Breech Birth – An Empowering Natural Birth
When I fell pregnant with my first daughter in 2015, I did a lot of research before settling on a birth ‘plan’. I went on to have a beautiful, textbook waterbirth in a hospital with a midwife.
I fell pregnant a few months after her birth and I ‘planned’ to have another waterbirth in the hospital. But this was to be my first taste as to how different every birth can be, and testament to the oft heard statement that births don’t always go according to plan.
I had a precipitous labour and I almost delivered my second daughter in the car on our way to the hospital. We arrived just in time because when we were rushed into the delivery room, with my midwife in hot pursuit, I was already crowning. My daughter was born strong and healthy after a short 2.5hour labour.
So when I fell pregnant with my third daughter, my husband Jon and I decided a homebirth would be the best option for us. I did all the necessary planning and research to ensure I was ready for a homebirth. We planned and prepared as much as we could and we were excited to welcome our baby into the world in the comfort of our own home.
At my 32 week appointment my midwife informed me that my baby was lying in a breech position! We had a scan to make sure everything was alright and it was confirmed she was in a Frank breech position. I was told it was fairly common at this point in a pregnancy, but not ideal.
So…now what?! This was something new to us. I went home and googled “how to turn a breech baby”. I was determined to flip her back to a head down position. I did all of the Spinning Babies exercises, I kept as hydrated as possible to ensure my amniotic fluid wasn’t low, I saw a chiropractor for realignment sessions, I placed icepacks on my stomache where my baby’s head was and I took a pulsatilla remedy from my homeopath. I was willing to try anything to turn my baby around.
At 36 weeks I had to see my gynae for a routine check-up, and during the scan, she informed me that my baby was still in a Frank breech position. The disappointment flooded me. From the research and reading I had done, I knew that this breech position was simply a variation of normal and that, in the right circumstances, it was possible to naturally birth a breech baby safely.
I asked my gynae if we would proceed with a vaginal birth if my baby didn’t turn by the time I was in labour and she looked at me like I was absurd for even suggesting such a thing. She said that there was no way she can allow me to vaginally birth a breech baby. She promptly started talking about my c-section, what I should expect and the possible dates for the procedure. She said she wouldn’t allow me to go into labour. She quickly dismissed all my questions, mentioning all the reasons why it was so dangerous to have a vaginal breech birth. That day, I left her rooms devastated, overwhelmed and in tears, with a date booked for a c-section.
Unfortunately my midwife could no longer support me or assist me in a natural birth without the consent of my gynae, with whom she works alongside. The last few weeks of pregnancy should be a time of relaxation and minimal stress, but here I was…stressed, anxious and scared.
That night I found a local natural birth group on Facebook where some members pointed me in the direction of a gynae and a midwifery team who might be able to assist me. A glimmer of hope.
I managed to get an appointment for an External Cephalic Version (ECV) with the gynae for the following week. I then contacted the midwives from Great Expectations Midwives and I spoke to Sarah about my situation. She was a breath of fresh air in what seemed like a dire situation. She was kind and supportive and completely understanding of my hope and desire to have a natural birth. She said if my ECV failed, herself and Elrika would be happy to take me on and support me in a natural birth so long as the gynae agreed to be my backup.
And so, at 37.2 weeks, Jon and I arrived at the gynae’s rooms, nervous and hopeful. The ECV didn’t work after two attempts and we declined a third attempt. Our baby didn’t want to move and there must be a reason for it. However, the gynae was very reassuring and gentle, and he said I was a good candidate for a breech birth because this was my third baby and we know my pelvis can open up to birth babies without complication.
He assessed me and was happy to report that none of the major risks often associated with a breech baby were a concern in my case. He told me that he had worked with Sarah and Elrika many times before and he was happy to be my backup gynae.
On the way home, I spoke to Sarah and made an appointment to meet with her and Elrika the next day. And so, at 37 weeks I had a new plan, a new birthing team and renewed hope!
I met Sarah and Elrika at Genesis and I was blown away by their knowledge, confidence, professionalism and care. They were so reassuring, and all my fears disappeared. They told me a breech baby could even turn head down during labour and that if that is not the case with me, that they had safely and successfully delivered breech babies in the past. These two women were a Godsend. I trusted them and knew that they would make the right call for my baby and me.
I would never put my baby or myself in danger. I knew that breech did not equate a medical emergency and I was happy that I was at least been given the chance to birth my baby the way I chose to. If it was deemed necessary and an emergency I would have a c-section without hesitation.
Yes,I was nervous, yes, I worried and yes, I questioned if I was making the right decision. I prayed every day for wisdom and for the protection of my baby. I read and watched positive breech birth stories and Sarah sent me some links and pictures for encouragement. I felt ready to tackle this.
On Saturday 24 February I woke up and something felt different. I couldn’t quite place it but I knew something was up, and I said to Jon that I think this could be the day I go into labour. We went about our day and took our two daughters out for lunch and a play. We were walking around and I started feeling contractions. At one point I had quite a strong one which had me buckled over. Oh my word, this is it, the start of labour. I felt excited and expectant.
I had no idea what to expect, given that my last labour was so fast. So we went home just in case things started moving along quite quickly. Throughout the afternoon I had regular contractions every 20minutes. They didn’t increase in length or strength and stayed evenly apart.
That evening I messaged Sarah who said it sounds like early labour and to keep her updated. Nothing much changed and by 10pm and I messaged Sarah to tell her what was (or, rather, wasn’t) happening. I went to bed. I was so tired and thought I should try get some rest as I was sure baby was coming sometime that night.
Needless to say we had an uneventful night and I had a fairly good sleep. I woke up a little disappointed that labour hadn’t progressed and had seemingly stopped. False labour perhaps? I messaged Sarah again who reassured me that it is normal and can happen as my body is preparing for the real thing. She was so helpful and answered all my concerns with gentleness and care.
