant anyway. You can go from 3 to 9 and have a baby in under an hour or you can be at 9 and labor for hours. There is no point in stressing the birthing mother with this kind mechanical body analogy.  


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#4 of 16 Old 04-26-2012, 12:47 PM
 
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oh boy, i could go on for hours about this.  that "scenario" is me!  i was told i had to be induced for preeclampsia but after looking at my records and educating myself better months after the whole experience, i should have never been induced.  i had borderline high blood pressure, no other symptoms, and was only 37 weeks.  1 failed induction, a 3 day induction week later with every intervention imaginable, pushed for 3 hours, and then c-section.  absolutely devastating.  everyone says, "look at your gorgeous healthy baby!" and its so hard to find someone to understand how crushing that experience was.  i don't remember 75% of the experience.  i was put on mag after the section, and for the first night, they took her to the nursery and only brought her in for 20 minutes every 3 hours to nurse.  no one ever asked me, and i dont remember any of it.  husband was too traumatized and exhausted to even think of protesting.  here i am, 2 years later thinking about conceiving #2 and i thought i had really healed mentally from the experience but as the planning of another pregnancy and labor comes into focus, i realize i'm not.  everyone says i need to heal before i can move on and have another, but i piece of me thinks that a positive birth experience is the only way to truly heal.  luckily, despite a slow start, bonding was not an issue for my daughter and i, were are joined at the hip.  however, breastfeeding was incredibly difficult; i had issues for the entire 9 months i was able to do it.  as for my midwife, i loved her.  but what i have learned is that no matter what you plan or how on board your care provider is, your birth is ultimately determined by the rules and regulations of the hospital.  END OF STORY.  she was obligated to report my high bp to the ob group she worked under, and they ordered the induction.  which is why i will be planning a HBAC for my next, as long as i stay low risk.  hope this helps some with your thesis, great topic by the way!  more people need to be asking these questions.

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#5 of 16 Old 04-26-2012, 01:00 PM
 
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You may want to take a look at this social group:

http://www.mothering.com/community/groups/show/25/unplanned-c-section-after-long-labor-support-group

 

This is a support group for women who had unplanned c-sections after long labors. Most members of the group are women who planned for and tried very hard to have natural births, and then ended up with something they very much didn't want or plan for (a c-section). You are welcome to join the thread if you'd like to contribute to the conversation.

 

This is indeed a topic worth addressing. I wish you good luck with your research.


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#6 of 16 Old 04-28-2012, 07:04 AM
 
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I'm not sure why, but ever since you put this thread up in "homebirth" I have been hypothesizing about the kind of feedback you are looking for amongst the mothers here. This is such a fervently argued topic, and I realize I am setting myself up for hostility, but I wanted to contribute one more thought to your research.

You asked to- Consider the following scenario: Imagine you have been planning a natural birth for months. You have a midwife, you’ve read books, you’ve chatted with other natural birthers online, you feel empowered and prepared for your natural birth. But during labor, for whatever reason (pain, emergency, etc.), you are advised to/decide to make changes to your original birth plan. This could mean allowing for tests to be run, taking pain medication/epidural, transporting to a hospital if you were planning a home birth, allowing for the use of medical tools, requiring a C-section etc. Because of unplanned interventions, you realize that you can no longer have your ideal, non-medicated birth.

I think the main source of pain for mothers is that comparing births is inherently unhealthy. If you were live through being stranded in the desert for days, and did everything you could to survive, would you allow others to critique your performance? What I really need to say here is that the natural birth movement it rooted in the same Psychology as the attachment parenting movement. What gets people wildly emotional about this subject is, the hypothesis that early experiences form the emotional experiences of the being. When looked at, from this perspective having a "natural" as possible birth is something to be revered. But our experiences in life don't always meet our ideals. To own that is to grow. We must do the best we can do, and we need to embrace that! I pray everyone find more self love,and practice less judgment.  


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#7 of 16 Old 04-28-2012, 02:32 PM
 
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You say, "for whatever reason" as if all reasons should have the exact, same effect, which is absurd to anyone who's actually given birth and cared about the way it happened. If the reason was that a midwife or doctor made a bad call and freaked out over a non-emergency, that would obviously have a different effect on me than if the reason was that continuing on with an unmedicated birth presented a danger to myself, the baby, or both of us. Even the reasons I decided I needed pain medications would impact how I felt about that. If it was because I wasn't being supported, wasn't being allowed to do what I felt I needed to do to get relief, that would feel differently than if it was because I had tried everything I wanted to try and it just wasn't working. Your questions just aren't good questions, and that seems to be because of the fact that you don't really understand laboring women.

