Continuing our series about Breech Birth, Emili Butrin shares her second birth story with us. [Read Breech Birth in Canada, and Breech Birth: Why Not Cut? for our other articles in this series]. Because of the Canadian Term Breech Trial published in 2000, Obstetrical practice in many countries became a scheduled cesarean for all persistent breech babies. Emili’s first baby was breech, and you can read her story of Elijah’s cesarean birth here. In many parts of the U.S.A., access to Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) is limited or nonexistent. This makes avoiding cesareans whenever possible more imperative, and the effects of the Term Breech Trial have become a cascade that affects women around the world without improving long term infant outcomes.
Emili Butrin lives in West Bend, Wisconsin, U.S.A., with her husband of 5 years, Jonathan, and their two children, Elijah (3 ½) and Jonah (1 ½). She is a stay-at-home mom with several odd-end jobs on the side, including cleaning houses, nannying, and taking photographs. She is also on the road to becoming a certified doula and IBCLC. She is passionate about women and babies, the birth process, breastfeeding, and attachment parenting. You can read more about Emili and her journey on her blog, Unmarked Graves Where Flowers Grow.
Jonah’s Birth Story
After I had Elijah, I knew I wanted to do things differently the next time around in labor and delivery. My entire pregnancy with E had been stellar: everything was peachy with my weight, baby’s growth and activity. It had just been at the end when he decided to pull a fast one and flip upward that things got dicey. If I could do it again, knowing what I know now, in all certainty, I would attempt a vaginal breech birth. Hands down.
It’s a shame women are usually herded into surgery straight away for breech and not even given the option to try a vaginal breech birth. Hopefully, the tides will completely turn… soon!
When I conceived our second baby in March of 2009, I knew I wanted to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I sat down and buckled up to go over my options and become educated.
I found out I was pregnant on April Fool’s Day, which was…. fitting. Jonathan and I had just moved from Michigan to Wisconsin and in with my parents for financial reasons. Jonathan had no job and no prospects at the time. Our only mode of transportation was a small black jalopy with rust eating away at it’s edges. And… I was with child. When I saw the little pink plus on the stick, I was more panicked than I had been with Elijah’s positive pregnancy test!
But I quickly came around, and fell in love with the child brewing within. How could I not? Everything would work out eventually, as it did: Jonathan landed a job at a mortgage firm, and it turned out to be a wonderful blessing being around my parents when baby #2 made his debut. My timing is not always God’s timing, that’s for sure.
Because of insurance, I found myself searching for VBAC friendly OBs, which I KNEW might be tricky. My choices, right from the beginning, were painfully limited. But I was careful – I went with an OB who had had two VBACs herself, thinking she would be sympathetic to my endeavors.
At first, Dr. A was super supportive and even encouraged me to write out a birth plan! But, as time went on and my girth grew more and more, she would say things like: “If this baby is breech [like Elijah had been breech], we’ll not even attempt an external cephalic version” or “If you gain ‘x amount of pounds’, we’ll probably just go ahead with a section.” I tried to check out a different OB at a different clinic, and she basically stated the same things. I became very worried that to be in a hospital at all was to be in an unsafe boat, as far as me having a VBAC was concerned. I started to think about paying out of pocket for a midwife, but we just could not swing it. Could not. So I prayed my buns off and went back to Dr. A.
December. My “due date” came… and went. Almost two weeks creaked by, and absolutely no sign of baby. I drank pure organic raspberry tea and swallowed evening primrose supplements. I walked through malls, and lunged up stairs. Nothing. Not even Braxton Hicks. “Where are you little guy!?”
It did not take long for Dr. A to start asking that same question. Because I was attempting a VBAC, she was concerned that the longer I waited, the more I would be at risk for uterine rupture. And pretty soon, I was beginning to crack under her pressure. I wanted to do this delivery au naturel: no induction, no nothing. But I was without a strong-voiced doula. It was just me and my small reservoir of knowledge… and, of course, the amazing support of birth bloggers across the continent, but no one near me! Sure, my family, most of my friends, and my husband supported me 100%, but I needed someone birth-savvy by my side, helping me keep a waterfall of intervention from even beginning.
In the end, I waited too long to find a doula, and again, finances set up another hurdle.
