The story of Sophia’s birth has to start with Simon, whose planned natural hospital birth center birth turned into a planned cesarean in labor because he was persistently breech. I was terribly disappointed by the loss of the natural and gentle birth I had wanted for him, and traumatized by an awful, inadequately anesthetized surgical delivery and utterly insulting “care” in the hospital. I spent the next year reading, learning, sleeping and breathing birth and VBAC, and knew with certainty from before I conceived that my next baby would be born at home. Lily’s pregnancy was peaceful, I had great midwives, enjoyed preparing for birth with hypnobabies, and looked forward with complete confidence to my expected HBAC. But when my water broke in early labor, it was nothing but gushing blood and clots, and we ended up with an ambulance transport and emergency cesarean under general anesthetic. I was deeply grateful that Lily was healthy despite a major placental abruption, but devastated at the loss of everything I had hoped for her and for myself in her birth – it killed me that I wasn’t even consciously there when she came into the world.
When I became pregnant around a year later, it was a bit of a surprise. This time around I had no confident plans, no sure hopes. I felt that my intuition had been broken and scarred by Lily’s birth, and I was filled with fear. My husband was uncomfortable with considering any out-of-hospital options, my mother had begged me not to try again at home. Despite my fear I knew I couldn’t plan an elective repeat cesarean; it just wasn’t in me to do it. So I went back to the OB whom I had seen as backup during Lily’s pregnancy, and just planned to try for a vba2c in the hospital…with my intuition and faith shaken, it seemed easiest to just go with what other people thought was best. But as time went on, and I tried to visualize myself going to the hospital to birth, it just didn’t feel right. There was no one who believed in me there, I would be only a big medico-legal risk walking through the halls, trying to fight the system and birth my baby at the same time. I found newish research showing that rates of complication after two cesareans were not significantly different than the risks after one….and more that showed the climbing risks to my health and life with each subsequent cesarean…and found that there was a hospital within two miles of my new home in case of emergency. And I knew that if no one else believed in me, my midwives would. So as hard as it was to get over the fear of doing things the same way as I had when they had ended so traumatically, everything was pointing me toward giving homebirth another go. At 24 weeks I called the midwives and made an appointment, and we started on the path toward what would be Sophia’s birth.
Around 30 weeks I began to suspect that I was carrying another breech baby – felt that hard, telltale noggin right up under my ribs. At my 32-week prenatal, B confirmed that she thought babe was breech too. We talked briefly about her comfort with breech births, and she talked about their hands-off approach and the more than a dozen breech homebirths they had attended in the last few years. I wasn’t sure what I would decide yet if the baby stayed breech. I made a chiropractic appointment that same day, started doing tilting exercises, and started reading the book “Breech Birth” that B had lent me. After reviewing the research, thinking and praying, and seeing that even ACOG had changed their guidelines in favor of breech birth since Simon was born, I decided to continue with the homebirth plan, though not without trepidation. I had an ultrasound at 36 weeks to confirm that the butt and not the feet were presenting, and that the baby’s head was flexed, and all looked favorable for a vaginal breech. I was still seeing the OB as shadow care, to maintain relationships in case of transfer, and I decided to allow him to try a version at 37 weeks. I declined an epidural so that I could maintain sensation and tell him to stop if it felt wrong. He got baby’s head about halfway down, but she was bracing with her feet, and on the second attempt it did feel wrong and I stopped the process. She quickly made her way back to her favorite comfy position, breech and left sacrum anterior. I did not choose to share our homebirth plan outside of my immediate family – really just my husband – so the OB assumed we would have a cesarean, though I did not agree to schedule one at that time.
