an external cephalic version or ECV

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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.)

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’d like a natural birth… but…

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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 :)

wardrobe chit chat

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Heading into winter it is becoming glaringly obvious that I have two girls who are very quickly growing out of their wardrobes! Coinciding with this realisation I’ve been inspired by all the #memademay tags I’ve been seeing on instagram and have been thinking (thinking) about how long it has been since I’ve used my sewing machine. (I’ve been doing a lot of crochet as you’ve probably realised!)

I’ve also started thinking about my post-baby wardrobe. I’m completely overwhelmed by the amount of clothes I have – stacked away in boxes mostly. Over the past six years of growing babies, breastfeeding, shrinking and growing again I have been everything from a size 10 to a 16. And I have clothes in every one of those sizes. I have worn so many different styles of clothing depending on where I’m at in my motherhood gig – breastfeeding, on the floor playing, running in and out to kinder drop offs, returning to work, spending time outdoors and so on. I’m reluctant to start cleaning out now while I’m heading towards the end of this pregnancy (always a dangerous thing as my pregnant self is an obsessed thrower-outerer, whereas my non-pregnant self is an obsessed hanger-onerer…), but it has got me thinking about how to consciously build a new post-baby wardrobe around all the things I have come to value: good quality, ethical produced, handmade, and suitable for life with three (Did I say THREE!) small kids.

I just read this post (thank you!) and have become seriously inspired to think more about what I am hanging up in my wardrobe, and how to go about getting from A to B. At the moment I am in that place where I just make and/or buy things based on a whim, without any real thought as to whether it is something I need or something that would be valuable over the long term, or whether it fits in with any of my other clothes (let alone my values). I also wear things out of necessity, rather than wearing things based on a style I actually like or think suits me. I have no idea what my style really is underneath all these maternity garments.

Over the coming months as my body slowly works its way back into it’s (new) normal state I am going to expand on these ideas. I wonder where it will take me! Join me on pinterest if you like, I figure that is as good a place as any to start brainstorming.

craft as meditation

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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?

letting go: the extensive lessons of motherhood

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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 try my best.

and I find myself thinking…

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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.

winding down, paring back…

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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 ;)