Birthing on Her Terms

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After losing her first baby in the second trimester, Megan was deeply impacted by this experience and even questioned if she wanted an opportunity to become a mother again. Once she decided to get pregnant, she found herself “so hungry for knowledge – for anything that might help make this outcome different”. The more research she did, the more Megan wanted a natural childbirth and in the end stay away from hospital interventions. She planned for a natural birth in a birth center with a midwife. Then, one month before her due date, she was confronted with the possibility that her plan might go out the window. Her baby still presented breech (butt down) and was left with two options: plan for a scheduled cesarean with her back up doctor or continue care at the birth center and hire the only doctor in Southern California who attends out-of-hospital breech births, Dr. Fischbein. Going with her gut, she chose the latter and had the empowering birth experience she knew was possible. 

Tell me about your first pregnancy and how it impacted your decision to choose a midwife/birth center birth?

My first pregnancy was completely different than my second. I got pregnant as soon as we started to try and I was completely naïve about the whole process of childbearing. I didn’t know anything about being pregnant so I went by the book. I went to the OB-GYN who I had been seeing since college, and although I hadn’t begun to think too much about the birth, I am almost positive that it would have been in the hospital. It’s all I knew and I wasn’t in the mindset of going against the grain.

When we lost the baby, it rocked my world more than anything in my whole life. Our first baby had an extremely rare genetic condition, but in the back of my mind I was worried that maybe it was something I had or had not done that caused this. There was also a part of me that felt like my body failed me.

Since I had gotten pregnant quickly the first time, I hoped that that would be the case again, but it wasn’t. It took awhile and I started to doubt that I would ever get to experience another pregnancy or birth. When I finally got pregnant again, I was determined to do everything right. 

I also did not take one second for granted and from the very beginning, I decided to trust the process and have faith that my body would not fail me and that this outcome would be different. While I had a newfound trust, there was certainly fear though. In fact, there was a lot of fear that I had to work through.

The beginning of my pregnancy was very medical. I went back to the same doctor and was immediately labeled “high risk”. I alternated between that doctor and a perinatologist. I had a lot of appointments, ultrasounds, and tests. Every test and ultrasound came back perfect, and the further along I got, the more the fear of something going wrong with this pregnancy diminished.  

The real turning point happened at 22 weeks when my husband and I went on a road trip up the coast of California over the holidays. We needed some entertainment so decided to download an audiobook. We did a quick search for baby books and both took interest in a book called “The Business of Baby” (basically a more in depth version of Ricki Lake’s “The Business of Being Born” documentary).

This book went into detail about every aspect of pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and baby care in our country. The facts were both shocking and disturbing. So disturbing that at points I wanted to just turn it off and go back to my “ignorance is bliss” state of mind, but I couldn’t. My eyes were open and there was no turning back.

This is when I seriously started to think about a birth center or home birth setting. We returned from this trip with a completely new mindset and a list of questions to ask my OB. About three questions in at our return appointment and I could tell I was never going back. The big red flag was when my OB said that anyone who would consider a home birth is a “whacko”. Ha! We were definitely not a match.

Not long after this appointment, I decided to transfer my care to a midwife and prepare for a birth center birth. It definitely was not an easy decision and took a lot of soul searching but ultimately, I decided that there was no indication that this pregnancy was going to turn out like the last so I needed to go with my gut and have the pregnancy and birth experience that I (and my incredibly supportive husband) felt was right for me and our baby.

It was this mindset that allowed me to make the decisions I did later on when we found out that the baby was breech.

How did you know a vaginal breech birth was an option? 

Early in pregnancy, I read Ina Mays’ Guide to Childbirth. In it she talked a little bit about breech birth.  This was the first time I had really heard of it. At this point I was early in my pregnancy and didn’t think much about it.

Around 28 weeks, my midwife told me my baby was breech. We still weren’t very concerned since we had some time. Then at 32 weeks my midwife was pretty certain that my baby was still breech so she sent me to my back-up doctor (not Dr. Fischbein, who delivered my baby) for an ultrasound. He confirmed baby was in fact breech. At this point, I started trying everything – weekly chiropractic visits, acupuncture, inversions, swimming, even burning my toes with a moxa stick

At 36 weeks when baby was still breech it was time to really consider my options. My back-up doctor suggested that we schedule a c-section. My midwife and chiropractor were the ones who encouraged me to talk to Dr. Fischbein about the option of a vaginal breech birth. 

What helped assuage any fears around having a breech baby outside of the hospital? 

