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As I sit here with a precious baby sleeping on my chest and smell that wonderful new baby smell, I am so grateful for her arrival and for the circumstances of her birth for so many reasons.
I feel like I’ve been through the gamut of birth experiences (here are my past ones if you are interested) which I’ve always been grateful for as a doula, since I felt like I could really understand what clients were going through (even in c-section, v-bac, interventions, etc). I was hoping that this time I could have a “normal” delivery but our little one had other plans…
We found out we were expecting our fifth in the summer, and while it was a surprise, it was a welcome one. Since I’d had a successful v-bac with my last pregnancy, I was hopeful for another easy and complication free delivery.
I decided to use the same group of nurse midwives who had delivered our last baby as they delivered in the hospital and were very v-bac friendly.
Overall, it was by far my easiest pregnancy! I avoided morning sickness entirely, which was a first for me and never really even had the first trimester fatigue I’d had in the past. Things were so easy in early pregnancy that I was glad to have my first appointment and hear the heartbeat to confirm that I was indeed pregnant!
All early appointments showed that baby was healthy, growing well and that I was also doing well. With four other little ones running around and a busy schedule, the pregnancy flew by and before I knew it, I was 34 weeks!
At my 34ish week appointment, the midwife commented that she thought the baby was breech but that there was still time for her to turn. I had suspected this since about 32 weeks.
When I got home, I started the spinning babies protocol, found a Chiropractor to do the Webster technique, did handstands in water, swam, put ice on my belly and played music at the bottom of my belly, etc…
I literally did all of the suggested methods for turning a breech baby every single day from 34 weeks.
A 35 week ultrasound confirmed that baby was still breech but that there was no obvious reason that they could see like cord around the neck, short cord, etc.
I was still hopeful that she would turn, but I started to get a little worried by this point since the nurse midwives couldn’t deliver breech babies and the only option in that hospital was to attempt an External Cephalic Version (ECV) or do a c-section. An ECV would have to be done in the OR with an epidural since I was “once a v-bac, always a v-bac” and it carried risks like uterine rupture, placental abruption, fetal distress and other problems.
What to Do?
I started researching options and statistics to see what my choices were. I realized that no option was without risk and that any choice I made carried a higher risk than a vertex delivery. I found that in many other countries, vaginal breech birth still occurs and that when factors like fetal abnormality, uterine abnormality, etc are removed, vaginal breech birth carried about the same risk as breech birth by cesarean.
I also took in to account that since I’d already had one c-section for placenta previa, a repeat c-section would carry a higher risk for me while not statistically reducing her risk.
After discussing it, my husband and I weren’t comfortable with an ECV or a repeat c-section unless it was necessary (which we didn’t feel that it was at this point).
Since vaginal breech birth wasn’t allowed in the hospital (thanks to insurance and legal policy, not the doctors and midwives) we decided to see if any other options were available. I had helped a friend find a home birth midwife earlier in my pregnancy and had gotten to meet her as well.
After researching and talking to other moms she had worked with, I found that she was trained in breech birth and had a history of successful outcomes. I felt that we at least needed to look in to this option, but also felt a twinge of fear. Logically, I knew that home birth can be statistically as safe as hospital birth in most cases and that statistically, it would be a good option for us, but after having undetected placenta previa with a previous pregnancy, I always held on to a fear that something might be wrong that we didn’t know about or that my body was somehow broken or inadequate.
It is amazing what an emergency c-section and 8 days of having a baby in NICU can do to diminish the natural trust I’d once had in birth. Even my previous delivery as a v-bac, while wonderful, reinforced the subconscious idea that I couldn’t birth without help since hospital policy dictated that I needed to be hooked up to a monitor, in a bed, with an IV, etc
Even so, I decided to meet with the midwife again and after meeting with her and talking to my husband, I had peace about pursuing that option. I continued to try to get baby to flip and kept meeting with the hospital midwives to have a backup plan in case a c-section did become necessary.
The several weeks leading up to my birth were mentally tough as I am not used to (or good at) not knowing how things will turn out or being able to direct things in some way.
