The weeks leading up to Gemma’s birth were pretty stressful. Exciting, of course, but stressful. At my 37 week appointment we were told that the baby was breech, not head down like she had been just a couple weeks before. A version was scheduled for a week later with a perinatologist at Utah Valley. The week before the version I was doing anything I could think of to get her to turn. Walking around all fours, doing handstands in the neighbor’s pool, doing inversions off of our bed, laying on my back to give her more space to move, whatever I thought might help, I did it. My dad and Kory gave me a blessing the night before the version (afterwards Jeremiah wanted one too, which was the sweetest thing). We all felt at peace that whatever happened would be right. We went in to the version and I wasn’t nervous at all. I felt calm. I was trying not to get my hopes up because versions only have a 50% success rate and I knew there was a good chance they wouldn’t even attempt one since I have a heart shaped uterus and the septum could make it too dangerous. We got in, got set up, and the ultrasound tech said “guys, she’s head down!” we were so thrilled. She said I had a lot of fluid but that her head was super low and she didn’t think she’d have and room to turn back. They brought in the perinatologist to confirm everything and she said the same thing. She told us she was in perfect birthing position. Her head, spine, everything was prepped to come. We were thrilled, but worried about her turning back. She calmed our concerns and said she thought there was a less than 1% chance that she could turn out of that position given how big she was, how my septum would keep her in place, how low her head was, etc. They did a quick non-stress test because I told her I was feeling some big movements the night before - she said that was probably when little lady turned and she wanted to just make sure a movement that big didn’t stress her out. Everything looked good and we were on our way. The rest of the day I didn’t dare switch out of an upright position and even took a nap sitting up on the couch. That got exhausting quickly so we tried to just do things as normally as possible knowing that they said she wouldn’t turn.
That was a Tuesday. At my appointment the following Thursday she was still head down and we were relieved all over again that she had stayed put. My doctor checked my cervix and said “oh yeah, you’re definitely inducible.” He said he was doing induction the following Friday and asked if I wanted in on it. I said yes of course, knowing I really really wanted to have her before she had a chance to turn. Over the weekend we had a little labor scare and I found out I was at a 4 so I knew my body was doing a lot. We kept waiting on a call from the hospital so they could schedule the induction and I was getting worried they wouldn’t be able to fit me in. Finally, on Wednesday, the office called and said we were schedule for 4am on the 18th. The advised me not to be late because the hospital was already booked as is and if I was late they’d give up my spot. The last weeks of my pregnancy I felt so patient but once I knew she was head down I lost a lot of that and wanted her to come before she had a chance to turn. I was so glad to have a date and felt like I just had to make it a few more days and hope she was head down. At this point my hips also started to really really hurt so I was anxious to get her here. In the days before she came I had a gut feeling she wasn’t head down. My belly felt like it did when she was breech but I told myself (and it’s true) that there’s just no way to really know. I had to assume she was head down because the perinatologist was SO sure she would stay that way. I was anxious to get to the hospital and get that affirmation that she was head down.
We slept at my parent’s house the night of the 17th so we wouldn’t have to wake J up in the middle of the night. Kory and my dad, again gave me a very sweet blessing that all would be well. and, again, Jeremiah, sweet little boy that he is, wanted a blessing too. He climbed up on the chair and folded his arms and pointed to the oil. He was so sweet and reverent and wise. We stayed up with Jeremiah until probably 12:30 and then finally all crashed. I woke up at 2 with consistent, really painful contractions. I just breathed through them and tried my best to sleep but really couldn’t get any good rest. I knew we were scheduled to be induced in a couple hours anyway so I didn’t bother going in to the hospital knowing it would be so much easier to just make it to our scheduled time. We got up around 3:15, ate a little breakfast and got ready to go. We got to the hospital and got admitted and they strapped on the monitors. They picked up a heart rate right away on the lower left side of my belly.
They checked me and said I was at a 4.2 and 70% effaced which was great because the last time I was checked I hadn’t been effaced at all. I said “so if you’re picking up the heart rate down here that’s a pretty good indication she’s head down right?” They asked me if she hadn’t been head down in the past and I gave them the quick rundown, telling them how she wasn’t then she was and everyone seemed confident she would stay that way. The nurses assured me that yeah, if they picked up the heart rate so easily in the right spot we can be pretty certain she was head down. I felt a little more at ease. One of the nurses (who we also had with Jeremiah and loved) said she usually had to have the monitor much higher for breech babies. They gave the little caveat that sometimes , very rarely they can pick up the heart rate there even when the babies are breech but it usually just doesn’t happen. I didn’t think too much more of it. I was a little surprised they didn’t double check on an ultrasound but I trusted they were right and I also remembered feeling hiccups low the night before so I assumed she was head down. They monitored everything for a few minutes to make sure it all looked good and then started me on the Pitocin. They commented that I was already having contractions every minute when I came in (yes, I know.) so things should move pretty quickly since my body seemed to already be in labor.