My consultation with Dr. Fischbein is what really assuaged any fears I had. He has a long list of boxes that must be checked off before you’re even considered a good candidate for a vaginal breech birth. Every one of those boxes were checked for us and he looked at us confidently and said, “There is no reason you shouldn’t have the beautiful, out-of-hospital birth you desire.“

For me, that was really all I needed to hear. From there, I spent the next few weeks watching breech birth videos and finding positive affirmations to remind myself that I could do this. 

I think it also helped that I had a gut feeling that this was just how my baby wanted to be born. I talked to the baby everyday and assured him or her (we didn’t know what we were having) that it would be okay and we would do this together. I may have actually been reassuring myself of this, but either way I found comfort in it.

Were your family or peers supportive of your decision to birth at home? 

Initially no, but in time yes although I didn’t tell anyone but my parents that I was going to have a vaginal breech birth at a birth center. I only told close friends and family of my plans to birth outside of the hospital and they were all concerned but respected my decision.

I knew that everyone would have an opinion and that while their opinions would come from a place of love, they would be uneducated ones. I truly felt that only I knew what was best for me and my baby and I didn’t want any negative comments or energy filling my mind.

What did you do to prepare for a healthy and smooth birth experience? 

I exercised regularly, kept a food journal to make sure I was eating a nutrient dense diet, visited the massage therapist and chiropractor regularly, prayed, and as I mentioned before talked to my baby a lot.

I also had a rock star birth team in place. Between my midwife, Dr. Fischbein and my husband, I had so much love and support. 

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Did you take a childbirth education preparation series. If so, how was it helpful in your birth experience? 

I did take a class. It was very helpful in preparing me for what to expect in each stage of labor. We also went over different movements, positions and breathing techniques that could be helpful during or in between contractions. Lastly, we were given exercises to do as a couple to help prepare us to work together during labor.

We also made a birth preference sheet for the in case scenario of needing to transfer to the hospital. While my husband I had already done a ton of research and were pretty much on the same page, this helped solidify our plans.

In addition, we had open discussions about our hopes and fears for the birth. I think it really helped to get all those things out in the open and work through them together before they potentially came up in the labor and birth.  

What activities or tools were helpful during the time of waiting for labor began? 

Walking and spending time with my husband helped a lot. Although I must admit that everyday past my due date I got more and more uncomfortable and more and more anxious for labor to begin.

Can you tell me about your labor and birth? 

I was a week and a half past my due date when I went into labor.

I had strong early labor contractions, which at first felt like intense period cramps for weeks and once I went into active labor, my daughter was born 27 hours later.

On the night of May 11th, my contractions picked up in frequency and intensity. These were stronger than I could have ever imagined. I couldn’t believe that my body was producing this sensation. It was almost an out of body experience. 

It wasn’t until the following day around 4 pm I made my way to the birth center. At this point, I was already exhausted from the labor and not having slept much the night before.

When I arrived at the birth center, I was hopeful that it wouldn’t be much longer. My midwife greeted me and I got comfortable in the birth room. Not long after, Dr. Fischbein arrived, although I didn’t see much of him until it was time to push. He let my midwife stay with me most of the time and gave me space to labor on my own. It was comforting though knowing that he was there when we needed him. 

I spent hours in the shower, in the tub and on the birth ball. I was so exhausted from the lack of sleep that around midnight I told my midwife I couldn’t do it anymore. I was so tired I couldn’t imagine mustering up the energy I would need to push my baby out.

At this point, she went to get Dr. Fischbein. As they were walking up the stairs, I heard them discussing our transfer plan and I started thinking, "Oh no, this is it. We really are going to transfer.” When they entered the room, Dr. Fischbein greeted me and very calmly and sweetly asked me how I was doing and if he may check me. I agreed. He checked my cervix and looked up at me and said confidently, “You can do this. It’s time to push. You’re going to have this baby right here, on this bed, right now.” His energy and reassurance was exactly what I needed at that moment to push through.

He could tell I was truly exhausted so he asked me to relax and look at him while he explained how I would push with each contraction. He didn’t want me to waste any unnecessary energy. Pushing was so much harder than I imagined, but once they could see my baby’s butt I had a new burst of energy come over me.

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After nearly 2 ½ hours of pushing, my daughter Eloise Rae was born at 3:32 am on Friday, May 13th. I pulled her up to my chest and excitedly announced, “It’s a girl!” She was perfect. I kept telling her what a good job she did making her way into the world and how proud I was that I was able to give birth to her exactly as she wanted to be born.

With the exhaustion and fear of not having enough energy, how did you best calm your mind and body in between contractions?

