My fourth child, Emmanuel, was due on October 18th, 2005. Three weeks before his EDD I felt a very strange and intense movement and for a few days after I felt very sick.. The community midwife felt my belly, listened for a heartbeat and confirmed what I felt: my baby had turned breech. I had been planning a home birth, had hired a birthing pool and was looking forward to having another baby at home, but the midwife said that no community midwife was allowed to attend a home breech birth and I needed to change my plans. She said I was eligible for a cesarian, if I wanted one. Even if I would like to attempt a vaginal birth in the hospital, from my doulaing experience I knew it would be far from ideal: I would have to labor in a room full of trigger-friendly people waiting for disaster, I would have a large episiotomy, and probably a forceps assisted delivery, so I would be flat on my back I said I would think about it.
My first thought was to try and turn my baby, so I met with an acupuncturist and did moxibustion for a few days, but my heart wasn't really in it. I had a feeling that this was my baby's position of preference. The thought of just letting things be brought me peace, so I decided to stop attempting to turn him.
I started reading as much as I could about normal, natural breech birth. I found a couple articles in Mothering magazine helpful and of course Ina May Gaskin's books are so inspiring. I gained the confidence to birth my baby naturally and Pan (my husband) supported me in my decision, so we looked into hiring an independent midwife. Most independent midwives in my area were already booked for October, but I found Sarah, a wonderful midwife who had just moved from Birmingham, so she wasn't fully booked in the autumn. Pan and I interviewed her and liked her very much. She had a lot of experience in supporting women choosing a vaginal breech birth. During the interview I told her that I'm a doula, and asked her if she would provide me with the essential support a doula gives, alongside the medical support a midwife can give. She answered that she has failed as a midwife if she doesn't give holistic support to each woman in her care. I couldn't help thinking, I would be out of business if every woman had a midwife like Sarah!
Sarah was worth every penny. We met once a week, to get to know each other better. She also provided me with books to read, so I could familiarize myself with the differences of a breech birth. The days passed and still no baby, but he moved regularly so I wasn't worried about him. When I was 2 weeks overdue, Sarah and I attended the Ina May Gaskin evening at Oxford Brookes Midwifery Center and that gave me a boost because I was feeling so tired and just so ready to meet my little one!
I ended up going 20 days overdue (he was born on November 7th). Stavro, Melangell amd Maximus (aged 61/2, 5 and 2) got so impatient and wondered if I was ever going to give birth; "when is our baby gonna come out?" During that time Pan and I would grin sheepishly and say to anxious friends and relatives, "I guess he'll come when he's ready "
The night I gave birth started with a glass of white wine and parmesan shavings. Around 11pm I suddenly started having very intense contractions, so I got out of bed and sat on the toilet, getting very excited. I realized that once my baby made up his mind to come he was in a big hurry! Pan called Sarah and went downstairs to fill the birthing pool. I was moaning and rocking back and forth in the bathroom, the contractions washing over me like waves, one after the other, with hardly a break in between. Hearing the kind of sounds I was making Pan understood that this baby was coming soon. No time to fill a pool, so he filled the bath tub instead. Sarah arrived and I got in the bath. Pan was making low moaning noises with me and I held on to Sarah's hand during the contractions. Twenty minutes later I gasped "he's here!", as I felt his bottom "crown". I'll never forget the feeling; I cupped my hand around what felt like a soft peach coming out of me. I had read that there is usually a pause between the body and the head emerging, but that was not the case for us! The whole of his body and his head came out in one push! (one long, loud push!)
I scooped him up from the water onto my chest and asked him to breathe. After a couple minutes he did, but I wasn't worried during this time, he was getting enough oxygen from the cord. I got out of the bath and walked into our bedroom. I couldn't believe it! He was finally here! All nine pounds of him, so beautiful, and no trace of a conehead of course, having come out breech.
He was born ten minutes after midnight. Melangell and Maximus woke up and Stavro shortly after, and came in to meet their new brother. Pan cut the cord and they got to cuddle him a bit. He suckled at the breast for a while and then I knelt down on the floor to deliver the placenta. The kids were interested to see it, knowing that it had nourished their little brother for nine months. After lots of cuddles and kisses Pan put them back to bed and we relaxed a while, gazing at our youngest. We named him Emmanuel Ephraim. Emmanuel means "God is with us", and Ephraim means "fruitful" By the time we slept it was 4am and the kids came into our bed at 6am to make sure their little brother really was here and it wasn't just a dream!
I am so thankful for the way things happened. I gave birth normally, naturally, intact (and no tear) and in harmony with my baby. I'm glad I didn't try to change the experience and let it be what it was. I am very grateful for the calm and gentle support Sarah gave us those long weeks leading up to the birth and during the birth. Both Pan and I enjoyed this birth experience, (each from our own perspective of course!), and were happy to share it with our wonderful midwife, Sarah.
Emmanuel is such a calm and chilled-out baby. He seems to be putting on plenty of weight and outgrowing his clothes, so I haven't weighed him since the night he was born. I was a bit sore during the first week or so, which I hadn't expected because I nursed Maximus throughout the pregnancy, and I thought my nipples would be used to the sucking. I dropped the bra for a few days and applied Lansinoh which gave me some relief. Part of the mystery was solved when Emmanuel got his first tooth at 5 weeks (and now, at 3 months has four teeth!). So I guess he was teething from day one, and I think this could have caused soreness.
Tandem nursing has been a new experience for me. I've never done it before, and was a bit worried about how it would work out. I didn't plan it, and had kind of hoped that Maximus would wean on his own during the pregnancy, but he remained faithful to the breast and was overjoyed when the milk returned! So far it's been mainly a positive experience. I haven't had a chance to be engorged because Maximus is more than happy to have the excess milk. I have found nursing two children to be a bit draining at times, especially in the early days when Maximus would want to nurse every single time Emmanuel did. However, learning to breastfeed both of them simultaneously has eased the transition for Maximus of youngest child to big brother and generally has been a bonding experience for my two little boys. I love it when they're both latched on and Maximus puts his arm around Emmanuel's shoulders. They truly are "bosom buddies"!
Home Birth Stories
Breech babies - other birth stories with these issues, from the "You can't have a home birth because..." page.
Independent Midwives - what they do, and how to find one.
Home Birth Reference Page