I really thought that the baby would come early, maybe around 38 weeks, as I had heard that breech babies often do. And I hoped she would, because I was concerned about having another big babe (Simon and Lily had both been 9+ pounds). But I was carrying small and W said she felt that baby was probably around 6 pounds in the 37th week, and she didn’t seem to be going anywhere. By 40 weeks I was antsy, having bouts of prodromal contractions off and on for several weeks, but she still felt to be around 7.5, still within reasonable guidelines for a breech birth, so we hung in there. I saw the shadow OB at 40 weeks 2 days, and got the hard sell for a scheduled cesarean ASAP. I refused, but the doctor called on Thursday, March 29, saying my cesarean was scheduled for Friday the 30th. I had my husband call her back and tell her we wouldn’t be coming. When I woke from a nap that afternoon, I found an incredibly long message from her on the answering machine, the upshot of which was that her schedule and ‘the best interest of me and my baby’ required that I be there in the morning for the cesarean, which was still on the books. I found this incredibly stressful and called my husband to decide what to do about it…and while I was talking to him around 3 PM I found I was having contractions that were stopping me in my tracks, every few minutes. By the end of the conversation I asked him to come home because I was having trouble paying attention to the kids and dealing with the contractions at the same time. I wasn’t sure that it was really labor, since I had had a few bouts of pretty tough contractions that hadn’t gone anywhere over the past few weeks, but I definitely needed his help.
Eric got home around 4 PM, and I called W to tell her what was going on. She suggested I take an extra dose of calcium/magnesium and extra water, because that would calm things down if it were just an irritated uterus but wouldn’t stop the real thing. My mother-in-law came around 6 to take Simon and Lily to her house, and I spent the evening just sort of puttering around between contractions, watched a movie with Eric, had some dinner. We started noticing the contractions coming closer together and stronger, and there was bloody show along with them, so I called W again around 8 and she said it sounded like it was time to have a baby. Eric decided to go get some rest, and I lay on the couch listening to hypnosis scripts and breathing through the ctx until W came around 11. I found that the hypnobabies plan of being “loose and limp and relaxed” during the “wonderful birthing waves” just wasn’t doing it for me – I could not remain still at all, had to rock, bounce, sway through them. Things continued like this for several more hours…since B was out of town M, a midwife from Michigan, was coming down, and she arrived at some point…lots of tough ctx 2 or 3 minutes apart, and I decided to get in the tub around 1 or 2. At this point it really seemed like things might go pretty quickly, but it wasn’t to be… Was in there for a while until I started dozing off between contractions, got up to go to the bathroom, came back and sat in a recliner and things started to space out a lot. I was still dozing in between contractions, and W suggested that I go down and get in bed while things were slacked off so that I could get some rest.
So I went down to bed and actually got decent rest between contractions, as they had spaced out to maybe every 10-15 minutes. W came in every hour or so to listen to the babe, who was doing fine, and around 7 am on Friday I got up and W said they had another mom in labor. She asked if I was willing to be checked to see where things stood so they could decide where to go and when, and I was fine with that as I really wanted to know whether all the contractions were doing anything or not. She found that I was fully effaced and 5-6 cm, but that my cervix was still really posterior with the butt not applied very well, which explained the slow progress. She pulled the cervix forward and suggested I stay upright as much as possible – and also strongly suggested that I eat a decent breakfast, as it could really take a while longer. Eric went out for eggs and breakfast stuff, and I ate as much as I could though nothing was really appetizing. Ctx were still strong but far apart, 10-15 minutes. It was a beautiful morning and M suggested we take a walk to see if that would move things along. They did pick up while I was walking, but not by much. The midwives decided to leave to check on the other mom, and left us with the Doppler to keep checking baby. I was fine with this as I was starting to feel like a watched pot that was never going to boil.
Eric and I spent the next few hours just hanging out, watched a weird German movie about a girl who believed she was possessed by the devil, took another walk. W and M came back around 4 to check on us – the other mom hadn’t yet had her baby either. Got checked and things were still pretty much the same, again with the posterior cervix. They left again to give us privacy, we went out to Blockbuster and rented yet more movies (and I had to hide behind the shelves and bend over rocking with my hands on knees to get through the ctx in between searching for a good flick), and picked up some Chinese food for dinner. My dad came to pick up our laundry, and I was a little nervous because we hadn’t shared the plan with him or my mother, but I was fine during the brief time he was at the house – I really wanted my labor to be private until the baby was here. I was getting discouraged and worried…even though W had assured me that the baby was fine, and that as long as vitals were good and I could eat drink and pee, we could stick with it for as long as it took. Before she left she had told me the story of another VBAC mom who had labored 3 days, 3 centimeters a day, only between 7 pm and 3 am, and the baby was born at 3 am on the third day. I held on to that story, and to the 80+ hour UBAC that I remembered reading of – but I also had doubts that this was really ever going to go anywhere or would ever pick up again. I had shared with M my remembering Odent saying that breech births should be smooth and progressive or you should give it up, and I wasn’t sure that was happening. She told me too that baby was fine, and that 6 cm was definitely progress, that this was my third baby but my first vaginal birth and there was nothing too unusual about what was going on.
