My experience with a persistently breech baby

I was 36 weeks pregnant and it was my first of my weekly non-stress test (NST) and ultrasound appointments and the NST was first. I sat lounging on a chair while the nurse tried to pin down baby’s heartbeat. Finally she asked, “is your baby breech?” I shrugged and said “I have no idea,” and she told me that I would know if my baby was breech. She got the heartbeat and I spent a relaxing 20 minutes listening to baby Georgia’s heart beating and pressing a button every time I felt her move.

She then led me in to the ultrasound room. After getting the gel squeezed on to my belly, the little wand thing rubbed it around and they started to measure the amniotic fluid around the baby. “Did we know that baby is breech?,” they asked me.

and I started crying. Not like sobbing, but the deceptive little tears that find their way out of the corners of your eyes when you’re trying to act unfazed by something. Everything looked good. She was healthy, her environment was healthy, she was just… upside down.

My maternal fetal medicine doctor came in and talked to me about what it meant that we had a breech baby. She said she had moved up my appointment with my midwife, gave me a sheet of exercises to try and help flip baby, and then asked me if I remembered feeling the baby flip. Most women recount it as an earth shattering, very obvious experience. I didn’t. I couldn’t remember anything like that.

When I recalled the appointment to Justen, he said “well… there was that day when you doubled over and said you felt like the baby had flipped all the way around.” I stared blankly at him and said “yeah but I guess I didn’t realize that’s what actually happened.”

Two days later I was crying at my midwife’s office (I cried every time I went, I just loved her so much) and she said she doesn’t get too excited about breech babies at 36 weeks because there’s lots of time for baby to flip. She told me all about the option of an external cephalic version (ECV), where an OB could try to flip the baby from the outside. So like.. put his hands on me and try to FLIP A HUMAN BEING THAT IS INSIDE AN ORGAN INSIDE OF MY BODY. Obviously I said yes. I knew that if nothing changed, I’d have to have a c-section.

We arrived at the hospital on a Monday for the version procedure. They checked – still breech. Spent a long two hours getting everything ready, and then the OB came in. He explained the process, reminded me that it would be uncomfortable and that it had a 1 in 3 chance of working. I braced myself. It was awful. It’s hard to explain the pain – it’s not like a PUNCH, but just really hard, non-stop pressure WHILE moving. I gave them 3 good tries and the OB said he used more force than he normally does, so baby must not want to move.

I returned home sore and discouraged. My body was COVERED in bruises. Some on my arm from an attempt to place an IV but mostly all over my stomach. I truly looked like I had been in a fight.

At that point I was 18 days away from my due date. I was planning to be induced in week 38 or 39 on a day when my midwife would be around to deliver. At that point, I hadn’t had much of a conversation about that but I knew my time was running short to get our baby to flip.

In addition to spending as much time as possible in the breech tilt (essentially using gravity to bring them to the tippy top of the uterus and then hoping that when you stand up, gravity kind of guides them back down head first), I started going to the chiropractor.

I spent the last two weeks of my pregnancy as upside down as possible, at the chiropractor, applying oils and playing music to my hooha to summon her down. I tried and exhausted everything (except acupuncture. I chose to go to the chiropractor instead of acupuncture because I felt great after leaving the chiropractor, haha).

At one of my last ultrasounds, when Georgia was still breech, my maternal fetal medicine doctor said “okay, it’s time to schedule your c-section.” and I wept. I cried for nearly a week straight, upside down and trying not to get my hopes up too bad by the people who said “there’s still time!”

My c-section was scheduled for Friday, September 10th at 9:30 am. Tuesday I went to another ultrasound and after confirming she was still upside down, the tech printed me out some of those creepy 3d ultrasounds. I normally hate them, but in that moment I was caught of guard by her little face. My little upside down baby that I had been dreaming of all year. Healthy and thriving. At that moment it felt like I’d been so focused on having a breech baby that I hadn’t really focused on HAVING A BABY.

I met with the OB, as I was officially transferred out of midwife care. I hated it. I asked for people who had had a vaginal and surgical birth to share some of the positives of their c-section. My midwife called me that week to tell me she was sure the baby would have flipped. She told me that a c-section wasn’t bad. It wasn’t what I had hoped for, but it wasn’t bad. Just different.

I woke up early Friday morning for the c-section, put my hand where I’d grown used to feeling her little head and… it was still her head. She was still breech. After 3 weeks of nonstop obsessing about her position, I’d grown very certain of what her little head felt like on the top of my belly.

When I’d started sharing that Georgia was breech I had a lot of people giving me encouraging stories, including friends who had made it all the way up to scheduled c-section just to discover baby had flipped on its own. My friend Susannah had a wild last minute baby flip while I was trying to get Georgia to flip. I knew those things could happen, but deep in my soul I just knew it wasn’t going to be my story.

We checked into the hospital and went over what would be happening. I had decided that we would try one last hail mary and they’d do an ECV after I had been given a spinal. If that worked, they would wheel me out of surgery and induce me. Every time they’d talk about the ECV and say “and if that works,” I’d say “let’s not even pretend it will, we can cross that bridge if we end up meeting it.”

It didn’t happen. After their third attempt at flipping Georgia, the OB leaned over and said “your baby isn’t wanting to flip, and now she’s starting to go into distress so it’s time to proceed with the c-section.”

The story continues from there on my post sharing Georgia’s birth story.

I’d asked on my Instagram stories if anyone had questions about my experience with a breech baby for this post and I wanted to answer them here.

Did you know she was breech?

Not at all. It hadn’t even crossed my mind.

Did you consider finding a provider that would allow you to deliver breech?

Because of my experience with Madeleine (I hemorrhaged and spent the whole night passing out and eventually needed a blood transfusion), I will always feel safest delivering at a hospital. There aren’t many options for OBs or hospital midwives who will attempt a breech delivery. I decided that if my midwife delivering Georgia wasn’t even on the table, then the next best thing was to let her put the plan together. I was so tired of the stress of trying to flip Georgia. I’d spent so long being so excited for those last weeks of pregnancy and felt like they were lost to stress and worry and fear of the unknown. When my midwife called to tell me about the OB and what would happen I kept crying and saying “I don’t care anymore, Kate. I don’t care about any of it.” I just wanted it all to be over. and I 100% cried just typing that because I was in such a dark, stressed place that I really wanted it to be over with the least amount of risk.

How did you manage the powerlessness of the situation?

I cried, A LOT. I googled “how to know if baby has flipped out of breech” like 15 times a day. I beat myself up for not doing my inversions, for not doing more rebozo sifting, for not trying acupuncture. But one of the most positive things I did was to assume she would never flip, to try and brace myself for the c-section I desperately hoped would never come. I asked people to share positive experiences with c-sections and tried to focus on the benefits of a scheduled surgical birth.

Did you ever think she had moved out of breech?

Yes, actually. The week before she was born, I’d felt some big movement and stuff started feeling different. All of a sudden there was more movement at the top, like more kicking. It turned out she had gone from complete breech (sitting with her feet down) to frank breech (sitting with her feet up by her face). I was proud to have been so aware of the shift in her positioning but disappointed that it wasn’t how I wanted her to move.

How many times did you do inversions on your couch?

SO MANY TIMES! I lost count. Multiple times a day. It was exhausting.

 

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