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Ruthie’s Home Birth Story | Part 1 | My External Cephalic Version Experience

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external cephalic version experience with breech baby (ECV)

Maternity photos from Laura Eddy Photography

Ruthie’s Home Birth Story | Part 1 | My External Cephalic Version Experience

I’ll start this off by saying that birth stories are a funny thing. I don’t know when it became normal to type out and share such an intimate and personal experience for the online world to read and know about…but I do know that after I got pregnant, I loved reading them! And I know how sweet it will be to look back on these words each year, remembering God’s mercy and goodness through the details and freshness of Ruthie’s birth story! I hope one day she will get to read these words and appreciate how God so carefully planned her entrance into the world!

Your average birth stories probably start with leading into labor, but ours took a fun little detour about four weeks before my due date…so that is where I’ll begin with part 1 of Ruthie’s home birth story, and part 2 will be our actual labor and delivery! (Note – one of our midwives is named Ruth, so for clarity, I’ll refer to the midwife as Ruth and our little one as Ruthie!)

Everything throughout my pregnancy was normal and healthy…almost to the point where it felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it did..at our 36 week appointment. We had been moving ahead with prepping our home and our supplies for our home birth, talking through details and going through our list of questions with our midwife, Ruth. At the end of the appointment, I got on the table for a typical exam to check the baby’s positioning, and that’s when Ruth said she wasn’t sure she was feeling the baby’s head down. She did a quick ultrasound to confirm and sure enough, the baby was butt down, head up. After months of trying to do everything “right” – regular chiropractor appointments, working out, stretching, trying to eat well, overloading on research on natural birth – Jonathan and I left feeling pretty defeated. If the baby stayed breech, it meant that I would risk out of my midwife’s care and end up with a scheduled or emergency c-section. With an OBGYN I didn’t know, in a hospital I didn’t want to be in, potentially having to be a lot more on the defense about choices we wanted to make for our birth experience. From one extreme to the complete other end of things. We went home that night and I immediately jumped into all things Spinning Babies, started seeing the chiropractor 2x a week, went to an acupuncturist twice, and prayed and prayed and prayed throughout the next three weeks.

spinning babies external cephalic version experience

Acupuncture, Spinning Babies inversions, ice packs, hymns, chiropractor, talking to her and praying constantly…

As we waited to see if Ruthie would turn head down on her own, I was worried I would feel unsatisfied, robbed almost, of an experience I foolishly thought I had the ability to choose. The first two weeks of waiting to see if she would move were heavy and desperate, with a weight on my shoulders of feeling like I wasn’t doing enough, and I wasn’t sure if there was more in my heart that I could relinquish control of or surrender to the Lord. Even though babies often turn on their own, and we still had time, I had to mourn the possibility of a home birth in order to mentally and physically prepare myself for the potential for a complete shift in plans. This might sound kind of funny but while a c-section wasn’t my first choice, I definitely wasn’t afraid of it. It was more so that I wanted to manage my expectations, be prepared to defend our choices if we ended up in the hospital, and be ready both mentally and physically for whatever was to come. I sought Jonathan to help me process the range of emotions in a way that I hoped was pleasing to the Lord. And ultimately had to wrap my head around the truth that if I denied the goodness of God’s plan in not being able to have our home birth, then I was denying the goodness of His providence and provision for us and for Ruthie. Only God knows all of the contingencies. Regardless of what our birth would end up looking like, Jesus was sufficient and all-satisfying and his plan, would be ultimate and what was best. The biggest hurdle was getting my mind around that.

By 38 weeks, nothing had changed and she was still head up, so our midwife got in touch with an OBGYN in Oklahoma City who specializes in a procedure called an External Cephalic Version (also known as a version, or an ECV. This is where doctors manually manipulate the mother’s abdomen, turning the baby from the outside.) I had wavered about intervening with the ECV, knowing it would require a 1 day hospital stay and it would take place in the OR in the event that the baby did not respond well. The other main risks included placental abruption and cord prolapse. Ultimately, the Lord gave us peace about moving forward with it, and we made the appointment for the ECV at 39 weeks and 1 day. My mind and emotions started to settle as I prepared and planned for the trip and the very real possibility of an out of town c-section. The success rate of the procedure hovers around 50%, and is lower for first time moms. We had decided that if she didn’t turn, we would move ahead with a scheduled c-section immediately after the attempt and deliver that day in OKC. But we had a plan, and we went in open-handed to whatever the Lord had ordained for the external cephalic version experience.

A night out before an external cephalic version experience with breech baby (ECV)

Our dear, dear friends and last night out before the procedure. With around a 50% success rate for first time moms, we knew the ECV could very likely lead to an emergency or scheduled c-section.

The day before the ECV, we went to church where our congregation and several of our elders prayed over us. We made plans with some of my dear friends from college and their husbands to go to dinner in OKC the night before, and we stayed with the Painters before getting up and heading to Mercy Hospital before the sun came up. My friend (and past client!) Hope is a labor and delivery nurse at Mercy and added Monday to her schedule to be there for us and be our nurse. After all the paperwork and prep, I was rolled back to the OR at 9:30 for a spinal block, Jonathan came back and sat right next to me, rubbing my head and holding my hand, and they started the manipulation. Ruthie’s head had been on the top and middle right side of my uterus, so with a guided ultrasound, they first attempted to do a quarter turn backwards to get her head down. She wasn’t having it, so she turned back, and they began to attempt a three quarter turn forwards (like a somersault), where she stayed. It was a few moments later we stopped hearing her heartbeat. At this point I didn’t know if it was just quiet, really slow, or momentarily gone. The nurses and doctors rolled me to my right side, but I still hadn’t heard it come back. That was when the doctor said to me, “if this doesn’t work, we’re going to get your baby out.” Between the overwhelming presence of God, prayer, the spinal block (that was a big one!), and the fact that I had Jonathan right next to me holding my hand, I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. I had complete peace the entire time I was on that table that was not of this world. Moments later, they shifted me to my left side, and within a few seconds her heartbeat was back.

external cephalic version experience

Basically just floating in this – only through God’s grace, prayer, and His hand in the power of medicine. I can only describe the experience as peaceful. Jonathan and I have talked numerous times since about how things happened, how long different moments in time were, funny things I said. It is an odd feeling to be cognizant and aware of what is happening in front of you and yet completely out of control and unaware of other things.

Jonathan and I have revisited the entire procedure and experience several times since, reflecting on what was happening, what I heard and remember of it, and how long things actually took. There are three major things that stand out to me from the brief time we were in the OR –

  1. Jonathan coaching me, holding my hand and rubbing my back. He said seeing the manipulation is one of the craziest things he’s witnessed. I wish I had a video of it!
  2. Hearing Hope, from a distance, telling me to take deep breaths for baby as they put oxygen on me.
  3. Feeling a complete and overwhelming sense of peace throughout the entire thing, even when we were staring in the face of an emergency c-section.

They kept me on that left side for a while to monitor both of us, and once Ruthie stabilized, we were rolled back into my room to let the spinal block and medicine wear off and recover. They let our midwife know that the procedure was successful, and as I “came back to life”, (it did me in with nausea and fatigue!) we spent the rest of the day resting and hanging out, being monitored, chatting with Hope, and re-shifting our mindset…

Our home birth was officially back on! Part 2 – labor and Ruthie’s delivery – still to come!

THANK YOU HOPE!!! She absolutely made the experience for us.  external cephalic version experience with breech baby (ECV)

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