I am a very determined woman when I want to be, just ask my poor husband. As my due date approached, I wanted that baby out and in my loving embrace!
A week and a half before my due date, I was looking up all things natural to help my labor come sooner rather than later. I ate and drank a bunch of pineapple juice, did some acupressure, drank red raspberry leaf tea, had sex, and even walked up and down my stairs a bunch of times. I had been reading up on drinking castor oil which people swore by to start their labor. I had read and agreed that you shouldn't TRY and start labor BEFORE your forty weeks is up; why would you want your baby out before he is completely developed and ready to come out? All my natural encouragement would help speed up the process if baby was already ready.
So Justin and I agreed to try the castor oil ON my due date, June 1st. I was really anxious to get this baby out by then. I knew my body was prepared since at my thirty nine week checkup I let them do a vaginal exam and I was two centimeters dilated and at least fifty percent effaced. This only really meant though that baby could come that day or still take a few weeks. My Bradley Method instructor (Rachel Benson, who I highly recommend if you live in Orange County) had recommended not even getting a vaginal exam early since it can cause false hope since even when you are a little dilated, no one can determine when you will actually go into labor. But of course I HAD to know, so I did the exam anyway, and was shocked I was two centimeters dilated. I hadn't felt any Braxton-Hicks contractions so far, so didn't know I could dilate without contractions.
All that being said, I was prepared to try my hardest to start this labor on my due date! Justin had the day off and I thought it would be an awesome story to say I had my baby on my due date (most don't come on the actual day). Another reason I wanted the baby out then, was so it didn't get larger for two more weeks and have to push out a HUGE baby…'nuff said.
So castor oil is a natural laxative, which when it starts working on your intestines and bowels, it can help stimulate the start of contractions; again, IF your body is ready. My birthing center gave me a great recipe for taking it, since it is a thick oil and can definitely make you gag if you just take it straight. Some people take it mixed with orange juice or grapefruit, but I think you might like this recipe better:
Castor Oil Root-beer Float
- 1 tbsp. castor oil
- 1/2 can of root-beer (I used Zevia Ginger Root-Beer soda since it's all natural and I believe you shouldn't drink regular soda…DEFINITELY when you're pregnant.)
- 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream (I used Halo Top ice cream since it's low on sugar content but still really yummy!)
(Note from Kristen: I feel strongly that if baby were ready, labor would be starting, and that it's better to spend the last few days/weeks of pregnancy relaxing, cuddling, eating good food, nesting, etc. – that kind of good lovin' stuff that got baby in will get baby out. Castor oil, etc. can sometimes have unpleasant side effects. If baby is ready, labor will start! I love sharing mama's stories and experiences, but also want to share what I feel strongly about having worked with birthing women for years – and having my own pregnancies and births.)
I mixed it all together and had it for an early morning ‘breakfast treat' at 5a.m. Then went back to sleep because you want to be very well rested if you're about to go into labor. Then at 7 a.m. I took the second dose. I was already clearing out my bowels by 7. It's not the most fun experience, but just think, if you're worried about pooping when you're pushing out your baby, you won't.
By midday we decided to walk to nearby Downtown Disney to just get out and exercise, the more walking, the sooner baby is going to come. I warn you, with the castor oil, make sure there are a lot of bathrooms where you are, luckily for me there are a lot there. After an hour and half I was getting tired of walking and I was hungry. If I was going to go into labor that day, I wanted to make sure I got didn't skip any meals. After lunch I was feeling a little uncomfortable (but at forty weeks pregnant, when are you not?). I was frustrated that it was past noon and I had still hadn't felt a contraction. So what is your last straw? Have sex! Don't be shocked, that's how I got pregnant too… The funny thing is, right afterwards, I was really uncomfortable and crampy. Right after 1 p.m. I was feeling minor contractions. I was like, “What? Did I actually start my labor?”
When pregnant I was really interested to know what a contraction WOULD feel like. As I read up on other women's descriptions, I realized a lot of people describe it in different ways. To me, as it is to many women, it just seemed like an extreme menstrual cramp. A lot of pressure, and I knew it was a contraction, because it is distinct and different then anything I had felt my whole pregnancy. But as my Bradley instructor had kept telling us, don't get an excited adrenaline rush or it can stop the contractions! So I calmly (as calm as I can get…) told Justin we should probably go on a walk around the block. As we were slowly walking, every three minutes I would have to stop and let a contraction go by. Yes every three minutes, not starting with one every hour, or even ten minutes, but every three minutes. And that is definitely when I knew I had started my first stage of labor.
