Full disclosure: this story is kind of long and detailed; don’t feel obligated to read it (there are some photos below as well). We’ve had a lot of people asking about the birth story and so we thought we would share it. This is written by Julie with a few words from me here and there.
January 1, 2013
Our Feet First Miracle
The baby action began at 6:07pm on December 30, 2012. However, this story starts long before December 30. At my 30 week appointment, we found out this baby girl was breech. At this point we didn’t worry because babies are so active and flip around all the time. Then again at 32 weeks the midwives said we still shouldn’t be concerned. However, at 34 weeks the midwife suggested we start doing some activities to get this baby to turn. These crazy tactics included breech tilts, cat/cow yoga moves, going to a chiropractor and acupuncturist, and even diving into the pool over and over again. Doing moxibustion and breech tilts both 3 times a day for 20 minutes became time consuming-especially on days when I worked. Getting this baby to flip soon consumed us. In between appointments I knew she still hadn't turned because I could feel her feet kicking my pelvis constantly. At 36 weeks it was time to do something about it. On December 4th we checked into the hospital and one of the attending physicians, several residents, our midwife, a few nurses, and an anesthesiologist attempted an ECV or External Cephalic Version. It literally means the two doctors (one grabbing the head and one the bum of the baby on the outside of my belly) trying to move the baby through my abdomen. It was good preparation for birth as it was quite uncomfortable. Eli was great to hold my hand the whole time and try to get me to focus on my breathing. But to no avail, the ECV was unsuccessful as baby girl seemed quite content in the position she was in and was unwilling to move. The doctor joked saying the baby was in there saying “try your best, but I am not moving.” After we finished, our midwife had a talk with us. She said if this baby didn’t turn with the ECV and after all of the other stuff we had tried, it was very unlikely she would end up turning. She encouraged us to stop all our attempts to flip her and just enjoy being pregnant for the remainder of the pregnancy (great advice-I enjoyed those final weeks so much more)! The midwife spent some time there with us after the attempted EVC to explain our options moving forward: we could attempt a less common and sometimes frowned upon vaginal breech birth or we could proceed with the norm for breech babies - a Cesarean section.
To be honest the next 24 hours were some of the hardest of my pregnancy. I felt sort of robbed of having a normal birth experience. Especially after reading so many birthing books, I was getting psyched to experience the crazy ride of giving birth. However, after a trip to the temple the next day, we came away feeling calm and at peace. We were going to do a lot of research and look into the vaginal breech as an option, but knew that what we really wanted in the end was a healthy baby. So we did research, talked to the midwives, and prayed…a lot. (If you are interested check out this website http://breechbirth.ca/Welcome.html). There are a lot of opinions and studies out there in regard to vaginal breech births; I don’t want to go into all the details, because that would take several more pages. After much thought and prayer, coupled with extensive research and talking to experts, we decided that my body was meant for birthing and if we took the right steps, we felt this baby girl could join us safely through a vaginal breech birth. When I say decided, it just means that we were not going to schedule a C section at that time (which could have been an option). We decided that no matter what, I wanted to go into labor naturally, just in case she decided to flip at the last minute. There were several factors that would impact our ultimate ability and decision to proceed with the breech birth once labor would start. First of all, there were only three doctors at George Washington University Hospital that are trained in vaginal breech deliveries. The midwives informed us of these three and said that all three worked very closely with the midwives - and one of them would be there to assist the midwife in the delivery room. These three doctors had told the midwives that they would come in to assist even if they weren’t on call. Another factor/worry was the possibility of the baby’s head getting stuck in the pelvis on the way out. We did an ultrasound at 38 weeks and the baby was in the 50th percentile and her head was in the 30th so that was very reassuring. However, we decided not to do a pelvic exam until I went into labor because we did not want to disturb anything and risk my water breaking (more risk for a prolapsed cord with breech because the head is not blocking the cervix). We knew that due to these variables, the stars were going to have to align in order to this baby to come safely via a vaginal breech.
December 26 (her due date) came and went. Eli had made his goal for work and I finished my last day of work on December 21. We enjoyed a week off together, going to movies, eating out, and making final preparations for the baby. By the time the 26th came around, we were excited and ready for her to come. We knew that the further we made it past the due date, the bigger the baby would get: thus increasing chances of it being harder for baby to make it out without any complications. We had another midwife appointment on the 28th. During this appointment we found out my blood pressure was a little high. We did blood work and everything was fine, but it did make us even more ready for this baby girl to come. We decided to not do a vaginal exam to see if I have dilated. We really did not want to risk having my water break. Once my water would break we would need to go to the hospital immediately to have the baby’s heart rate monitored because (like I mentioned before) with a breech presentation there is a higher chance that the cord could be compressed. So we did not want to disturb the peace down there; and to be honest being dilated doesn’t really necessarily mean anything so we figured we would wait.
