The story of Emmett’s birth starts a few weeks before he actually arrived. Starting around 30 weeks we were getting concerned that he was not flipping head-down, the way he was supposed to for a vaginal birth. As I documented here, we started to do a lot of different poses and tricks to try to get him to turn. When we got to 34 weeks and still had a heads-up baby, our midwives started to be concerned too, so we shifted our efforts into high gear. Chiropractor, acupuncture, moxibustion, hypnosis–you name it we tried it. In the final weeks we spent hours at the local community pool doing underwater handstands. (In a bikini, mind you, since that is all I had that fit. So you know I was serious about turning this baby.)
He still stayed head down, and I was getting desperate. We had prepared for 9+ months to have a natural, vaginal birth. It was looking more and more likely that I would need a c section, and the range of emotions that I felt about that was like a roller coaster. I came VERY close to snapping the heads off of more than a few well-meaning friends and family who said “As long as the baby is healthy in the end, that’s all that matters.” Obviously the baby’s health was of paramount importance to us, but the sentiment completely minimized any concerns about my health, recovery time, etc. I felt like I was just a vessel, and the fact that I was unhappy about being cut open to get the baby out was viewed as selfish somehow. I wanted to scream “Hey, there are two people in this scenario whose well-being matters!” I think I was especially touchy because I’d already HAD abdominal surgery during this pregnancy!
At 38 weeks, he was still not where he was supposed to be, so our midwives scheduled us for an external version at the hospital (our midwives don’t do versions and they don’t deliver breech babies). The plan was for the doctors at the hospital to try to manually flip Emmett around from the outside, which would require an epidural and lots of lube and elbow grease. The process seemed like it would be a little painful, and though it carried some risks we were more than willing to try it if it meant a vaginal birth.
We arrived on a Wednesday morning, early. They got us set up in a little room and hooked us up to some monitors so they could make sure the baby’s heartbeat was good and that I wasn’t in labor. They monitored him for an hour, and then hooked me up to an IV. They explained the risks of the procedure, which we were already familiar with (if something went wrong we could wind up with a baby that day via emergency c section, or the procedure could induce labor). Finally the doctor came in with the ultrasound machine to see where Emmett was located. And he was in the Worst Position Possible.
Instead of being breech, Emmett was transverse. His head was one the left side of my belly, his butt was on the right, and his feet were hanging out at the bottom. And, unfortunately, his super-long umbilical cord was pooled right down at the bottom of my uterus near my cervix. All of this, combined with the fact that my placenta was attached to the front of my uterus rather than the back, meant that there would be no version that day. The chances of a placental abruption (where the placenta tears/detaches from the wall of the uterus) were too high, since the placenta was right where they’d be pushing/pulling. And the cord down below meant that even if they did manage to successfully turn him, the risk was too high that his head would squish the cord against my pelvis, cutting off his supply of food and oxygen. All in all, the risks of doing the version FAR outweighed the chances of its success. We were so disappointed.
But wait! There was more! The other implication of the cord being way down low was that, if I were to go into labor on my own and my water were to break, I would be at a much higher risk for a cord prolapse (the cord coming down the birth canal before the baby), which would have been an emergency situation. So instead of leaving the hospital that day with a head-down baby, we left with an appointment for a c-section the following Tuesday, and with the instructions that if my water were to break before then, I was to reach up and make sure the cord wasn’t falling out (!), get on my hands and knees with my butt in the air, and call 911. So, the next 6 days were obviously very calm and peaceful.
The good thing was that we had 6 days to prepare for this new path. Being the planners that we are, we were glad to have the time to rewrite our birth plan, research the shit out of c section recovery, re-pack our bags with a longer hospital stay and surgical recovery in mind, and just generally get ourselves in a place of acceptance that this was the best (really the only) option for everyone’s safety.
Coming up: We have a baby!