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Madeleine was born on a Friday morning in February of 2011, under the bright lights of an operating room. We were surrounded by strangers in sterile gowns. It was a far cry from the birth her parents had planned – at home in a birthing tub with candles, soft music, and serenity.

41 week testing revealed she was Frank breech, meaning butt down, head up, and feet and legs in a V by the head.  This came as an unhappy surprise.  While undergoing a non-stress test, the attending OB barged in declaring that her amniotic fluid levels were very low.  She declared that if I were her patient, this baby would be coming out by immediate cesarean.  Overwhelmed, we decided to go home and talk things over with our midwife.  The rest of the afternoon involved a lot of crying and a great sense of failure.  I felt thoroughly disappointed in not being able to bring this baby safely into the world as naturally as possible.  A cesarean is the greatest intervention that could possibly occur in a pregnancy, and I felt it was my fault.

From the discussion with our midwife we understood our choices were:

1. Cesarean, no later than 42 weeks, as a last resort and dependent upon further test results to show it was absolutely necessary.

2. Version, or manual turning of the baby only following testing to ensure it would not harm the baby.

3. Vaginal breech home birth with midwives attending.  The problem with this option was that labor had not started, and the baby’s test results did not indicate waiting for labor to begin was a good option.  A breech home birth meant complications could come on very quickly and go downhill rapidly. If labor stalled, we would have to get to the hospital for an emergency cesarean, probably under general anesthesia.

We decided to try a version along with acupuncture, massage, and lots of fluid to help the turning process.  We felt we had a plan to try as much as we could to help this baby still come out naturally.

On Thursday February 10, we reported to the hospital to try the version. Fluid levels were still low, and when the non-stress test showed that the baby’s heart rate only accelerated 10 beats in 10 seconds rather than 15 in 15, the doctor concluded that he did not feel comfortable putting the baby under greater stress by trying aversion.  He said if I were his patient, he would keep me hooked to the fetal monitor and order a cesarean for that afternoon.  However, he understood our feelings about the birth experience and would allow me to leave the hospital to talk it over with my midwife. A nurse who was to become important in my birth experience was also there for this discussion.  We asked if certain aspects of a gentle birth could take place in this setting, like the baby being placed on my chest right after birth.  They both said they would try to accommodate our wishes but the sterile environment might make some requests impossible.

After discussing everything with our midwife, she urged us to pursue cesarean, and my husband emailed the doctor to have the cesarean scheduled for the next day.

I slept from about midnight until 4am and lay in bed with my pregnant belly for the last time, worrying what the day would bring and saddened to know I would never experience the sensations, whether good or bad, of labor.

We got to the hospital at 7am on a very cold and gray morning.  Our car thermostat reported it was 3 degrees, but the local radio station reported it was -6 degrees.  The nurse from the previous day assigned herself to my care as she said she felt it would be helpful for me since she knew our circumstances.

She walked us into the operating area and talked me through each part of the process, starting with a spinal epidural.  She held my hands as I started crying because I really did not want to be there.  I told her I wanted to be in a birthing tub at home.  As my legs slowly went numb, I took lots of deep breaths and visualized myself at my yoga studio where I had spent hours doing prenatal yoga.

My husband sat at my head and talked with me about memories and future plans to take our little girl to Paris when she is 11 years old.  He did not watch the procedure.  After a tremendous sense of pressure on what felt like my chest, someone said she was out and then we heard a few tiny whimpers.

The pediatrician had to examine her when she first came out because she did not cry right away.  It felt like a long time before we were able to see her, and my mind raced with thoughts of not being able to recognize my own baby. Since I’d had yet to see her, she could easily be switched with another. Finally the nurse handed our little girl to her father and we were able to look at each other and touch cheeks.  At 7 pounds, 2 ounces and 20 inches, Madeleine was a perfect little bundle.

Once in recovery, I was finally able to hold my little girl for the first time.  My midwife removed her swaddle and hat so we could have  skin-to-skin. I took in her wrinkly skin, dark hair, and tiny fingers for the first time.

The next three days are a blur of mixed memories.  Days were spent working with the supportive nursing staff to establish breastfeeding, a time-consuming and frustrating task. I was fortunate to receive additional advice and encouragement from my midwife, who visited each day.  We caught a few moments of sleep here and there, but I woke frequently with fears that Madeleine could not breathe.  My husband was busy changing a lot of diapers throughout the day and night, while I struggled to recover from surgery.

We were discharged on Valentine’s Day – a beautiful, sunny, 4o degree afternoon. Once Madeleine was safely buckled into her car seat, we were finally allowed to go home and be a family at last.

JHP Profile pic 2Bio: Jaime became a home birth cesarean mama in 2011 with the birth of her daughter Madeleine. Searching for a way to categorize herself, since she did not comfortably fit in the homebirth community, she found the HBC Facebook group and realized there were other mamas just like her.

Jaime is a librarian and currently works at the Wisconsin Historical Society as a library cataloger, ushers at the Overture Center for the Arts, and plays percussion in a local wind ensemble. Jaime loves to walk around downtown Madison, Wisconsin with her daughter and husband Adam, eat local food, organize her photo collection of her family and travels, and read. She serves as Secretary for Homebirth Cesarean International’s Board of Directors.