I practised prenatal yoga through all three of my pregnancies. As I lay in bed last Thursday with the baby, I sent my yoga teacher a text message briefly outlining my labour and birth for her to read out to my fellow preggy ladies during class that night. As I typed my eyes welled up with tears as I realised just how big a role yoga has played in my ability to birth, to breathe, and to get me through some of the most challenging moments pregnancy and labour could throw at me.
During our classes we practised breath, and we would hold say a squat or another asana which gradually increased in difficulty and practise breathing through it (in for four and out for four), as though it were a contraction. We used sound; humming, ahhing and more recently the sound “shhhh” which I used when in labour this time around.
Each birth I have practised these skills, and I have worked really hard to let go and flow with my body throughout the labour. I used to get really annoyed when KB would compare pregnancy and birth to sport (sport = the language he speaks 😉 ) but now I can really see how good birth preparation and hard work are akin to training for a marathon. For some reason when I was pregnant with the Pixie I thought labour would be easy because I had done it once before. (Don’t ask me why… hilariously ridiculous… I can see that now!) With each subsequent birth there have been new challenges – with Pix it was coming to terms with the fact that it was actually going to hurt despite previous experience! And yoga (along with a kick arse support team) is the number one thing I can thank for keeping me calm. This time around I didn’t have any moments of panic, I maintained my breathing most of the time and I drew on what I had learnt to get me through.
Now, post birth, I use yoga breathing when I’m feeling challenged emotionally, when baby is crying or when I’m feeling overwhelmed with having three small children (!)
I have tried to imagine what might have happened to me when I reached the peak of the strongest contractions… without yoga and dedication, would my support team have been enough?
I don’t know that I posted much about my experience last pregnancy with Pixie. I felt very insular and private during that pregnancy. This time around I have faced many of the same dilemmas and realised that by speaking out about my feelings they become a whole lot easier to manage.
When my little Pixie remained firmly in breech position throughout my pregnancy, I could barely bring myself to utter the word: breech. I felt like if I said it out loud, she might hear me. At the cross roads between a home birth and a caesarean I felt an immense amount of stress. After much agony and research we went ahead with an external cephalic version (ECV). My little Pixie turned south and remained that way to be born, at home, in the water.
When the same thing happened this pregnancy, I couldn’t quite believe it. I felt much better equipped to work with the situation, given I’d had practice, but I still couldn’t help feeling a desperate panic for this baby to turn. Reliving history gives you the chance to reflect on how you might do something differently. I tried really hard to focus on that this time. So I called in all the stops – booked myself in for a few specialised counselling sessions with a very experienced independent midwife, got back on the horse with acupuncture, moxibustion, chiro, spinning babies – you name it, I did it. I also decided at the beginning of the pregnancy that I wanted to go back to the birth centre where I had my first baby Birdie, as one of the difficult things for me about having a home birth was not having easy access to additional support if it was needed – for example in my case, another ECV. My doctor has also semi-retired and is no longer attending home births, so the thought of replacing him on my support team and organising the whole caper just wasn’t what felt right. Turns out my instincts were leading me on the right path.
With my ECV date looming this time around I went through various phases: panic, depression, fear… until finally, the week before my appointment, I allowed myself to give up. I cancelled my last acupuncture appointment and while I continued to do all the spinning babies exercises and yoga and so on, it was without pressure. I resigned myself to the fact that I would be going in for the ECV. I accepted it. In my mind the ECV was the next turning point in this pregnancy. I just had to get myself to that date, and wait and see what would come next.
One mistake I did repeat was searching for other experiences on the internet. Unfortunately there are lots of women who have had difficult ECVs and I didn’t find many positive experiences. (In saying that I know there was apparently a really positive ECV video being passed around on Facebook a few weeks ago but I was too frightened to watch it at the time and now I can’t find it… if anyone has the link please let me know and I’ll add it here.) [*UPDATE – here is the link. I haven’t watched it myself, still can’t bring myself to but perhaps I will after I have had the baby!]
