Twice in the last week I have been asked to share our story. For a while I wasn’t sure about sharing. The birth of Wentz was equally as trying as it was magical. It felt a bit like a battle at times; Tyler and I were constantly put in a place where we had to ask ourselves “what do we do?” when we didn’t want to answer… but the baby was coming and we needed to make big decisions. Reading the birth stories and the books helped, having an amazing midwife and doula helped, but nothing would really have prepared us for the story of how Wentz came into our life.
If you have been following me through my pregnancy you will know that it was the absolute best. No need to get too into that , but it was honestly the epitome of goddess glow all 10 months.
July 28th we found out that our baby was breech (our due date was September 3rd). I was just about 35 weeks. It was a full moon. Of course. [insert me laughing out loud in irony]. I went back in my journal just now to confirm the date and it brought me right back to that crazy day. Tyler had gone out of town for his last guys weekend of freedom and I got the call from our midwife. My journal says “I was shaken. Literally.” And I was. And I felt alone, confused and scared.
Over the next few weeks we did everything we could. I saw an osteopath, continued with chiropractic, got acupuncture, our OB tried to flip the baby, I spent so much time upside down, our doula tried a few tricks etc. But the baby wouldn’t budge. I can’t remember if it was acupuncture or the OB appointment that was about 3 weeks before our due date but whichever appointment it was I told myself that if it didn’t work, this baby was staying put. After that I knew I had tried everything I could and alas surrendered to the fact that this baby was going to do what it wanted and that was likely what was best. We started to prepare for bringing a breech baby into this world naturally – through the birth canal, out of my vagina, unmedicated.
At 41 weeks and 1 day my water broke. 2am on September 11th.
I would like to note that I had the support of all of my medical practitioners. Our OB, midwife and doula were all on board with our plan to avoid cesarean.
Contractions were all over the place. Some were 90 seconds, others were 8 minutes and the “down time” varied greatly. Our midwife told us that was normal with breech babies since the heaviest part of the baby (the head) was not pressing against my cervix (that’s where baby’s butt was). By 9am the contractions were coming on average every 4 minutes and I really had to focus to get through them. We went to the hospital excited and buzzing with adrenaline.
I never wanted to give birth at the hospital. Nothing about the hospital seemed welcoming, soft, calm. We had been planning for a home birth before we found out the baby was breech. We could have gone against medical advice and still birthed at home but that wasn’t something we were comfortable with… most breech babies are delivered via cesarean.
As soon as we got to the hospital my contractions stopped.
The bottom line is I immediately felt unsafe and uncomfortable.
Our experience in triage is a whole story in and of itself but just know it was horrendous. I was told that if the nurse “believed everyone who said their water had broken, she wouldn’t have a job”. Nice. She didn’t believe I had been in labour. The OB on call rhymed off all of the reasons why attempting vaginal delivery was unsafe for both me and baby. She wanted to schedule a cesarean right away. Luckily, she consulted with our OB and he was on call after her so all we had to do was wait her out. After nearly 6 awful hours in triage we were moved to proper birthing room.
A medical resident came in and told me she was going to start Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin – oxytocin is the hormone that naturally gets contractions started and keeps them going…. it’s the love hormone and since I was feeling anger, fear and judgement I had none of it flowing through my body). I told her that was my choice, I didn’t appreciate being told what to do and would prefer if we discussed how this birth might go. She put on a different face and spent 45 minutes going through all of the questions we had about Pitocin, epidurals, cesarean. By the time she left Tyler and I felt like we had a good idea of what the medical system thought of how our birth should go but also much more informed as to what to prepare for if any of those things should occur.
During the whole time at the hospital our doula was with us and between check-ups and conversations with nurses and med students we were walking around, trying to make jokes and be joyful in hopes my contractions would kick back into gear. I was still contracting a bit but not enough.
Here are some timing-related facts for where we were at by this point:
– The hospitals in London want babies born within 24 hours of the Mom’s water breaking
– our OB was on call until 7am and our best bet for vaginal delivery was to have him deliver
At 7pm an angel walked into the room. Our nurse, Sara. She walked in and said “I hear you have a breech baby. No one out there wants to touch your case. But I LOVE breech babies“. In that moment. With those words. Our whole experience shifted. Finally someone who trusted us and our baby.
I asked her to start pitocin. There were only 8 hours left on the 24 hour “water breaking” clock and 12 hours on the “vaginal breech delivery OB” clock. We needed to get things moving.
And they did. After 2 hours I was 4 cm and then one hour after that I was 9.5 cm.
