Our baby was “due” August 19th. On the 15th around 1700, I began writing a birth story that, in my head, was perfect, the way I envisioned it. In spite of my visualization of a perfect birth, we discovered that the baby was breech at my 38 week check up, which came as quite a shock because up to that point baby was vertex.
We tried everything possible to get baby to turn back around:
- An ECV (version)
- Summersaults and headstands in the pool
- Inversions off the bed and stairs
- Rebozo sifting with our wonderful Doula Rosie Peterson
- The Webster technique at the Chiropractorʼs office
- Prenatal massage
Nothing worked! Our Doctor at the Naval Hospital told me that although he was very experienced with breech vaginal deliveries and he was the only staff member there that was, I was not a candidate for such an attempt. It was my first childbirth, and therefore my pelvis was “untested,” so there was an allegedly big risk that I wouldnʼt be able to push the head out. He insisted that a Cesarean was the only way to go, as anything else was “outside the standard of care.”
” After going thru the Bradley Classes with Liza, we felt our dreams of having a natural childbirth dissipating. I sent Liza an email that afternoon explaining our predicament and begging for advice and links to research. She came through for us immediately with a slew of suggestions and encouragement.
” We had researched a ton since we got the news of our breech surprise. After much thought, prayer, and discussion, we decided on having our natural breech birth. The only question was how. I entertained thoughts of driving up to LA to try and see Dr. Stuart Fischbein, whose many articles and evidenced-based research on breech births gave me the confidence I needed to speak intelligently with any Doctor who would listen.
Then I thought how wonderful it would be to go to the Farm and ask Ina May to deliver our baby! Being in the military definitely eliminated some of these more extreme fantasies, and we knew we were stuck with the Naval Hospital. I called the OB back Monday afternoon, and demanded to speak with my midwife, Ms. Moran. I explained what had happened, and about why I didnʼt have another appointment that week, and told her I needed a chit to get me off work completely as I was now 38 plus weeks and things were so complicated.
We went back to her office and sat down and laid out how I felt, which was that I needed to be seen to make sure baby was doing well, and not put on a back burner. She set me up with an appointment for Wednesday morning with a Doctor that we didnʼt know, but she said was very good. I was glad we were making a little progress, but still wondering how this could work out.
” As we drove to my Company Office to drop off my chit, I got a phone call from the clinic. It was Ms. Moran, and she did not have good news. She said that she had just spoken with our first Doctor, the one who was supposed to be on leave. He had scheduled us for a Cesarean that Friday morning, the 12th! The shit hit the fan.
Greg was driving, thank God, and I had to fight not to lose my mind on the phone. She was quick to say that she hadnʼt known anything about this either, and we could talk about it with our new Doctor the next morning. I made it clear there was no way in hell we would be there that Friday for that major operation. I was livid. I would be 39 weeks Friday, but we had decided even in the event we were unable to go for a natural birth, we would at least wait for labor to start spontaneously, that way we knew baby would be ready. I was furious that that smug Doctor could just throw us on a schedule for a major (and life changing) operation without so much as talking about it with us. We went in the next morning.
” I paced the floor and snapped at the Corpsman taking my vitals. My blood pressure was high and Greg kept trying to get me to calm down. I wore my 1/5 Marines T-shirt like a flak jacket, geared up for the fight. I couldnʼt swallow the anger that had built up any longer. Someone was about to get an earful.
Then we met Dr. Kelly Elmore. She was young, and the minute she walked in she asked how we were doing. Big mistake! I told her exactly what was on my mind, I let her have it with both barrels, while Greg sat dutifully not trying to soften the blow. I was sick of not being heard, sick of having major decisions decided for me based on a standard of care and what was considered normal. We wanted more than that.
After I got everything off my chest, I felt a weight lifted. Dr. Elmore looked me in the eye the whole time and listened to what I had to say, and she responded so gracefully, that we would go to her office after she checked on baby and we would sit down and talk. I knew she meant it. I immediately lightened up, I felt my demeanor change.
