Skyla Elise's Birth Story
To tell the full story of the birth of our second daughter, Skyla Elise, I must first start by briefly telling the story of our first child’s entrance into the world… After being cephalic at 30 wks, an ultrasound at the OB’s rooms at 32wks found our eldest daughter to be frank breech. The OB’s policy on breech was to deliver by caesarean section at 39wks, not negotiable. Although I was not keen on a c-section, we did as we were told having been mislead into believing that it was safer for the baby. At 39 weeks, India Grace arrived by ‘planned’ breech caesarean. Though we were delighted with our healthy and feisty bundle of joy, the breech manoeuvres were excruciating, my back suffered a long-term injury from the spinal anaesthetic and the surgical birth was emotionally traumatic for some time to come. But as the months rolled on and we fell in love with our gorgeous baby girl, it became easier to block this memory from our journey into parenthood.
That is until at 32 weeks gestation with our second baby, Skyla, it was discovered that she had also turned from cephalic to breech and there she stayed despite many hours spent engaged in acupuncture, moxibustion, reflexology and hanging about on all fours trying to get baby to turn! I was seeing a different OB this pregnancy and although he had been entertaining my wish to attempt a VBAC, he advised that if the baby stayed breech he would deliver her by LSCS at 37 weeks (prior to Christmas vacation). He ruled out ECV due to my uterine scar. I sought second, third and fourth opinions and was presented with options for a ‘managed’ vaginal breech birth (or breech extraction) and also the option to try an ECV to manually turn the baby.
And so my research intensive on breech birth began, finding that the best practice in vaginal breech birth was a spontaneous, hands off, upright birth with the attendance of a breech experienced professional. I also discovered that the most skilled practitioners in this type of delivery in my area were independent midwives and was lucky to have a friend recommend a fabulous IM for a homebirth. I was 35 weeks pregnant when I first met with my midwife and was so excited to have found an extremely experienced care provider who would not only support me in my endeavour to have a VBB but also believed that I could do it. Having the option for a VBB in place, I happily abandoned my attempts to turn the baby, cancelling the ECV that had been scheduled for me and packing away the moxa sticks. Having now carried two breech babes, my instincts told me that my babies had some inside intelligence that the best way into the world from this mamma’s belly was bum first!
After weeks of stress trying to navigate the medical system, I was now able to relax and enjoy the remaining weeks of my pregnancy. Having first considered the option of homebirth out of necessity to give my baby, myself and our family the best start, I was now extremely excited at the prospect of being at home for the labour and the birth and far from the fluro lit delivery suites of the maternity ward and the hospital’s policies and clock for progress. It also meant that our 3 y.o. could be included in the birth and could stay with us in the days following the birth as we bonded as a family of four. I was even looking forward to the labour!
Finally, nine days after my estimated due date, Skyla Elise decided it was time to come out and meet us! In the early hours of Sunday morning 20 Jan 2013, I was awoken by a very slight cramping, similar to mild period pain. The cramps continued to come every 20 minutes and lasted about 20 seconds. Though I could have easily slept through these cramps, I began to get excited that this might be the start of labour and just couldn’t get back to sleep! I woke my husband in the morning to tell him about the developments overnight. As I’d had Braxton Hicks all through the third trimester, he wasn’t about to jump to the conclusion that this was it. We phoned my midwife after breakfast and she confirmed that it did sound like early labour but also not to be disappointed if it slowed down or stopped.
We went about our Sunday just like any other day with the cramping continuing every 20 minutes throughout the day but not getting any stronger. In fact we were quite productive – rearranging swings and the trampoline in our backyard to make way for our new BBQ and playing outside with our daughter. My parents dropped in for a little while and had a cuppa and I was able to sit and chat with them without feeling the need to disappear off every 20 minutes. My midwife had suggested that I have an afternoon nap, so I went off to bed at about 3pm and drifted off to sleep.
I woke at 4pm to a stronger contraction and it was clear that the time for napping and lying down was over. In his excitement that it was all actually happening, my husband got the giggles for a little while as he came to the realisation that the baby was on its way. I seem to recall being a little irritated by this response at the time, but it’s quite funny and adorable in hindsight. By 5pm my contractions were 7-10 mins apart and lasting between 15-30 seconds, but still very manageable. My husband started cooking dinner while I phoned my parents to see if our daughter could go and play at their house for a while after dinner while we got the house organised and set up the pool. During dinner I had a couple of contractions and needed to stand up and walk until each had passed. After dinner, my Mum came to collect India and they went off to make a birthday cake for the baby.
We set about preparing the frame of the pool and putting towels and cushions underneath for when it came time to fill it. My midwife phoned at around 8pm to see how I was going. She was happy that it looked like we were going to have a baby either during the night or sometime the next day, explaining that it could be that things would get moving after the sun had set. Her advice was to plan to get an early night or to have a little rest in the bath if lying down in bed was not working and to call her when we wanted her to come. I recall wondering if I’d know when that point was.
