Birthing A Posterior Baby

My husband and I decided to use Birth Help for our first son's birth as we wanted a natural childbirth, but in a hospital setting (Baton Rouge General). We wanted someone there who we knew was on our side to help us in case we needed to make quick decisions and to help guide us through the process (I can be a little anxious).

Never had I imagined just how much we would appreciate René's support-- she was always available for phone calls and helping me to think through decisions as they arose (including pressure to schedule an induction). But we absolutely could not have had such a wonderful birth experience without her.

Our baby flipped posterior after one full day of early labor and I had terrible back labor (baby didn't flip back to anterior until one hour into pushing). Without René's support, encouragement, reminders to eat/drink, or continuous back massages, our birth experience would have been much more difficult. I never would have been able to meet my goal of a totally natural, unmedicated (posterior!) childbirth without her. My husband also really appreciated having someone to guide him as how to best help me. All of the nurses and our OB, Dr. Barrios, all worked so well with Rene' and told us how much they liked having her there (one nurse said Rene' even helped to keep her calm!). If I had to do it all over again I would hire Rene' in a heartbeat!

Charlie's Birth Story

Little Charlie came into the world at 41 weeks and 4 days-- 11 days past his due date!  Our OB, Dr. Barrios, was great working with us on a birth plan before hand (I wanted an all-natural, unmedicated birth), but she made it clear that if Charlie didn't come before 42 weeks, I would be induced.  For personal reasons, I really didn't want that to happen (though if it had come to that, I would have made peace with it), and was pretty stressed out about the possibility of facing an induction.  We had an ultrasound at 41 weeks and Charlie was doing great, so we got the OK to see if he would come on his own.  We scheduled an induction for Monday, Nov. 2 at midnight (41 weeks 5 days) just in case he decided he didn't want to come.  Mike and I did everything we could think of: spicy Thai food, spicy Mexican food, 4am and 11pm walks (and some in between), bouncing on the birth ball-- you name it, we tried it.  Nothing was getting this kid out!

My contractions started on Saturday, Oct. 31 at about 4am.  I woke up to them, and they were about 6-7 minutes apart.  Some were strong-- I had to really stop and breathe through them.  I hopped in the shower, even taking the time to blow dry my hair!  By the time I woke Mike up and we had breakfast, the contractions had spaced out.  By later in the day, they had almost completely disappeared.  I was disappointed, but I figured it was just false labor and maybe the next day would be THE day.

Flash forward to Sunday, I spent the night waking up every 15-20 minutes with the most awful back pain.  I would wake up, think how awful it felt, and go back to sleep.  Then, the same thing happened-- contractions came back around 5am.  I woke up, woke Mike up (this had to be it!). They were strong and again, about 7 minutes apart.  By the time we got ready, again, they had spaced out.  I was still feeling the back pain, but we went for a walk around the neighborhood to try and get the contractions to come back.  Frustrated and stir crazy, we decided to go to Target to grocery shop.  We had been trapped in the house for a few days thinking for SURE that day would be the day, and we both needed to get out.  I kept having contractions as we were walking through the store (being in public during any kind of labor is so not fun, I assure you.  I remember standing in a bathroom stall silent screaming.

By the time we got home, the contractions were still coming, mostly in my back.  They were super irregular though-- anywhere between 5 and 8 minutes-- so, still not the real thing (they tell you to go into the hospital when they're 5 minutes apart, 1 minute long for 1 hour).  By now, I was getting pretty frustrated and emotional, and was in quite a lot of pain.  I knew I was having back pain, but I thought maybe I was having gas pain too, so I called the on-call OB to ask if I could take a medication.  She told me that maybe I was in labor, and I should come in to be checked.

I called our doula, René, who discussed all options with me and asked me a good question: if I went into the hospital, being 41 weeks 3 days, and it wasn't time to stay, and they said I needed to be induced right then, would I be OK?  Because the contractions were still irregular, and I really wanted to have the option for my body to do this naturally, I didn't really want to go in.  Mike really wanted to go in, have everything checked out, and make sure everyone was ok.  So we said bye to our cat (thinking for sure we'd be home in an hour or two), met Rene’ at the hospital and went up to get checked out.