After much prayer and letting go, I came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t necessarily know where or how this birth would happen until it did and just started trusting God and my body.
We had a primary plan (vaginal delivery) and backup plans in place in case something went wrong (planned c-section or emergency transfer).
The two weeks leading up to birth, I had a LOT of false labor. In hindsight, I think labor started several times and that I stopped it because I got nervous or overly analyzed the situation (did I mention I’m not good at the “letting go” thing…)
Finally, at just over 39 weeks, I had on and off contractions all day that got my attention. They weren’t painful per se, but were intense enough that I wanted to move around through them. They came every 10 minutes or so all day that day.
Realizing that this might be our last chance for a while, my hubby and I decided to go out to dinner that night. (I had a plan that if my water broke I would purposefully spill my glass of water in my lap to cover it up so we could leave…)
Through dinner my contractions were about 6 minutes apart and they started picking up as we drove home. We watched a movie and I noticed I was starting to get nauseous and that they were getting much less comfortable.
Around 11, we decided to try to get some sleep, and I texted the midwife a heads up that tonight or tomorrow might be the time…
As tends to happen, as soon as I attempted to sleep, the contractions picked up even more and were about five minutes apart and definitely uncomfortable. My contractions never get completely regular, even during transition (which really frustrates me…) but I knew at this point that it was the real thing.
Based on previous labors, I expected another 20+ hours of labor, so I tried to just ignore the contractions and sleep. It didn’t work and I called the midwife around 2 am and told her that things were moving.
I wasn’t sure how this labor would progress as baby was still breech and still high, so it felt different than my other labors.
The midwife and nurse arrived around 5:30 am and set up the birth tub. Around this time, I felt a pop and knew my water and broken…
The midwife checked me and I was only 4 cm… That was mildly discouraging, but I knew that once my labors picked up they progressed quickly, so I got in to the tub and tried squatting and hands and knees positions to help baby move down. There was also some meconium that came out with the fluid, but ironically, this is not as much of a concern with a breech delivery since the bottom was pointed down and the meconium was being pushed out and not in to the fluid with the baby.
After an hour or so I got bored with the tub. I’d always wanted a water birth and never expected to not want the water when I finally had a chance to try it but I also felt like I needed gravity and wanted to move around more than the tub would allow.
I got out and walked, swayed and sat on the birth ball for a couple of hours to help get through contractions (which were still every 4-6 minutes at this point).
At around 11 am, the midwife checked me again and I was still only 4-5 cm dilated, though she said it was because the baby was high and that I could easily stretch to a 6-7 if she were on my cervix. Due to the baby’s position, the midwife suggested that I try laying on my back with my hips elevated over a pool noodle to help open the pelvis and help her move down.
I tried and contractions got much more intense immediately. I spent about 45 minutes in that position and on my side and contractions were getting really tough to cope with.
She checked me and I was 7-8 cm and had reached the point where I start getting really focused and not wanting to talk or move, even between contractions.
The midwife suggested I get back in to the tub or in the shower to see if that helped things. The tub still sounded horrible, so I opted for a shower and the hot water really did make the contractions more bearable.
I started having the contractions that require deep moaning (at least for me… I always wish I was one of those moms who labor quietly, but c’est la vie). I moaned and swayed in the shower for close to an hour. The logical side of my brain was telling me that I was in transition, the low sounds meant she was descending, and that there was an end in sight, but my emotional side was reaching the “I can’t do this” point.
I was also having an internal struggle about if I could actually do this or not and if it would be better to just transfer to a hospital (where there would be pain relief). I was having back labor, which I hadn’t experienced before, and was feeling the contractions down my legs and in my hips as well.
At this point in labor, my husband is truly my rock. In early labor he is great at keeping the mood light and distracting me, but at this point, he coaches me though each contraction and really gets in my face when I start to lose control. He reminds me to breathe through each contraction and to relax in between.
The midwife asked me to get out of the shower so she could check me since the sounds I was making indicated that delivery might be approaching. I don’t know how they managed to get me out of the shower at that point, but that made things even more intense and being checked HURT!