Being in water helped me a lot. I spent hours between the shower and the tub. I was also very vocal. Even between contractions, making deep primal sounds was soothing to me.

What surprised you about your birth experience? 

It was harder, more exhausting, and longer than I ever imagined, but I am still amazed at what my body is capable of. The female body is truly amazing.

What was the biggest take away from your experience?

Giving birth to my daughter on my terms was the most empowering experience of my life. It reassured me that I can do anything I put my mind to. 

Also, knowing my daughter now, it makes perfect sense that she was born butt first. She is a stubborn, determined, strong, bright light who does everything her way. Her birth prepared me to be the mother she needs me to be.

What words of wisdom would you pass onto to other mothers planning a natural birth, and specifically a breech birth out of the hospital?

Explore your options and go with your gut. Vaginal breech birth is not for everyone, but if it feels right to you and you have an experienced doctor (or in some states, midwife) as your support, it is absolutely possible.

*** This story was originally published on Milk Trails; a blog dedicated to out-of-hospital birth experiences.

Our Breech Baby

Jayce Ezra Ahlswede’s Birth Story

by Michelle Ahlswede 

Goodness, where do I begin with this one? It all started on Wednesday August 2, 2017 at 4:30pm when Erik and I went to my 41-week prenatal appointment. I had never made it to 41 weeks, much less 41 weeks and 4 days. During my visit, the student midwife, Kelly, palpated my belly like normal and Michelle, my midwife, did the same. Kelly then did a cervical check and Michelle told me she was going to follow behind her if I didn’t mind. Of course I wanted her to check as well being how far along I was; I wanted to know if anything was happening. Looking back, I now know that she was already suspicious of the diagnosis by palpating my belly, and wanted to know for sure. Michelle then told me I was 4cm dilated, 50% effaced, super soft, and Jayce was at station -2. She then broke the news to me about my baby now being in a breech position. I don’t even remember her exact wording because I think I probably looked like a deer in headlights. I heard what she said, but it felt like a dream—or nightmare. It was probably the worst news I could have heard so late in the game. She then followed up with, “ . . .. and it looks like you will be going into labor tonight.” I felt like I wasn’t absorbing the news. The next step was to get an ultrasound to verify. Kelly and Erik quickly began to research ultrasound places that were still open (it was now sometime after 5pm), and that would be willing to see me so last minute if they happened to even have an opening. Erik found a place that agreed to see me all the way across the 78 in downtown Escondido (we were in Oceanside where the 78 freeway ends). So instead of going on the date like we had originally planned after our appointment, we quickly got in our car for a 30-minute rush hour traffic drive to get the ultrasound. I will spare you the details on the ghettoness of the place, but the technician did confirm that baby was breeched.

 

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Erik and I drove home and quickly packed hospital bags and food bags to take to the hospital. Being a midwife, Michelle was no longer able to deliver at home. I also packed for the girls for a couple of days too. Luckily, Grandma Karen was able to get them from my parent’s house to have them overnight. I was cramping and having mild, but frequent, contractions at that time. We called Danielle, our friend and photographer, to come to the house. Originally, we were planning to go to the hospital to do an external cephalic version, but got advice against that since it could cause the baby to go into distress which would mean an immediate cesarean section. Also, we found out at the ultrasound place that the umbilical chord was not wrapped around the baby’s neck and we didn’t want to mess with it, and the ECV probably wouldn’t work anyway since Jayce was already at station -2. We then had to decide if we were going to labor at home and drive to the hospital when baby was rumping (the breech version of crowning), or drive 30 minutes to the hospital and labor outside the hospital until baby was rumping. Michelle had called Scripps Encinitas and talked to the doctor on call. He agreed to deliver our breech baby, but because of politics, he still didn’t want me coming in until I was pushing. So many things to think about! We decided to labor at home. However, once I stopped packing and running around, my contractions pretty much stopped. Erik and I were so emotionally drained by this point that we decided to go to bed around 9pm. Danielle left at 9:30pm. Around that same time, we got a call from my midwife.

 

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She knew of a doctor who lived in Los Angeles that delivers breech and twin births at home. Somehow she happened to find out that he was in San Diego that day and managed to track down his number; her and Erik both called and left messages. At 9:30pm he called Michelle back and said he was on his way back to LA and was going to be passing through Oceanside around 10pm and agreed to meet Erik and I if we could get there in time. We quickly jumped out of bed and headed back to my midwife’s office. Dr. Stuart Fischbein was a Godsend. He has probably delivered the most amount of breech babies out of any doctor in the country and has published papers on breech births. He didn’t seem worried at all. After all, this is what he does. He reassured us that he wouldn’t put my baby or me in harms way and that I was a perfect candidate to have a breech delivery. After a lot of talking, he also wanted to do a cervical check on me. I was 5cm and 80% effaced. He agreed to birth Jayce. Michelle reassured us later that he must have really liked us and felt for us, because he could have easily not agreed. After all, this was an inconvenience for him.

