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When the invite to ‘dive down’ is politely declined by a baby in breech

Brain fog during pregnancy and postpartum is a real thing. In order for me to write this, fifteen months after birth, I had to go through my WhatsApp chats to recollect the facts for this capricious birth story starring my breech baby.

On the first day of my maternity leave, one month before the due date, I had an appointment for an external cephalic version, which according to the Cleveland Clinic is a procedure to turn a baby from a breech to a head-down position. It's typically done around 37 weeks of pregnancy and improves your chances of having a vaginal birth. I was 50% sure it was going to work. Because those are the actual statistics of the procedure, and because my scientific brain cannot look away from data. But deep down inside, I was 99% sure it was going to work.

Pregnancy at 38 years old was a rollercoaster ride for me, the fun type. Those rollercoasters that make you want to open your mouth wide, to never end. It started like every rollercoaster generally does, cautiously smooth sailing up the rails, without much daydreaming about my future child. I felt very tired, but all the books said I needed to listen to my body and rest. And I was always a teachers pet, so I did the real Netflix and chill, and kept on chugging on pregnancy books at the staggering rate of three per month. As weeks went by, and joints gave in, I started to prepare my body for birth. I went to pregnancy barre, pilates, I cooked with seaweed, had my raspberry tea, the dates, the oatmeal. I was happy, I felt in control. By the last month, I duck-walked my way to prenatal yoga, staring at my big belly in the mirrors, smiling in awe with the same adrenaline boost of the end of the ride.

And then my baby decided to sit in my uterus, and never flipped head down to come out of my body. He was called stubborn, hard-headed, and compared to the moodiness me and his dad both suffer from. I was given a plan by the midwives: if I wanted to still have a vaginal birth, we could try a few things. I laid three times a day on an ironing board with my feet up, I smoked my tiny toes with moxa, and I did more yoga to give more room for the chubby sitting minion to dive down my womb. The last part of the plan, if nothing worked, was a cephalic version done by midwives in the same place I got the echos. And I was ready for it, I was filled with energy, I could do it.

I was greeted by probably the most Dutch midwive you can get in the Netherlands, a blonde, tall lady covered in colorful linens and a big smile. She calmly explained the procedure, loved to respond questions, and mentioned beautifully that the cephalic version is an invitation for the baby to dive down, nothing should be forced, no one should feel pain. My partner was hugging my feet, while the midwife pressed my boy’s butt and pushed up towards my chest. I was staring at the ceiling, thinking about big numbers and breathing long, trying to use all the techniques I have read in all the books. And then another midwife joined to try again, now with four hands over my ballooned abdomen. But it did not work. My baby got into the right position but the second the midwives let go, he would go back to the comfort of sitting in my uterus. So we sat down with the tall ladies, and they suggested one last try at the hospital. Doctors could inject a muscle relaxing drug that may soften my womb, allowing for more room for the minion down dive. Three days later I was laying down again, staring at some other ceiling under white light, and a fetal monitor belted around my belly. This time I had a feeling it was not going to work out. When the nurse started touching my low abdomen, I realized I was still sore internally from the procedure a few days ago. And I felt pain. But I still had that power in me, I needed to prepare my self for the pain of birth, so I breathed. Until I could not bear it anymore and yelled and lifted my hand asking them to stop.

So we sat down again. My partner, the hospital midwife, an obstetrician, the lazy fetus and me. I was kindly asked what I wanted to do, and I started citing the statistics from the latest scientific research survey in the Netherlands that discovered a slight higher risk for vaginal breech births compared to C-sections. They nodded, they were part of the research group.

Two hours later, I got a phone call. I now knew the exact date my baby will be born: the 20th of April. It sounded good, strong, I liked the date. They mentioned a gentle, family-based c-section. So I did what I know, I did my research reading papers and books, watched so many YouTube videos. And I felt sad, my body and mind were both ready for a raw, feral birth but I was scheduled for a sterile, drug-filled medical procedure. Until an unexpected audio message with a bunch of pictures got me out of that state. A friend from back home, Argentina, took the time to tell me the story of her planned C-section. And I cried with the phone in front of my face, realising my son will be born in ten days, and it will be the best day of my life.

Through the brain fog, the lack of sleep, the little milk my breasts produced, that gentle C-section is a crystal clear memory today. That morning in the hospital everyone smiled, even vorstellen, and 23 minutes later I heard here comes your boy. And the three of us cried hugging together, shaking from the happiness and the morphine. He was out the way he wanted, everyone said.

Dani moved from Argentina to the Netherlands three years ago, where she now lives with her partner, son and one small dog. She is a Medical Manager in Rare Diseases and holds a PhD in Biology.


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