A mother looks back at her daughter’s postdates death

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Hindsight is especially painful for loss mothers.

Heather at The Destiny Manifest:

Our daughter was stillborn at 42 weeks 3 days. She never opened her blue eyes. She never cried. She never nursed at my breast or grabbed her daddy’s finger with her chubby hand, but she was still born, and she deserves to be remembered forever.

Why was she born at 42 weeks and 3 days? Because her mother wanted to avoid another C-section after 2 previous C-sections (including one with an inverted T incision). She knew women who had given birth at 43 and 44 weeks and those babies were fine.

She started labor at 42 weeks and 1 day. Over the next 2 days she continued to have contractions intermittently.

I woke up on Sunday in real pain. It didn’t feel like the labor I’d been having, and it didn’t feel like the way countless books and birth stories and friends have described labor. It was pain and it was harsh. I couldn’t sit, couldn’t stand, couldn’t lay down, couldn’t make it to the bathroom without help and I felt like “if this is what labor really feels like, I give up”. I told David that something felt wrong, that it hurt too much and I needed to go to the hospital NOW.

At the hospital she was examined and found to be dilated 5cm.

David was sitting by my head, holding my hand, both of us as excited as children at Christmas. We were about to have a baby! The nurses were using a handheld doppler to find the heartbeat, and it seemed odd that it was taking so long. They said that “maybe it’s because she’s so far down in your pelvis” and brought in an ultrasound machine and tech. A couple minutes went by and the tech said (very cheerfully), “we’re going to have the doctor come take a look”…

The doctor came in and began the ultrasound. After a couple more minutes, David and I looked at each other and the realization that there was a problem began to dawn. I said, “can you not find her heartbeat?” and the doctor said “no, here is her rib cage and there is no heartbeat there”.

Heather was devastated:

Time seemed to slow to a crawl. I felt cold, lost in some surreal nightmare. David ran to the bathroom and collapsed to the floor, sobbing. The nurses and tech disappeared from our room. The doctor said “I’m so sorry”. David asked if he could possibly be wrong, that maybe he made a mistake. The doctor said that there are no guarantees in life and that there was a chance he was wrong. I asked “how quickly can you get her out?” and he answered “with a cesarean, we can get her out right now”. I said, “then do it, get her out now”.

All thoughts of my much coveted vaginal birth after cesarean were gone from my mind. If a cesarean can save my daughter, do it and do it immediately. Cut me from stem to stern if that’s what it takes for my baby to be okay. But of course, I realized later that the doctor must have known he wasn’t wrong, that our baby was already gone.

During the surgery:

The smell of infection filled the room when our doctor opened my uterus. David stood and watched as the doctor pulled our daughter from my body…

I began to sob in earnest and the anesthesiologist, with tears running down his own face, gave me “something for anxiety”. The nurse called David over and handed him our beautiful daughter, Clara Edith…

Heather is honest about her regrets:

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…

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.

And she demonstrates tremendous insight:

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…

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.

Her conclusion is incredibly powerful:

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.)

You will never know who it is and how it happened, Heather, but by sharing your story you will prevents deaths and make all the difference in the world.

  • Lisa from NY

    Heather, I am so sorry for your loss. Your doctor who did the last surgery should have warned you. Once again, I am terribly sorry.

    • deena

      Are you kidding me?

      You must have a personality disorder. Shaming others so you can go on and abuse another victim. Outrage and determination to drive change is all your twisted comment will create.

      • Dr Kitty

        deena, I don’t think you’ve read the entirety of the comments on this post, have you?

        The only person throwing out insults is YOU, as suggesting someone has a personality disorder because you disagree with them is not very nice.

  • Petanque

    Thankyou Heather.

  • 42 weeks 3 days. too short a period for the life of a child.

  • Deena Chamlee

    Heather please know that you and your baby are precious. I tend to address the midwifery aspect causing your loss because as a CNM I find stories such as yours deeply devastating. You are not alone, there are many many women grieving all over this country because of inadequate midwifery led care out of hospital.

    And because of individuals like yourself, through your honesty and grief, mothers become keenly aware and so do CNMs. So thank you for your share and please please do not blame yourself.

    You are guilty of nothing. You wanted a vaginal birth in your own environment, with your family at your side. It is not your shame, it is the shame of the providers who lead you astray……

  • Christina Maxwell

    Dearest Heather, you are certainly not an idiot. You were led astray by people who should know better. People who are in denial and (for whatever reason) cannot deal with actual facts. I could endlessly speculate as to why they hold their dubious beliefs but that wouldn’t help you at all. You went with the information you were getting at the time which was all you could do and speaking personally I would like to do some horrible things to those wretched, stupid, mentally lazy people but again, that wouldn’t help you.
    You have shown such courage and blistering honesty in telling your story and I am sure your beautiful Clara would be very proud of you. You, by your actions have potentially saved the lives of many babies. Small comfort I know but Clara’s legacy will live on in those babies. Please know that on here there are dozens of people wishing you peace, comfort and love as you approach this most terrible anniversary. I only wish I had some magic way of taking away some of your pain.
    Much love to you and your husband.

  • Sue

    What a moving and insightful discussion from a devastated mother. It takes real courage to publicly admit your mistakes.

