Those are the words ringing in her ears as she lays there feeling defeated.
" I was bloody trying..."
Those were the most poignant words I read last night during 8 pm's #MatExpHour.
We were to discuss the use of the phrase 'Failure to progress' in labour, and within seconds this message came up on my screen...
@MandyBellenger written in notes "failure to progress" "low maternal effort" I was bloody trying!!Made me feel like all my fault #MatExpHour
I was hosting by default as our expected host was stuck in traffic but I happily took on the daunting task of tackling such a difficult subject, one that is close to my heart.
You see, I 'Failed' when labouring with my first daughter 23 years ago. "You are not dilating fast enough...we will have to help you..." I had failed, my body was not doing it right. I needed their help. Well, thats what I was led to believe then, now I have the knowledge, now I know differently.
So I threw in this question to the chat:
What words would you all suggest for a cervix that is not dilating to the 'book'? Are we really against the clock? #MatExpHour
What can we do about this phrase? Can the wording be changed or indeed do we need to re-write the rules about progress that is measured against time during labour?
We are all individuals and with that so are our bodies. Each cervix is unique so why would it perform the same as anyone else? Why should it? Why is this phrase engrained into the guidelines, policy, and minds of those who work within maternity care?
It was clear through all the interaction during the chat that this phrase is outdated and needed to change.
The second biggest theme that came forwards was obvious after I asked the question;
How does this word make you feel? How would you like to be told you and your body #failed? #MatExpHour
In poured an influx of tweets on just how negative the wording 'Failed' really is and how this can have and does have a negative even detrimental effect on a woman's emotional wellbeing. This can then go on to effect the remainder of her birth experience and continue throughout her transition into parenthood.
This rings true from discussions I have been a part of concerning postnatal depression and the effects of birth trauma. Failure is often mentioned as a reason for the cascade of events that is felt to have been the catalyst to their feelings post birth. Please do join in with such discussions at #PNDHour 8 pm Wednesday and #BirthTraumaChat 8 pm Mondays on Twitter. These safe and informal discussions between past and present sufferers of various forms of anxiety and PND, and healthcare professionals are leading towards more openness on mental health and aid the creation of ideas for further support. Whilst beginning to tackle failings in care.
Recently the NCT Charity @NCTCharity has stepped forwards and decided to bring such 'failings' to light with the introduction of #BeyondBabyBlues a campaign that aims to encourage people to talk more openly about maternal mental health. I urge you all to take a look and get involved.
Back to the blog in hand...
Such is the power of the spoken and unspoken word. I mentioned the fact that only 7% of communication is actually formed by words, the remaining 93% being formed via body language, eye contact, facial expressions and so on.
Negativity comes in many forms, the biggest of them being the spoken form. Negative words/phrases uttered towards us by our peers and others we are taught to respect.
The teacher that told you "You got an F, that's an F for Fail. You must try harder..."
After studying hard for that driving test and doing the best that you could in unexpected wet and windy weather conditions..." I am sorry to inform you, but on this occasion, you failed your test..." Failed, failed, failed. A failure on all accounts. How does this make you feel?
Last night's discussion led me to re-read a review that I had observed a few years ago, on an account of ' Women's lived experience of their unexpected birthing process' Goldbolt, JG (MCN - American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 2009) which was reviewed by S Marchant in MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, 2009. The purpose was to describe the essence of the womens unexpected birthing experiences. The findings were clear in that they reflected the absence of three critical elements - caring, connection, and control - that these women strongly believed were missing from their birthing experiences. One woman's statement summed it up 'They were there to take care of your baby and not you and that's the end of it.' and another 'I just didn't have a nurse who was really there' This then led on to a final comment ''You're not in control of the experience'. All very sad to read from women who undoubtebly 'Bloody tried!'
The reviewer, S Marchant, felt that 'The clarity and power of the words used by the women underpins their distress and dissonance between their expectations and their experiences'. These women were led to believe that they failed at childbirth.
Here are a few key words/phrases raised from last night's discussion:
Time for change
Women do not 'fail'
Negative phrases/Negative impact
Shame and guilt
As can clearly be seen in the sharing of the above phrases and words from birthing women and carers of women; the use of this word in any phrase needs to change. We need to fully support the emotional wellbeing as well as the physical of all those in our care. Let us start here by changing the language that we use. In changing this language, we can limit the potential damage already caused by a woman needing some assistance in birthing her precious baby. She does not need to be told she is failing or has failed. She needs to be given support, information and care to accept that sometimes a woman needs a little extra help in birthing and that this is not due to her body failing her in any way.
I leave you to think and then to take a look at another blog centred around this subject that was written by a fellow #MatExp campaigner for change, Emma. She is a champion in her own right. This heartfelt blog post will make you question your use of this disempowering word further...
In this post - Emma discussed how the word can have negative effects on us all and concludes by asking that we '...make sureno woman feels like she has failed. Let's make sure they have all the information, help and support they need to reach their goal and let us instead of failure use the language of motherhood so no one gets lost, or feels guilty in translation'. Wise words Emma.
The power of the spoken word, be mindful,
P.s Please join in with #MatExpHour each week on Friday evenings at 8 pm. A topical subject for discussion is raised each week and everyone is welcome to participate.