Something about her was comforting in a non-condescending way. Babyʼs vitals were strong and I was 2 cm dilated, not in labor by any stretch but starting to open slowly. We followed her back to her office and got to have our talk. I explained how we had been researching and desperately wanted a natural child-birthing experience.because it was the safest and healthiest way to go.
She informed us that there were in fact two Doctors on staff with breech experience, and she was the second one! She explained her criteria, which matched Dr. Fischbeinʼs almost exactly, and as long as we could agree to that she believed that it was her duty to let us go for it! The growth scan had baby between 5 and 7 pounds, and I had lots of fluid so there were no worries there. She explained that she was a Christian lady, and she put a lot of faith in God to lead her with her work, and she suggested we pray about it and she would too. She was a miracle to us, the answer to our prayers. It was such a rush hearing her tell us this, she put the wind back in our sails.
” There was just one problem. Sheʼd only be around from that day until the next Thursday. Then she was going on leave. So basically we got this awesome news that our dreams might be saved, and then a minute later were told I would have to go into spontaneous labor, and progress with no back tracking or slowing, within a seven day window! It wasnʼt perfect, but it was a hell of a lot better than having a Cesarean two days later. We left there feeling elated. We had hope.
” We came in Friday morning for a non-stress test, to make sure the placenta was still in good condition and see that baby was not stressed at all, Dr. Elmore wanted to do that twice a week until baby came. I really appreciated her willingness to be there for us. Everything went well with the NST, baby and womb looked great and we went home to hit the pool.
” Over the weekend we went to the chiropractor again and did round two for the Webster Technique. We kept up with the moxibustion and walking, I made sure to keep tracking my blood sugar levels closely because of the Gestational Diabetes, and just spent time at home trying to relax. I had been reading Ina Mayʼs Guide to Childbirth, a gift from Doula Rosie, and that helped me a lot as well. I was trying not to focus on when baby would come, but the more I tried the more I focused. I was feeling very anxious. Doubt began to creep into my mind. I felt alone, even though my husband was there with me. Ultimately I had to answer the consequences of our decision to go for a breech vaginal delivery.
On Monday, I couldnʼt get out of the rut I was in mentally, and I got so sick of my negativity that I finally finished a Bradley assignment we had been given weeks earlier. I wrote out the best birth story I could think up. I went step by step, detailing how I felt and what we did each step of the way. Ultimately I wrote that I went into labor that night, we walked and did our nightly routine, and I had the baby the next morning! After I finished writing, I laid down and tried to take a nap, I felt really tired. It was around 1800, and I noticed that my back was aching, so much that it was becoming impossible to get comfortable and snooze. I remembered I needed to call Rosie and she asked about the strain in my voice. I told her my lower back was hurting but that it wasnʼt that serious. She seemed to think it might be something, and told me to try and sleep and just go about the evening normally. Eat something and sleep. She insisted that I call her back in a couple hours to let her know how I felt. I just kept brushing it off and trying to nap, then around 2000 we had dinner. ” I ate about half but wasnʼt hungry after that. Then we took our nightly walk. I felt like walking would loosen up my back, it was feeling so tight. I still thought it was just odd pain, nothing big. Normally we just did two or three half mile circles around the whole apt complex, but that night I felt adventurous.
My Gunny was in the habit of telling me to “find a hill” and how good that was for pregnancy, so I figured it was a good time to test a nice big hill just across the street from our usual path. We dubbed it “Riveraʼs Ridge” in honor of my Gunny. We walked downhill first, and I was feeling great. After the walk back up the hill, which took about 30 mins total, we crossed the street and I had to stop and lean into Greg because there was such pressure all of a sudden in my lower back. I asked him to press on it and he did, we stayed that way there on the corner for a couple minutes I think. We were just a couple blocks away from home and we made it back without having to stop again, but I finally was starting to think maybe this was labor.