On Saturday morning we got up to exercise (like we had been doing trying to get the baby to come). I walked for 50 minutes and then walked the stairs for 10 minutes. We decided to spend the morning cleaning out the kitchen. We spent probably 3 hours deep cleaning the kitchen and letting Julie get her nesting fix. Still no action. (Up until this point I hadn’t really had any noticeable contractions- just mild Braxton hicks like I had been having my whole pregnancy). We continued cleaning and doing laundry until about 4pm. We decided that maybe we should try to go out and get some spicy food to get things going. At 5pm I reminded Eli that we feel asleep watching the new Batman movie the night before and maybe we should finish the last 30 minutes before we go to dinner so we could return it to redbox. We started watching, but were interrupted by a call from my parents (who are missionaries for our church in Brazil). They don’t have access to a phone all the time so I immediately answered. My mom asked about progress and I told her no action. She said “I think she is going to be a January baby.” I promptly replied that I hope not because the bigger she gets, the more concerned we become. Also, one of the midwives that we were close to would be on call this weekend so it would work out perfectly if she came sooner. So my faith filled mother knowing how anxious I was said “alright, I will go pray about that now.” We turned the movie back on and literally 20 minutes later (6:07pm), at the climax of the movie, I started to feel some leaking in my pants-kind of normal in pregnancy-but then it felt like a gush. I jumped off the couch and ran into the shower shouting to Eli that I think my water just broke. He followed me in there and asked if I was sure. I just laughed and turned around for him. I was wearing bright red pants and it looked like I had a water balloon thrown at me. I quickly called the midwife and told her what happened. “Remember how we were trying to keep my water in tact as long as possible?” I said. She replied with “you’re kidding! Well just make sure that baby is still moving and get over here to the hospital as soon as you can.” She said it very calmly, but I was a little worried because we would have no idea where the cord was (if it was being compressed) and until I could hear that baby’s heart rate on the monitor I was worried. So there I was, standing in the shower still leaking a lot of fluid, anxiously giving Eli last minute instructions on things to grab so we could rush to the hospital. We had to laugh about it because it was like a scene from a movie where the water breaks and the couple rushes to the hospital. We have made fun of that scene so many times (because when does it ever go that fast?), but there we were frantically running around trying to get out the door. Eli was a mix of total excitement and a little bit of shock as her ran around gathering the few things. The baby was coming!!
We called a few family members as we headed to the hospital (Yea for going to the hospital at 7pm on Saturday night-no traffic in DC)! Eli wanted to drive fast and run some red lights as that is the image he always had in the head, but I trumped that idea, opting for safety over a thrill ride. I felt a contraction or two on the way over, but I was still just anxious about the heart rate, so I didn’t really notice them. We dropped the car off and headed up to the 3rd floor of the hospital (me trying to walk with my legs together to avoid leaking fluid all over). We checked in at the front desk and asked for a monitor right away. Our midwife came over and we hugged and laughed that this baby did come at the perfect time. She strapped the heart rate monitor on and there was the baby’s heart rate going strong! What a sweet sound!! Eli and I looked at each other and smiled as here we were, sitting in the delivery room getting ready to have a baby! In the next hour we got checked in (I made Eli go get dinner), got an IV placed, talked to anesthesia (just in case), and all that jazz. I started having contractions about every 5 minutes. But, as we were busy getting checked in, I was just trying to ignore them. Who would have thought we wouldn’t even need to time contractions on our cool IPhone app?
The next big question was whether any of the three doctors who would assist in the breech delivery would be available to come in (since none of them were on call that night, and it was the middle of the holidays). Our midwife said two of them were out of town so she would try the third. Basically, if he was unavailable we would be headed to operating room to have a C section. She came back and said that he was on his way! My nurse said how lucky we were because he was by far her favorite OB. She made a joke that he must have had a baby at some point because he is so caring and understanding. Needless to say we were overjoyed! Then our midwife and her student midwife checked me and I was 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced. We were also overjoyed by this. Considering contractions were not too bad at this point, I was feeling very lucky. The next big question was how my pelvis felt upon examination. We also knew that if the OB examined me and felt (even a little bit concerned about the size of my pelvis) we would be going to the OR. My nurse then put the portable heart rate and contraction monitors on me which allowed me to walk around during/between contractions. Around 9pm the doctor came in and did an exam. I was now dilated to 5cm and he told us that I have a “roomy pelvis” which was music to our ears. He sat down and talked with us about all the concerns with breech birth (we had already had these conversations many times with the midwives) but we wanted to ask him as well now that we were in the moment. He said he felt confident about everything and we could proceed if we felt okay. His best comment was, “Well, if there is a book written for babies on how to come out if they are breech, your baby must have ready it!” Eli and I felt good from the moment we met this doctor, so we decided to go for it. He said goodnight and went to one of the break rooms to get some sleep. The midwife said she would call him when needed (He did after all come in on his day off). Our two midwives stayed and chatted with Eli and I for the next hour (as I paced around the room - being up right/standing/walking is the best way to labor with breech so the baby moves down). I knew they were trying to distract me as long as possible and it worked. I had to put on the huge pads (Eli called them diapers) because my water was still leaking all over the place - and when I laughed at a joke a ton came out which made me laugh even more - this laughter then quickly disappeared when a contraction would start :).
