“Imagine what might happen if women emerged from their labor beds with a renewed sense of the strength and power of their bodies, and of their capacity for ecstasy through giving birth” — Dr. Christiane Northrup
My Upside Down Baby
At 33 weeks pregnant, my midwife confirmed what I had suspected – that my baby was in a breech position. I was told that if she remained breech, I would not be able to have the home birth I wanted and that a caesarean would be my only option.
With major building renovation works at home, and an active toddler, along with my dislike of hospitals and unnecessary medical intervention, I wanted to do everything to help this baby turn around. The research into methods for turning breech babies began.
Techniques to try at home include: crawling around on all fours; lying on your back, with your bottom elevated above your hips; putting headphones around the bottom of the bump, and shining a torch in the same area, to get the baby to turn towards the sound and/or light. All these and more were tried, but to no avail. A Chinese herbal remedy recommended Moxa sticks, and when I lit one, the room filled with pungent smoke. I could hear the builders upstairs wondering what drugs I might be smoking and then dismissing this because I was pregnant! I decided see if other practitioners could help. I tried acupuncture, homeopathy, reflexology, osteopathy, chiropractic, craniosacral therapy and hypnotism. None of them worked – I was becoming increasingly anxious and broke.
My last hope rested on an External Cephalic Version (ECV), to be carried out at the hospital. This involved having the baby rather roughly manipulated externally, and trying to spin her. She did not move. She was determined to stay exactly where she was, with her head firmly tucked up under my rib cage. I was very upset and got worse when told to book a date for a caesarean. I asked the midwife about the possibility of waiting to go into spontaneous labour, to give the baby every chance to turn, and to let her tell me when she was ready to come out. This was agreed to. In response to the option of having a natural breechbirth, I was told that unless I hired a private midwife, this was unlikely. Everyone kept quoting the adverse findings from the breech term trial, but no-one had details of what this had entailed.
My childrearing techniques are instinctive – breastfeeding, baby-wearing, bed- sharing and mother-baby togetherness. I believed in my body’s power to give birth to my baby – I just needed to find someone else to believe in me, too. I knew that my much desired homebirth was no longer a possibility, but I hoped I could still have a natural birth. Time was running out. More research was needed and someone recommended a book by Benna Waite – Breech Birth. Local bookshops did not have it in stock, so I ordered it from the publishers.
Before the book arrived, I had an ante-natal appointment with my midwife who informed me that I had created an impression at the hospital, with my refusal to book a date for a caesarean. Apparently, most people do what the consultants recommend without question. She said that if I had thought the whole thing through, the hospital would let me try for a natural birth. This was very welcome news.
Benna Waite’s book was exactly what I needed. I was at last able to read about the term breech trial, and understand that the decision to opt for a natural delivery was not as irresponsible as the consultants had led me to believe. Her findings showed that having a midwife/consultant experienced in breech delivery was essential to a successful outcome, as was the decision to opt for a natural delivery.
On my due date, we went out to dinner with some old family friends, over from America – John, who had been born breech, his wife, Ruth, whose first child had been born breech, and my parents, whose second child (my sister) had been born breech – I took this as a good omen.
At my midwife’s appointment the next day, she referred me to a consultant. I was given an appointment the following day. All night, I rehearsed arguments to put forward to the consultant I was convinced was going to talk me out of a natural delivery. At the hospital, I was immediately reassured to see an older consultant, who was quick to tell me that he had been trained to deliver breech babies. He saw no reason why I should not be allowed to try for a natural delivery. He said it was a shame that there were not more people prepared/allowed to try for this. He also said that with twins, one was often in a breech position, and that there would always be cases in the delivery suite, when babies could present breech unexpectedly, too late for anything other than a natural delivery to take place. As caesareans have become so routine, few people have ever seen a natural breech delivery, resulting in possible mistakes being made when no other options are available.
Spicy curries did not work and seven days later, I was still waiting, and desperate to go into spontaneous labour. We went for a long walk in the local park, on a beautiful summer’s day. That afternoon, I felt the unmistakable tightening sensation in my stomach – the commencement of labour.
On arrival at the delivery suite, we were shown into a room, and the midwife was very supportive, saying that it was rare for people to want natural births. I sat on the birth ball, asking Mat to rub my back when the contractions came. The labour seemed to be progressing well, and apart from intermittent monitoring of the baby’s heart beat, we were left to ourselves.
After what seemed a long time waiting, I suddenly felt an uncontrollable urge to push, followed by the emergence of a pair of feet. Mat rushed off to find the midwife. I was told to wait until the consultant ensured I was fully dilated, which fortunately I was.
A few pushes later, I was told I had delivered a healthy baby girl. She was very alert and took straight to breastfeeding. Being wheeled into the ward, I found that we had become the focus of attention, everyone asking if it was me who had given birth to the breech baby.
For the rest of the night, as I gazed down at Ruby, feeding and sleeping, in my arms, I was overwhelmed with emotions, proud of us, for having achieved what we both wanted. My only regret was that I had not been given the option of a natural birth as soon as I had discovered she was breech. As a result, I had spent an anxious month, trying to get her to turn round, and thinking I would have to have a caesarean; time that I could have been enjoying with Oscar, giving him my undivided attention, before he had to share me with his new baby sister.
We were discharged the next morning – my hospital stay having cost considerably less than a caesarean would have done. Since then, my upside down baby has continued to go from strength to strength.