I made a mistake; I was wrong

December 24th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Such immensely difficult words to say at times, but why? Because we want to be right, we don’t want to make errors, and, in the case of laboring mothers, we don’t want to give them false information or false hope.

Today, I read a midwife’s account (on her blog) of her making a mistake when checking dilation. I found it encouraging to read about how she handled it, and how well the situation turned out.

This is her story:

A VBAC BIRTH THAT FOOLED ME

One of my VBAC clients called me to say she was having regular sensations. She seemed to be in the early stages of birth so I settled in to just wait it out. About 10 p.m. at night, things picked up dramatically so I decided to do a dilation check (this was 20 years ago). To my surprise and delight, she was 7 cms dilated. (that should have been a clue that I was making a mistake. When the external world doesn’t match the internal exam, check more carefully). I held her and massaged her all night long while the others slept. By morning, everything had petered out and I couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t actively pushing by that time. She had been snoozing between her sensations through the night but I’d had her on the toilet, walking around, in the shower, etc. I did another exam only to realize, at that point, that I had completely blown it, she was only 2 cms dilated and wasn’t even in the birth process yet. That was one of those awful moments when you have to say BOTH of the top two difficult things at once. I said “Theresa, I’m sorry I’ve made a mistake. Last night when I checked you it wasn’t accurate. Right now, you are 2 cms dilated and you’re not in the birth process yet. I shouldn’t have been encouraging you all night that you’d be having the baby soon. Right now, the only way that this will work is if you’re willing to begin anew. Cancel everything we’ve done so far and get back to the very beginning. You need to eat, get some sleep, downplay this early stuff, relax. Everything is normal and healthy but I have made a huge blunder and I’m sorry.” The worst thing I could have done in this situation is to lie to this woman and tell her that she had gone backwards in her dilation—yes, many practitioners do this. It’s so unfair to a woman who already thinks her body might fail her. Not only that, but I think somewhere in the woman’s own “knowing” place, she realizes that she has not really been in the birth process.

This amazing woman did begin anew. She and her husband forgave me for my mistake, rested, ate, relaxed, summoned their patience and had a home VBAC for their baby. I will be grateful to them forever.

~Gloria LeMay