Waiting for my Mum to return with my daughter so I could put her to bed for the night come what may, I started to clean the kitchen (as you do) and put together a playlist for my ipod for labour. I warned my husband about the 7 hours of music with empowering female vocals he was about to endure. My Mum and daughter returned with the birthday cake they had baked and I got my daughter off to sleep, telling her that our baby would soon be here and she would be a big sister. As I contemplated heading to bed myself, the contractions geared up another notch, I think just so that I knew that there would be no sleeping! My Mum encouraged us to go for a walk while she stayed with our daughter, which I tried, but got half way up the road and felt the strong urge to be at home in my own safe little sanctuary. My Mum left around 10.30pm and with everything now in place, active labour got underway.
From here the details get a bit vague as I entered into my own little endorphin fuelled trance!
My contractions were 3-4 minutes apart and still no more than 30 seconds in duration – in fact they never got any longer than this so they were easy to manage. I’d borrowed a TENS machine from a friend but in the end never felt the need to use it. I wasn’t in pain but rather discomfort from the intense pressure on my lower back. I found myself gravitating to my birthing ball for each contraction, on my knees with arms and head resting on the ball and counting very slowly whilst breathing out a long deep breath. I laboured on all fours in the walkway between our kitchen and family room.
At 10.45pm I noticed blood streaked mucus, then my waters ruptured shortly after and it was all go. I no longer had time or the mindset to wander off and clean the kitchen between contractions and so just relaxed on my birthing ball in between contractions and sipped a nice cup of camomile tea. My husband phoned our midwife to update her and she asked if I could speak to her. She asked if I could talk through the contractions and I remember replying that ‘I could if I had to but I’d prefer not to’! We asked her to come in an hour, thinking that the baby was still hours away.
It wasn’t long before the contractions were coming every 2 minutes. We decided that we’d better get our midwife to come straight away. I noticed that there was now meconium in my waters and knew this was confirmation that this baby was going to be born bottom first.
I remember the sense of calm that I felt when my midwife walked in the door. She monitored the baby’s heartbeat between each contraction to confirm that the baby was doing just beautifully. After a few moments she said softly to us that she thought this baby would probably be born right here in the walkway where I had been clinging to my birthing ball. In between contractions she had a look to check that the bum was indeed presenting without any cord prolapse. I asked her how dilated I was and was shocked when she said very calmly that I was fully dilated. There was no time to fill the pool and I happily continued to labour on all fours, knowing that this was a great position in which to birth a breech baby.
After a little while I was feeling like my lower back was weakening and no longer able to support me in that position. We moved to the birthing stool. It was so comfortable. My husband sat on the lounge behind me and held my hand with one of his and rubbed my lower back with the other during every contraction. In between contractions we resumed conversations about all manner of things. All the while our furry beagle child, Bella, took great interest in the happenings in our lounge room before eventually curling up on her rug on the lounge and going to sleep.
It wasn’t long before the baby was ‘rumping’. I couldn’t believe it was happening so soon. Some more meconium squeezed out from baby’s little bottom. I could feel the baby wriggling in the birth canal, the strangest of sensations, and I marvelled at the changing shape of my belly. I remember feeling the start of the ring of fire I had read others describe and thinking that was really going to hurt with the next contraction. Instead, with hardly even a push on my part, I felt a huge release of pressure as my uterus gave one almighty contraction and our baby was born up to her neck. Another contraction followed immediately after, releasing her head and my midwife helped me to guide her up onto my belly. It was 2.02am, Monday 21st January and REM’s Night Swimming was playing softly. I cradled her in my arms whilst, with big eyes wide open, she looked up at us and had a good look around the room, so calm, contented and alert that I had to check with my midwife that she was indeed perfectly fine. My midwife blew gently on her face and she took her first breath. We looked at our beautiful newborn baby in amazement and at each other in amazement at the very special way in which she had entered the world.
She weighed 8lb 8oz and was perfect in every way, right down to her gorgeous little breech froggy legs and the stork mark on her forehead in the shape of a ‘V’ – for ‘vaginal birth’ we thought to ourselves!
My midwife left us for a moment while she went down the hallway to get our eldest daughter, who had slept through the whole event. She wasn’t even half way down the hallway when I felt a large blob descending and then, plop, my placenta was out! I couldn’t believe the size of it!
The baby let out a very newborn cry and I could hear the excitement of our eldest who was now coming down the hallway. Her gleaming smile when she walked into the family room and came face to face with her baby sister for the very first time is a moment we will treasure for the rest of our lives. While Skyla had her first little breastfeed, India helped my husband cut the cord that had now finished pulsing and then had her first cuddle with her little sister on the lounge. With that done her next thought naturally was the birthday cake. We lit the candles and huddled together as we all sang Happy Birthday to our gorgeous little Skyla.
While we haven’t ever planned on a ‘next time’, part of me wonders if our third baby would also be breech (I think I’d be a tiny bit disappointed if it wasn’t also rebellious!) and I’d love to experience a pregnancy with antenatal care through my midwife and a planned homebirth from the outset. It’d sure be a different experience than the constant debates with obstetricians about my unproven pelvis, the uterine scar that they put there unnecessarily in the first place and our non-conforming breech babies – though one thing can be said for certain, I definitely now have a “proven pelvis”!