I had already had two successful homebirths, and I loved the experience. Amazing. That’s what birth is. And beautiful and wonderful. A gift. I know there are times when intervention or surgery may be needed, and it is wonderful that it is there for such times, but it is not the norm. This birth turned out to have some surprises and potential obstacles, but it all worked out in the end and was an incredible experience.
Two and a half months ago, I was ready to deliver my third baby and was again hopeful for a homebirth. Having confidence in our bodies and the birth process, I wasn’t alarmed that I was a week overdue. But that day, I went to my 41 week prenatal appointment and faced a big change. We discovered that the baby was in a frank-breech presentation. According to Colorado law, it is illegal for a midwife to deliver a baby at home when there is a confirmed breech (not because it’s not possible, but because that’s the law here).
My second baby, a daughter, had been discovered to be breech at 38 weeks. But a week and a half later, she turned. But now, at 41 weeks, time wasn’t on our side. We were facing a scheduled appointment with a doctor, to do an external cephalic version (ECV) and try to get the baby to turn head down. I was told that if we did that, I would likely have a hospital birth and possibly a cesarean section, if complications arose. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it certainly wasn’t what we hoped for. And first, we wanted to do all we could to help the baby turn and help us to still have a homebirth.
So we jumped into action! My daughter had turned, granted with more time, but she did turn. And so I believed that there was a good chance that we could get this baby to turn as well. My husband and I found a chiropractor up near our new home who knew the Webster Technique (what was used before in helping my daughter to turn). It involves an adjustment for the sacro-iliac joint and addressing the round ligament, to enable the baby to have room to turn. We also went to a cranial-sacral therapist who helped me to relax—the spine, pelvis, uterus, etc—to also foster the baby turning. And in addition, we talked to my husband’s sister who is a mother of 10 and all of those babies were breech, and she was able to get them to turn. That was all done on the same day that we discovered the baby’s position.
The next morning, I awoke to find that the baby’s bum had dislodged from my pelvis, and was off to my right a bit. I got a hand under the bum, and I gently pushed upward. The baby started to move. My husband got on Skype with his sister and she gave us some tips about how to help the baby turn, without forcing it (you do want to be careful of a possible cord wrap). My husband and my dad gently urged the bum up and the head down, and I focused on relaxing. I didn’t feel any resistance. The baby turned! We had a midwife confirm that the baby was now head down, in a great position. She encouraged me to do some squats, to help the baby settle down more and prepare for birth.
That night I started having contractions, though it wasn’t anything big or difficult. I was very tired, however—probably from all the emotion and stress of the past day and a half. So I fell asleep and slept until about 2:30 in the morning when I awoke to the start of strong, intense contractions. But they were only coming every 10-13 minutes. So I tried to sleep more. At around 5:45, my husband woke up and I told him about the strong contractions and he alerted my parents, who were in the guest room downstairs.
After about an hour the contractions weren’t as regular. I started to worry that labor wouldn’t come. It was still strong and intense, but so irregular that I wasn’t getting anywhere. My sister, who lives nearby, had twin baby girls who were almost 2 months old. She offered for me to nurse one of them, to help with labor progress. So we decided to do that and it totally worked!! I had to quickly hand that sweet baby girl to my mom, sitting by me, as the contractions got so intense! After that, they came every 6 minutes and things really progressed from there!
That was at about 11:00 a.m. My sister then graciously took my 3 year old and 2 year old to play with her kids while I labored. It was great to know my kids were being well taken care of, and I had the support of my husband and parents there to help me. Labor got really intense—I had so much pain in my low back. I tried to rest in between contractions, but the pain in my back never seemed to go away. If I did sit or lie down in between contractions, it seemed to slow things down.
So even though I was exhausted, after awhile of pretending to labor, I knew that to bring this baby here, I had to get serious and be willing to stand on my feet—and have things be even MORE INTENSE! But I knew that if I took it a step at a time, and just focused on each contraction as it came, that I could do it—and with a great reward in the end! So that’s what I did. I hung on my husband and my dad (like I did with my two previous deliveries), which helped things progress because of gravity, and I stayed on my feet in between contractions. I did that until I was near the point of pushing and then I got down on my hands and knees.