As we were walking to L&D, my contractions started getting a lot stronger and a lot closer together.  They definitely weren't 8 minutes apart anymore!  When the nurse checked me, I was at 6cm, 80-90% effaced and -1 station (on just the Thursday before, I was 1cm, 70% effaced, -2 station).  I couldn't believe that we would be staying to have our baby.  I thought for sure we'd go in, get checked out, and either be pushed for an induction right then or go home and wait it out until the next day.  But, we were admitted at 4:30pm.

My contractions revved up really quickly from there.  However, they were all in my back.  The back pain was so excruciating that I actually couldn't even feel the contractions in the front. Every contraction felt like my back was splitting in half.  We went through a lot of hassle to have a tub in the room (we were the first ones to have the tub at BR General), and when they finally got me in it, I absolutely hated it.  I don't think I made it more than 5 minutes in there.  I hated every labor position we tried except for just lying on the bed on my side.  René and Mike took turns rubbing my back (with every contraction I would yell, "rub my back!" or "my back, my back") and feeding me cranberry juice and snacks (oh yeah, since we didn't think we were in real labor, we hadn't eaten anything since lunch).

During this time, it occurred to me that overnight between Saturday and Sunday, Charlie moved into a posterior position.  In other words, he was turned the wrong way-- his head was pushing into my lower back.  He had been in the right position all up to that point, but his turning posterior was why I was having all the back pain.  To say it's excruciating doesn't do it justice.  I know if it weren't for Rene and Mike constantly rubbing my back, I wouldn't have made it through.  So many times I wanted to stop, and their encouragement kept me going.

After about 6 hours, I was fully dilated and ready to push.  I don't know what it's like to push a baby in the right position from the get-go, but pushing out a posterior baby was absolute torture.  I remember reading some birth stories where women talked about enjoying pushing more than labor, or at least welcoming the change in task.  When it came time for me to push, I thought-- maybe this will be better!  Absolutely not.  Every single push felt like my back was breaking, and getting comfortable-- or even having any remote sense of comfort-- was absolutely not possible.

Finally, after about an hour of pushing, Charlie FINALLY flipped.  What a difference!  I could finally feel contractions in my front and all of my back pain disappeared instantly.  However, by this point, I was so tired that I didn't know if I could finish it.  All the while, the team of nurses, René, Mike and Dr. Barrios provided nothing but support and in those "I can't do this" moments (of which I had quite a few), they looked deep into my eyes and reassured me that I could do this.  I was doing this.

After using the birth stool and several positions in and out of the bed, my doctor suggested pushing on my back.  As soon as I was on my back, it was game on!  I pushed for probably about 45 minutes in this position with a sweet nurse helping guide me to when I was having contractions (I was so tired I ended up pushing even when I wasn't having contractions, so having the help was so necessary).  Those final few pushes were completely surreal feeling.  I remember the burning when his head came out, went back in, and finally came back out (though burning again, is not adequate to describe the pain), and the amazing relief when Charlie finally came out. 

They put my sweet boy on my chest at 12:31.  I don't remember feeling much else other than awe at that sweet little life making his entrance, and being surprised when they told me the placenta was coming out.  I did tear, and though Mike tells me I flinched as the doctor stitched me, I don't remember feeling anything (though she did use numbing gel).  My body went into shock and I shook uncontrollably, but that didn't last very long.  I had my baby on my chest, my sweet husband next to me, and met my goal of having a completely unmedicated, natural birth.  I know I could not have achieved this goal if it weren't for Rene's support in getting both Mike and me through the labor of our son.  I needed the encouragement, the back rubs and the reminders that I was ok, and to eat and drink throughout.

I don't know what it's like to give birth to an anterior baby (the correct position), but I do know that the labor and delivery of our little guy was the most pain I have ever felt.  It was the most encompassing, total body experience I have ever had.  Some say birth is mental-- for me, my mind was chaos: there was no calm.  But that night, I wasn't groggy whatsoever, I could walk, I can remember.  I wouldn't have done it any other way (OK, if I could do it with Charlie in the OA position I would).  To remember and be fully present in every moment of bringing our sweet baby into the world, to be able to connect with him and Mike under no influence of drugs or pain medication, is truly a gift that I absolutely cherish.

Michelle Barton