While I never took classes, I always intended to have a natural birth. When my midwife practice informed me that they would not see me any more due to my automatic status as high risk (twins will do that to you), I was heartbroken and trudged over to the high-risk OB practice in the city closest to where I live.
From the beginning, my hopes were trod upon with talk of cesarean section rates, epidurals, spinals, premature birth, and even VBAC. I took a “childbirth” class at the hospital where I planned on delivering and talked to the nurse teaching the class about not wanting all the junk, just wanting to have some babies. She suggested that I get the epidural placed, but with no medicine in it. That way, if a c section was necessary, I wouldn’t have to be knocked out. It was a compromise for me, but I was glad to hear that I had options.
We discussed baby positions constantly at my monthly and then semi-monthly appointments. Cormac was breech nearly the whole time. At about 20 weeks, they were both vertex, and then breech, and then Clara was vertex and Cormac was breech. That was about 24 weeks.
They stayed that way.
My OB practice quickly became a place I trusted. They had a remarkably low c-section rate, for both singletons and twins. They were also comfortable with breech baby B’s birth, assuming we met the following criteria: A is vertex, A is bigger, A is coming first. We were all of those things, so I didn’t worry about a c section. Not my problem.
Then my irritable uterus and BH contractions started getting to my cervix. It was thinning. At 22 weeks. Then 24. Thinner. At 29 weeks, my contractions were regular, six minutes apart. For hours. I went to the hospital. My cervix was essentially effaced. The contractions didn’t stop. I was airlifted to a level three NICU hospital (the one with the lowest c section rate). The perinatologist on call came in and saw me and told me: B is breech. You need a c section.
I knew he was breech, but if my OB was ok with a vaginal delivery, why wasn’t this high and mighty doctor? I liked him. He was knowledgable and didn’t talk down to me, but treated me like an equal. He told me that a c section was safer for the babies and that I could refuse and have a vaginal delivery, but if I was his sister, his wife, his daughter, his patient, he would recommend the same thing. You don’t mess around with breech babies. If I dilated to four cm, we would go to the OR. I was at two and a half cm.
I had some experience with breech birth stories, especially with first time (primip) breech births. I have a friend who was a midwife in Sudan and whose blog I followed religiously. She had delivered breech babies lots of times, but one story (I read it about the same time I conceived the twins) stuck with me. It is a heartbreaking birth story and filled with sorrow and death. You can read it HERE if you have tissues and time. Anyhow, the point that I took away from the story is that, while plenty of breech births go off without a hitch, you don’t mess with first-time breech births.
While Cormac would have been my second birth, I was haunted by the idea of whoever was on call that evening catching my breech baby. I had asked my favorite midwife at my OB practice back home if she had ever caught a breech birth. She said, “Once. She was 25 weeks and came in pushing. There was no time.” I didn’t ask her how it went. The OB’s in her office handled the breech births. She was never unassisted again. However, most OBs have never seen or handled a breech birth. Breech? Section her.
So here I was at a crossroads… Push my way? Have a stranger deliver my precious son into the world butt first? I didn’t ever doubt in my ability to birth them both. I doubted the doctor’s ability to know what to do if things got tricky.
Luckily, my contractions waned and I went from very active (two minutes apart, didn’t want to talk during contractions, three cm dilated, Clara at -2) back to irritable uterus land. I lived in the hospital, with my butt in a bed, for four weeks. I had accepted my fate as a c-section girl. Cormac didn’t turn.
Around 32 weeks (a big milestone in the NICU world), I asked the perinatologists if they would consider transferring me back home at 34 weeks. They said we could think about it. I didn’t even think of trying to find an OB who would deliver my breech baby, I just set my sights on 34 and then 36 weeks. I could make it. I could have these babies in my home hospital, with my regular doctors, through my vagina, no scalpels near me please.
Then, at 33 weeks two days, I felt the familiar pressure of Clara’s head in my butt, I knew she was engaged again. My contractions got too regular again. The nurse that night sent me to labor and delivery, where they confirmed that I was in labor. Four cm. What was the plan?
I told him c section without batting an eye. I never thought to ask him if he had ever delivered breech babies. He asked and I told him what I knew the perinatologists would want. I wasn’t thrilled, but it felt surreal and I knew that my babies would be safer this way. So I walked into the OR, crawled up on the table, got my spinal, and heard my babies cry. Early, but screaming, with developed lungs and perfectly round c-section heads. Cormac held his legs in that way that only breech babies do and it was all over in a few minutes. I held Clara two days later and Cormac three days later.
I didn’t know how robbed I would feel. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I had heard so many women say, “He’s healthy and that’s all that matters.” Well that’s a lie. The health of the babies is the most important thing at a birth, but it’s not all that matters. This was my chance. My rite of passage. I never felt my body do what it knew how to do. I never moaned through a contraction. I never felt the ring of fire or bore down and pushed with all my might. I never had my newly breathing babies placed on my chest. And I might not have any more children. This was quite possibly it for me.
I have forgiven myself for not fighting harder for the birth I wanted. I could have done things differently, but I didn’t. I do regret it, but there’s no sense in beating myself up about it. I see a future for me in the birthing arts. I see myself advocating for women who are breathing through their contractions when nobody else will listen.
My breech baby made me want to be a doula.