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#8 of 16 Old 05-01-2012, 08:36 PM
 
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I planned a natural birth with my first child. I did not have a midwife because none lived in my city at that time, so I was stuck with a physician/hospital birth. After 16 hours of natural labour at 41.5 weeks, including three hours of pushing, I got a c-section. I've never felt badly about the section. I really felt that, by the time everyone started recommending a c-section, my body had been screaming at me to GET HELP! for probably an hour. I knew in my heart of hearts that something wasn't right. My baby was OP with brow presentation. They attempted to reposition him (unsuccessfully) before giving me the "a c-section does not mean you failed" speech, but by that time I was so past caring about my birth plan and readily consented to a section. I have wondered if a natural birth would have been possible with a midwife who encouraged me to push in different positions, but I don't particularly regret the outcome. I didn't experience any changes in how I viewed my body after my failed attempt- I was simply thankful to birth in a time and place where c-sections are readily available when needed. I don't even mind the scar.

 

My home waterbirth vbac four years later was different. I had an uneventful, quick labour and delivery. Everything went as planned and my midwife was great. However, I had really negative feelings about my "ideal" and successful birth for quite a while. I wrote about it here, if you're interested:  http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1346447/sadness-after-natural-birth  I'm happy to say I no longer feel upset about my birth experience, but only in the past few weeks have I been able to look back on the experience as a positive thing. I found vaginal birth recovery to be more difficult than the c-section; although I didn't even tear, I was swollen and bruised for quite some time (6+ weeks) and found it very difficult to cope emotionally with the vaginal/perineal pain (possibly due to a history of childhood sexual abuse?). I often felt "broken" or "damaged"- all the things some women feel after a c-section. Nearly three months later and I still haven't worked up the courage to attempt sex, which I was ready for at 6 weeks postpartum after my c-section.

 

I admit I have bonded easier with my vbac baby than I did with my c-section baby. I don't know if that's due to the natural birth and the fact that I wasn't separated from my vbac baby as I was from my c-section baby (one hour, while I was in recovery after surgery), or the rush of hormones everyone talks about, or just because my vbac baby is generally a more easy-going baby. It did take quite some time for me to properly bond with my c-section child.

 

I have no idea where my views about "ideal" childbirth came from.My mom was pro-natural birth, but birthed in hospitals with physicians. My desire for a homebirth with a midwife was a pretty significant departure from the norm in my family. I don't know what specifically attracted me to that option, other than that I tend to be pretty "green" overall and believe that in most cases, nature's way is best. After the c-section I looked forward to a future vbac and the "I did it! I'm so in awe of my body! I feel changed as a woman!" feelings that so many women say they experience after a natural birth, but I didn't feel any of that. I did love holding my baby immediately after the birth, and that experience alone made everything else worth it.

 

Despite my experiences, I still consider myself to be a supporter of natural birth, and would plan another homebirth should I be blessed with another healthy pregnancy- this time with different expectations about the aftermath.

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#9 of 16 Old 05-09-2012, 11:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi again everyone, I’m sorry that I haven’t been around to reply to your messages over the past few weeks – life has kept me plenty busy, and I wanted to wait until I had the time to properly reply. First of all, a big thank you for the thoughtful insights and experiences that have been shared thus far! I realize it’s not an easy topic to talk about since it is so emotionally charged, but every bit is helpful for me to understand the complex layers contributing to negative birth experiences. (@CI mama, thanks for the support group tip – I’ll check it out!)

After reading through your replies, it certainly appears that this issue of “failed” natural birth is a point of concern that needs be addressed. I use the word “failed” to represent the feelings of disappointment and depression that are sometimes experienced when pregnancies and/or deliveries of intended homebirthers/natural birthers do not go as planned or don’t live up to expectations.

 

@Plummeting, you are of course correct to point out that there are a multitude of reasons for birth deviations, all representing very different scenarios and provoking very different responses. I should have been more specific in my original post. Thank you for calling me out on that. You say I’m not asking the right questions. What questions do you think need to be asked? (btw, I know I “don’t understand laboring women” – that’s why I’m here!) J

 

From the above posts, I notice two themes. First of all, there seems to be a great importance placed on “the memory of birth.” @Tri31, you remark that you don’t remember the first time you held your son, and @lisafalknerlmt, you say you don’t remember “75% of the experience.” I can only imagine that being “robbed” or denied the memory of experiencing this momentous life moment can be devastating. Especially after months of imagining and planning! Do you ladies feel that if you’d remembered your birthing experience with more clarity, that you would make you feel more positively about your birth (with interventions)?