I was really hoping to hear that I was at 10 cm, especially since I knew I might need to stay there without pushing for a while since she was breech and we had to make sure there was no lip on my cervix.
She checked me and I was….
8 cm. 🙁
At this point, I almost gave up. Things were tough and had been for hours. The contractions were on top of each other and enough to make me nauseous and I hadn’t progressed AT ALL.
I considered giving up but realized that (a) this wasn’t really logical at this point (b) it would take a long time to transfer, get pain relief, etc and (c) I would end up with a c-section if I did that.
The midwife suggested sitting on the toilet for a few contractions. Oh, the “dilation station” as we call it in doula-speak. I didn’t want to because I’d encouraged clients to do this and knew that it worked but that it increased the intensity a lot (the theory is that since we are used to relaxing those muscles on the toilet, sitting there helps us do this even during labor).
With the help of husband and midwife, I somehow made it to the toilet and sat down. I had a mental pep talk with myself and told myself that this was it. For baby’s sake I had to relax and let her come down and that yes, it would hurt and that it would be over faster if I could just get over being uptight.
Then, in one VERY LOUD contraction, I felt myself fully dilate and felt her bottom move down. I also felt her poop and meconium drip down my leg, which was gross.
The midwife checked me and sure enough, I had gone from 8-10 cm in one contraction. Finally!
She checked and there was no lip left so I was cleared for pushing. They constantly monitored baby’s heart rate and she was doing great at this point. (I remember thinking that I hoped this process was a lot more comfortable for her than it was for me…).
I’d always wanted to push in a semi-squatting position but the midwife wanted me either on hands and knees or with my bottom hanging off the bed so that the angle would be safest for baby.
I didn’t think I could do either of these and thankfully my husband told me to get on my hands and knees and helped me do so in such a quick motion that I didn’t have a choice.
The urge to push lightened up for a second in this position and then intensified again.
In my head, I was having the debate I always have between “I don’t want to push… it will hurt” and “I want this baby out now.” Eventually “baby out now” won and I pushed. I instantly felt the ring of fire (cue Johnny Cash) and felt her head (er… bottom) emerge. I pushed again and felt what I thought was the rest of her body as I felt the slippery feeling that I usually feel when the body slides out after the head.
Since she was breech, she was only out to the head. I remember thinking “Crap, I have to push again.” The midwife told me she needed me to push NOW and I did….
Instantly, she slid out and that wonderful moment of sweet relief came. Almost immediately, I heard her cry and just broke down, fell on the bed and said “Oh, Praise God” over and over.
She was pink, breathing and perfectly healthy with 1 and 5 minute APGARS of 9 and 10. For all of my mental complaining about it, I only pushed three times and she was out in minutes!
Little Ella weighed 6 lbs 8 ounces and had a head of dark hair!
All of my fear, doubt and feelings of inadequacy from previous birth experiences melted away as I looked at my perfect, healthy baby and she stared back at me.
The time immediately postpartum was the most different from my previous birth experiences. I held her for an hour after she was born. The cord was allowed to stop pulsing before it was cut and I actually got to cut it! Since she wasn’t in distress, there was no rush to take her away and weigh her, clean her or put drops in her eyes. She latched on to nurse on her own at 16 minutes old and has been nursing well ever since.
I got to shower, get dressed in my own clothes, nurse her in my own bed and eat my own food while she happily slept on my chest. This recovery has been by far my easiest and she has been my calmest baby. It was also my shortest natural labor (previous ones were 26 and 25 hours) at only about 15 hours of painful contractions (I think this is largely because I was more relaxed and felt more supported this time).
I certainly value and respect the need for medical intervention when needed (it saved my life and my son’s when I was pregnant with him) but I also don’t think that every birth requires the interventions that are often routine.
I would definitely choose home birth again, but I also hope that eventually the medical mindset will change to allow for breech birth in hospitals, as I know many women who have had multiple c-sections because a first baby was breech and v-bac is not encouraged where they live. I don’t think that home birth is for everyone or every situation, but I am so glad that I pursued it for this birth!