    Without wanting to detract from that, I did find it interesting, though, that (despite her positive attitude and being in her own home), labor was ”pain and it was harsh. I couldn’t sit, couldn’t stand, couldn’t lay down, couldn’t make it to the bathroom without help and I felt like “if this is what labor really feels like, I give up””

    No extra sparkles for being a believer and feeling safe at home – labour was gut-wrenching for her. SO sorry that she had to endure this AND lost a precious baby. All drive-by readers please take note.

  • Deena Chamlee

    So incredibly sad but at the same time so incredibly courageous by sharing. If direct entry are reading this is what I want to share.

    Please do not attempt home births with high risk mothers. Please stop and look at the inclusion criteria for home birth:

    Breeches, twins, VBACs, post dates past 41 weeks (because testing NST/AFI/BPPs must be started at 41 weeks to prevent such tragic losses and clients should be transferred to in hospital status for induction by 42 weeks), anyone with meconium.

    The losses have been much too great and it does not need to be anymore. It must start by direct entry taking personal inventories of their practice or by state legislators making the madness stop by refusing licensure or implementing standards for home births via law.

    Nationally midwifery is beginning to address the issue but that will take time. It would not take such a long time if midwives in the community started to stop such practice that is not the standard for our profession by any measures!

    • stacey

      LDEM/CPSs could start following the Netherlands protocols any day now. Doing so would lower the death rate quite a bit, as SO many deaths are due to inclusion of moms that should never be candidates. But they will not unless forced, if they even have the skills to, that is. Their philosophy is opposed to evidence based care, and they don’t have the education to understand where they are deficient.
      What a mess.

      • Deena Chamlee

        Stacey trust me I know. The direct entry pathway via PEP is woefully inadequate. And it is not working and hasn’t been since the very beginning. This is the recent meeting of MERA:

        Historic meeting of US MERA—A new era in U.S. midwifery

        An historic joint meeting of seven organizations directly responsible for education, regulation and professional associations for the three U.S. midwifery credentials—CPM, CNM and CM—was held April 19-21 at the Airlie Conference Center in Warrington, Virginia.The Meeting objectives were to: 1) strengthen the foundation for organization responsible for midwifery education, regulation and professional associations to work collaboratively to advance the midwifery profession in the U.S., and 2) grow together as leaders creating the future of midwifery in the U.S.

        Member organizations included, American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), Accreditation Council for Midwifery Education (ACME), American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB), Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC), North American Registry of Midwives (NARM), and National Association of Certified Professional Midwives (NACPM.)

        By consensus of those in attendance at US MERA (US Midwifery Education, Regulation and Association,) participants recommended the establishment of the US MERA Work Group as an ongoing entity with the following purpose:

        “The purpose of US MERA is to create a shared vision for U.S. midwifery within a global context, generate an action plan for collaboration to strengthen and promote the profession of midwifery in the United States, thereby engendering a positive impact on U.S. maternity care that will improve the health of women and infants.”

        Each of the identified meeting goals were met:

        Describe a history that reflects the ongoing efforts to move professional midwifery forward in the U.S., including identification of challenges and accomplishments
        Engage in a dialogue that creates a deeper understanding of current strengths and challenges for U.S. midwifery
        Develop knowledge and trust to support successful ongoing communication Identify opportunities for future collaboration
        Conduct a collaborative analysis of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) three pillars—Education, Regulation, and Association (ERA)—as they apply to U.S. midwifery.

        Within the next several weeks, the US MERA Work Group will issue a joint statement on its work together.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Yet, when we hear stories of midwives doing stupid things, all we get is “don’t blame us, we don’t agree with that.” Meanwhile, there are support efforts created to protect these beasts (see today’s post).
      Come on, Deena, if you were REALLY serious about cleaning up the garbage in the MW community, you would team up with Dr Amy to get rid of these clowns.
      I have said it before, if your defense is “we aren’t all like that” then your profession has got a serious problem. And you do.
      It’s not that it is “not the standard for [your] profession,” it’s that your profession does not have any standards. As a result, you have no recourse when there is a problem.

      • Deena Chamlee

        I know we don’t. This is beginning to be addressed at the national level but that is a VERY LARGE WHEEL. Standardization is not going to happen quickly. I believe only CNM/CMs should be licensed. I have told Judith Rooks this and everyone else in the Oregon ACNM Affiliate.

        Do not license a high school or GED prepared individual and call them a midwife. It sets the state up for litigation risk also. If you have to have a graduate degree to practice in one venue, then why in the world do you not in the other two venues.

        The states must take emergent action while the federal level is figuring things out.

        • Susan

          “If you have to have a graduate degree to practice in one venue, then why in the world do you not in the other two venues”

          Yes, I agree, and the irony is that there should be more education and higher standards for providers who have the most independent practice, not less.

        • Eddie

          I’m curious. What was the response you got when suggesting that only CNMs/CMs should be licensed for the time being?

          • Deena Chamlee

            Eddie everyone is struggling with the correct actions to take. Generally my colleagues do not disagree with what I have to share. In fact we engage each other in much heated debates at the ACNM affiliate level.

            Judith Rooks thinks that we dont need to be graduate prepared. She thinks we only need a 4 year University degree. But I disagree because of all the reasons I have shared.

          • Eddie

            I really appreciate that you are both in a position to help fix some of these problems, to help guide what actions may occur, and that you are speaking out and that you have an open mind when looking for solutions. I like what you have to say.

