Actress Terryn Westbrook shares her breech birth journey.
I always knew I wanted a natural birth, free of pain medication and free of unnecessary intervention. And being that my husband and I had recently spent time in a hospital environment, we decidedly did NOT want to experience the joyous occasion of the birth of our first child there. As long as the baby and I were healthy and the pregnancy presented no complications, we wanted to be where we were comfortable, calm and happy so we could give our baby a gentle entry into the world. Home birth was the natural choice for us and it was something we were very excited about. We had two wonderful midwives and at 37 weeks we had a birth tub set up in the nursery and a beautiful playlist of carefully selected music on our iPod.
So when, at 38 weeks, our midwife discovered our baby had turned to a breech position, we were devastated, because this meant that, unless our baby turned to a head-down position, we wouldn't be able to deliver him at home, we wouldn't even have been able to deliver him naturally at a hospital. Our only option, it seemed, was to have a cesarean section, a major abdominal surgery and a obviously a total 180º from our birth preferences.
After trying everything to turn our baby: acupuncture, chiropractors, inversions, headstands in swimming pools, frozen peas/music on my belly, hypnosis and even external version therapy, a painful hospital procedure that was unsuccessful, we realized this little guy wasn't moving.
My midwives, my chiropractor and a friend (who happens to be a doula,) all mentioned Dr. Fischbein as an option for natural breech home delivery. At first we were hesitant to go this route because it was never mentioned by our back-up doctor and it sounded a little crazy! Butt first??!! Isn't that dangerous?
But wait a minute! I myself was born breech! And I have a handful of friends who were also born breech. It's really not that unusual, in fact in most countries, breech is considered a variation of normal.
So, we met with Dr. Stu, who set us at ease by dispelling some common myths and misconceptions about breech delivery. An expert in this field, with 30 years under his belt, he also happens to be a really cool, caring guy who believes strongly in the midwifery model of care.
After finding out we met all of his requirements (several factors including the weight and positioning of the baby and the right mental capacity of the mother) we decided to go for it. My "mother's intuition" was already kicking and, as new-age-y as it may sound, we had a multitude of clear signs and synchronicities that told us we were supposed to have our baby at home with Dr. Stu.
For the next few weeks, we met with Dr. Stu and Beth Cannon, the midwife who would be working with Dr. Stu. We absolutely loved her. And her experience as a midwife proved very useful when, at 41 1/2 weeks labor hadn't started yet. Beth, working alongside Dr. Stu, advised us on ways to naturally induce labor and, in the event that labor didn't begin in time, Dr. Stu even put us in touch with one of his doctor colleagues who could perform a cesarean if it became necessary.
Well, at exactly 42 weeks, I began to have contractions and my water broke. Beth, Dr. Stu and our friend/doula Kelly promptly arrived at our house. It was a good thing too, because my labor progressed relatively quickly. I labored on my bed for a little while, then went into the birthing tub when the time was right, all the while being surrounded by only my husband, Beth and Kelly. Dr. Stu only entered the picture when it was necessary, which allowed me the freedom to labor as long as was needed with no interference or pressure. When the urge to push became strong, Dr. Stu came into the room and I knew we were close to meeting our baby.
I was escorted into our bedroom and encouraged to try different positions that felt good to me. Dr. Stu coached me on the best way to breath for pushing. This was so helpful because the breathe work for pushing was very different than the breathing I'd been using for labor.
Dr. Stu recommended I try the birthing stool which really helped me to push using gravity, but without putting any strain on my body. Being that our baby was butt first, we didn't have the weight of the head to make the pushing easier. This, I believe, was probably the only major difference between breech and head-down delivery from the mother's laboring perspective.
At some point, Dr. Stu placed a mirror underneath me so I could see the progress I was making. This was exactly what I needed to inspire me to keep going!
While the whole labor experience was very quiet and sacred, just that beautiful calming playlist from our iPod and occasional words of wisdom from Kelly or Beth to help me along, I do have a strong memory of concentrating hard and pushing hard on the birthing stool and opening my eyes when I heard Dr. Stu quietly say something like, "You know, I can't help thinking that if we were in a hospital right now, there would be nurses rushing in and out of the room, and all these noisy distractions" and there I was, naked as the day I was born, feeling totally free and peaceful and pushing when it felt right, and not feeling rushed and listening to my playlist and having my dream birth experience. It was exactly what I'd envisioned, minus the breech part.
The pain was immense, but I knew I could get through it and that made me feel invincible. The blessing and the curse of natural birth is you can FEEL EVERYTHING! The pain was just my guide, telling when to push and when to rest.
Laying on my own bed, after only 7 hours of labor, our little guy came into the world in the presence of my husband, Dr. Stu, Beth Cannon and Kelly. I never felt fear or hesitation, only a knowningness, a surety that everything was moving at just the right pace and that the outcome would be perfect. I was overjoyed, ecstatic and high on love and oxytocin.
Dr. Stu is an incredible OB/GYN, an expert in his field, but yet he has this easy-going personality, a wonderful sense of humor and a great bedside manor. He's personable, warm and caring, but when it's time to get down to business, he is incredibly professional and skilled. I felt so comfortable and secure in his care.
I feel blessed that I was made aware of Dr. Stu, the only doctor in Los Angeles who will do natural breech delivery and because of him we were able to have the birth that was healthiest for me and for my baby (and any future babies) in the environment that made us feel most grounded and secure.