The Vantage Point of Hindsight

The Vantage Point of Hindsight - A Realistic Look at our Popular Birth Culture

I chose to attempt natural childbirth with all three of my daughters, yet all three were delivered by cesarean section. With my second daughter, emergency surgery saved both of our lives. With my third daughter, I chose a cesarean because, in my shock and disbelief at hearing that our obstetrician could find no heartbeat, I believed it could possibly save her life. Unfortunately it didn’t, though it did end up saving mine, yet again.

I did not intentionally put my daughter’s life in danger by going two weeks overdue. I would never have chosen to attempt a natural labor and childbirth if I had known that my daughter was going to die. From the vantage point of hindsight, I wish I could turn back time and consent to the bi-monthly ultrasounds, the amniocentesis at 36 weeks and the cesarean section at 38 weeks. If I had done so, my daughter would be here today. I was scared of hospitals, a fear that began with my second birth and which developed into full-blown terror over the intervening decade.

I allowed my fear, and my absolute belief that I could have a natural childbirth like so many other mothers do, to color my decisions. I assessed risks, but unwittingly I was only looking at one side of the coin. I worried, questioned myself, asked questions and looked for reassurance on natural childbirth message boards. I was told about women who had gone many weeks postdates, women whose babies had no ill effects from passing meconium, women who had breech babies at home with only their husbands in attendance. I believed, completely and absolutely, that I was doing the right thing by avoiding induction and staying home until I was ready to give birth. I allowed popular birth culture to color my decisions.

I cannot turn back time. I cannot make different decisions for that pregnancy, that birth. I wish I could, more than I could ever express to anyone. All I can do is learn from the mistakes that I made, and hope that other mothers will find my story in the course of their own research and learn from my mistakes, so that they can make better choices for their own pregnancies and births.

The natural childbirth community is full of wonderful people, who mean to empower women into trusting their bodies and allowing their babies to be born into the world peacefully. They don’t mean any harm by advocating these beliefs, but unfortunately, it is all too easy for a pregnant and hormonal mother to become hypnotized by the adrenaline high of other women’s experiences. Too often, the risks are skimmed over, with much focus given to staying positive and avoiding negativity.

Conversely, I have read articles and comments on websites that convey the belief that natural childbirth is inherently dangerous and that home birth should be outlawed. I have seen grieving mothers who have lost their babies told that they deserved what they got, or that they should have known better. I have seen real, true information that will never be received by the intended audience because of the aggressive wording and nature of the writer.

What I have come to believe, in the 12 weeks since my daughter died and was born, is that taking an extreme stance on either side of the birthing communities is very dangerous. There is no one course of action that is best for all birthing mamas. Doctors and midwives are not always right, but they are not always wrong, either. Not all obstetricians and hospitals and mothers are created equal.

The risks of meconium aspiration, postmaturity, uterine rupture, maternal mortality and stillbirth are real, and need to be discussed as openly as the benefits and risks of episiotomy, amniotomy and epidurals are. The feeling that pregnant mamas shouldn’t worry themselves that their babies could die, because it stresses them out unnecessarily, is misplaced. Mothers need to know that it can happen to them, because it does happen to mothers just like them every day, so that they can make informed decisions regarding their health care providers, their birthing facilities and their births.

My daughter should not have died. I take responsibility for my part in her death, and I torment myself with how I should have done things differently, every day. I probably always will. It is my hope that by sharing my story… Clara’s story… other mothers will not have to experience the horrific sadness that is losing their babies.

Be smart, mamas. Don’t believe everything that you are told, by either your doctors, your midwives or your friends. Every article on the internet is not fact. Do your research, read both sides (good and bad) and decide the parameters of your comfort zone for yourself. Neither natural childbirth nor cesarean sections are the right answer for every woman. Find a compatible and educated health care provider who can guide you through the medical end of the journey.

If in doubt, get to a hospital and make sure that your baby is fine. Don’t hesitate. Above all else, be safe.