It was time to push. And things became SO intense—the burning came and I soon knew, somehow, that this delivery was very different from my other two. In some way….but I couldn’t pinpoint it (I had no idea just how big this baby was, even though during pregnancy people had repeatedly asked me if I was having twins!). I kept myself focused. I pushed with each contraction, and the burning intensified, and then I’d have to breathe and resist pushing so that I’d ease the head out, and not tear. My husband guided me, letting me know when to pause and allow the tissue to stretch, and when I could push again.
It was hard. But I trusted that I could do it. And I did do it. I felt the support of those around me and reminded myself that once the head was out, the hardest part was done since the head is the biggest. That’s what is typical. But that wasn’t the case this time. The head came out, but the body wouldn’t follow. What I didn’t know at the time was that the baby’s shoulder was stuck—shoulder dystocia—because the chest was bigger than the head. I was confused and didn’t understand why he wasn’t coming out. I didn’t know why pushing didn’t seem to do anything. It was so frustrating and hard.
Suddenly I felt the stress in the room. My midwife was telling me to push, but I was pushing, without anything happening. My loving supporters were there, encouraging me. And at the height of discomfort and exhaustion, it felt like the midwife was pushing the baby back up—which, of course, made NO sense at all. I later learned that it felt like that because the midwife had to reach up to get the shoulder loose. I reached back and grabbed my mom’s arm, and she responded with holding onto me and encouraging me. Oh, wow. I had been praying for help and strength to help me get my baby safely out. I felt so supported and strengthened—and I needed that, because having thought the baby would be here by now, I was at the point of being way beyond what you think you can handle. We are religious, and I KNEW that my Father in Heaven was with me. I knew he was sustaining me, giving me strength beyond what I thought I had, and offering me peace and comfort. And then…he was here.
I did it. But it wasn’t over. Because of the dystocia, he hadn’t breathed for those few minutes. And he still wasn’t taking a breath. But somehow, I felt so calm and reassured. That answer to prayer gave me so much comfort and confidence—and I felt that my Heavenly Father was helping me to know that it was going to be okay. My baby was okay. I just wanted to connect with my baby, and let him know that his father and I were right there, ready for him, and loving him. I immediately rubbed his back and front and talked to him, trying to stimulate him. The midwife got the oxygen and used that, as I talked—I told him that I was so happy he was here and to get to hold him, that we were right there for him, that it was all going to be okay, that we loved him so much, that he was perfect and beautiful,…. He coughed and cried and it was a beautiful sound! As soon as I could, I held him to me, and stroked his sweet head and just kept talking to him! I was so full of gratitude. The emotion was strong and sweet.
Soon after, I got to get up in bed and he nursed right away. We got to cuddle and then I was taken to the shower, to clean up. My husband helped the midwife weigh him and he called to me, “Babe!! He’s 12 lbs 4 oz!!” Oh, my. Although I realized, once he was born, that it was his size that was so different about this difficult labor, I had no idea he’d be THAT big. My first son was 9 lbs, and my daughter was 8 lbs 10 oz…so it’s not like I had small babies. But 12 lbs?!? Wow.
The first thing my mom had said, when he was born, was “You did it! Oh, Marlise…he’s HUGE!” And my sister commented, “Congratulations! You had a toddler!” Yes, he was big. And no, it wasn’t gestational diabetes—I never had that. He was just a big baby. He still is—at 2 ½ months—he weighs in over 16 lbs and is 25 ½ inches long (wearing 6-9 month clothes!). He is an angel. And the advantage of having such a big baby is that from day one—he sleeps great, he eats great, and I, as a result, have gotten more rest and my recovery has been awesome!
It was an incredible experience. Every one of my births has been. But this one was really extraordinary. A 12 lb baby, breech at 41 weeks, turning head down within 24 hours! Despite the shoulder dystocia, he didn’t break any collar bones and wasn’t harmed at all, and I wasn’t either. I didn’t even tear!! It is amazing what the body is designed to do. And it can do it! Miracles all around. Welcome, Colton Charles—my sweet, sweet boy.