I’ll be forever grateful to the wonderful midwife who caught her and to my amazing husband for getting me through transition and helping me trust that I could do it. This birth was such a healing experience for me
Discussion (66 Comments)
God bless you and your family on the birth of your beautiful girl. I’m so glad that you were able to deliver her breech vaginally. I also remember the sensation of having to push the head out after the body and without the aid of a contraction. It amazes me that doctors (or should I say insurance companies) are so afraid of breech births. They should be undertaken on a merit by merit situation rather than a blanket ‘no’ policy. Your story is very inspiring. Praying for a speedy recovery.
Sadly, we won’t be bringing our sweet baby boy home tomorrow. Instead, we will be burying him. Our sweet, much loved and much desired little grandson perished last Friday as he was struggling to be born. His cause of death was head entrapment. He never had a chance.
He was a footling breech, but the positioning of the placenta made it impossible for his mom to deliver him via C/S. Extraordinary measures on the part of medical staff could not deliver his head . He died with half of his body protruding from his mothers birth canal, and half still in her pelvis. She, our little Eli who was no longer alive, and his Daddy had to remain in this position for over an hour waiting for his mother’s cervix to release it’s grip on his head so he could finally deliver.
He was never able to take a single breath, never able to open his eyes, never able to grasp our fingers with his little hands. Not even once.
His birth was a hugely traumatic event for the 20+ medical personnel who tried so very hard to save him. These are super experts with every advanced technique, true expertise and experience, and all possible equipment available to them. These are super specialists who are known for their ability to beat poor odds. But they could do nothing to change the outcome of Eli’s birth despite their heroic efforts.
In the end, our little Eli’s strong steady heartbeat fell from strong and vigorous, to thready, to nothing. His poor bruised little head finally delivered on its own, long after his heart had beat it’s last.
His mother and father are devastated and traumatized. His mother suffered physically traumatic procedures to try to help him and suffered internal injuries as a result. She hemorraged after his birth and was at high risk of bleeding out. She underwent emergency surgery to save her life.
Eli’s OB is traumatized and wept openly. His neonatalogist and perinatalogist is are both deeply shaken. Everyone in the room was crying.
This all happened at one of the four best institutions in the USA for handling obstetrical and perinatal emergencies. The best of the best.
Head entrapment does happen. The results are tragic. The interventions are few and brutal. The outcomes are poor. This condition isn’t a joke or a myth. It is all too real.
If your OB tells you that you are at risk for this complication, please don’t blow him or her off. Please don’t “doctor shop” or worse- seek out a midwife who will reassure you that the vaginal birth you desire will turn out well. Please don’t seek to find someone who will agree with your desire to have a vaginal birth. Don’t let well meaning advice from others sway you. It isn’t worth the risk. It isn’t worth a life, or maybe two.
We will never forget the things we saw that day. We will never forget holding our precious little Eli, so still in death, and caressing his poor bruised head. We will never forget the heroism we saw that day, or the heart. We will never forget the agony of every moment and the zeroing of hope with each second of entrapment.
Will this happen to you? Maybe not. But, is it worth the risk to find out?
If you are the mother whose child dies in this horrific way, then the mortality statistics are 100 percent for you. And they are very high for any child who becomes entrapped.
I’ve learned that this kind of event is considered to be one of the the worst nightmares for OBs. Ask questions, get a second opinion from a high risk OB. Listen. Please don’t take chances.
Yes, vaginal birth is beautiful. It is preferred. But, please don’t risk your baby’s life to experience it.
If even one of you makes a choice that avoids the loss we have experienced, then Eli’s death will have served some purpose.
Please love your baby more than you want to experience vaginal birth. Don’t take the chance of walking the hard road we have found ourselves on. Please. It is a road of lost hopes and shattered dreams. Please do not join us on this empty road.