” After we finished our walk we set up the outside balcony with our usual assortment of things. We lit the tiki torches, brought out the rocker for me to sit in along with the heating pad for my back, had the candles lit as well, our glasses of white wine, and Beethoven playing inside. It was a really cozy set up, and the temperature outside was perfect thanks to the coast a mile and a half away.Greg kept trying to get me to use the contraction timer to time my back pain, just to see if there was any kind of pattern. We had learned about back labor in our Bradley class. I grudgingly agreed to play around with the timer, and figured out to my surprise I was having contractions. They were coming between 6 and 10 minutes apart, and lasting for 50-70 seconds! By this time it was around 2300 and I thought it best to text Rosie instead of calling. Rosie didnʼt text back, and I was glad we hadnʼt wakened her.
” At midnight after we brought everything back inside, we laid down to try and get some sleep. He did just that and around 0100, I put the phone down and closed my eyes, intending to get some sleep myself. Iʼd heard of women sleeping right through labor and thought I might get lucky. I laid there for over an hour trying to force myself to relax and sleep, when I finally gave it up.
” At 0230 I went into the front room and began googling what to pack for the trip to the hospital. We never did pack our bags! I started timing again, and by this time they were 3 to 5 minutes apart, lasting from 40-60 seconds, and I accepted the fact that this was really happening. I got excited and nervous together, and had all this energy. The contractions were manageable, and I worked around them packing up our bags and getting everything weʼd need together. Sometimes Iʼd kneel on the carpet with my butt way up and sway through the wave, but then I figured out that leaning over the kitchen counter with my legs spread wide swaying worked best. I had Tom Petty playing as loud as the computer would play it, which was loud enough to wake Greg up. He saw me swaying and knew exactly what was up. He got excited and wondered how the hell I had packed our bags. He wanted to call Rosie, so around 0300 he gave her a ring. She said sheʼd be over within the hour, and I got in the shower. I brought the computer in and put it on the sink so I could sing along with Tom.
” In our Bradley class we learned to relax and just breathe through the contractions, but I felt like being up and singing along with Tom at the top of my lungs. Rosie arrived right after 0400, and Rosie sang with Tom Petty too and said I was doing great. Around 0500 I filled up the tub and laid down on my side. It felt much better under the water and I wished I had more room. I was still laughing and having a good time with it all, and Rosie and Greg were so helpful. I told them I wanted to go to the beach and walk along the water, we lived just 5 minutes away. They thought that was a real good idea so at 0630 I hauled myself out of the tub and got dressed.
” The amazing part is that it was the morning of the 16th, and Dr. Elmore was on the labor deck that one day, every other day that week they would have had to call her in…it was perfect timing. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible and I wanted baby to wait until at least 0700 when Dr. Elmoreʼs shift started. At 0700 we got to the beach and it was all ours. We walked right along the water next to the Oceanside Pier. It was overcast as always in the early morning on the coast, and Rosie walked with Greg and I and snapped a few precious pictures. The contractions were coming now 2 to 4 minutes apart and lasting 50-70 seconds. Each time they came I just leaned forward into Gregʼs chest and he pressed on my back. It felt surreal. I felt so blessed to be able to have the ocean right there at our feet. After half an hour there we decided to meet up at Lake Oneill, just two minutes from the Navy Hospital. Then in the car, it was just Greg and I, Rosie was driving separately, contractions started to come 2 to 3 minutes apart and lasted 50-70 seconds. It was so uncomfortable in that car I finally got serious, there was nothing else I could think of but each one coming. I told Greg to just go to the hospital. I began moaning. It seemed to take forever getting to the Hospital, but really was only 20 minutes at most.
We parked I was walking back and forth in front of the hospital when Rosie got there I got really nervous all of a sudden but I didnʼt want to tell either of them. I walked off a little ways and wanted to cry. I felt like a baby, but I knew once we went inside that was it. The weight of it all hit me and I did cry, thinking about how Iʼd be a mom when we left. It was a very sobering moment. After a couple minutes I told them I was ready. They asked if I wanted a wheel chair, hell no!