So it already was starting off a little strangely with these fast contractions one after the other. These contractions were very doable, yet during each one, I had to stop. As I had practiced in my Bradley Method classes, I would lean against my husband, Justin, and relieve some of the pressure by moving my hips back and forth. I'd slowly walk a few more minutes and then stop again. We walked around for about an hour that way and then decided to walk back to our home. After an hour and half I started feeling a little more uncomfortable, and very nauseous. Yes, I threw up. Luckily I had a bowl right next to me…no mess!
I felt better after that and decided to try a few of the different laboring poses. The first I tried was side-lying on the bed, which we had practiced all through pregnancy in a really relaxing state. Nope! Made the pain worse! I then tried sitting backwards on a chair. Horrible! Tried sitting on the toilet. Blah. Tried on the ground kneeling against the couch. This one helped for about five minutes, then my legs were going numb which ruined it for me. The only position that was bearable was standing and leaning against the wall, swaying my hips. It was obvious right away, I wasn't going to be sitting down.
The weirdest thing that I did I thought I would never do. Make small moaning sounds. It helped so much, as did focusing on each individual contraction, one at a time. Justin kept trying to be a good husband and have me eat some bites of a protein bar, I tried once, didn't want to eat anything. So I just made sure to keep drinking liquids.
By 5 p.m., Justin called the birthing center. We were really confused with my three-minute-apart contractions. I wasn't having the long one-minute contractions that usually come with it, but they had never been spread out. The question they ask to make sure you are getting into active labor, “Is she laughing and talkative?” If not, you know she's getting there. When he looked at me after being asked this, I just gave him a look, I was not comfortable.
After the fact, Justin told me that he was surprised how ‘happy' and myself I was — all things considered — and he thought that was a good trait to have; that I didn't become a crazy, evil laboring woman!
The midwife at the birthing center said keep laboring at home and call back if anything changes. Around 6 we called back. I was definitely feeling the need to put all my focus into each contraction. My contractions were still consistently coming every three or less minutes, but only lasting about thirty seconds each time. Finally we got the okay that our midwife would meet us at the birthing center. I had dreaded the car ride, but it was surprisingly fast and not painful. First off it was a miracle that there was no traffic at 6 on the I-5 freeway, and second, when you introduce your laboring body to a new environment, i.e., the car, your contractions lessen.
When we got to the birthing center, I wobbled in and my midwife decided to check my dilation then, since if I wasn't dilated a lot, I would have to go home and then come back. Luckily, I was already six centimeters dilated, and had been in labor for about five hours. I was encouraged, thinking that was good progress. Laying down for the vaginal exam was PAINFUL though, since I still only wanted to stand.
After that, my best friend Marissa arrived. She was there to be my doula. A doula assists a woman in labor with pretty much whatever she needs to keep her comfortable. I wouldn't have wanted anyone other then Marissa, I trust her completely. Switching between her and my husband, I would lean on them for support as each contraction came. The midwife had seen my birth plan and knew I was wanting to try the hot tub for labor relief. As she made up the water, it looked so inviting. By then my shorts had already been off from getting wet with some kind of labor issue (don't really remember why…), so I threw off my top and jumped in. The tub was so relaxing that my contractions slowed to nothing for about thirty minutes, but that was probably a good break for me anyway. The midwife said it was probably smart to try different positions in the bath so that it could trigger the contractions to keep coming at a steady rate. Once I got into a squatting position leaning forward against the tub with my husband in front of me holding my hands, the contractions started again, and even though outside of the bath I couldn't bear any position but standing, the welcoming warm water contended against the pain of the contractions.
You REALLY know how far you are in labor by how much clothes are left on you. Your modestly level slowly dwindles as you try to be as comfortable as you can as the contractions get stronger. Getting in that bath was the best decision ever!!! It was so relaxing to my labor-weary body.
I labored in the bath from around seven-thirty to ten-thirty. It is crazy how the time really just flies by as your mind is completely focused in each moment, one contraction at a time.
At around eight o'clock, this is how it was:
Me: “Justin, I feel another one coming on.”
Justin: “Alright, you got this one. Remember to keep breathing.”
grab his hands tighter
Justin:”Try not to tense, let the contraction just move through you.”
Me: “Okay” (moaning in the most attractive way I could.)
Contraction over. Marissa shoves the coconut water in my face, I suck up a few sips. Relax my body as much as I can, and wait for the next one.
Me: “This isn't so bad, I can totally do this! Contractions aren't that bad, my period cramps were worse, I even get breaks in between these pains!”
Around 10:30 this is how things had progressed:
Me: “Justin, I ALREADY feel another one coming on. I don't want another one. They are coming too soon.” I am tensing my body even though trying not to.
Justin: “Don't squeeze my hand so hard, You need to relax and just breath through the–”
Me: “I CAN'T NOT SQUEEZE, OK?! (I am moaning a little more deep and guttural,which is helping get me through the contraction).
Justin: “See it's over already!”
