Surprise Breech Home Birth
Eliza’s birth story actually begins months before Eliza’s birthday. When Thad and I found out we were having a baby, we were thrilled – of course! – and checked our calendars to see what was going on around the due date, March 5. I had already signed my opera contract to perform in Don Pasquale, and the last performance of ‘Pasquale was on Sunday, March 7. I considered breaking my contract, since I had no idea how I would feel, how the pregnancy would go, and whether I’d be able to perform in any of the shows, much less make it to the end of the run. After talking with the musician’s union representative, however, I decided not to quit Pasquale. I would just sing as much as I could, and fulfill my contract to the best of my ability! As the months went on, and my pregnancy progressed, I was pleased to feel really healthy and relatively energetic. Whenever anyone would ask my due date, I’d say, “early March – we’re shooting for March 8!” When we got into 2010, Thad’s job responsibilities increased, and a very important meeting with the CEO was scheduled for March 4. That gave me all the more incentive to shoot for a birthday after the due date. Early in the pregnancy we decided to have a homebirth. I interviewed a few midwives and found one I really felt “connected” with – Sarah Jones. I started chiropractic care in the second trimester, went to prenatal yoga classes, and was diligent about my vitamins and diet. I had looked forward to being pregnant for years, and I wasn’t going to take it lightly! Thad and I read many books about pregnancy and birth, and we followed the midwife’s instructions and advice nearly to a “T.” I found a wonderful doula, Delilah Ray, to assist me with the birth. I went to all of my appointments religiously, tried belly mapping to make sure the baby was in position, and sat on the birth ball every day to encourage proper positioning. The chiropractor assured me that the baby was head-down, and two midwives confirmed it. I practiced my relaxation techniques, ordered the birth supplies and readied the apartment. I was ready! March 5 came and went. On March 7, I sang through the final Don Pasquale show. An opera colleague brought me cupcakes, which he jokingly “guaranteed” would start labor. (He had brought cupcakes for another colleague, whose wife then went into labor that evening.) I ate half of a chocolate and half of a vanilla cupcake after the show, while Thad played hockey. Thad came home, and we had one of those married couple “discussions” about how helpful he would actually be during labor. I think I was starting to get a little nervous, and was just letting off some steam. We kissed and made up, and went to bed around 1 a.m. At 2:16 a.m. I woke up with pains in my thighs. Frustrated, I got up to go to the bathroom (why not, since I was awake anyway?). I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t get comfortable. My legs just hurt too much! About an hour later I conceded that I could be in labor, and made up the guest bed as I’d been instructed. Contractions got intense pretty quickly, and I had to stop moving to lean over or get on my hands and knees to breathe through them. I tried to time them, but they were sporadic and didn’t always seem to have a start and end. And was it possible that they were lasting over a minute? I didn’t want to bother Thad, since I knew he would need his sleep, but I thought I would text message Sarah and Delilah to give them some warning and to ask about the bloody show (which was more show-y than I had expected). Delilah asked if I would need her before she was able to get the kids to school, and I said no. I finally woke up Thad around 5 a.m. and he started timing the contractions and taking notes and pictures. The photo of me lumbering around like a gorilla in his ESPN t-shirt and boxers (not much else fit!) is one for the family album. I called my mom to tell her that this was the real deal, but had to hang up as another contraction started. Thad took over texting Delilah and Sarah, and somehow our lines got crossed (or I miscommunicated) and Thad told Delilah that I was ready for her after all. Once she arrived (at 7:20 a.m.), I felt really badly, because I knew she’d had to rush her kids to school and I didn’t want to be “that client,” who got her there too early and then sent her home again. Delilah began right away applying pressure to my legs, which immediately helped the leg pain, although they continued to hurt through the entire labor. And almost as soon as she arrived, my water broke! I had completely forgotten about that aspect of labor. We checked the fluid, and it was clear. There was another gush of water, and I felt a “kerchunk,” as though the baby had just moved down an inch or so. When Sarah arrived shortly after, she wanted to check my cervix. But when we prepared to do that, we saw lots of thick meconium! Poor Delilah told Sarah at least twice, “If that had been there when we looked I would have told you! That wasn’t there before!” Sarah checked me. FULLY DILATED and +2 station! At 8:40! And…that wasn’t a head that Sarah felt. It was the baby’s little bum – hence the meconium. By this point I was concentrating too intently to process what a breech baby would mean for our homebirth plans. I knew that Sarah would send us to the hospital if it was necessary, but I also knew that as long as the baby was bum-down, a vaginal birth was possible. I also knew that if we went to the hospital, a cesarean was a certainty. Sarah told me that she wanted me to get in the tub to slow down contractions. “We’re going to breathe this baby down, rather than push it,” she said. With every contraction there was more meconium. I joked that the baby’s nickname was going to be Little Turd. Sarah called another midwife