I want to share my ECV experiences for others who might be thinking about choosing this option. This time it was a no brainer, but I remember it being a difficult decision the first time, and as discussed in my last post, there seems to be a lack of positive stories floating around in the birth arena.
For those of you who don’t know, an ECV is a procedure which takes place in hospital by an obstetrician. During an ECV a baby is manually encouraged to turn from breech position to head down by use of the obstetrician’s hands on the woman’s stomach. My father in law asked me afterwards, “So they… use their hands to… go… up… internally and… twist the baby…” UP? NO! I had to stop myself from crying I was trying not to laugh so hard. Rest assured, it is all done from the outside people.
I have gone down the ECV road twice now during my last two pregnancies. It is not something I would like to repeat and certainly didn’t imagine myself having to do it again this pregnancy, but I would do it again a million times over before being bullied into a caesarean simply due to breech position, which is sadly what happens at a lot of hospitals in Australia. There are certain risks that go with getting an ECV. If you’re considering getting one I would do some research yourself and ensure that it is the right decision for you. Some people decide not to go ahead after they have read more about them, it is entirely your individual choice.
Onto the ECV. When I arrived at the hospital I was given a very brief ultrasound just to confirm that the hard round ball under my ribs was in fact a head and not a strangely shaped bottom. It was, so I was hooked up to monitoring for about 20 minutes. After that I was met by the consultant obstetrician who would be doing my ECV. She did a more thorough ultrasound to check that there wasn’t any obvious reason for the baby to be in breech position, and measured things like the baby’s estimated weight, checked where the cord and the placenta were, and basically made sure the conditions were optimal to attempt the ECV.
Usually women are given a drip with a medication that helps to relax the uterus during the procedure. Last pregnancy I was told that my stomach was relaxed enough to attempt the ECV without the drip. I’m terrified of drips so I was very thankful to my yoga breathing for getting me out of that one! This time, at a different and more stringent hospital I was really worried they would make me have the drip. I mentioned that I hadn’t had it last time and the consultant had a feel and was happy to attempt without the medication, and all went smoothly. I would definitely ask if this is a possibility if you are going for an ECV. The medication can make your heart race and make you feel a bit anxious, in a situation where you are probably already sweating it out a little. I was also told by the registrar that did my first ECV that he preferred not to use the drip if possible as while your stomach is relaxed under medication it is easier for the baby to flip back around afterwards. I have no idea if this is true so don’t take my word for gospel, but it does seem to make sense.
The consultant then explained that while I was laying on my back she would use both her hands to push underneath the baby’s bottom and try to encourage him/her to do a somersault. If this didn’t work she would attempt to encourage the baby to go the other way. She clearly explained that she would only continue if the baby easily moved. If the baby did not want to move, she would not push it. This was reassuring as I had read some stories on the internet which involved ECVs going on and on and on with a baby who obviously did not want to move.
She placed both her hands on my stomach and located the baby’s bottom. She pushed her hands quite deeply into my stomach in order to get them slightly underneath the baby’s bottom. This is the uncomfortable part. I closed my eyes and breathed in for four and out for four. Within about a minute the whole thing was over. Initially my heart sank and I thought when she removed her hands that it hadn’t worked. A quick ultrasound showed the baby’s head pointing south and a bottom up under my ribs. I couldn’t believe it!
I was a little sore in the days following, a little bit because I had been poked and prodded, but mainly because I could feel the blissfully uncomfortable feeling of a little (wishful thinking?) head nestling and nudging my pelvis.
I am now 38.3 weeks and the baby’s head is engaged.
I couldn’t be more thankful for having the opportunity to get an ECV. I will never know what might have happened if I hadn’t agreed to it both times. Perhaps my babies would have flipped. Maybe once labour began they might have looked for the appropriate exit. I will never know, but I know that for me, the ECV was the right decision. It has allowed me to spend the last month-ish of both my pregnancies relatively worry free. It has allowed me the time and the space to prepare for a natural birth, without the added anxiety of a potential/likely caesarean looming over me. It has allowed me to connect with my baby without the strain of frustration that I felt when they seemingly would not turn around. It was the right decision for us.