They started the pitocin and they were gradually increasing the dose. I got a text from my mom saying that I should have them double check to make sure she wasn’t breech. I immediately got really nervous and I think, in my heart, knew she was breech. My mama has to be the most in-tune person I know so if she was getting the feeling they needed to check, I knew they needed to check. Normally Kory and I would be so vigilant about this kinda thing but I think Heavenly Father just had his plan and was helping us to be calm and run with it. I casually asked the nurse again about the heartbeat/breech thing. She assured me that she was still picking up the heart rate in the same place, right where it should be, and that she was confident she was head down based off of that positioning. She was the younger of the two nurses and not as experienced (based off of the fact that she attempted my IV and then immediately passed the baton on to the other nurse. It seemed like a sort of shadowing situation) so I think she was just sort of running with what the other nurse said previously. If it had been the first nurse I think she would have checked right away when it was brought up again. Her assurance was enough to hold me over for a little while and I really wanted to believe that she was head down. My contractions were progressing and getting more intense pretty quickly. The pitocin started probably around 4:30 and at 6 o’clock there was a shift change. We got a new nurse, Lori, and she was the raddest. She was probably in her 50’s and so good. She kept telling me to just let her know when I wanted the epidural. I was in a lot of pain but didn’t want the epidural to slow down labor at all (since I had heard they can do that). She told me they used to think the slowed things down but they really don’t. She told me they’d have other inductions starting soon so to calculate in 30-45 minutes before I could get it (to give the doctor time to get there) plus the time for it to take, plus the potential wait if someone got their request for one in before me. I told her I was okay for now but knew I’d want one soon.
About 30 minutes to an hour into her shift the breech thing was still nagging at me. I asked her if she could just feel my belly really quick and see if everything felt right and head down. She immediately said she’d just grab the ultrasound. She said the other nurse told her I was nervous about it and she just told me to trust my gut. She wasn’t hesitant to double check at all and was a big advocate of just checking if anything felt off. She wheeled in the ultrasound machine and put it on my belly. At first I thought it looked like a head and felt a second’s relief but then I could see clearly that her little bum was down. “Yep, she’s breech. Well poop!” she shut the pitocin off right away and started talking to us about what we wanted to do. She told us breech means c-section. Kory was pretty upset and couldn’t find his words for a minute. He was so excited for little lady to come and the frustration of that not potentially happening that day was rough on both of us. Lori was so awesome and could see Kory’s frustration and just said “talk to me.” He told her that he was frustrated that they didn’t check before and she agreed that they should have. We both expressed that we’d rather hold off on a c-section and see if we could attempt a version and get her turned. Lori told us the baby’s head was nestled tightly into the right horn of my uterus right under my ribs but that miracles happen and she could turn. Kory asked her to really advocate for a version if at all possible. She said she’d call our doctor and see how he wanted to move forward. He was in another procedure and couldn’t come over until 8:15. She called him about the version and he said we could try to schedule one for Monday or Tuesday. We were disappointed we couldn’t attempt one right then but were willing to wait if it meant avoiding a c-section. At some point amidst all this I went to the bathroom and noticed I lost the rest of my mucus plug. I had been losing it in bits before but knew this was the rest of it and that it was because my labor was progressing. Lori left us to talk a little bit and said we’d just wait until doctor Judd came at 8:15 and he could come and talk to us. Kory gave me sweet blessing. It really was more of a prayer. He asked Heavenly Father to help the doctors and nurses to do the right thing, whatever that meant, even if it went against their typical protocol. Kory has a big work trip to Spain in October and the thought of me having a c-section and having to recover while he was gone was a big weight on him over the last few weeks. He said several times that he’d cancel his trip if he needed to but I didn’t want him to have to do that. The blessing was heartfelt and sweet and left us both in tears. I got up on all fours for just a minute because I had heard that works before and wanted to give her space to turn. I only did it for a minute before sitting back down.
When Lori came back in a few minutes later. I asked her how quickly the pitocin would stop giving me contractions. I think in my heart I knew I was already in full-on labor. She said my contractions should have stopped almost immediately after turning it off. I told her I was having contraction before coming in and she said “so now we’ve got you in labor. It sounds like you were already in labor and we just gave it a boost.” We were worried because we all knew that meant we wouldn’t be able to make it to Monday or Tuesday to attempt the version. I was worried, but also happy knowing we’d most likely be meeting her that day either way. Since my labor wouldn’t stop, we asked her if there was anything we could do that would help her to turn. She said the best thing to do was to get on all fours, leaning on my elbows to give her some room to turn if she wanted to. Her and Kory helped get me all set up and I was probably that way for 30 seconds before I felt my water break. “My water just broke.” “oh shoot.” They got me back into a normal position and she started explaining that we’d need to move forward with c-section protocol since water breaking sort of clinches it as far as being in labor goes. She had me sign some papers for a c-section and got Kory the clothes he needed for the operating room. It wasn’t 8:15 and we were waiting on Dr. Judd still but they had a doctor on the ready in case he couldn’t make it. She checked my cervix, said I was at an 8 and that she could feel a foot.
