My pregnancy with Lily began just like the old wives would predict: a miserable amount of nausea and vomiting because I was now growing a sweet, little girl inside of me. Once that tapered off, the pregnancy was smooth and easy. My intuition (which I believed would reveal so much about my pregnancy with Liam but absolutely disappeared the moment the stick read positive) was clear that she would be a strong woman born with a full head of black hair. One evening I sat in the temple with the intent of just meditating on her. I felt she would be a powerful influence in the world and that her personality would be all her own. I felt I was carrying someone very special inside of me.
Lily’s birth story begins at 34 weeks. That is when we found out she was breech. 34 weeks is too early to worry about the breech position, but my midwives wanted me to prepare. While I did start trying right away to get her to turn, I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that she wasn’t going to comply.
During the next few weeks I diligently did all of the “spinning babies” exercises, went to a chiropractor certified in The Webster Technique, did handstands in the pool, put ice packs on top of my belly, and even tried to will her head down with meditation. All the while, I also prepared myself for what would happen if she didn’t turn. After a lot of prayer, study and putting my faith in the Lord I came to a final thought: a c-section would be the last resort. I’m not anti-cesarean, but the Spirit has testified to me several times throughout the years that because of my uterine abnormality I want to avoid a c-section. Since the uterine abnormality was discovered, several doctors told me I would only be able to give birth by cesarean. Two years ago, I put my faith in the Lord and in my body and had an uncomplicated, vaginal birth with Liam. Now the Lord was telling me to do it again. It was frightening because there is a stigma around breech birth, but the more I researched it the more comfortable I felt. The only problem was finding an option that didn’t seem to exist anymore: a vaginal breech birth. Cue my angel-of-a-midwife, Kirsten.
The midwives I see aren’t allowed to deliver a breech baby, so my only option with them was a c-section with one of the OBGYNs they work with at the hospital. During one of my visits, Kirsten expressed her support for my decision and had confidence in my reasoning and research. She referred me to Dr. Morosky, an OBGYN who delivered breech babies. It was the only OBGYN she knew of in Connecticut who delivered breech babies. I called Dr. Morosky later that day and we talked over the phone for 45 minutes (yes, 45 minutes—unheard of!). He is in his sixties and has delivered breech babies all throughout his career (he does so because he was a breech baby). He is incredibly skilled and experienced. I could go on and on about his history as an OBGYN; suffice it to say, I would be in the hands of one of the best. When I met him in person I felt peace and comfort. He seemed so familiar to me. The Lord was lovingly guiding me along and answering my prayers. I scheduled an external cephalic version—my final hope for turning the baby— with Dr. Morosky and hoped for the best.
Dr. Morosky delivers at a hospital northeast of Hartford. That is about 2 hours away from where we live. We drove to the hospital early Saturday morning (exactly a week before Lily was born) and I was admitted for the procedure. The risks of external cephalic version are low, and Dr. Morosky has an exceptionally high success rate of 70%, so I was willing to take this last attempt at turning the baby. Honestly, I knew it wouldn’t work because that feeling was still there, but I had to know I tried every thing I could. After three extremely, awfully, terribly painful tries, the baby was still breech. They monitored her heart rate throughout the procedure and she wasn’t even fazed by the doctor trying to manually turn her. But, after the third try, the pain was so bad that my blood pressure plummeted to less than half the normal measure and I passed out on the table. The room flooded with nurses and the anesthesiologist rushed in. I, thankfully, came to and was stable in just a few minutes. We were both fine, but I was ready to go home and just let us both be. I felt relieved, knowing we had done all we could and that we had safe options for the baby to be delivered. The plan was to stop by the birth center as soon as I went into labor, double-check that she was still breech and, if she was, then we would continue the drive up to the hospital and Dr. Morosky would deliver her there. Now all I had to do was relax and enjoy the last few weeks of my pregnancy.
