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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.