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Tuesday, 27 November 2012 10:21

The 52-hour Journey of our Breech Birth


Here we are...a place I hoped we’d never be... it’s 3:30am and time to discuss a hospital transfer...

I’ve been out of the birthing pool for just over two hours and am laying on our couch wrapped in all the towels and blankets we could find. I’m freezing cold and shivering as I hear my midwife say, “It’s time to discuss the options.” We had previously selected a specific hospital for transfer – if needed – but that no longer seems to be our best option so we run down a list of nearby hospitals. The house suddenly turns into a command center. Both of my midwives and my doula are walking around the first floor of our townhouse calling hospitals to see who is on-call and how they will handle my case.

You see...I’m breech. Well, my baby is breech, and I’ve been in labor for 48 hours now. I’m 7 centimeters and entering transition as we decide to make the transfer. All the nearby hospitals say they will do an automatic C-section if I’m brought in, but I don’t want a C-section. I know I can deliver my baby vaginally even with a breech presentation. The midwives begin calling OBs directly. They know of one female OB in the area that will allow moms to deliver vaginally for breech presentations, but she says she won’t take me because it’s my first baby. The odds are against me. It isn’t looking like I’ll be able to deliver vaginally after all. I’ve worked so hard these past two days to get to where I am and can’t believe I’ll have to be cut. The feelings of defeat begin to set in. There is one more possibility though. It’s a male OB that is in another county. It’s an hour drive to get to him. We make the call and wake him. I’m not expecting him to say anything different than the others, but within a few minutes my midwife enters my living room and says, “He’ll take you! I told him you were breech and wanted to deliver vaginally and he said to bring you in.” Thank you God! Off we go...

It’s after 4:00am, and my midwife is driving at the head of the pack. We’re on the Florida Turnpike with a general idea of where the hospital is. We’re relying on her memory for what exit to take. My husband is driving me, and my parents are following us. Behind them is my doula. It’s a four-car caravan in the middle of the night driving north for my last chance to deliver our baby naturally.

Surprisingly, I remember most of the drive. My pain is more intense and constant than it has been. I’m shivering cold and telling my husband to turn off the A/C one minute and taking everything off and asking for the A/C colder the next. I can’t get comfortable. I ask him to slow down. Each and every bump makes the contractions all the more difficult to manage. I’m screaming in pain. I’m in and out of sleep the entire ride.

My parents must think I’m crazy. I didn’t prepare them for this. They don’t know that there’s plenty of time before the baby arrives. They must be scared that I’ll have the baby in the middle of the road. I had told them I’d go to the nearest hospital if I needed a transfer. That hospital is a 3-minute drive from my house to the emergency room entrance. But I can’t go there. I can’t walk in there knowing that I won’t be given a chance to birth my baby. I have to make this journey to the one place where I have a shot at a natural birth.

About an hour later, we arrive at the hospital and I am admitted. The OB enters my room and does an internal exam to check how I’m doing. I’m still 7 centimeters. He then announces, “This is an automatic C-section.” In that moment the last bit of hope that I had remaining of delivering my baby naturally disappeared.
Over 48 hours ago, my mucus plug released, and my contractions started at 6 minutes apart. I wasn’t expecting it to happen like that. I know plenty of women who lose their mucus plug and don’t go into labor for days or even a week. I settled into the couch downstairs and kept timing the contractions to be sure this was the real thing before I woke anyone up. It was 4:00am, and I was certain I’d meet my baby within this day.

Two hours later, my contractions were going strong at about 4 minutes apart. I woke my husband with the good news and texted my midwife to give her a heads up. I began what turned into a marathon of vomiting. My contractions continued. My midwife and doula came by. Halfway through the day, I was 1 centimeter dilated and 100 percent thinned. Seemed unreal, but I knew better than to let the actual number disappoint me. It could be worse, so I took it in as progress.

My midwife left to return later in the day. My doula stayed. I rode out the contractions sitting on my recliner with my husband on his knees in front of me. The warmth of his hands on my thighs alleviated my pain more than he could understand. I slept, if only for a few seconds, between each contraction. My midwife returned. Time passed. I showered. Then, it was nighttime. I thought, “This should do it. I am more of a night person anyway. I’ll feel more relaxed and make good progress once the sun is down and I’m surrounded by darkness.” We all spent this first night together as my contractions continued. The TV was on, and although I was not focused on it, I was relieved that it was helping the time pass for everyone else. Everyone (except for me) took a few hours to nap. In the morning, I was 3 centimeters—progress, but a long way to go still. My midwife and doula left for several hours. My husband was exhausted. I decided to call my mom and ask her to come stay with me while everyone rested. I didn't tell her over the phone that I’d been in labor for over 24 hours already, but she suspects something is going on.

