Kelsie and I went to visit our midwife a few days ago for our one month postpartum and well baby check-up. Kelsie is weighing in at 10 lbs 2 oz, a pound and a half gain since birth! We keep checking her hips to make sure she doesn’t have hip displasia, something to watch for in babies who were born breech. Thankfully, Kelsie’s hips appear to be fine. After asking me about the usual postpartum Mom and baby stuff my midwife asked me if I had journaled about Kelsie’s birth and if my memory of it was still feeling as intense as it was right after. I told her I had written the story down a few days afterwards but that now a month later, it was already starting to fade in my memory. She asked if I still thought it was the toughest and most intense birthing out of all four of my children and I re-affirmed, it absolutely was. While she was looking at her notes I asked her how long I actually pushed for because WOW that was the longest segment of time in my life. It felt like at least an hour of intense body wrenching and mind numbing pain. But no, not even close. “Twenty-one minutes,” she said. Just twenty-one minutes.
For the whole last trimester I visualized a perfectly smooth, relatively short labor. Having done this three times before I knew that each birth brought its own unique challenges and I hoped that those challenges would be easier to tackle this fourth time around. I hoped my body would have some muscle memory and be able to complete the task a little faster than usual. I visualized a birth consisting of all of my favorite things from Abe, Breanne, and Ali’s births.
Abe was born in the hospital 12 hours after my water broke, not without some sweat and tears. My nurse-midwife accidentally started the IV of penicillin (required since I was a carrier of group B strep) without any saline to dilute it and it felt like my arm was on fire for a few minutes until Aaron helped her figure out her mistake. Then, after checking me for dilation and recording 5 cm for two hours in a row my nurse-midwife told me I was not progressing quickly enough and she was required by “hospital protocol” to give me pitocin and help keep things moving along. Is the “hospital protocol” to administer pitocin after just two hours at the same dilation really in place for the safety of the mother and baby, or is it to increase delivery room turnover rates, thus increasing hospital profitability? A conversation for another blog….anyway, the pitocin undoubtedly picked things up and a few hours later I was ready to push. I pushed for 90 minutes and Abe came out cone-headed, but happy. I didn’t tear much, was up walking around within the hour after birth, and went home the next day. Yes, there were some less than ideal events imposed by “hospital protocol” but in the end it was a pretty great first birth. I mean, I walked out the door the next day with a healthy, 8 lb 10 oz boy, what else could I ask for?
My second birth experience was an improvement from the first. I opted for a homebirth and found a great midwife to support me. We avoided the 20 week ultrasound where they scare you with, “Your baby may have this condition or that complication, but we wont know unless we do further testing,” we didn’t test for group B strep either which meant I had no IV burning up my arm during labor, my midwife checked the baby’s heart rate intermittently throughout labor and I didn’t have to have big strap around my bellie for constant monitoring, also no pressure to perform, rules about how quickly I had to dilate, or threat of pitocin. Just Aaron, our midwives, and me enjoying the freedom of “Kennard home protocol.” Labor moved along quickly and smoothly, just 5 hours from start to finish and only a few minutes of push time. Abe, who was 20 months old at the time slept through the whole thing while we labored just down the hall in the master bedroom. He even slept through my very LOUD pushing at the end and didn’t wake up until two hours later, when we came to our bedroom to find a new baby sister. Beautiful.
Ali’s birth was similar to Breanne’s. Same primary midwife, same bedroom, same peace and freedom. Labor came on slowly throughout the day and it was really only a few hours of hard work near the end. The midwives left Aaron and I alone in our bedroom for most of the time so we could labor alone together. The kids were playing at our friend’s house and were brought back home to meet their new baby sister just minutes after she was born. Three times within four years I was blessed with healthy, happy, peaceful birthing, and I thanked God many times.
My “perfect ideal” for this fourth birth would have been to go into labor after we tucked the kids into bed and then have the baby before they woke up. No complications, no stress–just a seamless addition of a new family member. Was I asking too much? Maybe. But I certainly wouldn’t get it unless I asked for it, right? And I certainly wouln’t have a super amazing perfect experience unless I visualized it. So visualize, I did.
I strongly believe in the power of our minds. “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” “What you think about most of the time is what you’ll get.” Things like that. So I saw a perfect healthy baby and a quick, pleasant birth. I believed it would happen and things were lining up for it to happen. At my final prenatal visit, my midwife felt the baby’s position and was quite sure baby was head down and ready to rock and roll. I had already started feeling some “pre-labor” symptoms that I recognized from before so I told my midwife I thought the birth would be that week. At no point in my mental preparation or in the prenatal visits did we foresee a surprise breech detour but I do believe that God sends us on detours in life maybe so we can experience something new or empowering, or learn something profound. Maybe just so that we can learn to adapt. Most certainly so that we can grow.
Twenty-one minutes. Twenty-one minutes is probably about how long it took me to run my first 5K back in high school. Ready, set, GO! La-di-da…up this hill, down that one…oh there’s the finish line, I think I’ll sprint now…and its over. I’m a little tired but oh, that was fun. This twenty-one minutes, the final twenty-one minutes before I met my fourth child was much much different. Exciting, yes but not super fun and definitely not easy.