  • Valerie

    I read stories like this, and feel so so grateful for this site. I have learned a lot here, and it has influenced my outlook regarding childbirth. I have several natural birth/home birth friends who certainly made me feel naive when I made it known that I was having my 3rd section. There was certainly pressure to HB or at least birth in a birthing center of some sort. My gosh, they’d talk about VBA2C as though it was no big deal at all, and that the risks weren’t anything to worry about. So glad that I was equipped with the knowledge to realize that it was all utter nonsense! My third baby was born via my easiest c-section so far, and it was everything that I could have imagined my daughter’s birth to be. I shudder though, when I think of how easily swayed I might have been even 5 years ago…thank you, thank you for sharing these stories and for publishing information that can literally save lives.

  • Hannah

    Not quite related, but the Joshua Titcombe case, which has been covered here before, has become a full blown scandal, after it’s emerged that the regulator suppressed a critical report to prevent embarrassment:

    http://www.channel4.com/news/nhs-cqc-cover-up-hospital-morecambe-bay-names-revealed

    You can follow the developments in the case on Joshua’s father’s Twitter page:

    https://twitter.com/JamesTitcombe

  • Bethany Barry

    I would always be moved by this post, but it affects me particularly today. I’m almost 39 weeks pregnant with my second child, and just today was told that I am GBS positive. My test with my daughter was negative, but she was born with an obvious infection and spent 2 weeks in the NICU being treated with IV antibiotics for presumed meningitis. I suspected at the time that by GBS test was a false negative, and it appears I was right. While I am comforted somewhat by the fact that I can take preventative measures this time that will decrease the chances that my son will also be ill, knowing my daughter’s illness was not some fluke fills me with dread that the same thing, or much worse, will happen to my son. I completely understand the desire to believe that I can will the worst not to happen to me. I know GBS positive women with perfectly healthy babies. My two year old hasn’t had so much as an ear infection since her NICU stay. I want to believe that I am going to have a normal, quick vaginal delivery and be headed home with a healthy baby two days later. I’m tempted to peruse the internet seeking out stories where everything turned out fine, just to reassure myself (perhaps convince myself) that I have nothing to worry about. But…I can’t.

    • Leslie

      Hi, Bethany–

      I was GBS positive for all three of my pregnancies. Each time, I had IV antibiotics while I was induced, and each of my children was born perfectly healthy and ready to take home. You do everything you can to prevent problems, but please don’t let fear of things that are truly beyond your control ruin what in all likelihood will be a joyful, safe hospital delivery. You will be i my thoughts — I wish you every bit of luck and happiness!

    • Karen in SC

      I was GBS positive with my second. Had the IV of antibiotics with the small bag taped to my arm. When it was finished, I agreed to keep a heplock in. A few hours later, my son was born. There was meconium in the fluid, his first Apgar score was low, but we were released in a day. All went fairly well. (PS the mec was most likely due to being 41 wks with pregnancy induced hbp.

      Ask your doctor what the process will be. I’m sure it will go just as well for you. Congrats!

  • Charlotte

    So heartbreaking. It makes me so mad that women like Heather are lied to and their babies die because of it. No baby should ever have to die of postdates. None. Those claiming it’s safe to go past 42 weeks have blood on their hands.

  • Allie P

    My heart breaks for this poor woman and her family, and for all the women who have been deceived and misled by a dangerous ideology that values process over outcome.

  • HolyWowBatman

    I’m sure you’ve heard it so many times, but I can’t help but say it again…your heart was clearly in the right place, and you were sadly deceived. When you speak up now, you do your daughter an honor…but I am still terribly sorry for your loss.

    • Pappy

      Hear, hear.

  • stacey

    This tragic loss is very much due to NCB activists and their forums. It reminds me of sweet Shahzad, who’s mom got similar bad advice on a birth page, which led directly to his death. There was another notable death on MDC, where the mom was posting daily, and her cheerleaders kept giving her deadly advice, and the baby died. (cannot recall her name now).

    Many of these HB losses are directly due to NCB propaganda, but these are directly because of message boards and the clueless people that populate them. I wish people knew that the things they write, the idea they promote, and the medical advice they give, has REAL life consequences, and they can be bad ones.

    • Karen in SC

      Yeah all that deadly advice, then just pictures of candles after the tragedy was announced.

  • stacey

    So very sad. I know its not a new story, but thank you for sharing it. You WILL save lives.
    I am so sorry.

  • mostlyclueless

    Is the statistic she quotes (1 in 115 babies are stillborn) accurate?!

    • stacey

      I think it is, but they include early stillbirth as well, not just term babies.

    • Courtney84

      I’ve heard 1 in 100. Again that’s from 20 weeks gestation on, not just term babies.

    • Eddie

      From the CDC at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db16.htm

      Fetal deaths later in pregnancy are sometimes referred to as stillbirths (at 20 weeks of gestation or more, or 28 weeks or more, for example) [….] In 2005, a total of 25,894 fetal deaths of 20 weeks of gestation or more were reported in the United States, nearly as many as infant deaths (28,384).

      From 4.1 million pregnancies in 2005: 25,894 / 4,100,000 gives one in 158. This varies by year, country, definition of stillbirth, and so on.

      • Lizzie Dee

        Are there any tables anywhere that give more specific information about this? I have been a bit shocked at what seems to be an assumption that stillbirths before 40 weeks are different an unavoidable. It seems to me that there is a kind of blurry line between stillbirths where nothing much could have been done – those around 20 weeks – and those where something should or might have been. The CDC report indicates that some progress is still being made in reducing those after 28 weeks – presumably because of improved methods of dealing with micro-premmies.

