On the night you were born,
The moon smiled with such wonder
That the stars peeked in to see you
And the night wind whispered,
“Life will never be the same.”
Rosie’s entrance to the world was a bit of a rollercoaster, albeit a fairly gentle one in the grand scheme. My pregnancy had been much easier than with Kit (Kit’s Birth Story), in the sense that I was only really sick the first trimester instead of for a full 9 months. Other than normal pregnancy aches and pains (i.e., feeling like your body is coming apart at the seams), I had nothing serious to complain about, and we were both healthy and classified as low-risk. Then, at 36 weeks, we found out that baby girl was breech. This news came as quite a shock, and I felt a bit betrayed by my body that I wasn’t able to tell she was in this less-than-ideal position.
If a baby is breech at the time of delivery, it’s pretty much an automatic c-section. I have nothing against c-sections, no judgement on anyone who chooses to have one, and am very glad to live in a day and age when this type of intervention can be life-saving. But major surgery was not something I was excited about, and was not something I would willingly chose for her birth.
So when I got the news that Rosie was breech, I had a few hours of freaking out. There was a decent chance she wouldn’t turn before delivery, as most babies are head down well before 36 weeks. It wasn’t just the thought of a c-section that I was worried about… Kit’s natural waterbirth had been so transformative and empowering for me, and I felt like it was such a connective experience for he and I. The thought of missing out on that experience with Rosie was a bit devastating. So I talked to my BFF / midwife, Janelle, and my doula, Julie, who both helped to calm my fears and recommended a plan of action. At least I felt like my fears were in check… but the human body is a funny thing. Even though mentally and emotionally I felt like everything was under control, it took about a week for my body to physically process the stress, which involved going through some early labor symptoms and some severe stress-induced shortness of breath. Not my idea of fun!
For the next 2 weeks, I focused all my energy on encouraging my little rebel to turn. I did every kind of breech exercise, enlisted the help of my chiropractor with the Webster technique, swam endless laps and did headstands in the pool, tried out acupuncture and moxibustion (an ancient Chinese theory that burning mugwort over a pressure point on your pinkie toe would cause baby to turn)… I didn’t care how weird it was, I tried anything and everything. I even made a silly playlist in hopes that she’d boogey herself upside-down (featuring classic breech baby songs like Turn, Turn, Turn! by The Byrds, You Spin Me Round by Dead or Alive, Upside Down by Diana Ross, and Turn the Beat Around by Vickie Sue Robinson).
In between all this activity, I spent some time researching breech vaginal births. While they aren’t typically done anymore due to the popularity of c-sections, it wasn’t that long ago that breech deliveries were more common, and considered a variation of normal as opposed to a big complication. I decided that if at all possible, I wanted to pursue a breech vaginal birth if Rosie didn’t turn. I wouldn’t be able to be at the birth center, and it wouldn’t be a groovy natural birth, but at least I would hopefully avoid a c-section. Now I was faced with the hurdle was finding an OB that would support this plan. The midwives wouldn’t be able to provide care for this scenario as it was outside their regulations, and I was told by the first OB I met with that no doctor in South Carolina would touch me for a breech birth. But thanks to my amazing doula, I was able to connect with an OB here in Greenville that is a huge proponent of patient autonomy, and after some discussion–she also recommended a cesarean birth–she agreed to support me in attempting a breech vaginal birth if it came to that. Having a c-section off the table as the most likely plan took off a world of stress and I felt so much more at peace.
The best case scenario was still getting Rosie to turn, and having a natural waterbirth at the birth center. But in spite of all my efforts, it hadn’t seemed to have worked. So we scheduled an ECV, an external cephalic version, which is a fairly intense procedure where a doctor attempts to manually manipulate the baby into a head-down position. It’s not exactly pleasant to undergo, and can often be distressing to the baby, resulting in an emergent c-section. Also, there is still a chance that the baby will turn back to breech, since they didn’t want to be head-down in the first place. Most doctors have a 50-60% success rate at getting a baby to turn with an ECV. Not exactly the most encouraging odds, hm? Thankfully, the OB my doula had connected me with is known as the magical baby-turner.
