Tori: I had made peace with the fact that it was likely my planned homebirth was not going to happen. The day before I hit 42 weeks gestation, my breech baby wouldn’t turn after 3 attempts by my midwives to turn him externally (on Monday) and my attempts to turn him with homeopathy, essential oils, inversions, keeping active – he wouldn’t budge.
Although still in normal range, my blood pressure was rising, my feet were swelling like crazy, and I was miserable. My mom and sister had been staying with me, helping keep house and watch after my rambunctious 2 year old the past week, and they needed to go home to their jobs. Melanie, one of my midwives, helped me schedule an ultrasound through a connection with a CNM who worked in a hospital the next morning (Tuesday) – to look more closely at positioning and to see if the cord or placenta placement were in a dangerous spot or interfering with him being able to turn. I knew any hospital involvement could likely lead to a c-section very quickly, and I began working on accepting this.
I lived 2 hours away from all of my midwives and nowhere near a hospital I trusted. The decision was made, and I would go and stay at another of my midwives houses, Dawn’s house. This way Dawn and Melanie could take me to my ultrasound the next day and in the event that I did need a hospital birth, I would be closer to better hospitals.
My mom drove my son and I to Dawn’s house that night. We arrived around 10 pm and I tearfully said goodbye to my mom and got my son and I ready for bed. Around midnight, I am told Dawn heard me making a lot of noise in bed, she went downstairs to see me kicking the covers off myself and turning from side to side a lot. She folded clothes for a while before being certain that I was still dead asleep.
I woke up at 3:30 am and had to use the bathroom. I quickly realized that what I thought was only bowel discomfort was actually contractions. I was stunned. I quickly tried to move myself away from slight panic to acceptance and trust in my body and myself. I went back out to bed with the intention of laying back down, when I found Juniper, my son, sitting up in bed. I decided to just put him in the shower with me. He was very sweet with me – I hugged him and swayed with him in the water during contractions and I felt so much love for him. My contractions were quickly getting stronger and seemed closer together than I would have expected for early labor so I called Dawn to come down. Juniper was getting whiney so I asked her to put a movie on for him. My water was getting cold and so I decided to get out of the shower – I asked Dawn for the birth ball and I tried to lay down – since my baby was breech I wasn’t supposed to be moving around a lot. Dawn called Melanie and handed the phone to me, she wanted to stay on the phone for a few minutes to judge how I was doing. I had a contraction and realized I was starting to moan through then. Dawn got me the birth ball and I leaned over it and worked for about 45 minutes – using my voice to match the intensity I was feeling and swaying my hips.
By the time Melanie got there I was feeling pressure to push and wanted to get in the tub. They reminded me not to push – I couldn’t push until the belly button was born. Rachel, another midwife got there soon after. They all talked quietly in-between my contractions. I knew my moans were getting deeper and more primal – why wasn’t anyone telling me how close I was? I knew it had to be close. Melanie told me she wanted to check me when I wanted to get out of the tub, but that she didn’t have to yet. It was getting very difficult not to push, my midwives instructed me to blow through my contractions, like I would blow out birthday candles.
“I just want to push”, I started saying.
“I know, you’re being super strong” Melanie said.
“It super sucks”, I replied. It did. I didn’t know how much longer I could resist these urges.
“How is he going to come out if I can’t push?” I said.
“He will”, Melanie said, “Women in comas get their babies out.”
“Deep breaths before you go up the hill” someone told me before a contraction. That visualization helped me greatly through quite a few more really intense ones – deep breath, then blow blow blow up the hill – big sigh and let it go. Sprinkled amongst the intense ‘hills’ I would have a contraction that was soft enough to just breathe deeply through. Those were very nice and felt like the waves people talk about having during labor – gifts from the sea.
Finally, I knew I had to be close. I also had the feeling my midwives knew that, too, but weren’t telling me for some reason and that I wasn’t going to have this baby until I got myself out of the tub. After I heard myself whimper, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ I mustered up enough strength to get out of the tub and walk over to the futon, so Melanie could check me. She told me I was a 9 and I felt so relieved, but still couldn’t push. I laid on my side and continued to try my best to suppress very intense urges to push, finally I had one I couldn’t quite get on top of and my body pushed, breaking my waters.
“It feels like there’s a foot in my vagina” I said.
“There is a foot in your vagina” Melanie laughed.
Melanie checked to make sure the cord hadn’t also come with the foot and it hadn’t so I went back to trying not to push which was now even more impossible seeming.
Dawn: “It feels like it’s going back in, is it going back in?” cried Tori.
“It is, just a for a moment” I replied to her.
At this point Tori entered her primal place in birth. While Tori’s older son, Juniper watched with his child sitter, Neva, at Tori’s bedside, we saw a foot emerge at 7:08 am, a mere three minutes after her membranes ruptured and only eight minutes after, practically, sprinting out of the bathtub. As the first foot emerged and Melanie was checking to determine that the cord wasn’t presenting next, she asked Tori if she would like to, very gently, touch the foot. Tori’s response was of the utmost of appropriateness. “NO!!! Don’t touch the breech!” As we had been drilling for weeks, ever since her baby flipped to breech during the third trimester. During this time, Melanie and Rachel were getting the room ready for the work ahead of Tori. Tori was struggling to keep from pushing and to keep blow blow blowing this baby out. I got in her face and helped her keep eye contact with me and reminded her to blow as best she could. By this time, Tori was working to not push, so she managed a half-power push while desperately trying to blow the contractions away.
As the feet and knees delivered Melanie told Tori she needed her to be at the edge of the bed, rather than on her side in the middle, so she asked if Tori could move, Tori’s response was a vehement, ‘NO!’ as she shook her head at me. Rachel asked nicely very nicely to be able to move Tori. Tori had a look of panic on her face at the thought of moving purposefully as this baby was almost half out of her body. This was my sign to say that we just need to move her. Rachel and I moved her to the edge of the bed, so that as the baby emerged he would be able to hang as needed to facilitate his delivery. While the knees and buttocks arrived, Tori continued to blow away the contractions as best she could.
Watching Melanie’s hands twitching to do something was amazing to watch. Hands off the breech is a bit harder than it sounds. When Melanie was able to see the umbilicus she asked for a timekeeper and Rachel started timekeeping for the remainder of the birth. Tori was getting really tired and wanted desperately to push, it was getting more difficult to keep her focus. There were many times I had to tell her to look me in the eye and I blew out breaths with her. There was a surreal moment that Tori relaxed while the baby was doing his breech dance. His body was undulating and getting in the right position to deliver his head.
Melanie was watching closely and when she visualized the mouth, she said, “Tori, now you can push like a motherf**cker”. Tori pushed with two contractions and he was earthside. He was coughing and clearing his lungs immediately. Rachel called out the final time of 90 seconds as Tori delivered the head. Rachel and I started to gently stimulate the baby’s back to help him really empty his lungs while he snuggled into Tori’s breasts. Tori commented, “I did it!” and then asked if ‘he was ok, was he breathing?’, she was unsure of our reassurances that he was, indeed, breathing, just calm. Rachel reassured Tori, again, that her baby was breathing, and pinking up just fine. The time from the first foot to birth was a short ten minutes, that felt like a lifetime. Tori’s baby, Emrys, was born at 7:18 am and weighed 8 lbs 13 oz.