Born, March 23, 2012, one day after his due date…
Since 29 weeks, our baby boy was breech. Once we neared 35 weeks, I began to try everything. You name it, I tried it. But he was super comfy the way he was and couldn’t be bothered to turn. We even tried the ECV. Because he was breech, our midwife could not legally deliver him at home. I transferred care to the only doctor in the state willing to let his patients attempt vaginal breech deliveries. He was over an hour drive away and my husband and I were still not sold on the idea of a hospital birth. I saw the doctor a few times in order to keep our options open. In the meantime we did a lot of research on birthing breech babies. Because of the baby’s position (frank breech), that he was my second baby, and that I had a lot of faith in him and my body, my husband and I felt that a home birth was still an option for us, even though it would be unattended by a birth professional. We formulated our birth plan as follows:
Option A. If labor is ‘short’ and straightforward, we attempt it at home (and we bought/rented a fetal doppler and some emergency equipment for this). My first labor was 25 hours. ‘Short’ was relative to me, but I was hoping for something in the 6-12 hour period with everything progressing as a normal labor would.
Option B. If labor didn’t progress well or if we felt intuitively like something was off, we’d drive the hour up to the hospital that our doctor delivered.
Option C. If at any point something goes poorly, we call 911 and transport to the nearest hospital--which would most certainly mean c-section.
So, here’s the story…
After a few pretty intense contractions around 5:30pm on Friday, I told T that I might actually be in labor. I was skeptical because I’d had two weeks of pre-labor that always seemed to fizzle out. But these contractions were quite a bit more intense right of the back. So I thought I’d time them and get a heart rate from the baby so we’d know better where to locate it. The contractions were four to five minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds. Each one seemed to get stronger and if I changed positions, I instantly got another one. By 6:30 I was finally convinced. Each contraction left me moaning and forcing myself to breathe deeply. My daughter (almost 4 years old) liked the primal humming and joined me for many of them. I thought it savvy to take notes, so I got out a notebook and jotted some basic information about the time, fetal heart rate, and contraction info.
T called our friend L, who was to be my daughter’s special friend for the birth. She could attend to her and, in the event of a hospital transfer, take my daughter home with her. L was in route. I was a little disconcerted at how quickly the contractions rose in intensity. I had a 25 hour labor with my daughter and was hoping for a 12 or even six hour labor with this one. But I was already sensing that I couldn't handle that many hours of this level of force. I stopped timing them because it took all my concentration to get from one to the next. T took the heart rate a few times and it was always strong and steady. He was filling the birth pool. I didn’t plan on getting into the pool until much further down the line, but already I was craving the relief it seemed to promise. I tried a few different positions but was the most comfortable simply sitting. As soon as the pool was filled I dove right in. Instead of lessening the strength of the waves, they rose even further. I got scared and needed T to be with me at all times. He decided he needed more help, so he called two of my close friends at 7:30. A and J both offered to be there as soon as they could.
Around 8pm I got hot. I got nauseous. I got really scared. I started crying. I felt a pop, and my water broke. Clear, no meconium. I told T that I thought maybe having a C-section was a better idea. But at this point, that was not an option. For I began to experience the Urge of all Urges. Push. I had done my research and knew that with a breech baby, a woman might feel the urge to push before she is completely dilated—making it difficult for the biggest part of the baby, the head, to pass at the end. I had prepped myself to wait at least 45 minutes after feeling the urge. But no matter how hard I tried not to, my body wasn’t listening. I was on my hands and knees leaning against the pool wall. T tried to check me, but had no idea what he was feeling. So I reached in and about an inch up, my finger met squishy butt cheek. Oh my goodness, he’s coming now. I pleaded with my body not to push, but my body was a force not to be reckoned with. It was quickly expelling this baby. I had no choice but to go with it. I didn’t try to actively push, but I had to let my body do its business.
T asked me to stand so that he could check the heart rate. By this time, he had no idea where to find it, and I was soaked and we didn't have a waterproof doppler. Baby’s bottom was out. J had just walked in and T told her to dial 911, because he was having trouble finding a heart rate and wanted paramedics there just in case. I knew we didn't need paramedics there, but we had agreed before hand that either of us has the right to make that call. I squatted back down in the water. I felt a big movement and T announced that both legs came out. He saw them kick occasionally. Another surge and both arms arrived. He checked the cord, which was not wrapped around anything and was pulsing. T informed me that he was blue. I told him that was okay.
I knew the head was all that was left. Through two really crazy surges I prayed with all my might that I would be opened and fully dilated. The head came out. I flipped over and T handed me our son. He was purple from neck down and covered in vernix. He wasn't breathing yet, but he was trying to open his eyes. I started rubbing him and talking to him and after a few seconds he made some gurgly noises and took his first breaths. We suctioned his nose, but nothing was there. T opened the resuscitator bag, but by the then, he was breathing and active.
L was the only one to glance at the time when he appeared. 8:28pm.
I felt like a million bucks.
Meanwhile, J was on the line with 911. The operator was instructing us to rub the baby vigorously, cut the cord immediately and lay him on a dry towel. I knew cutting the cord wasn’t necessary at this point. I held him close, kept rubbing and talking to him, and someone put a towel around us. T called our midwife, who though she couldn't deliver the baby, had no problem helping us once he was out. She agreed to come immediately.
The paramedics arrived. They seemed pretty surprised to see that this was planned. They asked if we wanted to be transported to the hospital and I told them not unless there was a problem. They took my vitals and the baby’s, who was now alert and pink. We told them that our midwife was on her way and they stayed until she got there. It was totally the right call to get them there; we just didn’t actually need them in the end.
My placenta was delivered almost all the way, but I had trouble getting it to release fully. My midwife massaged me uterus for a moment, and out it came. It was small—almost half the size of the one when I delivered my girl. The cord was a normal length, and it wasn’t at all wrapped around the little guy. It’s still a mystery why he was so intent of sitting breech. I had no tearing.
I got out of the pool and cleaned up a bit. Baby Boy nursed like a champ. He weighed 7lbs 3oz and was just over 20 inches long. My daughter helped my husband cut the cord. We sang happy birthday and had ice cream to celebrate.
I have never been more proud of my husband—all the courage he showed and how calm he remained.
And though our choice to birth a breech baby unassisted has been met with some skepticism and resistance, I know that it was the right choice for us. I’m so glad we followed our hearts and heads in the matter. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful story.