Hilary’s Footling Breech Cesarean Birth

Tuesday, December 27, I had my 39 week appointment with my midwife.  We chatted for a minute, then I laid down so she could find the heartbeat.  It was taking a lot longer than normal.  I wasn’t worried, since I’d felt the baby moving five minutes earlier, but I didn’t like that look on her face.  I may not have been worried, but she definitely was.Finally, after what felt like forever, but was probably a minute or less, she found the baby’s heartbeat.  Apparently in a place she did not want to find it.  She asked if he’d been moving a lot lately, and at first I said nothing big, that he moved all the time but I hadn’t felt any major movement.  Then I thought back to Christmas Eve or Christmas night, I can’t remember which, when I made Greg lie next to me in bed with his hand on my stomach for a good half hour ’cause of the tumbling act Owen was putting on.

My midwife didn’t flat out say he was breech, but she scheduled me for an ultrasound at the OB’s office, in less than an hour.  So, I ran home, got Greg (my mom came over to watch my kids) and we headed in. The whole time I was thinking, “He can’t be breech, he can’t be breech, he can’t be breech . . . ”  They started the ultrasound, and immediately a very recognizable little butt showed up on screen.  He was breech.

The next several days were filled with me doing weird inversion exercises, going to the chiropractor, getting acupuncture, and praying like I’ve never prayed before.  We were never option-less, but my options in this situation were limited, and I wasn’t liking anything other than ‘he magically flips himself back into position and labor starts spontaneously.’  But that was looking less and less likely.

The decision was made that I would come to the hospital on Friday, December 30th, where they would attempt an ‘external version’ (flipping the baby from the outside).  If he flipped, they wanted to induce labor immediately (basically ‘lock him into position’ while they could).  While not ideal, it was the preferable option to me versus the alternative—a C-section.

The being cut open thing was a little freaky, but it wasn’t the worst part by any means. It was the idea of recovery.  The no picking things up over ten pounds, no stairs, no driving. None of this seemed very conducive to my life at home with a 17-month-old, two other children, and three stories of house.  However, throughout the week, an ever-growing sense of peace inched its way into my heart. I thought it was because the version would work, and I’d be able to go on to have the birth I’d planned on.  At least for the most part.  Turns out, once again, this kid had different plans.

A mere six hours before we were supposed to leave for the hospital, my water broke.  It was 1:00 the morning. I jumped up, woke up Greg, and told him to call my parents. Once my water had broken, it was ‘game over’ for a vaginal birth in our case. They couldn’t try flipping the baby at that point, so I knew what we were going to the hospital for.  And oddly, I felt really good about it.  My water breaking was an answer to prayers I didn’t even realize I’d been asking for. It was confirmation to me that my baby, my body had picked the time for birth.

I hadn’t forced anything by doing a version or getting an induction, both choices I was fine with making, of course. It was just reassuring to me when my water broke and left us with one, clear answer.  I wasn’t nervous anymore (still freaked out about the recovery, but the surgery itself, I was really pretty chill with), and it no longer seemed like the undesirable choice.  It was just the way this baby needed to come into the world, and who was I to argue with that or stress or worry about it.  It was right, and I knew it.

We called my sister, Star, who after being out of town for the last two births in our family, was finally here to be a part of the birth. She met us at the hospital, and the next several hours were ridiculously fun.  Star, Greg, the nurse, the midwife and I had such a good time laughing and joking.  At first I don’t think the nurse knew what to think of us, laughing so hard it kept messing up the monitors they had on the baby.  The midwife had been up for over twenty-four hours though, so she was already slap happy. The nurse warmed up to us though and was totally getting a kick out of our witty repertoire.  (Or, at least it seemed witty at 3:00 in the morning).

It took over two hours for them to get an ultrasound to confirm the baby was breech.  Finally, someone from the ER brought up their ultrasound machine, we got to see Owen flaunt his butt one last time, and then it was go time.  Which could not have come soon enough for me.  I was in labor now.  Not hard labor (it felt much like Isaac’s did last time), but I was contracting pretty regularly.

At just after 4:00 in the morning, Owen was born.  But not without scaring us first.  It had never dawned on me that the dangers associated with delivering a breech baby vaginally also are an issue delivering the baby through an incision.  He was still coming out feet first.  Which was the first problem we ran in to.  Turns out he wasn’t just frank breech (butt first), but at some point had gotten one foot down below himself and one foot up above. He was in the splits. It took them a minute to wrestle his feet out.  I remember them saying, “Where is that other leg?” but since I couldn’t see anything, this was all very weird and trippy to me.  Soon, they were excited they got his legs out.  Then his head was stuck, his chin firmly anchoring him inside me.  It took another minute before he was out.  This whole time I kept thinking, ‘This is taking so long!  Why haven’t they picked him up to show him to me?’

They were working on him, things weren’t going well, Greg asked why he wasn’t moving.  My brain could not compute what was happening.  Finally, he moved, and breathed, and they rushed him straight over to the warmer and started working on him there.  I’d still never had anyone hold him up, but I could see him now if I turned my head to the side.  I watched his little tight fists and arms suddenly go limp, and a few seconds later he tightened up again and finally started to cry.  I think Greg was a lot more scared than I was, since he was able to take it all in. By the time I could even compute what had happened, he was fine.

His initial apgar score of a 4 was already up to a 9 by 5 minutes, and he’s done fine ever since.  It was a full twenty-two minutes before anyone picked up my baby and showed him to me.  Greg brought him over at that point, lowered him down by my head and I kissed him, and then because Owen was screaming about the awkward angle he was being held at, I just told Greg to take him and cuddle him to his chest, and I would need to wait to see him again when we were done.

The previous twenty-two minutes of surgery had gone by quickly, as I’d been engrossed in trying to figure out what was going on with my baby.  The last ten to fifteen minutes were excruciatingly long. I hated the pulling and tugging feelings, and I just had to close my eyes and go to my ‘happy place.’

When they said they were done, moved me to the rolling bed, and handed me my baby, I was in heaven.  I just cuddled with him the entire time we walked back to the room. As soon as we got there, he latched on and we started nursing.  He’s a pro and hasn’t had any problems with nursing at all, which I am so grateful for, as cesarean-related nursing issues was one of my concerns.

I can’t get over how different Isaac and Owen’s births were—from delivering one spontaneously and picking him up within seconds of birth, to not holding the other for well over half an hour after birth.  And yet, I don’t feel any different about them or their births.  Both were right for the situation we were in.  Would I have preferred to have another natural birth vs. a C-section?  Yep, but I knew in the long run it wouldn’t matter.  What surprised me was how much it didn’t even matter in the short run.

3 thoughts on “Hilary’s Footling Breech Cesarean Birth”

  1. I love this. I think that peace is one of the best indicators that you are following the right path, even if it is not the path you expected.

  2. I love it whenever a mother trusts her intuition. I am so glad that you have peace with how things went.

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