When I first learned I was going to have a baby, I spent hours visualizing my perfect birth- calm, relaxed, and pain free (because how much could it hurt really?). I became a GW midwife patient and planned on having a completely pain medication free birth. I signed up for hynobirthing classes, practiced my meditations, and listened to relaxing music.
But when I went into labor at 32 weeks and 6 days, my birth plan went entirely out the window and I learned just how real, unpredictable, frightening, and painful labor can be, but more importantly how joyful and full of love a birth day is despite feelings of insecurity and fear. I feel the deepest gratitude towards the midwives, OB’s, nurses (always the nurses) who supported me and my little baby during birth and NICU stay.
Four days before Tommy was born we were shopping for a new washer and dryer because I knew that our old ones weren’t going to make it much longer without serious damage inflicted by me as retribution for destroying my clothes. I was nearly 33 weeks pregnant, and a random woman decides to give me her unsolicited two cents (WHY DO PEOPLE DO THAT?) to tell me that I look like its “not going to be long now.” I explained that I still had about seven more weeks and told her (under my breath) to mind her own business. She must’ve known something I didn’t because two days later I was labor.
Sitting in hypnobirthing class one Tuesday night, I just couldn’t get comfortable. I wasn’t in pain- simply that no matter how I sat it just didn’t feel right. I mostly ignored it because in general I had trouble getting comfortable for most of my pregnancy, so this was nothing new. I went home, ate peanut butter and apples, beat my grandmother at WordsWithFriends, and went to bed.
I woke throughout the night with pain that I thought was just round ligament or back pain because I’d had both for months. What I didn’t realize (because I was sleeping) was that they were surges because I didn’t feel them start. I figured I was just sleeping funny.
I woke up in the morning and was not able to do anything without doubling over in pain. I googled “what does a contraction feel like?”. I answered my own questions because once I had the presence of mind to time the pains I realized they were TWO MINUTES APART. My husband was at work and after a frantic birage of text messages he came home and off we went to GW.
For me to believe I’m really in labor takes surges that are 2 minutes apart and a frantic car ride to the hospital. (I know this to be true because the same thing happened with my second baby). Labor was confirmed when we got to the hospital and I was completely dilated. I still wonder to this day if it happened quickly or if I am just oblivious.
When we arrived at labor and delivery, I was scared and in ALOT OF PAIN. (I will say though that when I thought to take a deep breath and relax my body it was not so bad. Yay hypnobirthing!) Anyway, they wanted me to FILL OUT PAPERWORK. I think it was immediately clear that was not going to happen and I was escorted back into triage. A sonogram revealed that the baby was in the frank breech position, which meant that he was butt down. About 15 people descended on me all shouting about what could be wrong with my baby and wanting me to sign form after form about c-sections, epidurals, and who knows what else. My (wonderful and amazing) midwife kicked them all out and we decided that even though the baby was 7 or so weeks premature, we were going to try a vaginal delivery.
I cannot even tell you how blessed and lucky I was that my baby picked that particular day to come into the world. Not only was my midwife experienced in breech birth, a VERY experienced OB happened to be in Labor & Delivery that day and he was instrumental in our decision to attempt a vaginal birth. This OB and my midwife, combined with two of the THE BEST NURSES EVER gave me the encouragement and support I needed to put aside the fear and do what needed to be done.
In order to attempt a vaginal breech delivery, I had to have an epidural in the event that I need an emergency c-section. While this was not part of my original birth plan, the epidural helped clear my mind so I could process what was happening and make decisions. I remember telling my nurse that I couldn’t do it (as I am having surges every 2 minutes or so while they are trying to get the epidural in me. WHICH TOOK THREE TRIES). She looked me right in the eyes and told me that yes, I could do it, and I have to do it. She sat there with me, looking right into my eyes and holding my hand, steading me so they could (finally) get the epidural in. I couldn’t have done it without her! My water broke about two hours or so after out arrival at the hospital, and at about 3pm it was decided that I had to start pushing. One of the OB’s who delivered the baby (not the experienced one- he was going to use this as an opportunity to teach about breech deliveries) asks me if it was ok for a few students come in and watch. Ten minutes later about TWENTY nurses, midwives, residents, and doctors came into the room to watch me push this baby out. This is a teaching hospital so I was (mostly) cool with it, but it was definitely not how I envisioned birthing my baby!
I started pushing and to keep the baby from going into distress or inhaling while they are still in the birth canal, it was very important to stay very calm and as still as possible. As I pushed, I could feel the baby slowly moving his way toward the outside world. Since the baby was butt down the first parts of him to be born were…..
A BUTT CHEEK AND A SCROTUM!
What a crazy thing right? Once those were out I felt my baby’s little body start to ease out as I pushed. Then the legs popped out. Then his back and the shoulders and then the only part of him left inside me IS HIS HEAD! My midwife and OB were keeping him warm as he kind of dangled for a minute and one more big, giant push, and he was out!
He was moved skin to skin with me and one of the OB residents tried to clamp the cord immediately. I think my midwife and husband were about to rip that clamp right out of her hand to stop her from doing it. If you didn’t know it already the placenta and umbilical cord are amazing! The baby’s skin looked like a raw chicken. Seriously. Chicken. But as the cord pulsed away you could see the blood traveling into the baby and he pinked right up to normal coloring. When all of the blood was returned to him the cord turned gray and THEN it was clamped and cut. My husband will tell you to this day it was one of the most amazing things he has ever seen.
There was some concern if the baby would be breathing when he came out. While they were doing the initial assessment we heard his little squawk and knew that he was going to be ok. His Apgar scores were great and he did not need any supplemental oxygen. They returned him for some more skin to skin time before whisking him away to the NICU.
After we were both stable, I was allowed to see him in the NICU. I almost died of shock when I saw him because NOBODY WARNED ME THAT HIS LEGS WERE STUCK UP BY HIS SHOULDERS! Thats pretty common with frank breech babies and after about 4 or 5 days is legs were completely normal.
For 3 weeks we navigated new terminology (I’m still not totally sure what TPN stands for), tests (scans and blood work), timelines (when can my baby go home?) pumping (so. much. pumping), and much more. The amazing, calm, nurturing, and patient nurses in the NICU cared for our baby, and all of the babies, like they were their own. They were our guides to navigating a scary and unexpected NICU stay. Time after time they reassured us, answered our questions honestly, and we knew that our baby was in the best hands. We were finally able to bring him home after 21 days in the NICU. That was the best day of my life.
While my first birth day was full of so much fear, anxiety, stress, and people yelling at me about risk and potential problems, it was by far one of the best and most joyful days of my life. While it obviously was not the birth I had hoped for, the spirit and love that I had originally envisioned was abundant. I cannot do my midwife, OB team, nurses, even the friendly guy who worked at the front desk, any sort of justice in how lucky I feel to had all of them supporting this crazy, wonderful, perfectly imperfect birth.
Author: Renee Corbino
Renee keeps Balanced Birth Support organized and amazing as the Administrative Manager. She lives in Northern Virginia with her awesome fire fighting husband and two cute little boys. She is a breech birthing mama and supporter of empowering births.