Denver Birth Photography - the Footling Breech Delivery of Opal
Over the last year, I've been blessed to capture some incredible births here in Colorado, and each birth story lingers in my heart long after I hand over the edited images to my clients.
When Treanna approached me about birth photography last fall, I was thrilled. We had initially connected through the work I do with the Breastfeeding Project...and we had become fast friends with our shared love of all things birth.
Treanna is a doula in Fort Collins and was planning for another home birth for her second baby. We talked about her birth with excitement and anticipation. I think we all knew that her birth story would be a beautiful one. But little did we know how special her birth would end up being.
Instead of telling my version of the story, I'll share the photographs I took of her birth and Treanna's own words. I hope you find inspiration in her strength, beauty and determination. I know I did.
PLEASE NOTE THAT TREANNA ATTEMPTED A VAGINAL BREECH BIRTH UNDER THE CARE AND CONSULT OF A WELL TRAINED OBSTETRICIAN. TREANNA WAS MADE AWARE OF THE RISK AND BENEFITS OF A VAGINAL BREECH BIRTH BY HER PROVIDER. PLEASE TALK TO YOUR OBSTETRICIAN ABOUT WHAT IS SAFE FOR YOU AND YOUR BABY.
34 weeks into my second pregnancy, we had an appointment with our midwife. We were planning a home water birth, just like we had with our son. Our midwife, Carol, told us she thought baby was presenting with head near my fundus and butt closer to my cervix, with nothing presenting at my cervix. This was frustrating news, as she does not deliver breech babies. She requested I get an ultrasound to confirm what she knew. This was disappointing, because I had not wanted any ultrasounds during this pregnancy. So after requesting we put it off a week, and spending the week trying little tricks to flip baby, I went in for that ultrasound. Sure enough, baby was breach. For the next three weeks I spent every moment I could either upside down, going to acupuncture or chiropractic appointments or lying semi-prone. We tried every rebozo trick multiple times and our little angel would treat us to a transverse moment here and there, only to settle back in happily breach.
38 weeks rolled around and Carol helped us find a doctor in Denver who would deliver breech vaginally. We met with Dr. Johnson and just loved his warm, encouraging demeanor! A vaginal breech delivery was looking like Plan A. A Cesarean delivery was plan B. We trusted our doctor and knew a cesarean might be necessary. We were advised that breech labors can be unpredictable and fast, and with my history (3.5 hour labor with my son), we decided to stay in Denver come 39 weeks.
Thankfully, an old family friend, Bonnie, caught wind of our story and offered her spare bedroom, only ten blocks from the hospital, such a blessing!
Driving to Denver at 39 weeks, we met with Dr. Johnson again who said we should start doing what we could to get labor going. He emphasized to us the power of prayer as well. So, with every intention set of our baby’s arrival, we went out for spicy Thai food, walked around a lot and prayed. Sure enough, that evening labor began. Pressure waves were 10-15 minutes apart and a couple minutes long. This felt like it could be the day, so we went back to Bonnie’s and I hopped in the bath to try and relax so I could get some sleep. Soon, everything stopped. Needless to say, this happened five more times over the course of two weeks. We had another appointment at 40.5 weeks and we were told we only had until 41 and 2 days before baby would be coming into the world via cesarean.
That week we had two acupuncture inductions, and my personal mantra became, “keep faith.” We were surrounded by prayer warriors throughout our church, family, and friends; and come 41 weeks and a day we decided to pull out all the stops. I put clary sage in the diffuser, ate a big breakfast, and drank 4 ounces of castor oil mixed with orange juice/baking soda over a 2-hour time span. We called Monet, birth photographer, and she drove up from Colorado Springs. All attempts at getting my doula/back up doula to Denver failed and so Monet happily took on that role as well.
Lunchtime rolled around and we ate another big meal while doing hip circles on the birth ball. Pressure waves were now starting to become noticeable again! Just a few later and I was ready to start playing my hypnosis CDs. It wasn’t long before they were 2-3 minutes apart and 45 seconds long and intense enough I was using hypnosis constantly. We waited for them to lengthen to a minute, but by 3:30pm they had not changed at all. So, before Dr. Johnson was going to go home for the day, we decided to head into the office to check my progress.