I continued to vomit and feel tremendous strain as I got every bit of liquid bile out of my stomach. The next time I went to the bathroom, I saw a dark colored discharge that I hadn’t seen before. I was concerned it might be meconium. I called my midwife. My other midwife was closer to my home and got there quicker to check my discharge. It was meconium. My contractions continued. My mom spent the day with me while I continued to labor. She left in the early evening to return later on with my father, who stayed upstairs without my ever seeing him. Nighttime arrived for a second time as my midwife and my doula returned. All were present now along with my husband, who was able to get some rest upstairs. They were concerned about the marathon vomiting and were trying to get me to drink and eat as much as I could keep down. I managed to keep down some drinks and miso soup, but only temporarily.

My pain was increasing. The sleep I'd gotten between each contraction over the last day and a half gave me the stamina to continue. But the pain was increasing, and I needed to try something else. I asked for my birthing pool. My husband and doula prepared the water. I got in. It was absolutely magical! I was so happy to be in the water. I was so impressed with how much pain relief it provided. I enjoyed this stage of my birthing process as much as one could while experiencing the mounting contractions. My contractions intensified and my body temperature began to fluctuate. This was one of my concerns (the other was fear of having a migraine during labor). As a thyroid cancer survivor, my body’s temperature tends to fall lower than normal. I was hot from the birthing pool, but my entire body was shivering.

I had been in the birthing pool for some time, and it looked like my midwives felt things were moving along. I heard them preparing for the birth. They started to set up the table with all the birthing supplies they would need when the baby was born. My midwife wanted to check me again while I was still in the water. I was now 5 centimeters. Five centimeters! Five centimeters...unreal. I had the stamina to continue. I was not giving up. But I became aware of the time. I saw that we were about to hit the 48-hour mark. And I started to worry about what that meant...

My emotions began to speak. Internally, I called upon every woman that had ever birthed naturally. I asked for their support, their wisdom, their guidance and their presence. I called upon the spirit world to give me the strength that I needed in this moment. I found myself getting upset as I silently screamed for help. I heard myself saying, “Where are you?” as if the generations of women birthers had forgotten to come for me. I called on my own birth experience, as I was born weighing almost 12 pounds to a 5-foot mother who birthed me without drugs or interventions. “It’s in my genes! I can do this!” And as I was going through this catharsis internally, my baby’s heart rate started to rise.

I was no longer in the comfort of the birthing pool. I was cold, wet, and shivering, wrapped in all the towels and blankets we owned, laying on the couch as I heard the words I never wanted to hear. “It’s time to discuss the options.” “Options,” I thought, “what options? I don’t want options. I want to birth my baby. That’s my only option.” But I trusted my midwife wholeheartedly. She didn’t use the words, but I knew if she was saying this, then it really was time to discuss a transfer. And a hospital transfer was what we did at 4:30 in the morning, just over 48 hours from the time my contractions started on that early Tuesday morning.

It’s now almost 6:00am on Thursday morning, and my one last chance at a vaginal delivery has just announced that I should be given an automatic C-section. You see, my baby is not just breech, but a bit transverse. My water has broken, and I have meconium present. I’ve been vomiting for days, and apparently I broke a fever on the drive up. My baby’s heart rate continues to reach peaks that are too high and begins to plunge below the norm, and let’s get real...I’ve been in labor for two days now and am still at 7 centimeters.

As the sound of the word “C-section” rolls off the OB’s lips, I hear my husband’s voice. He’s speaking with full certainty and with a clarity that I’ve never before heard from him. He says to the OB, “We drove an hour for YOU!” My heart stops. My leg kicks my husband. I’m not breathing. I’m thinking, “Shut up!” Such few words, but so much is implied. I’m even beginning to feel fear. I think it’s because I don’t want my husband to lose his temper with the OB. I think it’s because I don’t want this OB to be upset with us since we need him on our side. But the truth is that those words have solidified our destiny. What I feel is the power of those words and how in that split second my life has taken the path that I was born to take...

The OB doesn't skip a beat. He says, “OK, let’s see what she can do” and leaves the room. He too must have felt the power of those words. By now my concept of time is nonexistent. All I know is that I’m in the hospital room with my husband, midwife, and doula. The hospital nurse also comes in and out. She insists I lay on my back. I beg to be able to sit up. My midwife turns me on my side. I’m no longer vomiting, but the pain is unbearable. I’m hardly awake. All I remember is darkness and the voices of my birth team. They say I’m doing great, but deep inside I am waiting for my C-section. You see, I begin to believe that it’s over. It’s not so much that I believe that I can’t do it, but I feel the C-section knocking at my door. It’s in the air. It’s seducing me, and I surrender to it – emotionally, I give in.

