One year later – Julian’s (footling breech) home birth story

NaBloPoMo – Day 28

It’s been just over a year since my baby boy made his amazing entrance into the world, and yet, I never posted his birth story on my blog. So here it is one year later – in it’s full, unedited (LONG) glory (altered only to change the midwives’ names to first initial) – for your reading pleasure. 🙂 I think you birth junkies out there will especially enjoy it. 🙂

Julian - 1 1/2 hours old - 11/23/06

Julian Emerson’s birth story

Recorded on Nov. 29 and Dec. 11, 2006

My labor began around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 23, 2006, (41 weeks to the day) when I woke up to a real contraction, not the typical toning contractions I’d been having for the past several months. This was the night after I went in for some serious acupuncture (with electronic stimulation) at the acupuncture college to bring on labor. I was excited when I had another and yet another contraction and it started to sink in that I was in early labor.

I mentioned that I thought I was in early labor to Jody when he came to bed around 2 a.m. He got me my HypnoBirthing Rainbow Relaxation c.d. sometime during the night and I listened to it with my headphones on to help me stay focused and relaxed. I went through most of the night sleeping in between contractions. When I did have one, I breathed through it and reflected on something I’d read on a message board. One mama said that each time she had a contraction, she thought of her body giving the baby a big hug. That thought made me smile when I read it and so I focused on all the hugs my body was giving my baby for the last time while he was in utero.

I woke up a bit before 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23). Jody and Ava were still sleeping. I continued to have contractions though they weren’t really regularly spaced. I decided to go have some breakfast and watch TV. I had some yogurt, peanut butter toast and Pregnancy Tea and watched a bit of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade while I breathed through contractions. I found the TV to be a bit distracting so I turned it off and mostly lay on the couch. When I got up and moved around, my contractions picked up, but while I laid on the couch, they slowed down a bit. I was feeling pretty tired so I decided that hanging out on the couch was a good thing for now, to save up my energy for when I really needed it.

I called K, my midwife, around 10 a.m. and told her that I was in labor and what was going on with me. She said to check in every few hours – like around 1 p.m. – and let her know how I was doing. She also said she would probably come by to check on me later in the day and take my blood pressure and draw my blood so she could make sure that all was going well with me and there were no signs of HELLP syndrome (which I developed when in labor with Ava). In the meantime, she said I should go eat a big breakfast.

Jody came downstairs (and Ava soon after) and made eggs, turkey bacon and toast. I didn’t feel much like eating, but it tasted good and I slowly ate it all.

After breakfast and watching some of the parade on TV with Ava, I was still feeling really tired, so I decided to go back up to the bedroom and take a nap. That was around noon.

Before I went to sleep, I briefly talked to my sister Carrie on the phone and told her I was in early labor, but I had no idea if the baby would be born that day or when. I just wanted to give her a heads-up since she was planning on being here during the labor (once we needed her) and birth to watch Ava.

Again, I slept between contractions while I napped, but somewhere in that hour or so that I lay in bed, my contractions shifted significantly. They started to get very intense and I had to start vocalizing (or moaning) to get through them. I called out to Jody and told him that things were getting really intense and right around then the phone rang and Jody answered it. It was K (midwife) saying she was on her way by to see how things were going with me. Jody mentioned that it was good she was coming because I had just said that things were getting intense. (I later figured out that I must have been in “transition” during that time.)

I don’t recall if I asked Jody to apply counter-pressure to my back around that time or if he just instinctively did it, but it helped a lot to relieve the back labor I was experiencing.

K arrived around 1:10 p.m. She took my blood pressure, which was normal. (She never got a chance to draw my blood, but it turned out not to matter.) Then I had another contraction which I vocalized through and told her that it really hurt. She wanted to check me then to see how dilated I was. I was thinking that I hoped I was at least 5 cm dilated so that I could get into the birthing pool (which hadn’t been set up yet) or this was going to be a very, very long labor. I can’t remember if she said I was fully dilated when she checked me (though she later told me that I was complete), but she commented that the head was still really high. She felt around a bit more and then excused herself. (I found out later that that was when she discovered what she was feeling was limbs and that the baby was now breech. She excused herself so she could call A, the assisting midwife, and tell her to get to my house ASAP.)

