Birth Story by Sarah: My Natural Vaginal Breech Delivery
Many expectant mothers — especially first-time ones — are interested in hearing the positive birth stories of more experienced moms. So today we’re having Sarah, high-school-English-teacher-turned-stay-at-home-mom, share the amazing experience of welcoming her daughter, Lucie, who is now almost five months old, into the world.
Natural childbirth has always been fascinating to me — there is something so beautiful about bringing forth life the same way millions of women around the world have throughout the ages. So when we became pregnant, I had already begun the mental and physical preparation that I imagined would eventually lead to a perfect, natural birth at a birth center. I had read all of Ina May’s books, watched The Business of Being Born, and had picked the brains of the other “natural mamas” that I knew. I was prepared!
Childbirth always goes exactly as we plan, right? For 39 weeks of my pregnancy, I was under the care of the midwives at a local birthing center. Our pregnancy was uncomplicated, and we were breezing past all of the milestones we needed to hit in order to deliver there. We had completed a natural childbirth course, were preparing with a doula, had meticulously written out our birth preferences in case of a hospital transfer, and had our bags packed and waiting by the door. But, as my mom regularly reminded me throughout those nine months, the first lesson of motherhood is that you can’t control everything related to your children, and our little one certainly had plans of her own.
At about 36 weeks, we realized that this baby was frank breech and wasn’t turning. Initially, I was disappointed, as a breech baby meant no birth center. So we tried everything — the chiropractor, an acupuncturist, and hours each day inverting myself while simultaneously attempting to bribe baby with music, flashlights, and frozen peas (really — Google it). I stayed hopeful until about 39 weeks, when I decided I needed to let go. As my midwife beautifully put it — it wasn’t my baby who needed to turn, it was me who needed to turn. Thankfully, we had a very wise doula who has complete belief in a woman’s body and in her natural ability to give birth. She suggested I research vaginal breech births — we needed to be informed consumers.
“…it wasn’t my baby who needed to turn, it was me who needed to turn.”
I remember coming home from work that afternoon almost in a daze — my “birth plan” was already changing, and I wasn’t even laboring yet! I spent my entire evening doing research, and we came to the conclusion that in the hands of a capable, trained professional, a vaginal breech birth is entirely safe and was definitely the route for us. Any medical causes for our breech baby were ruled out — our baby’s breech presentation was simply a variation of normal. Our research suggested that vaginal breech births are discouraged in mainstream obstetrics today — not because they are inherently riskier than cephalic presentation (head-down) births — but because birthing a breech baby is, sadly, a dying art that is not being passed down to the new generation of obstetricians.
Our research suggested that vaginal breech births are discouraged in mainstream obstetrics today — not because they are inherently riskier than cephalic presentation (head-down) births — but because birthing a breech baby is, sadly, a dying art that is not being passed down to the new generation of obstetricians.
My doula guided me to an incredible doctor who is known throughout our community for allowing (and supporting!) women to attempt natural vaginal breech births. I met with him on Monday, Nov. 26, when I was 39 weeks along, and I felt so safe, secure, and supported knowing he would be by my side that I had my baby under his care on Thursday, Nov. 29, one week early. The night I would begin active labor, I attended my prenatal yoga class and decided to resume my deep squats since I was now fully accepting of a breech birth and not worried about engaging something (an arm, a foot) too early. So squat away I did!
At about 3:30 the next morning I woke up with a “different-feeling” contraction — longer and stronger than the contractions I was having earlier in the week. I subsequently had four more of those contractions, each exactly 10 minutes apart. Remembering the 5-1-1 rule (contractions 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute each, for 1 hour), I called my doula and my doctor, then made myself some eggs, took a shower, and relaxed downstairs on the sofa.
The doctor called me back two hours later, and at that point the contractions were much longer, stronger, and less spaced out. He wanted us to come to his office so he could check me. I didn’t like this idea at first because I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible, but he had listened to me have some contractions over the phone, and I really think the man just knew. So we loaded up the car, and my hubby nervously drove to the office. And trust me, contractions in the car aren’t fun.
When the doctor checked me, I was at 5.5 cm and fully effaced, so it was time to go to the hospital. We were stunned — it became very real that our little one was going to be there that day. We arrived at the hospital at 8:05 a.m. (after hitting rush hour traffic — again, more fun-in-the-car-while-in-labor), and I labored pretty hard for two hours. Unfortunately, I only made a little progress — I was 7 cm when he next checked. Our agreement had been that I needed to make lots of progress pretty quickly; otherwise, we would need to have a C-section. Since I had only made 1.5 cm of progress in two hours, the doctor quietly and gently leaned over me and told me to prepare myself in case we had to change plans.
At that point, my husband, doula, and the incredible nurse I was blessed to have got me out of bed and kicked my butt into gear. (My two cents: stay out of bed as long as you can — get on a birth ball, get in the shower, squat, dance with your partner, just keep moving!). As soon as I stood up, I had four contractions back-to-back, each 75 seconds long. I then did four full-standing squats holding onto the bed until my water broke, which was totally encouraging and gave me new hope. Then, my support group got me up on the bed for more squatting, and literally between 10:05 and 10:35, I dilated the rest of the way — from 7 cm to a full 10 cm!
“…stay out of bed as long as you can — get on a birth ball, get in the shower, squat, dance with your partner, just keep moving!”
My doctor came back in the room, leaned over me once more, and grinned, “you proved me wrong — it’s time to have this baby the old-fashioned way.” With just a few pushes, her bum was out, followed by her little legs, one arm, then the next. A few more big pushes and lots of maneuvering by the doctor, and, after not even 30 minutes of pushing, little Lucie Renn was placed on my chest at 11:06 a.m. Actually, she was placed on my stomach — her umbilical cord was so short that she couldn’t reach my chest. That was the reason she was breech and wasn’t able to turn, reinforcing our “breech is a variation of normal” belief.
The feeling of her warm little slippery body on my stomach was the best feeling I’ve ever had, and ever will have, in my entire life. She came out with her eyes wide open, craning her neck to look up at me — and our hearts melted. Even though my birth experience was very different from the one I had been planning, I would not change a single thing about it. This was the way that Lucie needed to come into this world, and once I embraced that, I was able to have the most beautiful, special birth — even better than what I had imagined.
Am I encouraging every woman with a breech baby to attempt a vaginal birth? Of course not. I am, however encouraging every woman and partner to become informed consumers — know the risks, know the benefits, and make an educated decision for your family.
birth story, breech birth, natural birth, natural vaginal breech delivery, newborn, parenting advice, pregnancy, pregnancy advice, Sarah O