Saturday, 4 February 2012


I hear the words "I failed.  I feel a failure" quite a bit.  And I wonder about it.

First time mums (and they are not exclusive) find it hard when they've done all that they can do to facilitate the 'perfect birth' and in reality it is not perfect at all.  The makers of Persian carpets (actual Persians, not factories), so I'm told, always put a slight flaw in their carpet patterns.  This is because only God is perfect.  I kind of like that.  

I've mentioned before the mothers and grandmothers who have told the new mum how difficult breastfeeding was for them and how it will be for her.  I'm sure that I also mentioned that we needed to be careful of the things that we take on board.  These are the things that become stumbling blocks and not stepping stones.

My heart breaks a little when I hear a new client tell me why they don't think that they will do so well at the birthing bit.  It breaks a little more when they tell me that their mother said so.  I tell my children (for as long as I can get away with it) that Mummy's always right and Mummy knows everything.  This is one thing that my children won't hear from me, "my labours and births were difficult and yours will be as well".  I don't think that those mothers mean to put fear into their daughters, but that's exactly what they do.  That fear is something that I have to work with and help the expectant mums to put aside or at least come to terms with so that it doesn't revisit them whilst they labour. 

We look to the mothers and grandmothers in our lives to tell us stories about birth and babies. It is sad when we teach our daughters to fear childbirth.  When we complain that a BBC series like Call The Midwife is too graphic and hide it from our children because we hear labour cries, well what example do we set?  What is it that we are teaching them?  Is not birth as much a part of life as death?  Birth is not always a thing of silence, nor is it necessarily bloodcurdling screams.  We need to tell stories of birth, but not just the blood, guts and gore and "I almost died" stories.  There are plenty of those about and many people to share them.  

Why not share the stories of how we persevered and did better than we expected, even if it wasn't quite the birth that we wanted.  Why not talk about the VBACs and HBACs, the second time arounds where we went beyond the 4cm that kept us stuck previously?  Let's make our Plans B and C and tuck them away so that when our Plan A goes awry, we can reach into our bags for the contingency and know that ultimately we didn't fail.  


  1. What a beautiful call to action. I totally agree. I am so happy with my birth experience and it was NOTHING like I had "hoped" "thought" or (the worst!) planned but it resulted in the most beautiful boy in the entire world. It makes me so very sad when mommies feel disappointment or guilt about their birthing experience.

  2. It is so hard, isn't it? It may not seem like it but I do try to put a positive spin on things unless people actually ask, but I came from a background where birth was presented as great and very positive. Perhaps too far that way: dead easy and straightforward and women were making a fuss. I think this meant I really felt a failure. This said, I think you are right about moving towards the positive. In the violent craziness of my first birth I can find positives, even ones which are just life lessons - it really is worth having someone to hold and contain you when you are under pressure, for example, and to feel safe with the people caring for you. These are what led me to your door - or you to ours. I hadn't really done that the first time and circumstances were unlucky and conducive to panic. Even when things could have sounded awful (cord, not believed, tears, THAT taxi driver etc) the second time we felt confident because you had our back. Forever grateful, as always, L x

  3. had a shoddy birth (not awful, just shoddy) with my first SO when i was pg with my 2nd i DROWNED myself in mostly positive homebirth stories - i mustave read well over 100 - by the time it came i was really looking forward to the whole thing and it went pretty much smoothly (tho not perfect OR silent!) - and a zillion times better than my first labour

    so, im all for thinking positively :)

  4. I had a general anaesthetic and c section to give birth to my twin boys 13mo ago. I have just started to come to terms with "missing their birth". Its an immensely emotive subject for women who have a less than perfect experience.

    If i could go back a year and say anything to myself it would be this "they are alive and healthy and so are you ... Who cares about the rest" in reality though, i know i wouldnt have listened to myself anyway. I HAD to grieve for my less than perfect birth experience, its ok to feel envious that other people had a home birth in a pool whilst you woke up AFTER the event with a burst lip from the intubation and a drain and a catheter, with both babies asleep in a cot rather than on your chest. But like many things in life, i had no control over it. I cant change it. I couldnt have done anything then, i cant do anything now. I could scream at the number of times i tried to express my feelings of guilt or sadness or loss to my friends and got a "your lucky, trust me you dont WANT to go through labour, it was awful!!". I am lucky but NOT because i got to enter motherhood through the "pain free" side door (ps. C sections are NOT pain free) . i missed out on a potential experience which can give women a sense of enpowerment, accomplishment and joy if they get to experience plan A... But i am LUCKY to have my babies, however they got here and i am no less a mum because i didnt give birth to them "naturally". I am lucky, some people wish and hope and pray and pay for ivf for years and STILL never have children. So yes i am lucky and blessed and happy, and wouldnt change a thing!!

    Woah that was cathartic...

  5. Thank you for sharing your experiences. It is greatly appreciated.

    Personally, none of my births are as I would have chosen with the knowledge that I have now, but as has already been said, I can't change what has been, but I can live in the knowledge that I didn't fail.

    Mars xx