"Can we take a peek at your baby?" Dr. Cap said.
"Yes, let's see what's going on," I said.
Despite leaking fluid for about 18 hours at this point, Dr. Cap said we'd probably see little pockets of fluid around certain parts of the baby's body. There was no panic, we just wanted to know more about my little guy's situation.
I laid down on the cushioned exam room table, crinkling the fresh paper under me as I lowered myself down and pulled up my shirt to expose my pregnant belly. More water smooshed out between my legs, making me extremely thankful I'd remembered to wear a pad before taking J to his morning of preschool. I stared at the TV screen on the wall, waiting to see what was up with my baby and I smiled when his black and white image popped up.
He was still breech. As Dr. Cap moved the ultrasound around on my belly, he told me what those fluid pockets would look like if they were there, but we didn't see any. My baby was pretty much dry docked, but his heartbeat sounded great and he wasn't in any distress.
Next up, we tried to find his feet. We couldn't see them up by his face for an obvious frank breech (bum down) position, but we couldn't see them anywhere else either. His feet were hiding.
It could be a trick of the angle we were looking from on the ultrasound and his body position, but my first thought was that he could be footling breech - a more risky breech presentation to deliver, I knew.
Dr. Cap didn't say anything about that possibility but I knew from my own education that a feet-first baby could run into trouble with things like a prolapsed cord or other complications.
Labor still wasn't starting. I had no contractions at all despite leaking fluid for 18+ hours.
Finally, we looked at my baby's head. He was looking straight up at my face from under my ribcage, putting his head in an extended position instead of chin tucked to his chest. He was still sitting really high, too. This baby had not dropped.
If labor started with him in this breech position, and Baby C dropped into my pelvis with his head extended like that, Dr. Cap told me he was concerned because my baby's head could get stuck.
I knew exactly what that meant because my two-year-old had recently gotten his head stuck in our cat tower/scratching post thing that had a little kitty hide-out compartment with a circular hole for an entrance. My doula was over for a prenatal chat and while we weren't looking, J stuck his head in there to see what was inside. Of course, he lifted his chin to see better, and then couldn't get out as he tried to pull straight back with his head still in that extended position. He panicked and cried, and my doula and I had to physically help him adjust his body position, and verbally coach him to tuck his chin to his chest so that he could finally slide his head out. It didn't last long but it was really scary for all of us.
The baby in my uterus wasn't so coachable.
I briefly considered that maybe my body could sort him out and give me the vaginal (non-surgical) birth I wanted, but I quickly nixed that idea because my intuition was practically shouting at me to lose the ego around having a "natural birth," and just give my baby a safe, peaceful arrival into our lives. I wasn't going to risk letting it turn into an emergency.
And Dr. Cap basically said the same thing. He looked at me kindly, knowing everything I've been through and what I wanted for this birth, and gently said I could still go to the hospital that day and have my baby via c-section. And he quickly explained what surgery would look like with him.
A gentle cesarean. A horizontal incision below my bikini line. A clear drape so I could see baby as he emerged if I wanted. A little delayed cord clamping. Immediate cheek-to-cheek skin to skin. Then Doran would go with the baby while he got checked out to make sure he was stable. Then he'd be put on my bare chest right there in the OR for full skin to skin and breastfeeding, and I'd be stitched while leaving everything internal. He'd close my uterus, my rectus muscles, the fascia, and the skin, finishing it off with a special skin glue so I'd have a nice clean, small scar.
I took a deep breath. I knew deep down that labor wasn't starting because my body was protecting me. This baby had chosen his birth and it wasn't the kind of birth I'd had with Little J. It wasn't safe for this baby to go through labor so my body was buying me time. I didn't know why yet, but the information I'd get after he was born confirmed everything my intuition was telling me.
C-SECTION. The word made my stomach hurt. The realization of what I needed to do hit me hard, and I started sobbing. Out of sadness for my body that would undergo yet more surgery, out of fear, out of anger, and out of a deep disappointment for not getting the birth for my baby and I that I had dreamed of for months.
These weren't quiet tears running down my face, either. I was sobbing uncontrollably, letting the emotion wash over and move through me. Dr. Cap left the room and gave me and my husband time to talk about it and decide what we wanted to do. I looked mournfully at my husband. He just wanted our baby here safe and sound, too, so I called Britney, my doula, to fill her in on what we were thinking. She knew my wishes and how I'd do pretty much anything to avoid being cut open again, so she wanted to help me have this baby vaginally, the way I had hoped, but I knew this was different. My heart knew what I had to do. "Okay," she said softly. "If you're sure this is what you want." And truthfully, I never wanted it, and although things like Pitocin weren't an option for a breech baby, I knew labor or the lack thereof could turn into a shit show, fast, and more than anything, I wanted my baby and I to be safe. Dr. Cap made me feel safe and I trusted him, so I took another deep breath, and I said to my husband, "Ok, let's have a baby today."
Dr. Cap came back into the room, and we told him our decision. Then we casually asked, "so what time should we do this? Should we go home and get organized and go to the hospital this afternoon?"
"No," he said. "You need to head over there right now."
My husband's and my thoughts raced. Wait. What? NOW?! Um... ok. Now. So many things to figure out with no time. Our son was in preschool, we had no plan for his childcare, I had no clothes other than what I had on, I hadn't eaten breakfast or had coffee (sad face), but now we were headed to the hospital and I was going to have surgery and have a baby by lunchtime!
My husband drove us the mile or so over to the hospital and I started making phone calls and texting people on my cell phone. First thing to figure out was our son's childcare. I immediately reached out to our friend, Jen, who had stayed with our little guy the night before when my husband and I were away in Temecula. She already knew what was happening since I had filled her in on what I suspected was happening as I made my way home in early morning traffic, and she took one look at my pants when I walked in and said, yup, your water broke! As a mom of four with years of experience as a birth and postpartum doula, she knew what she saw, no medical exam needed.
I couldn't believe how normal our lives had been when I left for a day of pedicures and the pool the previous morning. Now I laughed with her and halfway joked, "Can I hire you right now, at the 11th hour?!" She had been my postpartum doula when Little J was born and she had been a godsend for me then. Now I had a feeling I'd need her just as much but for a different reason. Luckily she said that if we needed her, she could help, and sure enough when I called, she came through for us without hesitation.
We organized the details quickly and I relaxed a little knowing our son would be with someone my husband and I trusted and we knew he really liked. Then I called my doula again, and my friend Daniella, who had agreed to be my birth photographer a second time, filled them in, and amazingly they were both able to be at the hospital with me as I prepped for surgery, and after.
Soon my son and Jen were there, too, with Britney coaching me on what to expect when I went into the OR, making sure I'd had a chance to inform the nurses of all the things I wanted for my baby when he was born, and helping me relax (to help the baby stay relaxed), and Daniella was quietly documenting it all for me on her camera. Without even meaning to, I realized these friends, these incredible women with so much birth knowledge and experience between them, were my village and the feminine support I needed that day. Just their presence, strength, wisdom, and calm allowed me to get excited about meeting my baby instead of stressing about medical interventions and the surgery I was about to have.
I hugged them all, hugged my son tightly as my only child for the last time, told him I loved him and that he would meet his little brother soon.
Then my husband and I walked out together and down the hall to the Operating Room.