        Because of what happened to me AND my niece, I get quite twitchy about what seems to me a rather complacent acceptance of the “unexplained” group of stillbirths. Prematurity may be undesirable (not to mention expensive) but I don’t imagine there are many women who wouldn’t take that risk over stillbirth. A baby lost at 36,37, 38 weeks is just as much an avoidable tragedy. I don’t know what I am talking about really but it sometimes seems that research into childbirth lags behind research in other areas. It got dramatically a whole lot safer in the middle of the last century. Is there no more progress to be made? Could some of the old assumptions do with being looked at again? Babies die, perfection isn’t possible, but is this the best we can do?

        • Lizzie Dee

          Can’t help, sometimes, following up on myself. Reading accounts like Heather’s – and about the goings on at Furness Hospital makes me so sad and angry. Life is full of tragedies, I suppose, and I am perhaps being idealistic/unrealistic to rail against that.

          This debate tends to be treated as hospital/homebirth, natural/medical but are those really the issues? Bad things do happen in both, and for me it is about women and attitudes to childbirth. When I came here, I was shocked and gobsmacked at how the discourses had changed, attitudes had changed and I can’t see this is any positive light at all. In nearly all other areas, the lives of modern young women are a big improvement on the way things were before – but not this one. It is possible that this is a false impression. I hope it is. But it looks scary and seet to get worse to me.

        • Eddie

          I think the problem is that they aren’t good enough at identifying the babies before 40 weeks where something is within days of going wrong. If they could somehow identify those babies, they could induce and prevent the stillbirth. Otherwise, just inducing early has other problems. Thus, the “39 week rule” that Dr Amy has blogged about.

          My understanding from that article that the practice of inducing high risk mothers at 39 or 40 weeks is what they are crediting the reduction in later stillbirths (after 28 weeks).

          I don’t think researchers are complacent, exactly about the unexplained group of stillbirths. I think they just don’t know what the best alternative is. Inducing every woman at 36 weeks would prevent a lot of stillbirths (for the right definition of “a lot”) but would introduce other problems at the same or higher rates.

          Regarding “hospital/homebirth, natural/medical,” I’d say that those are common axes that people use to divide these issues, but not the only ones. There is also understood-preventable vs understood-not-preventable vs not understood yet. Like SIDS, for example. Like Autism spectrum disorders. Or even like the high school kids who drop dead unexpectedly while playing sports. There are many valid and useful ways of looking at these things.

          I think there is progress to be made, and that this progress is slowly occurring. The low hanging fruit discoveries are already made, but that doesn’t mean the remaining problem are intractable. Just harder.

          • Lizzie Dee

            Eddie, you may well be right. Yours is a practical, pragmatic approach and may well be a lot better informed than my prejudiced, uninformed one. Perhaps it is too difficult (or expensive.) Perhaps there is research being undertaken that I would not be aware of. My own view is heavily coloured by two bad outcomes that could have been prevented, and a couple of babies born at 36 weeks who were a lot better off out than in, with no complications from prematurity. The “it wasn’t anything you did, couldn’t have been prevented” approach often leaves me unconvinced. I think that CDC report should have had three categories – 20-28, 28-35, and late. (Maybe it did and I didn’t read it properly.) One report I read was very, very critical of late stillbirths – IUGR missed, pre-e not taken seriously, chances taken. Obviously, the majority of women do not need to be induced, the numbers of late stillbirths may be so small the problem does not warrant attention. The placental function tests I had were discarded as not reliable – though I have seen arguments that they should be tried again. I would just like to see a whole lot more curiosity and open discussion about what exactly goes wrong. If doctors stick to the standard of care, they won’t get sued. A rigid 39 week policy just doesn’t seem that good an idea to me.

  • Jessica

    I came across Heather’s story last summer shortly after I returned to work from maternity leave. Clara died just a few weeks after my son was born. Reading her story this morning reminded me that she should be planning a birthday party right now, not contemplating a whole year without her daughter. It was just as heartbreaking to read today as it was last summer.

    My mother went postdates with my older sister, who was stillborn at 43 weeks. The grief is always there. It becomes muted over time, but it lingers. It is a burden too many women, my mother included, carry by themselves with little support or understanding.

    Heather, if you read this – I am so deeply sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing Clara’s story.

    • LovleAnjel

      My mother went to 43 weeks with me. Once I hit 40 weeks, I’m going to immediately bring up an induction or C-section. I won’t take that chance, especially after reading Clara’s story.

      • Jessica

        I was very concerned about not going into labor naturally, especially since my mother’s older sister also had a 43 week stillbirth. “Fortunately” for me, I have chronic hypertension, so I was able to be induced at 39w, even though the blood pressure was relatively stable and I didn’t need medication. I’ve never regretted the induction, and on parenting forums speak up about my experience. Making an informed decision about the risk and benefit of an intervention includes knowing the risk of not intervening – something the NCB advocates downplay or dismiss outright.

      • Allie P

        Even before I hit 40 weeks I asked about contingency plans, as my cervix was not being cooperative. I was pretty sure on dates, and my OB said to me, “Nothing good happens after 40 weeks.” We induced at 40w5d with Cervadil, had a vaginal childbirth, and my girl is fine.

        Nothing good happens after 40 weeks. Get the baby out, no matter how you have to do it.

  • Thank you for sharing my story, Amy.