K came back in the room and whispered to Jody that she had felt feet while she was checking my dilation. He didn’t quite realize what that meant at the time. At some point he said something aloud about the baby’s feet, which I heard and replied “feet??” (although I don’t remember this). And K said yes, the baby is breech, which I remember. I didn’t have any weird reaction to this news. I thought I remembered reading stories of babies being born vaginally in the breech position in “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth,” so I knew it could be done. I wasn’t fearful at all. It was all just very matter of fact in my mind – the baby is breech and I’m going to have to get him out.

Somewhere in there, Jody called Carrie (three times) to come to the house. The last time he talked to her, she said she would be here in 20 minutes, but Jody said at the rate things were going that might be too late. So in the meantime, Ava hung out with me, K and Jody in the bedroom. She never seemed scared or worried for me and I think it helped a LOT that we had watched birth videos and read the “Welcome With Love” book (about a home birth) many times in preparation for the birth. In the book they mention that sometimes moms have to yell and scream and make a lot of noise when babies are born and I am thankful that it said that since I ended up making a LOT of noise myself – something I didn’t expect because I never got vocal while giving birth to Ava. At one point, K asked Ava if she could go downstairs and get her purse for her. Ava did it without missing a beat. She was a great helper.

Anyway, I think it was after K left the room to call A that I felt the first urge to push. It was a completely involuntary urge and I yelled out, “I need to push!” I remember K yelling back to go with whatever my body was telling me to do. I think it was on the next contraction or the one after that that my water broke, all over the bed. I had not planned on giving birth in bed, and because things had progressed so quickly at the end, we hadn’t even put a waterproof cover down. I remember thinking, “Oh no! I’m soaking our new mattress!” (Our mattress was only six months old. Thankfully, it cleaned up and dried out nicely.)

The baby’s feet were born first without too much pushing on my part. Jody left the room during that time and I yelled to K, “Where is he going?!” furious because he was no longer applying counter-pressure to my back. She said, “He’s getting the camera.” And I yelled, “I don’t care about pictures!” He did snap a few of the baby’s feet coming out, but only one turned out because K’s hand was in the way of the others.

Jody called the professional photographer we hired to photograph the birth around the time I started pushing, but got her voicemail. By the time she called back, the baby had been born. (We opted to have her take family pictures a few weeks later instead.)

Carrie arrived after his feet were born and took Ava downstairs since things were very intense in the bedroom.

After his feet and legs came out, K said I needed to move to the end of the bed, so that gravity would be on our side. I said, “No” emphatically, not wanting to move a muscle. K said I *had* to move, so she and Jody picked me up and scooted me to the foot of the bed. She then told Jody that we needed to get into a supported squat position, so he held me under my arms while I began to bear down with everything I had.

I started out pushing with contractions, but it didn’t take long for K to say she wanted me to push whether I was having a contraction or not. I’ve heard enough birth stories to know this meant that I needed to get the baby out ASAP, so I pushed and pushed, taking breaks just long enough to catch my breath.

While his body was being born, A (the assisting midwife) arrived.

I don’t remember birthing him as being painful per se, but it was really, really intense work. I vocalized through every push and couldn’t imagine doing it without making noise. I think I opened my eyes once and then closed them again so I could focus on pushing. I also remember moving my right hand to the top of my belly. It helped me feel more connected with the baby and the job we both were working on.

Once his body was born (but his head still inside me), at K’s urging I pushed with everything I had to get his head to come out. I remember wondering if I was pushing enough or if I would be able to do it, but his head emerged with one really hard push.

Minutes after Julian’s breech home birth - 11/23/06Mommy and daddy look at Julian - 11/23/06Our son, Julian Emerson, fully entered the world at 2:14 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 23, 2006, after about 13 hours of labor, only one of which was really intense, and about 45 minutes of pushing. It was approximately 1 hour after K had arrived to our house.

It turned out that Julian’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck three times. It is for that reason, my midwife and I believe, that he ended up turning into a breech position in the days or hours before he was born. It was as if he “knew” he couldn’t safely be born head-down with the cord as it was, so he flipped to a safer position – in an act of self-preservation.

Also, I later learned that his right arm was tucked back behind his head and K had to reach inside me and pull it down so that he could be born without damaging it or getting stuck. She also reached in while his feet were being born to make sure they both came out together and one didn’t get wedged in.

