As most of you will know this pregnancy came after a loss at 9 weeks due to a missed miscarriage so our precious wee babe is what we call a 'Rainbow' baby - The beauty that shines through after a horrible storm. Here is the adventure of the arrival of Saige - Just a heads up it will be graphic and possibly triggery for some. On with our adventure....
22nd April 2016 confirmed we were expecting. We were both delighted and more so when we realised our baby was due around New Years. Our first scan went well with a great heart beat but there were concerns over the unusually large yolk sac which can be an indication of genetic abnormalities such as trisomy and statistically scans with large yolk sacs miscarry in approximate 70% of all cases. Not the news I was hoping for. It was a very tense wait for the next scan - and of course for our anatomy scan, to try and put our minds at ease.
Our 8 week scan was perfect and our 12 week scan showed a lil bean wriggling away - Happy as could be. Our anatomy scan came back great with only a 1 in 8,800 chance of any trisomy disorders so that was a relief. We didn't have any additional scans organised and waited out the rest of our pregnancy. Our due date according to our 6 week scan was 31st December 2016 - What an awesome due date!
We choose not to find out the gender of our baby - We loved the awesome surprise we had with Phoenix. Tane and I felt like we were having a girl but we certainly weren't convinced of babies gender the way we had been with Phoenix. As we neared the end of our pregnancy the world and it's mysterious ways certainly indicated a girl but I was still only 60% convinced haha
The pregnancy was a hard one. I had morning sickness right the way through as I had with Phoenix. Suspected HG until about 26 weeks - I managed this with both Metaclopromide and Odansetron though it didn't stop the vomiting or nausea, just reduced it from hourly to maybe 3 times a day. After 26 weeks the vomiting subsided - Maybe once a day until about 32 weeks then dropped off to occasionally until I gave birth but the nausea still plagued me most days. On top of the morning sickness I had awful pelvic pain from 8 weeks on-wards. It worsened as I got bigger.
At the start of our pregnancy we were house hunting every weekend with a toddler in tow. When I was about 18 weeks; And after losing 8 auctions and 2 PBN and searching for over 11 months; we finally purchased our house in Warkworth. By this stage we'd moved out to flat with Ange and had put 90% of our belongings in storage. We finally moved into our home in August. I was about 5 months pregnant when we moved and it was exhausting for me but we got there in the end.
I'd planned to birth at home, had organised everything (pool, califont, towels and blankets along with everything else I needed) and set it all up at 37 weeks.
My 38 week appt brought an absolute shock - Baby has turned breech and I wouldn't be able to birth at home unless we could get bub turned back. I would need to birth at North Shore Hospital and a C-Section was the 'Standard' recommendation for a breech baby. I was heart broken and cried for days.
The day after bub was found to be Breech I went to Whangarei hospital to have an ECV done in the hope baby could be turned. There were a number of risks associated with an ECV including the possibility of needing an emergency c-section if the placenta came away. Tane was working so Hazel came along for the journey. There was no way I was ready to meet my baby just yet so I hoped nothing would happen to need an emergency c-section and I was begging for the ECV to be successful.
The ECV involved injecting my thigh with a medicine to relax my uterus. The Ob then checked babies position and using their hands (and an unbelievable amount of force) the OB and her assistant tried to manually turn baby through my belly. To say it was painful is an understatement. To have two women's hand's cm's deep in my belly and pelvis trying to lift and spin baby was excruciating. To top it all off baby didn't budge - Not one inch. After 15 or so minutes they gave up.
When the hospital midwife asked what I planned to do now I said 'Birth baby breech' and here started my battle of wills between those medically minded and myself - aiming for as natural as possible. This was my first taste of the battles to come and how very important it was for me to be informed and to know my rights. The hospital midwife said to me 'Oh well you'll have to be continuously monitored then when you're in labour' Meaning the CTG machines would need to be attached from the outset. Now I found these very restricting and psychologically limiting and I knew in labour I would want to move about freely. When I mentioned to the hospital midwife that 'No - I wouldn't be continuously monitored but that a doppler could be used as and when needed' she seemed quite taken aback, I'm not sure most of the people I encountered on my journey were ready to meet someone who wasn't going to follow the rest of the sheep who have c-sections for breech babies 'Just because they're breech'. I went home disappointed and concerned about the 'Battle' I saw before me.
This whole time I had been asking baby to stay put until at least it's EDD - Now I was wishing bub had decided to come at 37 weeks so I could still have had my homebirth. It was such a crushing time. I knew this would be our last baby and I had so wanted to birth at home - On my terms, in my environment and my way and now all I could see was all of those hopes being flushed down the drain just because my baby was breech and worse yet a c-section which has to be the polar opposite of my homebirth - How had this happened?