    It’s been almost one year since we lost Clara, and the knowledge that I could have changed everything still hurts just as much. I wish I had known, that I hadn’t been so set on having a natural birth. It seemed so very important at the time… and now, who gives a damn about natural birth when the cost is your baby’s life?

    If I could go back in time, if I could have a do-over, I’d walk into the hospital on my due date and ask for the repeat c-section that would have put my living, breathing daughter in my arms. If only…

    • Thank you for honoring your daughter’s existence by sharing a story that might save some other family from enduring the same tragedy.

    • stacey

      I am so sorry. You did what you knew to be best, just like we all do.

    • Guestll

      Heather, I’m so very sorry. I’ve been thinking about you since I read your story this morning. Nobody should have to shoulder your family’s pain. Again, I’m sorry.

    • KumquatWriter

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Are you doing something for her birthday?

      • Thank you Stacey. We are releasing balloons and sky lanterns on her birthday.

        • KumquatWriter

          Your reply was to me, KumquaWriter – but how lovely the birthday memorial sounds! I hope it helps, and that you have had (and still have) good support.

          • I’m sorry about that. Until I refreshed, every new comment was by “stacey” and I was trying to figure out how many staceys there were here. My apologies!

          • KarenJJ

            Disqus can be very buggy like that.

          • KumquatWriter

            Oh no need to apologize! I know how disqus works, so I was letting you know 🙂 There’s only ONE Stacey (but she talks enough you’d think there were more 😉
            (Stacey is a BFF, so its from a place of love)

    • AmyM

      I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for being willing to share your story, in the hope that someone else will benefit. That takes a lot of strength.

    • Bomb

      I am very sorry for your loss.

    • Dr Kitty

      I’m so sorry for your loss, your birthday memorial sounds lovely, and Clara’s name is in my heart with the names of all the others (Shazad, Vylette, Sam, Aquila, Mary Beth and others).

      You won’t ever forget her, and we’ll remember her too.

    • Charlotte

      My heart breaks for you. I can’t even begin to fathom your pain. I know that sharing Clara’s story is going to help other women avoid the same tragedy, and I thank you for telling about your loss.

    • realityycheque

      Thank you so much for sharing your story Heather, I have no doubt that in doing so you will be saving lives.

      I am so sorry for your loss, your story brought tears to my eyes… it is something no parent should ever have to go through.

    • yentavegan

      Heather, you are warning other loving mothers to make different choices lest they suffer the same outcome as you. You are doing an act of loving kindness for total strangers, and that is a brave selfless “mitzvah”. I hope you and your family remain strong for each other.

    • Lori

      So sorry, I cannot even imagine. I think your story is so powerful and rings true that many earnest people are doing what they think is truly the best, the safest thing for their child and would make different choices if they knew the real risks. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Box of Salt

      Heather O,

      I am sorry for your loss.
      Thank YOU for sharing your story.

    • Eddie

      Your story brought tears to my eyes. I hope that many future mothers-to-be will read and learn from your story.

    • Pappy

      You are an incredibly brave and powerful woman. Admitting and taking responsibility for our poor choices is one of the hardest things in the world to do, but you have the courage and honesty to do it. While nothing can remedy the loss of beautiful Clara, it’s inspiring to see how you have found a way to transcend this tragedy and use your story as a way to help other women. I truly hope you and your husband can someday find peace after this awful loss.
      RIP, sweet Clara. We are all truly poorer for having lost you. :’-(

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Thanks for all your comments, Heather. I really feel terrible for you.

      As others have suggested, it would be nice if we could figure out how to help others. You have focused on how you didn’t believe the risks applied to you (I think that’s the best interpretation). But I’d like to examine a different aspect:

      I wish I had known, that I hadn’t been so set on having a natural birth. It seemed so very important at the time

      Why was that? Perhaps the problem was not so much that you ignored the risks, but that you overinflated the benefits?
      If that is the case, then the challenge is NOT about making sure everyone understands the risks, but that we focus on not overinflating the benefits?
      I see you situation as a textbook example of how the NCB pretense is harmful. A key message of this blog is that NCB is NOT inherently better, and there is nothing wrong with intervention. As you say, who gives a damn about natural birth when the cost is your baby’s life?
      From what you have said, this is the real message that needs to be said. We need to get away from this attitude that a natural birth is so important that we deny the risks.
      And, as I always say, interventions prevent emergencies. If you have an emergency, you waited too long to intervene.

    • JennGruden

      Hey Heather. I lost a baby due to a cord accident; her story’s on the site, just search for Emily Hope. Hang in there. If my experience is anything to go on, it always hurts but it really does, over time, become a part of the landscape of life. Sharing your story likely has saved other babies and will continue to do so. Many good thoughts your way.

  • Nicole

    Was she receiving pre-natal care? If she was, didn’t the practitioner order a non-stress test before/at her due date? For all of this b.s about “unnecessary C-sections,” I’d say a C-section here was quite necessary and would have led to a completely different outcome. So, please, Hippie Birth Freaks, STFU when it comes to knocking and criticizing and bullying of women around the subjects of birth and C-sections and hospitals and Ob-GYNs. You all
    have blood on your hands. And mothers, be ‘informed.’ Avoid those quacks and nutjobs. Get yourself a good OB-GYN, register at a reputable hospital, and focus on getting your baby here safe and alive. Don’t let the birth bullies bully you. Where are they in situations like these? They’ve moved on. They are egotistical narcissists who couldn’t give a shit about your unborn baby. But they’ll sure give you their 2 cents on how he/she
    arrives.

