My birth story started as soon as I found out we were pregnant.. I knew I wanted an all natural, unmedicated hospital birth. I read every book that I could about natural birth, my husband and I took Bradley Method classes, wrote a birth plan, I read online natural birth stories for inspiration, bought essential oils and even made birthing music playlists. We had a great midwife team that was extremely supportive of a natural hospital birth and we even had a Doula (my best friend!) for extra support during the labor. Working in medicine, I know that things can quickly change so delivering in a hospital was important to me.. and I also knew that C-sections are sometimes inevitable but I was determined to do everything I could to safely avoid one. I believe that here in the US, C-Sections are pushed on a lot of mothers for no reason other than the doctor wants to speed up the process of birth (i.e. not ‘progressing’.. if baby is tolerating it, there’s no need to speed it up, womens’ bodies know what to do!) but I also believe that there are critical medical reasons for having a C-Section. I was determined that I would only have one if it was absolutely necessary.
Then at my 36 week appointment, I was blindsided. Up until this point, they were confident that he was head down. At this appointment, however, my midwife was feeling the baby and had a suspicion that he was not in good position so she scheduled a same-day ultrasound. During this ultrasound, we found out that he was transverse (sideways).. so we sat down with our midwife and discussed our options. I was beyond upset because I knew that unless he flipped into a head down position, my dream of a natural birth was out the window. We planned for an ultrasound the following week (37 weeks) to see if he would flip on his own and she gave me advice on exercises to do at home that might help him flip the correct way.
We went in for the ultrasound at 37 weeks and discovered he had flipped.. but not head down.. head up! He was in frank breech position. My heart sank. I knew this meant that my chances of a natural delivery were getting slimmer and slimmer.. especially as we got closer to my due date. I met with an OB after this ultrasound and discussed our options going forward. She was awesome! She was really supportive of our wishes so we came up with a plan; we scheduled an ECV (external cephalic version) for the follow Thursday (March 2nd) at 38.5 weeks. This is a procedure where they try and flip the baby from the outside [they like to do it around this gestation so that the baby isn’t too big to turn]. It is pretty intense so you get an epidural and terbutaline in hopes that you (and your uterus) will be relaxed so that they are able to flip the baby easier. My new OB was supportive of the decision to try this ECV and whether he flipped or not, I would get the epidural out and I could go home in hopes that he flip in the following week. We also scheduled another ECV for March 9th and if that one did not work, I would then have a C-section immediately following the procedure.
That week I tried everything I could to get him to flip! I saw two chiropractors for the Webster’s technique and I spent a lot of time doing different exercises and other crazy things people suggested. Having a natural birth was something I truly desired and I did everything I could to fight for one.
So the day came to have the ECV procedure. We woke up early at 430am to get ready and head to the hospital. They wanted us to arrive about 2 hours before the procedure was scheduled so we needed to be there around 6am. We left our dog at home and packed a few things up. Since our plan was to come back home regardless of the outcome of the procedure, we didn’t bring much with us.
The procedure ended up being a lot more involved than I had anticipated. I knew I’d be getting a low-dose epidural but I figured it would all take place in a regular L&D room. [Having an epidural was not something I really wanted but I knew it was important for this. For me, I was okay having a low-dose epidural for a short period of time if it meant that we could possibly have the all-natural birth that I hoped for].
It was explained to us that complications are rare (1-2%) but that everything takes place in the OR in case there is fetal distress and they have to quickly do a C-Section. If you did the procedure without an epidural, and the baby becomes distressed, it would take too long to get prepped with an epidural for a C-section at that point and you would most likely only have local anesthetic during the C-Section and/or you put the baby at risk of health complications for extending the time until they are delivered.
Upon arrival, I was taken to pre-op where they hooked me up to a fetal monitor and put in a saline-locked IV. It turned out that I was actually having pretty good contractions because they could see them on the monitor (I felt crampy every once in a while but didn’t realize they were contractions lol). I was then taken back to the OR where they put in my epidural, foley and started me on fluids.. and an entire team was there prepped ready in case of a complication. After I was all prepped, Jon was allowed to come in and sit next to me.
The midwife that I had seen the most throughout my pregnancy was on-call in the hospital that day (I love her!). She came to see me before the procedure and also joined us in the OR for the ECV to support us, which I am incredibly grateful for.
Then the procedure began.
The OB that I had met only a week before was there along with another physician. They had a sonogram machine to take a look at the baby and help with figuring out how to flip him. It is pretty intense as they try to flip the baby from the outside; I felt some tugging and moving around but no pain, thankfully. They began and got him turned sideways (transverse) and his heart rate immediately dropped to the 70s (Fetal heart rates should be 120-170).. I immediately started getting nervous. They watched it for about 30 seconds to see if it would rise on it’s own but it didn’t. The two doctors then tried to flip him back to breech positioning since he was doing fine in that position prior to the flip, in hopes that his heart rate would increase to a safe range. As soon as they turned him back to breech, his heart rate dropped even further to the 50s.. and then the 40s.. And stayed there. My heart was beating so fast at this point. I could see his little heart on the sonogram machine beating so slowly.. and I started to get really scared. I remember looking over to Jon as I was starting to cry and asking if our baby was going to be okay. Within about 30 seconds of his heart rate dropping to the 40s, our OB looked at us and said “well, looks like you’re going to have a baby today!” and the room erupted; the OR drape went up, the team got prepped, the anesthesiologist gave me a bolus of anesthesia, put oxygen on me.. and then he was out! In LESS THAN A MINUTE. It all happened so quickly.. to say it was overwhelming is an understatement. He was immediately taken to the warmer where he was stabilized (His Apgars were 7 & 9). Jon went over with him right away and my midwife came and sat with me. I heard his little cry and knew he was okay! My midwife went and took pictures with my phone and came back to show me my new baby! I am beyond grateful that she was there to give me support. She also made sure that as soon as he was fine, he was brought over to me so that we could do skin-to-skin. I now joke that out of everything we had in our birth plan, the only thing that came to fruition was skin-to-skin and I’m thankful that she made that happen.
We had told all of our close family and friends about the procedure that day. I told them all that it probably wouldn’t take very long and that we’d most likely be having our baby the following week. After a few hours of not hearing from us, they were all starting to get worried and were wondering what had happened.. so instead of writing out everything that had happened, everyone got a surprising picture text :) We had kept his name a secret until his birth so everyone got double the surprise!
It turns out that the cord was wrapped around his neck and that when he was turned, it most likely tightened and caused his heart rate to drop and not return to normal. Even though this birth was NOTHING like I had hoped for or planned, it ended up being the safest way for him to be born. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t gone in for the ECV that day; what if he was flipping around in my belly and tightened the cord himself? Would his heart rate have dropped in the 40s and we wouldn’t have known? I try not to think about the what-ifs.. but in a way, it makes me feel better about doing the elective ECV procedure and helps me realize this was the way he needed to come. He would have ended up being a C-Section baby anyways because of the cord and his positioning.. so at the end of the day, healthy mama and healthy baby was the reality of this situation. Although I desired a birth as natural as possible, I am also beyond grateful for modern medicine.
Do your research, choose and fight for the birth you want, surround yourself with a birth team you trust.. and be at peace with the fact that anything can happen.
Every birth is different.. and every birth is beautiful.
This picture was in Pre-op.. little did we know, we’d be having a baby that day!
And then he was here! Landon Ezra was born!
Skin to skin!
Our new little family :)