Seth is almost a year old now, but I just started visiting this website and figured I'd post his story.
My dh and I were ready for our first son’s birth several months before his due date – or so we thought. We had taken classes, gotten most of the baby’s things ready, and chosen the Lisa Ross Birth and Women’s Center in Knoxville (http://www.lisarosscenter.org/
) as our birthplace. I had done a lot of research about the disadvantages of hospital births, and my dh and I were both very sure that we wanted a natural birth for our son and ourselves. The pregnancy was the easiest thing in the world for me – I had no morning sickness, no swelling or health problems, and hardly any discomfort, even in the last months. I started to wonder if my lack of bad luck would catch up to me eventually.
So, as the months went on and I could still feel the round bump of the baby’s head near my ribs, we started to be worried. Seth was breech, and he wasn’t turning. Starting at about 36 weeks, we tried everything to turn him – positional exercises, playing music, putting ice on his head, even chiropractic adjustments. We had an external cephalic version (where the doctor tries to push the baby from the outside - it hurt a lot!) done by a doctor who was supposed to have a high rate of success, but the baby still wouldn’t turn. The Birth Center wasn’t allowed to do breech births, so that meant that after preparing for months for a natural birth, we were looking at an automatic C-section. That just wasn’t acceptable to us, not without looking at our options. I spent a week or so phoning almost every doctor in the city – not one was willing to try a natural breech birth, not even under the best of circumstances. (And the circumstances for natural birth were about as good as they could get – I’m one hundred percent healthy, with a very roomy pelvis, and I even found out that my mother, aunt, mother-in-law, and two uncles-in-law were all born breech, vaginally, without problems.) Every doctor I asked gave the same reason for refusing to let me try a natural birth – not the baby’s health or my own, but insurance regulations.
It was a very frustrating and stressful week, but luckily my midwives at the Birth Center recommended that I call the Farm Midwifery Center (http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/Midw...r/Default.aspx
) near Nashville. We came down for a visit one weekend and liked what we saw, and I looked at the statistics for births there, and we decided that the Farm was our best choice. My parents were worried about the distance to the nearest hospital, but when I showed them the numbers, they eventually supported our choice. My grandmother, though, who had had her two breech babies and three vertex babies at a time when the woman was given so many drugs that she was hardly aware of the births, was very worried that we wouldn’t be in a hospital. All the doubts from other people made it hard to choose to go to the Farm. Even though I knew that my baby’s risks were as good or better at the Farm, and my risks were significantly improved by avoiding surgery, I sometimes felt as though I were doing something foolhardy and dangerous. It was hard to go against what everyone else thought was right, but my dh’s wholehearted support kept me going, and the facts really seemed to be on my side.
We hadn’t yet decided when to come down to the Farm. Dh’s job situation made it difficult for us to come down to stay, when we might have to wait weeks for labor to begin. Luckily, we ended up not having to make the decision. On the Tuesday evening after our weekend visit, we came home from our breastfeeding class to hear that my friend, who was also pregnant, had gone into labor. Other friends had joked during our pregnancies that we were in a race to have our babies, and they told me that I needed to hurry if I was going to have a chance at winning the race. I told them I’d get right on that, and apparently I meant it. A few hours later, at 2 in the morning, I woke up to a slight but unmistakable leaking – my water had broken.
We weren’t quite ready, since our plans had been changed so abruptly, so we had to get up and scramble to get the rest of our things together and packed in the car. My contractions were about six minutes apart, and not very strong, so we weren’t worried about having time to make the four and half hour drive (especially since it was my first baby). Two hours after my water broke we were in the car. It was a nice drive – I had plenty of pillows and got some sleep while dh drove. My contractions seemed to slow down a lot when I slept, but every time we stopped at a rest area they would speed up to be just a minute or so apart. It was snowy coming over the Cumberland Plateau – luckily the roads stayed clear, and looking out at the snow on the trees as we drove along, with the moon shining brightly over everything, was very peaceful. Everything was beautiful, and we watched the sun come up behind us as we drove, slowly lightening the snow. Once we got away from the main highway we saw several hawks in the trees. Everyone had warned me that a long drive while in labor would be a horrible experience, but I’ll never forget what a beautiful and peaceful time it was.
