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Delivery Room Trauma: Lily’s Birth Story (Seven Years Later)

Today my beautiful Lily turns seven, and so, as per tradition, I’m sharing her (don’t worry, non-graphic) birth story. It’s not a happy story, apart from the ending, so I thought about not sharing it at all. But the stories we don’t tell are the ones that control us, and Lily deserves to hear this story. I also doubt that I’m the only person who has experienced this type of emotional delivery room trauma; hopefully telling this one story can make a small difference.

Lily's birth story

Lily’s Birth Story (Seven Years Later)

We got to the hospital around 6:30pm August 2nd. I had been in solid labor since 4 or 5am the previous morning, but after getting sent home twice with Johnny I didn’t want to head in any earlier than was absolutely necessary. The midwife on call was delighted that I was already 7cm at check-in. Like every midwife I ever worked with, she focused on Emma’s fast birth and ignored Johnny’s much more drawn-out birth. After Johnny, I was worried about being stuck at 7cm forever, but by 10pm the midwife declared that it was time to push.

Exciting, right? The midwife was thrilled. I was the only woman in labor on the floor, and I’m sure she envisioned a restful night.

Pushing accomplished nothing. The baby was right there, maybe 1cm from crowning. Nothing happened. Frustrated, the midwife declared, “You just aren’t trying hard enough!” The midwife complained that she was all suited up for delivery, and nothing was happening. She was hot and uncomfortable.

A solution?

A couple of hours in, the attending nurse suggested trying to use a sheet as an improvised pull bar. The midwife said that was ridiculous. I didn’t argue.

But none of the midwife-approved suggestions were working. Actually, things were un-happening. My cervix was un-dilating, and then swelling up from the pushing. The midwife was irate. I had to try harder! This was taking too long.

Three hours later, I asked for an epidural. The pain was manageable, but after 5 hours of pushing I was exhausted. An epidural would give me a chance to sleep, at least. Lily, being stuck where she was, should have been in distress. But, bizarrely, she seemed just fine.

And so I become one of the few women in the world to get an epidural, at 10cm, and after 5 hours of pushing. I slept for an hour. My cervix relaxed, and re-effaced.


When I woke up and we gave pushing another go. Still nothing happened. The nurse made the same improvised pull bar suggestion. The midwife still thought it was ridiculous, but I had enough energy this time to argue her into letting us try. Lily was born a few minutes later. She was posterior, and her cord was so short that they had to cut it to finish delivering her. My guess is that the combination of Lily being in the wrong position combined with the cord being so short had made it nearly impossible for her to make all the maneuverings babies usually make to be born. I had suspected her position was wrong and had told the midwife as much during labor, but she didn’t believe me until Lily was born.

Baby Care

I wanted to keep Lily with me until she had fed, but the midwife snatched her away mid-feed “just to weigh her”. Then she weighed her and wouldn’t give her back until she had also done the heel prick, eye drops, and reflex tests. She still complained about how long everything was taking. It was 4:30am. I remember listening to her talk, and thinking it would have been worth delaying the birth an additional 2.5 hours just to have someone reasonably kind deliver her.

It took weeks to get Lily to feed properly. A lactation consultant told me when Anna was born that the worst thing you can do to a newborn baby in terms of helping them learn to nurse is to snatch them away minutes into their first feed. It is better to delay the feeding than to interrupt it that way. If the interruption had been medically justified, I would understand. But the midwife just wanted to finish her job and be done. I was still her only patient. Maybe she wanted to sleep in the break room? It is exhausting working nights, but it is part of being a midwife.


There is a popular idea that women forget everything about childbirth once babies are born. That has not been my experience; nor is it what I hear from other women. Sometimes I worry that it justifies professionals behaving the way my midwife did at Lily’s birth. Johnny’s much more physically traumatic delivery was easier to recover from than the emotional trauma of Lily’s birth, because for his delivery I was consistently treated well.

Besides the exhaustion and complete lack of progress, Lily’s birth was not physically terrible for me. I wound up with a 2nd degree tear that healed just fine. But the emotional pain of having someone angrily frustrated and telling me I was “not trying hard enough” for hours on end during a vulnerable moment combined with my very real concern that Lily’s being stuck 1cm from crowning for hours on end would cause some sort of brain damage would wake me up at night for months. I went to my GP instead of the midwife office for my postnatal visits because I was too emotionally exhausted to deal with how I felt about what happened in the delivery room.

Miraculously, Lily is fine and shows no signs of any harm beyond the bruising she had at birth. I watch the way she calmly pursues goals with quiet tenacity and wonder if that personality trait saved her in the delivery room.