Since I wasn’t contracting as much, the plan was for him to drive back to LA to see his clients at his office the next day, and then drive back down to birth our baby the next day, Thursday. We parted ways. He texted Erik at midnight and asked for an update. I guess the update scared him to turn around in Long Beach and spend the night in Oceanside. He then asked Erik for another update at 5:30am, and he felt okay to get in his car and drive back to LA to see his clients that next day as planned. Poor guy.

My midwife called Sonohealth in San Diego early Thursday morning to get us a more detailed ultrasound with a bunch of questions Dr. Stu wanted answered going into our birth. Sergio, at Sonohealth, was willing to see us on his lunch break at 11:30am. We drove down there and got the information needed. We then came back to nap after a late and broken night sleep the night before, and to try to postpone labor until Dr. Stu was in town. He was going to head down around 2:30pm, but since I was doing okay, he left after work traffic at 7:30pm. Sometime that evening, Erik and I got up and started some induction methods ourselves. My midwife then hired an osteopath to come to my house to treat me in hopes she would be able to open up my pelvis and send me further into labor. She arrived around 9:30pm and was here about an hour and a half. When she left, I was exhausted, but our night was only beginning.

Kelly, the student midwife, showed up at 11:20pm and Michelle at 12:30am. Since I wasn’t progressing and we were under the impression Dr. Stu wanted to get the ball rolling, I was put on a 4-hour natural induction clock involving herbs, homeopathic medicine, pumping, and walking. I also wore a clary sage and castor oil belly pack. Lets just say, Erik and I walked a total of seven miles around the neighborhood that night. I was so tired, I was falling asleep eating a popsicle and Erik was taking 10-minute naps when it was time for me to pump. We were walking as the sun rose Friday morning. We were drained! My midwife monitored me all night at our house. That routine got me to 7+cm, 90% effaced, and station -1 as of 4:25am. Danielle came back over at 5:25am because we thought things would keep progressing. However as soon as we stopped the induction process, my labor came to a halt.

 

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Dr. Stu, his student Cat, and Michelle’s other student, Lauren, all came over sometime in the morning to find me scrambling eggs in the kitchen and hanging out. Erik had passed out on the bed upstairs during my last cervical check. We left him since no activity was happening anyway. We all decided to stop trying to force things for the time being since I was exhausted and to have me go to sleep with Erik. Dr. Stu also said that we could just wait for a few days to see if anything progressed on its own, but at that point, I was ready to meet my baby and didn’t want to be at 7-8cm for days. We agreed that I would sleep a little and then we would try the 4-hour natural induction routine again that afternoon.

 

I got a few hours of sleep in before I was woken up by Lauren wanting to check my vitals. Michelle had gone to a meeting, but came back when I woke up. Dr. Stu and Cat had left when I went to nap, but also came back around 12:00pm to discuss the future of my labor and options. After we decided on the next steps, everyone left but Michelle. Starting at 1:45pm on Friday, I took my first round of herbs and started my first round of pumping. This time we only walked about three miles and I did lunges and stairs inside my house instead because it was so hot outside. Sadly enough, the four hours did not get things going like it did the night before. Being as beat as we were from the night before, we decided Erik and I would sleep a couple hours and Dr. Stu would come back over to pop my bag of water as a final push to get things rolling around 7pm.

7pm came and we were ready and excited to finally send me into active labor. Dr. Stu went to pop my bag and said there was no bag. We were all shocked. I was so disappointed and discouraged. At that point, the thought of a cesarean section made me cry because it would mean being away from the girls even longer, and that in itself just broke my heart. Dr. Stu informed us that we could give it more time as long as Jayce and I were still healthy and fine, but that his hospital transfers were mostly all because moms stalled out at 7cm. I was crushed, but I also felt like we hadn’t gotten that far for no reason! Michelle then suggested caster oil as the last trick she had in her bag. It worked when I needed to take it with Faith to avoid induction, so we all agreed to have me take it and Dr. Stu would be back in two hours to check me again.