No soapbox or belief is worth the life of your baby. Believe me, I know.

(Please, share this post with anyone you know who is pregnant or trying to conceive. Help get the word out to mamas to be aware of the benefits and the risks of the choices that they make regarding their pregnancies and births. If we can help just one mama to make choices that prevent the death of a baby, than we have made all the difference in the world.)

 

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I'm Heather, a married mama of two tween girls, a stillborn baby girl (7/1/12), and a sweet rainbow baby girl (4/2/14). I've been blogging at The Destiny Manifest since 2001. I like to write about appreciating all of the beautiful little things that surround us, particularly in the face of grief, infant loss and mental health issues. Every day is an adventure!
  • Alyssa Troyan

    My heart aches for you and your family. Thank you for writing this post–to me it highlights the most important possible point of view–that extremes are dangerous no matter which end of the spectrum they fall on. I hope you are able to find a place of peace in your grief.

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you so much Alyssa. It helps me to know that I can share my story and hopefully help others in the process.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you so much Alyssa. It helps me to know that I can share my story and hopefully help others in the process.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you Luci, your words are much appreciated!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06663728252462007148 sylvia

    i absolutely agree with what you write here! it is all too easy to let our decision making being clouded by the natural birthing community. no extreme is goo.
    still thinking of you Heather, and continuing to wish you strength, peace of mind and much love!

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you Sylvia, I really do appreciate your words!

  • JanineHuldie

    Sharing this right now Heather and you said perfectly. Educating oneself is so very important in all periods of pregnancy. thank you so much for writing this and sharing your thoughts and experiences. You are brave and courageous beyond words.

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you Janine, I appreciate that so much.

      I don’t feel brave or courageous… I feel like I owe it to my sweet daughter to share her story as much as I can, in the hopes that other parents will not have to feel this terrible pain.

  • http://jdeneen.com/ Julie DeNeen

    I’m sharing it too. I hate the mentality of the perfect birth. It made my sister’s labor awful! A perfect birth is a healthy baby…no matter what way it happens. I want to recommend to you an article I read from a doula who writes about C-sections in such a beautiful way. http://carlysullens.hubpages.com/hub/women-who-experience-trauma-in-birth-suffer-art-helps

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you for your words (and the link) Julie!

      I believed in the perfect birth for so long… I believed that I had failed, because my first two births were c-sections, and that I was going to correct that perceived failure, by giving birth naturally. I was so wrong. Best of intentions… not worth much when your baby doesn’t come home with you.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you for your words (and the link) Julie!

    I believed in the perfect birth for so long… I believed that I had failed, because my first two births were c-sections, and that I was going to correct that perceived failure, by giving birth naturally. I was so wrong. Best of intentions… not worth much when your baby doesn’t come home with you.

  • Ddraig coch

    Oh I wish I could say something to stop you feeling you were even slightly responsible for your daughter dying.
    We are mothers, not Obstetricians. You are no more to blame than any other mother who loses a child.
    I lost my first at 24 weeks and begged the doctors to do something 5 days before he died. I had placental abruption, a blood clot first and I carry GBS.
    I also have 2 friends that lost their babies a month before their due date and one has found there is a pattern of mothers losing their babies at 41-42 weeks gestation, she campaigns to stop doctors taking this for granted.
    2 of my living children I demanded to be induced because of placental issues and pregnancy induced hypertension. They let me reluctantly after I threatened taking them to court if anything happened to my child. Twice I was right, both children were not breathing and the last ended up in Special baby unit with unstable blood sugar levels and body temp. That just happens to be a side effect I had read from taking labetalol during pregnancy. ( A Beta Blocker for Blood Pressure).
    So much makes my blood boil about the whole Maternity treatment in the UK.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you for your words. I am so sorry for your loss.

    My husband feels as you do — that I am absolutely not responsible for Clara’s death. I just can’t shake the feeling that if I had just made different choices… she would be here.

