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How Listening to My Unborn Baby Saved Her Life

Photograph by Twenty20

I was nine months pregnant when my OB-GYN said I should consider a C-section. Ever, our unborn daughter, was continuing to flip completely over. Planting one foot into my side, she’d jerk herself completely upside down, like a circus performer with no audience. I’d feel like I was going to be sick, get dizzy, and burp. Sometimes, it hurt.

Already having vaginally birthed three babies, I was upset with the prospect of a C-section. I knew that the most important thing was delivering a healthy baby, but it wasn’t the only important thing. My births had been deeply transforming for me, and I wanted that experience again with our newest, and last, baby.

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The transformation of birthing wasn’t a singular experience. It was one shared with the baby, and that moment of pushing a live human being out of my body and having him or her handed to me, looking down at that little face while bathed in the hormones of life, was a moment that deeply bonded me to my babies. I didn’t want Ever to miss out on the same emotionally anchored mother that all the others had been born to.

I struggled with the decision. My husband was supportive but felt ultimately it had to be my decision since it was my body. We made the appointment for the cesarean, with the understanding that it could be cancelled if I changed my mind.

“What's the harm in trying for a vaginal birth?” I asked my doctor, and she replied that in her experience, sometimes babies who are doing things that the doctors cannot explain, have a reason for their actions, one that can't be discerned until after they're born.

If Ever had been born vaginally, she could have died.

I went home and sat alone in the living room. I've always been comfortable with connections unseen or unproven, so it didn’t feel ridiculous to place my hands on my belly and talk to the baby about this—at worse, it would be pointless. I asked her to help me decide what to do. “I don’t know what you need,” I told her.

I woke up the next day and just knew that I would have the surgery. I was afraid to have one and afraid not to have one, but I trusted my doctor. It wasn’t her medical expertise that struck me, but her years of experience, culminating in the words she said to me: Sometimes, there is a reason.

The morning of the C-section, I was getting an ultrasound, and the doctor laughed. Baby Ever had flipped the very day before. Even as I was being wheeled into the surgery room, I could feel her forcefully propelling herself in utero.

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She was born pulled from my womb, and there was a long silence before I heard her crying. Ever had been born with her umbilical cord tied tightly, a rare condition known as a "true knot" that only two percent or less of babies are born with. If Ever had been born vaginally, she could have died.

Babies born vaginally with a true knot are at risk for the knot tightening as the baby descends through the vaginal canal. In fact, there is a 10 percent risk of death for babies born vaginally with a true knot, and Ever’s knot was so tight that I couldn't imagine what the force of movement during pushing would have done to the blood flow to her tiny body.

My husband showed me the knot as I cradled our newborn girl. We were both silent, contemplating what we came close to losing, and we both bent closer over her, marveling at what we were graced to hold on to.

Turns out my doctor was right—sometimes your baby knows better what they need on the inside than we do on the outside. And the least we can is to listen.

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