" We were spending what would be our last mellow night at home. It was New Year’s Eve, and Mallory was 39 (plus some) weeks pregnant. We had spent the past 10 days living with a number of unknowns and practicing acceptance ever since our midwife found that, nearing 38 weeks, our sweet babe had flipped breech.
A breech baby meant not only no home birth but that our birthing options were limited.
We spent the days surrounding Christmas at the chiropractor and acupuncturist. We did hypnotherapy and moxibustion. We went to an indoor pool so that, at full term, Mallory could do handstands in the water. And then we waited, not knowing where the next day would take us.
Our one last effort to get the little one head down was to have a doctor perform an external cephalic version where they manually turn the baby. We scheduled one for the second of January.
Naturally, the universe had different plans.
The next day, Mallory started having consistent cramps. She worked through waves as the sun rose on the first of the year.
By lunch time, our doula, Ami, had arranged for us to meet up at St. Ann’s. Our birth team had been working closely with them, and they were willing to attempt an ECV that day. We put the car seat and hospital bag in the car, ate pork and sauerkraut with my parents, and then left for the hospital.
The probability of success was against us. The bigger the baby, the harder to move, and our babe was over 39 weeks gestation plus measuring large. On top of that, Mallory had an anterior placenta which makes for a more difficult turn. After some discussion, we decided to place an epidural to help relax her body and increase our dwindling odds.
And then it was time. It’s a wild sight to see two adults pushing with all their might on your partner’s pregnant belly. The first attempt failed, and a second attempt proved to have no more luck. The doubt was palpable. We knew our chances were slim, but to see it not work made it real. If the kid stayed breech, we were looking at a cesarean within the next few hours. Ami suggested inverting the bed to help pull the baby’s bottom out of the pelvis for the final attempt. Collectively, the room did a sharp inhale as the tension from pushing broke and baby flipped.
Y’ALL. I cannot put into words the elation that comes with regaining ones freedom to choose.
So, this badass woman I get to call my wife let her epidural bolus wear off in active labor, and, with contractions every 3-4 minutes, we left the hospital to birth our baby at home.
By midnight, we had arrived back home. I was filling up the birth tub. Ami was helping Mallory and alerting the rest of the birth team. We retired our phones and unplugged the clocks. The world outside did not exist.
Mallory worked hard. There were long swathes of night where the only indication of time passing were the consistent breaks in silence. The vocalizations during each surge and the sound of baby’s heartbeat through a doppler formed an unmistakable labor melody that carried us through until dawn.
With the sun came a much needed breath of energy after a long and sleepless night. The second of January proved fierce bringing with it contractions which eventually layered over one another in transitional patterns. Mallory riding the waves, and Rachel recording the vitals she had taken. We were so ready to meet our baby.
In the afternoon, Mallory moved through labor in the birth pool, the building pressure expressed through low moans peaking with grunts. Rachel checked to see if she was ready to push. There was only a small lip of cervix left, but the baby showed no signs of descent.
The sky settled dark again, and exhaustion hit hard. It had been 36 hours since the onset of labor. We made the decision to transfer back to St. Ann’s Hospital with the hopes of relief and sleep.
Once at the hospital, Mallory received an epidural and had them break her water in hopes that this would help the babe descend. She was given popsicles, oxygen, and a peanut ball. The nurse appeared every so often to help her into a new position for labor progression.
Our birth team transferred with us which was such a blessing. Everyone was scattered about the room in chairs providing familiarity and unwavering support.
When we collectively decided that rest was in order, I curled up in an empty labor tub, plummeting into a heavy and unnerving sleep as midnight approached.
While I slept, Mallory was dealing with an ineffective epidural. She had two straight catheters, both of which she could feel, painful cervical checks, and she vomited from the medicine when they attempted to adjust the dose. It was then they accepted the need for a new epidural, and she received her third.
Finally blanketed with relief, she was determined to rest. At this point, however, there had been no progress in dilation or descent in over 12 hours. The nurse was hoping to place an intrauterine monitor to determine contraction strength and possibly add pitocin. Mallory told them to wake up “the girl in the tub” and then demanded everyone else leave.
Startled, I came to in the room trying process the information I was being given. I stood next to Mallory’s bed in the otherwise empty delivery room. She was not only tired, still without sleep, but also physically and emotionally drained from the long labor and lack of personal space that comes with hospital interventions.
Trusting in what her body and baby were telling her, she decided that labor augmentation was not that route to go; a cesarean was going to be less stress on our little one.
We called the cavalry back in and let them know our decision. Mallory was hoping that, with the new working epidural, they would allow her a couple hours of sleep first. However, her rising temperature loomed over as future cause for concern, and it was decided that we would move forward with the plan before it became urgent.
There was relief tinged with fear as we readied ourselves. They wheeled Mallory out, and I got dressed in paper scrubs as I tried to shake off the adrenaline. It was time.
Entering the operating room was like walking outside, every surface gleaming with bright white light. Mallory was already prepped, and I took my position seated by her head. Just before pulling the baby out, they revealed the drape’s clear window. I watched as they pulled our child out and towards us. I announced, through tears, that he was a boy. After a delayed cord clamping, I met up with him at the warmer. Within moments, we both returned to Mallory where he was placed skin to skin.
We were in love from the moment we saw him. Nine pounds, eight ounces, the chubbiest of cheeks, and a perfectly round head from being nowhere near Mallory’s pelvis.
Birth is fascinating and unpredictable. Although Sebastian had a cesarean delivery, having care providers who were respectful, supportive, and trusted birth was instrumental in ensuring an empowering experience. Mallory was able to labor as she wanted and make decisions based on intuition rather than external pressures.
And, at the end of it all, we got this delicious baby boy."
-Mama, Amy Caldwell
You are power. Raw power.
I am forever grateful to have been allowed inside your sacred space. Thank you for the opportunity- both to document your journey, and to get to know you, your wife, and your darling child.
All my love,