with a lot of experience with breech births to come assist. Donna arrived around 9:30, and the other assistant midwife, Angela, arrived a little later. To me, the next four hours or so were all the same. I was mostly in the tub, with Delilah always at my side or pressing on my legs during a contraction. She must have been extremely worn out by the end of the day! Thad sat with me for most of the time as well, only leaving to get more juice or water, or to confer with the midwives. (I didn’t know it until after the birth, but Thad had to sign paperwork acknowledging the risks of a breech homebirth.) I moaned and groaned, sometimes feeling pukey, sometimes falling asleep between contractions, but doing my best just to breathe and not push. I complained, we all prayed, and the hours passed slowly. I had no idea whether it was morning still or night yet. Around 1 p.m., Sarah instructed me to bear down a little with the next contractions. Finally, some action! I continued to try to bear down for the next couple of hours, without actually “pushing.” We moved from the tub to the bed, since I was really sick of the tub and nothing was happening in there anyway. Delilah started spooning yogurt into my mouth between contractions. I was not in the mood for yogurt at all, but my opinion wasn’t the most important thing. I was getting pretty tired (remember, only an hour of sleep the night before!) and she knew that I needed the energy. Finally sometime around 3:30(?) someone said they could see the baby’s bottom and now I could start pushing in earnest. I was nervous, and I still didn’t have that urge to push that I had expected, but I gave it my best. It took a few contractions and instructions before I got the hang of it, but pretty soon I looked down and saw the strangest sight I could have imagined. I knew there was a baby’s bottom, but I had no idea if what I was looking at was butt-crack or girly parts or boy parts! I had never seen a breech birth, so I had no idea that the body comes out at a very odd-looking angle. At some point people started referring to the baby as “her.” (Side note: I am still slightly disappointed that I never got the climactic “IT’S A GIRL!” that I expected. Maybe I did and I was too out of it.) The Little Turd-ette was STILL pooping with contractions and at one point even peed! With Thad at my head and the midwives and Delilah down south, I was hoisted to the edge of the bed for better positioning as Sarah guided the baby out. Moving while you have half a baby hanging out of you is really uncomfortable and awkward. Sarah instructed me to stop pushing while she pulled the legs free (another very weird sight). Time to push again. At this point I was saying, “Just pull her out! Pull her out of me!” Someone told me (probably Delilah) that this was MY baby and I was going to have to do the work! So, with some very unladylike grunts and screams (while I thought about how sore my voice was going to be and how I hoped I wasn’t doing any permanent damage), and with Sarah’s maneuvering, we got the baby’s arms and shoulders out. At this point I was pretty worn out and wanted to take a break. Donna, one of Sarah’s assisting midwives, got right in my face and said, very seriously, something like, “If you were ever going to push, now is the time to do it. Push this baby out NOW.” So I did, with Sarah maneuvering the baby’s head in the right position. At 4:20 pm, Eliza Lorraine was born! She was placed on my stomach, but she wasn’t breathing yet. I later found out that this is common with breech births, and that Sarah was prepared for it, but I was terrified and numb all at once. The umbilical cord was still pumping and Eliza’s heart rate was normal, so Sarah did mouth-to-mouth and suctioned Eliza’s lungs, and we all prayed and prayed. I remember praying, “God, you know this little girl better than I do and you love her even more than I do. Help her breathe now!” After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only seconds, she started breathing. And then she seemed to realize that her world had changed, and she started crying. Sweet, sweet music to our ears! I don’t remember much about the next few hours. People cleaned up, I nursed Eliza, Thad and I stared at her in awe and at each other in disbelief. Eliza and I shared an herbal bath, which she loved, and she had her newborn exam. Thad put on her first diaper and dressed her, we nursed some more, and the midwives and Delilah left after making sure that our new family was settled and as prepared as we could be for the days ahead. Thad and I stayed up for a couple more hours watching our wonderful daughter, and at last we all fell asleep. We really couldn’t have asked for a better birth. We feel truly blessed to have been able to have the homebirth we wanted. It was a beautiful day. Testimony for Sarah When I met Sarah, I knew I had found the midwife I wanted. She is a truly special woman – warm, caring, energetic, and with a certain “glow” about her that comes from her confidence in herself and from her trust in God. Choosing a midwife can be a daunting task, especially for a first-time mom. A midwife is someone who will ask you intimate questions, and will want to know minute details about your life: your diet, your exercise, your emotional well-being, etc. I was looking for someone I could imagine sharing my life with for the next nine months or so, and Sarah was definitely that person. I felt that Sarah was nearly as excited about my baby as I was, and she always had time to listen to my concerns and answer my husband’s many questions. When our baby was a surprise breech, she didn’t hesitate – she knew what she was doing and we proceeded safely with the home birth. I am so grateful that God placed Sarah in my life for the birth of my daughter!