My due date was May 3rd. We were planning a home birth with the incredible midwives at Gracefull Birthing in Los Angeles, CA. We had a check-in appointment on Friday, May 2nd just to see how we were progressing in anticipation of a possible birth the following day. Up to this point, all of our prenatal visits had been “textbook”: baby was head down the entire time, I was gaining weight appropriately, my diet was great, and we had been experiencing normal Braxton-Hicks contractions for a few weeks. What made this visit so different then? Our midwife, Kara, looked at me while palpating my belly and said “I’d like you to get an ultra sound because I think baby may have flipped into the breech position. I’m not 100% sure about this, but I would like an ultra sound just to be safe”. Needless to say, I was scared. Everything I’ve ever heard about breech position results in an immediate C-section with no alternative, and I desperately wanted to bring our baby into this world in the comfort, privacy and loving environment we had created at home.
Of course, I agreed to the ultra sound, and the breech diagnosis was confirmed a couple hours later. The following 12 days were some of the most stressful days I’ve ever experienced. After I received the news, I was devastated but knew I was going to try as many things as I could think of to get our baby to flip. In California, midwives aren’t legally allowed to deliver breech babies, so Kara also scheduled a consultation for us with Dr. Stuart Fischbein, a doctor here in LA who delivers breech babies at home. I didn’t even know that was possible. Our meeting with Dr. Stu was on Monday, so we spent the weekend trying every single alternative flipping method we could think of including the Webster method at the chiropractor’s office, Cranio-sacral therapy, and Moxibustion. I even did headstands in the swimming pool.
Nothing worked. On Monday morning, my parents, sister, niece, husband and I piled into the car and went to see if Dr. Stu could help us. He graciously allowed my entire family into his office as well as the ultra sound room where he confirmed the breech diagnosis. He then took his time to explain that in order to deliver a breech baby safely, he has very specific criteria that must be met. Luckily we met all the criteria except one. But it was an important one: our baby’s head was stuck in an extension position where her chin was not able to tuck to her chest. Dr. Stu explained the importance of a flexed head position so her head could fit through the birth canal. He was willing to come to our house a few days later to see if she had moved and was able to flex her neck. If she was still stuck in extension, our last option was a C-section. This was very scary news, but we did not give up. We stayed positive and continued with the Webster method and Cranio-sacral therapy, and we talked to the baby constantly, letting her know how important it was for her to move around and flex her neck so we could deliver her at home.
The day after we met Dr. Stu, we met another doctor in hopes that we could come to a compromise in the case that we did have to have a C-section. I was hoping she would be willing to let us go into labor naturally then come to the hospital for the C-section delivery. She adamantly refused. She wanted to schedule me for a C-section the next afternoon. She was extremely patronizing and kept telling me that I needed a “reality check” and that she had the best interests of me and the baby in mind. Although I disagreed with her assessment, our conversation was exactly what I needed to hear in order to reset my intentions and forge ahead with a positive attitude and confidence to allow our baby to come into the word the way she was meant to, when she was ready.
Dr. Stu came to our home Thursday afternoon and did another ultra sound. FINALLY a piece of excellent news: the baby had moved just enough to show the doctor what he needed to see. She flexed her neck, and we were good to deliver at home! We were back in business, and all of the positivity from my husband, family, midwifery team and Dr. Stu paid off. We said goodbye to Dr. Stu that day and would get in touch once we went into labor. I finally started feeling contractions Sunday night around midnight and continued to have very mild labor pains all day Sunday and into the early hours of Monday, when more intense contractions kicked in around 3 am. I labored by myself for about an hour when I woke my husband and had him call the midwives and get my family prepared. I labored in the birthing tub for a little while and moved from room to room practicing the deep breathing techniques I learned in our Unmedicated Birthing class. Dr. Stu did a final ultra sound around 8:30 am to see where we were at: I was dilated to 7 centimeters, and although baby had been in the complete breech position, she decided to move her feet down into my pelvis first. From 9 am until 10 am I was able to take a nap while my mother did a Cranio-sacral treatment on me to get baby to move her butt into my pelvis and allow Dr. Stu to break my water in order to finish dilating my cervix.
All went according to plan, and as my labor intensified, I was finally ready to start pushing about 11:45 am. I was most comfortable on all fours and our daughter came into the world left foot first, followed closely by the right foot then butt and torso, left arm then right arm and finally her beautiful face and head. She took two deep breaths and was placed onto my chest, where she latched on almost immediately. Our daughter Penelope was born at 12:07 pm on May 12, weighing 7 lbs 8 oz and measuring 22 inches long. She was born right here in our room, on our bed, surrounded by an amazing support team and people who love her. Getting the breech diagnosis was extremely scary at first, but it allowed me to process all of the stress and to transition into becoming a mother by creating a strong foundation of love, support, safety and a positive environment for our daughter to be born into just like we had originally wanted. Penelope came to us when she was ready and the way she was meant to: feet first. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.