The night before the ECV, I couldn’t sleep, my hips were aching something fierce, and there was a ton of pressure in my pelvis. I chalked this up to stress or being at the end of pregnancy or my body literally falling apart, and tried to rest. Bright and early in the morning, we had the ECV consultation and went through all the various scenarios along with the risks/benefits. The procedure would be that afternoon, so the OB wanted to do a quick ultrasound to check Rosie’s positioning and confirm that my fluid levels were good. She checked where Rosie’s head should have been and paused, looking a bit confused… turns out she had flipped and was now head down! I must have asked her 10 times, “Are you sure?!” I could hardly believe it. Who knows if it was the stinky mugwort or the disco tunes that did the trick, but finally my stubborn little one had given in and was in position.
Now we were back on track. My dream plan for a natural waterbirth was once again ready to go… I just had to wait to go into labor. So we waited. And waited. And waited.
Kit was 2 days early, so I just assumed Rosie would follow suit. I was so sure she would be early, I had my belly henna done around 38 weeks… which ended up fading and looking more like intricate stretch marks by the time I finally gave birth. And although I had days of prodromal labor with Kit, once I went into active labor, it went quite quickly. So I naively assumed that I would have a quick labor with Rosie as well. But ah, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
As my due date crept closer, I became more and more of the stereotypical pregnant lady waiting to give birth: completely miserable and fairly irrational. My body seemed to be holding on by a thread, and I was just rational enough to know that I was being irrational about my desperation, but I didn’t care. Of course, I know that due dates don’t mean anything, and that everything was perfectly normal, but gosh darn it, I was so done being pregnant! I had a check-up at exactly 40 weeks, and the midwife offered to do a membrane sweep. She was the same one who had done this when I was in prodromal labor with Kit, and he was born less than a day later. We joked about her winning streak and hoped it would work again to encourage labor to start.
6am, the next morning. I was awoken by a familiar sensation, a firm squeezing wave of pressure that takes your breath away. I timed a few contractions: 8 minutes apart and a minute long. I figured we’d have a baby by lunchtime! So I got up and did a few things around the house in between waves, putting the last couple items in my bag, tidied the kitchen, just tried to stay busy. I let my doula know what was going on, but told her to stay put for the time being as I didn’t feel like I needed support for the contractions just yet. I listened to my Hypnobabies scripts and keep laboring away.
I know every birth is different, but it was hard not to compare this experience to Kit’s birth. With his birth, I was so exhausted from the days of prodromal labor that by the time I went into active labor, I completely blanked out. As in, I hardly remember anything save for a few select moments and I don’t remember any pain. It was so intense, I was completely in the zone and everything else faded away. This time around, I knew this was real labor and not prodromal but it felt different. The contractions were quite intense and I needed complete focus to power through them. And they were pretty uncomfortable. I was feeling every bit of the pressure waves, my hips were on fire and there were plenty of involuntary vocal expressions.
And so it went… for hours. And hours. All day long, the contractions stayed consistent, long and strong, but they didn’t progress. With Kit’s birth, I wanted all my people around me, supporting me. This time around, Cory said I was like a cat hiding under the porch, waiting to have kittens. I wanted peace and quiet, and I wanted to be alone. He would come up from his studio to check on me every once in a while, and I would shoo him away so I could be alone in my misery.
Janelle was the perfect stereotypical midwife and did her best to give me a pep talk, telling me that this was all perfectly normal for labor, and that hopefully things would pick up tonight or tomorrow. I was the stereotypical crazy lady in labor, and was not in the mood to be pep talked. I was not enjoying labor, no matter how normal it was. Of course most other people labor for 15-20 hours before giving birth, but surely that wouldn’t happen to me, right?! My doula kept tabs on me and encouraged me to chill out and rest. So I watched some Netflix while bouncing on my birthing ball and kept yowling through the pressure waves.
As it became clear things were not going to happen during the day, I started longing for night to come. Statistically, babies like to be born at night, and I understand that. There is something so peaceful and private about the darkness. The moon and stars offer quiet, twinkling support, like celestial doulas. So I hung on through the daylight, holding out hope that active labor would begin under the cover of darkness.
