A Surprise Breech: The Best Christmas Present Ever
December 2012

Maybe it was serendipitous, maybe it was Murphy’s Law. Either way my husband Dan and I were both shocked when my water broke at 4:00am on Christmas morning. This baby, our second child, was not due until January 4th, but here I was on Christmas morning sitting in a puddle of amniotic fluid. When I woke Dan up, he jumped out of bed with guns blazing ready to catch this baby on a moment’s notice. The reality of the situation started to set in, we were going to have a baby today. Two thoughts kept running through my head: I wished I had not stayed up so late assembling Christmas presents for my daughter and oh my goodness, we were supposed to be having 18 people over for Christmas dinner that night. Luckily, when we had discussed hosting Christmas with our family we had come up with a Plan B in case this very situation happened. So we called Grandma to come pick up our daughter and the various stores of food that had been stockpiled at our house. The next call was to our midwife Kathleen. We felt awful interrupting her Christmas and taking her from her family, so we told her to hang tight and we would call when the contractions started to pick up.

I had a couple of small contractions that were coming more frequently so we called Kathleen again and she decided to come over in case things started moving quickly.

When she got to the house, we started filling the pool, laying down drop cloths and getting everything ready for our pending arrival.

Much to my dismay, things started to slow down. I tried everything I could to keep things moving, including lunging frantically around the basement, on the stairs and in between squats. My husband found this quite humorous as he had not seen me move like that in many months. All of this was to no avail and the contractions stopped. I had been an hour without a contraction when Kathleen decided to check my dilation. I was four to five centimeters dilated which was very encouraging as it took me about twelve hours of labour to progress that far with my first child. Then we got the news – Kathleen was sure that she had felt a bum when she checked my cervix. Our baby was breech. We were shattered. We had a perfect water birth at home with our daughter and we were looking forward to the same with our son. Visions of sugar plums dancing in my head were replaced with visions of caesarean sections and interventions. We tried to stall while we wrapped our heads around what was going to happen.

As a precautionary measure, Kathleen called an ambulance and we frantically got our things ready to go. While we were waiting for the ambulance, our midwife was calling the hospitals to see if any of the obstetricians who attended vaginal breech births were on call, but no luck. Feeling completely discouraged, Kathleen and I got in the ambulance (with my husband following in his own vehicle) and headed to the closest hospital. When we arrived at the Rocky View General Hospital, we were delighted and surprised that Dr. R (the OB on duty) said that he was willing to allow us to move forward with a trial of labour and that if everything went well he was willing to attend a vaginal birth for our little breech babe!

First he wanted the size and position of the baby confirmed with ultrasound. Our little guy was frank breech (feet to forehead), an average size and positioned well with his chin tucked to his chest. All of these were very positive things for the vaginal birth we were hoping for. We were so excited, we may not be having the home birth we wanted but we were not doomed to have a caesarean section. The doctor said he would come back in a couple of hours to ensure that we were progressing and the baby’s vitals looked good. He reminded us that if we weren’t progressing, which is common with breech babies, we would have to go for a C-section.

My husband, Kathleen and I looked at each other – we knew that we had to do everything we could to keep my labour progressing naturally. Our amazing labour and delivery nurse, Pat, got us an exercise ball and unhooked me from the monitor so I was free to move around. I walked, lunged and hung off my husband doing my best to surrender to the process and allow my body to do what it was made to do. I could feel my baby moving down and I knew that I was getting close to meeting my little guy. When they checked me I was at seven centimeters! Things were moving along so we continued labouring naturally. We discussed delayed cord clamping with the doctor and he agreed to it if everything with the baby was okay at birth.

So we laboured on, determined to have our baby naturally. About an hour after they checked me we got a very definite sign that we were getting close – meconium. Usually, evidence of meconium is cause for concern, but with a frank breech babe there is little chance of aspiration and meconium is a sign that the baby is moving into the birth canal and very close to arriving.

With this sign we walked to the operating room (OR), where we would birth our little boy. The nurses were busy readying the room for an emergency C-section in case we ran into problems. Dan and I were in the zone, just walking around the OR continuing to labour. Between contractions we were very respectfully approached by several nurses, doctors and residents to ask permission to be present for the birth, as none had seen a vaginal breech birth before and they were extremely interested. With all modesty out the window at that point, I gladly agreed.

I started to get the urge to push so I got up on the tablet. I pushed for about 30 minutes and I knew I was getting very close to meeting my little fella. The doctor came in and got ready to help me birth my baby. My husband was amazed at what happened next, he said that Dr. R was like a ninja. When our baby’s bum was out, I was told to stop pushing (but not to relax) and the doctor turned our son’s body and popped one leg out, then turned it again and popped out the other. I was then instructed to push some more and then stop while he did the same manoeuvre to get our son’s arms out. I was instructed to push a little more so that the doctor could ensure that the baby’s chin was tucked to his chest. With one final push, our son Nash was born.

A cheer immediately erupted and the room was filled clapping, encouragement and congratulations. What a birthday celebration we had for Nash! He looked wonderful and was not in distress, so the doctor sat holding him while the last of his cord blood was pumped back into his little body. Dad cut the cord and I got to hold my baby for the first time. Words cannot express the elation I felt at that moment, but all Moms know it. All of the people and commotion fell away, it was just me and the most perfect Christmas present a parent could ask for.

So many things came together perfectly to allow this birth to happen the way it did. I will never be able to thank my husband Dan and my midwife Kathleen enough for empowering me and supporting me during Nash’s birth. We are all powerful beyond our greatest imagination and on Christmas Day 2012, Dan, Kathleen and Dr. R helped me realize that.

Robyn W is a stay at home mom to Tess (three years) and Nash (almost one). In her previous life she worked as an Environmental Scientist, travelled the world and got to sleep in all the time.