Destiny Herndon-DeLaRosa

My Footling Home Birth Story

In Uncategorized on August 30, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Only 3% of births are breech, and of those 3%, only 3% of those are footling breech where the baby comes out feet first rather than bottom first.

Of course I didn’t know any of this when I was floating in a giant blue tub in January of 2012, surrounded by candles and listening to the sound of a fierce rainstorm outside. My midwife had just arrived. She told us she’d been caught behind a long line of semis on the highway thanks to the weather. Her delayed arrival meant it was now ‘go time.’ She checked my vitals, instructed my husband to get in the tub with me for support, and then told me to go ahead and start pushing.

I remember gripping the sides of the inflated, slippery plastic while everything in my being was bearing down. Suddenly, there was a loud pop! For a split second I checked between my legs wondering if I’d had the baby since this was my first natural home birth, and I really had no clue how any of it was supposed to work, or more importantly, feel.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be that easy. The ‘pop’ was just my water breaking. The midwife reached down with her heart monitor, setting it gently on my stomach while I leaned back against my husband. I watched as her face twisted into a concerned look. She decided to do a pelvic exam, which was unusual. I’d maybe had one the entire pregnancy since midwives are usually much less invasive than OBs.

Her hands fumbled around for a moment and then suddenly she went white.

“Feet.. feet… I feel FEET! Get out of the tub!” she demanded.

“FEET?” I replied. My first thought, I kid you not was, “Why does my baby have feet on his head?!?”

I couldn’t make sense of what I was hearing.

“I don’t deliver breech births!” she exclaimed.

“Well, you’re about to…” my mother quickly clarified. She had been on the side of the tub gentle rubbing my head up until now. “…You’re the most qualified one here!” she said.

Next thing I knew my midwife, my doula, my mother, and my husband were all lifting me out of the tub and onto the ground. It was like a scene straight out of Black Fish, where they’re kidnapping whales and relocating them to enclosed harbors. My mother asked if she needed to call 911 – my midwife frantically shook her head ‘yes.’

Now at this point my mind was swimming with terrible thoughts, and I was in full-on panic mode. But I didn’t actually know what we were afraid of. Like, what was going to be the worst case scenario here? Was the baby going to die? Was I going to die? Was this going to hurt worse? Or perhaps it  was going to hurt less? I mean, hips are usually narrower than shoulder, right? So maybe? Bottomline, I needed to know how exactly this kid was going to be coming out, because make no mistake, he was coming.

My midwife then positioned me on my side and closed my legs. She told me not to push. The only problem was that THAT was now on autopilot. I had zero control over it. The toothpaste was coming out of the tube whether we liked it or not. And there was no putting it back in.

Ironically, my doula Julie (who was also my best friend, and the one who sold my on this whole “natural birth” thing) had basically spent the entirety of the last 9 months telling me how much I would love birthing at home with a midwife. According to her it would be so different from my previous hospital births, because it would be all about “listening to my body, not some doctor’s schedule and desire to rush a delivery and turn the room over.” And yet, here I was being told to completely reject, if not fully reverse, something my body was very much doing. Like, I literally had someone holding my legs closed.

I knew that if-and-when the ambulance arrived I would not make it to the hospital. This baby was coming. Now. My neighbors were in for quite a show I thought to myself, because I’d be delivering my son on the sidewalk (if I even made it that far) to an array of red and blue disco lights jetting into all of their windows beckoning them to come out and watch.

For now I was still safely beached on my living room floor though, and what my midwife didn’t know, was that right before she got there my mother had regaled us with the story of my own birth. See I was born in the 80’s and things were weird back then. For an hour she’d been telling the nurse that she had a strong urge to push, but the women kept telling her not to because she wasn’t even dilated yet. She tried to convince herself that the nurse was right, but long story short, I came out with a huge red scratch across the top of my head from the nurse’s nails mistaking my crown for my mother’s cervix. Eighties fashion was exceptionally painful for me. And perhaps it’s because my mother had just vividly retold this story, or maybe it was that she couldn’t stand to see me in this much pain any longer, but next thing I know my mother said, “Roll onto your back, we’re getting this baby out of you!”

I did as I was instructed. I rolled over, rested my head in Julie’s lap, and I looked up and ask if I was going to die. I will never forget how she calmly just replied, “Eh, I don’t think so.”

I loved her so much for saying that right then.

