It’s been 7 weeks since Lentil was born sleeping. I thought that I’d got past the feelings of guilt but this week they have returned with a vengeance. In my more rational moments I know that Lentil’s death isn’t my fault. I know that I couldn’t have been more organised, I couldn’t have read any more, learnt any more or been any more careful. I ate the right foods, I didn’t take any risks, I did my best but in the moments of irrational darkness none of that matters.
I think it’s human nature to apportion blame when something terrible happens because it’s easier to feel angry or guilty than it is to feel simply heartbroken. Blame and guilt come with feelings of hate and anger whereas being heartbroken is like a big empty chasm. It’s hard to know how to cope with it.
I often wonder whether I would have, should have, could have done anything differently that day. I was originally going to give birth in hospital but the more I thought about it the less it made sense. I’m not a big fan of hospitals, they make me feel tense and frightened and I knew that that wouldn’t be helpful in labour. I live about a 35 minute drive from the hospital, longer in bad traffic, and I was concerned about when to go to hospital, being in labour in the car and the possibility of giving birth in a layby. I really wanted to have a midwife who I knew well and in our area you can only have 1:1 midwife care with a named midwife if you’re having a home birth. I also wanted to use a birth pool, there’s only one at my local hospital so I was worried about whether it would be available. My other big concern was that I had been studying Hypnobirthing and I wanted to be able to use what I had learnt to have a calm and natural birth. I was worried about whether I would have the privacy and time to allow for this in a hospital environment.
I looked into paying to go to a private hospital but there isn’t a hospital with a private maternity unit in our area. My choices were a 1:1 named midwife throughout my pregnancy and a home birth or a hospital birth with an unknown midwife and a different midwife for each appointment before and after the birth. After Lentil died I began to blame myself, thinking that I had made the wrong choice, that if I had been in hospital maybe the c-section would have been quicker, maybe he would have survived. I know in my heart that this isn’t true. If I had been having a hospital delivery I wouldn’t have even got to the hospital until after Lentil’s heart had stopped beating as my contractions were only just becoming strong enough to think about leaving for the hospital. I wouldn’t have known that he was struggling. He wouldn’t have had any chance at all. It was only because I was having a home birth and the midwife was monitoring Lentil and I that we knew he was in trouble. We were rushed to hospital by ambulance as soon as his heart rate dropped. If we had been having a normal hospital birth we would have arrived at the hospital having driven in only to have been told it was too late. This would undoubtedly have been worse and harder to deal with. At least we know that as soon as a problem was identified we did all we could to help Lentil.
I should have known. This is something that keeps coming round to haunt me. I’m his mother, I should have known that something was wrong. I should have been able to tell. Lentil was my first baby, my first pregnancy. I had no idea about what to expect despite everything I’d read and the courses I’d been on. Lentil kicked quite a lot during the pregnancy but he liked to stay in one position, he moved his arms and legs but didn’t shift from the head down, ready to be born position for a long time. Sometimes I wonder if that’s normal, if I should have been concerned. It’s something I will be asking at the post mortem. He often had periods of inactivity, so do I, he took after his mum. I hated it when he was still, I constantly wanted reassurance that he was ok. The day that I went into labour Lentil had been active in the morning but had stopped moving around so much later on. I had heard that this could happen. I spoke to the midwife about it as I was worried, she checked his heartbeat, it was fine. I decided I was worrying over nothing. I wish now that I had gone into hospital to be monitored more closely but hindsight is a wonderful thing. His heart rate was being checked every 15 minutes and it was strong and healthy. We had no reason to be concerned but part of me still thinks I should have known. I was concerned that moving to the hospital would slow the labour down and put Lentil at risk, if I’d known then of course I would have gone to hospital immediately.
Since losing Lentil I’ve been on some support forums and I’ve been really sad to see the number of people who are having to go through a similar experience to us. Everyone reacts to a situation like this differently, emotions are raw and as I said earlier, often people want someone to blame. I can understand that feeling and maybe sometimes mistakes were made, everyone’s situation is different but I’ve been surprised by the number of people on forums and in support groups who are talking about legal proceedings against hospitals. When Lentil died, nobody wanted that to happen, everybody tried their best to do all they could to save him.
Nurses, midwives and doctors aren’t in the job for the money. It’s a vocation, they are overworked and underpaid. Sometimes mistakes will happen, something may be missed on an ultrasound or results may be misinterpreted. Although people who work in hospitals may appear superhuman they aren’t. They make mistakes, just like the rest of us, especially when they don’t have the time or resources to do their jobs properly. Unfortunately for them a bad day at the office or a lapse of concentration because they’ve had to work two shifts back to back can be the difference between life and death. It’s amazing that so few mistakes are made.
I don’t believe that any mistakes were made with Lentil’s delivery and it must be incredibly hard to accept it when you know that a death is the result of an error of judgement on someone else’s part. I just find it hard to understand how suing a hospital will help. Of course it’s important to find out about mistakes so that they don’t happen again, so that more training can be given or more research can be carried out but I fail to see how taking money out of the NHS can help. Maybe I would feel differently if my situation was different but I hope that I wouldn’t.
My care throughout the delivery and the day after while I was in hospital was amazing. My midwife was so much more than I could have hoped for. She, and the paramedics and hospital staff, cared for me so well and tried their best for Lentil. If I am lucky enough to become pregnant again I really hope that I can have the same midwife.
I needed to write this particular blog because I was feeling guilty and I needed to get those feelings out. Guilt and blame may be easier emotions but they’re not helpful ones. Nobody wanted Lentil to die. It’s just a horribly unfortunate and sad thing. I’m pretty sure that the key to acceptance is letting the guilt and blame go, it’s just sometimes easier said than done.