The OB returns, and I’m 8 centimeters now. I fall back to sleep and don’t hear if there is a decision made. More and more time passes as I wait. I’m confused. Why are my husband, midwife, and doula encouraging me? Why do they want me to keep bringing my breath and energy down? Why do they want me to keep laboring? Don’t they know I’m having a C-section? Don’t they feel the devastation that I’m feeling? Aren’t they in as much disbelief as I am in? I’m awake for so little time between contractions that I can’t ask them why they are saying all those things to me. I remain confused and continue waiting to be taken away to the OR.

I manage to get some words out and ask the infamous, “How many more?” referring to contractions. I know there is no answer, but I can’t help asking. I hear the OB's voice pierce through the darkness: “Do you want an epidural?” Before I even get a chance to consider, he says “No? Ok.” It’s as if he doesn’t want me to have one. He asked, but wasn’t really offering. That’s interesting. And why did he say, “No?” Don’t I need one for my C- section? I fall back to sleep before I can think this through.
I’m lying on my left side facing my husband and midwife. They are holding my hand and touching my thigh. I see their faces go blank. I feel the fear that just came over them. I suspect it has something to do with what I just felt. I see them staring at the external monitor—there is no heartbeat. I know what has happened and do my best to get the words out. My baby’s heart didn’t stop. I look at my midwife and say, “I PUSHED! I can’t not push! I HAVE to PUSH!”

It was such a divine feeling. My body had to push. It wasn’t mental or even physical. It was divine. I was moved by spirit to push. My body knew exactly when and how. It was time for my baby to be born...

Because of the baby’s breech position, I knew I’d be checked again. Everyone had made it clear that they needed to be certain that I was a full 10 centimeters before pushing to avoid the baby’s head getting trapped once the body had come through butt and feet first. A possible complication with breech births since the head is bigger than the body. The hospital nurse checks me, but neither my husband nor my midwife feel confident with her so we wait for my OB. My contractions stop and in those moments I feel a rush of life and absolute ecstasy come through me. After all we’ve been through, after giving in emotionally to a C-section, after more than two days of natural labor...the moment is finally here. I am going to PUSH my baby out!

About 7 minutes later, at 7:55am on Thursday morning, I give birth to a baby boy weighing 5 lbs, 14 ounces and measuring 19 inches long. He is born in front of an audience. Seems that the rumors had spread across the hospital that there was going to be a vaginal delivery of a breech presentation, and the hospital staff wanted to witness something they thought they’d never see. My husband recalls hearing a few of them say, “She’s going to do it natural? But they didn’t teach us natural birth for breech presentations in medical school!” to which he responded, “Watch her do it”. And I did it. Our son came out butt cheek, foot, and testicle first. A strange sight indeed, but a true testament to all that birth can be when allowed to take its natural, raw course.

My son is about to turn one and is as healthy and full of life as can be. Over this first year of his life, I have come to fully understand the power of those words my husband spoke. Those words that he spoke for me when I couldn’t speak them for myself. Those words that set us on course for a natural, vaginal delivery when we came as close as one can possibly come to getting a C-section. It was those words that paved the way for me to slip right through the massive “C-section Net” that catches so many of us. It was those very words that saved me. Not just from getting a C-section, but also from losing a piece of myself that I know I’d never get back. Had I ended up with a C-section that day, an essential piece of me would have died on that operating table. You may not understand, but I know I would have lost the very piece that makes me who I am. I would not have been aligned with what I know to be truth. The self-betrayal would have cut so deeply that I would have remained wounded for life far deeper than the scar I would have had on my abdomen. I would have been changed in a way so profoundly that I would not have survived the experience as myself. It would have affected my mothering, and it would have affected my marriage. My life would not be as it is. I would not be as I am – as I was born to be.

We live at a time when it’s the norm to make people feel comfortable about what happens in their lives. A time when we allow people to feel like they’ve done everything they possibly can even if things don’t go their way. But I feel we do each other a disservice in doing this. I didn’t need my birth team to make me feel ok with getting a C-section...I needed them to hold my vision of a natural, vaginal birth when I couldn’t do it for myself. I needed my husband to speak my truth when I couldn’t. I needed to be able to surrender to the devastation of having a C-section at the depths of my inner being while my birth team held my destiny in check so that I could peek out from within the disparity I was feeling and still feel the presence of the possibility of having a natural birth.

