Hospital Breech Birth
My first pregnancy left me somewhat jaded and mistrusting of doctors and hospitals. My baby was breech. He had been breech since the 12 week ultrasound and had stayed that way since. I tried inversions, hot and cold packs, music on my lower abdomen and even handstands to get baby to flip. At 38 weeks he was still breech. An external cephalic version was attempted but failed. On multiple occasions, my OB used every scare tactic in the book to try to force me to schedule surgical delivery. He talked down to me and essentially told me I would kill my baby if I tried to deliver my breechling vaginally. I dreaded my prenatal appointments and began to get worn down from the constant confrontation from him as well as from my family.
I have a scientific background and did my due diligence in researching breech birth. I decided it was something I wanted to attempt. I stopped seeing my current OB and began searching for someone who would support my breech birth. I contacted local midwives and called all local hospitals. No local hospital was willing work with me. The midwives who responded to me thought I was too high risk since I was a first time mom as well as carrying breech.
I began to get disheartened as I hit many dead ends. Just when I began to lose hope, I got a phone call from midwife Gail of spinningbabies.com. She let me know of a Doctor at a hospital 2 hours away from me who would attend breech births. She even offered to be my doula! For the first time in a long time, I felt calm and at ease about my situation. I felt accepted and normal. My appointment with the new OB was completely refreshing as he spoke to me like an equal and treated my baby’s position as a variation of normal.
The labor was long and very taxing- about 15 hours of active labor and 6 hours of hands and knees pushing. I had excruciating back labor due to baby’s frank breech position. But, the end result was a healthy baby (9 lbs 9 oz!) and a healthy, uncut mother. I was so proud of myself. I felt I had beaten the system. I jumped through hoops, fought with doctors and my family, and eventually stooped to desperation…but, I beat the system. I had never been more proud of myself or more thankful to those who had helped me and believed in me.
Unplanned, Unassisted Home Birth
We learned we were expecting again when our little boy was 9 months old. Because of the stress of my first pregnancy, I knew I needed a different option. I just couldn’t go through pregnancy in a hospital environment again. We interviewed several birthing centers as well as a home birth midwife. Despite recoils from family and friends, we chose home birth. It felt right for us and I clicked right away with Erin, the midwife. We were thrilled when Erin confirmed around 20 weeks that baby was head down. The 9 months of stress free prenatal appointments were pure bliss. Instead of talking down to me, Erin supported me in every way she could and was always there with an open ear. Instead of dreading my prenatal appointments, I looked forward to them. Erin cared about me in a way a doctor never has. She came to know me, my son and my husband deeply. She knew details about my personal life and helped to entertain my busy son during our appointments. She started out as my midwife, but very quickly became my friend.
As labor drew closer, my Husband, Stephen, joked several times that he thought this delivery would be quick. Little did we know this would be such an extreme understatement! I woke up on Monday night with horrible stomach cramps, nausea, and eventually vomiting. This lasted for about three hours. I was able to fall asleep and work up the next morning feeling fine. Around noon on Tuesday I passed some blood tinged mucus. I notified Erin of my symptoms, but she didn’t seem concerned and said I should expect labor to begin in the next few days. I went about the rest of my day as usual.
I tried to go bed early that night because of my lack of sleep from the night before. I finally made it to bed around 8pm. I couldn’t get comfortable and I never got to sleep. I had my first ‘real’ contraction around 9:30 pm. I had a few rounds of prodromal labor, so I still wasn’t convinced this was the real thing. I timed my contractions for an hour and found them to be 8 minutes apart and getting stronger. I got out of bed and talked to my husband who was working on homework in our living room. We timed my contractions for a little longer and found them to be 6-7 minutes apart. I put in a phone call to Erin and she decided to start the trek to our home. At first I was hesitant for her to leave since my first labor was so long, but she lived an hour and a half away and thought it would be better safe than sorry. In retrospect, it’s a good thing she left when she did!
At that point, my husband and I started setting up things for our home birth. We thought we would have plenty of time so we didn’t rush. Steve was getting supplies laid out and started figuring out the birthing tub. I focused on making our bed with a waterproof cover and an extra set of sheets. While I was making our bed, I noticed my contractions were coming around 6 minutes apart and were getting really strong. I had to stop what I was doing and breathe through each one. Erin called around this point to check how things were going and if I wanted her assistant to leave ahead of her. (The assistant lives a half hour from our house.) I didn’t realize how progressed I was, so I told her I didn’t think it was necessary.
