Empower Inspire

My Unexpected Footling Breech Birth Story

I was put on call for work the night before I went into labor. Before being called in, I was pressing on my belly, feeling the position of my baby. She had been oblique, with her head in my right hip, at my last midwife appointment a few days prior. She was still very much oblique, in the same position, while I was messing around with my stomach. I got called into work and I was hoping that a night of walking would help her to move her head into the proper position since it had happened a couple times before. Throughout the night, I could feel her kicking at the top of my stomach, like I had felt many times, as well as had Braxton Hicks a few times an hour like it had been for over a month. I was 41 weeks pregnant and was ready to have my baby.

After work, I went to my mom’s house to sleep while she watched my other two kids. I slept for a few hours and was woken up to my belly moving followed by another Braxton Hicks. I got up and went through my normal routine. About a half hour later, I had a weak contraction. I had them on and off for almost a month so I didn’t think much of it.  Then, my body decided  to “clean itself out”. My husband had recently had food poisoning and my initial thought was that it had actually been a virus that I caught. I had another contraction and decided I needed to start timing them since it felt like they were suspiciously close together.

After only a half hour, they were over 45 seconds long and coming less than 4 minutes apart. I decided to cancel an appointment I had later that day and to call my husband and tell him to come back from work. The contractions were still very tolerable despite being so close together but I decided to prepare things, just in case. I told my mom I was in labor and waited for my husband to show up. 20 minutes later, my husband came. He wanted to go home and change his clothes and shower but I didn’t feel like that was a good idea despite contractions still not feeling super intense like I remembered from my last birth. I felt the urge to throw up, so I went to the bathroom and finished the “cleaning out process” my body had started earlier. I also decided it was time to call my midwife even though labor had started less than an hour before.   Right before I called her, I had my first (very mild) “pushy” urge.

I called my midwife and told her it had only been about 45 minutes but the contractions were close together and  I had already felt a small urge to push. She tried to convince me to stay and let her come to me but I was sure I had at least an hour more to go and I’d be fine. I then grabbed my husband and we left to drive the 25 minutes to the birth center.

We got onto the freeway in about 5 minutes. After only a few miles, I had to push and instantly felt a pop and a gush of fluid. I told my husband my water broke and that we weren’t going to make it. He asked if he should pull over and call an ambulance and, after thinking about it for a second, I told him to keep going. I pushed a few more times as we traveled and during on of the contractions, I felt the “ring of fire”.  As soon as I felt that, a surge of adrenaline took over and I panicked for a minute. I started yelling that I didn’t want to do it anymore and then I felt something pop out. I thought it was the baby’s head and I knew I needed to get my pants down so the baby had room.

It took me a minute but I finally got my pants down and was shocked to see two legs, up past the hips, sticking out. I reached down to touch the legs and I told my husband we had to get to a hospital…NOW. He asked which one and as I looked up one had just popped up, right off the freeway, and I pointed and said, “THERE!” He quickly changed lanes and got off on the next exit, less than a minute away. We found the road to the hospital and I was calming my husband and telling him that we’d be okay and that he needed to go to the ambulance bay, run in, and tell them the baby was breech and the feet were out. I was saying this in between pushes. Less than a minute later we pulled up to the hospital ambulance bay and he jumped out of the car and ran into the emergency room.

A few seconds later, a swarm of nurses and other staff came out and rushed into my car. They laid the seat back and told me to get my legs up. Someone asked who my doctor was and luckily I was with it enough to yell out the OBGYN practice that I went to. Panic started to set in and I was afraid I was going to have a young doctor who would try to shove the baby back in and rush me in to a C-section. I later learned that the ER doctor had come into the car and was trying to reach in and pull my babies chin down, thinking that was the reason she was stuck. I don’t remember this doctor. All I could feel was the pain of him reaching in.

After another few pushes, I opened my eyes and saw the OBGYN from the practice. I recognized him and a wave of relief rushed over me. I knew he could deliver a breech baby and I knew that in his hands, everything would be okay. He climbed into the front seat of my car and started calmly directing everybody on what to do.

I was told later, by a nurse, that he panicked a little and his initial instinct was to just have me push and push hard. She also relayed that he then had a thought come to his mind to stop and take a breath because he was trained to know what to do. Once he took a breath, he knew, step-by-step,  how to get the baby out. I felt an intense pain, more so than before, like fingers reaching in, and couldn’t help but scream and swear. I kept pushing when the urge hit and screaming in between because the pain was so intense. The same nurse told me that it’s because the doctor had his arm, up to his elbow, inside me. He had to reach up, grab the baby’s arms, and pull them down because both were behind her head wedging her in. It felt like the pain lasted for half an hour or more but after only a couple minutes, the baby was out and being whisked off to get help.

She was born not breathing and without a heartbeat. I only saw dark hair and blue skin. It was a dire situation but thanks to the amazing staff, they were able to revive her in about 6 minutes and take measures to minimize any brain damage that occurred. Out at the car, I started shaking and shivering and they were trying to get me out and on to a gurney. The doctor made the comment, “You’re shaking! I’m shaking!” as he helped me out of the front seat. The labor itself was only about one and a half hours from start to finish and the time from when we left my mom’s house to when the baby was born was less than 20 minutes.

It was literally a life or death situation and I was lucky to have access to very well trained doctors, nurses, and other staff. But it left them just as shaken as it had me. The baby had to be life flighted to the top NICU in the state due to a high possibility of brain damage and other issues. That’s a whole other miracle, in and of itself, but after only a 17 day NICU stay, she came home with minimal issues. I ended up with a 4th degree tear and have only had minimal issues and will work with a pelvic floor therapist to fix the remaining problems. It was such an insane experience but had anything been different (at home and not at my mom’s, different insurance, different doctors, etc) the outcome would have been much worse for both my daughter and myself.

About the author

Michelle Pease