I was also really starting to miss Simon and Lily, and just felt bored and discouraged and tired. I talked to Eric about how I was feeling, that I was worried, wondered whether I should just give it up and go have that cesarean after all, that I didn’t know what was going on. He just listened, asked why I was feeling that way and whether I thought there was real reason for concern. I decided that I would hang out a few more hours and try to figure out what was going on. I called W around 11 still feeling pretty distraught, feeling like this had been going on forever with no change in sight, and once again she reassured me that everything was going fine except for a poky labor, and said she would come again to check on us when they finished with the other mom’s birth (“She lapped you” Eric said…oh well), in a few hours.
I cried to Eric again about missing the kids, about feeling discouraged, about not knowing what to do and that I just wanted them home. The labor was manageable, I could do it for days if it kept going that way. But I couldn’t stand missing them and putting everyone’s lives on hold for so long. So despite its being almost midnight, we decided we would just go get the kids. Eric told his mom, who had assumed we were going to the hospital, about our homebirth plan and that it was just going slower than expected, and we didn’t know how long it would take and wanted the kids at home, and she was very understanding and okay about it. We picked up the sleeping kiddos and put them in the car, and labor started to pick up again on the drive home. We put Simon and Lily in bed, and Eric went to lay down. I stayed in the living room trying to rest on the couch, with contractions coming every 5 or 6 mins again. I was encouraged that maybe things would finally get moving. When M and W arrived, I asked that they check me again, and W found I was at around 7.5 cm, cervix still posterior. I was definitely heartened that there was some progress, however slow. They decided to stay and sleep and see where things were in the morning. The rest of the night is kind of a blur, just moving around the house trying to deal with the contractions…I lay down for a while, paced for a while, rocked on the ball, sat on the toilet, lay down again. Most of my active laboring time I was alone, with everyone sleeping, and that was okay.
The kids started waking up around 7 AM (we’re all the way to Saturday morning now), Lily got to nurse on the couch for a while as much as I could stand it, and W suggested we call Mary to come watch them since I was continuing to labor pretty heavily. I retreated into our bedroom while Eric went out and took care of the kids and just kept it up, leaning over the bed, trying to lie on my side since I was so tired (didn’t work), more bouncing, more rocking. At some point in the morning I got checked again and W said I was at 9 or so, but with an anterior lip, since the cervix still wasn’t wanting to stay up front. She told me how to hold it myself, and I tried to do that as much as I could during some contractions and in between. Contractions were coming faster and harder and less of a break and it had just been going on so long and I still didn’t believe it would ever really go anywhere or that I would really get a baby, and I started getting really weepy, sobbing that I couldn’t do this shit anymore…which of course I was assured was ‘just transition’. I decided to go up and get in the tub again, stayed there who knows how long…by around noon I had made it to 10 cm. M said “you did it, you’re there…” but still I didn’t believe it. Things slowed down some then, I was just waiting on an urge to push but remembered that there was sometimes a “rest and be thankful” stage between dilating and pushing, and I was all in favor of that since I was exhausted. I just relaxed and dozed between contractions, which spaced out some…drank a smoothie that W made, got out of the tub and sat looking out a window in a squeaky desk chair that was just right for rocking during ctx. Started feeling like the babe was moving lower, like I could feel her ratcheting downward millimeter by millimeter during ctx. But it was still kind of chilled out just then.