About midnight, I decided to crawl into bed and try to doze if I could. Just as I got under the covers, the contractions suddenly sped up and intensified. 3 min apart and 90 seconds long. I was hesitant to believe that things might actually by progressing after 18 hours of slow labor, so I waited through a few more to make sure before telling Cory to call our doula. Julie hopped in the car to head our way and Cory called Janelle to let her know we finally had some action. He happened to mention to her that I sounded like I did when I was pushing with Kit, so she said, “Hey, why don’t you just go ahead and come in to the birth center.” I was still doubtful that things would move that quickly, but thankfully we decided to heed her advice. The car ride was pretty intense, and it hit me that we didn’t have much time left.
1am. We arrived at the the birth center, and Janelle supported me through a contraction in the lobby. She asked if I felt like I needed to push, but my water hadn’t broken yet so I couldn’t feel whether or not Rosie had descended, it was just a whole lot of pressure. Julie arrived at the birth center a few minutes after we did, and she and Janelle got me set up in the tub. I was so happy to be in that warm, relaxing water. This was my space, and it felt like we could get down to business now that I was here. Cory set up some music, a peaceful playlist of Icelandic artists that we had listened to on our travels to that magical island.
Calls had been made to my sister, Annie, and good friend, Emily, who were both hoping to be there for Rosie’s birth. They were told that if they wanted to make it before she was born, they had better get in the car right now. Meanwhile, I was finally enjoying labor, thanks to the power of that amazing tub. The hot water soothed my aching pelvis, and floating weightless took all the strain off my joints. I’d reach up my arms as each wave hit, and Cory and Julie on either side would immediately clasp my hands and squeeze back as I worked through each contraction. In between the waves Cory offered me a drink, and Julie would fan me with a cool cloth.
Janelle encouraged me to start pushing whenever I felt like it. With Kit, it was never a decision to push, after my water broke with him, the pressure was so intense my body instinctively pushed and I just had to try to keep up. But since my water hadn’t broken yet, I couldn’t feel where Rosie was and the pressure wasn’t quite the same. Plus, I remembered how intense pushing was and I just didn’t feel like doing that part yet, ha. So I relaxed for a few more contractions, and Annie and Emily arrived. Then I figured it was time to get this show on the road, so I started pushing and immediately my body responded something like “Oh, we’re doing this now? Ok, here we go!”
1:41am. My water broke, and immediately she crowned. I pushed through 2 contractions, and her head was born, 1 more for her shoulders and then she was out!
There is nothing in the world like the feeling of a brand-new, warm, wet baby on your chest. Rosie snuggled right in and I remember she felt like a little puzzle piece, and I already knew her shape. After a few moments she let out a tiny cry, and we all laughed in delight at hearing her voice. There was no rushing now, we took our time and marveled at her dark hair, big brown eyes, and deliciously chubby little butt. It was love at first sight.
Heaven blew every trumpet
And played every horn
On the wonderful, marvelous
Night you were born.
Rosemary Ophelia was born on Saturday, July 1, 2017 at 1:44 am after less than 2 hours of active labor, into a gentle pool of water with no medication or intervention. She was welcomed into the world to the tune of Atlas Song by Jónsi & Alex, surrounded by all the love in heaven and earth.
The euphoria of a brand-new baby works well to overshadow the drama and pains of labor. In hindsight, my experience was nothing out of the ordinary, though it certainly felt unfair at the time, haha. The long labor wasn’t exactly my favorite, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat for our sweet girl. Rosie did her best to keep me on my toes with the breech drama, but now that she is on this side she is behaving herself quite nicely, all this sweet babe does is sleep and eat and be snuggled.
My birth experience was overwhelmingly positive and empowering, thanks to my amazing support team. I was once again spoiled with the easy, uncomplicated birth of my dreams. The care I received from Greenville Midwifery Care was exemplary, and Greenville Birth: Julie Byers, Doula and Educator was an amazing resource throughout pregnancy, breech issues, labor, and delivery. Cory was my rock, patient and supportive as ever. It’s the best thing ever to have your BFF be the first one to welcome your baby into the world, and although I’m sure I drove her crazy at times with my nonsensical pregnancy emotions, Janelle wins the award for rock star midwife. My sister Annie and friend Emily are some of the dearest people around, and I’m so glad they were there to love on Rosie from the start.
Growing, birthing, and nurturing a baby is a powerful thing. I’m continually amazed at what the female body is capable of, and so thankful God made us to bear children. I don’t take it for granted, and to all you mama’s out there who are growing or nurturing babies, longing for one, or missing one gone too soon, I send you all my love.