I’m Sorry, We Failed: A Follow Up

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By Tracy G. Cassels

I recently posted this piece (click here if you haven’t read it and care to) acknowledging the many ways we have failed families in our society and that we need to stand up and take ownership of this if we’re going to change things.  It was well-received by many and yet many others couldn’t stand it.  I’ve been called everything from a bully to a sanctimommy.  And while I generally don’t care what people think of me, what bothered me is that it screams of another issue that I want to speak about – that we are systematically trying to ignore and strip away the voices of those who don’t conform to what mainstream parenting and birth is today.

I read comment after comment from women who said the piece was crap because they loved their medicated birth.  Okay, that’s wonderful.  But nowhere did I suggest that (a) women should feel guilt over their births, or (b) that having a medicated birth was bad.  I did, however, speak up about the many women who I know – both personally and via EP – who have had horrible birth experiences where they were subjected to interventions they didn’t want, didn’t need, and ultimately caused distress and in some cases, post-partum depression.  I’m honestly happy when people are happy with their births!  Isn’t that how it should be?  That we should be fully armed with all information so we can make the decisions that are right for us and be aware if things go astray what we’re heading into?  I know women who have fond memories of their c-sections, of their epidurals, of their inducted births, but in my happiness for them, I don’t ignore the other side.  Those who weren’t happy.  And so when you comment that stuff like what I wrote is crap because epidurals are great, you’re missing the entire point.  Epidurals CAN be great, but they can also cause grief for a lot of women.  And it’s THEM I was apologizing to.  It’s them who needs a voice in this battle to make sure their next birth – whatever it looks like – is something they can leave feeling happy about.  Like you.

I also read comments suggesting it was ironic that I speak out against those who treat baby training books as gospel because isn’t that what I’m doing?  Telling parents exactly what they should do?  Um… no.  If you’ve read the site you should be aware of that.  I make no bones about my views on certain things like CIO, but nowhere is there a guide here telling you how you should parent outside of providing information so you can trust yourself and look to your baby as to what is going to work for you.  Heck, I’ve written as much.  And the fact that of the people who regularly comment on EP here and on FB have such a wide variety of practices tells me most people get this.  We have all types of births featured on the site here as birth stories.  We have formula families, donor milk families, and breastfeeding families. We have bed-sharers, co-sleepers, and kids in their own room.  We have baby wearers and stroller users and those that mix it up.  We have all this because people here know it’s about finding what works for a family all while making sure everyone is educated about the choices they make and then fighting for everyone to have both access to this information and the ability to truly make a choice.  How can we say families have a real choice to breastfeed if they want when there are so many blocks up against them?  Or for a woman to have an unmedicated birth in some hospitals?  We can’t.  And that’s why we fight and work to provide education.

I also was accused of trying to make women feel guilty.  To this I shake my head.  If you read anything in this piece suggesting you should feel guilt, then I recommend you look deep inside yourself because you’re projecting whatever is going on in there onto me.  In not one spot does it suggest families should feel bad.  At all.  For the families who used CIO because they were at their wits end?  There’s no judgment, but rather a true sadness that our society is so screwed up that you got to that stage to begin with.  No one should have to be that sleep deprived and have to work and take care of a child and expect to do it all on their own.  They shouldn’t.  And that’s exactly the type of sadness I do feel.  I am deeply sorry that you want to keep this as the norm so that other families experience the stress of being that tired and having too much to do.  I would hope your own experiences would serve to propel you towards wanting to change that.

In some ways I’m really happy to see these negative comments.  As one person said, it means something struck a chord.  It also gets people talking, which is great.  But if you’re ready to jump on and say that your experience negates that of millions of women, please think again.  You are entitled to be happy with your choices as a parent.  You are entitled to not feel shamed for them.  The hope is that everyone can make real choices with information and support so that everyone can feel happy about them.  Because right now, a whole lot of people aren’t.

[Image Credit: Nicole Forrester Blog]

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  1. Aura Oosterveld says

    I hate conversations like that. I have gone in circles with people before, stating over and over that I was not judging the choices they were happy to make, only providing information. Doesn’t matter how often you say it, everyone acts like you are suggesting cutting off their limbs.

    I agree with both of your pieces. My only suggestion is, do not spend too much time, energy, or air space trying to justify yourself to those that want to tear you down. It will result in a blockage and prevent information from getting to those who truly need it and desire it.

    • says

      I do agree not to spend too much time, but I felt that if just a few people got defensive at the first and actually come and read this and see that it’s not about them, it’s a good thing. Here’s to hoping??? :)

  2. Lauren says

    I want to read a book called The Intolerance of Tolerance. Our society has made it such that anyone speaking their beliefs which are against society norms… anyone taking a respectful stance to say “I believe this way because of xyz, you believe your way because abc… and we can all get along and respectfully disagree”….this causes such an outrage. Its very sickening and disheartening. I think this is why no one lives their true lives anymore, but a facebook-filtered life that can be accepted by the general population… we aren’t true to ourselves and our beliefs because people really are outraged by this! I’m fighting to start walking in the light and realizing how hard it is not to comply with everyone.

