I have been struggling for a long time to write this. I want this story to empower women to trust their bodies. I do not regret my decision, because at the time I was 100% confident that it was the right choice for me, my partner, and our baby.
But the fact is, I had an elective cesarean section.
Taija was in the breech position from the time I was 34 weeks on. Despite our best efforts through spinning babies techniques, acupuncture, moxibustion, and chiro... she remained breech.
At 38 weeks, we decided to try an ECV. It was honestly the worst experience I have ever had in my life. It was very painful and my body had such an adverse reaction to the whole experience that the OBs performing it had never seen it happen- I tried to breathe slow and deep, but somehow depleted my body of CO2 and ended up going into tetany seizure. It started in my hands as they began to curl and tense up, and the sensation traveled up my arms into my neck and even my throat, where it reached a point where I almost couldn't speak. Taija's heart rate decelerated and the procedure stopped. It took a few minutes of oxygen for my body to unfurl (I literally could not move my hands or fingers at ALL). Once I had recovered, the OB decided to check the ultrasound one more time, to confirm what she suspected: that the umbilical cord was wrapped around Taija's neck. It was. She strongly discouraged us against trying a vaginal breech birth. She offered us an appointment with the Best Birth Clinic to have a consultation but told us "If it were me, I wouldn't even consider it. The cord is wrapped, and may be short. Judging by your baby's reaction to this procedure, vaginal birth could be very dangerous". Before the ECV, I was mentally preparing for a vaginal breech birth. I told myself that no matter what happened at the appointment, I would trust my body. My baby knew what she was doing, and if she wanted to come out bum first, I would let her. But crying in that hospital bed after a terrifying experience, and being told that I would put my baby in serious danger, I whispered into my partner's ear "I think I want a c-section".
At the time, I was very new to being a doula. I had taken the DONA training and attended one birth, but the whole world of empowerment, information, informed consent, and courage was still very new to me. For a few days, I went back and forth in my mind. But time was ticking. If I were to have an elective cesarean, I knew I wanted a chance to meet the OB beforehand so that I could ask questions and make my wishes for the birth known. At almost 39 weeks pregnant, I needed to choose. Before the ECV when I was still considering a vaginal breech birth, nobody supported me. The response I got when I said she was breech was "Oh, so you'll have to have a c-section". When I said no, I wanted to try breech birth I heard "You're crazy. That's dangerous". The only people who truly supported me were my midwives. So I talked it over with my partner and in the end, fear won. Fear of traveling the Sea to Sky Highway in labor with a breech baby, fear of the hospital not having a breech friendly OB on call at the time I was birthing, fear of the cord around my baby's neck, fear of the unknown.
8 months later, I can comfortably say that I am sad. Sad that fear of childbirth is so rampant in our culture that even as a doula, even knowing the risks of cesarean section, knowing that being born surgically would alter my baby's digestive flora, could affect her breathing, and would certainly affect my future pregnancies... I still couldn't trust my body. I chose to extend my postpartum healing by more than 6 weeks, chose to deprive my baby of the beneficial labor hormones, because I was scared.
Now, months later when I have read many triumphant stories of breech birth, seen countless videos, and done much more research... I am sure that I could have done it. I know in my heart that breech is just a variation of normal- my body didn't know any different.
Today I look at my daughter who is the absolute joy of my life, and I am sad that she didn't get the best I could have given her, simply because I couldn't shake the deep-seeded (and yet unfounded) fear.
Mamas, I beg you. Don't let this culture of fear live any longer. Our daughters will soon be mothers, and they deserve better. Trust yourselves, your babies, and your bodies. If not for your own benefit, for the benefit of future birthing generations.
**Special thanks to the Birth Without Fear movement for inspiring me to be honest with myself, and to share it here.