When we arrived at the Farm, my contractions were still about six minutes apart, so we had plenty of time to get settled in at the beautiful little cabin where we were staying, the “Meditation House.” It was full of windows, and so open and sunny! Later in the evening, we saw dozens of buzzards coming to roost in the trees not far away, and all through the day there were squirrels in the trees right outside the window. I rested and napped for several hours. Ina May Gaskin was one of my midwives, and she came by, but decided not to do an internal exam since my water was broken, so for a long time we just let the labor progress on its own. Another midwife, Carol, also came by. It was easy going until the afternoon, when the rushes started to get stronger and closer together. The contractions stayed in my back through the whole labor (the dreaded “back labor” everyone hears about, but it could have been worse), and later on I even had pain radiating down the outsides of my hips and legs, for some reason. I started to sit up and rock back and forth during each one, trying to breathe deeply and keep my muscles relaxed. Having dh or a midwife rub my back helped too. Even if they didn’t rub very hard, it seemed to help just to have a different sensation to focus on.
I was starting to get pretty tired by late afternoon and wanted to rest, but after getting sick a few times I realized that lying down through a contraction was what was causing the nausea. I’m glad I wasn’t stuck in that position in a hospital bed! I sat on the edge of the bed and leaned on dh between contractions. I remembered some of the birth stories I had read in Ina May’s book, and during some contractions I would think about opening up, “getting huge”. I didn’t do it every time, because it seemed to make the contractions stronger, and they hurt – but I knew stronger was better. I eventually asked Ina May to see how dilated I was – what a relief, 9 centimeters! I really wanted to push, since I was tired of the contractions, but I tried to wait until I felt the urge. I never did feel the overwhelming urge to push that people talk about, though, probably because the baby was breech. After a few hours I didn’t want to wait any more, and I tried a few experimental pushes. The midwives were encouraging, and we were seeing a lot of meconium (which doesn't indicate distress in a breech baby, it just gets squeezed out of him), so I kept on pushing with each contraction.
Things seemed to be going slowly. I kept pushing, sometimes leaning back on dh while sitting in the bed, sometimes on the toilet. The toilet helped a lot – it just seemed easier to push there. I was getting a little worried, mostly because I was tired, I think, and because of the stress I had felt over my decision not to go to a hospital. When I finally mentioned it to the midwives, they started listening to the baby’s heart more often, and reassured me that I was making progress, and that helped a lot. Seth’s heartbeat stayed strong and steady the whole time. Slowly, he moved down. I couldn’t tell though, until finally Carol showed me that I could feel his bottom starting to come out! That was a huge help, finally I could tell the progress I was making with each push for myself. That gave me a lot of reassurance and motivation to keep pushing. I was making a lot of noise by this point with each push, but I didn’t have to feel self-conscious about it. Everyone there knew that noise was good.
When Seth’s bottom became visible, I moved to a birthing stool. There was a mirror on the wall, and I could watch what was happening with each push. The midwives had me drink some Gatorade, since I had been sick earlier and was getting tired, and they also gave me some oxygen for the last bit of pushing. I could feel some stretching and burning with each push, but it wasn’t very painful, and I knew it was a good feeling. By that point I didn’t care if I tore, I just wanted the baby to be born! I could feel him kick from time to time, which was a strange feeling, but it let me know he was still doing fine. It seemed like I pushed for a long time with just part of his bottom sticking out, getting very slowly bigger. But then all of a sudden, with one push, something seemed to slip, and the rest of his bottom came out all at once! I felt Ina May pull his feet free, then I pushed again, and out came his shoulders and arms. Another push, and I heard a funny snuffling sound. Ina May said his nose and mouth were out – my baby was already breathing, even though the top of his head wasn’t born yet. Everyone was telling me to push one more time, but the contraction went away, and all of a sudden there was nothing to push against. I had to take a few seconds to re-gather my strength, but pretty soon I managed one last push, and out came the rest of his head, and Seth was born! I screamed, but it didn’t really hurt – there was a scraping feeling as his head came free, but mostly it was a great feeling of release. After all that effort and almost nine months of waiting, it was done!
Since I was sitting up on the birthing stool, they put Seth on my leg while they cleared out his nose. He was so warm! I could finally look at him and hold him. After we moved to the bed and they cut the cord, he latched on to nurse right away. He seemed to know exactly what he was doing. He had a few scrapes and bruising on his bottom from his unorthodox entry to the world, but he was perfectly healthy, and he didn’t have any head molding like a vertex baby would have had. I had a small tear, but it healed with no problem, and I was feeling back to normal within a week or so. Adam and I were incredibly happy to have such wonderful memories of Seth’s birth, rather than being forced to go to a hospital, and in the next few weeks I was very glad not to be recovering from surgery. We will always be grateful to the midwives at the Farm for giving us the choice. I'd recommend the Farm (and doing your own research rather than blindly accepting what doctors or other people tell you) to anyone having a baby.