I had no more contractions and that afternoon when I went to the toilet I saw I had lost my mucas plug. Another surge of excitement. I messaged Sarah who told me that’s a good sign and to keep in contact if anything starts happening. Around 5pm I started having contractions again. 20minutes apart. By 9pm they were down to 10minutes apart and I messaged Sarah. She suggested I have bath for an hour and let her know what happens.
So into the bath I climbed. They didn’t slow down, but rather they stayed consistent. Sarah suggested I get some rest and message her when they’re 7-minutes apart. I felt guilty messaging her so late on a Sunday, for a second night in a row, with seemingly false labour again. But she was so kind and assured me that that is what she is there for.
I couldn’t fall into a deep sleep or get comfortable as my contractions were so strong. By 1am they were 7-minutes apart and Sarah suggested another bath. This seemed to speed them up and after having a few that were 5-minutes apart I contacted Sarah and she said it was time to head to Genesis.
Yes, this was it!! I was a mix of excitement and apprehension. While I got out the bath and dressed my mother-in-law arrived to stay with my daughters.
The car ride to Genesis felt like it took forever but 30-minutes later, at 2:30am we drove through the gate. We were taken to the Sage room and settled in by a staff midwife. While waiting for Sarah to arrive, my blood pressure and baby’s heart rate were taken. I was relieved to hear everything was fine.
Sarah arrived soon after us and I felt an instant peace and calm when I saw her. She did an internal check and I was already 8cm dilated. Great news. Baby was still presenting in a breech position but there was no cord by my cervix.
Sarah set up the birth pool while I lay on the bed with my husband. I didn’t get to have my homebirth but this was definitely the next best thing. We prayed over the birth and our baby and we fully trusted that God had His hand over the situation.
I climbed into the birth pool as Elrika arrived. Seeing her face, and the calmness and confidence that she brought with her, had me feeling assured and capable. I laboured in the birth pool for three hours. It was surreal. The quiet, low-lit room with the soothing aroma of Clary Sage provided a safe and warm space for me to labour.
The contractions were intense and getting more painful. Jon sat beside me and supported me through each one. In between contractions we chatted, I would pray or focus on my verses and talk to my baby and encourage her.
I asked Sarah to do another internal check. I felt like I had been there for ever, I was feeling so tired, and I wanted to know where I was. I was almost fully dilated, so Sarah suggested I get out of the pool and labour a little on the toilet.
With Jon’s help I made it to the toilet. The contractions were so close that they felt like one long one and as I sat on the toilet, legs wide open, clinging to my husband, I was praying for strength and protection.
After a few more minutes, which felt like eternity, Sarah asked me to move to the bed so she could check my baby’s heartrate and my dilation. The walk to the bed was agony but with Jon and Elrika’s assistance I made it.
Once on the bed, I had another internal check and I was so happy to hear I was fully dilated. But my baby’s heart rate was very high and we needed to move things along. With my consent Elrika broke my water.
Within seconds I had the urge to start pushing. Elrika asked me to get on all fours. Jon sat at the head of the bed, propped up against the wall. I was facing him, on my hands and knees. This was it, I was about to meet my baby and knew I needed to dig deep within for this pushing stage.
First push and I was spent. It was the most intense, painful and hardest thing I’ve ever done. I put my arms around Jon’s chest for support. Another push and I could feel fear creeping in and I did the only thing I knew would help, I prayed. As I pushed, I bit Jon’s shoulder. I yelled out and braced myself for the next one.
I could feel I was resisting and holding back, and I knew I had to just give in to the pain, to the pushing. I had to let go and become primal. Clinging to Jon, I pushed again, completely surrendering my body to this experience. Jon was whispering prayers and encouragement into my ear the whole time. He was my rock.
Another agonising push, I could feel the burn, and I even shouted out to no one in particular, “Why is it burning?!”. The entire time Sarah was gently supporting my perineum and baby as she was being pushed out. Elrika was offering encouragement and narrative as to what was happening down below. She also managed to take some incredible photos that I will forever treasure.
It was amazing being able to feel every sensation as my baby moved down the birth canal, I revelled in being fully conscious in such an incredible moment, to be able to experience this very special birth of my daughter. Sarah told me I needed only one more push and with all my strength I gave one more push and our beautiful daughter was born, bum first and folded in half at 6:06am.
She was healthy, strong and without any complications. (I didn’t tear or need to be cut). I reached down and pulled her up to my chest. I kissed her head and breathed in that glorious just born smell of vernix and amniotic fluid. Emotion took over and I felt tears slide down my face. I was victorious. I had fought for, and through, the birth I wanted and knew was possible and now I was on the other side; a birth warrior and a mommy, holding my perfect daughter!! I felt such a sense of relief, of empowerment and of joy.
I did immediate skin-to-skin with her and while she lay on my chest, she had some oxygen. Sarah guided me with the birthing of my placenta and then Jon cut the cord. My baby started looking for my breast, how amazing to watch a baby’s natural instinct at work. She latched really well and drank for ages. It really was bliss, Jon and I lying on the bed, marvelling at her, at the miracle that we just experienced! It’s no wonder it’s called the Golden Hour.
I know that every person, every baby and every circumstance is different, and that my story is unusual and an exception to the norm. Breech birth isn’t for everyone but informed decision-making is. I will forever be grateful to my superheroes; Sarah and Elrika, and to my backup gynae, for allowing me the option to safely deliver my breech baby.
“Giving birth should be your greatest achievement, not your greatest fear.” Jane Weideman
We look forward to sharing this journey with you and hope to fulfill your birthing dreams and expectations.
5 Northwold Drive, Saxonwold (5.30 km)