 

At 8pm, Erik and I laid down to rest since we were still so tired. At 9:15pm, Erik whipped up caster oil blended with ice cream in the kitchen. That was definitely a better way to take it. I began to feel cramping and had a couple stronger contractions eventually. My midwife then gave me a half dose more in the same fashion. I was finally starting to have consistent contractions, and they got intense fast. After time in the bathroom, I was on the birthing ball by my bed. Erik had setup tea-lights all around our room and a cute little blue elephant onesie across the bed on our pillows for me to look at and see for inspiration. It was really sweet. Finally, I knew this was it! Tears began to stream down my face. The tears were not because of the pain, but because it was finally happening and I knew the end was in sight. The thought of finally birthing and holding my baby boy was overwhelming me with emotion. I was internally talking to Jayce and telling him to please descend so I could finally hold him in my arms and kiss his little face. The contractions were pretty intense at this time; I would have to lay my head down on a pillow and breath through them, as Michelle or Erik would squeeze my hips while I was on the birthing ball. In between the contractions, I was bouncing on the ball to help myself progress. I was so eager amongst the intensity.

Luckily, I remembered to murmur to Erik, “Call Danielle” during this time. Michelle had also called Dr. Stu and Kelly to head over and they arrived at 9:54pm. While bouncing on the ball, I heard and felt a huge pop and began to leak fluids. So, I did have a small bag of water still intact that wasn’t felt earlier. After a good 30 minutes of being on the ball, Dr. Stu wanted to check me. As soon as they moved me off the ball however, I felt as though I needed to use the restroom and just wanted to get to the toilet. In hindsight, I should have known it was Jayce descending super low because I remember feeling the exact same way with Cielo. While in the bathroom, the contractions were very powerful. I would be pushing my forehead against Erik’s, leaning into him, or grabbing his hand through every one. He was such a huge support and encouragement through the entire process. I couldn’t have done it without him! I was called complete at 10:10pm.

Meconium was coming out of me like a tube of toothpaste due to Jayce’s little booty being squeezed in the canal. Fun fact: he never had a meconium diaper because it all came out in labor! I remember reflecting that the tub with Cielo took the edge off the pain, so I asked for Erik to fill up our bathroom tub. I wanted to labor in it until it was time to push. Side note: Dr. Stu had informed us Wednesday night during our initial meeting that the best way to deliver breeched babies is when the mom is on her hands and knees, and he normally doesn’t do water births. The following day, Thursday, we had packed away our big birth tub we had set-up the past two weeks since I would not be using it anymore. So, I finally made it into our small bathroom tub they had filled up for me just to labor in. . . . or so I thought.

I was bearing down every contraction in the tub on my knees leaning over the backside of the tub. I remember feeling very hot. After about 20 minutes, my belly and knees were hurting from the position. I had a brief moment of hanging over the side of the tub before I switched to my back. This took the pressure off my stomach and I felt a lot better. I continued to push with every contraction as I felt like that was what my body naturally wanted to do. I kept waiting for them to tell me it was time to get out and get on the bed in the hands and knees position. However next thing I know, I heard Dr. Stu exclaim, “Okay, that’s one leg out.” I had no idea I was in the midst of pushing my baby out! I felt burning, but I was so focused on Dr. Stu stretching me out . . . .I think I even exclaimed, “Your fingers hurt!” at one point . . . .I didn’t even know my baby was coming out! I’m thankful to him now because for all those curious minds: no, I did not tear one bit!

Dr. Stu had informed us on Wednesday night that breech babies normally come out more stunned, lacking in color, and have lower Apgar Scores. Unbeknown to me since I was in the zone pushing him out, they could not find Jayce’s heart rate they had been monitoring at one point when I was pushing. Dr. Stu was then trying to manipulate him out and Michelle was applying fundal pressure while I was pushing to get him out quicker.

Once I was informed of his little body emerging, I gave it all I got! Next thing I knew, Jayce Ezra was out and on my chest at 10:53pm on August 4, 2017! I was about an hour shy of 42 weeks. I remember exclaiming, “My baby my baby!” with so much relief and joy.

 

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When he came out though, he was not pink and not breathing. There was some panic and fear amongst everyone, but I didn’t really know what was going on. It took him awhile to take his first breath and begin to cry. I knew he wasn’t breathing initially, but I also knew in my heart that he was going to be fine. I just felt so overwhelmed with reprieve and happiness to have my baby boy with me earth side. I was incredibly thankful to God for delivering our baby boy into this world and giving him his first breath after so much anticipation and work. It was finally all over. He was here with us and he was perfect!

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After some bonding in the tub, chord cutting, and nursing, we moved to the bed for more bonding. After about an hour and a half or so, they took his measurements. He was 8 pounds 7 ounces and 19.5 inches long. Sometime after 1am on August 5th, everyone left but Danielle. We all ate egg plant parmesan that I had made and froze ahead of time. I think Erik threw it in the oven sometime after Jayce was born. We sat and reflected more on what had just happened. She then was nice enough to stay and hold Jayce while Erik and I both showered and got ready for bed. He was so awake and alert for so long after he was born. He was the cutest!

