"Turn around, bright eyes...."
I do my best Bonnie Tyler imitation complete with hand gestures and genuine dramatic facial expressions as I drive to and from work, acting like I am in a tall car with darkly tinted windows instead of our beat-up, see-through mini Kia where my antics have surely become the subject of a remark or two from fellow travelers along the 13-mile commute. I am singing to my gestating baby, specifically that dated opposite-of-timeless power ballad Total Eclipse of the Heart, because last week we found out he is in a breech position. I am literally telling him to turn around. If the lyrics don't move him, maybe the song, which is in a key totally distinct from my naturally low alto tones, will at least motivate him to scoot as far away from my throat as possible.
Learning at 37 weeks that the baby is wrong side up is not the end of the world, but it was a moment in time that wasn't anticipated, took about five seconds to assess, and has sent my world -- and plans I never knew I had -- into a tizzy ever since. As soon as the sonographer said we have a breech baby here, I wanted to respond: no, no that's not it -- you don't understand -- we're just here because I measured a bit big on the last visit. You must have me mixed up with some other pregnant woman in a parallel universe, lying on this table with clear jam on her belly and a shocked look on her face. We know the doctor ordered this but really we just came for the pictures. I ordered a salad; you brought me a burger.
Well, he did print pictures of my big baby hanging out hammock style instead of the regular way, contentedly waiting to be born. We put the photos in an envelope as we calmly walked over to my doctor's appointment, announced the results and started asking questions about what we had just been told. Thus began the first real conversation I have ever had about the possibility of a cesarean birth. But first, he said, you can try a multitude of alternative approaches. I mentally catalogued each one he mentioned: those that have had proven results like acupuncture, some that sounded quite silly, and a few in between. The silly ones couldn't hurt, he said, so if it makes you feel better, go ahead and try. We laid out a comfortable timeline together -- a couple weeks to motivate baby to turn on his own, followed by doctor-led turning, and then hopefully regular labor...or not, we'll see. And when I got home, I ran to my old friend, the internet.
Perhaps predictably and in a true motherhood moment, I searched the web frantically for things I could have done to make the baby lay the wrong way (answer: no. stop doing that). I learned that four out of every 100 births is breech; people do all the things the doctor had mentioned to get a baby to turn on its own; I wasn't ready to look at the relevant videos yet. And started reaching out to friends and family -- which is the antithesis of my normal behavior. Luckily, a friend knew a few acupuncturists who specialize in pregnant women. I meticulously researched all the other methods and picked those I was comfortable with. Which brings me to where I am now: in the past 10 days I have been acupunctured, moxibustioned, pelvicly realigned, inversioned, frozen pea'd (that's where you put a bag of frozen peas on the top of your belly under somebody's grandma's theory that the baby will run away from the cold), visualized, told everyone I know to ask the baby to turn around, and consistently stood at the kitchen counter with one foot on a stool much to the chagrin of my daughter to whom the stool belongs. No, you can't stand here to crack the eggs for dinner tonight honey, mommy's trying to keep an open pelvis so the baby will turn. And now, I'm singing 80's power ballads. And baby remains in his hammock position, probably happier than ever.
Once again I find myself grateful for the supportive friends and family who have heard from me over the past week, some learning more than they ever wanted to know about the various details, others sharing their own very knowledgeable and helpful experiences or words of wisdom, even just to help make my overactive-planner-mind a bit more calm. And I have come to the point where more calm is clearly what is needed. I am taking advantage of the resources provided via Cesarean Awareness Month on Lamaze's site -- because knowing more about c-sections will be a huge benefit when I have to make decisions and communicate with doctors. But overdoing the information download will not lead to better decision-making, just obsession over the possible twists and turns this labor and delivery may take.
Which is why, the closer we get to external cephalic version day on my timeline, I am trying to accept flexibility more, and results-driven activities less. As I said, I didn't realize I had a plan. But now that I'm a week into this I realize how a plan had formed without me recognizing it. I saw myself during the other two births, and just assumed it would be the same way this time. And I have been clinging to that, instead of treating each pregnancy as a distinct happening that deserves its own energy, time, and approach. I will continue with the inversions, and the acupuncture, and whatever else I'd like. It is a minor shift in action but a major change in my mind that makes all the difference: what has up to this point been Operation Turn the Baby, has to become, paraphrasing the acupuncturist, what should happen, will happen. It's not an easy transition, but one that will help me experience my third baby's birth in the best way for him and for me -- I believe that's all one can hope for.
Rebecca Headen lives in Washington, DC, where she is a social justice advocate and attorney, wife to an adoring superhusband/superdad, and proud mom raising two tenacious, questioning, independent and strong girls with a baby boy in the works.