In Search of Kindness

I changed insurance after Lily was born, so that we could have any subsequent children in a different hospital, with a different practice. I thought about writing a letter about my experience, but I was exhausted. Johnny and Emma came down with some sort of stomach bug, throwing up all night the night Lily was born. Their stomach bug morphed into a respiratory infection. They were sick for months. Mike was traveling like mad for work – he was gone more than he was home that year. By the time I found the energy to write, it felt too late. I like to think that the attending nurse would have said something – she didn’t approve of what was going on. But, given the power hierarchy in hospitals and the healthy baby in the end, I’m guessing she didn’t. The midwife who delivered Lily still works in that practice.

From a medical point of view, Lily is healthy so everything is good. But I still wish that midwife hadn’t taken her bad day – or whatever that was – out on me.

Liily was an unbelievably happy baby, always cheerful, nearly always healthy, and a great sleeper. Interestingly, she is fascinated by childbirth and I could even see her becoming an obstetrician or midwife someday. Maybe someday she will teach kindness in delivery rooms.

Lily's birth story (seven years later)

My Other Children’s Birth Stories:

Did you ever experience this type of delivery room trauma? Do you remember your children’s births, or is it all a blur once you hold the baby in your arms?

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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

17 thoughts on “Delivery Room Trauma: Lily’s Birth Story (Seven Years Later)”

  1. Oh, that’s terrible! I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I just don’t understand why people in those type of jobs don’t have an element of good customer service and aren’t caring for people. Thankfully, I don’t have a story like that. For Emma’s birth, I talked to a midwife on the phone who didn’t think I was too far along (even though me and my husband said we thought I was pretty far). Admittedly, she said she had a doctor’s appointment that she was willing to change but suggested I go get checked at the office to see if I was ready. Well, I ended up delivering at the office with the best midwife ever. I was transported to the hospital, and the midwife I talked to on the phone came and apologized for her lack of judgement. :)

  2. I am sorry you had a midwife whose behavior was inexcusable. I am afraid I would have requested someone else unless it was my first birth. I do remember all three of my childrens births. The first was similar in that I was at a teaching hospital and dealt with the same treatment. They wanted to do a c-section however because I refused part of the treatment they let me go the whole 30 hrs. That child is my unhealthiest and had hearing loss possibly caused by forceps or suction they used. I also had 3rd degree tears boy did they make me pay! My 2nd was a c-section but I had wonderful attendants, my midwife and gp helping the surgeon. My 3rd and last birth was at home with two midwives and family. It was the most relaxed and best birth of all. I did plenty of research and had fully competent and caring midwives. That was 30 years ago. I wish Doulas were around way back then they contribute so much to the birthing process.

    1. Even though this was my third child, I never realized you had the option of requesting someone else… so glad your second and especially third births went well.

  3. That is such a shame that the midwife was so unhelpful and rude. I can see why you are still emotionally scarred from it.

    Lily is so pretty! I can’t believe she is 7 already! Happy Birthday to Lily!

  4. My goodness, my heart goes out to you, MaryAnne — what a rough, traumatic experience to have had to labor with such a mean and misguided midwife! On top of that, you had to deal with the consequences of her interrupting the ever-so-important first breastfeeding session (!) and having two other young kids who were ill in the very demanding first days. It’s truly incredible how you pulled through so much — and, it’s a real testament to you what a lovely, sweet, and healthy person Lily is. Love and healing, Y

  5. Elisa | blissful E

    You and the nurse clearly knew more about midwifery than the midwife. I am so very sad for you that you bore the brunt of her uninformed comments and impatience. Your story is a powerful argument for having a doula or other strong, informed advocate in a hospital birthing environment. Women in labour, no matter how prepared and educated, are extremely vulnerable. I’m very impressed that you did manage to argue, even a little bit, and that you were able to birth vaginally in such hostile and medically difficult – considering the short cord – circumstances.

    My mouth fell open when I read that the midwife snatched Lily from your breast during her very first feed! What human being in her right mind interrupts a feed for anything less than an emergency? And the very first feed? Unreal. :(

    Thank you for sharing your story. Please also consider sharing it with that midwife’s supervisor. There is no statute of limitations on the emotional upheaval you have endured. No one should have to go through what you did.

    1. I wish I could have been a better advocate for myself in the labor room. I am still working on building advocacy – for myself and others – as a skill. It is definitely easier when not in labor.

  6. How horrible! Even after 4 kids, I still remember all my kids’ births vividly. Thankfully I was always treated with at least a basic amount of consideration and decency. I’m glad everything turned out okay in the end. Happy Birthday, Lily!

  7. Childbirth is exhausting on its on. I’m so sorry you had a midwife that made it worse. I remember all 3 of my children’s births. All 3 were in the same hospital but the nursing staff was different each time. I think they contribute a lot to the overall experience.

    1. I think the nursing staff plays an enormous role in shaping birth experiences. My son’s birth (in the same hospital) was very difficult, but the staff who happened to be there were generally much more supportive.

  8. Natalie PlanetSmartyPants

    I am sorry you had such a difficult experience with Lily. It’s hard to imagine the story behind her birth looking at her glowing face. Happy birthday to her!

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