Confessions of a Breech Baby

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Mom looks a bit bedraggled after her three-day delivery of

that ten-pound sack Dad is holding.

The road out leads only one way. But sometimes one heads in the wrong direction. I did.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, breech births occur in approximately one of twenty-five full-term births.

I discovered I was a breech baby when I heard my Aunt Sally tell that to my orthodontist. (I had inherited Aunt Sally’s severe overbite, and she must have known that this malocclusion eventually would adversely affect my self-image as it had hers. So she took me to an orthodontist while I was still in middle school and paid for braces to straighten my severely bucked teeth.)

What is a breech baby?  The simple answer is that a breech baby is right side up as compared to “normal” babies, who occupy the uterus upside down. 

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Breech babies can strike a variety of poses while they while away their months in the uterus:

  • Frank breech: The most common breech position, baby’s bottom is down with legs pointing upward and feet near head
  • Complete breech: Baby’s head is up, buttocks down, sitting cross-legged
  • Footling breech: Baby is head-up with one or both feet hanging down

There’s nothing wrong with hanging out head-up while coming to full-term. Until it’s time for baby to be born. A host of complications can occur during a vaginal delivery of a breech baby:

  • Compression of the umbilical cord, which can cut oxygen flow to the fetus
  • Injuries to the baby’s skull, brain, or limbs, especially if forceps are used to extricate a child whose head is stuck in the birth canal
  • Prolonged and difficult labor
  • Tearing of tissue between mother’s anus and vulva

In my case, my mother spent three days in labor before I finally entered the world ass-backwards—a position I’ve maintained throughout life. It didn’t help that I weighed in at ten pounds.

I’m one of the few who remembers being born. I remember that I almost died. I remember that I couldn’t breath. I remember the brightness of the delivery room light.

In my first years, Mom applied all the bromides that she thought were beneficial: regular soapy-water enemas to keep me regular, pulling my legs at bedtime so I would grow as I slept, Bosco in my milk to encourage me to down glass after glass of Vitamin D. And my favorite—a cup of hot coffee after eating ice cream so I wouldn’t catch cold. All this she did—while she ignored having my lazy eye attended to, keeping my baby-fat-boy weight in check, and taking me to the dentist for regular check-ups before my teeth turned green from Tastykakes. 

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But you know, in my life’s autumn, I wonder why. Why did I survive a dangerous birth? Why–despite my unhealthy upbringing–do I remain strong, vigorous, creative and healthy into my eighth decade when my two younger brothers are long gone?

I will not know the answers during my lifetime. I only know that I’ve been kept alive and productive in the hope that I have some positive effect on my two lovely daughters, my three glistening grandsons, and the devoted friends who read my blog posts and books.

So from all of us—as we celebrate Mother’s Day and as your wedding anniversary approaches next week—thank you, Mom. 

Oh, and Dad? You too.

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Anita Smytana and Peter Yaremko

married on May 20, 1939.


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