” At 0800 we checked into the triage. I was so thankful for Rosie, sheʼs the sweetest woman we could have found to share this experience. As soon as we walked into triage I started having a monster contraction. I leaned over the sink and felt warm water going down my leg. It looked like pee and I didnʼt know what to think. Rosie went to get the nurse after she told me my water must have broken. There was brown stuff in the liquid and I got really nervous. The nurse came right in and said we were going to the labor room, no time for triage.
” A midwife came in and started getting my vitals, she told me they need to prep me for the OR. I sat right up and informed her that I wasnʼt going to the OR. She fired back asking if the baby was still breech. Yes, now go get Dr. Elmore and tell her we are here! I was mama bear and this lady better get on with it if she knew what was good for her. About five minutes later she came back in, said that Dr. Elmore was really happy we were there and that I was going to do great!
She did a complete 180 and it felt really good to hear her say that. I knew how important it was to have positive vibes going out from reading Ina Mayʼs book, and thatʼs just what we had. Pretty soon there were different nurses and midwives coming in and telling us that they were rooting for us, we were going to do great and stuff like that. Everything was coming together so perfectly I could hardly believe it.
” At 0900 Dr. Elmore came in with a huge smile on her face. We all knew this was divine intervention. She checked me and I was 3 cm dilated. I felt kind of terrible because Iʼd been laboring for quite some time and hadnʼt made much progress. I just buckled down and knew it was going to be rough work from there, and Rosie and Greg were amazing. For the next two hours it got really intense, there was no break in between the contractions, they were on top of each other. Greg and Rosie took turns pushing on my back with all their might and I went from side lying, to walking around a bit to getting in the shower. The shower was super weak but at least the water was hot and it felt really good being in there, while Greg stood just outside so I could lean on him and let the water hit my back. I was hooked up to the EFM every 15 minutes so I was free to move around and try different positions, that helped immensely. The only other attachment I had was a hep lock just in case, but I didnʼt want them hooking up the IV as I was fine drinking on my own.
We brought granola bars and snacks with us and by this point I was feeling drained, I ate a fiber one bar just to keep up my strength but it was hard getting it down. At 1100 Dr. Elmore came back and check me again, I was 5 cm open but feeling the urge the push. I was so sure Iʼd be almost fully open so hearing her say 5 was crushing.
” At that point I started to wonder whether I would have enough power to push the baby out when the time came. It was such a marathon. There were sounds coming from somewhere way deep within and it all felt so primal. I was grunting and growling and low moaning, while my power team kept the steady pressure on my back. It was really a team effort. I was fighting the urge to push, itʼs dangerous to push when youʼre not fully open because the cervix can actually tear, which will lead to Cesarean, and because a breech babyʼs head is the last and biggest part to come and if youʼre not all the way open it could get ugly. Rosie taught me how to “keep the feather in the air” and it was one of the hardest things Iʼve ever done. My whole body was bearing down, this incredible force just taking over and I had to fight with every ounce of strength and discipline I had in my body to counteract that force.
By 1300 I was at 7 cm, and again, couldnʼt believe it still wasnʼt time to push! This was getting insane. Rosie told me not to think about it, she could tell we were right there. She promised it wouldnʼt be long and I prayed to God she was right. I wanted to go back to the shower. Babyʼs heartbeat had been great the whole time, and even though I leaked water and meconium the whole time after we left the triage room, the DR wasnʼt worried because it was normal with breeches. Theyʼre little butts get squeezed with every contraction and mine was no different.