Me: “Yeah!…No. No it's not! It's double peaking!!! I hate this… When will it just be over?”
As you can see, around ten-thirty I had started to get into the transition phase. This is when you're finally going to get that last few centimeters left of dilation done, and then you can push. Most women say its the hardest part, and I really agree. A huge issue is you begin to self-doubt your ability to go on, and not knowing when transition will be over is really hard to bear. Justin had been keeping track on a phone app of all my contraction times. He stopped keeping track then since they were pretty regular now: Start. Minute thirty. End. Thirty second break. Start. Minute fifteen. End. Start right away again. Minute twenty. End. Thirty seconds break, etc. All of the fast contractions made me nauseous and I threw up for the third time, which was pretty much a dry heave since I hadn't eaten since lunch. When you aren't getting enough breather-breaks, it's really hard to mentally recharge for the next contraction. This is also when women who have lasted this long without an epidural start screaming to the doctor to give them one right away. If I hadn't had Justin there to motivate and encourage me to get through it, reminding me that baby was on the way, I don't think I could have done it.
By 10:45 p.m., the midwife had come in to check on me. She could tell by the lack of me talking and my low moans that I had to be almost to the pushing stage. I think it's so amazing how midwives can observe the tone change of the mamas and know what's going on in their bodies. It was around eleven-fifteen when I was questioning the desire to start pushing.
One of my biggest fears (I mentioned in a previous post) was tearing. I had repeatedly told my midwife that I wanted her expertise on whatever I needed to do to not tear when I started pushing. Her recommendation was she was going to help open my perineum and use a warm compress to gently soften the skin more so there would be enough room for the head to come out. In doing so she told me I couldn't have a water birth, since she couldn't see and help with my perineum. This was not a disappointment because I had not made up my mind in my birth plan if I wanted a water birth or not, the water had just been amazing to labor in.
When I shakily got out of the water, she let me get through a contraction standing, which wasn't comfortable AT ALL after having the soothing water, then she checked to see how dilated I was. Nine and a half! So close. I could semi-see the light at the end of the tunnel. She told me I should try and go pee on the toilet. Contractions are made worse when you have a full bladder, since your bladder expands when full and creates less room for your body to be working in dilating and having baby descend. Right after I peed, I was like, “Oh goodness. I NEED to push”! No question about it, my body was saying PUSH. I had always heard you will know when it's really time to push, and I knew. Everything in my body was saying Push. Right. Now….
Without even consciously thinking about it, I pushed! It actually felt so relieving to give into what my body was demanding of me. I did not want to stand back up, so my midwife said I could do some pushes sitting on the toilet. It's weird how even with this being my first birth, if I focused on what my body was saying, it directed me into what to do next.
That reminds me that earlier in my labor, one of the assistance nurses came in and joked, “Are you sure you two [Justin and I] have never been through a birth before? You guys seem to know exactly what to do.”
I love that. It shows that all our hard work and research prior to starting labor was really working. I mean I personally felt like it was, but I was just doing what I thought was right; it was nice to have the affirmation from a woman who had already helped with many births.
After pushing on the toilet for five minutes, my midwife thought it would be wise to not stay on the toilet…don't need the baby to come out landing in the toilet water! So she directed me onto the bed, laying on my side with my leg bent and up. RIGHT AWAY I knew this was a bad position. All the positions I had wanted to do were standing or upright to let gravity help. This position made me not even able to push, but being the great midwife she was, she agreed to change it right away. Before anyone could say otherwise, I found myself just standing up and leaning against the bed. And oh, how gravity worked! I felt the extreme urge to push! So I did. I don't even remember how long between intervals, but I just keep feeling them come on, and I kept giving into each urge.
My midwife was on the ground underneath me giving me the warm compress and oil to help loosen and open up my perineum. The warm compress was heaven sent. It was so welcoming against the ring of fire you feel as the baby's head starts to crown. That is when I was thinking there was no way I wouldn't tear with that intensity in pressure. But my midwife just said, “Don't push too hard and you got this.” To me, there was no “no pushing too hard.” I could only keep pushing with my body forcing me to, but I guess she said I was doing it at the right rate. It is hard to determine if the pain in transition or in the pushing stage is more painful. They are completely different. One is an intense inner cramp pain and one is a fire-burning, stretching feeling like you are about to burst. In my opinion though, since your body is desiring the pushes, it was easier to do the painful pushes then it was to go through the transition phase. Fifteen minutes after I had started pushing, everything happened fast, one thing after another. I heard a pop.
My water had FINALLY broken.
(They say it's lucky if your water doesn't break until the baby comes out, Close enough!) Seconds later my midwife said the head was crowning.
I'd only been pushing for fifteen minutes.
Two good pushes and the baby's head emerged.
Half a push and the rest followed.
Baby was out.
I was done!