    I had planned to have an epidural with my first baby because I really had no idea there were other options… I just accepted that’s what everyone did. He came unexpectedly 5 weeks early, and I didn’t realize when the labor hit. The nurse on the phone told me to take tylenol, drink water and wait 2 hours to come in even though my contractions were 3 minutes apart and extremely painful, but it was my first baby and I didn’t know what I was doing. My husband took me anyways after 30 minutes. My water broke in triage and 1.5 hours later after they finally put me in a labor room, as they were putting in the epidural, I felt the need to push… I was at a 10 but of course they hadn’t check since I got there because it was my first baby…. Then, I had to wait over 30 minutes to push until I finally requested any doctor please come (the doctor covering mine did not show up until after the delivery). The pushing part felt so natural (the epidural didn’t really have time to kick in nor did they do a drip because I was a 10), that I knew that this was how it was supposed to be, and I was not having an epidural with any other babies. I had a healthy baby boy, tiny but perfect. I was so frustrated with how the medical staff treats first time moms because we are not experienced, but it is natural! My body new exactly what to do. It was not encouraged to try it naturally. For my second baby, I had decided not to have an epidural because I had fast labor and 100% confidence I could do it because, fortunately, I had a great sample of what it was like. I ended up getting IV pain meds… the nurses were worried I wouldn’t make it even without an epidural because the pain was bad… yes, childbirth hurts, it is not unbearable, however. With my third baby, 16 soon months later, I was induced, but decided no pain meds whatsoever this time. I was able to labor on the birthing ball and avoided the hospital bed at all costs. My husband also stood with me. It was such a great experience even with being induced. The nurse was phenomenal and was all for natural births! It made all the difference! She was so encouraging telling me I could do it! You have to mentally get past that point when you don’t think you can bear it… because you can, your body is equipped. I avoided all meds and he was the best, easiest baby of the tree, super healthy. Seriously, it was such a great experience and I didn’t even end up with the baby blues after him. One point I would say, is that not finding out the sex of the baby really helped at the end because its a little extra surprise to help motivate you to push through :) Despite taking birth control and nursing, I just found out we are pregnant with #4…. at first, I was like, oh my goodness, what are people going to think? That we are insane? 4 kids under the age of 5? Yes, I suppose we are, but seriously, this baby was God’s idea… actually 3/4 were, so I am not going to be ashamed. I am so thankful for the experience to know what God has enabled my body to do with natural birthing, nursing, and attachment parenting. It is frustrating to think, that there is a serious reason we are all worried about living who we are and truth… because people really do judge, condemn and are super unkind to anyone going against the grain or their beliefs. It is so frustrating.

    I will tell you my sister and most my dear friends had epidural births or c-sections and they did great! The natural thing is not for everyone. But, I shouldn’t be treated badly because I am PROUD of the fact that I did naturally. I shouldn’t feel bad about saying that or giving God glory that he enabled my body to birth babies easily! We should all be able to be satisfied with whatever method we chose and be proud of it!

  3. Anne says

    I’m sorry that you’ve gotten such responses. I thought the piece was great!

    And I find it very bizarre that women who loved their medicated birth thought that that invalidated your piece. I ended up with just about every intervention possible, culminating with a crash section, and yet had very positive birth experience — and it is BECAUSE I had a positive experience that I feel so sad for women subject to unwanted interventions, trauma, etc. My experience let me know that it is possible to have what might seem an outwardly traumatic birth, but if the women feels party to what is going on and feels she has made informed decisions, that it can still be positive. Thus, I am even more inclined to believe that it is the system who has failed these women — either in providing unnecessary overmedicalisation or in removing her from the loop during needed actions — which makes your piece very relevant indeed.

    • says

      I’m so happy to hear that. I do firmly believe that as long as women feel involved and have some control, they can handle a lot. I’m thrilled you loved your experience – interventions and all!! :)

  4. Jennifer says

    I didn’t read the article as invalidating either side.
    Yes, I had a medicated birth. I went as long as possible before I broke down, and admittedly, my long as possible was short. First birth, husband deployed to a war zone, family 4 states away, I broke early, and asked for pain meds. But I went into it having done the research, knowing the pros and cons of both sides of the argument, with the risks of everything. I did the research ahead of time, and was supported by a wonderful midwife and doctor who advised me and answered questions.
    But not every woman has that. Not every woman has a midwife who explains different symptoms and talks with them about pain and nausea and mood swings and all the good stuff of pregnancy, some women have doctors who don’t give a care, and just want to get things over with. I feel bad for any woman who has one of the biggest decisions of her life made for her, forced on her, without being told what is going on.

  5. Anna says

    Hi, I just wanted to say thanks for posting that piece. I thought it was great and I felt it helped me to have a bit more peace with my own experience through the way you framed it. Thank you.