    • I was receiving prenatal care, until the middle of my third trimester, when my OB told me that she would not attempt a VBAC with me, that she would only allow a c-section. I thought I knew better, so I didn’t go back and she officially “fired” me. So no, I didn’t have a NST.

      I relied on feeling my active baby kicking — and on the many forums that celebrated how you don’t need a doctor/midwife to have a baby, that women “just know” when something is wrong. I believed it. I can’t tell you how many times I said, “I would *know* if something was wrong! I’m the *mother*.”

      The problem was, I didn’t realize when she wasn’t kicking/moving, because I was in labor by that time. It honestly didn’t occur to me that my baby could die at that point… I was past my due date, so I thought I was home free. I posted daily on natural birthing forums and was reassured over and over that “I went to 42/43/44 weeks with no problems” and “a normal pregnancy goes to 42 weeks, so no need to worry”.

      I was an idiot, and I can tell you honestly that I didn’t know any better, but that’s because I didn’t look for stories with bad outcomes. I didn’t want to think about bad outcomes, because I believed it wouldn’t happen that way for me.

      You can’t imagine what it feels like when you realize in a sharp, blinding flash that you don’t just *know* when something is wrong, which was the basis for so many of my birthing beliefs.

      • stacey

        I would not say you were an idiot. I think you were a normal, scared, mom, that was looking to find stories of reassurance that they could indeed birth their baby.

        This is what makes NCB so dangerous- you do not have to be “an idiot”, or dumb, or even naive, to believe in it. We ALL want to hear things that are reassuring during times of great change, and the simple fact is that most of the time, even dangerous actions are rewarded with a healthy baby. Those with happy stories will be the ones you hear most. Even if you actively seek out the bad outcomes (and what pregnant mom does this?), they will be much less frequent, which lulls people into thinking it cannot happen to them.

        I know the feeling of shock when you think you know what is going on with your baby, and are find you are dead wrong. Intuition did not save my DD, but a high res US and surgery did. Had I kept on thinking nothing was wrong- I was healthy, all was well!- we would have lost her at 20W to IC.

        • My husband would definitely not be pleased with me for the “I was an idiot” comment, because he’s spent the better part of a year trying to convince me that it’s not my fault because I didn’t know. He’s right that I would never have intentionally put my daughter at risk.

          The fact remains that my decisions killed her, and maybe it’s because I’m within 11 days of her birthday, and it keeps resonating in my head that one year ago TODAY, I could have changed our lives, her life… but I do feel like an idiot.

          • Laura

            Ohh, Heather, my heart goes out to you. I have always said that regret is a cruel companion. But, you have other sweeter companions, no? You have two other children and a husband who sounds like he’s been doing his best to comfort you. I am confident that as time goes on and you tell your story – which you do so articulately and sincerely – that there will be babies lives saved because of that. I hope and pray that you will find some comfort in that fact, if only a little.

          • Susan

            Heather, I think I would side with your husband. I think of Sara here, whose son died after a breech birth at a birth center, she too got hooked by the natural birth ideology, and was under the care of midwives who were enmeshed in it to the point that they justified falsifying her records to protect themselves, she’s no fool either. Are all people who fall for con men idiots? Many cons are very believable. You are clearly NOT an idiot and I was stunned by the honesty and clear articulation of what led you to make the choices you did. Nothing about the way you’ve bravely tried to help others not be deceived by the “con” of natural birth is idiotic and you I don’t believe you ever were an idiot. You sadly, were exposed to some very believable and seductive misinformation. You, and your dear baby, paid the price for it that so many get away with and go on believing they made a “safe” decision and encouraging others to make the same unsafe (albeit well intentioned) choices. What you described so well is how a well meaning and intelligent person can be seduced by this movement and pay the price. You didn’t describe an idiot, and that’s actually what’s most poignant and important about your story.

          • Thank you, Stacey.

          • KumquatWriter

            THIS TO INFINITY! ^^^

          • Lizzie Dee

            Heather I am so sorry you and your family had to go through this awful experience.

            Your decision didn’t kill your daughter. Your daughter died, and on top of the horrible grief you are having to deal with realising that the advice that made you feel OK about your decisions was false. That is a terrible thing – but you are trying to help others avoid falling into the same seductive trap. You will make a difference and I hope there is some small comfort in that.

          • Bomb

            *hugs*

          • Sullivan ThePoop

            You are definitely not an idiot because you realize the mistake you made and other than being too hard on yourself can face it with logical reasoning. Pregnancy is such an emotional time in a woman’s life and kind of like being a teenager with hormones raging it is easier to fall prey to some irrational advice especially when it seems all sparkly and wonderful and just what you want to hear.

          • KumquatWriter

            Anniversaries are so hard like that. It just brings so much with it – little subconscious things, like the quality of the light, the smell off what’s blooming, etc. I hope you can feel less guilty once this first round of reliving it in your heart passes. <3

      • Jenna

        No, (((Heather))), you weren’t an idiot. You genuinely believed that you were making the best decisions possible. What makes the NCB community so dangerous is that they HIDE bad outcomes, so how could you possibly have picked up accurate info from them? From what I remember of Mothering dot com they will delete any homebirth/unattended birth story that goes badly. That is unconscionable.

