Once More Unto The Bre[e]ch (Natalie)

Hi there Mother Siders,

Last time I wrote about the dilemma of deciding where is best to deliver my baby.

Well, it seems that that choice may not, in fact, be ours to make. Baby is steadfastly breech.

I know this because baby has its head squarely in my chest cavity and it feels like there is a ton of bricks on my heart.  I know this because I am mainlining Gaviscon like it is going out of fashion. I know this because the midwife confirmed it at my last appointment after I told her there was something very solid in the gap at the bottom of my ribs.

At the moment we still have plenty of time for baby to turn so I am not too concerned.

This is also not my first rodeo and apparently carrying breech babies is just what I do.

We found out my daughter was breech at 37/38 weeks after everyone thought she was head down all along.  I went in for a check because I was concerned about reduced movement. After being monitored, the doctor said baby was fine but they did need to talk to me about delivery and then dropped what felt like a massive bombshell at the time. Baby was breech. (Of course I realise now that was the least worst thing they could have said and remain eternally grateful for it).

Initially it sent me into a tailspin as we talked about elective C-section and other things.  I saw the gentle hypnobirthing birth I had been working on, and planning for, disappearing before my eyes. I set out on a mission to do everything I possibly could to avoid a c-section. (We’ll come back to why this was a folly on my part later).

I stalked the Spinning Babies website and tried all the recommended moves, terrifying my husband in the process.

I got my yoga teacher to take the class through lots of inversions and downward dogs to give the baby space to move on its own.

I tried Moxibustion, an acupuncture technique with a high success rate for helping babies turn. I went to a practitioner who was actually a former NHS anaesthetist who now offered alternative treatments. She applied various needles to my little toes and held a burning cigar type item near my toes. My husband had to repeat holding the burning cigar near my small toes twice a day for the next week.

I had reflexology with a maternity practitioner.

The only thing I didn’t do, although I definitely did think about trying, was a head stand or somersaults in a swimming pool. Which is meant to help. I had visions of getting pulled out by the lifeguards confusing my thrashing about for drowning.

Then I had an ECV. It is not for the faint hearted. For anyone finding themselves in the position of thinking about it I want to be honest. It is probably the most uncomfortable procedure I have ever had in my life. Including an entirely medication free birth! There is no pain relief.  Baby is essentially turned from the outside by a doctor pushing and pulling on the head and bottom of baby.  Everyone who knew about it told me not to go ahead and to just have the C-section. Even the midwives assisting the doctor doing it told me I didn’t have to go ahead with it. They even asked me to bring my diary to make sure I could schedule my C-section.

But determination and focus (extreme stubbornness) has always been one of my main attributes and I knew I wanted to try. At least then I could say I had done everything possible.

So the day came and my husband and I went to the hospital. We met the same consultant who we had spoken to less that a week before. She had a medical student and two midwives with her to assist/observe.

They gave me a scan to check baby was still breech. Apparently stubbornness is something I had already passed to my unborn child and the ultrasound showed she was absolutely still breech.  Then the consultant got busy pushing baby around. I used my hypnobirthing breathing to manage the discomfort. I will say it is definitely discomfort more than pain. But it is extreme discomfort.  We got half way and the consultant needed to scan again to make sure baby was well. The midwives and the medical student all jumped into action to hold baby in place so it couldn’t flip back. At this point baby was half way laying completely horizontal across me. My bump was an entirely odd shape! Having found all was well the consultant was back to pushing and pulling the baby around. I admit by this point I was uncomfortable enough to cry but the hypnobirthing techniques I had spent ages practising were amazing and I focussed on the birth I knew I wanted.

In fact the hypnobirthing techniques worked so well the next thing I knew the midwives were again holding the baby in place and the consultant was moving the ultra sound wand over my bump which by now was a much more usual shape. A huge cheer went up when the four of them could see on the screen that baby was in exactly the right position.

Just like that it was over. Baby had been successfully turned.  I couldn’t quite believe it had worked. I was monitored for another half an hour or so and once it seemed baby was fine and was making no immediate attempts at turning back we went home.

My husband still talks about how brutal it was and just how difficult to watch, more so than the actual birth in fact, which was over much more quickly.

So fast forward to now and I know the drill. I know what to expect although I am not sure if that makes it better or worse!

I am not approaching it with quite the same zeal I did previously because there is much more time for baby to turn of its own accord this time and, more importantly,  perhaps the very biggest lesson I have learned has been that a gentle planned c-section can have a much better recovery than some vaginal births. So it doesn’t hold nearly the same fear for me it did as a first time
mum fixated on her natural calm hypnobirth.

A good friend of mine had the ECV procedure twice (I take my hat off to her!) and her baby was not for turning and she ended up with a C-section anyway and her birth experience was no less than mine!

Whilst I am not as resistant to a C-section as I was I can’t help but feel that same desire to try everything I can to help persuade baby to try and turn by itself. (Did I mention the stubbornness?)

My only concern with a C-section this time stems not from any aspect of surgery or anything like that, but from not being able to pick up my daughter during the recovery period. She will not understand why Mummy cannot pick her up.  It will be particularly tricky at night if my husband happens to be on a nightshift and I am alone.

So this time around it is important to me for my daughter’s sake. I want to do all I can to make sure the process of gaining a sibling is not a trauma to her.

Although of course if I end up with a C-section because baby won’t turn I’ll manage, but if I know that I have done everything in my power then at least I know I tried! My stubbornness will be satisfied if nothing else.

On that note, if anyone is looking for me, I’ll be the heavily pregnant lady upside down in the local pool!

Have any of you got experience of breech birth, or turning your baby?

Natalie, The Mother Side x

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