Last night was one of those client sessions that leaves me feeling so grateful to have the opportunity to do this work. I have been working regularly with Jennifer, a friend and one of my former classmates in massage school. She is 37 weeks pregnant with her second daughter. The baby has been sitting head-up (breech).
We talked yesterday morning, and she told me the doctors were planning a procedure this morning called an external version. During the procedure a qualified medical professional turns the baby (helping it do either a front roll or a back flip). The procedure has a 65% success rate after week 37. Its purpose is to avoid a mandatory C-section (this obstetrics practice does not use trial labors with breech babies). However, the risks include possibilities that might cause baby enough distress to require an emergency cesarean section. That is why external version is only performed in a facility where such emergency surgery can be performed.
As you might imagine, Jennifer was quite nervous about this. When I arrived she was a little gray looking and not feeling well. She was having a hard time coordinating schedules with her husband who works nights so he could be there, and her Mom was out of town. More pressing, literally, was that the baby’s head was causing her intense pain under her ribs, a 9 on a 10 point scale.
What Jennifer wanted was to feel at peace, to be open to accepting the procedure and even the C-section if it came to that. We were not trying to manipulate or turn the baby herself. That is a medical procedure outside of my scope of practice and training. However, both Jennifer and I share the perspective that the human body has intelligence—both the mother’s body and the baby’s. While sometimes it may get stuck and need support, if you are quiet, patient, and willing to follow the body’s guidance, it will generally move and flow in a way that is beneficial. This is what we saw as the session unfolded.
We started with craniosacral therapy. With Jennifer lying semi-reclined in comfortable clothes, we allowed the head and neck to unwind using exceedingly light pressure. If you have never experienced craniosacral therapy, it may be hard to imagine the deep sense of peace and body awareness that comes from the work.
As Jennifer’s body overall became quiet, the specific pains arose. Here we used EFT with me gently tapping on the points for her. We tapped on the “head rib separation pain” and the “sharp needle pain” which became the “dull needle pain” and the “remaining dull needle pain.” As the pain in her ribs dropped from a 9 to a 0, we then tapped on the fear the pain would return, and that there was no way she could survive three more weeks of pregnancy with such pain.
She was feeling a lot better at that point. The pain was gone and she felt that baby had shifted off her ribs. So we used EFT to ask the body to make it easy for baby to shift to head down position. We also used EFT to tap “Even though baby’s head isn’t in the right position for birth, I choose to get my own head in the right position for birth.”
Then, we both felt a fear around the shift in position. Jennifer suggested that maybe the baby was scared about being head down. So we tapped as if we were the baby: “Even though I’m scared of being head down and what is to come, I choose to be calm and confident as I move into position.”
Now, you may laugh at this. Tapping for a baby’s upside down fear?? All I can tell you is that, as soon as that EFT round was over, there was a deep peace both in the room and emanating from the baby. It was an unmistakable change we both felt.
Moms know that babies have moods, particularly in the later weeks of pregnancy. They can be agitated, playful, and sometimes clearly uncomfortable in a particular position. I believe the key with EFT is to trust whatever is coming up intuitively. It matters not at all whether the statement we use is provably right; what matters is whether following the guidance brings peace… as it did in this case.
Next, I moved to the lower legs and used “unwinding” to very gently allow tension in the ankles, knees, hips, and pelvis to release. Unwinding work again requires a deep listening and a patient respect of the body’s own intelligence. The practitioner feels the body’s impulse to move, to stretch, to compress, and be still and just supports the process, following the body’s lead and any feedback received from the client.
At this point the baby’s head had clearly shifted. Her head was starting to lower into the pelvic bowl. We used visualization combined with unwinding to release any stresses Jennifer felt. And we took time to breath and be still.
Her daughter then awoke from her nap and called for her Mommy. As Jennifer got up to get her, the new lower weight of the baby appeared to pull strongly on her sacrum at the base of the spine. She felt a strong pressure and pain. After she returned with her three-year-old, we followed the same process: allowing the body to tell us what positions brought relief, and what pressure to apply to sit bones, hips, and sacrum to support the shift that was happening. Within a few minutes, the pain subsided.
Next we moved to a standing position. Jennifer had a lot of dance experience during her youth and her posture is excellent. Yet, if we read about the changes that normally occur in these later weeks as the baby rides low, we know that the hips usually rotate outward (duck walk) and the low back increases its curvature. So, we had her assume that position.
As she relaxed into position, we could both see and feel her hips expand by over an inch! We used variations of this standing position to find and release tensions and pressures. I found trigger points in the low back and hip rotators and released those.
When we were done, both Mom and baby seemed SO HAPPY! Rather than that dark gray pallor of fear, concern, and imbalance, Jennifer looked bubbly with excitement over the birth to come. She said, “I can do this now!”
As I review the work we did together, I am again reminded that when we honor the inherent intelligence of the human body, we are working with it rather than trying to force change. That doesn’t mean the process is always pain free. It just ends up being helpful pain, or as one client says, “Good pain.”
It is also important to note that while Jennifer and I were open to the baby moving into a better position, we also positively affirmed that it was okay if she did not:
“Even though baby is not in the right position and may require a C-section, I choose to feel calm and confident that she will be born on her birthday—whenever and however and wherever that is to occur.”
We can choose to enter a space where we are emotionally free to accept reality without fear. From that place we are always better able to listen; we don’t have the tension and stress of believing we know what is best. We let go of “how it must be for me to be happy” and start loving what is. It might have been best for Jennifer’s baby to be born by C-section; it still might be. What I trust is that when the impediments of pain, tension, and fear are removed, whatever is in the highest and best good arrives. In this case it was a baby who shifted on her own into the right position for her eventual natural birth.
UPDATE: You may wonder what Jennifer found the next morning. Well, some pain had returned to her ribs, although not as intense as the weeks before. This made her concerned that the baby had turned heads up during the night and she’d still have to go through the procedure. She went to the hospital and sat for three hours on a hard plastic table in just a gown. When the doctor finally came in, it took less than 30 seconds on the ultrasound for the doctor to determine the baby was head down and Jennifer could go home. She called me excited about the outcome and tired from the impersonal and drawn out experience.
I asked if she had tapped that morning when she noticed the pain, and she had not. It’s very common—even when people see significant relief from physical pain—to forget to tap when the pain reappears. So, we did two rounds of EFT while she was on the cell phone in the passenger seat of her car on “burning needles” and “remaining burning needles.” The pain disappeared.
What a miracle life is… the creation of life even more so. To be invited to participate as a support of that process is humbling to me as a professional. It’s also incredibly rich and rewarding work. I am grateful to Jennifer for her trust and collaboration and for letting me share this story with you.