My water had broken 12 hours earlier and labor slowly progressed all night. For the first time in months, Abe woke up in the middle of the night and came upstairs to find me leaning at the kitchen table moaning through a contraction. He quietly observed me for a few minutes and I told him he was going to meet his new sibling that day. He was happy and wanted to be nearby so he rested on the couch for an hour or so until Aaron put him back to sleep in our bed, promising we’d wake him up when the baby came. Morning came and all three kids were awake and excited that I was in labor. Our friend, Michelle came to pick them up and we told them we’d call them as soon as there was any news. The next few hours passed by without much event. Some tears and complaining provided by me (after all, I wasn’t getting that quick labor I had envisioned.) A lot of positive affirmations and lower back counter pressure so thoughtfully provided by Aaron. I was pretty tired from being up all night, but birthing doesn’t provide much opportunity for rest. Birthing provides opportunity for work. And let me tell you, that final twenty-one minutes was work.
After being told my baby was in the frank breech position and wondering HOW IN THE WORLD AM I GOING TO PUSH THE HEAD OUT LAST!? There was a minute in there where I found myself “hitting the wall” in absolute desperation, sobbing and screaming “I need to go to the hospital! Lets go to the hospital! They’ll get this baby out now!” at which point one midwife shoved a spoonfull of honey in my mouth and the other midwife calmly explained, “Nan, you are fully dilated and this baby is COMING. Trust me, it is much safer to deliver a breech baby right here at home than it would be in the car on the way to the hospital.” She was right. At that point it was illogical to attempt getting in the car and driving to the hospital; time didn’t allow us the option. Besides, my midwife knew what to do. She had caught no less than seven surprise breech babies before mine and everything was fine. As those thoughts went through my mind and the energy from the honey infused into my muscles and brain, my logic returned, I got my “second wind,” stopped complaining, put my head down, and got to work. I visualized myself laying on the bed with a healthy, alert baby on my chest. I knew I’d be in that spot soon.
For the record, pushing out a breech baby was much different than pushing out a vertex baby. It felt like two steps forward, one step back with each push. Or like I was in the final mile of a marathon where the race official announced “Attention Nan Kennard! YOU get to run an extra loop today! Please turn here, this will be your route to the finish line.” While that slippery little bum ever so slightly inched its way out I knew the finish line was near, just not exactly HOW near or what kind of finishing kick I would have to lay down in order to reach it. Thankfully I had Aaron and two awesome midwifes patiently urging me onward. Wow, I could not have done that without them. In fact, I think my support team was even more than just Aaron and the midwives. There were moments when I felt strength beyond myself. Strength from God.
When Kelsie’s legs popped out it felt like a catapult sling-shot right below me. The midwives quickly helped me turn from my position on my hands and knees to an upright position sitting on the birthing stool. As her body came out, Kelsie’s arms had stretched up around her head so my midwife had to reach in and pull the arms and shoulders out one at a time. In case you’re wondering, yes that hurts. Once the arms were out, one midwife began fisting me in the abdomen with all her might to put pressure on the top of Kelsie’s head while the other midwife gently pulled on Kelsies chin to pull her head down into a more favorable position. They both told me to push like I’d never pushed before and what felt like minutes but must have only been seconds later, Kelsie was there! It was just 90 seconds between when her bum came to when her head came. The goal with breech birth is to get the head out no more than 5 minutes after the first part of the body. If it goes beyond that 5 minute window and the head has still not been birthed, the baby may have trauma. Kelsie only took 90 seconds, thank goodness!
They put her on my chest and I rubbed her body to stimulate her to breathe. Even though she had not opened her eyes or taken her first breath I could feel that she was there. Life was in her. Her heart was beating and she was still getting oxygen from the umbilical cord, but still no breath. Moments later the midwives had her on the floor pumping air into her lungs while Aaron and I pleaded with God and Kelsie to please breathe! It couldn’t have been more than twenty seconds but felt like an eternity before she took that first good breath and let out a heart-warming wail. That first cry was the most welcome baby cry I had ever heard. She let out a few more little wimpers and opened her eyes big and bright, then she was placed back on my chest and we just stared at each other for a good five minutes. So happy to finally meet each other.
Ahhhhh…..it was finally over. That was the most I had ever yearned for a finish line in my entire life. And what a perfect finish line it was. An 8lb 9 oz, 21 inch long, 15 inch head amazing little baby girl. Apparently a 15 inch head circumference is off the charts, above 100th percentile, whatever that means. Miracle, is what it means to me. We witnessed a miracle to see the biggest part of her body come out last, just 90 seconds after of the rest of her body. Because it could have turned out a lot differently. I’m grateful for two brilliant midwives who knew exactly what to do. I’m grateful that midwives are still trained in breech delivery in a day and age when Doctors are no longer taught that art. Doctors are taught to attempt to turn breech babies and if they cant turn them, cut the woman open. I’m grateful that the midwives, Aaron, Kelsie, and I were all no doubt watched over and assisted by guardian angels. Grateful that what could have been a complicated, risky detour turned out safe, healthy, and happy. Had we decided to jump in the car and go to the hospital in that moment when I was frantically yearning to, we could have had a much scarier scenario. We may have been resuscitating Kelsie on the floor of the car or on the hospital lobby floor. Or maybe we would have made it in time and I most certainly would have been rushed directly to the OR for a Cecarian moments before I could have pushed her out anyway. So yes, I’m grateful things went the way they did.
Now five weeks later, I look at Kelsie with amazement. Her entrance into this world was quite an exciting adventure and I’m sure she’ll continue her life as such. Abe, Breanne, and Ali absolutely adore her and can’t stop touching, kissing, and holding her. We have what feels like a BIG family now with four awesome kids. Yes, its busy and crazy and hectic at times but also fun and loving and abundant. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Life is truly amazing.