After a smooth and complication-free pregnancy, I expected my birth to be no different. I had chosen a free-standing birth center and a team of midwives for my care providers, took Bradley Method classes, and felt ready to have a pretty run of the mill, unmedicated, intervention-free birth. Little did we know what was in store for us…
I went into labor on a Friday night, the day after my due date, and had a lengthy labor at home, with contractions not really picking up until the middle of the night Saturday night. Our doula joined us at around 2:00am early Sunday morning, and we headed to the birth center a couple of hours later once my contractions were about 3 minutes apart.
Upon arrival at the birth center, I was told I was 7 cm dilated, and labored there for another hour or so before I started feeling the urge to push. My water broke shortly after, and our midwife noticed meconium in the fluid, so I was told I couldn’t get in the tub like I had hoped to, and that baby needed to come out quickly (to prevent baby aspirating the meconium, which can lead to infection). A couple minutes later, as baby boy started to crown, we heard one of our midwives exclaim “Wow, that is the baldest baby I’ve ever seen!” My husband and I both raised an eyebrow at that comment, as we had expected our little guy to have a full head of hair, like we both had as newborns. A few pushes later is when the world stopped spinning for a brief moment while it dawned on everyone why our baby was so bald: it wasn’t his head that was crowning, it was his butt! Baby boy was breech, and we had no idea until this moment.
How did we get to this moment without knowing he was breech, you may ask? That’s a great question, and one we’ll never have the answer to. Our guy was breech at both ultrasounds at 20 and 24 weeks, but we were assured that most babies are breech at that point, and we had plenty of time for him to turn on his own. During subsequent checks by our midwife (including an internal exam just to be sure!) we were told he had indeed moved into the head down position. So, was he breech that whole time and somehow fooled our midwife? Or did he turn sometime in the days or hours leading up to delivery? We’ll never know….
What we do know, however, is that we were fortunate enough to have an extremely skilled team of midwives present at our birth, with whom we owe everything to! Our lead midwife had delivered breech babies at home births before, so she knew exactly what to do, and sprang into action. Basically, the biggest risk with delivering a breech baby is the point at which the head is being delivered; there’s a chance that the baby’s chin can get caught on the pelvic bone and essentially get stuck. After I had successfully pushed the little guy’s body out, I was told to stop pushing. My midwife had one person pushing down on the top of his head from the outside, while she reached in and hooked a finger into his lower jaw – all in an effort to keep his chin tucked to his chest and prevent it from getting caught on my pelvic bone. One more big push later, and he was out!
While it was a huge relief to have our guy delivered (after just a half hour of intense pushing), we weren’t quite out of the woods yet. His breathing wasn’t quite where they wanted it to be, so they decided to transfer him, accompanied by my husband, to the hospital for closer monitoring. I had to stay behind because I had two two-degree tears that needed repairing, and a significant amount of hemorrhaging from my placenta detaching early. Luckily, however, my little man got a clean bill of health almost immediately upon arriving at the hospital and was able to return to me within just a couple of hours for his first feed and snuggles.
We feel so incredibly fortunate to have had the expert team at our birth that we did. It’s scary to think about all the ways that my surprise breech birth could have gone terribly wrong, but I choose instead to feel grateful for how well it did turn out. While I didn’t go into my birth thinking I was having an unmedicated, vaginal breech birth, I’m glad that my choice of care team supported that when it became a possibility. Had I been in a hospital, I would have had an emergency c-section no question, and would have possibly ended up with irreversible damage to my body due to the fact that baby boy was already on his way out when his positioning was discovered. All’s well that ends well, and we joyfully welcomed Ember Daniel into the world, backwards, on November 1st, 2015 at 6:56am.
Submitted by Julia Hogan.
Photographs by Kyla Berry Photography.