At that point, it was around 12am and Erin was about 45 minutes away. I finished making up the bed and I head out to the kitchen to see how the rest of set up was progressing. I just made it to our kitchen counter when I had a gripping contraction. I hung onto the counter and breathed through the pain. I did what felt natural to me- which happened to be a strange lunging motion- during the contractions. Steve had the birthing pool inflated and was just starting to connect the hose to the kitchen sink when I had another contraction only 4 minutes from the last one. Steve walked by with the hose, told me he loved me and started filling the pool. The next contraction came less than three minutes after the last one. I thought I felt the baby move down. I just couldn’t believe baby would come this quickly, so I brushed the feeling off.
Then, contractions started coming right on top each other. As soon as one would end, another would begin. At the end of the next contraction, I felt a slight urge to push. I said to Steve that I thought baby was coming, but he ignored me and kept on working on set up. (I found out later that he didn’t believe me at first!) When the next contraction came, I felt baby’s head move down quite a bit and the ‘ring of fire’ sensation started to build. At that point I yelled, “THE BABY IS COMING! CALL ERIN!!”
Steve ran over to me and ripped my shorts and underwear off. He saw the top of the baby’s head. At that point, he turned into a frantic mess. He phoned the midwife (who was still 30 minutes away). I told him to get some chux pads (which he proceeded put on the floor upside down J) I was able to pant through two or three contractions during this time. After the pads were down, I knelt down on the floor and hung onto the kitchen counter for dear life as my panting ceased to work and my body began to push the baby out on its own.
The baby was born in three contractions. The first one pushed baby’s head out half way, the second pushed baby’s head out fully. After this point, my contractions let up for a minute or so. Steve was able to talk to Erin on speaker phone and she encouraged us with calm affirmations. When the third contraction came, baby’s shoulders and body were born into Stephen’s arms. The time was 12:37 am. I heard cries right away. Steve passed the baby through my legs and I clutched the newborn to my chest. Steve said, “We have a boy!” But, the sex of the baby was the last thing on my mind. I was just happy to have a healthy, pink, crying baby. I looked down at the baby and saw him looking back at me with trusting, clear eyes. He knew me. I breathed in and smelt his sweet head. It was such a serene, peaceful moment. A moment I’ll never forget.
A few minutes after the baby was born, we made our way to our bedroom where I laid on our bed and waited for the midwives to arrive. Baby latched on and began nursing like a pro. 15 minutes after our baby was born, the midwives walked into our bedroom, each one beaming a smile as they congratulated us. Erin checked baby’s vital signs and found them all to be perfect. As she was examining the rest of baby’s body, she got a strange look on her face. She looked at Steve with a huge smile. I saw him follow her gaze and watched as his face twisted up in confusion. “It’s a girl!” he exclaimed. It turns out in the pandemonium he mistook her parts for male! Even though I was thrilled with having another little boy, all along I had secretly been hoping for a girl. Emotion washed over me as I realized that the sweet little being I held on my chest was indeed the little girl I had been pining for.
Erin helped to deliver my placenta and afterward explained each part to me. It was beautiful in a unique way. She then checked my bottom. I had two superficial tears that did not require stitches. The assistant midwife prepared a wonderfully relaxing herbal bath for us. I got into the bath with baby and Steve and I bathed her together. She was calm, alert and perfect in every way. After the bath, Steve, baby and I crawled back into our freshly made bed. Baby was weighed and measured. 9 lbs 5 oz and 21 inches at 8 days ‘overdue’. A healthy girl!
Erin talked to me about ways to keep comfortable post partum and explained warning signs to look out for. We chatted for a few more minutes before the other midwives came in to say good night. Erin tucked us in and told us to get some rest. She said she would see us tomorrow and congratulated us yet again. I listened as the midwives milled around, working on cleaning up from the night’s event. They even did the laundry before they departed, bless their hearts. I smiled to myself as I recounted the last few hours. Who would have thought?!? A three hour labor? Even though my home birth didn’t go quite as planned, (I really wanted to be able to use that tub, darn it! J), I wouldn’t change it for the world. The experience of an unassisted childbirth is something I’ll never forget. It was so completely empowering. Delivering our baby into my husband’s hands is an experience that has bonded us even closer together as a couple.
Birthing my sweet girl at home was everything I hoped it would be and more. There was no fear and no stress. There was just intensity and love. I am so incredibly thankful to those who supported me in my journey, but I am especially thankful to Erin. I am thankful to Erin for her quiet, calming presence. I am thankful to Erin for genuinely caring about me, always listening to me, and never talking down to me. But, I am most thankful to Erin for empowering me, believing in me and allowing me total control over my pregnancy and birth.
I felt completely at peace with the world as I drifted off to sleep with my already snoozing husband on one side of me and my sweet little baby girl on the other.