Cindy Mahase (alias)
Pregnancy is a joyous time in a parent's life. As mothers, we build up these expectations of what pregnancy should be down to the last detail, including the delivery. We never stop to think that maybe things will not follow our plans or that the baby has plans of their own.
When I was 30 weeks pregnant, my OB-GYN informed us that our baby was breech. "Don't worry," he said, "you have time for the baby to turn. This is normal at this stage for over 30% of women."
My baby was breech. While I was concerned at this point, I was honestly not worried. I thought that 30% was a large number. That was until I did the worst thing one could so in my position, Google the stats. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynacologists (2020), that number drops to 7% at 34 weeks and a mere 3-4% of all babies are breech by the time a woman is considered full term at 37 weeks.
The race was on now. I was determined to turn this baby and not be caught in that 7%. I did everything. I tilted on an ironing board (not easy with a baby bump), I drank special tea, I even leaned over an exercise ball multiple times per day.
Four weeks later I entered my doctor's office thinking I would be part of the elite group of women who have their babies turn between 30 and 34 weeks. As he put the ultrasound scanner to my stomach, I saw his expression change. He informed us that our baby is what is known as a complete breech meaning that the baby knees are bent and the feet and bottom are the closest to the birth canal. While this is the most common type of breech, it makes a normal vaginal delivery much more difficult. “Time to discuss your options" he said.
At this point we had two options, an External Cephalic Version (ECV), where the baby is turned physically from the breech presentation to the traditional head down position, or an elective Caesarean section. The doctor was reluctant to perform the ECV as there was no clear reason why the baby did not turn, and the procedure only works an estimated 50% of the time after which the baby can actually revert to its' breech position before entering labour. My husband and I also agreed that this was not the best option for us.
A Caesarean section was the last thing I wanted, especially with my first baby. While I wanted my baby to be safe, I really did not want to undergo major surgery. I was scared, confused and like any first-time mother, I blamed myself for our baby being "right side up." The doctor explained that due to the baby's precarious position, he did not want to risk me going into labour. He said in my instance if I got to even two centimetres dilated, there was a possibility of the baby exiting feet first. This would result in the need for an emergency Caesarean section which was riskier to both of us. He went through the procedure step by step with us. I would be awake for the entire procedure, my husband would be with me and I would need to stay longer in the hospital. To make matters worse, we were at the height of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in May 2020. None of these things made me feel more secure. In the end, we both knew that this is what had to be done. I had a C-section scheduled for four weeks later, at 38 weeks pregnant.
That Sunday morning, I awoke at 3:00 a.m., not that I really slept at all. It was raining. The kind of rain where you pull the covers closer and sink into the warmth of the bed. I sat in the quiet darkness, alone and nervous about the journey ahead. Since it was a scheduled Caesarean Section, I was not allowed to consume anything from 6:00 p.m. the night prior. Not even water.
We got to the hospital at 6:00 a.m. and I was immediately taken to my room while my husband was carted away to change into his surgical gown. I was given a hospital gown with the open back and had to lie on the bed while they inserted a catheter. Countless women have told me that there is no room for embarrassment when you are having a baby and it was at this moment I realized that they were right. I had to wear my face masks for the majority of the process. The nurses checked my blood pressure, heart rate and all other basic stats. The anesthesiologist visited to introduce himself and discuss the procedure with me. Then, for a split moment, I was left alone but it felt like an eternity. I did what I think anyone else in my position would do, I prayed.
Five minutes later, I was wheeled into the operating theatre while my husband waited outside. Luckily, at this point, I was allowed to remove my mask. They transferred me onto the cold surgical table. I was instructed to sit up and crouch over into a semi ball position. The doctor first showed me an average size needle and said: "This is just to numb the area." "Ok," I thought, "no big deal." Then he showed me the massive needle that would deliver the actual anesthesia. Thankfully, the area was numb and I didn't have to actually see him jab it into my spine. Within minutes, I couldn't feel anything from my waist straight down to my toes.
Then, for a split moment, I was left alone but it felt like an eternity. I did what I think anyone else in my position would do, I prayed.
As I lay on the surgical table, waiting for them to allow my husband into the room, the nurses and doctors started talking, trying to distract me from what was about to happen. After a couple of minutes, the anesthesiologist looked worried and said "you look really calm, but your heart monitor says something else." That's when I was given and additional dose of medication to calm me down.
Shortly after my husband entered the room, they began the procedure. We were given a play by play of the surgery as it happened. My husband watched on like a champion, taking it all in while I watched the surgery from the reflection in the ceiling. The doctor cut through seven layers to get to our baby. Then, without even realizing how much time had passed, I saw the doctor pull out this small bloody bottom and say excitedly, "it's a girl." I was ecstatic. The doctor swiftly but carefully pulled her head out from my rib cage and then the nurses swooped in to take her away.
There was a doctor there waiting to check her out, a pediatrician specializing in breech babies. She was there to determine if the reason our baby didn't turn was neurological or simply stubbornness on my daughter's part. After what seemed like an eternity, they finally brought my baby to my face and allowed me to kiss her before taking her out of the operating theatre.
My doctor began the process of stitching me up while my husband was escorted out to stay with our child. As he stitched, he congratulated me on a job well done and a beautiful little baby girl. I couldn't wait to see my child, hold her and never let her go. Then, the doctor said something that still resonates with me "The hard part has just begun. Love her but love yourself too."