The Mother of All Transitions Part Two: Birth
The birth experience was very important to me. I had it all planned out. I had a mid-wife and a doula. My husband and I had created a "birth plan" which was an unmedicated, vaginal water birth assisted by the mid-wife and with the support of a doula. It was going to be the perfect "hippy birth," but our soon-to-arrive son had other plans...
He was breach. I found this out about a month before his due date, however he had been breach for a long time and somehow my midwife had missed it... she had mistaken his tush for his head. I was so distraught when I found out he was breach. I set out to do as much as possible to turn him around naturally. I listened to tapes, did yoga poses, went to a chiropractor but nothing seemed to help. Every time I went back to the midwife he was still breach.
I was devastated. I knew that our soon-to-arrive son was likely going to be our only child. And partially because of that I selfishly wanted the "whole birth experience." I had a false belief in my head that if my son wasn't born "au-natural" that that somehow made me less of a woman.
I was also worried because I knew that the science said that it was better for the baby to travel through the birth canal. When babies are being born, the physical action of them traveling down the birth canal develops their lungs. When they travel through the vagina, the bacteria that is present actually protects them against disease.
I wanted the best for our baby and I already felt like I was failing at providing that.
Desperate for a solution that would give me and our son the best chance for a natural childbirth I decided to opt for an external cephalic version. This is a procedure that is done in a hospital. The doctor (and in my case assisted by the midwife) attempts to turn the baby from a breech position to the head-down position preferred for a vaginal birth. This is done by the doctor pressing on the outside of the mother's belly to get the baby to flip in the womb. As this is being done, the babies heart is being monitored and an ultrasound is used to help guide the process.
The day came for my husband and I to go to the hospital to get the version. I was nervous and cautiously optimistic. I knew that versions were successful fifty percent of the time. There was a good chance we could be in that fifty percent. But I also had a nagging feeling that it wouldn't work. That I wouldn't be able to have the birth that I wanted and that felt like a huge loss. I'm gamely tried to bat away the anxious thoughts nipping at my heels, "What if it doesn't work? What if I have to have a C-section?"
We checked into the hospital around five and we were led to the room where the procedure would take place. Soon after we were told that the doctor was running late he would be there in two hours. My husband and I sat in the hospital room counting down the minutes and hours until he arrived. We then received another phone call... he was running an additional two hours behind! My anxiety shot through the roof. How could I be expected to sit here for four hours just waiting to find out if our baby could successfully be turned. I honestly can't remember how we passed the time, but somehow we did. Finally at almost ten o'clock at night, the doctor and midwife arrived.
I had been told that getting an epidural would increase my chances of having our little guy turn through the manual version. Reluctantly I had agreed. A anethetist with the bedside manor of Oscar the Grouch administered the epidural. Then the doctor, assisted by the midwife began trying to turn the baby. As they tried to turn him, he was being monitored by ultrasound. There were able to see him and monitor his heart rate.
All of a sudden his heart-rate dropped. He was going into distress. I felt panic rise in me. Hurting our baby was the last thing I had intended! The doctor and midwife stopped trying to turn our little man. Thankfully his heart rate returned to normal. I exhaled a huge sigh of relief. Grateful that no permanent damage had been done.
The mid-wife came over to us and said we had three options: 1) Get a C-Section right now. 2) Go home and return for a C-Section in a week. 3) Go to a doctor she knew in the city who would deliver a breech baby naturally. In my mind there was only one option: get the c-section right away. I couldn't imagine going home and waiting a week-- terrified the whole time that the manual version had caused stress and his heart rate would plummet again. I also wasn't up for taking the risk to deliver breech with a doctor I didn't know and hadn't formed any kind of relationship with. Emergency C-section it was!
Brian and I looked at each other. Little had we guessed when we came to the hospital this afternoon that we would be meeting our little man this soon!