” Another great example of what an Angel we found in Rosie, she followed me around making sure to clean up so I wouldnʼt get disgusted. I made it to the shower and all of a sudden I couldnʼt fight it any longer. My body was pushing and grunting and I tried with all my might to stop it but it was like I was on auto pilot. I told Greg and Rosie this baby was coming, to get the Dr. now! My biggest fear was that Iʼd run out of strength halfway through getting baby out and the little head would be trapped. I knew from my reading that it was important to get the head out pretty fast once the cord had passed through, it gets compressed in the birth canal and restricts the oxygen to baby so it all needs to happen relatively quick. Somehow none of that was important now, nothing else existed outside of my own body. I got back to the bed and didnʼt have time to put my gown back on. I was on my knees facing the head of the bed and Rosie sat it all the way upright and had me lean on it with my elbows.
” The anesthesiologist showed up, he was supposed to prep me for an epidural just in case we had to have an emergency Cesarean, I was also supposed to give birth in the OR as a precaution. Greg leaned in and told me that the Anesthesiologist was there and I growled at him what for! Then there was this incredible force that just totally consumed me, and everybody sort of disappeared.
” The noises got more and more raw. The midwife checked me and a minute later she was whispering the sweetest words into my ear… “You are fully dilated, you can push now.” I never heard anything so welcome. Greg was there at my side, encouraging me all the way, and Rosie too. I started pushing and they told me to stop!
Wait for the DR! I thought, you have got to be shitting me! I felt this insane pressure and burning, this weight bearing down. Then she was there, but still they said wait! The babyʼs butt was crowning! She has to get her gloves on! I wanted to scream how fucking long does it take to put gloves on?! Iʼm proud to say I was able to hold that back to a low roar and then finally I got the green light. The midwife or Rosie, itʼs a blur now, told me I could reach down and feel my baby.
” For a second everything slowed down, and I reached down with such trepidation, afraid of what Iʼd find. Then I felt that tiny butt! My mind whirled, all I could say or think was Oh my God, Oh my God. It felt holy in a way, it was surreal. The second passed and I was pushing again, pushing with everything I had left to give. I heard when her legs and arms were out, and then from voices all around me I was told to push!
Greg said, “If youʼre ever going to push you have to push now!” The DR, the midwife, Rosie, everyone was telling me to push, get that head out! For a moment there was doubt, there was fear greater than anything Iʼd ever felt, I had nothing left. In that moment I didnʼt have to pray, my heart was an open book bleeding out to God… I closed my eyes and concentrated every effort, every thought on this one thing, and I knew we were being prayed for in that instant, and I let go without even feeling any more… Just willing this baby out of me. And then it was done. The pressure and the burning were gone. There was this huge release, and then nothing.
” I was facing the head of the bed, and I had birthed the baby on my knees so I didnʼt see when it was finally over, I was suddenly staring at the wall. There was no noise then, it was silent, and I was scared again. Why wasnʼt my baby crying? I looked behind me and there was Greg, staring at me in disbelief. I yelled at him to see the baby, he snapped out of his trance quickly.
Then Rosie told Greg to announce the sex of the baby to mom! He looked from our tiny baby to me, I still couldnʼt see because there was a 5 man team of DRs and nurses just for the baby blocking my view. He tried to say something but tears just filled his eyes. Then he mouthed, “I was right.” We had a little girl! She was okay, just needed a little help getting started. They handed her to me wrapped in a blanket with a little hat on, she was alert and wide eyed. I was stunned at her beauty, she was so tiny and perfect. I counted ten tiny fingers and toes, they were blue but getting pinker. I couldnʼt believe it was over. I couldnʼt believe we had a daughter.
” What an incredible honor, what a powerful trip it was seeing her into this world. I am forever grateful for the people we were surrounded by, for sweet Rosie, and my awesome husband. For our angel Dr. Elmore and the whole staff that morning. To God for bestowing this precious treasure upon me, Iʼll never understand why sheʼs been given to me. But Iʼll fight every day for the rest of my life to keep her safe, to take care of her, to be there. My precious baby girl was born on August 16th, 2011 at 1521 at the Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. She was 6 pounds 7 ounces and 18.5ʼʻ long. We named her a week later, Rose Ellice Woods