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 them are footling breech… where the baby comes out feet first rather than bottom first.

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

I remember gripping the side of the inflated plastic while everything in my being was bearing down. Suddenly there was a loud pop! For a split second I looked down wondering if I had had the baby since this was my first natural homebirth, and I really had no clue how any of it was supposed to work. Sadly, it was no baby, just my water breaking. The midwife reached below me with her heart beat monitor, setting it gently on my stomach while I leaned back against my husband. I don’t know if she could hear a heartbeat or not at this point, but something compelled her to do a pelvic exam and feel for a head. Suddenly, her face went white, and she exclaimed, “Feet.. feet… I feel FEET! Get out of the tub!”

“Feet?” I replied. My first thought, I kid you not, “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 declared. “Well, you’re about to!” my mother, who had been at the side of the tub declared back, seeing as she was obviously the most qualified one in the room.

Next thing I know my midwife, my doula, my mother, and my husband are rushing me out of the tub and onto the ground. My mother asks if she needs to call 911, the midwife frantically shakes her head ‘yes.’

Now at this point my mind is swimming with terrible thoughts, and I’m in a full on panic mode. I have no clue what we’re actually afraid of though. Is the baby going to die? Am I going to die? Is this going to hurt worse? Is it going to hurt less? How exactly is this kid coming out, because make no doubt, he is coming.

The midwife positions me on my side and closes my legs. She tells me not to push. The only problem is THAT is now on autopilot. I have no control over it and the toothpaste is coming out of the tube whether we like it or not.

Ironically, my doula Julie (who was also my best friend, and the one who sold my on this whole natural birth thing in the first place) had spent the last 9 months telling me how much I would love birthing at home with a midwife, because it would be so different than my previous hospital births. 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.

I knew 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 treat I thought to myself, because I’d be delivering him on the sidewalk (if I even made it that far) it would be to an array of red and blue disco lights jetting into all of their window, becoming 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 been regaling us with the story of my own birth, in which she also had a strong urge to push but the nurse kept telling her not to because she wasn’t even dilated yet. Long story short, I came out with a huge red scratch across the top of my head from the nurse’s fingernail mistaking my crown for my mother’s cervix. Perhaps it’s because she’d 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 says, “Roll onto your back, we’re getting this baby out of you.”

I do as I’m instructed, resting my head in Julie’s lap. I look up at her and ask if I’m going to die, to which she calmly replies, “I don’t think so.” I loved her so much for saying that right then.

My mother and husband are praying, he’s down by my feet feeling as helpless as ever and I knew that, but I really have no time to feel bad for him.

The next contraction is coming quick, and my mother grabs my head and says, “Pray with me, NOW!” I shake my head free from her hands and scream, “NOOOOOO! I have to push.” We’d later laugh about how she pretty much made me reject God right before I thought I was going to die, but right now there is no laughing. Just an intense urge to force this baby out of me.

The midwife is in position, my mom and Julie each grab a leg, pulling them back as far as they can, and I… well, I feel like that old clip we’ve all seen a thousand times before where the space shuttle takes off and then it’s rocket boosters break away, falling into the ocean. I pushed as hard as I’ve ever pushed, and felt like my whole lower half had jettisoned off and torn 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 assumed he had died because here I was, still alive, so all of that panic must have been for his safety.

I felt someone place him on my stomach, but I still couldn’t bring myself to look, and 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 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, ultimately 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, by the grace of God had been averted, my front door flies open and an mob of heavily geared up men come pouring in.

I remember this next part so clearly, because unlike my previous medicated hospital births, I had never been more present in my body than I was at that moment, and I was so, SO naked. I kept grabbing things- blankets, pillows, towels- attempting to cover my lower half, and they kept being pulled back out of the way as the midwife still had to deliver the after birth. One of the men had come around the couch and was standing directly in front of me, investigating the scene I suppose, when I very plainly looked up at him and said, “Please stop looking at my vagina.” He shrugged, nodded, and 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 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 different we are. Women get that Oxcytocin rush right after birth which suddenly, magically dissipates all the pain and horror we’ve just witnesses… while men don’t. At all. In the picture you can see my husbands legs muscles and hands still so tensed, he’s looking down but it’s as if he’s about to burst into tears.

The Ribbon Cutting

Weeks later I asked him what was going through his head at that moment, as I lay there on the living room floor waiting for the ambulance, and he said, “Well… honestly, 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 pizza place run by a guy and his kids. Evidently there’s some exemption in the child labor laws if it’s a family business. And as my husband was watching little blue, seemingly lifeless, feet slide out of me, followed by those seconds of silence (which were evidently due to the midwife having to twice unwrap my son’s umbilical cord from his neck), my husband assumed he had lost us both. 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 at block parties and around town, but luckily none of them recognize me… with my clothes on.

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