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Last year, I worked with a wonderful family whose baby, Chala, decided to surprise us all by flipping breech at 37 weeks weeks. Although it was a bit of a curve ball, it is helpful to remember that breech presentation is just a variation of normal. After exploring all their options, Hannah and Chris decided to go ahead with a vaginal birth at the RCHT (Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust).

It is a wonderful and inspiring story to share and can perhaps help other parents who find themselves in a similar situation to see that vaginal breech birth with the right support can be safe and gentle. The more breech babies that are born vaginally, the more we can regain our skills in supporting this type of presentation.

It was such an honour (as it always is!) to support Hannah and Chris as their doula and to be a part of Chala’s birth. But the story does not end there… interesting twist to this story is that I was also a vaginal breech born baby back in 1974, so there is a little bit of my own birth story that is part of this weave. It really was a powerful moment to witness Chala’s feet emerge first as it gave me a little insight into how I myself came earth-side. A strange co-incidence? Or perhaps it was always meant to be that I was there as Chala’s ‘Breech Mascot’!

Jo Kidman doula Cornwall

Breech babies are a blessing..

In some parts of the world breech born babies are seen as a blessing and as natural born healers. The Māori believe that these babies choose to come that way as they were leaders who came to earth to forge new paths instead of following the old ones. They were also believed to have a special connection to spirit and come through with extra wisdom to share with the world.

In other traditional cultures, being breech born was a prerequisite to becoming a midwife as it was believed that it came with special skills to assist with births, particularly the more challenging births. My journey didn’t take me to midwifery, but perhaps I was born to walk this doula path!

Hannah and Chris’ Birth Story, told by Hannah

37 Week Flip!

Our little one flipped at 37w2 much to my surprise as Willow was born vaginally head down, no curve balls thrown, so I hadn’t even really thought about breech at all. I was having a prenatal massage when she turned, it was like a jolt going through my body! I was in denial so didn’t mention anything when we went to our midwife check up, the homebirth midwife picked up on it immediately and sent us to the hospital for a scan to confirm. I was very wary of going to the hospital and getting swept up in the system. Sure enough they immediately jumped to heavily suggesting I book an elective section should the ECV be unsuccessful. (An ECV is when they try to manually turn the baby by putting pressure on your belly). It was overwhelming and I felt as thought something was “wrong” with me. I felt pressured to try an ECV but we went home first and did a loooooot of research. The internet is amazing. Chris and I
decided to try the ECV after meeting with the Dr, who was lovely and gentle and understanding. It was unsuccessful and now we know that the cord was wrapped around Chala’s head twice so that could have been what stopped her. I don’t know if it was the right thing to try the ECV. I found it to be a very emotional experience, it was also quite painful – more so afterwards than during.

Breech birth – let’s go!

So I moved on and decided to embrace my breechling as I was now 38w. I didn’t try moxibustion or anything else apart from continuing on with my daily yoga practice (which I did all along anyway). I let go of my homebirth plan because I couldn’t find anyone in my area with the experience to support me. I contacted the head of midwifery at the hospital and sent her my VBB plan and request for second birth partner (my doula) which was granted. I also spoke with Kemi Birth Joy Johnson who was just absolutely so supportive and reaffirmed my faith in myself. I filled my mind with positive VBB podcasts and stories and websites and videos. I also wrote an emergency C section plan and spent a little bit of time thinking on that.

Labour begins…

My waters broke on Friday 22nd October night/Saturday morning at 1:30am. I was 38w5d. I woke up to turn over in bed and as I did there was a “pop” and I jumped up and into the bathroom to see. The waters were red with quite a lot blood which was a bit scary. We called the triage line and after speaking to a midwife I was told to come straight in, the midwife on the phone was so excited when she heard I was planning on a VBB. This was really reassuring. Hospital was over an hour drive away, Dad drove us, and when we arrived I was still losing quite a lot of blood. I allowed the doctor to do a VE (vaginal examination). I was 3cm. They asked if I wanted to do a section because they didn’t know where the blood was coming from. I declined and asked to wait a little longer as I felt fine and baby was
happy. Surges had begun inconsistently. They agreed I could wait but they asked to put a canula in my hand so they had quick access to a vein should the bleeding get worse very quickly. That was scary and also very uncomfortable. But I agreed as I felt it was a fair compromise. I also agreed to continuous monitoring in the form of wireless doppler type things.

Creating a beautiful birth space..

We covered the monitor with a kanga and turned the volume off so it wasn’t too intense. It was actually nice because the data is sent to the midwives outside the room and if everything is steady it means they don’t need to come in and keep checking. While I was still bleeding there was a feeling in the air that I would be going to theatre. I didn’t want to think about it so I asked Jo (my doula) and Chris if we could get the room ready. They put the fairy lights up, and my birth affirmations and our oils. I used Clary sage, Lavender and frankincense.

Labour establishes..

