Part VII – Upside Down, Rightside Up, or Sideways?

♪ Breech, breech, baby… do do do do do do do do… ♫ Do you hear it?! Lately, I’ve had that (slightly altered) version of Vanilla Ice in my head more times than I would like to admit. I apologize if it now plagues you too.

Four weeks ago, at our 32-week routine prenatal check-up, our doctor got a grim look on her face while feeling around my tummy. “I am concerned that he his breech,” she told us. Honestly, at the time I felt rather emotionless. As terrible as this is to admit, getting less than ideal news seems to be our norm. But over the last four weeks, the idea had some time to marinate. At first, I felt hopeful… I can flip this kid upside down! I asked everyone who has anything to do with babies for advice:

My prenatal yoga instructor (who is also a doula) educated me on some old wives’ tales, optimistically pointing out that they wouldn’t be a thing unless they worked for at least one person! Sounds promising. She shared a couple yoga-esque positions to hang out in, along with some more out there suggestions. My personal favourite: get Lyndon to talk to my vagina. Nope, you did not read that wrong. She explained that when I talk to Baby E, the sound is coming from above him. True enough. The theory is, if sound comes from below him, he may follow the sound and swim down! Hmm. Naturally, when I suggested this to Lyndon, he looked at me like that was the stupidest idea he’s ever heard and did not comply with my request for a below the belt conversation, so I went on to tell him the next suggestion to prove that there were equally ridiculous alternatives that we could try. For example, we could run his electric toothbrush across my tummy to coax the baby down… “folllooowww the vibbraatttiiooonnnsssss…” Lyndon simply stopped entertaining any further conversation at that point.

A few weeks later, I asked our prenatal birth class instructor if she had any tips. She echoed the same positions that the yoga instructor had, so I spent some time hanging out in front of the TV with my head facing the ground and my butt in the air, hoping that somehow, gravity may do its thing.

The last person I asked was Dr. Google, who unsubstantiated all of the suggestions given by the aforementioned professionals suggesting that pretty much none of these tactics are evidence-based and it is most likely the baby will just flip on his own in the middle of the night while I’m asleep. Fair enough.

We saw our doctor again at 35.5-weeks. Once again, she confidently said, “That really feels like a head!” while feeling a lump near the top of my bump. Ugh. We briefly discussed what this would mean (i.e. heading back to the ob-gyn and scheduling a C-section at 39-weeks) but left further conversation for after my 36-week ultrasound where his positioning would be confirmed. In the five days between this appointment and the ultrasound, my fearful thoughts began to surface.

Now to be fair, anyone who knows me, knows that I have had my fair share of unusual medical mishaps, mostly in the form of unexpected, rare, allergic reactions to unknown substances. For example, last year, I had my eyebrows microbladed. For the following week, I looked like a balloon version of myself. About a month ago, I burnt my finger while attempting to curl my hair using a bubble wand. I put a Band-Aid and some Polysporin on the open wound. A week later, my finger had tripled in size. The frightening part is, I do not know what exactly caused my allergic reactions in either of these scenarios. The point of my story: WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO ME WHEN THEY CUT ME OPEN ONE LAYER AT A TIME TO RETRIEVE MY BABY?! I convinced myself that death was the most likely result. The only saving grace, as one friend nicely pointed out to me, was that I would be in the right place if I did have a reaction to something! So, there’s that.

Beyond my fears for my own well-being, I also grappled with what I assume are the more typical thoughts and feelings women have when faced with the possibility that they may not be able to give birth naturally. I had read the benefits of a vaginal birth for both mom and baby: passing on antibodies, fewer respiratory issues, immediate skin-to-skin contact, establishing a breastfeeding latch within one hour of birth, faster recovery, etc. To summarize, I was feeling Mom Guilt. In my heart of hearts, I knew that a healthy delivery, no matter how it happened, was all that truly mattered, but that being said, I believe that it is fair for a woman to grieve the loss of one’s ideal birth plan, and that is what I began to do.

On the morning of the ultrasound, I texted my mom and sister: Shall we take bets? Right side up, upside down, or sideways? Everyone remained optimistic except for me. I knew better than to be optimistic by now. “If she says he is head down, I will literally fall over,” I said to Lyndon as we sat in the ultrasound clinic waiting room. He patiently told me (as he has several times over the last month), that he does not know how anyone, even an experienced doctor, could possibly confidently know the positioning of a baby by feeling the outside of one’s tummy alone, and that we would soon see.