    There is so much wrong with maternity care/treatment in the US as well, but the alternative – avoiding hospitals and doctors by having a midwife-assisted (or unassisted) homebirth is not the cure-all answer either.

    The answer lies in listening to yourself, and finding a care provider who listens to you as well. Not the easiest thing to do, to be sure, but it can be done, and it is worth it.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you Janine, I appreciate that so much.

    I don’t feel brave or courageous… I feel like I owe it to my sweet daughter to share her story as much as I can, in the hopes that other parents will not have to feel this terrible pain.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you Sylvia, I really do appreciate your words!

  • http://www.facebook.com/wendyannmitchellct Wendy Mitchell

    I’m so sorry for your loss Heather and I hope that you can find peace through your writing. Shared on Twitter :)

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you for sharing, Wendy!

  • http://twitter.com/RealHousewifeSL Kelly Umphenour

    I lost a baby in 1994 and I was only 4 months pregnant. It was the most grief I have ever experienced. I’m so sorry to hear this happened to you. I feel you are still accepting so much blame and you can’t. If we could turn back time huh?

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Kelly. I do still feel so much guilt and blame… if only I could go back 6 months and have a complete do-over. I don’t know that I’ll ever get completely past these feelings, but I know I can channel it into helping others to make better decisions than I did.

  • Ddraig coch

    I do understand your emotions and they are “normal” as in some of us experience it.
    All I kept saying for about 2 years was ” I am his mother, I should have fought harder to get him out!”. Doesn’t help when you see babies born that preemie and they are now 10 or 11 with no major effects.
    I DO believe it made me fight harder and it saved his sisters and brother though.
    If it helps, turn your experience in to a cause, support a charity or a group that wants to raise awareness. I know it got my friend through it, well as much as it can. You can find me under this name on FB as I am also a writer.
    Take care Heather.xx

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07507820170531348664 Love and Lunchmeat

    Pregnancy and childbirth are unique to each person. There is no “ideal”. Just like life, we stumble through it, and try to do our best. I’m so sorry for your loss, but I also remember that nine years ago, my doctor was willing to let me go two weeks late… I ended up going before then, but that’s when the C Section was scheduled. For whatever that’s worth. I honestly don’t think it was your fault. Things happen. Things go wrong.

  • Emily (OhBoyMom)

    Heather, this was such an unselfish post because you are generously sharing both your pain as well as your learning and by doing so, you want to help others who are pregnant and trying to have “the perfect birth.” We just had a conversation about childbirth tragedies over Thanksgiving. My cousin is pregnant and my other cousin was bragging about their natural birth, etc. to my father, who is a physician. My dad has seen A LOT go wrong with deliveries, and he was very turned off by their attitude that their way was the best way. My dad would agree with what you’ve said here: the risks are real and you need to be smart. Thank you for sharing this and I will definitely share with others.

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you for sharing my post, Emily. It means a lot to me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00013599048413321239 Stephanie Sprenger

    I don’t have any words right now. I am glad you are reaching out and telling your story. I think one of the most important points you made was the danger of taking an extreme stance, no matter which side you are on. Too much about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting is deemed black and white and that is not right. I will share this post with others.

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you for sharing, Stephanie!

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Loss does make stronger women (and men) of us, I think. We have no choice but to endure and carry on, for the good of ourselves, our other children and our partners.

    I have a couple of different projects in the works, in Clara’s name, but I also feel that it is my responsibility to keep her name and her story “out there”, in the back of hearts and minds, so that our experience can hopefully prevent more losses in the future.

  • http://www.facebook.com/avcoxon Alexis Coxon

    Hi, Heather … I came across your blog after seeing a link on What Ifs and Fears Are Welcome. I am so, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story and for helping educate other moms about the risks of taking a philosophy to its extreme. Hugs and prayers for your family.

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you Alexis!

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you Alexis!

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you for sharing, Stephanie!

