If we’re connected on social media, you’ve probably seen me fretting over the last month or more about how Moonshine was stubbornly, happily breech, and how I was doing everything I could to encourage her to rotate head down.
I did yoga for days.
I did all the exercises on spinningbabies.com.
I went to the chiropractor for the first and second time in my life.
My husband even angled our couch for me since we didn’t have an ironing board for me to recline on.
I went to a therapist in case it was an emotional problem. (More couch time!)
I spent as much time as possible standing or bouncing on a yoga ball instead of sitting.
My family (BEST FAMILY EVER) even made me a video on Christmas, when I was moping about being alone in Austin instead of home with them. You HAVE to watch the latest from Jamie King Productions:
Are they the best or what?!
And despite all those efforts, Moonshine happily persisted in headbutting my ribs.
So it came down to doing an ECV, or external version.
I shouldn’t have read the stories on the internet about the procedure, but of course I did. They overwhelmingly fell into two categories: failures that led to C-sections, and catastrophic outcomes that led to far worse.
I was pretty anxious leading up to it, not least because the optimal day to have it done (right at 37 weeks) was on Christmas Eve, and shockingly enough, that day was hard to schedule. Waiting for my appointment to be confirmed basically ruined my (possibly overly optimistic?) plans to go home for Christmas, and also shot my nerves for about the whole week leading up to it. Good thing my midwives are used to nervous first time moms…
Anyway. My appointment finally got scheduled for the Monday after Christmas, when I was 37 weeks and 4 days. (They won’t do the procedure before 37 weeks, but recommend doing it as close to 37 weeks as possible, because smaller the baby is, the easier she is to turn).
My mom heard the 1% risk of it leading to an emergency C-section and decided that risk was too great to … er… risk, so she flew out for the procedure. I’m so grateful she was able to come and hold my hand. But I get ahead of myself.
We showed up at 10am as directed, only to discover that I’d been rescheduled for 2:30pm – and no one had bothered to let me know. Normally these things don’t drive me crazy, but in this case I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink since 10pm the night before. So hungry. And now I had several more hangry, parched hours to go. For someone whose pregnancy has been characterized by constant snacking, this was a really. big. deal.
We ran some errands and generally tried to distract ourselves for the next few hours.
Don’t tell my doctor or anyone else at the hospital, but I totally broke the rules. I was NOT going to make it a total of 20 hours without some kind of liquids. I drank some SOS Mango – a decision authorized by my mom, an R.N. That was possibly the best decision I made all day and it officially never happened.
My appointment time finally rolled around again, and we showed up again, only to be told by a very stern nurse that I could only have one person in the room with me. I almost fell apart at that point. My mom had flown out from California just for this; of course my husband had to be there; and my midwife was coming as well, and I definitely wanted her in the room. Making a pregnant lady go for 16 hours without anything to eat or drink was already bordering on cruel and unusual punishment, in my book, and I did NOT want get bullied into some dumb policy.
We put our foot down—or rather, my mom, who is a hospital administrator and knows how that shit works—put her foot down. I always knew that if for any reason I needed bulldogs to back me up and represent my interests during labor, my mom and my husband would be a fearsome combo. Luckily, the hospital backed down pretty easily, and despite protests that there wasn’t enough space, ushered us into a very spacious labor and delivery room.
Getting set up with an IV and answering all sorts of questions took about an hour. So hungry. They attempted to draw blood but I was literally too dehydrated: nothing came out of my IV, so the nurse gave up.
Finally, it was time to get this show on the road. So hungry. They gave me a powerful cocktail of fentanyl, phenergan, and terbutaline. The effects were almost immediate: I could feel myself slipping into a deep, foggy relaxation. I was awake and aware of what was going on, but my body felt totally blissed out and asleep.
The doctor oiled up my belly (olive oil. Who knew?) and got to work. After all I’d read online about how awful versions are, I have to say, I was expecting way worse. It had moments of really intense pressure, but not horrible. I kept my eyes closed and focused on my breathing (thanks, yoga) and there were just a few times when I gasped or moaned in pain. I’m really grateful for the drugs; I can’t imagine what it would feel like if my body was actually alert and capable of tensing up in response.
My husband, who watched the whole thing, said she got deep down into my belly, and that my face was registering pain. While I could certainly feel the baby moving through my abdomen, I wouldn’t really call it painful; more just pressure with some uncomfortable moments. #thanksdrugs
My support team was perfect. My mom held my hand, and Nathan whispered in my ear what a great job I was doing. I’m so grateful they were both there, and knew exactly what to do in the moment.
