Monday, 17 June 2013

Foot First

Somewhere in Northeastern Japan, there is a twenty-year-old woman who came into this world her own way: foot first, and painlessly. I think of this young woman and her mother from time to time because their story is so extraordinary.

I met the girl's mother at a party when I was five months pregnant with my second daughter. I have since forgotten the mother's name, but I will call her Saeko. Saeko and her husband had brought their firstborn six-month-old daughter to the party, and, as women tend to do, we started talking about babies, then giving birth. There were a few other mothers there, one of whom was also pregnant.

"It didn't hurt!" Saeko told us. "Everybody told me how painful it would be, but it hardly hurt at all!"

We were all astonished to hear this, so Saeko told us the rest of the story.

Saeko's baby was facing the wrong direction--feet-first. Her doctor consulted a very experienced midwife who was able to turn the baby in her womb, but although this was accomplished successfully, the baby always flipped back to her original position by the next visit. Because of this, Saeko was scheduled to have a caesarean  section, which she was understandably nervous about.

As she was lying on the guerney waiting to have the surgery, Saeko went into labor. "Only I didn't know at the time because it didn't hurt!" she said.

Saeko's belly had been painted with betadine and she was waiting for the surgeon to show up when she had a feeling of strong pressure, but no pain. She told the nurses that she needed to go to the bathroom, and before they could help her up, her daughter began to emerge, foot-first. Slowly, but surely.  And painlessly.

"She just kept moving, slowly and steadily, until her head was out," Saeko told us. "Her legs weren't doubled over or anything. The nurses said they'd never seen anything like it. She reminded them of a dancer, or somebody doing t'ai chi"

"And it really didn't hurt?" a woman who'd had a 50-hour labor asked.

"No! All around me, I heard women screaming their heads off, but I never even had the time to," Saeko said. "And I didn't need to either, because I could hardly feel anything. It was so, so strange!"

There was a long silence as we all absorbed this. The woman who'd spent 50 hours in hard labor looked especially thoughtful.

"Is she always this quiet?" another woman asked, pointing her chin at the basinette next to Saeko. Because Saeko's baby had slept placidly through a fairly noisy party.

Saeko nodded. "Everybody says so. I  mean, she cries to let me know she's hungry, but she sleeps a lot. And she's very sweet-tempered."

This, for me, was tough to hear. A few years later, with two non-sleeping children, one of whom was hell on wheels, it was even tougher to recall.

All of us mothers got to cuddle Saeko's baby when she woke up from her long, long nap, and she really was placid and sweet-tempered--no false advertising there. As we left the party, there were murmurs all around about Saeko's luck. One woman commented that Saeko might want to consider having a dozen children. My own personal opinion was that she shouldn't tempt fate.

Over the years, I have wondered to myself what sort of toddler this baby became, what sort of child, and for pity's sake, what sort of teenager. Somewhere along the line, Saeko's luck must have run out or there simply isn't any justice in this world.

But occasionally, when I meet women who are expecting babies and some young mother asks me that question--Does it hurt?--I always tell the truth, that yes, it did. And then I tell her Saeko's story.


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12 comments:

Falak said...

Wow. I'd really like to know what Saeko's miracle baby grew up to be like!

Falak said...

Wow. If only all women were as lucky as Saeko. Wonder what her miracle baby grew up to be like...

Lovely to see you posting again, Mary!

Lisa Shafer said...

Wow. I think that's the only tale like that I've ever heard. Amazing.
I did know a woman, years ago, who told the story of the birth of her second child at a Relief Society (Mormon women's organization) meeting I was attending. Apparently this gal had been in labor only 2 hours with her first child, and, knowing the 2nd one usually comes faster, she was concerned when her labor pains began at 5:00 PM -- and they were in Los Angeles. Her husband drove her to the hospital, but, of course, they were stuck in a traffic jam. She told us she kept repeating to herself, "I can do this; my great-great grandmother gave birth in a covered wagon."
When they arrived at the hospital, she handed the nurse the baby, wrapped in a towel, and then allowed the EMTs to help her onto a stretcher.
No doubt her husband got stuck cleaning up the car.

Mirka Breen said...

Fantastic.
Without looking for a natural or unnatural explanation, this story is best left *just.like.that.*

Barry O'Leary said...

My Wife is expecting in 3 months...nice to know it is possible feet first, but I hope it's head comes poking it's way through! Thanks for sharing though.

Chocolatesa said...

This reminds me of a book I started reading once about a woman in the old days who gave birth to a daughter who slept a lot and barely ever cried and was very sweet-tempered, eventually when she got old enough they thought something might be wrong so took her to a doctor and she was diagnosed with Down's syndrome. But that was a hundred years ago or so, I doubted that they wouldn't have been able to tell when the baby was born 20 years ago with the advances in medicine. But I wonder.

Kit said...

An extraordinary story.. I too would love to know how she grew up! I can't say that any of my children were born so painlessly, but it certainly got a lot easier with the second and third and the pain much easier to cope with.

Marcia said...

Amazing story. I knew a woman who had three babies, all of them in 15-30 minutes from start to finish. Talk about "Don't make any plans."

Kim Ayres said...

Apparently, when my mother was in labour with my older brother, my father told her she should just read a book and take her mind off it...

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like in that case the baby knew best how to be delivered.

annebingham said...

It's so wonderful to hear an easy labor story. I think people who talk about their labor horror stories in front of pregnant women, especially first-time moms, ought to be jailed.

A.T. Post said...

Do they have any midwives anywhere that'll turn the baby around so it comes out feet-first? I want to test this theory.