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you, and you’re right that there is no “ideal”. The end goal is a healthy mom, healthy baby. The rest just doesn’t matter, once you’ve lived through not being able to bring your baby home.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you for sharing my post, Emily. It means a lot to me.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Kelly. I do still feel so much guilt and blame… if only I could go back 6 months and have a complete do-over. I don’t know that I’ll ever get completely past these feelings, but I know I can channel it into helping others to make better decisions than I did.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you for sharing, Wendy!

  • http://www.facebook.com/isaac.kirkman Isaac Kirkman

    Tremendously powerful and words born where courage and heart ache meet. Proud of you.

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you Isaac.

  • Donating Hope

    Thank you for posting this and sharing your story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sara.snyder.94 Sara Snyder

    Heather,
    It’s hard to find words. I read your story, every word. We lost our son in 2011 from trauma at birth. I know your pain and my heart goes out to your and your family. Your writing will reach many women, and is important. I never thought any of this could happen to me. It did. I hope you find healing in time and know that Clara’s love will never leave you. You will find it in places you never imagined, leading you forward, making you smile in time. I hope you have a strong network of support, people that will listen. I understand your point about how people can’t handle the unpleasantness of such a sad situation over time. I’d be happy to listen, anytime, as would many others who have walked this journey. Much love to you and your family

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      I am so sorry for your loss, Sara. Thank you so much for your words and your offer to listen. That means a lot to me.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you Isaac.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you for reading and commenting!

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    I am so sorry for your loss, Sara. I appreciate your words so much. Thank you for taking the time to read and to comment. It means a lot to me.

  • http://www.sisterhoodofthesensiblemoms.com/ SisterhoodoftheSensibleMoms

    I am so sorry for the death of your daughter and for the heartache and grief you must carry around every day. I admire your bravery in sharing your story so that others might benefit. Ellen

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you for commenting and sharing my post, Ellen. It means so much to me that others hear my story, Clara’s story. I hope and believe that it will make a difference in other women’s births.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08500713474538106685 Kallay

    I am so sorry for your loss. :( How brave you are though, to speak so honestly and to use your experience to help others. There is healing in that. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you Kallay. Indeed, there is healing in trying to help others to not experience this kind of loss.

  • Turia

    Here from Creme. I think your post is very important. I am so sorry you had to write it and that you have experienced the loss of your daughter.

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you Turia.

  • Amber

    Oh how my heart hurts for you. I am so sorry that you have had to go through this and for the loss of your daughter. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you Amber.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you Kallay. Indeed, there is healing in trying to help others to not experience this kind of loss.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you Turia.

  • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

    Thank you Amber.

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  • Amy

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Ducky

    This is the first time I’ve seen your blog; I was brought here by a post featuring your story on the blog Skeptical OB: http://www.skepticalob.com/2013/06/a-mother-looks-back-at-her-daughters-postdates-death.html .

    I am so sorry for your loss, I can only thank you for sharing your story. Your insight will save lives, I’m sure of it. It has definitely made me think more critically, not only about hospital birth but also the ideology of the natural birth community.

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts, Ducky. I’m glad my story touched you in some way.

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  • Thistle

    This. Absolutely exactly this. I could not agree more. Doctors and midwives are not always right and they are not always wrong either. Information is power. Thank you for sharing your story and beautiful Clara’s with all of us. Sending love from my mama’s heart to yours.

    • http://www.thedestinymanifest.com/ Heather O.

      Thank you Thistle!

  • JustHeather

    Here from the Creme.
    I am so sorry for your loss. I will definitely share this as I do have friends who are pregnant now and probably more in the future. *hugs*

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  • http://mynotsosimplelife.com/ Ellen C

    Sorry for your loss and God bless you for the courage to share your story. Coming from a mom of five who has had both natural births and a c-section, not all pregnancies are the same. And I completely agree you need to arm yourself with information and then do what is best for you and your baby.

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