 

The “birth memory” theme is linked to the second theme that seems to come up often: that of “birth expectations.” Anything can happen during birth, and the midwifery model of care aims to inform and prepare women for the fact that all births are unique, but despite this, there seems to be idealized (“revered,” as Tri31 put it), authentic “Natural” model that women try to emulate. Do you think that the natural birth movement is promoting unrealistic expectations? Where do these expectations originate from?

 

@Linnea27, thank you for sharing your experience of your homebirth with me, and I’m glad to hear that you can now look back on it in a more positive light. Do you think that if you had a different ideal/model of natural birth, you would have experienced your birth differently? You say that you didn’t share the feelings of awe and empowerment that women express after a natural birth. This goes back to expectations. What did your midwife tell you to expect? She did verbally or otherwise lead you to believe that you’d have these “super woman” feelings following your birth? Where did these expectations come from? Midwife, books, internet, friends?

 

@Lisafalknerlmt, thank you for sharing your story and I hope your second birth heals the scars of your first birth experience. After reading your post, I got to wondering something….You say that upon educating yourself after your birth, you realized you never should have been induced. However, do you think that you would have had the same negative reaction to your induction and resulting C-section if you believed that it was actually necessary for either for your safety or your baby? It’s difficult to answer these sorts of hypothetical questions, but I ask this because I’m curious if you are grieving the interventions because they were unnecessary or because you weren’t able to have the natural birth you'd longed for?

 

I'd like to keep this discussion going with whoever is interested!

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#10 of 16 Old 05-10-2012, 06:43 AM
 
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Originally Posted by nsb26 View Post

The “birth memory” theme is linked to the second theme that seems to come up often: that of “birth expectations.” Anything can happen during birth, and the midwifery model of care aims to inform and prepare women for the fact that all births are unique, but despite this, there seems to be idealized (“revered,” as Tri31 put it), authentic “Natural” model that women try to emulate. Do you think that the natural birth movement is promoting unrealistic expectations? Where do these expectations originate from?

No, I don't think that the natural birth movement is promoting unrealistic expectations. The birth I referenced was 16 years ago. The feeling of loss doesn't resonate from my perfect expectations, it comes from the loss of a sacred moment in my life. A piece of the whole that makes up my relationship with my first born son. I now take the possibility of losing a single precious moment with our new baby, quite seriously. It is quite ego centered to assume that "the loss of my ideal" would have a place of importance at all. I was 21. My expectations were that I would go to the hospital, and no harm could be done. I quess, I wrongly assumed that I would be fully educated about any potential side effects of any treatment offered to me. I was asked why I would want to suffer more, for no reason. I have since then given birth without drugs twice. It was a transcendent experience. I learned alot about myself, I grew into a more aware being. As for my babies were radiantly alert. Super conscious! Even the nurses in the hospital commented to me on the glowing beauty of each interaction with an unmediated newborn. Your are right that anything can happen during birth, and in the standard medical birth setting the possibilities are increased that something could. It's not to any ones detriment to educate people about that.

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#11 of 16 Old 05-18-2012, 01:55 PM
 
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I'll admit that your inquiry makes me a little nervous, mostly because of this site: www.hurtbyhomebirth.com

That Dr. is on a rampage, for sure.

 

I did want, however, to say something about the importance of the memory of the birth.  I wouldn't necessarily say that home/natural birthers are out to create a "perfect" memory, but I do know that it's incredibly important to a woman, psychologically, to have some memory of the experience.  In a highly medicalized birth, the mother has very little control over the process.  Loss of the memory of that time is kind of the final loss of control.  "Losing time" is very upsetting, especially for such an important event, not to mention waking up sore and battered.  It has all kinds of psychological implications.

I had a shot of demerol my first go around, and apparently was staggering around and told my mom, "I feel drunk!" Coming out of it freaked me out so much, I refused any more narcotics for the birth. 

With each pregnancy, I have nightmares (I had one last night) that I'm home, with the baby, nursing, and I realize that I don't remember a thing about the birth!  I try to tell myself, "It's ok!  At least the baby's healthy!" But I wake up in tears and sweating.