A familiar face entered the waiting room and called my name… it was our very first ultrasound technician! The one responsible for identifying our kiddo’s missing digits in the first place! She introduced herself and we immediately reminded her that we had met before and that we were the couple whose ultrasound probably scared the living daylights out of her when she couldn’t find three of the baby’s fingers. We immediately followed this reminder up with a thank you. We told her that we now know that the majority of missing digits are not discovered during 20-week anatomy scans (according to a Lucky Fin Project poll, 33% of limb differences are detected prior to birth versus 67% following birth), and that the doctors we saw following her assessment commended the thoroughness of her work.

I got into the usual position and observed the familiar sign on the wall stating that the technician cannot tell us anything. “Please tell me that you can let us know if he’s head down or not?!” I questioned, panicky. With a smile she said that she could and placed the Doppler on my belly. A mere second later our babe’s image popped up on the screen and she cheerfully said, “He’s head down!”. WHAT?! Just like that?! I could see Lyndon smirking from behind my bump. “He is?!”… I needed a second to comprehend this news. “We’re not really used to getting good news at appointments!” I told her, feeling shocked. Now I was going to have to ponder a whole new set of fears (i.e. the horrors of getting this kid out the natural way, even though those are the horrors I’ve been wishing to face this entire time!).

Now it wouldn’t be an ultrasound appointment without a little bit of anxiety. What I was not expecting was for the tech to continue poking around. She started taking the usual measurements and then said that she was also going to take some pictures of his heart. Not unlike our previous experiences, she took some pictures… and then some more… and then some more. She explained that the radiologist on staff likes a particular picture so she was trying to get the right angle, but his positioning was making it difficult. She asked me to shift the left side… and then shift to the right side… and then get up and walk around. At this point, I could feel my old friend, adrenaline, starting to circulate. I looked her square in the eye, “Do you promise that you’re not getting the right pictures because of his positioning and not because you’re seeing something else crazy?” She told me that it was his positioning. Hmm. I was not convinced because a) The sign on the wall told me I shouldn’t be, and b) I’m jaded.

Eventually she went on to take pictures of his kidneys, and snapped a few of his lucky fin! Lyndon, who could actually see the screen, later told me that everything seemed to be measuring just fine. Once again, she was not able to get a cute profile picture since he was apparently situated a bit sideways, but she did snap this front view of his little baby face that looked far less skeletal that the first picture we received (see my very first blog post https://thehandweredealt.com/2019/07/04/part-i-the-20-week-anatomy-scan/ for a refresher of that terrifying image).

We left the clinic and honestly, I felt mixed emotions. I wanted to let myself feel overjoyed that I was no longer facing a scheduled C-section and that with any luck, I could have a safe, natural delivery, just as I had hoped, but I would be lying if I said I did not have lingering anxiety about what the rest of that report might say. Luckily, I only had to wait one day to see our doctor for the results.

The following days prenatal appointment was the very first appointment that I attended sans Lyndon, but he may has well have been there considering how many times I texted him documenting my waiting room adventures. While he was busy at work, he clearly had to be informed immediately of just how annoyed I was by the man sitting opposite to me furiously chewing his Tim Hortons lunch. Then I had to tell him how the situation got even more dire when a very old lady sat right next to me (despite there being MANY open chairs in the waiting room) and began telling me about all of her ailments, her children, her children’s careers, her children’s divorces, and then her grandchildren. She paid no mind to the fact that I was sitting there with an open laptop typing away… Nope, I was her captive audience. And nope, she did not once ask about me. Then, this very riveting conversation was briefly interrupted by an equally awkward encounter, when a girl who I literally had zero recollection of knowing looked at me and said, “Hi! How are you?!” clearly knowing exactly who I was. Gahhh, curse my complete inability to remember people’s faces (as she too looked very pregnant, I eventually deduced that she was in our prenatal class from a couple weeks ago). I informed Lyndon that he is never to leave me to fend for myself again, because clearly I am incapable of handling waiting rooms on my own. When I was called by the nurse, I was beyond relieved. If I may venture to say, having a long q-tip stuck up your lady-bits to check for strep B (which was what followed) may not be as bad as being stuck in a one-sided conversation with a very old stranger and no escape route.

At last, I saw our doctor and she happily announced what we already knew: that our babe is indeed in head down position! This means that we can simply wait until labour happens naturally and go with the flow! “What else does the report say?!” I asked her hurriedly, still partially waiting for the other shoe to drop. “That he’s in the 50th to 75th percentile for weight based on their measurements,” (Eek! Let’s hope closer to 50th!) “…and that while heart structures weren’t fully visible, there aren’t any concerns due to previous scans being normal.” Phew. I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, an appointment with good news.

The final countdown is officially on. See you soon, Baby E.

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