First few things that came to my head as she handed me my baby right through my legs right after I had delivered him.
I laugh. It's over? No way!
Midwife is saying it's a girl, I'm taking my first glance at my precious angel. “No,” I am saying. “I see his little peepee!” What is this brown stuff all over my legs and baby? Oh! My little overachiever had already accomplished his first meconium poop INSIDE my bag of waters. Lovely.
(I am sure I repeated this about ten times because I ended up letting them video type my delivery…so I've seen this part a few times), “He is so beautiful. No, but seriously, look at him! He is so beautiful…LIGHTBULB we are parents!” I wonder if I can describe my baby BOY as beautiful, but then realize I am right on. Such a beautifully created little baby boy that is MINE. Why are my legs shaking and why can I not stop them from quivering?!?!
My baby boy, Cedric, is so alert and just staring at me, with these big blue eyes. At 12:25, June 2nd, my baby boy, Cedric Christopher Meissner was born.
It's funny how you hear the stories of how mothers feel right after birth when they are holding their baby, but to be that mother, you know your life will never be the same, and you are at total peace with that.
I love how at the birthing center they NEVER took the baby away from me or out of my sight. The first thing they did was put my baby naked against my skin so that he could bond and feel his mommy's warmth. It is such a magical experience to FEEL your baby's skin and movement outside of the womb for the first time. Then they covered us both in warm blankets so we wouldn't get chilled. Shaking legs are very common side effect from your body going through that much work as all your hormones and muscles are all out of whack. It was such a weird feeling. So as I am holding my precious boy, the midwife was feeling my stomach, pushing down on it, and getting ready for the third stage of labor, delivering the placenta.
I was anxious to see what it looked like. One, I think our bodies are so intriguing, blood and all. Second, I had read if you are REALLY healthy during your pregnancy, you can tell by the umbilical cord's thickness how well it performed in sending great nutrients to your baby.
Let's just say my cord was frikin' awesome looking!
In my birth plan I had said to hold off on clamping the umbilical cord for fifteen minutes. It is very crucial for the rest of the blood and oxygen to have the opportunity to be transferred from my body to the baby. If you clamp the cord right away, it can cause your baby to have anemia from not getting all the blood needed that was left in the cord. After about fifteen minutes the placenta came out, and my labor was officially over. It didn't hurt when I helped push out the placenta, it just felt strange after having just pushed out a baby. Everything is more sensitive down there. After about thirty minutes I let my dear husband finally hold Cedric. So cute to see your man holding your new little man. We then got the opportunity to have our golden hour to ourselves, for the first time being alone as a family of three.
I started sipping orange juice to replenish my sugar levels. I also finally had my appetite back and snacked on trail mix. We would have ordered take out, but being 1 a.m., nothing was open! The midwife encouraged me to try breastfeeding right away. With how alert and awake Cedric was from not being doped on drugs, he GOT IT right away. That bonding was one of the most magical, incredible experiences, too. Right there, you know all your baby will need is you.
Since it was past 1:30 by this point, we allowed our parents to come in since they had patiently been waiting. I did not make myself up or even have clothes on, just covered by blankets, and I really didn't care. They knew what I had just accomplished, and of course only really wanted to see their new grandson anyway. After the quick visiting session, it was time to check out Cedric and make sure everything was in order. The best part, the birthing center did it RIGHT on the bed, so I didn't have to move, and I got to see everything they did to my baby. He weighed seven pounds on the dot and was exactly twenty inches. Hallelujah, he was only seven pounds. Good size, not too tiny, not too big! They really didn't need to do TOO much with him. I refused the vitamin K shot and the eye droplets. With a healthy baby, you really do not need those synthetic medicines, and I knew I had been giving him all the nutrition he needed through my nutritious diet.
I also appreciated that the birthing center did not bathe Cedric. The vernix (white cream that covers and protects your baby inside your womb) is really good to keep on your baby. It acts as a lotion and rubs into the skin to keep it extra soft and healthy. A baby really doesn't need a bath until after the first week. After he was wiped dry, my husband put him in his first adorable little nighty while I got to rinse off my body and feel clean and done in the bath,
Around four am, we were done! I didn't have to spend the night in an unfamiliar bed. We went home. I put my baby in the bassinet next to me, but really all I wanted to do was just hold and stare at my newborn.
I got about one hour of sleep that night.
Hope you appreciated my birth story. It really was an intense, blessed, incredible experience I will never forget. With not being medicated, I really do remember every moment of it and will really appreciate the bond I made with my husband as we BOTH went through this labor and delivered our very loved Cedric Christopher. IF you have any questions about natural birth or about my birth story, ask away. I am an open book and would love to help enlighten or address any questions or concerns you may have for your future pregnancy/labor. My blog is familyaswego.blogspot.com .