Thank you for this post. We just had a good friend this week deliver her breech baby. She had an extremely healthy pregnancy and every part of her labor and delivery seemed perfect until the baby came out blue and lifeless. She remained that way until serious measures were taken after being rushed to the hospital. I thought from the very beginning that my friend’s home birth sounded wonderful. When she found out she was breech I just could not ever understand why you would risk the life of your baby (even if it’s a 1% chance) just to have a home birth. This home birth has now caused this baby to have low brain activity. Had she been at the hospital, she could have received medical care promptly. Had she had a c-section, she likely would be holding a healthy baby. But now, because of this home birth she is looking at having a child that will have low brain activity for the rest of her life. I think home birth can be a great experience, but it should only be done when you are dealing with a low-risk pregnancy. There is a reason that so few people deliver breech babies. Why would you choose to risk your babies life like that? Sorry. This has been a very difficult week dealing with this and it was really nice to read someone post the reality of what can happen. I am so very sorry to those that have lost their babies in any way.
I’m terribly sorry for your loss. It is important to hear about bad experiences to let mothers make conscious decisions. That being said, C-sections are no risk-free procedures, they are pretty heavy surgeries that actually carry their own risks like higher maternal death. In Eli’s case, a C-section couldn’t even be possible anyway. I think breech birth birth should be available to women on a case by case basis, at the hospital and with an OB-GYN that is properly trained like it is in France. Studies have shown that if the right conditions are met vaginal breech birth is not risker than a C-section. It is not normal to send all women with breech babies for C-section and forbid knowledgeable OB-GYNs to deliver if they feel the right conditions are met.
So sorry for your loss!
Is Eli even a real story? It sounds like you have an agenda rather than an aching heart.
Maybe this baby would have lived in a home birth. At home the mother would likely have been upright or on hands and knees, which opens the pelvic space far more than breaking the mother’s pelvis while she is on her back in lithotomy position.
IF your story is even true, it goes to show that sometimes babies die in birth and even the hospital can’t save them. If a baby dies at home, it’s supposedly always mom’s fault. If the same baby dies in hospital for the same reason, no one is blamed. It just happens.
You can make your choices and other people can make theirs.
I believe home birth is as safe or safer than hospital birth in normal pregnancies. But yes, someone is always going to be in the 1% or 0.5% or whatever it is for the adverse outcome, no matter where you are. Dead mother, dead baby, serious injury, etc.
We can’t escape it. Simply living always carries risk of death. Even if we don’t go skydiving or mountain climbing or drive a car or even leave our house, we can die if an intruder breaks in and shoots us or if a gas leak causes our home to explode.
But we have the freedom to make our life choices. As we should.
Congratulations! Wow, that sounds intense. I had both of my babies at home, so no VBAC or hospital birth to compare it to… I love giving birth at home, it’s such an amazing feeling. I’m so glad that you were able to do it! What a difference a great birth team (husband included) makes. I wish you a quick recovery and a peaceful time with your new baby!
How awesome! What wonderful news of healthy baby girl! Thanks for sharing you story 🙂
What a beautiful experience! My 4th child was my first homebirth – incredible experience! My 5th was supposed to be born at home, but was found to be breech in the midst of labor (she wasn’t breech just 4 days prior!). Midwife said that she would deliver her if baby began to be born, but with my history of very large babies, we opted for c-section. I would have loved to have had her at home and tried the breech delivery, but at 10 lbs and 11 ozs…….she was almost 23 inches long – midwife thought we made the best choice. Will I ever know? No, well maybe when I get to Heaven and ask God! Enjoy these precious days – my “baby” is now 4 and thinks she’s at least 10 – trying to keep up with the older siblings 🙂
What a witness with your scapular showing! Thank you, God bless, and Happy Easter!
Beautiful story! Thank you for sharing!
Bless you for your blog! and your story – I’m currently pregnant with my 4th baby and the memories of previous labours are far too vivid – even though all were good on the grand scheme of things. I’ll have to read your story again closer to giving birth as it is truely inspiring! Thankyou. xx
Christine Krivac Mulheran
Congrats! What a wonderful birth story. I had my first vbAC 6 months ago and still remember exactly what you mean by doubting your body and the fears. The birth process is such an amazing thing to work through. I am so proud of you!! God bless you and your family and enjoy sweet Ella!!
Congratulations! Thx for sharing. When was Ella born? I just had my 3rd, Silas, on march 18th and had him at home in a birthing spa with a nurse midwife as well. It was an amazing experience!