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#12 of 16 Old 05-18-2012, 05:41 PM
 
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Check out the "optimality index" created by midwives Patricia Murphy and Judith Fulleration Development of the Optimality Index as a New Approach to Evaluating Outcomes of Maternity Care.

 

This is basically just a tool that measures how natural your childbirth is.  It gives you a handy dandy way to determine how superior you can feel over another mother dependent on whether your score is higher than hers.

 

However, I would note that in the end, the index is total crap as the math provides that your optimality index score for having no inventions and a dead baby is actually HIGHER than having a number of interventions and a live baby.  Further it does not take into account how a mother feels about her own experience.  So what is it measuring again?


I support homebirth that meets the qualifications set forth in the AAP's 2013 policy on homebirth.

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#13 of 16 Old 05-28-2012, 11:39 AM
 
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birth memory: to be honest, I think the fact that I can't remember as much of my second birth is the only reason I've been able to cope with it. When the memory was fresh in my mind, I would get these involuntary shudders as I recalled the pain. Once the details began to fade, I began to feel more positive about it. I can't remember much if DS1's birth (the c-section birth), and at times I wish I remembered certain things (first time breastfeeding, etc), but I don't think remembering more details would make me feel more positive about it (but then again I don't feel particularly bad about it).

 

I strongly agree that the natural birth movement promotes unrealistic expectations. I have seen so many posts on other boards about how we shouldn't talk about the pain because that will give pregnant women fear which will in turn lead to pain- that if we can be fear-free our labours will be pain-free- but I personally think that is ridiculous. I think that sets women up for failure by promoting birth as this perfect, beautiful event, which will result in many women being blindsided by pain they were not expecting. I have read birth stories from women who believed that a positive mindset was all they would need and claimed to feel "betrayed" afterwards when they were taken unexpectedly by their labours. In all honesty, I think I struggled with that myself with my natural homebirth. My recovery was way worse than I thought it would be and I was so angry that no one had told me what to expect. Everyone said it would be way easier than my c-section and I'm not sure that was the case. I really wish I had gone into the labour and birth with better knowledge of what would happen to me. And, afterwards, when I felt less than satisfied with the birth, I didn't feel that there was any space for me to share those feelings because there is this kind of unspoken pressure to maintain the NATURAL BIRTH IS BEST!!! facade. I felt very alone. I've since heard from women with poorer outcomes (serious tearing, prolapsed organs, etc) say the same- that they were told their bodies would return to normal, and they were shocked to learn that they suffered bodily damage from the birth and felt they could not talk about their feelings because they felt abnormal for not having this idealized birth experience and pressure to maintain the natural birth image.

 

You asked me where my image of Superwoman came from. I'm not totally sure. I guess from reading natural birth stories. My mom, although she had natural births, didn't push that viewpoint, and neither did my midwife. But I read a lot of stories from women who said they felt changed/empowered/stronger/more in awe of their bodies/whatever. Even above, tri31 describes her birth as "transcendent" and says that she learned a lot about her body in the natural birth experience. That is wonderful (and I mean that genuinely), but when that's all you've read about the natural birth experience and expect to feel the same, and then feel only tired/broken/hurt/beat up/etc, there's something of a sense of betrayal, of being robbed of a valuable experience (which is what many women say after a c-section, that they lost out on an experience, but I personally felt that way after my homebirth and not my c-section. I had the all-natural homebirth- why did I feel like I had been hit by a truck?).

 

Despite all that, as I said above, I still consider myself a supporter of natural birth. I just wish there was more dialogue in society about birth- the good, the bad, the ugly- so that women aren't taken by surprise after the birth. Women with less-than-ideal outcomes know they aren't alone and where to get help and support. I think, even though I am a bit mad at the natural birth community for pushing the idealized view, I'm more angry with the medical community for creating that environment in the first place. By making birth something that happens in hospital, with drugs, under sheets and hospital scrubs, on operating tables, etc, none of us know anymore what to expect, what normal birth is, what it looks like. I don't believe that heavily medicalized birth (for healthy, low-risk pregnancies) is an improvement on natural birth. We know interventions have risks. But since that has become the norm, many of us who choose to go natural are walking in unchartered territory when comparing our experiences to those of friends or family members who had medicalized births. And that can be scary. If natural birth, or even pain-med births with fewer interventions, was the norm (for healthy, low-risk pregnancies) I think that there would be more realistic expectations and better experiences.