The next few minutes were a blur and somewhere in there my parents came in. They assured me everything would be fine and that it was okay if I needed to get a c-section. My mom said she should have been more insistent about having me have them check whether or not she was breech and I assured her it was fine. It was great to have that extra support of my parents there.
At this point I was pretty much dying from contractions. I knew as soon as my water broke that the pain would get really really intense really quickly, just like it had with J. I had a lot of water so it was sort of cushioning the pain up to that point. Lori knew, too, that things would be getting painful quick. She asked me if I could hold off on an epidural and told me it was really better to get the spinal block if I could hold off long enough. I told her I could and I tried my best to breath through the contractions. They gave me a shot to try to slow my contractions down (tirimbulin?) so I could make it to the spinal block. The shot made my heart race big time. It was hovering around 150 bpm. When I focused on it, i could slow it down but most of the time i was just focusing on getting through he contractions. I asked for an ice pack for my chest. Since I have tachycardia, I knew it would help. When I’d breathe through contractions Lori just kept saying “you are amazing. I'm serious. I don’t impress easily but you are so amazing” it was so sweet and gave me the boost I needed to be brave and keep sticking it out.
A few times in the weeks leading up to this point I had the thought that I could potentially deliver her breech vaginally but I dismissed it, assuming she was head down and knowing the chances of that happening were rare, especially since I was going to be induced. In the back of our minds, through all of this, we were hoping for a vaginal breech delivery. We had asked dr. Judd at a previous appointment if he ever delivers breech and he said he does several a year. He said that it only happens when someone comes in in full-blown labor and he knows that in the time it would take him to do a c-section, he could already have the baby out. When I was being induced I knew i wouldn’t fall into the category he’d deliver because it wasn’t like I’d be coming in already at a 10 and ready to push, which is part of why I was so anxious for her to be head down.
I started feeling the urge to push and that sort of panicked everyone but I told them it wasn’t like an overwhelming urge. I kept getting that urge (the shot hadn’t slowed things down much and my labor was progressing).
The charge nurse came in and said something to our nurse. Our nurse said the charge nurse had been the one communicating with doctor Judd through it all and they suggested I get an epidural. I knew right then that he was going to attempt a breech delivery because up to that point it had been all about holding off until a spinal block. I knew an epidural meant that based off of everything they knew, they could try a vaginal delivery. I was getting excited but tried not to get my hopes up. They came in and gave me the epidural (I’m thinking I was at a 10 by this point since I was feeling the urge to push). and it started to kick in.
I could tell Dr. Judd was taking his time because they kept saying “he’s on his way” or “he’ll be here any minute.” at one point they finally said “okay he just got here” and it still took at least 5-10 minutes before he got to our room. I knew what he was doing and I was grateful. He was just trying to give her enough time to move into the birth canal so he’d have ample justification to attempt a vaginal birth rather than just jump into a c section. I was worried when they said she was feet first that they wouldn’t attempt the delivery since she wasn’t bum first so I was so happy to see everything seemed to be going in the direction of a vaginal delivery. It’s clear it’s not something they do very often because everyone was pretty hush-hush about it and nobody was saying outright that that’s what was going to happen. for malpractice reasons, people really shy away from vaginal births and it’s definitely not the typical protocol.
Dr. Judd finally came in to check me and said “well, let’s get you wheeled in to the operating room and we’ll see how things are looking when we get there.” Dr. Judd sauntered over to the operating room and they came to get me. a nurse anesthetist came in and gave me a c-section dose of the epidural in case I ended up needing one. Our nurse verified with him “so we’re attempting a vaginal delivery first…” making sure that he knew. He confirmed that he knew and gave the dose I needed. That was the first time anybody had outright said we’d be attempting a vaginal delivery. Before it was all just sort of reading between the lines. They wheeled me in to the operating room, everybody was moving (intentionally) slowly. My parents both gave me squeeze before we went in. They checked that my legs were sufficiently numb for a c-section and then got my legs up into the stirrups. Dr. Judd turned to the nurse and said “see the foot?” I asked “wait are you serious?” “yeah.” Dr. Judd is a jokester so Kory and I turned to the other doctors and nurses in the room to verify that he was, indeed, serious.