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Besides his bruised right butt cheek (probably from me bouncing on the ball), he was flawless. I’m still in shock that everything happened from our prenatal appointment on Wednesday the 2nd until his birth late Friday night on the 4th. I don’t know if the reality will ever set in that I delivered a breeched baby naturally at my house! I’m so incredibly thankful to my amazing midwife and Dr. Stu for all they did for us, and eternally grateful to our Heavenly Father for walking with us every step of the way. What a journey it is to tell.

 

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Jayce, words cannot describe how happy I am that you are here with us. When I found out I was having a boy, I didn’t know what to think. I was so use to pink and bows, that I felt somewhat of a disconnect. I loved you, but I had to rethink my terms of endearment and I did wonder how it would be to have a little boy. After everything we went through together to meet face-to-face, I can say that I feel so incredibly attached to you. When active labor finally set in, I couldn’t contain my excitement to finally meet you. You are seriously such a gift from God and I know you have a big purpose in life. You decided to moon us on your birthday, but try not to make that a habit ;). You are already such a Mama’s Boy and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I thank God all the time for his provision and for your health and safety. You are the sweetest baby and I’m so glad to be your Mama. I can’t wait to see all that is in store for you. Your Daddy and I love you more than life itself. Jayce Erza, you are everything.

 

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WHY I CHOSE TO HAVE A NATURAL BREECH BIRTH AT HOME—AND WOULD DO IT AGAIN

originally posted on 

You might know Jeannette Ogden better by her Instagram handle, @shutthekaleup. It’s where the SoCal yogi documents her life, morning smoothie game (gotta love a healthy gal who knows her way around a high-speed blender), as well as what it’s like to be a new mom—her son Elliott was born in December 2015. 

From the point she found out she was pregnant, Ogden says she knew she wanted to work with a birth center and bring her baby into the world at home, naturally (i.e. no painkillers). And with two weeks left until her due date, everything looked to be going according to plan…until her baby did an about face and Ogden had to make a decision: have a home birth anyway or head to the hospital. 

Here, she explains her choice to stay in bed and have her breech baby naturally—and why she’d totally do it again. 

At the very end of my pregnancy—about 38 weeks—my midwife felt Elliott, and he’d turned. All of a sudden, he was no longer facing down like a normal baby would be—he was breech. And it became very stressful, having a birthing plan for nine months and then someone telling you, “Oh my gosh, you’re going to have to go to a hospital and get a C-section.” We were all good, everything was perfect, and then emergency C-section? I just remember thinking, “This can’t be real.”

Having a birthing plan for nine months and then someone telling you, “Oh my gosh, you’re going to have to go to a hospital and get a C-section.” It was kind of like, “What the hell happened?”

Birth centers don’t do breech births because it’s illegal in California—unless you have a specialist that’s able to perform this kind of birth. My husband, AJ, and I tried to keep our composure and did research to figure out how we could still have this baby: either flip him, have a home birth, or hospital birth but still natural—some way to stick with our original birthing plan.

To be clear, it’s not that C-sections are bad, but I wanted my skin-to-skin [moment]. It just terrified me—the thought of Elliott being held by this doctor that literally cut me open and I’m super drugged up and so is he.

In the end, we did find a specialist—his name is Dr. Stu Fischbein. He’s actually a legend, and he’s one out of two specialists who’s still able to perform breech births in Southern California. We made an appointment to basically see how everything looked in my belly. He checked me out, we talked, and come to find out I was a perfect candidate because Elliott was Frank breech—this means that his little legs were literally on his face. He wasn’t going to move anymore—his butt was going to come out first.

 

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Photo: Shut the Kale Up

We met up with Dr. Fischbein on Monday, and he told us, “Okay, if we’re doing this, I need to go over to your house on Wednesday to make sure that it’s a safe place and that you’ve got a good place to birth this baby.”

So he comes and checks out our place, and he’s like, “This looks perfect: You have towels, you have pots and pans to get our hands dirty, and we’re good to go.” Then he says to me, “To be completely honest, you’re in your birthing stage now. I can see it in your face.”

My water broke, but I thought I had just peed myself, because when you’re pregnant, you know, that just happens. It’s totally normal.

And at that time, I did feel different. I felt like I was getting a lot of Braxton Hicks, which are little baby contractions. But I was still like, “There’s no way.” He said, “Yeah, you’re probably going to end up calling me tonight or tomorrow.” And then he left.