        • stacey

          THIS

          Many boards and forums will delete and ban those with bad outcomes because they are “spreading fear” or some such nonsense.

          There are a few exceptions, but those are made only for those that say “it would have happened anyway, anywhere, thank god I got my HB/VBAC/NCB!” You get to stay, and have a little candle or angel in your sig, if you keep parroting the NCB lines.

          Dare to say that the advice they shared was deadly, or your MW was to blame, or that it wouldn’t have happened had you had a hospital birth/CS/induction, and out you go. With enmity. They often scrub all posts related too. It is one of the most disingenuous things I have ever seen.

          You didn’t see bad outcomes most likely because there weren’t any to see on the pages you visited! They are shared here, and on related sites, but any good NCBer knows to stay away from any place Dr Amy is (if you even know these sites exist to begin with)!

      • Bomb

        Heather, when I was planning a homebirth I DID actively search for bad outcomes and I still convinced myself that we could avoid making those mistakes, that we could be risked out, etc etc. You are not an idiot.

      • Allie P

        I’m so sorry for your loss, Heather. You are very brave for putting your personal experience out there to try to save other families from your experience. Thank you.

      • Ducky

        Thank you so much for sharing Clara’s story, Heather.

        I just wanted to reiterate, as others have, you were not an idiot. I know those words don’t have much meaning, but many other women could have been in your shoes. Repeat c-sections are also not without risk and the natural birth community was encouraging you to weigh that risk much more heavily than the risk of other complications. At the time, you made the best decision you could based on the information available to you. To begin with, a “good” decision can only be made with correct information… and even then, we determine the validity of information based on gut intuition – trust and past experience – much more than anyone would like to admit. I don’t think obstetrics is perfect but unfortunately the natural birth community community courts the trust of women and dispenses medical advice without the authority to do so. From the perspective of risk perception, women who have had traumatic hospital experiences and have a distrust for that system are particularly vulnerable to NBC advice.

        I’m so sorry for the loss of Clara Edith. She’s beautiful. **hugs**

  • Susan

    Wow. Heather is courageous. How sad and how brave and good of Heather to pour her heart and personal details of this sad death. I hope that Clara Edith can save some lives with what her mom wrote. Having been the nurse, more than once, to first realize that there was no heart beating when a mother came in to the hospital, it’s exactly the horrible thing that Heather described so eloquently. The shock and dawning of realization by the parents is tangible and it’s painful to even witness it. It must be horrible to be able to deal with the what if’s in any stillbirth. But a stillbirth of a post-dates baby when the mother was caught up in the natural childbirth ideology, that’s got to be the worst. I think Heather is unique in her ability to look at things and describe them so other’s will understand. I hope her message is heard by many.

  • Jenna

    I am 43 years old and 36 weeks pregnant. Stories like this are what’s making me advocate for an induction earlier, rather than later. I won’t go beyond 40 weeks, but which is “safer”? 39? 38?

    • Guestll
      • Ainsley Nicholson

        At 42, my OB is inducing me at 39 weeks if I don’t go into labor spontaneously before then.

        • Karen in SC

          Congratulations to both of you!! I had my last child just as I was turning 40. So, in good company hahaha.

    • stacey

      At that age I wouldn’t go past 39, but if you have a good bishop score at 38, maybe you can get it even sooner.

      • Jenna

        I believe the hospital’s policy is not to allow for “elective” inductions until 39 or 40 weeks. The weekly biophysical profiles are about to begin and if they show any issues I know they’ll induce right away. My Bishop’s score is probably decent right now since I’m a grandmultip. 🙂

        • stacey

          I think AMA and grand multiparity ARE considered reasons for induction. I HATE the 39 week rule. HATE it.

    • anon

      I just had my third at 37yo. I am reasonably educated, even work in health care (pediatrics, though, not OB), and I had no. idea. that AMA was a reason to induce prior to 40 weeks. My doctor offered me induction, since he was my third, and I declined but made it very clear that I was not remotely opposed to the idea, that I had zero problem if she thought it was better, but all things being 100% equal, I’d rather just go into labor. She was willing to let me go a full week post-dates, but he came the second day after his due date.

      I am glad I am done having babies because this crap is way too goddamn scary for me.

      • Lizzie Dee

        Just had that conversation with my daughter, and she has decided to stop at two for the same reason,

        That CDC link said that the risks with three and more was also significant. No 1 is iffy, no 2 usually much better, then the risks go up again.Nice if you can stay blissfully unaware or certain that you are fireproof. Confidence IS justified, but it doesn’t come easily to some of us.

        • anon

          I’m just genuinely shocked to learn this- my doctor, who is actually pretty darn conservative, presented it like a choice between chocolate and vanilla. just pick your preference.

  • I don’t have a creative name

    Tears, Heather, so many tears for your precious Clara Edith and the pain you and your family are experiencing right now.

    Thank you for your courage in speaking out. You will most likely be crucified by those who don’t like anyone speaking against the cult of NCB. Stand strong and keep talking about your daughter. You may just save a life.

  • Jocelyn

    This is heartbreaking.

  • So sorry for this woman and family’s loss.

  • grenouille

    I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful baby and I admire your courage in sharing your story. It really will save lives.

    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.