Jody and Ava cut Julian’s umbilical cord - 11/23/06Julian scored a measly 3 on his first Apgar, then an 8 on the second one done 5 minutes later. A gave him a few puffs of air mouth-to-mouth to help get him breathing, while they encouraged us to talk to our baby. It didn’t take long for him to start breathing, and in the meantime, he was still getting oxygen from the umbilical cord that was left attached to the placenta until it stopped pulsing. Jody and Ava cut the umbilical cord together a little over an hour after he was born.

Julian weighed in at 9 lbs., 8 oz., was 22 inches long, and had a 15 inch head. What a big boy!

After the intensity of that birth and such a large baby, I ended up with only a first-degree tear, requiring four stitches. Not bad at all.

Amy and Julian after breech home birth - 11/23/06Giving birth to a baby in the breech position felt so different from birthing a head-down baby (as Ava was). With Ava, once her head was out, it felt like the rest of her just slid right out. With Julian, I felt like I had to work for every ounce of him to be born – saving the hardest part – his head – for last.

It was an amazing, incredible and very intense experience, but, if you ask me, it could not have turned out more perfectly. We have so much to be thankful for. We have a healthy baby boy and I had a great home birth with our amazing midwife. It is a Thanksgiving Day our family will never forget!


Related Post:
How we made the decision to have a home birth in the first place: Planning for a home birth

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71 thoughts on “One year later – Julian’s (footling breech) home birth story”

  1. This is such a great birth story. Thank you so much for sharing. I, too, developed HELLP syndrome with my first pregnancy. I know how scary it can be. Kudos to you for an unmedicated home birth, what a lovely experience for your family. Happy (belated) Birthday Julian!

  2. I enjoyed reading this so much when you sent it via email last year, I am so glad you shared it online this year. What a story it is! You are amazing, and so is your family for supporting you through the birth.

  3. While I knew some of the details, reading this in full just gives me an even stronger appreciation for your goddess-like wisdom and strength during J’s birth. I can relate to alot of what you said and remember pushing Indi’s breech body out sloooowly with all my might – just like you said with Julian.
    Our babies are so intuitive when choosing their births.
    What a empowering story, Amy. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. This experience lives within your heart and body memory.
    Leigh (one of those “birth junkies” who really enjoyed your story).

  4. What a beautiful birth story to share! You must be so proud of yourself for being and staying so strong for him. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  5. How beautiful! Thank you for sharing that story. Mama, i have been waiting for a year for it! Just kidding, but not totally:-)

    I had no idea he was footling. This makes me feel so calm, so much better…my baby inside, though only at 32 weeks is in every position BUT head down. And if for some reason he/she stays that way, then I know I can do it, too. Between you and Leigh, I have my guides…

  6. Wow, what an amazing story! I also had a footling breech birth, but not at home (we didn’t know she was breech, but we were using a local midwife service instead of family doctors, as we did with my first birth). It was because of the way the nurse freaked out and rushed me back for an emergency c-section (which didn’t happen because my dd, at under 4 1/2 lbs., shot out of me as I tried to hold her in 😉 ), that made me decide any future births would be at home (which I wanted with this one, anyway, but dh was NOT comfortable with that). Anyway, I’m glad to hear about breech homebirth stories so that can empower women to know it can be successful. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Wow, what an awesome story! Amy, you rock. And your story is bringing back memories for me! Especially about the vocalizing. This birth story is such a testament to the power of believing in your (and your baby’s) ability to birth/be born. So cool. Happy birthday Julian, and happy birthing anniversary, Amy. 🙂

  8. Thanks for sharing your birth story. I had a hospital birth ending in a section with my full breech boy. I look forward to exploring home birth options next time around.

  9. I’m so far behind on your blog, but I wanted to read Julian’s birth story first. How completely beautiful it is! I remember talking with K about you during a postpartum visit on the Friday after Thanksgiving. She said she’d let you tell me about Julian’s birth. You’ve inspired me to write up Maxwell’s. I’ve started to many times, but it always sounds so lame in comparison to the actual experience. But, you’ve captured Julian’s birth so eloquently. Maybe I can come up with something 🙂

  10. Oh, that brings back so many memories of K’s breech birth. So incredibly intense. Sounds like you had some awesome support, which made all the difference for me. Our bodies and our babies are quite amazing!

  11. To tell you I love the story is minimalism, but I LOVE THE STORY! And I feel bad leaving simple comments like this since I recognize the effort it took for you to write this down. It’s a beautiful story of a beautiful birth. I wish more moms had births this positive, whether at home or elsewhere.