Sure enough early the next morning, my water broke, but I thought I had just peed myself—because when you’re pregnant, that just happens. Most moms know that, it’s totally normal. It used to be super embarrassing, but I laugh about it now. I ended up having to take this test that basically showed that the water coming out wasn’t pee—it was my amniotic fluid!

 

3/7

 

I was going into labor. I started getting contractions or cramps. We were getting all the towels out, preparing. I was trying to clean the whole house as best I could, and also rest, stock up on food. My husband was super helpful. He grabbed me bone broth and coconut water because he knew that was all I was going to want to drink.

 

 

My labor was pretty long. It started Wednesday night, and I didn’t have Elliott until Friday morning at 9:20 a.m. Things got really intense early-morning Friday, like 1 a.m., 2 a.m. My doula, Ruby, had come to assist me, and she did the whole essential oils and candles thing and tried to make me as relaxed as possible. But to be completely honest, going into labor is tough.

 

I was having very, very bad back labor; it felt like my back was breaking in half. I know that sounds extreme, but if you’ve been through labor, you know what I’m talking about. It’s just very intense.

And it goes away, which is so odd to me. It could go away for, like, two minutes, and then come back, and it’s even harder and stronger, and just so painful. But not once did I think, “I’m going to have to be rushed to a hospital,” or, “I’m going to have to take drugs because I can’t take the pain.”

It was more, “I need to be calm and collected because I want this baby to come out peaceful and relaxed.” I was breathing, using my Hypnobabies technique and setting my intentions forward. But the one thing that really helped was my doula telling me, “You’re going to meet your baby today. This pain is going to go away, and you’re going to see its face. It’s going to be the best feeling in the world.”

 

4/7

 

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Having a breech baby is a little different than having a baby that’s head down because when you’re pushing a head-down baby, he obviously gets locked once you push the head out. And the doctor is able to assist with pushing out the shoulders. So it doesn’t hurt as much as you trying to push this baby with his butt coming out first—with the butt, it doesn’t lock like a head does.

The one thing that really helped was my doula telling me, “You’re going to meet your baby today.”

So we were playing this game of a little bit comes out, but then he goes back in. And then a little bit more comes out, but then he still goes back in. It was so difficult. It took about two and a half hours for his back to come out and for it to feel like, “Okay, he’s already out, you just need to push really, really hard.” Just imagine crowning for two hours instead of thirty minutes.

It’s extreme, and a lot of people think it’s crazy. Some people think it’s unsafe. But women were meant to birth babies! Back in the day they didn’t have C-sections, and I’m sure breech babies were still a thing back then. People were birthing twins naturally, so it just all depends on your theory of birthing.

 

5/7

 

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Dr. Fischbein was so, so awesome and helpful, and was just so willing to be honest and open, telling me things like, “You’re not ripping, I know you feel like you are.” When you push, you feel like everything is literally breaking, but he assured me that I was doing a great job and it was all good.

He obviously had monitors on me and the baby, making sure the heartbeat was on point, and there were two other midwives who came to assist him. And my doula was there with me, holding my right hand. My husband was on my left, and I didn’t want to see the baby through a mirror. I didn’t want to touch the baby’s bottom, I didn’t want to see any of that, even though he thought it would help me have some hope and want to push a lot harder.

I felt scared. I felt like this whole thing is surreal. I’m in my bed birthing this baby butt-first.

I didn’t want to touch anything until he was out and I was holding him on my chest. I felt scared. I felt like this whole thing is surreal. I’m in my bed birthing this baby butt-first, and I just wanted to get it over with because it was so painful.

And I was almost running out of energy, but I was trying my best to stay positive. You basically push and then, as soon as the contraction is done, you rest. So I was really trying to stay with my breath and stay within my thoughts of, “This is going to happen, and there’s no way I’m going to be rushed to a hospital, so I just have to get it together, breathe, and just not think about it.”

And then, finally, Dr. Fischbein was like, “All right, you’ve got his whole body out. Now we just have to push the head out.” I felt the midwife literally just push my belly and pop out his little head.

 

6/7

 

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They immediately set him on my chest, and I kid you not, after 48 hours in and out of contractions and just horrible, horrible pain, it all went away.

Obviously, I was sore down there, but just feeling this little body on my chest, I was like, “Is this even real?” It almost seemed like a dream. I asked, “Is he okay? Is he breathing?” because he wasn’t making any noises. And the umbilical cord was still on him—we wanted to make sure he was getting all of his nutrients and all of that good stuff for at least five minutes. Research has found that it’s just better for his immune system and less of a shock for him. So we left the vernix (AKA the coating on his skin) on him, which, again, is better for his immune system.