 

ETA: holy crap, rnra, thank you for posting the link to that conversation. I hadn't clicked on it before. I want to ditto most of what was said in that thread.

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#14 of 16 Old 05-29-2012, 11:01 AM
 
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Originally Posted by nsb26 View Post

I’m a Masters student collecting information for my thesis project on midwifery care and natural birth, and to aid my research I would like to start a discussion about “failed” natural birth experiences. From reading social networking sites and forums, I’ve found quite a few women expressing their difficulty in coping with natural births “gone awry.” By this I mean, women who deviate from their original natural birth plans, but who still give birth to a healthy baby in the end.

The "healthy baby" card is incredibly disrespectful to women. Of course most women would be willing to do pretty much anything for the health of their baby. But to say that the only thing that matters is a healthy baby, or to question why a woman would be upset about her birth experience when she has a healthy baby, is basically saying that the woman doesn't matter.

 

Situations in which plans go awry are often situations where the mother has real reason to fear for her and/or her baby's life. She may have been talked to condescendingly, disrespectfully, or abusively. She may have had intimate and sensitive parts of her body treated roughly or put on display, often unnecessarily so, and without any sort of consent or warning. She may be suffering from physical effects that may have a long-term or permanent impact on her health, sexual functioning, future childbearing ability, continence, or body image in general. She may have a baby who is "healthy" (ie. alive and not in NICU), but less than optimally so due to side effects of the interventions.

 

All of these things are potentially traumatic, and need to be grieved and healed from (emotionally and physically), not swept under the "healthy baby" rug. 

 

And even if nothing horribly traumatic occurred and things just didn't go as anticipated, she has a right to have whatever feeling she has about it.

 

Anyways, in my experience (as a doula, and from people's stories online), people tend to be ok with births where they feel respected and in control, regardless of whether things went as planned or not. And births where they felt disrespected and not in control tend to be upsetting, even if things went generally according to their original plan. I've seen people who had planned homebirths who were perfectly at peace with their decision to transfer and get a c-section because they were involved in that decision and felt it was truly necessary... but who are traumatized by how they were treated by the hospital staff.

 

Personally, I had three births that didn't go as I would have ideally liked. All ended up being more or less natural, with healthy babies. The only one I was upset about was the one where the nurse and the OB treated me like an idiot the whole time and seemingly purposefully disregarded my desires.


DS born 6/03, DD1 born 9/06, DD2 born 10/10, DD3 born 4/14.
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#15 of 16 Old 06-01-2012, 07:41 AM
 
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I’m a Masters student collecting information for my thesis project on midwifery care and natural birth, and to aid my research I would like to start a discussion about “failed” natural birth experiences.

 

Has your thesis project gone through ethics review? I ask because usually universities require ethics approval before working with human subjects - and most researchers I know disclose this before requesting information/stories etc. I'm surprised you haven't included that info here.
 

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#16 of 16 Old 06-01-2012, 08:06 AM
 
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In my experience, yes, there is deep disappointment when a birth does not go to plan. This is not just true for women who plan natural births and don't have them. I have also spent time with women absolutely devastated by having to go through a natural birth when the epidurals they were counting on for pain relief did not work. 

 

What makes these experiences "sticky" in the mind, as my DH says, are the words and actions of those present with you. My unexpected csection wouldn't have been nearly as harrowing had the hospital staff had even a shred of human decency. But they didn't. I was ridiculed, treated like less than a human being, and belittled at every turn. I labored for 3 days with a caring team of midwives who treated me like a laboring goddess, with gentle hands and soft words. But what I remember most often from my birth aren't those three days. It's the hours in the hospital that I remember, where I was told to stop crying, where a male doctor told me I hadn't been in "real" labor, where an anesthesiologist tried to forbid my doula from coming in the OR with us, and where a doctor tried to keep me from taking home my own freakin placenta. Where I saw a nurse roll her eyes at me when I couldn't stop crying about my c-section, and where the surgeons spent my son's birth talking about whether The Sopranos or Nip/Tuck was a better TV show. And where the total a**hole that delivered my son said, within my earshot, "I don't know why they always cry. I'm giving her her baby, what more does she want?" What more did I want? I wanted to be treated with dignity, you jerk.

 

I would've still had a broken heart about not getting my dream birth. Yes. But I don't think this heartbreak would be so difficult to shake and move past had it not been made "stickier" in my mind with all the barbs directed my way at the hospital.


"The Mothers are the brave ones." - Call the Midwife

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