We are survivors. With that said, we adapt to what comes our way and make peace with it in order to continue to live. I assume I would have done some form of this had I ended up with a C-section and would today be a profoundly altered version of myself. But in all honesty, I thank my midwives, my doula, my OB, my baby, myself and most of all, my husband, each and every day because I don’t have to do that. It is because of this that I know birth. It is because of this that I know birth in the way that I was born to know it. It is because of this that I know myself.

As I prepare for my son’s first birthday I feel into the gift my husband and I gave him on his BIRTH-day. I remind myself of what we transmitted to our son with every choice we made and I remind my son to never betray himself as we did not betray ourselves throughout his birthing journey.


Published in Birthing Stories
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 18:00

My Natural Birth in a Military Hospital

I thought I would share a little background about myself before I jump into my story. I'm a military wife. My husband and I were stationed at Marine Corps. Base Hawaii when I gave birth to our little angel in April 2011. Because we were so far away as a military family, it was just the two of us for the birth. Especially now and looking back, I feel so blessed to have had it so private and intimate. I gave birth at Tripler Army Medical Center, and although military hospitals generally have an awful reputation, I personally had an amazing experience. The hospital had a midwife program for low risk mamas and I opted for a midwife the first chance I got and after a terrible first experience with one of their OBGYN's. I could not have had a better hospital birth thanks to the wonderful midwives. And here is my story...


I suffered pre labor contractions for a week before I finally went into active labor. I became extremely impatient, frustrated and increasingly dissapointed when it wasn't the real thing. The day before I went into labor, I went in for my 38 week appointment and I told the midwife (who saw me about my contractions) so I allowed her to check my cervix which was 3 cm dialated and if I remember correctly about 75% effaced. She then told me she expected me to go into labor within the next 24 hours.

The next day on a beautiful Saturday morning, I woke up to my husband's alarm clock. I had no idea why he set an alarm for 6 am on a Saturday morning (later he explained to me he just "had a feeling"). I rolled over to ask him why and.. my water broke. HUGE gush. I told him I thought my water had just broken and...another huge gush. Definitely broken. I began to get so many butterflies in my stomach and couldn't believe after all my frustration and disappointment in the last week, it was FINALLY happening and I was about to experience what I'd been preparing for so long for. Most importantly, I would soon meet my precious baby girl.


I then found the business card with my midwives pager number and gave them a call. When she called me back and asked if I had felt the baby move since my water broke, I told her "no" so she suggested to get to the hospital as soon as possible just to be safe. I honestly may have felt her move and had just been to excited to notice.

So we got our things together and got on the road. The contractions at home and the entire way to the hospital were very tolerable. Not much more than what I'd been experiencing the week prior. It was a half an hour or so drive, no traffic and a beautiful and sunny day (like most days on the island). My husband and I were so giddy the whole way there with excitement; singing, laughing, and sharing our feelings about what was to come that day.


We arrived to the hospital and the labor and delivery seemed to be a ghost town. It was very quiet and it didn't seem as though they had many patients to attend to that morning. They took me to a small room in triage and checked to make sure my water had indeed broken, asked me some basic questions, did some fetal monitoring for about 30 minutes and all was well with Lily.


My midwife, Rosemary, then read a copy of my birth plan. She saw that I was planning a completely natural birth and said "Ok those are pretty common requests." The whole time I got the feeling she didn't have much faith in me because she "heard it all the time." She discoverd I had regressed a little to 2 cm and a little less thinned for some reason but she admitted me anyway since my water had broken. I got in my gown and they wheeled me to my delivery room where I met my nurses who were Godsends through my entire labor. I was still feeling fine at this point, smiling and answering all their questions with no problem. Once they checked my blood pressure and set in my heplock. I didn't allow the IV to be attached and they were perfectly fine with that as long as I stayed hydrated. They allowed me to walk around and do what I needed to be comfortable (anything but getting in the jacuzzi because it could have regressed my labor by relaxing me too much.) So my husband and I went for a stroll around the hallways in l&d. My contractions were getting a little stronger and I couldn't walk through them anymore. We went back to the room and my midwife asked if I had taken any lamaze or bradley classes or anything similar to cope through the labor. I hesitated for a moment to tell her "no" because I felt like she'd really have low faith in me then and assume that I wasn't prepared.


After that, I got on the birthing ball which was my the most relief I had during labor. The nurse continued fetal monitoring every hour for 20 minutes which was extremely annoying but she at least let me stay on the ball, which made it more bearable. After a few hours of that my midwife asked her why she was checking me so much, that I didn't need to be checked that often. I couldn't believe what I had just heard and that it took so long for someone to notice. I didn't know enough then to think to say something myself to the nurse and she did try to make me as comfortable as possible during the process.