I came home and started researching - vowing I would arm myself with as much information, knowledge, statistics, advice and real world outcomes as I possibly could. I also set about finding every possible avenue to try and turn a breech baby. So began hours and hours and hours of trying everything possible to turn bub - Inversions, accupunture, osteopaths, chiro's, moxibustions, hypnotherapy, hot and cold, music and light - you name it and I'm pretty bloody sure I tried it. It cost me hundreds of dollars and literally took up all my spare time. It was exhausting - Not the way I planned to spend my last weeks of pregnancy.
I had a number of growth scans along the way tracking babies position and size. We were well placed position wise with baby being frank breech (feet up by it's face) and bum presenting well in my pelvis however the growth scans indicated bub was a big baby (9lbs 7oz at 39 weeks then 10lb 7oz at 41 weeks) and big babies are not high on the 'recommendation list' for a vaginal breech birth (Known as a VBB).
A little bit of history on Breech Births. Breech was considered a 'Variation of normal' for hundreds of years until a trial study called the 'Term Breech Trial' was conducted - This study aimed to figure out the outcome of breech births. The information is considered by medical professionals as the 'Go to' in breech cases and was quoted more times than I care to consider during the course of my care BUT this study has since been considered bias and unreliable due to the way the study was conducted - with no consistent approach and information being presented in a bias way - for example when discussing mortality (Death) in breech births the term breech trial (TBT) study gives figures that include ALL deaths in breech presentations - It doesn't itemise out those deaths that were almost a given due to genetic disorders or very premature births. Breech presentation at full term has a higher rate of genetic abnormalities - some suggest this might be due to the baby not having the ability (Muscle tone or otherwise) to get into the optimal birthing position. Breech births are also more common with preterm babies (As most babies like to get into optimal position as spaces becomes limited and birthing day draws near) and premmies have a higher likelihood of adverse outcomes vs a full term bub.
Anyways -Before this study breech births were generally delivered vaginally. No reason not to when it's just a variation of normal right? Well the statistics from the TBT showed a higher risk to baby in both mortality and morbidity and so it became common practice to send those with breech babies straight to theater for a c-section - After all it was the 'safer' options right? Well yes and no. C-Sections are major surgery and with that comes major risks but these risks lie with the mother generally. Common risks included infection, hemorrhaging, uterus adhesion to other internal organs (Potentially requiring additional surgery later on to correct this), a stay in HDU for complications, reduce rates of successful breast feeding, complications from the anesthetic administered... I could go on and on and on. I'm not saying there aren't risks with Breech - There are. These risks lie with baby and include such horror scenarios as head entrapment (Where the head gets stuck in the pelvis) which can lead to death of baby or serious brain damage but the risks in a VBB are few but serious as opposed to a c-section where the risks are more but generally with a lesser severity.
So why does this matter? Well over the course of decades those skilled in VBB such as midwifes and OB's has dwindled. VBB is something every midwife and OB has to review in a teaching/ classroom scenario but those who have actually witness and been hands on with VBB's are few and far between. This means there is little support for mums wanting to VBB and a serious lack of skilled VBB care providers. There is a change in the tides as more momentum comes about to normalise breech presentations again and to up-skill the care providers so VBBs can be an option. Even as I went through all I did with this pregnancy the 'Hospital policy on Breech Birth' was updated (Ironically in January 2017) to better support VBB's as opposed to becoming an automatic recommendation for a c-section. Still it angered me that I would be battling to birth vaginally simply because the antenatal sector had forgotten how to birth VBB's. Why should I be subjected to major surgery just because of a study that really isn't all that credible? And because skills have been lost over generations because of this flawed study?
At almost 40 weeks I met with the hospital OB consult (The big cheese so to speak). I went in with my battle suit on, Hazel by my side for support and weapons ready to be drawn. I was expecting a war. Instead I was met with a very matter of fact lady called Jye. She was my kind of talker. Statistics, evidence based information, Options but above all else she was ready to HEAR me. We spent 1.5 hours going over everything - All the scenarios and options and possible outcomes. She needed to know I was making an informed decision to cover her arse and I respected that. I felt Jye understood my position and as much as she said she needed to recommend a c-section because that is; in her mind; the safest option - she could accept that I wanted to attempt a VBB and she would facilitate that wish though there was some negotiations to be made on my birth plan to cover the hospitals arse once again. It's ok, I can compromise and did so willingly on some factors; not so much on others - but come the end of our meeting we were both happy with where things were sitting. VBB with a c-section as back up if there were any indications of baby distress or I was in trouble. However there was to be no induction methods to be used - Not even a stretch and sweep (Which was fine by me) as any inductions of a breech messes with the natural process both baby and body needed to go through to get bub here safely. Breech birth is a hands off affair. No one touches baby until it's been delivered to the nape of it's neck so this made sense and I mentioned in passing that if I got to 42 weeks we'd look at a c-section (Never thinking I'd actually get there!)