A few minutes later, the midwives had another patient come in that was in labor, so they had to leave. I joked that the other woman better not steal my thunder! I started feeling my contractions stronger around 10 or 10:30. Walking felt good and I just kept working on my breathing. I did start to feel the contractions in my back (before I just felt them in my pelvis). Before the midwife left she showed Eli how to put pressure on my back which helped a lot. The next hour felt progressive (at first I wrote "good", but I don’t think I can say contractions and good in the same sentence), I was starting to really feel it, but I still felt in control. We had been communicating with our doula and told her to come around 11pm. I headed into the shower at this point for some relief (which felt amazing - too bad I couldn’t get into the birthing tub because of my water breaking - next time). Thank goodness for water proof monitors. (Baby girl’s heart rate sounded great this whole time). Toward the end of the shower, our doula arrived just as I really started feeling lots of pressure in my bum with each contraction. It was around midnight when I felt pain in my pelvis, back, bum, and nausea with each contraction. Our doula was beyond a life-saving. She had a this shawl/wrap that she put around my hips and pull tight during contractions that helped take pressure off my hips, she also used a TENS device for my back, and a roller to go up and down during contractions. About 1:30 I asked the doula what she thought I was dilated to because I didn’t think I could do this much longer. I know many women are in labor for much longer, but the intensity of contractions and coming every 2-3 apart was unbearable. I just kept thinking I have only been in labor for 7 hours, if I have to do this for another 4 or 5 I can’t go on. You really have no idea what it is like until you go through it. Between 1:30 and 2:30 I reached the most intense contractions as I found my deep moan and just went with it. I was going back and forth between standing or kneeling on the bed just trying to survive each contraction. Our midwives came back in at 2am. The other patient had given birth. I was jealous.
At about 2:30 our midwife asked if I needed to push and I just moaned “I have no idea, I just feel so much pressure.” She checked me and said she didn’t see cervix so she would go call the OB. I was so relieved! We had talked before about how important it was to wait to push until I couldn’t keep that baby in anymore (because once she starts coming you don’t want a breech baby to hang out in the birth canal as long as a normal birth). I started pushing a few minutes later. I guess (though I was totally out of it), but there were about 15 people in the room. I had agreed to let anyone in the room who wanted to come in since this would be a good teaching moment for our doctor and midwife. The lights were totally out with the exception of one spotlight and everyone was very quiet. Baby girl’s foot came out a few pushes in. I was pretty excited because it just kind of slipped out. I thought, wow this isn’t going to be too bad. Haha-little did I know. With another push her other foot came out. I just remember our midwife saying “Julie, look down at your babies feet.” I looked down (I was giving birth on hands and knees because it is the best way to open the pelvis) and thought “oh no! Those are bigger than I pictured in my mind”. The next 5-8 contractions were so indescribable. I just had all this pressure and tried to push but wasn’t making a lot of progress. Finding out exactly from Eli later, I guess her feet would come out until her knees and then after the contractions they would retract as her legs were crossed. Everyone just kept saying I was doing so well so I didn’t really know what was going on. After about 6 contractions I thought “I just have just got to push so hard this time.” So I used my entire body and baby girl slid out to her stomach -”slide out” what am I saying here! Ha! - I felt that ring of fire! A few more pushes and she was out to her chest. I will let Eli do the justice on what it looked like because I heard what was going but didn’t see until later. (He actually watched)!
