Birth Disappointment

Let’s talk briefly about the births that don’t go as planned. The ones that don’t look like the photos we see of a goddess crouching to pull her baby to her chest with a look of triumphant bliss and power. The ones where a surgical birth is the best choice for the scenario, or a baby going to the NICU.

As a doula I tend to have clients who have some desires for their birth. Many want to go as natural as possible and have evidence based natural options, such as delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin (and undisturbed for the first hour), successful breastfeeding, etc. We prepare for this. Birth classes are attended, practice relaxation techniques are performed at home, birth plans/wishes are written. These are all beautiful and wonderful desires. After all, you want to provide the gentlest and “best” start in life for your baby.

And then it doesn’t happen.

The parents may wonder what went “wrong”. How could they hire a doula, a supportive ob/gyn or midwife, refuse unnecessary inductions or augmentation, attend classes, read about their options — only to have certain options stricken off due to unforeseen circumstances?

In the Comfort Measures Class I teach, I say that labor is being dealt a hand of cards. Some women will have the best cards to be played. Others will not. As I also remind everyone: If each woman and her partner could choose the 4 hour labor where you gloriously breathe through contractions, barely breaking a sweat, birth your baby without any interventions and settle into an immediately satisfying and rewarding skin to skin scenario, complete with breastfeeding — we would all choose that. Sadly, that is not how it always works and in those cases we are grateful for the medical interventions available to us.

Placentas can break down. Infections of various sorts can render antibiotics or medical intervention necessary. A home birth may result in a transfer. Long and difficult labors may result in an epidural, augmentation of labor, forceps or vacuum assistance, etc. A baby may struggle with entry into the world and require a NICU stay.

Again, this is not your fault.

We do the best with how labor plays out. We do the best with different scenarios and medical intervention. The game plan may change but the goal does not. The goal is to have a healthy mother and baby who also feel ultimately empowered. Disappointment is certainly normal. Questioning how the labor went or choices that were made is also normal. When you have done your best — you have done your best. Be proud of that.

You’re still a great mom. 

If your baby had to go to the NICU, if you had a cesarean because it was the best choice for a good outcome, if your baby didn’t get the delayed cord clamping — you are still a great mom. Sometimes being a great mom involves a change of plans, like pumping colostrum and milk for your baby in the NICU. Everything you do for yourself and your baby makes you a great mom.

You are still a warrior in your own right. It just looks a little different.


Kimberly Sebeck, Knoxville Doula
All Rights Reserved, 2015



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