Baby girl Shaw has been in an unwavering breech position basically since the first time we peered into her world with our very first ultrasound. I'm not sure if she liked hearing my stomach gurgle or the thump of my heartbeat on her forehead, but she never showed any sign of turning. It didn't matter what I did - from hanging upside down, moxibustion, visualization, swimming, chi swirling, or daily conversations with her about the benefits of coming into the world in the proper, natural way - she held her breech ground. So, at 37.5 weeks, my OB doctor decided to try to manually turn her into the proper head-down position whether she wanted to or not, a.k.a. external cephalic version.
Today was the day. Nothing to eat after midnight the night before made for a grumbly tummy but, given all the balls we've been juggling this past week, I was surprisingly without much worry. We showed up at the hospital at 7am, got checked into the labor room closest to the OR in case baby girl strongly protested the forced movement, and finally got an IV started after 4 attempts. (Apparently I have deceptively difficult veins. I couldn't help but think, "where is Matt Garrison when you need him?") The nurse then politely asked me, "Where is a nice fatty part of your body where you'd like the terb shot?" That's the anti-contraction medication to keep my uterus from freaking out with all the pulling and pushing. I can't say I was proud of all the options I could give her but I was happy not to have as difficult of a body habitus as my vascular system.
So there I sat on a hospital bed, naked but for a skimpy gown and ankle socks, in a room with a thermostat that read 55, with an IV and a plethora of bandages on both arms like a sad leaky pin cushion, tied to the bed with two baby monitors and sneaking "what a long strange trip this is" looks at my amazing husband when the effects of the Terbutaline hit. Now, if you've never had Terbutaline, let me enlighten you on the pleasure that is that drug. It basically makes one feel like one has just driven off the edge of a cliff and has suddenly realized that gut-dropping feeling is the fast descent to the hard ground miles below. Palpitations, jitters, anxiety, lightheadedness, hot flushing, nausea. Clearly, it's not, nor ever will be, a drug of abuse. Fortunately, it passed fairly quickly and did exactly what it was supposed to do because I distinctly saw a white flag rise up from between my legs when my uterus cried "uncle."
Then Dr R walked in. She's quite a character. I don't know if it's the red hair mixed with the insanely thick Southern accent or her unflappable demeanor despite even the most harried of circumstances, but she's one of those people that fills a room instantly. "Alright girl, you ready for this?" she chuckled as she took off her white coat and hung it on the back of the door. Rolling up her sleeves, she pulled the portable ultrasound over to the bed, gopped my belly with goo, and got the lay of the land.
"Yep, that's head. That's butt. She's still backwards. Let's do this." I imagine Stephen's viewpoint was rather benign as she didn't do The Haka or crack her knuckles or even spit into the dirt. She just laid her hands on my belly and started to push. She used her right hand to pinch the baby's bottom and the heel of her left hand to push on the head in a counterclockwise movement. It sounds so easy, so benign, so....painless. But I can promise you, short of labor, that is a distinct pain that I wouldn't wish on anyone. The idea is to get the baby's bottom out of the pelvis and basically coax her into a forward somersault. A little push and hold, check the heartbeat, push a little more and hold, check the heartbeat. The doctor could get her halfway there but once completely transverse across my abdomen, it's like she jammed in her heels and her fingertips and said, "Sorry, not gonna happen. Nice try but I'm stronger than you." Two attempts counterclockwise and the red streaks on my belly must have already been bright enough to make Dr R ask, "Well, do you want to give it one more go or just call her stubborn and be done."
Call it mother's intuition or strange fetal connection but as soon as she asked, "clockwise" popped into my brain.
"Let's give it one more try. Backwards this time." I said.
Reaching down to my spine and flattening my innards like a double-sized steam roller, I felt her bottom pop into my side and then the sweetest whispered words I've heard since Jackson first said "Mommy?" on the phone to me, "That did it." Confirmed with the bedside ultrasound, baby girl Shaw was upside down for the first time in her life and I was absolutely beside myself.
I've had in my brain this entire time she was going to be breech, the version wasn't going to work, we were going to have a scheduled c-section next Friday, and I had come to terms with that. Fate, lately, has been throwing us a number of curve balls, but this was a high, easy, slow pitch that was a simple hit out of the park and the circling of bases after Dr R cleaned off the goo from my belly was a sweet, welcomed reminder that life is ever changing and badness can only stack so high before goodness is bound to follow.
There is no guarantee this little one won't flip back where she started and the c-section I have not wanted will actually happen. But for today, at least, she's where she needs to be and her gesture of compromise has renewed my excitement for the days that are to come.