In part one I learned that I had a baby who was breech.
ACT TWO: THE WEEK OF MAGICAL THINKING
I went into my 35-week appointment thinking something felt different. I thought that the baby had almost certainly changed positions.
So you can already see where this is going.
The second my doctor placed the ultrasound wand on my abdomen, she shook her head. Nope. Baby’s butt was still firmly sat in place on my pelvic floor. Baby’s head was jammed, as ever, up into the right side of my ribcage; toes literally touching the nose. Frank breech, they call it. Because Frank is a real jerk.
The doctor pulled me into her office to review my options. If the baby hadn’t turned by week 37, she said, I could choose to try an external cephalic version, which involves the doctor pressing on the abdomen to manually turn the baby. “Many women find it uncomfortable,” she said measuredly.
If the ECV went awry, there was a chance a c-section would have to be performed right away. Which maybe didn’t matter so much because If I made it all the way to week 39 and the baby was still breech, then she’d recommend a scheduled c-section anyway. Sounds like a lot of abdominal surgery on the table here, doc.
These were some semi-distant what-ifs, though. Right now, I still had time. And I still had options.
When I got home from the appointment, I pulled out the business card for the acupuncturist my doctor had given me two weeks prior. I called and left a message, and she called me back the next day. Acupuncture wouldn’t be good at this point, she told me, because it could trigger labor, and it was too soon for that. No, what would be best to try for now was an Eastern medicine technique called moxibustion that involved heating pressure points on your toes. “You can do it at home with your partner,” she said. “I’ll teach you how. But you have to be careful because if you do it wrong it could trigger labor, too.”
That’s cool. I’ll just trust the dude whose skillset centers on Excel spreadsheets not to fuck this one up.
So we went in the next day, the beau and I, to learn how to do moxibustion. The acupuncturist got me propped up on a bed against a stack of pillows with more pillows jammed under my knees, and she showed us the technique. What is was was this: you light some black sticks of mugwort on fire, then point them at the corners of each pinky toe at a very specific angle. The sticks have to be close enough to the skin to adequately heat the pressure points without burning. You were supposed to do this for 20 minutes twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.
“This has a very high success rate,” the acupuncturist reassured us with a zen smile. “I think you’ll have a positive outcome as well.”
Okay. You know what? Sure. I’ll bite. If heating my toes for 40 minutes a day using an herb that sounds like it came straight out of a Harry Potter book will convince my baby to turn head-down, I will do it. It was either sheer witchcraft or the most brilliant scam in the world. Why not give it a shot? I had nothing to lose, except maybe $125 and a couple of singed toes.
So we took our mugwort sticks and went home. And we did it. For one week and two days, we set up a bunch of pillows and went to town on moxibustion. I also continued my breech tilt positions, and my cat-cows, and I got on all fours and rocked back and forth, because someone mentioned I should try that too. Sure. Yes. Absolutely. I tried it all. Because you never know! Maybe somewhere in there was a magical combination that could unlock achievement for us.
During this particular week I found myself vacillating between cynical despair and radiant positivity, sometimes reaching both extremes inside the same hour. I felt to some degree that what I was doing was ridiculous, and then I worried that if I thought it was ridiculous it wouldn’t work. Which is my main problem with all prescriptive believe systems: any negative outcome can be construed as simple failure on your part to believe hard enough.
But I kept going, because in the end doing something was way more constructive than doing nothing. I became intent on trying to figure out where the baby might be at any given time. Sometimes I’d feel something different and a spark of hope would ignite in me. Maybe this means the baby is turning, I’d think. But then later the same roly-poly movements up under my ribs; the same thumps against my pelvis. What did it all mean? Was the baby moving and then turning back? Which part sticking out was a head and which was a foot?
I really wanted it to just work, because I really didn’t want to do the ECV. That sounded terrible to me. I was really afraid it would come down to that. But I was going to have to wait until my next appointment to find out.
Next: ACT THREE.