My mother and husband were praying. He was down by my feet feeling as helpless as ever and I knew that, but I really had no time to feel bad for him.

The next contraction was coming quickly, and my mother grabbed my head and said, “Pray with me, NOW!” I shook my head free from her hands and scream, “NOOOOOO! I have to push.”

We’ve since laughed about how she basically made me denounce God right before I thought I was going to die, but in that moment, I was not laughing. The only thing I felt was an intense urge to force that baby out of me.

The midwife was now in position. My mom and Julie each grabbed a leg, bending my knees, and pushing them back towards my torso as far as they would go, and I… well, I just kinda felt like that old clip we’ve all seen a thousand times where the space shuttle takes off and then it’s rocket boosters break away, falling into the ocean. I pushed as hard as I’d ever pushed, and felt like my whole lower half was jettisoning off and tearing away from my body.

Then there was… silence.

My eyes were closed tightly because I didn’t want to see what my body had done to my son. I’ll be honest, at this point I’d assumed he had died because here I was, still alive, so all of that panic must have been for his safety.

I felt pressure on my stomach. A bundle of a being – warm and wet. Someone, I’m not sure if it was the midwife or my husband, had place my son on my stomach, but I still couldn’t bring myself to look.

Then suddenly, I heard a gurgle… a gurgle that slowly grew into a full blown cry of discomfort with from these bright, new, cold surroundings.

I looked down and immediately burst into tears.

He was fine, perfectly fine.

Later, Julie told me how my midwife had masterfully “corkscrewed” him out (a maneuver she’d only seen once in a video), to avoiding the “shudder” reaction that causes footling breech’s to lift their shoulders and become stuck in the birth canal – suffocating them. All I knew in that moment though, was he was here, and he was perfect.

Just as I was beginning to realize this whole crisis, had been averted, my front door flew wide open and a mob of heavily geared-up men came pouring in. Muddy boots and all.

And I remember this next part so clearly, because unlike my previous medicated hospital births, I had never been more present in my body then I was in that moment.

And I was so, SO naked.

I kept grabbing things – blankets, pillows, pillow CASES, towels, ANYTHING – attempting to cover my lower half, but everything kept being pulled away as the midwife worked to deliver my placenta. One of the men had come around to the other side of the couch and was just standing  there, directly in front of me. Investigating the scene, I suppose. Either way, I wasn’t having any of it and very plainly demanded that he, “Please stop looking at my vagina!” He shrugged, nodded, then walked off.

The Audience

I saw my midwife reach for her scissors and I immediately told my mother, who’s phone was laying on the bookshelf next to me, that I wanted a picture.

Julie groaned, because she knew exactly what I had planned, as did my husband. I had told them both month’s prior that I was going to take a “ribbon cutting” picture, to which Julie had responded, “Yeah right, you will not even be thinking about posing for pictures right after you give birth.” Her lack of faith ini this idea only strengthened my resolve.

My husband grabbed the scissors and I put out my hand like the Mayor of this newly crested baby, because, well, I was. He took my hand in his and I could feel him shaking. To this day it’s one of my favorite pictures because it shows just how wonderfully different we are.

Women get that Oxcytocin rush right after birth which suddenly, magically erases all of the pain and the horror we’ve just been through… while men, well, don’t. At all.

(In the picture you can see my husband’s leg muscles still so tensed up.)

The Ribbon Cutting

Weeks later I asked him what was going through his head at that moment, as I laid there on the living room floor waiting for the ambulance, and he said, “Well… honestly, I was thinking that the kids and I were going to have to open up a pizza place if you died.”

Um, what???

Then I realized what he was saying. See, we used to live in a town with this tiny little pizza place run by a guy and his kids. Evidently there’s some sort of exemption in the child labor laws if it’s a family business. And as my husband was watching two little, blue, seemingly lifeless feet slide out of me… followed by those first few horrifying seconds of silence (which were evidently due to the midwife having to twice unwrap my son’s umbilical cord from his neck), my husband had assumed he’d just lost us both.

And he didn’t know what he was going to do – a newly widowed father of three – and in the weird little way his wonderfully strange brain works he thought, “Pizza place.”

Which I guess is better than, “date super models” or “google orphanages.”

Our son is now two and a half and everyday I remind myself what a miracle his life is.

I’ve also run into those firefighters a few times since then at our neighborhood block parties, but luckily none of them recognize me… with my clothes on.

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