This Eli chiming in here - this was SO amazing. I am not good with blood, so I thought I would probably faint, but somehow I was overcome with superhuman strength and was able to watch and film the whole thing. It was so amazing to see this baby coming out exact opposite the way she was supposed to be coming (feet instead of head first). Only 4% of babies are breech, and a small percentage of breech babies are footling breech (feet first), so I knew we were experiencing something very rare here! Back to Julie’s account: Another couple pushes and her arms came out one by one (Eli here again, it was so amazing to see baby girl’s body move and contort in various ways to find room to get her various limbs and body parts out - it’s no wonder it is called the miracle of birth!). We then got to the point where baby girl’s whole body was out with the exception of her head. Eli later told me that she was basically just sitting there Indian style on the bed waiting for her head to come out. The moment I had been worried about for over a month now had come. From the moment I started pushing I kept asking how her heart rate was and it stayed steady. Her cord was also pulsing great so we knew it wasn’t compressed. Now the head- I was pushing with everything inside of me-all I cared about was getting that baby out. Our midwife tried to put her index finger into the baby’s mouth and pull down because that can help the baby tuck her head (a procedure they had told us about beforehand). It didn’t work. Then the doctor tried. Again it didn’t work. So he quickly decided we needed to get me on my back to use forceps to assist it getting baby girl’s head out. Everyone helped flipped me over on my back. He put the forceps in (which included wrapping in a blanket type thing and putting the forceps through the blanket to distribute the pull in the case that he needed to do so) and ever so gently (according to my amazing doula and nurse and Eli) turned the baby’s head, no pulling, and 10 seconds later her head popped out. 3:08AM. Exactly 9 hours after my water broke. There she was!!! They had planned on just letting her stay on my chest and keep the cord attached, but with the forceps the NICU team (who HAD to be there since it was considered a high risk birth) wanted to see her soon. They clipped the cord super-fast (sorry Eli) and headed over to the table where they began patting and suctioning. We knew she wouldn’t be screaming right away since it was a breech birth, but within about 60 seconds she was totally crying for us. I birthed the placenta and got stitched up (2nd degree tear) and they brought our new baby girl over to me. I was completely exhausted with emotions and shocked by what just happened, but I will never forget that first moment she came to me. It is a moment I will not even try to describe. That new song from Les Mis called “Suddenly” explains my feelings pretty well.
Needless to say after it was all over Eli and I were talking and we just knew that angels were in the room that day guiding the doctor and wife. Everything went perfectly. We couldn’t have planned it better. We received an answer to our prayers and the prayers of our family and friends throughout the world: our baby joined us safely and she was healthy. We cannot thank everyone enough for those prayers. We felt them every moment of this miraculous and crazy awesome event.
Love overflows here in the Eyre home for our feet first miracle- Zara Jade Eyre.
Two quick disclosures: We didn’t include the name of our midwife and doctor because we haven’t seen them yet to ask permission. If you want to know more about them personally just ask me and I will rave on and on about them. Second I am not supporting breech vaginal birth in every circumstance. This decision came after a lot of research and prayers. But if anyone would like to talk to me more about it I would love to chat.
And a quick few words by Eli: Julie was an absolute wonder woman throughout this whole experience. She did this all naturally. Once she decided on the breech birth, because she was going to deliver on her hands and knees, an epidural was out of the question. With the amount of stress and anxiety I felt, I can only imagine what was going through Julie’s mind, as she was the one that was actually going to giving birth to this baby. Julie handled everything with such a great level of peace and with a sense of humor. Her one liners during her contractions were some of the funniest things I have ever heard her say. This whole experience strengthened our testimony of the power of faith and prayer. This was as real as those two things have ever been for us. There is no doubt that God was in the details of this birth. Julie is an amazing woman and did something that hasn’t been done a whole lot before. Most importantly, she is an amazing mother. There is nothing that can quite describe the feelings of love that you feel for a newborn, and beyond that, there is nothing that can quite describe the level of love that you feel for the mother of your child as she looks into the baby’s eyes and you see that incredible mother baby bond.
Sorry this was kind of long, but we want this documented so Zara can read it someday - and we want to remember the details of this miracle. Now, we just have to figure out this whole parenting thing...
Now for the fun part, here are a few photos of the miraculous adventure of Zara’s birth:
Here Julie is standing in the shower talking to the midwife on the phone when her water broke. Look at those pants! I should have taken a photo of the back.
This link will take you to a picture that I took of Zara’s feet when they first started coming out – it is cropped down to her feet, but didn’t want to force it on anyone, so click on that link in the case that you’d like to see it.
Here we are with the amazing people that helped bring Zara in to the world. Seriously amazing people. I just wanted to give them all a big hug after Zara was born. And I did just that!
She already has me wrapped around her finger.
What the what?! We are parents??
Julie talking to hear parents in Brazil.
Her birth certificate sheet.
Grammie to the rescue! My mom came in the day we left the hospital (I went and picked her up at the airport, then we went and picked Julie and Zara up from the hospital and went home.
My mom is amazing. We ate like royalty and learned the secrets from them best! We wish we could have had Julie’s mom here, but she is serving a mission in Brazil with Julie’s Dad. We are looking forward to bring Zara down there soon to meet her grandparents.
There you have it. Zara is two weeks old today and is the best thing we ever could have asked for.