Nicola Wilkinson, 32, from Berkhamsted didn't know that her baby was in the breech position until it was time to push.
When did you go into labour?
I was 40 weeks and four days so I was overdue and fed up. I'd had twinges all week so when my contractions started I wasn't sure if I was in labour. In my first pregnancy my waters had broken and that had been the first sign but this was different. The contractions started to get more intense and at 12.30am I woke up Pete, my husband, and he started timing the contractions. They were very irregular - seven minutes apart then six then eight and they lasted about 30 seconds to 40 seconds.
How did this compare with your first labour?
I wasn't too worried as this happened with my first baby, Lily. We called the hospital they gave the standard reply of wait until the contractions are regular, lasting about a minute and closer together. I was concerned as this didn't happen to me the first time round but I gave it another half an hour. Two of my very close friends said that their second labours had lasted three to four hours from start to finish so I kept this in mind.
How did you get to the hospital?
We live in an area where the hospital is a good 25 minutes drive away and I didn't want to be pushing in the car. We dispatched Lily off to my sister, fortunately she lives up the road, leaving me free to have my contractions in peace. We turned out the light and Pete was looking forward to a bit of sleep then my waters broke. We bundled in the car and went to the birth centre at Stoke Mandeville hospital. The midwife checked me out and asked me standard questions about the contractions. It was about 3.30am.
When did they discover the baby was breech?
She did an internal examination - I was about 8cm dilated by then. She was a student midwife and she wanted the head midwife to check me. I didn't know at this stage whether they knew anything was amiss. The head midwife did an internal and asked whether the baby had ever been breech. I'd had one ante-natal check-up where the midwife had said the baby was breech. The following week the midwife had a good feel and listened to the heartbeat and calculated that the baby was head down. At that check I was 38 weeks so it would have been too late to turn the baby and I would have been booked in for a caesarean. I thought they'd send me for a scan if there was any concern so I tried not to worry about it. Even if the baby is breech by the time you get to hospital there's usually chance to look at it then.
So what happened next?
The midwife who gave the internal said, 'it's either swelling on the baby's head, it's a bottom or you haven't dilated at all.' I thought, all three of those options sound terrible. Someone who came in with a scan machine and it all starts to get a bit hazy at this point as the contractions started to get very intense. They confirmed the baby was breech and it was bottom first. The midwife got a surgeon and he started running through my options. He said they don't tend to deliver breech babies because of the risks involved and recommended a caesarean. I looked at Pete and we agreed to have a caesarean and the epidural. The surgeon said if I was fully dilated it was more of a risk and they wouldn't be able to go ahead with the caesarean. He did the internal, looked at me and asked me if I wanted to push. I said yes. It was too late to have the caesarean.
How did you feel at that point?
I was really scared because I didn't know about breech. The books just say if the baby is breech then it's likely you'll have a caesarean because very few babies are born that way. I was lying there wondering how dangerous it was and wondering if it was going to be more painful? Plus with my first labour the pushing stage was really extended so I was really worried that I would have several hours of horrendous pushing. This was about 4.30am. Evie was born at 5am.
How did the pushing stage go?
Everything happened really quickly. They wheeled me along to the delivery suite and hooked me on stirrups. It was too late for any pain relief apart from gas and air. They told me to push. There were a lot of people in the room because not many people had seen a breech baby delivered naturally. I gave three sets of pushes and the baby came out. I remember looking down and seeing the baby's bottom and back. Pete said her legs were like little concertinas - the bottom came out first and then her legs folded down. I had to push the head out. It was all pretty amazing but standard. It wasn't any more painful than my first pregnancy and the baby was delivered safe and well. Reading up about it afterwards I think the reason it's not normally done is because the head is the largest part of the baby and there are worries that if you're not fully dilated the baby's body will slip out and the head will get stuck. I was fully dilated so there was less of a risk.
How did you feel about delivering a breech baby?
It was pretty exhilarating. Lots of people were congratulating me afterwards. People thought I was on pethadine - they couldn't believe I hadn't any pain relief. I was on a natural high to have done it so easily. I have to credit my lovely daughter for coming out easily and being such a good baby. Although I had an audience in the room there were some really supportive midwives there and my husband Pete helped me through the scary moments. I think that really helped.
What was it like to meet Evie?
We knew she was a little girl. We didn't find out the baby's sex in my first pregnancy but we wanted to explain it to her sister. It was very emotional because of everything that happened. I had been so scared of the risks involved. I was surprised that it had gone so straightforwardly. And there she was - we both had a little tear in our eye.
How did Lily take to her new sister, Evie?
Brilliantly. Because Evie was born at 5am in the morning the hospital discharged me the same day. I didn't even have any stitches so I got home at 4.30pm. Lily had been in nursery. She came in and met her sister and was like 'wow'. It was a lovely ending. It was great that I hadn't had to stay in hospital and that we could start being a family immediately.
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