    • says

      You’re welcome. You are the reason it was written. All women deserve a voice, whether they fit with what society expects them to feel about a birth or not. I hope you can come to peace with your experience and I wish you the best of luck on that journey!

  6. Erin says

    I can’t put my finger on why but to me the original post did come across as an indirect put down to parents who experienced or chose the things you described. I think when people are essentially told, “you didn’t know better” they are going to be pretty offended because it implies that you do know better and who the heck likes hearing that? I get that your intentions were positive and you meant to speak to those who had regret or disappointment but somehow that didn’t come through, at least to me. BTW, I didn’t experience any of the situations you described so I’m not personally offended. But I can see how others might have been.

    • says

      Did the follow-up help in explaining it more? I can always acknowledge that sometimes the intent gets lots via the internet. The inability to go face to face and fully explain means people do read things into it that may be totally unintended.

  7. Cecile says

    Your commen : “That we are systematically trying to ignore and strip away the voices of those who don’t conform to what mainstream parenting and birth is today”.
    Is exactly what is happening and it needs to stop. We are not doing it to be bully’s or to be proud and feel better than others, we are preaching what is normal natural and is ultimately the best for our children and our future generations, we are not trying to pass guilt or point blame we are just trying to change the world one step at a time and for the better and it is what is needed right now in our crazy hectic society!! I think too that when people get so defensive they are deep down subconciously feeling some guilt and they need to acknowlegde that and deal with it and move on and learn from it. We need to empower these women for whom things have gone horribly wrong and not to plan and who are devestated with its aftermath. We need to acknowledge there heart ache and grief and not dismiss it with our defensive guilt!

    Tracey your posts make my day and give me hope, so for that i truly thank you again and never enough :)

    • says

      Thank you so much! I always appreciate when people understand what I’m trying to share – especially as I may not be so eloquent most of the time :)

  8. ali says

    Tracy, I think your website is fantastic. my son is now 2 and I wish so much that I’d known about you before now as I had a really bad time following a c section then my son didn’t manage to succesfully breast feed due to a tongue tie. He slept terribly but we didn’t know why and I read all the articles and books I could find and tried lots of different techniques and schedules and sent myself crazy. The true answer was probably that he was hungry and I was depressed.
    After reading this article I feel angry, about what is going on for so many women who have babies now. We’re expected to parent in a way which is against nature. we’re advised to practice things which only serve to create misery and distance us from our babies. Thank you for expressing yourself like you did.

    • says

      Thank you Ali! And I’m so sorry you had such a hard time. I do hope that things are better for you and your son now! And that you feel supported in your parenting decisions!!!

  9. says

    Hi, I’m so glad I discovered this blog. It’s funny because I blog about eating , working out, feeding my baby based on evolutionary principles but when it comes to co sleeping, I preferred my baby sleeping separately because I thought that would be better for him.
    He is nearly 9 months old and has started waking more frequently. I brought him to my bed since the past three nights after reading your website, but he has started waking more often to nurse.
    Everyone tells me I am doing the wrong thing and when you’re up at 4 am for the 4 th time feeding baby at 9 months when you know he doesn’t need it you wonder whether they’re right.
    Since he is waking more to nurse could it be because of the proximity? I wonder if it will pass.
    Thanks for your wonderful work

    • says

      Actually many people mistakenly believe that a baby doesn’t “need” feedings because they learned to do without them when separate. When allowed to move closer and nurse, babies will revert to what they biologically/psychologically need and many parents report the increase in nursings when they start co-sleeping later. It can be frustrating, for sure, but think of it as allowing your baby to tell you what he needs :)

      And yes, eventually it WILL pass. If it frustrates you, though, you can always check out some gentle tips to get babe to sleep longer :)

  10. says

    Also I was so disappointed with the way my sons birth took place. I was 37 weeks pregnant and the doctor induced me without telling me what she was doing because she was travelling nearing my due date! I had very bad labour extremely near and fast contractions from 2 cms onwards which made me break down and ask for an epidural. I am not upset with me taking the epidural at all, but i just wish the birth had taken its own course and my son would have arrived when he was ready. Who knows maybe my body would have reacted differently when it was ready and I may have been able to avoid the pain killers and long labour.

  11. Lesia says

    I have no idea why people thought you were criticizing them in your first post. It came across (to me) as saying “I’m sorry things for you weren’t as good as they could have been”, without judging what took place. My daughter’s birth was the complete opposite of what I’d wanted (I wanted natural, she was a scheduled C-section), but at least I was involved. It wasn’t really a choice as she was footling and doctors and midwives here are not legally allowed to deliver that way. But I got prep, I got information, I got (attempted) options – 4 ECVs – and I got support. Pretty much everything since has been what I’ve wanted (still breastfeeding over a year later, enjoying bed-sharing, baby-wearing and Baby-led Weaning…most of which goes against the “norms”, but are much easier on my mental state – I know she’s fed her needs both physically and emotionally). Thank you for your research and documentation so that I can provide support for my choices without having to spend hours scouring for the information from scratch!

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