Then I became aware of a commotion outside the room. I was confused to hear the voice of my mother, who was definitely not invited. She had a vicious and rageful tone in her voice, and was threatening that ‘they have 5 minutes to clear out of here or I am calling the police…I knew you would do this…I love my daughter enough to stop her from killing herself’. It was insane and I couldn’t believe it was truly happening. In a fog I tried to take the phone away from her, but Eric said no and that he would handle it, and told her to leave the house. He called the police because she would not leave, she called the paramedics. I stayed upstairs in a strange state of calm. Decided I had better put on some clothes, so I got on a matching pair of clean pajamas and got my glasses. Mary came up to check on me, and assured me that Simon and Lily were okay and that M and W had left per Eric’s request. I heard the firetrucks and ambulance pull up outside, and I wondered whether there would soon be people rushing into the house, but nothing happened. I pictured different scenes of what could happen next, but I knew that we had a right to refuse treatment and that Eric would stand up for us. Labor pretty much stopped at this point, thank God – the fight-or-flight response kicked in just when it was needed. I went downstairs and nursed Lily for a few minutes. W called and told Mary to tell Eric to request a waiver that we could sign to send away unwanted emergency personnel, and a few minutes later he brought in the papers saying I needed to sign them in front of the paramedics and they would leave. So I marched outside in my nice pjs with Lily on my hip, and looked at about 15 paramedics, firefighters, a couple of police officers, and my mother, all standing outside our front gate. I said to them that I did not require their services, that I had not called for them, that I wanted them to leave and would be happy to sign whatever they needed to make that happen. One of them, an officious lady EMT, began a speech about killing my baby, plenty of shroud-waving indeed, and that she needed to take my blood pressure. I said “No, I don’t consent to any treatment at this time, I will go to the hospital myself if I feel it is needed, like any other pregnant woman in the world” EMT said she had to call a doctor because of the “apparent life-threatening condition” that we were in…I asked “what’s life-threatening here, I’m fine” and she blustered some about breech blah blah. She got an OB from the hospital on the phone and held it out to me asking would I please speak with her; I said that I would call my doctor when I chose to do so and no thank you. I just didn’t want to give them any in that I had consented to *anything at all*. So the EMT said I just had to “sign here so that if you and your baby die I won’t lose my job.” I said “sure, we wouldn’t want that”, signed on the dotted line that I refused services, and went back inside. Incredibly, as I turned to go in, my mother called out “Cassidy, you owe me the courtesy of at least coming to talk to me.” I replied that she had owed me the courtesy of not invading my privacy and my home and threatening my family, and I didn’t feel I owed her anything. Within 10 minutes or so they pulled out…it took the police a few minutes longer, and my mother continued to sit on the curb in front of my home. Mary told me how she had shoved her way into the house, and she had threatened me that if the midwives came back she would call the police again. Since we live in a state where CPMs are not licensed, we were concerned that their presence would give cause for police to come in, so we decided that it would be safer to go somewhere else to have the baby. Mary said we were welcome to come to their house. So we prepared to “transport” for our homebirth at someone else’s house.
My mother was still parked outside our house, and after her wild behavior and threats, we felt there was every chance that she would try to follow us and call the police again. We got all the birth supplies that we could gather out to the car – the midwives had left everything and gone home to switch cars in case their license plates had been noted, and would meet us at Mary’s. As we all walked out to get into the car, my mother started her car, and I realized that if she started out then, she could get around behind our garage before we could get the kids in and get out. So I decided to go speak with her while Eric got everyone situated and pulled the car out and ready to take off. I expressed to her how sorry I was that she had done this, that it was going to burn bridges in our family that I didn’t know that I would be able to repair even if I wanted to. She said that if I or the baby died, she would never forgive herself if she hadn’t done something to stop it. I said she had no reason to believe that we were going to die, that life has risks, that I have made my choices based on plenty of thought and care, but that this was not the time or place to discuss them. And then I made a run for the car. We went around a bit of a long way, stopped in a secluded parking lot for a bit to make sure she wasn’t following, and then went on to Mary’s. Later I told Eric that it was as though all of my own fears and doubts literally showed up on my doorstep in extreme physical form, with flashing lights and death threats, and I got to physically face them down and affirm that I was going to do this – and once this was done, the final chapter of this birth saga could begin.