Some people believe that a baby remains in breech position (or other) because they want to, and that they might know something that we don’t. I don’t know if this is true. It is usually something I would believe in wholeheartedly. I think the important thing to do is weigh up all your options and go with your gut. For me, both times, it has been to go with the ECV and so far I have not regretted my decision. There are always a lot of variations to each pregnancy – not least of which including your location and whether or not you have facilities and support nearby to deliver a breech baby naturally. This weighed in heavily on my decision to have an ECV as my other options were very limited.
Do what is right for you and your baby.
My husband and my midwife accompanied me through the whole ECV procedure and I have to give them both special thanks for being there for me on the day (and during the lead up in which I was a bundle of nerves and tears – sorry to you both!). I was so nervous, and their talk of coffees, vampires and zombies made for some excitement on my baseline monitoring record as well as helped to distract me from the whole process. So thank you xxx
And I hope this ridiculously long post has helped give another perspective on the experience of an ECV. Good luck with your decision making!
I had prenatal yoga last night. I feel like a bit of an old mother goose in my class at times – the majority of the women are having their first babies. Then I lug myself in all third-pregnancy like: usually late, bags under the eyes and kinder dutied out, ligaments stretching from here to who knows where, happy to do virtually anything in that quiet room if only to have an hour away from the crazy two hour long bed time shenanigans going on down the road at my house.
Sometimes I want to skip the pre-yoga chat and just get on with stretching my tired body. But last night’s discussion had me really engaged, and reminded me of the unfortunate birth culture within which we reside. Some of the first time preggy ladies were talking about things people were saying to them in response to their planning and hoping for a natural birth without intervention and it reminded me of how cruel people can be (granted, mostly unintentionally). And not only that, but how much birth-related baggage women (and men) are carrying about with them each day, making numerous attempts to palm it off to unsuspecting victims – or anyone who will listen.
When I was planning the Pixie’s home birth, I was surprised at the number of people who obviously thought a home birth was a selfish choice – in which the mother’s desire for a “nice” or “spiritual” experience comes before the health and wellbeing of her unborn baby. I was shaken by this as it couldn’t be further from the truth. However the vast ignorance of western culture when it comes to birthing and motherhood should really come as no surprise. Luckily for me it was my second pregnancy: I had given birth before, naturally, without any drugs or intervention. I knew what it was like to be pregnant. I was already a mother. While I still struggled with people’s opinions, I can’t imagine having to deal with the onslaught of everyone’s freely spoken negative and misinformed thoughts had it been my first pregnancy.
So last night when one lovely lady said that her friend had rolled her eyes when she said she was hoping to have an intervention free birth I just felt mad! Another woman had a friend who laughed and mocked at her writing a birth plan. All of the negative comments were coming from women who had given birth previously. How any woman who has gone through the pregnancy and birth process can then be so cruel and spiteful to an unsuspecting first timer is beyond me. One of my sisters is also currently pregnant for the first time (soooooo exciting – I am going to be an Aunty!!). She received an email the other day from a friend encouraging her to head straight for the epidural.
It seems widely acceptable to offer this type of unwanted advice willy-nilly (and doesn’t seem to stop once the baby is born either…) But then when you have had a normal experience of birth and consider sharing it, you often become the woman who is boasting about her good fortune and rubbing it in everyone’s face. You can’t win!
I admire people who plan for the birth that will be optimal for their baby and themselves. Women should take it upon themselves to be educated and make informed decisions about what type of environment and situation will be most optimal given their own individual situation – pre and post baby. For example I know someone with extreme anxiety who after much research opted for an elective caesarean in order to keep their stress hormones down and remain as relaxed as possible. For her, that was the most optimal choice which would therefore likely bring about a more positive outcome for her baby too. Good on her!
I think birth stories (and intentions) should be shared freely and without judgement amongst women – without spite or nastiness or fear mongering. That is the last thing anyone needs. So read ladies, read, research, get informed, ask questions to those you trust, build a support network around you and make choices that suit you and your family. Not your mother-in-law or the woman who sits next to you at work or the lady in the queue behind you in the chemist.