On Saturday morning, October 10th, after the best night’s sleep I had in a while, a contraction woke me up around 6:30 a.m. I lay in bed for a little while feeling a few more come and go and thinking, There is no way this is real labor. I woke up Joel by saying, “Guess what I’ve been feeling? Contractions!” We both just laughed it off. I was 11 days late with Liam, and the women in my family have a history of going late—like 2 weeks to a month late—with all of their babies, so the last thing I expect is to have a baby before my due date. With Liam, the doctors kept telling me he would be early and had me prepared to have a baby by 37 weeks. It wasn’t until an entire month later that Liam arrived. This time around, I spaced the baby prep out and had only partially packed my hospital bag and washed some baby clothes by this point.
We went ahead with our morning, making breakfast and laughing over remarks like, “We could have a baby today!” or “How shocked would our families be!” and “We are totally unprepared!” My jokes started turning into nervous laughter when I felt the contractions coming regularly. At around 7:00 a.m. I told Joel that we should probably get what we can finished this morning just in case we do have the baby today. We made a list: finish packing the hospital bag, wash the car seat cover, install the car seat, pack a bag for Liam, change the sheets and throw a meal in the crockpot. Labor with Liam lasted 36 hours, so we were expecting to not even leave the house until later that day. The baby’s position felt exactly the same as it had been for the last few weeks. I could feel her head up by my rib cage. I knew she was still breech, so we decided to drive straight to the hospital instead of stopping by the birth center. Around 7:45 a.m. I called a friend and asked her to pick up Liam and Joel threw in a load of laundry. The next hour felt like 10 minutes.
I felt frustrated because I could barely move into the next room without another contraction coming along and stopping me in my tracks. I was no help in getting anything done. Liam was toddling around, trying to take the birthing ball I was practically bouncing on from one room to the next because I couldn’t walk very well. I kept telling Joel that I could feel the weight of the contractions in my bottom and, after hearing that, Liam repeatedly asked me if I needed him to check my diaper. He also brought me one of his binkies because I was in pain. He is a sweet and funny little boy. Around that time I told Joel to call Dr. Morosky and finish what we could because we needed to get in the car soon. Dr. Morosky said it might be false labor but we were welcome to come to the hospital. I knew it wasn’t false labor and even if we ended up being at the hospital for a while I just wanted to get myself settled there. We had a 2-hour car ride ahead of us and it sounded more miserable the more time went by.
I felt like such a wimp---how would I make it through any more labor if I could barely handle these first couple of hours? The contractions were intense and they came practically on top of each other. I remembered parts of my labor with Liam being just like this and I was only dilated to one centimeter at that point, so the intensity didn’t make me think I was progressing quickly. It took me so long to just put on a shirt and pants because I couldn’t find a break between contractions. I felt nauseous and a cold sweat came on. I started to think, “I can’t do this. I’m not going to make it. Just let me stay here. I don’t want to move!” Those were all symptoms of transition I felt with Liam, but that didn’t register at all. I kept brushing off the pain because I did not think for a second that I was in the final stage of labor. It was 8:40-ish and our friend picked up Liam. I said a quick prayer in my head, asking the Lord for comfort, relief and guidance. I told Joel I would use the bathroom one last time and then we would get in the car. As soon as I sat down I felt a HUGE contraction. It felt like my whole body went into it. I yelled, without even knowing what I was saying, “I think the baby is coming!” Then I felt another HUGE contraction and heard a loud POP. “Uhh…my water just broke!” That’s when I knew the baby was on her way out. I was completely shocked. Joel said, “That’s okay, we will just go to Norwalk hospital instead. Let’s go!” My water didn’t break on its own with Liam, so Joel thought we still had at least enough time to make it to the nearest hospital. “I felt another huge contraction and this time my entire body PUSHED. I felt like someone had taken over and I was just a bystander. I reached down and felt the baby’s bottom coming out. It was soft and squishy. I yelled, “NO, the baby is coming out NOW!” I told Joel to call 911. The phone call to 911 lasted 8 minutes and the following happened in just that short time.
