Edmund's Birth Story, by Ruth Clark

EDMUND GARY BOX was born on 13 November 1994, breech and five weeks premature, weighing 5lbs

The plan was for a homebirth, using TENS and with minimal intervention. It didn't quite work out.

In the 34th week of my pregnancy the baby was still breech, as it had been the whole time. My community midwife had arranged for me to see the GP on Tuesday so that I could be referred to a consultant. I made an appointment for Thursday to see an acupuncturist to try to get the baby to turn. I kept neither of these appointments!

On Saturday 12th November we went to bed at about 10.30 and laid talking and cuddling. Adam went to sleep at about 11.00 (having just worked a 14hr day); I couldn't get to sleep. At 11.30, and to my great surprise, my waters broke. It was a gentle but uncontrollable trickling down my thigh. I woke Adam and told him, he replied "Go back to sleep and phone the midwife in the morning." I told him again and he realised I was serious and woke up properly.

As I was still leaking amniotic fluid I went and sat on the toilet. Meanwhile Adam went to phone the maternity home. I knew I would have to go in, as our baby was not due for over five weeks as well as being breech. At this point I had no indication that I was in labour but I did notice a show while I was sitting on the toilet.

We had nothing prepared for going into hospital, so I put a sanitary towel on, got a book out that had a list of what to take, and went round the house gathering the things we needed.

We arrived at the hospital at midnight and were shown to a labour room in the delivery suite. A midwife asked me numerous questions; she wasn't convinced that my waters had broken until I showed her my sanitary towel. She questioned whether the baby was breech; the head was still in my ribs where it had been for weeks. She asked what my contractions were like; as far as I knew I hadn't had any. I asked what was going to happen to me; she said she thought that as I was probably not in labour I would have to stay in hospital for two or three weeks until my baby was born. To which my reply was "I'm not staying here for that long." (I work in the NHS and three weeks of hospital food and hospital dirt and germs did not appeal).

A doctor the arrived and gave me an internal examination. We were amazed to discover that I was 5cm dilated and had not felt a single contraction. This baby was not going to wait for two or three weeks, it was on its way now! The doctor also revealed that it was coming foot first.

At 12.30 I felt the first contraction, it was very slight. We decided that I still wanted to birth this baby vaginally; I was to be given an epidural in case I needed an emergency caesarean section.

Things then started to happen very rapidly, not with my labour but in the room around me. A venflon was sited in my arm, and two very uncomfortable belt monitors were strapped round my belly.

The anaesthetist arrived, introduced himself (we both realised that we had met before when he did a placement with my GP), and proceeded to set up the epidural. It took effect quite rapidly; I still had some sensation in my legs but not much. During this time I felt about four or five contractions, none of which were painful. From then on they just felt like pressure on my bowel.

At about 02.30 I was feeling rather tired and expressed my desire to go to sleep rather than give birth just now.

My bladder was very full but I couldn't feel it; I was sat on a bedpan to try to empty it (Adam was holding my feet to stop me falling off) nothing happened.

I was given a second internal; well it wasn't exactly an internal as by this time there were some small toes sticking out. Adam was very excited at his first sight of our baby, and I was able to put my hand down to feel the toes.

The doctor decided it was time to go into the theatre. Once there, I was transferred to another bed and my feet were put up in stirrups. The bottom end of the bed was removed to allow the doctor to get in close to the action and a spotlight was put on.

I was catheterised to empty my bladder. Then, as my contractions were not terribly strong, or close together, a syntocinon drip was set up. It was now about 03.15.

The contractions then came stronger and closer together, but, due to the effects of the epidural, all I could feel was pressure on my bowel when they were at their very strongest. I had to be told when to push by the other people in the room. As I was pushing, Adam was telling me what was happening. The right foot came first, then the left, Adam then told me we had a son. His right arm and shoulder was delivered, he was swivelled round and then the left arm and shoulder were delivered. I was then told to stop pushing. The next bit was the worst; something that I had really wanted to avoid was an epsiotomy, I am so glad that I couldn't feel it (it sounded bad enough). It was necessary so that forceps could be placed around his head, apparently a routine procedure with breech deliveries. I was asked to push again, and his head was delivered and he cried; it was 03.30. He was placed on my tummy while Adam cut the cord. This was surprisingly tough and took him 2 or 3 attempts to get through it.

The paediatrician arrived to examine our baby. His Apgar score was 8 at one minute and 10 at five minutes.

The placenta was delivered very quickly after the administration of syntometrine. It had a strange smell and didn't look as I imagined it would.

Our baby was cleaned up and taken down to the special care unit with Adam. I was left in the theatre feeling very alone. In special care he was weighed (5lbs, a good weight considering his age), photographed, measured, given a vitamin K injection and a heel prick to measure his blood oxygen level; and then he was put in an incubator.

Adam rejoined me in the theatre and we were left alone for a short while. During this time we decided to call our son Edmund.

I was given a wash by two auxiliary nurses, redressed in my own clothes and put into a wheelchair due to numb legs.

At 05.15 I was taken to bed on the ward and Adam went home to phone our families and get some sleep. I was unable to sleep and at 06.45 I plucked up the courage to ask a midwife to take me down to see my baby. At this time I didn't feel as though I had given birth (4 hours from waters breaking to birth and no pain at all). I also didn't feel as though he was my baby; there was no bond at all. Fortunately this feeling only lasted a few hours. Adam came back at 10.00 to see us.

We then spent 17 long days in hospital. It was exhausting for Adam trying to work and visit us and I found the hospital routine exhausting. Eddy eventually learned to suck properly and started to gain weight before we were allowed to go home.

Even though the birth was nothing like our plans, I didn't feel let down or disappointed. Eddy was a very healthy and easy baby; he fed well and slept wonderfully. I actually had a very easy time with the labour - I think a lot of women would have been delighted with it, but I describe it as a non-experience. It was neither good nor bad. I was glad that we were able to establish breastfeeding, and I fed Eddy for ten months until he weaned himself.

Ruth Clark

ruth . clark @ homebirth.tesco.net (remove homebirth. to get the real email address)

Ruth's second baby, Ben, and her third, Alice, were both born at home... quickly...

For more information about breech birth, see the Association of Radical Midwives page on breech birth options.

Other breech birth stories: Sophie had a natural breech birth in hospital, while Bronwyn stayed at home.

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