We were informed that baby was not presenting well and back was mostly posterior, causing a band to form across my uterus during each pressure wave, resulting in “unproductive labor.” We were told to call in for a cesarean whenever we were ready.
Meanwhile, I had the idea that if we could get baby out of posterior, even if just for a few pressure waves, maybe things would become productive. We got back to Bonnie’s by 4:30, and immediately we tried rebozo sifting with me on all fours. My pressure waves intensified and I immediately puked. This felt like transition! But that was not possible, because just 20 minutes ago when I had been checked I measured at 2-3 centimeters with a very high cervix. So, did I just create a very irritated uterus? My husband, Jeffry, drew me a bath, and we decided to see if the bath would help calm things down. Well, the bath felt great, especially with my little Levi (21 month old son) rubbing my back, but things stayed intense. 6:30 came and I decided that if this was not a means to an end, it had to be.
Tears of defeat and failure came harshly as I asked Jeff to call in for that cesarean. I was countered by a fountain of encouragement. My team reminded me that a cesarean birth could be just as beautiful as a vaginal birth. I picked myself up, got dressed, and headed for the hospital, knowing I was in God’s hands and accepting this child has a plan and it is out of my control. Thankful for a short drive (as those 3 contractions were by far the toughest) we arrived at the ER, I had another pressure wave in the entryway as I hung over Jeffry swaying and moaning. I left Jeff to fill out the intake paperwork and I went to the bathroom. Monet parked the car fast and waited for me outside the restroom. One more pressure wave on the toilet and then the next one came with the urge to push!
Monet told the ER staff what was happening - that I had a breech baby and suddenly felt pushy. Suddenly an entourage of 20 people and a gurney raced me down the hallway..
Needless to say, I could not listen to the orders being screamed in my ear and my body kept pushing. By the time they had me on the OR table, I could tell baby was presenting. The nurse asked me to lie on my side for the anesthesia and I said “Dr. Johnson said I could try this!” Her response, a defiant proclamation, “Well Dr. Johnson is not here!” My response… I beared down and pushed with all I had. Apparently this convinced someone to check baby’s station. Lifting my dress, a different nurse yells, “Baby’s here! Feet first!” I said “Oh shit!,” as I knew a footling breech was dangerous. Then they spent a couple contractions trying to convince me to get on my back. (Everything I had read about breach birth had said it is best on all fours) I fought them on this until baby’s feet were out and this is when Monet and Jeffry finally made it into the OR, still expecting a cesarean themselves. They had been stuck outside the door waiting for scrubs and getting help putting them on.
With my husband by my side and a baby on their way out I rolled (mostly) onto my back, grabbed my legs and pushed baby’s body out. “It’s a girl, She’s a girl!” shouts one of the 30 observers and it brings me to tears. “Did someone just say SHE?!” I shout! So happy to get the news! And then I am being yelled at to push the head out, so I take a deep breath, and without a contraction to help, bear down and push her head out with an arm above her head.
The obstetrician on call, Dr. Kelley Jensen, caught her and set her below me as Dr. Johnson walked into the room all scrubbed in and ready to operate. Everyone was in shock and still acting in “emergency mode,” except the one nurse who thought of me, and grabbed my daughter and put her to my chest. Dr. Johnson showed his astonishment and I starred at my daughter. During that perfect moment of realizing what had just happened and seeing my daughter for the first time they had my placenta delivered without my assistance and as I looked up they cut her cord almost immediately without offering the privilege to Jeffry. She still had not let out a good cry and was a little blue, so they whisked her away to the warmer with Jeffry following. Six people with towels rubbed her down and Jeffry tried to save some vernix by blocking the action when he could. Jeffry kindly declined newborn procedures, and they returned a bundled up package to me on the OR table. I had Jeffry undress us both and we finally got our skin-to-skin. Phew! With the “emergency” over, she breastfed within ten minutes and has shown her determined, poised spirit ever since.
My darling girl went unnamed for 24 hours, until her name stuck when I realized how similar to her namesake she really is. My sweet Opal Anastasia Wade is just as determined and poised as her great, great grandmother Opal Roderick was.
Born at 7:23pm, 41 weeks and a day, 7 pounds 10 ounces, 19 inches, 14 inch head circumference. Total labor: 8 hours +/- 2 weeks
P.S. Momma did not tear at all and Opal's hips, lungs, and shoulders are all in perfect condition.