More bloods, more attempts to turn baby, more money and time spent in vain. Finally around 41 weeks I stopped trying everything and accepted my baby was breech and that was the way it would be.Baby might turn during labour but I didn't feel confident so I made my peace with a breech baby and a breech birth. I mapped out both VBB and C-Sections plans and discussed at length with everyone I encountered on my journey about my preferences and why. I was mostly supported.
Meanwhile my Midwife and I searched for a VBB experience midwife to take the lead carer role come delivery time but we couldn't find anyone. Kudos to my Midwife - She was out of her depth but still supporting me in my decisions. It must have been pretty scary for her.
Next meeting was around 41 weeks with another OB at the hospital for post dates and to discuss c-section details. I was by myself but more relaxed this time given how positive my initial meeting with Jye had been. Unfortunately this one didn't go so well AT ALL. The meeting started with her sitting down next to me, putting her arm around me and saying 'I'm going to be blunt here. I think you need to have a c-section. I estimate you baby has a 1 in 5 chance of serious brain damage if you deliver vaginally' - This approach, especially coupled with being in my personal space while delivering it, left me so disarmed I didn't actually know what to say or do. I instantly donned my battle suit and drew my weapons. Who was this woman to speak to me like this and where the hell are her figures coming from. There is nothing in all the research I've done to support this ridiculous statistic... All I saw was a woman trying to terrify me into doing what she wanted. After all I was overdue now with a suspected (I say suspected as growth scans are notoriously unreliable) big baby so I was a 'Ticking time bomb' on the hospital books. When I said I wouldn't be having a C-Section and I chose to attempt a VBB she moved from the bed side to her desk and her mannerism changed from all caring to stoney. 'Well there are things we'll want you to do like have an IV inserted and an epidural inserted 'Just in case' on arrival'....
No way, Back up. Why the hell would I choose to have an epidural inserted 'Just in case'? Are you serious? Take on a host of potential risks and complications 'Just in case'. Now I was angry.
I told the OB consult that I wouldn't be having either of those on arrival and if I changed my mind we would discuss that on the day. I also advised that if she didn't stop scaremongering me like this then I would leave and birth at home by myself - Which I wouldn't actually do but there was no way I was going to be spoken to like this. Funnily enough the meeting wrapped up quite quickly - Maybe 10-15 in total - and I left with a bitter taste in my mouth. My midwife later advised that the 1 in 5 chance of brain damage had been a statistic that she had made up based on her 'extensive experience in third world countries'... Bloody hell!
More time came and went. At 41 weeks (Just after the above horrendous meeting) I went for another ultrasound. Baby was measuring 10lb 7oz. Still breech. Fluids and dopplers and placenta were all perfect. By this stage I'd adopted the 'I'll have baby either when I go into labour naturally or when there is an indication that baby NEEDS to come out such as distress, low fluids, placenta degradation or me being unwell- in which case I'll have ac-section'. I was being monitored daily with ctg's and having ultrasounds twice a week. I personally was fine and believed baby and I would be fine. I had absolute faith in my body and my baby.
Not long after this Tane's mum had an accident and broke her femur. She ended up in hospital needing surgery to put her leg in place. Around 42 weeks we popped in to see her at NSH and Kathy my midwife had organised a meeting with me and the consult anesthesiologist to discuss my concerns about the c-section. His name was Ted Hughes and he was awesome. Great to talk to, informative, discussed all my concerns at length and went over everything I could expect. He spent about 1.5 hours with Tane and I and I was really grateful for his time. Of course he still recommended a c-section and sooner rather than later. Everyone was getting nervous now.
It was becoming apparent I was the talk of the hospital with comments such as 'My colleague and I were talking about your case in theater today' or 'Everyone is aware of your case and you're making them nervous' and a letter from the horrible meeting saying the case had been referred to the hospitals lawyer! Initially I was annoyed I was being so well discussed- didn't that go against patient confidentiality? but then my midwife mentioned it was a great thing that I was getting people talking about VBB, about challenging the normal and making them all think outside of their own little bubble and that made sense to me. I saw it as a positive.
The hardest day came for me when Tane said he thought I should have a c-section. I felt no one had my back any more, No one believed in me. Not a single person but me. This was a concern. I now knew I was going to walk into a birthing suite with not a single supporter. I was walking into dangerous territory - This; to me; was more dangerous than a breech baby, more dangerous that a big breech baby. This was a room full of skeptics tending to me at my most vulnerable time. Now I was starting to get nervous.
And then Thursday 19th January arrived...