December 9th came – 12 days overdue. Induction day. I knew that induction increased my chances of having a repeat cesarean, but I could not stave off my OB any longer. And, truthfully, I was beginning to get anxious myself. I hesitantly went to the induction with my husband at 4 that afternoon.
|Emili in hospital with her sisters|
And let me tell you – what ensued was even worse than my delivery with Elijah! I think because I knew more, and therefore expected more. Not to sound totally snotty )
My birth plan was thrown out the window as soon as I entered my hospital room (I wasn’t encouraged to change into my own night gown, which I had brought; I wasn’t allowed to move around, no changing positions, no bouncing on the birth ball; I wasn’t permitted to eat, etc). I began to feel that same haunting, defeated sensation I had after Elijah’s birth. But I was determined. As long as baby and I were in no immediate danger, this child would come out ONE way, no matter what this doctor or nurse staff threw at me.
And, trust me, they tried valiantly to sabotage my efforts. I was told, point blank, that laboring lying on my behind was the “best possible position to labor in.” I laughed through a contraction on that one… what a blatant lie. But what I could I do? Perhaps I just should have done things my way, and told them all to leave me be, but I was vulnerable, and my vulnerability only grew as I continued to labor with off-the-chart contractions for 5 hours. I was not able to use a shower or yoga ball or walk for pain relief. Jonathan was there, rubbing essential oils on my legs and reciting Scripture over me. It was sweet, but I was still in agony, strapped to that bed with one IV, one blood pressure cuff, and two wires going up my vagina. Yippee.
I was checked. In five hours of hardcore, Pitocin-driven labor, I had dilated one extra centimeter – I was 3. That’s when I said adamantly, “Awwww, no. I cannot do this. Please give me an epidural!” And without batting their eyelashes, they anesthetized me.
|Emili vocalizes through contractions, supported by her mom|
One hour later, I shot to 10. Can you believe it? Isn’t that telling of how tense I was on my bed, pre-epidural?
I began the pushing fiasco around midnight. I couldn’t feel a thing, and I was loathing the nurse for screaming 1-2-3-4… in my face, so after a while I asked them to turn the epidural off. It had worn off near-fully about two hours later, but I was still pushing poorly. Baby was hung up on my pubic bone for the longest time, and I asked to get on my hands and knees. Again, no. “It would make things too difficult for Dr. A,” said a nurse. I was shocked. Am I not the one LABORING here?! You’re concerned with what’s too difficult for HER?! Oy vey.
About pushing, itself: once I could clearly feel the contractions again, and push with them, I was in very minimal pain. I loved pushing, actually! It was a relief, it was kinetic. I just wish I had been more efficient. It took me four hours of pushing (and three “c-section” warnings from Dr. A) to get that child out! It’s truly astonishing to me, with all the intervention used and discouraging voices from doctor and nurses, that I had a VBAC at all.
With one supernatural second wave of energy and a thunderous roar from my gut, Jonah spilled out into the earth. 3:51AM. Any pain – gone. Well, gone for a bit before Dr. A started sewing up my two 2nd degree tears. That was torturous. But Jonah was there, on my chest, snuggling like a champ. Through the stings of sutures, I tried to enjoy him: his little squishy frame, his grayish eyes, his head of gray-blonde hair. We began nursing almost immediately afterward, and I ate the biggest turkey sandwich I’ve ever had. I was famished!
|Sweet Jonah, and sweet successful VBAC|
I stayed in the hospital for one day, received phone calls, rested, nursed. Elijah came to visit his new brother. It was special to see their first encounter, and to see them “exchange” gifts. I was beaming. My family had grown by one, and that is always a thing of sweetness.
|Big brother Elijah meets baby Jonah for the first time|
As for the experience of my VBAC: well, obviously, it wasn’t gleaming. Can you see why I hope to try an HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean) next time around? Hospitals, with their propensity toward rigid schedules and worrying tactics (continuous fetal monitoring, strapping a mama to the bed with wires) do so much to hinder a woman’s intuitive responses to labor. It is truly a miracle straight from the hands of God that Jonah was a successful VBAC. He was never in danger; neither was I. The fact that it was ever suggested to me to “just get a c-section, get it over with” is deplorable. I should have never felt pressure from anyone, especially while in the throes of birthing….
Still, I try not to complain. And in the end, I suppose I can only blame myself for not being more prepared with a doula, or being more stubborn with my decisions. But I am thankful it happened at all, that I wasn’t “fenced in” with even more limited options next time around. Hopefully, that next time around won’t find me fighting tooth and nail to have my birth au naturel.
Today, my children are healthy and growing. Elijah is bright and energetic and loves to color. Jonah, at almost 20 months, still nurses all day! I feel indescribably blessed, every moment. Mothering has proved to be challenging, joyous, messy, glorious – the whole gamut