P.S. On another note I realise I haven’t updated the blog post-ECV. Long story short – I have a head down baby! Update currently in draft stages behind the scenes 🙂
In most other tasks I am easy to distract. My mind is a wandering beast, untamed and largely unmanageable.
But absorbed in craft, it softens. It counts: slowly, rhythmically, soothingly. It imagines and creates, it thrills in possibility.
I began meditating (again) a few weeks ago, and while I haven’t been in any way regular, I have noticed correlations between my quiet meditative mind, and my crafting mind. While during meditation I attempt to harness my mind as it pulls and strains at invisible reigns, during craft it is forced to halt. It is absorbed by the act of quiet concentration.
And so in the last ten days since finishing work (!), and while attempting to distract my monster mind from the relentless (and seemingly impossible) task of flipping my baby before this coming Tuesday’s ECV, I have immersed myself in craft.
Stitch by stitch by little stitch I have soothed my mind and spirit. I have counted, stitch by stitch by little stitch. I have twisted my hook around wool, stitch by stitch by little stitch. In combination with all the other body and mind work I am doing this pregnancy, it has kept me in good stead.
And here I am, four beanies, pom poms, a pixie bonnet, a kotori jacket and half a lady sized beanie later, mind relatively at ease. Upcoming ECV on Tuesday not causing (much) [out of proportion] angst.
What about you? What do you reach for to calm a busy mind?
I stand in the kitchen chopping up pumpkin to roast and feel my baby kicking: low in my pelvis.
Instead of feeling elated at my baby saying hello, I feel drained. My darling number three is currently breech. Those of you who have been with me for a while will know that one of the reasons our Pixie is nicknamed as such is due to her stubborn breech positioning – for the Entire Pregnancy until an external cephalic version just after 36 weeks.
While my logical mind tells me all of the things that could be happening which would be much worse than this, when you are faced with a situation that is entirely out of your control and is also on a schedule, it doesn’t feel good.
I don’t mean to complain or whinge; simply to write and to figure things out in the process.
When I was pregnant with Pixie I could barely even say out loud that she was breech. I internalised this “malpositioning” and couldn’t make sense of it. Why would my baby do this? Is there something wrong with me? With them? Don’t they see the big neon flashing sign saying EXIT DOWN HERE? What is wrong with this partnership?
I took myself off for endless appointments: acupuncture, moxibustion, chiro, massage, NET, yoga, and on and on. I remember one week where I was so overwhelmed with turn-the-baby appointments I just crumpled. This was not what pregnancy was meant to be like. I wanted to enjoy my baby. I wanted to relax into pregnancy, not fight it every step of the way. I wanted to connect with my baby.
In prenatal yoga, my teacher repeats often: “Trust in life. Trust in breath. Trust your body. Your body knows what to do.”
I completely lost trust in my body and my baby. And now that it is happening again, I feel that maybe I haven’t regained that trust. Now when I hear those words, I imagine all the other women in the yoga room who are able to trust their bodies and their babies, and I long to be one of them.
I promised myself this pregnancy would be different. But now looking back, who am I to promise anything about my pregnancy? It is not in my control, after all. This is one of the biggest lessons I have had to learn – and am still learning – about pregnancy, birth and parenting. For the first time in your life: things are not in your control. You cannot choose how your body “does” pregnancy. You can’t choose who your baby is or what they will decide to do. You cannot choose how you will birth, or what your baby will be like when he/she is born. You can prepare, certainly. You can read, you can practice, you can prepare. But you can’t control.
I look forward on my calendar for this week. I have appointments jammed in either side of my working hours and kinder pick ups: acupuncture, chiro, yoga, massage. I have times of the day where I will hang myself over the edge of the couch and pray for that beautiful rounded head that is nestled comfortably up in my ribs to make its way down south. I walked around the house the other day with my iPod down my pants to try to get the baby to turn to the sound of music. I hold an icepack over the top of my stomach and then hurl it away again, feeling terrible when my baby starts to wriggle around in the cold – how could I?
I had a horrible week last week fighting this baby, this pregnancy. I was consumed by it, it ate away at me every waking moment. I dreamt about the baby, I dreamt about appointments, about hanging upside down and doing headstands in the pool. My friendly, logical mind reminds me that I should be kinder to myself and to my baby, so this week I aim to be.