    I really need to get Kieran’s birth story up on my blog (and I need to publish the answers to your interview questions, lol – it’s coming, I think!!!.) I missed his 6 month birthday, but maybe for birthday #1…perhaps if I start writing it soon, it’ll actually be done???

  12. Glad to hear things went well with your son. I had HELLP with my first child and ultimately did have complications of PIH with my second.

    Best wishes for your family!

  13. Perhaps someone can help me? I am writing a report on adult personalities and characteristics after having been born breech birth with the umbilical cord wrapped around their neck? Does anyone know where I could get some information about this? Carrie’s birth is great!

  14. It’s wonderful to hear about someone else who has had a vaginal breech home birth. My daughter our 2nd was born at home in a planned vaginal frank breech home birth with an experienced CPM in NC (not legal here alas) that I had seen my entire pregnancy. My daughter turned breech ~ 1 month prior to her due date. When we choose our care provider at the beginning of my pregnancy, we felt that if we had a scrap, the CPM had more home birth experience than the CNM. We didn’t know how important that choice was going to be. I did a lot of soul searching in the last month of my pregnancy and felt that my daughter wanted the chance to be born vaginally. Birth had to go like clock work or off to the big teaching hospital we would go for a c-section. I knew that I would go but was glad not to have to. We had a beautiful birth. She hung briefly at her chest and was 8lbs 6 oz 22inches. There aren’t many places where planned vaginal breech birth is allowed. We were fortunate to have an experienced care provider who was willing to work with us.

  15. Hi there– found your AWESOME story while I was googling about footling breechs (after a friend of mine had one)… curious, how old was your daughter Ava? I have a 2-yr-old I would love to have be at our birth (planned for a birth center but looking into homebirth as well). THANKS!
    E-mail me if you would.

  16. thanks for posting this. my daughter cole was a surprise frank breech baby who was born at home with a midwife, papa, and two friends attending. i’ve been trying to find other mamas who gave birth vaginally at home to breech babies. there aren’t many of us!

    cole is three months old now and the happiest baby i have ever known.

  17. We are kindred sisters! After a 12-hour labor I had a surprise double footling breech baby at home. She was almost 8 pounds and did just fine. She’s now a very chatty and sunshiny 2-year-old princess. Like Julian, she also needed a couple of rescue breaths. I gave her a tiny pinch of cayenne under the tongue also. I will treasure her amazing birth always, as I can tell you do. Awesome story!

  18. That’s such a beautiful story! It brought tears to my eyes as I read about how the cord was wrapped around his neck and his being in the breech position was actually a blessing! Birth is truly a miracle, isn’t it?

  19. I have worked in the NICU for many years. In my experience I have seen many babies who were born at home breech and have ended up in our unit with horrible complications. Some had to go home with trach’s and g-tube’s from being stuck in the birth canal to long and not having a proper resuscitation. You should not be promoting this on your website!! Good luck to those of you who follow this advise.

  20. wow what an amazing story !! i loved the instinct your boy had regarding the cord around the neck.. incredible. i have pdf’d this to inspire me for when i get scared ty xx

    ps.. lovely family you are !

  21. Thank you so much for posting this story. I am right at 40 weeks and my baby is breech. This is my second birth and am planning a home birth (my first was a natural birth too). I did an internet search for some positive breech stories because I knew they must be out there, but all I am getting from everyone around me is fear and negativity and pressure to have a cesarean. So THANK YOU for giving me a real, personal and beautiful breech story to hold in my heart and head as I move into labor.

    Many blessings to you and your family!

  22. just wanted to thank you for sharing your story and also say how funny it is that we have so many similarities. i stumbled upon your story because i am reading about breech homebirths, as it looks like that is what i will be having – i am due on Nov. 23 and the baby doesn’t seem to want to turn even though i have tried everything the midwife has told me. anyway, on top of the date, i laughed because my older son’s name is Julian Thoreau. 🙂

  23. I had a surprise googling breech homebirth 12 days ago! Isn’t it amazing what our bodies can do?! Thanks for sharing your story.

  24. Hello,

    I am looking for a picture of a macromatic baby, to use in dutch educational material. It is a book about maternity care.

    Can you help me find such a picture?

    Kind regards,

    Anke Gielen

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