There was no stopping my body, so I started to work with it. Lily’s bottom and right leg came out. Then came her left leg, and torso. I tried to keep my hands off (which some say is best in a breech birth so as not to stimulate the baby) but I gently held her feet up so they weren’t dangling in the cold water. Next came her shoulders and arms. While I was delivering her body, Joel was on the phone with 911 relaying instructions and updates. While he was giving them our information I yelled “The baby is out!” He then put 911 on speakerphone, set the phone down and ran into the bathroom. When he saw Lily’s entire body dangling out of me, he panicked and rushed forward to pull her out. He said that for a split second he forgot she was breech and thought her head was in the water. At that exact moment (thank goodness) my body pushed her head out and she practically glided into Joel’s hands. Joel held her and screamed, “Her neck! The cord is wrapped around her neck!” He tried to take the cord off of her neck but there was no slack. He started to cry, handed me the baby and stepped backward out of the bathroom. I could see him pacing back and forth in the hallway crying, “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do!”
First, a breech birth is a strange thing to see. The first video I had watched of a breech birth made me feel queasy and I love birth videos. I warned him that he should watch a breech birth before the baby came because I knew it would scare him. Second, he still wasn’t used to what a baby looks like when it is born. When Liam was born Joel thought he was dead because he didn’t know that some babies come out kind of limp and grey-ish. So to not only see our baby girl come out bottom first, he also saw her limp and grey with the cord wrapped tightly around her neck.
I told him that she was okay and took the baby from him. I held her head with one hand and unwound it from the cord instead of trying to unwrap the cord itself. The cord was wrapped around her neck maybe 3 or 4 times. I asked Joel to find a bulb syringe—which he found and brought it to me extremely fast. Then I laid her in my lap and rubbed her back and torso trying to stimulate her. Joel said he could hear me saying, “Come on baby…Come on baby.” I wiped off her mouth and nose. In a matter of seconds she turned a beautiful shade of pink and slowly opened her eyes. She looked straight at me. That connection made everything feel calm and quiet. She cried. I took off my shirt, held her to my chest and wrapped a towel around us. She was fine. I was fine. We were all fine.
And she is here! Elizabeth “Lily” Magaly da Silva Castro. Born at 8:51 a.m. 5 pounds 12 ounces. 20 inches.
I had the feeling of stepping back into my body—the cold toilet underneath me (yes, she was born on a toilet!) and a wet, squirmy baby in my arms—as the room flooded with police officers and paramedics. They tied the cord with some shoelaces and a few minutes later I delivered the placenta. The paramedics and police officers arrived a few minutes after she was born.
I was in our teeny, tiny bathroom, inside of our tiny apartment, but I felt as happy and peaceful as I do sitting inside the holiest of temples. I smiled as I cut the cord with the paramedic at my feet, smiled as they wheeled us out on the stretcher, and smiled all the way to the hospital. Later, during my hospital stay, my nurse said she watched me come in “just beaming from ear to ear looking like a queen being carried in on her throne!”
Lily’s birth wasn’t scary or traumatic for me. It was incredible to witness the miracle of the human body working so perfectly and to work alongside it to deliver my baby. God blessed me with calmness, He guided me, and He prepared me. The years of reading, studying and just being fascinated by childbirth prepared me for that moment. Lily coming five days early, being so little, and coming so quickly were not just coincidences. The last month, from finding out she was breech to holding her in my arms, played out like a symphony. Every note in its place, delivered perfectly. It was beautiful to be a part of.
Joel and I could not decide on a name during my pregnancy. We had the hardest time even coming up with a list of possibilities. After Lily was born, we sat in the NICU (she was fine, they just brought her there because she was born outside of the hospital and breech) and looked up the meanings of the names on our list. Elizabeth means “pledged to God” which reminded us of how we owe everything to Him—especially this strong and healthy baby. Her nickname “Lily” (less common than others, but still a derivative of Elizabeth) comes from the New Testament verse, “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.” Our Lily is a tiny, delicate thing, but her strength runs deep as roots in the soil. Before she was even born, and especially during her birth, she taught us to trust in the Lord and she will always be a symbol of faith. Her middle name “Magaly” (mah-gah-LEE) is after Joel’s mother who was also breech, born at home and delivered by her mother. Fitting, yes?
That day in the temple I knew she would be a powerful influence; I just never expected it to start so early in her life. We are blessed to have Lily in our family, and her birth story is one for the books.