By then my contractions were on top of each other. Back to back. There seemed to be no break. I had been told that once I was fully dilated I would need to wait about an hour before I could push. But the medical resident who had been checking on me said I would have to wait 2 hours. (since breech babies come out head LAST, you really need to make sure the cervix is fully open so the head doesn’t get stuck) By now, my body was starting to push the baby down and the medical staff were telling me I couldn’t do that yet. This was the absolute craziest time. I was experiencing the greatest cramps of my life, like my body was ripping in half from the inside out. Nothing Tyler or our doula did was helping. I had been awake for nearly 20 hours. I knew I couldn’t manage 2 more hours of those contractions and still have energy to push the baby out. So, I asked for an epidural.
Over the next few hours I had three epidural attempts.
Epidural attempt 1 – not sure why, but it just didn’t work. Thanks doc.
Epidural attempt 2 – only numbed half of me. Now I was extra pissed. I told the doctor that and he completely understood. A moment of more ironic humour in the midst of chaos.
Epidural attempt 3 – success!
Epidural’s don’t just slide in and you’re all set. Well not for me anyway. We had to wait for the anesthesiologist to be available. Then he had to list all the potential consequences and I had to agree to maybe dying and whatnot. Each time, I had to get into a proper position and stay still through contractions which is a very unnatural feeling. It can take about 15 minutes to insert the epidural thingy. Then he wanted to wait about 20 minutes in between because he thought it might just take a while, especially with the second one half working, he really thought I just had to lay on my other side for it to work. Then he had to find another more experienced guy to do the third one. More waiting. So this was literally 3-4 hours of me being super pissed because I made this big decision that I really didn’t want to make and I was still in pain when I thought they were going to take it away. I wish that experience on no one ever.
By this time it was after midnight, maybe 1am, the next day. Almost 24 hours after my water had broken. And we finally got some rest. Tyler, our doula and I all took well deserved cat naps. The medical resident came in a few times to check my dilation and eventually decided it was safe to get baby out. But again, we had to wait. Since the potential for cesarean was so high they wanted us to give birth in the operating room. Once that was ready it was time to finish what had been started. Yay!!!
4:44am I was rolled into the big bright, metallic, people-filled operating room. It was not the serene atmosphere I planned on birthing in, but we had authorized the extra medical staff and students so that they could see that you can safely give birth to a breech baby vaginally. 4:44. Of course. The beautiful omen. I instantly knew all was going to work out just fine.
My angel nurse Sarah coached me through every push along with our midwife, doula and of course Tyler (who, by the way, was the absolute BEST birth partner ever. All day he knew exactly what I needed. He was so caring and attentive. He asked all the right questions and we talked through every step of the way together. He is an angel that I get to spend every day with and I am the luckiest girl in the world). Since I had the epidural I couldn’t feel a damn thing. Tyler later told me that the first hour and a half was pretty boring and he was having a hard time staying awake. I was semi-napping between contractions to conserve the little energy I had. Eventually that little baby booty started making it’s way down and out.
At one point someone grabbed my hand and pulled it down to feel a tiny set of testicles while Tyler pumped his hands into the air with joy. We were having a boy!
More and more people started coming into the room so I could tell he must be almost out. Then at 7:16am Wentz was born. He was placed on my stomach and all I remember thinking is “he feels big”. 8lbs 6oz to be exact. A beautiful boy, who never for a moment thought he was doing anything wrong. The entire labour and delivery his heart rate was calm and content.
That time is a bit of a blur. I was so tired, I wasn’t as excited as I thought I would be and I wasn’t as emotional. Wentz was placed in my arms after all of his little checks and I thought “who are you?” as I looked at his squishy little face.
Tyler told me I was his hero.
Our midwife told me she thought I had changed the life of some of the people present at the birth.
I felt untouchable. Pure empowerment.
Giving birth to Wentz was a wild ride to say the least. It may not be well depicted here but there were hundreds of decisions we made that day and they were all hard. But being able to avoid cesarean means we made the right decisions every step of the way. I don’t mean to say that cesarean’s don’t serve a purpose. I know women who had cesarean’s for a variety of reasons and I was very aware of the fact that may have been our fate. But it wasn’t. Because given the chance and the right set of circumstances, breech babies can be delivered just like any other baby. And that’s what this story is about. Fighting for the birth you want is worth it. In no way is this ever the story I thought I would be telling. But it’s a story I am very proud to tell and I hope it empowers birthing people and partners to question everything and do what feels right for them. It’s also a story I’d like medical practitioners to hear so they can begin to question the status quo that they have been taught. It’s time to come back to believing in the innate ability of women to safely birth healthy babies.
Thanks for reading 🙂
I’m happy to answer any questions you may have from my experience and my comments. Please ask away … firstname.lastname@example.org if you prefer to keep the conversation private.