As I mentioned before, my husband is a Marine so he was my only support person. He went down to the car to get our bags and while he was gone I talked to my mom on the phone while breathing through contractions on the ball. Later, I finally got permission to get in the jacuzzi which I was really looking forward to but unfortunately it didn't help me as much as I expected. It relaxed me between contractions because at this point I was utterly exhasted, but during the contractions it was almost as bad as laying on my back in the bed. While I was in the jacuzzi I came to a rock and a hard place. I told my husband "I can't do this" He encouraged me and told me I could do it and to remember that I didn't want any pain medication. I told him "I don't want an epidural I just want to die." I realize this statement seems dramatic but I think most, if not all women get to this point during labor. I had mentally prepared my self so well for a natural birth that the epidural was not even a thought in my mind, although that's what my husband thought I was referring to. I was just in so much pain and so tired I didn't know how I could carry on. But of course I did, one contraction at a time I got through it. One thing I had to remember is that it wouldn't last forever.


Eventually, I decided to get out of the jacuzzi and try something else for relief and shortly after I started going into transition, the most painful and intense part of labor. The contractions were increasingly difficult to breath through at this point and my back labor was excruciatingly painful. My nurses and husband were massaging my back, which I wouldn't have survived without, during my contractions. If they weren't already massaging I would grab the nearest hand I could find and press it as hard as I could into my lower back because it was the only thing that helped whatsoever. The contractions became so long and close together I had no break in between. The nurses were trying to take my blood pressure and were waiting until a contraction would end to check it but right as one started fading away, another would pick back up. I was feeling helpless and honestly terrified of the pain every time a contraction would pick up. The pain would start in my lower back and wrap itself around my body, tightening more and more until I felt like I would burst. I think if I had the strength to I would have cried.


At that point, I started feeling an urge to push which was truly unbearable at that point. Since I had the urge they checked my cervix which to my dissapointment was only 6cm! My husband told me "You're so close, you're almost there" but in my mindset I felt like it would never be over and couldn't understand why he would say that.

The nurses and my husband helped me get into different positions that might help ease the pain but nothing gave me relief anymore and the urge to push was getting stronger, my body literally forced me to push. There soon came a point when I couldn't change positions anymore because my contractions paralyzed me they were so strong. For a long time, I was stuck with one leg standing on the ground and one leg on the bed because while trying to climb in it, I was unable to move through back to back contractions. At this point I also ripped off my hospital gown because it continued to fall off my shoulder and the feeling of it hanging on me was extremely annoying and uncomfortable. I didn't have a care in the world who saw me naked and it was truly the last thing on my mind at the time. When I would get a short break between contractions, I hurried into a postion I was trying to get to before a contraction would start and leave me stuck.


As I was getting onto my side in the bed, my midwife noticed I was crowning, picked up my leg (I was still on my side which was the best position for me at the time and I couldn't even move if I wanted to) and she told me to just do what my body was telling me to do. So I pushed through the pain, exactly like they say, and after being exhasted through the labor I got a huge adrenaline rush while I was pushing. I pushed with all my strength. I even got mad when my contraction would fade away because I just wanted to keep pushing so it would be over. While pushing, I told my husband "I'm doing this, I'm actually going to do it." The reality of it all was just starting to hit me.

In about 5 contractions of screaming and squeezing my hubby's hand (poor guy, he said he almost cried he felt so bad that he couldn't help me) I delivered a perfect little baby. Lily Elizabeth. 6 lbs 3 oz 18 inches long. When she was finally out, the most euphoric feeling overwhelmed me. There was suddenly no more pain, and the room was completely still and quiet. I looked up and saw my midwife holding up my baby and she layed her on my chest. She came out with her hands by her face which tore me a little but I got two stitches and couldn't even feel it being done while I was on cloud nine holding my baby girl. It was the most empowering and beautiful experience of my life and I get teary eyed just thinking about it.


After I gave birth the nurses and my midwife were just in awe that I had actually done it. They kept saying how amazed by me they were and asked when I was going to start teaching a childbirth class at the hospital and saying "You were made for this!" They made me feel so good about myself but I did it for Lily and it was completely worth it. In fact I wish I could do it all again just to experience that moment of seeing and holding her for the first time all over again.

Lily latched on within minutes of her birth which was another new and beautiful feeling I can't find words to describe. She was so beautiful and perfect. My husband and I were both in tears as we met her. We were, and still are, simply in awe of her.


Published in Birthing Stories
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