And of course, labor picked up again in the car on the way there. We checked baby with the Doppler as soon as we arrived and she was still ticking along, despite all the stress and excitement we were feeling. We got there about 5 PM, and Mary’s husband had set up their bedroom for us, covered the bed and chairs, lots of towels ready. Simon and Lily went to play in the playroom, and Mary and her family and M and W arrived a few minutes later. They came and hugged us, talked about what a time we had had and how sorry they were, and then W told me that it was pretty likely that my cervix had closed up some, and Mary had sent in some arnica 200c that I should take every 15 mins for the next hour to deal with any cervical swelling, and we would see where things were in an hour or so. So just back to laboring, I wandered around the bedroom, got in and out of the shower, walked around the backyard stopping to rock and moan. Around 6:30 M checked on me and the baby…7-8 centimeters. W told me “you are doing this, you are giving your baby a gentle birth just like you dreamed, you’re okay and we are here for you.” And I was back to transition for the second go-round. More crying, and this time it wasn’t only that I couldn’t do it and it hurt too much but that it was absolutely not fair that I had to do this part again! I had been doing this for DAYS! I remember thinking that I would totally transfer and have a cesarean just for the pain relief, if only it wouldn’t take such a long time riding in the car to get there. I just felt frantic with the pain though, there was less and less of a break in between and I couldn’t find anything that made it better…no matter what position I was in I felt trapped when a ctx would come, and all I could do was count the breaths and the moans, picturing myself just going up and over the top of each one. One thing that I did use from all my hypnosis practice was saying “peace”, picturing my belly and back more comfortable, but it was not a very peaceful-sounding “peace” at all…more like the sound of a dying cow, or Eric said the chorus of a death-metal song. I got in the shower again, and when I got out I noticed fluid running down my leg – finally my water had broken. We checked again and the cervix was entirely out of the way, there was no cord prolapse, and no feet presenting – everything was finally lined up right and I could birth this baby. Have to say I still didn’t believe it would happen at all though. I still didn’t have any strong urge to push, but the contractions were coming so fast, and finally it seemed that they just never stopped…and it seemed to feel a little better if I would bear down some at certain points, so I was doing that just for comfort.
I ended up on my hands and knees, sort of sitting back onto my heels to push for a while. I could feel her starting to move down, and at the peak of one push we saw meconium. Freaked me out for a minute thinking I was bleeding a lot or something, but W assured me it was just mec, totally expected for a breech birth, and I was actually encouraged that that meant we were getting somewhere. W suggested that I could try squatting while hanging between Eric’s legs as he sat on the bed. As soon as I got up into that position, the baby just rocketed down, I could feel her hit bottom. Within a couple of pushes we could see bottom, and I reached down and felt, and funnily my thought was “I guess this means it’s too late to have a cesarean now”. Then I felt her moving down more and my perineum stretching, and a bizarre sensation that she was spinning around or something. A few more pushes and the butt was mostly out…then on the next push I felt her legs come free, then arms, and Eric said “here’s our baby sweetie, our baby is coming!” and I looked down and saw her lying below me, and then W picked up her body and I felt her head roll out, and there she was! My baby! In MY arms, slippery and new. I rubbed her back, she opened her eyes up but wasn’t breathing just yet. M and W were checking her heart tones, sucking some gunk out of her mouth, brought a bit of oxygen, and she pinked up quickly. W said “see, who says breech birth is such a big deal!” I just held her in awe talking to her and welcoming her, and Eric asked if it was a boy or a girl. I looked – girl! Just as Simon had predicted.