I woke up yesterday morning and I felt better. I am practicing acceptance. I am doing what I can. When I feel my baby kicking and moving, I try to replace any feelings of dread (Where was that kick? Where is the baby if I am feeling the kick there?) with positivity and loving kindness. I think about baby names and holding this baby in my arms, soft and sweet smelling.
I made this while I was pregnant with Pixie… it was way too hot for her to wear! I’m hoping it will fit little Number 3.
What will it be like?
When I went from one baby to two, I found it a much more difficult adjustment that I had imagined. Those that read this blog will know that my number two, the Pixie, was aptly nicknamed due to her mischievous ways – both in and out of the womb… so perhaps that added to my difficulties. But there are also all the other things – you’re so used to that special 1:1 time with your first, how will you make room for another?
Some say going from two to three is an easier leap than one to two because you have already learnt to juggle, your world is larger with two children, you know that your heart truly does expand. And expand. And expand. You do have enough to give. All I can say is that only time will tell!
In the last week my mind has shifted from the I’m-pregnant mindset to I’m-pregnant-but-very-aware-it’s-not-for-much-longer. Once you hit the 30 week mark you do start to feel you’re on the final stretch. Now at almost 33 weeks appointments are being booked left right and centre – acupuncture, birth debriefing, massage. Baby paraphernalia is appearing from forgotten places in the back of cupboards. Furniture is being moved around. We stand in the centre of our small house and wonder where we will all fit. Time after 7pm doesn’t seem to exist for anything other than being horizontal.
I start to imagine a new baby: his/her smells, sounds. Warm, soft newborn skin against my cheek. The quiet darkness and isolation of the deep night. My brain is a fog of… fog… nice and warm and snuggly.
My favourite part of this pregnancy has been knowing that there will be challenges, but having the faith and knowledge that although they may be difficult, they will be short lived. Knowing how quickly things, phases and time passes is a reminder to be thankful for each moment. That is what I aim to take with me into the final phase of my final pregnancy.
I ran a workshop today (I am a trainer with a not-for-profit in my other life outside this parenting game) and found myself completely tongue-tied trying to find words and phrases that I use on a daily basis. I had to apologise for my slow and steady loss of vocabulary as the day went on.
As frustrating as it is in a professional environment, I am all too familiar now with the brain’s sneaky way of exiting us slowly out of the daily grind, and forcing us to focus inwards as our babies grow and birth becomes near. It’s almost like a slow moving fog descending over my head. Sound familiar?
I fought it a bit during my first pregnancy, but this time around I am relishing in the easy way in which I can float around the place, knowing that this feeling doesn’t last forever. I love that it is happening in sync with the onset of Autumn, and that this baby will be with us at the beginning of Winter. Perfectly timed if I do say so myself. I only have three weeks of work left, we are talking of bringing the baby stuff up from under the house, we’ve packed up the Pixie’s cot and put her into a “big girl bed”… the time is coming near… things are happening… I will remain in this blissfully vague state for as long as possible, thank you.
Apologies if you come across me in the next little while. I hope I can remember your name 😉
I went to my prenatal yoga class last night. I have to drag myself there most weeks. I’m tired and there’s chaos abound at home at that time of night – kids needing baths and cuddles and dinners and a couch or bed begging to be laid upon – and a body begging the same. Once I walk in the door though, I’m happy. I have been attending the same clinic/studio for six years now – pregnant and not pregnant. It feels like home.
At the start of our class we do a whip around the room and everyone tells the group how many weeks they are and how they are feeling. During my first pregnancy it was my favourite part of the class. Hearing the stories of other women and relating to how they were feeling. Sharing remedies and ideas on how to get comfortable in bed at night, or what to do when you wake at 3am and your partner doesn’t want to make you a sandwich. How to last the long days at full time work. Now on my third pregnancy, I catch myself rolling my eyes and willing these girls to hurry along so I can get into stretching my aching body before this precious weekly me-time is up and I head home to washing, toys and usually cranky kids who are kicking the walls, jumping on beds and still not asleep because they have just one more very important question to ask that they absolutely must get the answer to before they can possibly contemplate even the mere idea of sleep. It comes to my turn: “I’m almost 30 weeks and feeling great!” Next!