My labour took a few hours to “establish” because I kept getting interrupted by doctors giving me their unwanted opinions about my decision for a VBB. But the bleeding had stopped and waters were coming through clear now so my worry lessened. I got really annoyed with two male doctors pressuring me to talk about my c section plan should labour fail to establish within their timeframe since waters had broken. It had been only 7 hrs since my waters broke (I still had plenty of time even for their protocol of 24hrs) and the bleeding had stopped, plus my surges had started which he didn’t bother to ask about. I just ignored them. When they left I asked my doula and partner to go and speak to our midwife. They told her no more people in the room. Only her. No one else. They gave me my safe space back. My doula, Jo Kidman, was amazing. Her presence in the room reinforced the respect for my birth plan. She was gentle but encouraged me through the whole way. After a particularly big surge she said “Well, you never have to do that one again!”. I loved that.

Top tips…!

I follow @thenakeddoula on Instagram and I remembered one of her posts about an orgasm being 22 times more relaxing than the average tranquilizer. I felt I was chasing the waves and they were eluding me because I didn’t feel so safe. The surges had gone from 7mins apart to inconsistently 30mins, 40mins, 20mins apart. SO FRUSTRATING. So I decided to try it, I didn’t say anything, I just went into the bathroom. Immediately, and I mean immediately, after that my surges came on properly, soon they were just 2-3mins apart and lasting at least a min each wave. I used my hypnobirthing and essential oils on a little paper towel that I could smell during contractions. My doula supported my back beautifully
with pressure points. Wherever I was in the room, Jo would jump over as soon as the wave started and hold my back through it.

The power of great support..

Chris was amazing, reassuring and loving and supportive. He said to me “remember this is the last time to feel your baby moving inside you, this is your last birth, enjoy it”. This really hit me, he knew how much I was looking forward to the birth. I felt everything. I felt so connected to Chala. I could feel her wiggling her bum as she moved down through my body. I felt so emotional knowing that another soul was joining our family, that Willow would be a big sister. Chris was emotional too, he told me later that it was more emotional this time around because he knew the love he had for Willow and that he would feel this for the baby too. As cheesy as it may sound, he was my protector and my rock.

Birth Support Partner

When those male doctors came in, Chris came and stood behind me and put his arms around me wrapping me up and making a barrier between me and them. After about an hour, midwife came to check in as she noticed from the monitor that things had ramped up a lot. She asked to do another VE. I agreed but asked that she didn’t tell me my dilation, she was a bit surprised but agreed. After the birth she told me I was 9cm. But after the check she just said we were going to get ready to meet baby
soon. She began to get the room ready and spoke to me about staying standing and trusting my body to guide me into whatever position I needed to be in. I was on my yoga mat, kneeling and leaning into Chris. I began to shake and I knew I was in transition.

All I could think was the only way is through this. It was much more intense than Willow’s because I didn’t have the water to support me. I missed the water so much. Midwife gently guided me in trusting my body and reassured me she would be hands off unless absolutely necessary and would talk to me the whole time. She told me not to push until there was just no way I couldn’t. She told me to breathe and take my time through each contraction. I couldn’t disappear completely as I had done in Willow’s labour.

I had to keep coming back to listen to the midwife’s guidance. She was calm and confident and guided me perfectly. I could hear her voice clearly. Pushing began when I absolutely could not breathe through anymore and lasted just 11mins, midwife called in second midwife to be present. Jo was filming and taking photos on Chris phone. This part was hard, I knew we had to do this calmly but efficently. I knelt on my yoga mat and lent into Chris. Her one foot came out first, then her bum with her other leg. She was hanging beneath me, midwife said I could reach down and then I felt her! I didn’t really understand what part of her I was feeling, it was her bum, so soft and squishy. We discovered we were having
another baby girl! I cried!

I moved into a standing position. Then the midwife could see her arms were caught over her head. She asked me if she could assist baby because she was a little stuck. I agreed, it was very intense, so painful, but I see in the video how gentle she was releasing the arms. After the arms were out it was a huge relief. Now I could feel the hardness of her head, it was soooooo hard after the squishy body! Midwife said to wait for the next surge and when it came to give everything. There was a moment of complete peace while Chala was hanging out of me, supported by the midwife who kept reminding me not to sit down as I would sit on my baby!

Footling Breech
Breech Birth

The room was completely quiet apart from my music. The final wave came, I moved into a lunge and then a wide legged “goddess” squat, I gave everything and she was out!

Midwife told me to stand still as she unwound the cord from around baby’s neck after which came her first cry as she was passed straight to me.

We did it! Euphoria. Chala was here with us. She was so alert and so perfect. 🥰

Hannah and Chris

If you would like to listen to Hannah’s wonderful story it is also available on the hypnobirthing podcast.

The Hypnobirthing Podcast: Birth Story: Vaginal Breech Birth on Apple Podcasts

Jo Kidman is a birth and postnatal doula working across Cornwall and the Devon border and supports all types of births in all kinds of settings. If you are interested in finding out more about Jo and her services, you can get in touch with her here Contact Me.

If you have been supported by me in any capacity and would like to share your birth story, I would love the honour of doing just that.

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