I felt a gush of blood and fluid, and M cut the cord and the placenta was born. I heard someone say “here’s why she was breech!” There was a true knot in her umbilical cord, apparently pretty rare. I guess she knew what she was doing when she dug in her heels and refused to be flipped. I was thrilled to be able to really eat again and had several pieces of the pizza that had smelled so nauseating before; Simon came in to meet and kiss his new baby sister. A bit later we got in the bath together and it was magical just to be with her, enjoying her, getting to know her…and not on a morphine drip, no hole in my guts, nothing shoved down her throat, never taken from me. I had only a couple of little tears, no stitches. Eric, Lily, baby and I all slept together until morning, Mary made breakfast and took great care of us, and we headed home. Every bit of this harrowing, endless adventure had been incredibly worth it, and I’ll never forget it.
I would have stuck it out anyhow, I am such a birthstory junkie!
Thank you for sharing
DH&Me Christ follower, homeschooler, gardener, (insert lots of additional crunchiness here) chicken mama, & occasionally blogger. Mama of boys 9,7,3.5,&11months....& SURPRISE expecting a BOY in November! 7 sweet-babes gone too soon.
Midwifery Student and Mama to 2 daughters and 3 sons.
I have given birth a variety of ways and I am thankful for what each one has taught me.
It's pretty amazing what you accomplished, going through all that drama in the middle of labor and still managing to have the birth you chose! Great job!
What an incredible birth!
If you made it through ALL THAT and still managed to get the peaceful birth you always deserved then EVERYONE should feel encouraged that they can really DO THIS!
Thanks for sharing such an amazing birth with us!
So sorry your mother could do something like that to you though
It sounds like it truly gave you the strength that you feared you lost though
JustJenny and DH of 20 years
After a 2 year fertility struggle - Baby girl is here! Jan 8th 2014
2 Boxer Furbabies Buddha and Tootsie
I can't believe your mother did that to you :
Thanks for sharing your story- it delivered everything you promised And with a beautiful baby at the end to top it off!
Christine, mom to C(7.5) - E(5) - J(3) - B(10 mos)
Doula, childbirth educator, Co-leader of ICAN of Atlanta
"Never miss an opportunity to make others happy, even if you have to leave them alone in order to do it." ~Anonymous
~Mama to my boys~ to a teen, a tween & a toddler and surro-mama to twins and their sister
Livin' in the sticks with my chicks and lovin' it!
2014: 4/52 projects 0/2014 things 0/52 books
You are one tough mama!!! Not just the normal physical and emotional turmoil of birth, but also dealing with a family crisis at the same time as a difficult breech labor! It's truly amazing!
And, this just goes to show ya... Mom's are weird about their daughters having babies. It happens a lot, but yours was EXTREME! You handled yourself so well, I just want to hug you.
Though do share the epilogue - what happened when you went home? Does the family think it was a c/s after all? I hope your mom has found some sense again now that you and your DD are both clearly just fine!
You have much to be proud of, mama! Congratulations on an amazing birth under the most stressful of circumstances!!
HeatherB ~ mama to 3 wonderful boys: 03/02; 09/04; 09/07 - and Eliana, 11/13/10!
Founder of Houston Birth Alternatives: Be Informed, Encouraged, Supported birth support group and aspiring midwife.
Even before this birth, I thought you had a penchant for dramatic flair when it came to birthing. But now I see I had it all wrong -- you're only just now coming into your own with your third birth. I hate to think of what might happen if you have another.
No, on a more serious note, I am so happy that you finally got your beautiful birth scene -- reading about it brought tears to my eyes. And I am very sorry that you had to go through 55 hours of labor, two transitions, a lot of family strife and a car chase to get there.
And also, searching for the silver lining in your mom's behavior I came up with this: while your mom was crossing boundaries and in an assaulting way at a spectacularly bad time, at least she was motivated by love and a desire to protect you. Her mama instincts kicked in, and she thought, "Screw decorum, my daughter's in danger." Not excusable, but understandable. She probably felt she had to rescue you, and that saving you from mortal peril was worth threatening your relationship.
|This may rank among the longest birth stories ever written, but if you get through it you will get to some killer action sequences…car chases…action adventure extravaganza…I promise! And at the end, a breech homebirth after 2 cesareans and 55 hours of labor.|
Congratulations on your hard-won VBAC!
Mara, mama to two boys born 05/2009 and 04/2011, after four miscarriages.