I went home last night feeling a bit guilty at my inner monologue towards these innocent first time preggy ladies, wishing I could recapture those first pregnancy moments – the quiet magic of it all. Getting home after a long day and having no one to worry about but yourself. Finishing up at work and being able to have a nap whenever you want and watch videos to your heart’s content while you wait impatiently for your baby to make an appearance. Pacing around the quiet, empty house touching and smelling new baby clothes and wondering how on earth a baby could possibly be so tiny. I remember those long days at home, and having to build a new life during the working week. I remember what it was like and know that I too once felt the need to go into great detail with the group about my left hip that had been niggling me a little while I watched Home and Away each evening after work.
So I resolve this week to learn from those mamas, to remind myself to pay attention to the beauty in these moments, and to be intentional about recreating that quiet first time baby magic. This baby might be number three in line, but I think he/she deserves it too. And perhaps this is just a memorandum of what is to come for them… etching out their space in this big boisterous family.
(and other things best avoided in dialogue directed at a pregnant woman.)
You’re pregnant. You’ve spent the better part of the morning going through your wardrobe trying to find something to wear, hurling pants and tops over your shoulder and onto the floor. You then spend ten minutes trying to reach the floor to pick up said items thrown in fit of rage. You examine your backside and wonder momentarily whether the baby is in fact in front of you, or behind you…
You finally find something acceptable – by acceptable I mean the skin of your stomach isn’t showing (much) and your bottom isn’t flaunting the love heart pattern of your knickers through the fabric of your pants which are stretched too tight (much). You carefully select a pair of shoes and ever so delicately balance yourself on one foot, bending the other leg up behind you and attempt to flick the shoe over your toes. Your other children drag on your leg in an attempt to “help”. You finally get your shoes on. You bribe your kids into picking up what is left of the debris on the floor. You brush your hair and straighten yourself out. Yes, you think, I’m ok, I may not be able to see or reach my feet, but I’m clothed and shoed and brushed: today is a good day! You smile at your glowing self in the mirror and run a hand over your blossoming stomach.
Throughout the course of your day you pop into the shops. The lady at the cash register gives you a pitying smile, “Much longer to go darl?” she asks. “Oh, about three months,” you reply. Her jaw drops, “Three months?! Geez…” Her raised eyebrows say it all.
You pull yourself together and bump into a friend of a friend in the street. “Wow, you’re massive!” They say as a greeting, laughing.
A little further along you decide to grab some fruit and veg quickly before heading home. “How many weeks now?” the grocer asks. “About 28…” you say hesitantly (rounding up). “Gosh…” (awkward glance at your stomach) “You’ve got a way to go then…”
You start to wonder about your outfit choice that day and try to suck your stomach in as you walk to your car (to no avail). You catch sight of yourself in a shop window and get a bit of a fright.
You’re nearing your car when a fellow kinder mum bounces past in her gym gear. She looks at your tummy. Please don’t, you think, please, please! “Oh look at you!” she smiles, “Imagine how big you’re going to be by the end of all this!” (Laughs heartily). “Yeah, imagine that…” you reply with a pasted on smile.
You get home and kick off your shoes. Your father in law knocks on the door. “Hi Fatty!” he says with affection. You glare at him: “Hi.” “Bad day? You look like shit.”
Moral of the story: We’re pregnant, we know we are growing: our clothes don’t fit us anymore and we can’t reach our feet, also – there is another human inside of us which we are quite aware of. Please, next time you see a pregnant woman, no matter how huge or massive or gigantic they might appear, a simple “You look great!” could go a long way in drowning out the many other (albeit well-meaning) comments on her physical appearance she has no doubt already received that day.
Rant over 😉 xxx
P.S. Oh, almost forgot my favourite: “Are you sure there aren’t two in there?!” Laughs, laughs! Oh, the hilarity…