After the doctor finished, I had two more hours of monitoring before I could go, and one more hour before I could eat. I passed out as soon as the procedure was over and slept solidly until my husband woke me up with a plate of falafel.
This was the weirdest part. I was desperate for something to eat, but my motor skills were completely shot. Picking up a falafel was more than I could handle. Bringing it to my mouth was out of the question. My support team fed me one small bite at a time. Even chewing took some serious concentration, and I still ended up with hummus all over my face.
The nurse came in to check on me after my required two hours of monitoring were up, and said that Moonshine wasn’t responding enough for us to go home. By this point, I was feeling like a hot, sticky, sweaty mess, uncomfortably sitting up in that bed, and every time I tried to shift positions I’d cause the fetal monitors to drop and thus my stay would get extended just a little longer.
I really, really wanted to get out of there, even though my ability to stand up was dubious, but I stayed chained to that bed for another two hours, waiting for Moonshine’s heartbeat to register more consistent activity.
Finally, nearly four hours after the procedure finished, we got the green light to go home. I was still pretty unsteady on my feet, my motor skills were making a slow but steady recovery, and my head still felt pretty spacey.
Yesterday we had a successful external version – meaning moonshine is no longer breech! 🙂 tadasana was pretty much the only yoga pose I could muster after all the drugs they had me on for the procedure. Feeling much more alive today – been downing @sosrehyrate like crazy to recover – and so grateful that she’s head down, even if it means no more inversions for the rest of pregnancy. #fitpregnancy #37weeks #ecv #sweatpink #holidaysweat #sosholiday
Overall, I’m so glad we went forward with the version. I nearly backed out after reading horror stories online (and that’s partly why I’m sharing in such detail here – hopefully this story will help counteract some of those), but I’m so grateful that it worked and that I again have a chance at the home birth we are hoping for.
The biggest downside is I’ve been banned from doing yoga or any kind of inversions for the remainder of my pregnancy. My midwife doesn’t want to give her any opportunities to flip back. I was so happy to be still practicing at this stage, but it’s worth it to me to step off the mat for a few weeks and put away my maternity yoga pants for good.
Things I learned:
- Stand up for what you want. I’m really glad we didn’t cave in to their “one person in the room” policy. I ended up being in that room for 7 hours, and for most of that time, it was just me, my husband, and my mom. The doctor’s presence lasted all of 15 minutes; the nurse was probably there a total of 1.5 hours. Otherwise, it was just us. It would have been so silly and frustrating for them to have to switch spots over those 7 hours.
- You may not have the capacity to stand up for yourself, so bring your bulldog. I’m conflict averse as it is; having been deprived of food and drink for 17 hours AND being anxious about the upcoming procedure had pretty much depleted any sticking up for myself reserves I had. I needed my mom to step in and stand up for us, and she did a damn good job. 🙂
- I am so, so, appreciative of what modern medicine has to offer. I am grateful for the ultrasounds that let me know Moonshine was hanging out head up; I am grateful for a skilled OB who successfully turned her around; I am grateful that if the version hadn’t worked, that I would have had a choice about whether to attempt a vaginal breech delivery or to opt for a C section.
- All that said, I confirmed that I don’t want to be in a hospital for her birth unless there’s a medical need for us to be there. I don’t want to have to fight against ‘policies’ about who should be in the room while I’m at my most vulnerable. The worst part was not the procedure itself, but the feeling trapped by fetal monitors and held hostage to that strip.
- Drugs really, really affect me. We were there for almost two extra hours getting monitored. At one point, Nathan was playing hokey pokey with my legs to encourage blood flow and get Moonshine to respond. (It worked). I was still super zonked out and glassy eyed when they let us go, and pretty wiped out the next day, too.
- Drugs kept affecting Moonshine for about 36 hours. She didn’t get back to her normal, kicking, feisty self until Wednesday morning. Poor girl had her first hangover with none of the benefits of a wild night out with friends.
- Because we’re both so susceptible to drugs, I feel newly recommitted to trying for a non-medicated birth. This is NOT a judgment of anyone else’s decisions, and I reserve the right to change my mind when I’m in labor. But now that I’ve seen how how long the recovery was for drugs that are likely less potent than an epidural, I’d like to avoid a repeat if at all possible.
… And that’s all, folks. If you made it this far, cheers to you! 🙂