A couple minutes later, I started to feel her foot/leg. “Is she just sliding out?” I asked. Dr. Judd said “well, I wouldn’t say sliding but yeah she’s coming.” It felt like she was just going to slip right out. They asked if I wanted a mirror and I said yes. Kory was looking at the back wall so he wouldn’t pass out. I looked in the mirror and saw a little foot slip out. It was amazing. I said something like “I wish my mom could see this.” They said they could open the hall window but that it would be open to everyone. Dr. Judd said he was okay if they went into the room between the OR and the hall. “we’re already breaking all the rules today,” he laughed. They brought my parents in to the viewing room and I kept watching in the mirror. pretty soon another little foot slipped out behind the other one. Dr. Judd said “this is when I become Mormon, you just sit back like this and let them come on their own.” he folded his arms and stood back. He explained that every time you pull on a breech they tense up and swallow amniotic fluid so the best thing to do was just let them come all on their own. He explained that because her toes were down he knew that her chin was down too. He also said something about her shoulders once it came to that but I can't remember what it was. There were so many people in the room, most of them just to observe a vaginal breech birth. the whole thing was so calm. we were talking and joking and just letting her take her time to come out. It was a miracle. honestly. there’s no other way to put it. the whole thing was a massive miracle and tender mercy.
Everyone was laughing and saying that she had massive feet, since that’s all you could see initially.
We watched her continue to slip out, one foot and then the other, then her legs. Her legs were so chunky and sweet. Then her cute tiny bum and torso. Everyone was saying she looked like a big baby. Finally it got to her head and I saw Dr. Judd start to turn it back and forth. They told me to push, so I did, just for a second. Then more turning. Another push and some more turning. I pushed one more time and she was out. They stimulated her a little bit and she cried right away. Doctor Judd asked Kory if he wanted to cut the cord and he, being naturally a bit queasy, declined. So I got to cut the cord instead.
They brought her over and weighed her and measured her. They told me she was a pretty big baby. 8 pounds 5 ounces and everyone was so surprised that she was 21 inches long.
I asked Dr. Judd if I tore much and he said he only had to do one stitch, I was so relieved. Sidenote: while they were prepping Gemma, I also noticed Dr. Judd on the floor after the birth helping the nurses to clean up, and it was just another reminder of how kind and humble he is. One of the nurses even noted that no other doctor would have done that.
Kory went over to look at her and then they brought her over to me. I couldn’t help but just cry. It was all so surreal. It should have felt so chaotic but it was so calm. I cried and held her and wondered what her name would be. After a few minutes they wheeled us back to our room and my parents were there to greet us right at the door as we went out. We brought her to our room and started to process all the craziness that had happened. We said a prayer of gratitude. and we’ve said many since. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to thank Heavenly Father enough for how everything happened.
Those days in the hospital and now at home were so sweet and tender. Seeing Jeremiah meet his little sister for the first time is something I’ll never forget. he pinched her nose and toes and smelled her feet. He said “hold it! hold it!”. We spent the days trying to figure out her name and praying to be inspired. My recovery has been remarkable. We were up walking around a few hours after the birth and I haven’t had to take anything stronger than ibuprofen. pushing is really what makes the birth and recovery difficult and I basically didn’t have to push.
I’ll never have any words for it other than miraculous. She is finally here and we are so grateful.
Miscellaneous things about Gemma’s birth that I want to remember:
Dr. Judd came in our room the next morning and told us the reason he became an obgyn was because he saw somebody hang a breech during a delivery. Previously, he was on track to be a neurosurgeon but decided that as a neurosurgeon he could add a few years to someone’s life but as an obgyn he could give them a chance to live period. He’s a remarkable man and we feel so blessed that he’s our doctor. Word of the birth got around to all the nurses and everyone was so sweet and excited about it. When I told one of our nurses I didn’t get an epidural till after I was at like an 8 she said “you practically had her naturally!” I obviously know that’s not true but it was a sweet sentiment
Doctor Judd had another vaginal breech the next morning and he said it was like Christmas and his birthday all rolled into one.
All of the nurses told us over and over again that 99.99% of the time that would be a c-seciton and that doctor Judd was the ONLY doctor who would have attempted that. we’re truly blessed and there were so many miracles that happened.
My parents saying “you guys are amazing. that was nuts and you guys are just amazing”
The day we were leaving the hospital, we knew we needed to name our sweet little lady. We had prayed hard to know what to name her and Gemma had never really been on our radar until the last few weeks. The day we were leaving, Kory left the room to get some food. I held Gemma in my arms and asked her what she wanted to be named “are you an Oliva? are you a Margaret? Are you an Olive? Are you a Gemma?” When I said the words “are you a Gemma?” I was immediately overcome with emotion and knew that would be her name. Gemma means precious in Italian and that felt so right after everything that had happened. When Kory got back I told him about my experience and we both agreed that felt right. For months we had wondered what her name would be and we finally knew - our sweet little Gemma babe.