    This is really powerful. There seems to be a lot of magical thinking about pregnancy. During my three complicated pregnancies, I found that any mention I made of risks to friends was immediately and emphatically shushed. As if the mere mention of complications would bring them on. My friends were outraged that my doctors discussed what would happen if they had to induce labor very early, the plans for steroids, the likely care my baby would receive in the NICU. “That won’t happen to you! You are fine!” As it turns out, they were right. None of those things ended up happening, but I was still grateful for the information, not matter how intimidating it was to hear. Ignorance is not bliss.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      I just don’t understand the magical thinking point of view. Or maybe I understand it, it just seems to be such a superstitious way to think.

      I am reminded of people I know who will not get breast exams or pap smears. Because they are afraid that something bad will be found. As if by acknowledging the possibility, they will “make” the bad thing happen. As if by saying the words they will call down the bad thing upon themselves, so if they don’t acknowledge the possibility, it won’t happen.

      • Roze of the Valley

        new agers do actually in ‘law of attraction’ where basically your thoughts attract good or bad things. its really messed up to because they can blame the victims of pretty much anything. i have chronic fatigue and since they arent sure about what causes it a lot of quacks have capitalized off pretending to treat it. ppl need to be a bit more skeptical no one asks to be sick, disabled or have their own baby die.

        • Grant LaBelle

          Did you ever figure out what your chronic fatigue was caused by? Fellow CFS victim here who’s always looking to potentially compare notes.

    • stacey

      A MAJOR issue with ignorance about likely issues is that when something bad does happen, the mom (and family) is at a serious disadvantage. They will be totally unable to make informed choices, and will have no idea what is going on, which can be very scary. They will put themselves in the situation they claim to dread most- helpless, with their lives in the hands of doctors. All the talk about “informed decisions based on evidence” is worthless if you are clueless.

      I don’t think all moms should have to know all risks, but the basics should be covered, especially if you are going against the standard of care. When you have certain risk factors, going over possibilities is a must. How can you plan if you do not know?

      My DD was a high risk pregnancy and I had to hear all about possibility of a pre viability birth, and likely prematurity. Good thing, since we did have her at 33w and needed the steroid shots. I cannot imagine being in that situation, having no idea what might happen. This is a recipe for making a stressful situation terrifying and traumatic. (but thats what NCB does best- create traumatized moms….)

      • Allie P

        This is why I never understood those moms on the forum who wouldn’t get diagnostic US or other prenatal testing because they were like “well, we wouldn’t terminate, so…”

        So what? Isn’t knowing better than not knowing? If I were to find out I was carrying a baby with, say, DS, I would want that knowledge as early as possible, so I could prepare, both emotionally and in terms of picking up a book or two about any special challenges preparations I’d have to make raising a special needs child. I’d want to have a consultation with a cardiologists, maybe even get diagnostic testing done to see how my baby’s heart was doing. There are so many positives to knowing.

        Of course, I’m one of those utterly unromantic sorts who found out the baby’s sex at 20 weeks, and am completely incapable of understanding why it’s “a surprise” only at birth. It was totally “a surprise” for us at 20 weeks.

        • realityycheque

          The “we wouldn’t terminate” thing completely overlooks ultrasounds that are used to detect abnormalities where early detection could SAVE the child’s life.

        • anon

          it’s obviously a surprise either way. the longer anticipation is what’s fun, for some of us. When I was pregnant with my first, I was completely shocked by the acrimony on both sides of this issue. I mean, who cares what anyone else does for REAL when it comes to this? good night.

  • FormerPhysicist

    I’m so sorry.

  • Guestll

    On a pregnancy message board to which I once belonged, there were a fair number of women who’d brag about their postdates births, and dismiss any comments or questions about the inherent risks.
    Despite passing a few NSTs and BPPs, one member subsequently lost her baby just past 42 weeks. The placenta stopped functioning properly and her baby essentially starved to death.
    This woman had the courage to accept that her decision to refuse induction resulted in the death of her baby, and she made a point of countering the “babies know when to be born/some babies just bake longer/babies aren’t library books” with “My son died because he was postdates and I didn’t understand the risks.” I always admired her bravery and self-awareness.
    Heather, if you’re reading this — I admire yours, too. Good luck to you and your family. I’m so sorry your Clara wasn’t one of the lucky ones.

  • Mel

    I am so sorry.

  • Rachel Mills

    I went to 42 weeks with my first. This could have been me. Thanks, Heather, for your candor and honesty. So sorry for your loss.

  • theadequatemother

    Stories like this are so heartbreaking. I am so impressed with Heather’s courage in speaking out and with the insightful respectful way she has done so.

  • KarenJJ

    Heart breaking and honest and thought provoking. My heart goes out to Heather. What a devastating way to find out that there is more to safe birth then the lovely spun stories of NCB. I hope others read this story and give pause for thought.

    • attitude devant

      Poor poor lady. I am so sorry. Unfortunately, having seen the NCB community turn on articulate moms who speak this truth, I am certain she is about to be called a fearmonger, crazy, and worse by all those ‘nice’ natural types.

      • SarahSD

        Or already was. Her post is almost a year old.

        • stacey

          But her post wasn’t on “MEEEN ol’ Dr Amys” site until now.
          Just being a blog reader of hers causes HBers to hate you.

          • I was mentioned on Dr. Amy’s site last year, in August I believe, right after I posted my birth story. My visit here, following the link back, caused me to be ousted from visiting The Feminist Breeder’s blog, before she locked it down. I’ve had mostly positive feedback from people, though I don’t visit my old natural birthing groups, so I don’t know what, if anything, has been said.