Alright, friends. When we left off in my previous post, I told you about my new food allergies, sciatica, finding out that I was a carrier for a rare genetic disease (that luckily won’t get passed on to our daughter), body image issues, and a bit more about my second trimester and the beginning of my third. Now onto the most emotional and overwhelming portion of my pregnancy: the final few weeks.
I forgot to mention in my last post that at our 20 week ultrasound, it looked like I might have Placenta Previa, which means that my placenta was lying low and covering a portion of my cervix. This typically corrects itself over time, so the doctor asked I come back at 28 weeks to see if it had changed. If it didn’t move, it would mean a c-section, and if it did, it would mean that I could wait to go into labor. We came back at 28 weeks and were excited to see that the placenta had moved up and we ‘were good to go’. The baby was still breech, but that wasn’t uncommon at this stage of pregnancy. The doctor told us to come back for another ultrasound at 34 weeks, which is when all the fun began…
Leading up for our 34 week ultrasound, I was convinced that the baby had flipped. I felt her hiccups low in my belly (such a strange feeling), and her butt up towards my ribs. Turns out, I was wrong and the ultrasound revealed that our girl was Frank Breech, meaning her head and legs were both up by my ribs, essentially in a pike position. Typically by 34 weeks, 90% of babies are in the ‘correct’ position, aka head down, facing your tailbone, so I was surprised but fine, as the doctor said we still had time and gave us a number of things we could do to try and get our girl to flip including acupuncture, chiropractor work, moxibustion (holding a lit mugwort stick next to your pinky toe- strange, I know), inversions, and so many other crazy tricks.
Here’s the honest truth. I knew immediately that whatever this baby wanted to do, she was going to do. If she’s anything like me, she’s stubborn as hell, so if she wanted to keep her head jammed into my ribs and be delivered via c-section, then it was likely out of my control. That being said, I’ve barely ever broken a bone, cry when I get my blood drawn, and dread being at the doctors office, so the idea of going into surgery was terrifying to me, regardless of how common a procedure it is.
I went home that day and started researching, ultimately putting together a game plan. I would try all of the non-invasive things the doctor had mentioned, and when we went back in at 36 weeks, the baby would magically have flipped and all would be right in the world!
34-36 weeks would ultimately be the most stressful of my pregnancy, as I would wake up each day eagerly reaching down to feel my belly and see if she had flipped, only to find that her head was even higher up than when I went I had fallen asleep… I sat in acupuncture appointments (side note: I’m really not into needles, so this was taking one for the team), feeling her squiggle around while silently trying to communicate with her, asking her to rotate. My sweet husband would help me out with the moxibustion stick (Google it and you’ll understand how weird this is), and try to help me relax by jokingly playing spa music while he sat there for 10 minutes circling a little flame around my toe. I read every article on spinningbabies.com and practiced inversions. The hopeful feeling followed by the realization that nothing had changed after each of these attempts left me frustrated, feeling out of control, and increasingly overwhelmed.
When we went back in for our 36 week appointment on a Friday, I knew she hadn’t moved. At this point, I was an expert at discerning between her head and her bum, and the ultrasound quickly confirmed my suspicions. This led to the next big conversation. While I had been trying non-invasive techniques to get her to flip, I had not yet attempted the medical version, called an ECV. An ECV, or External Cephalic Version, is when medical professionals essentially push the baby from outside your belly to try and coax her into moving head down. I had heard from numerous sources that this was often incredibly painful (one story included the mother vomiting and then passing out), and had approximately a 60%-70% chance rate of success. You could opt for an epidural to help manage the pain, which I would need to do since getting a splinter is too much for me. The doctor told me that I would need to decide by the end of the day to get on the schedule for the following week, as 37 weeks was the ideal time to perform an ECV since the baby still has a little space to move. She also said that, while highly uncommon, there was a chance that the procedure could distress the baby, in which case I would have a c-section that day, so to come prepared for that possibility. If the ECV didn’t work, then I would be scheduled for a c-section at 39 weeks.
I went home and thought about all my options, talking each through with Tommy. I could have the ECV and it could work, in which case I would wait to go into labor naturally. I could have the ECV and it could distress the baby, leading to a c-section that day. I could have the ECV and it could fail to work, requiring me to have a c-section anyways. I could not attempt the ECV and keep working to get the baby to flip naturally, which could either work or not. All of the options made my head spin and I had a full-on, sobbing panic attack that night. Even though I’d never been someone who had a ‘birth plan’ or strong vision of how our baby would come into the world, it was still such a heavy feeling knowing that with only a few weeks to go, I had to make big decisions and none of them were objectively right or wrong.
I ultimately decided that I wanted to give the ECV a shot, even though I wasn’t entirely sure why I felt compelled to do so. The biggest reasoning was that I felt like I might always wonder about if it would have worked in the case that I opted out. But I also felt like there was so much pressure to have a ‘natural’ birth (I hate this terminology, as I think bringing a baby into the world by any means necessary for a healthy mom & baby is natural). Telling people you might be having a c-section often elicits an ‘oh, well that’s okay too’ or ‘that’s too bad’. So I scheduled my appointment for the following Thursday and spent the weekend feeling semi-sure of my choice.
The following Monday I got a phone call from my OB asking me to come in the next day to assess my amniotic fluid levels and the baby’s size to make sure everything looked good for the ECV. During the ultrasound, we found that while the baby’s size was perfect, my amniotic fluid levels were on the low side of normal, and I had an anterior placenta, meaning that my placenta was on the front wall of my uterus, which is very normal but makes the procedure a bit harder. My OB and I chatted about what all of these variables meant, and after analyzing my fluid levels, anterior placenta, and the fact that this baby had been in breech position since 28 weeks, her thought was that this put me at around a 50% chance of success. Having spent the past few days convincing myself that I should do the ECV, I felt that this new information changed things. I didn’t like the idea of enduring stress, anxiety or pain for myself or my baby with those odds, and ultimately canceled the appointment. I immediately felt a wave of relief, partially because it meant I wasn’t doing an extra procedure, and partially because it meant that, unless this baby flipped on her own, I knew what to expect and could start preparing.
That settled it. I would be having a c-section at 39 weeks. I immediately felt a combination of excitement knowing that I had the exact day we’d be meeting our girl, and anxiety and fear about the surgery. The previous few weeks had been exhausting after not only experiencing all of the normal third trimester things including feeling huge, uncomfortable, and ready to get this baby out, but also having the weight of needing to make these big decisions that could affect my baby on top of that.
We are now one week away from meeting her. Just envisioning the first moments when we hear her cry and get to see this little creature that has been giving me the ride of my life for the last nine months makes me tear up, for a number of reasons. I’m terrified, excited, nervous, and so much more that I can’t even pinpoint.
The craziest part of it all is that I’ve been focusing so much on my pregnancy and her birth, but all the madness has yet to begin…