They immediately set him on my chest, and I kid you not, after 48 hours in and out of contractions and just horrible, horrible pain, it all went away.

And shortly after AJ cut the cord, we heard little coughs and his first breath and just him crying a little. He latched on very quickly, which I was a little nervous about because I’m quite small and a lot of people kept telling me, “I hope you’re able to breastfeed because you hardly have any fat on your body.” Just little things like that kind of hurt as a first-time mom. I started having weird thoughts, like, “What if I can’t breastfeed because I don’t have big boobs, or I don’t have enough fat?”

But that literally does not even matter. It’s just all lies when people say your boobs aren’t big enough for you to breastfeed! So he latched right away, and I was breastfeeding my little boy that had just come out of me. It was such a great experience.

 

7/7

 

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Around 3–4 percent of all babies are breech at birth, but out of all of those babies, most of them are delivered via C-section. I don’t even know the percentage that do home breech births anymore, but it was just so special.

Elliott’s been very healthy—thank God. Motherhood’s been a challenge. But it’s also been the best thing that has ever happened to me, because it is such a privilege to be a mom—whether the birth is done at home or at a hospital. I can’t wait to do it again.

Welcome to the Well+Good Healthy Pregnancy Guide, a week-long series on how SoulCycle-loving, leggings-wearing, kale salad-obsessed women can bring wellness into the next nine months (and beyond). 

Consent for a Forced Cesarean Section

”…. I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing….Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free….”  From The Hippocratic Oath
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On the career road I have traveled to the place I am now I have had many opportunities to witness the deterioration of my profession. I’ve born witness to the influences of fear and money and to the corruption these have on good people. I’ve seen the informed consent process progress from honesty and humility to ignorance and cognitive dissonance and outright lying. I’ve seen academia and science develop marvels of technology but fail to teach the art of medicine and the respect for the autonomy of the patient. I’ve attended lectures and seminars promoting interventions and protocols and admonishing those like me who individualize care while never once mentioning the rights or humanity of the women they supposedly speak for.

In my current role as a home birth practitioner I am fortunate to see and hear from many in the birthing world on a daily basis. Through consultations, phone calls, email and social media I hear stories of birth. Many are beautiful and speak of wonderful experiences and practitioners in both home and hospital. But all too often, on a daily basis, I hear stories of abuse and deceit and misuse of power. This week a colleague of mine in Texas texted me with a story of frustration and bullying that I’ve heard a thousand times but really triggered us. His client, a woman with a vaginal birth, then a cesarean, followed by a successful VBAC was at term with her fourth baby. He recognized the reasonableness of her desired choice of another VBAC and counseled her as such. However, the hospital she had to deliver at has a VBAC ban and vehemently insisted she have a repeat cesarean while “discrediting” her doctor for his advice. The patient eventually went along with the unnecessary cesarean leaving my colleague feeling battered and dejected.

As our conversation progressed he confessed he just does not understand why the hospital was unwilling to even try to understand his reasoning. A sweet hearted man, he has yet to accept the realities of the business of medicine. I then jokingly said his patient should ask the hospital to sign a document saying she prefers the ACOG supported choice of VBAC. But since hospital policy restricts that reasonable choice then the hospital understands it will be held liable for any surgical complication in this or any future pregnancy. He responded, “Oh wow, I wasn’t aware of such a document. That’s awesome!”  And I responded, “There isn’t one. I’m just suggesting it. Wouldn’t that be great?” Now even though we both believe they would never sign it wouldn’t it be great to have them realize what they are asking of the pregnant woman?

Well, not being one to pass up a chance to be a bit provocative and feisty, especially in the name of truth and ethics, I have created a document that I call “Consent for a forced cesarean section”. I ran it past some good people I trust and we all agreed that we should put it out there for all of us to share with our clients facing a similar coercive situation. They are asking a woman to sign a surgical consent against her wishes which supposedly alleviates the hospital and physician from liability for adverse outcomes to her and her baby, now and in the future. I’ve thought about this for quite some time and finally have concluded that if they will not honor her evidenced-based and ACOG and NIH supported choice of VBAC then they should have to accept responsibility for their choice to force her into a surgery. An equal taste of medicine, only fair, and an inevitable consequence of the road they have chosen. Just maybe someday they will get it.

Stuart J. Fischbein MD FACOG

Feel free to download and edit and offer to your clients to use as they see fit. I can see this being offered for breech and twin restrictions, as well.