April is caesarean awareness month and this year I want to explore the idea of the "failed VBAC". And the feelings that come with not achieving a much desired outcome that you worked bloody hard for. The take home message is: Failing to achieve your goal DOES NOT make you or your birth a failure. But we also don't need to be afraid of the word fail.
My own failures
I'm totally comfortable apportioning blame to various people and systems for the complications that arose during both of my births and acknowledging the failures of others. But for me that means I also need to acknowledge my own failures. I need to actually critically analyse what decisions I made and how I made them. My goal for my second birth was to follow my instincts and also to achieve a vbac - however I failed to achieve those goals.
Why? Because I "failed" to choose a care provider and birth setting that would support me in achieving these goals. I failed to ensure that my partner was adequately educated about my goals and what would be needed from him in order to achieve them. Just so we don’t think that I am taking on all the blame for this I think it is also important to acknowledge that the reasons I failed to make the decisions that would have been best for us are largely systemic.
The influence of others
My instincts whispered to me that hospital was a bad idea. That I wasn’t totally okay with my midwife. That it was highly unlikely that I would achieve my goals in hospital. All the other voices practically yelled: WE CAN’T AFFORD A HOMEBIRTH; YOU CAN WIN WITH KNOWLEDGE; JUST STAND STRONG; JUST SAY NO; Nobody suggested that my instincts were worth listening to, let alone that they were likely the only voice in the room worth listening to.
It’s exceptionally difficult to obey your instincts when every single other voice is saying something different and saying it a hell of a lot louder.
Failings of the system
There's a LOT of failing going on in our maternity care system - and it's not women who are causing it
The simple fact is that the maternity care system is not set up to facilitate births that see women come through feeling strong, powerful, and SUCCESSFUL. Between the restrictive policies, the power imbalances, and the god-awful language used to describe women and birth I'm surprised when anyone comes through feeling like it was a success.
One of the first steps to finding my way forward was to acknowledge that my understanding of the system was lacking - it's BIG. I needed to know how it works and the influence that it had on me, my partner, my doula, and the care and information that I received.
Finding my way forward
I am, however, happy to acknowledge my own "failures" because that is what ensured that I made different decisions for my third birth. And those different decisions lead to different outcomes.
I failed to choose the right care provider – so I chose different next time. I failed to fight for a homebirth – so next time I can made that happen. I failed to educate my partner – so next time I ensured that he had the information necessary to support me appropriately AND I ensured that I had the right support for the birth that I wanted.
My planned VBAC turned CBAC (caesarean birth after caesarean) was due to a lot of failures - but
none of this means that I believe that I, or my birth, were failures.
I hate the terms failure and success in relation to birth simply because they are so subjective. But I also don't think we need to be scared to use the word fail - it's okay to fail to achieve a goal or fail to make the right decisions or fail to do something else...Failing at something isn't the end of the world!
My take home message is this: Just as making a bad choice doesn't make you a bad person, failing to achieve a goal doesn't make you a failure. And while we can fail to make the right choices (which we will really only know in hindsight) or achieve a goal we don't fail at VBAC (or breastfeeding, or parenting etc).
You can fail at something and still be powerful.
Much love always, Lizzie.
PS: If you need help working through your previous birth/s from a place of love, critical analysis, and power please click here to get in touch. We can set up a free coffee chat to see which of my VBAC mentoring programs would be right for you and your journey.
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