After 42 weeks of pregnancy, I was more than ready to meet my baby. Anxieties were beginning to mount that I wouldn’t have the birth center birth I had planned, that I would have to be induced, that I would end up being forced into a cesarean. I worried that something was wrong with my baby, that something was wrong with me. We were waiting and waiting for…we didn’t even know what. And prodromal labor every night left me questioning my own body and ability to even tell what real labor felt like anymore.
In short, I was not handling it as well as I would have liked.
At my last midwife appointment, they gave me a homeopathic labor stimulation kit, complete with a castor oil smoothie and instructions to take the supplements and try to stimulate labor with my breast pump — for two hours. I did it diligently. Nothing happened.
The next morning, I had a biophysical ultrasound scheduled to make sure everything was okay. My worst fear was that my fluid levels would be low and I would get sent to the hospital for an induction.
For the record, my fears about induction and c-section are entirely my own. I know so many incredible mamas who have brought their perfect babies into the world through these methods, and I firmly believe any way that gets you a healthy baby is the right way. But it wasn’t my plan, and I felt fear about potential surgery. I was mostly afraid of being in a situation where I didn’t feel empowered in my labor, or where I was pushed into something I might not actually need just because of a hospital’s policies. But because the most important thing to me was getting my baby safely out, I was working hard to compartmentalize these fears and mentally preparing for whatever would come.
Before the ultrasound appointment, I took another dose of castor oil, and then my mom and I headed over.
Fortunately, the ultrasound was very positive. Baby was moving and breathing, fluid and cord looked good. The baby was measuring about 39 weeks, but that was normal for my babies. I left with a sigh of relief that, at the very least, I would be able to see this pregnancy through Sunday night without intervention.
When I texted the info to my midwife, I asked if she knew of a good acupuncturist who specializes in stimulating labor in the area. She didn’t, but she said she had an amazing chiropractor who could help, and I scheduled an appointment for that afternoon at three.
I spent the next couple of hours before the appointment relaxing. I wanted to take a break from all the labor stimulation. I was tired and feeling frustrated, so I figured I would just leave it for now and start again Friday morning.
At my chiropractor appointment, I explained that I was overdue, and the doctor checked me and found that my pelvis, a spot in the middle of my spine, and my neck were out of alignment. He said these things could be interrupting the electrical flow and even signals between the baby and my body, gave me an adjustment, and told me to come back in a few days if nothing changed. At the very least, I found I could now walk without a waddle and chalked the visit up to a success.
On the drive home, I started to have some stronger contractions, but I had been having contractions every 10-15 minutes at hour-long spurts for weeks, so I didn’t think too much of it. Once home, they continued to intensify until they were too strong to talk or walk through. The contractions were about 8-10 minutes apart by 4:30/5. I called Joey and told him to start thinking about heading home because this felt more real and then gave my midwife a call.
We agreed to give it a little more time and see if they continued to get closer together. (By this time, I was beginning to feel like the pregnant woman who cried wolf and didn’t want to get everyone in a tizzy just to have the contractions drop off in an hour.) But by 5:30, I could tell these were different from the prodromal contractions and told Joey to get in his car (he works an hour away with no traffic, and we were officially in rush hour). I alerted my midwife again, who told me she would be at the birth center in 40 minutes.
We took Vivi to one of my best friend’s (and birth team member!) houses to spend the night, and 20 minutes later headed to the birth center. The contractions were about 6-8 minutes apart but getting stronger every minute. I even felt the vague urge to push, but told myself that was crazy—it was way too early.
We got to the center at about 6:40, with Joey reporting he would be there in an hour or less. My midwife checked me, and I was dilated to almost five centimeters. Active labor is six, so she said I could go home if I wanted to, but I could tell things were moving very quickly and opted to stay. Already there was no comfortable position to ride out the contractions, and they seemed to be coming faster and faster with no real break in between. (It could have been the adjustment from earlier, but my pelvis lit up with pain during every contraction and still felt sore even between them.)
When Joey walked in the door in the middle of a contraction at 7:30, I could have cried with relief. After that, I got in the shower for a while because that had been such a comfort to me when I had Vivi. I wanted to try the tub, but my midwife was worried it would slow down labor. The shower water did help, especially since my pelvis was feeling so sore.
After about half an hour, I was feeling even stronger urges to push, so I got out. My midwife had me lie on my side with a peanut ball between my legs, and I tried to relax as much as I could through the contractions. Easier said than done since they were SO PAINFUL at this point, much more intense than Vivi’s had been only a few hours into labor. I remember thinking, “I hope this labor goes fast, because I’m not sure I can do this for much longer.”
At 9:00, I told my midwife that I was feeling a strong urge to push, and she checked me and was shocked to find I was nine centimeters. My next contraction, I tried pushing and my water broke immediately. The next, the baby started to crown. My midwife must have sensed my small moment of panic because she immediately grabbed me and told me to breathe, to feel the baby’s head, to realize that my baby was right there, that I was almost done.
The next push, the head popped out. The next, the shoulders cleared and I grabbed my baby and pulled it onto my chest (we still didn’t know she was a girl at this point). The baby was a blueish gray, but before I could even worry about it, she pushed her whole chest and head up in a push-up and stared straight at me for a full two seconds. Then she flopped down and took her first breath with a few wails. At this point, everyone was dying to know if it was a boy or girl, and I finally lifted her up to check. A girl! Vivi had gotten her sister and Juliette was officially part of our family.
Truly, I’ve never known such relief and happiness. My baby was in my arms, the pain of labor was over, and I’d been able to have the labor and delivery I hoped for. The extra weeks of waiting faded away and felt like exactly what we needed. The stress and fears were gone, and we were all right where we should be. It was an incredible moment.
From start to finish, the labor was about three and a half hours, which made it all the more surreal for me. We stayed at the birth center for four hours for follow-ups and instructions from the midwives, and then I decided I would rather sleep in my own bed and wake up at home. So we bundled up Juliette and headed home.
Now, the usual questions!
Yes, Juliette was also an unmedicated birth. No, I don’t have any regrets about that. Yes, it hurt—in many ways a lot more than Vivi’s labor because there was virtually no build up to the final stages of labor. (Well, unless you count all those overdue weeks of contractions ) But, for me, there is something incredibly empowering about feeling every moment of bringing my babies into the world. And while, yes, it is the greatest pain I’ve ever known, it is not impossible, not unbearable—at least for a while. I’ve been fortunate with both my babies that things have progressed steadily—and in this case, very quickly—because, as I said, surviving a 36-hour labor (or more) as some women do would be a totally different experience.
And, yes, we did head home after just four hours! Honestly, I loved it. I got to sleep and wake up in my own bed, which for me was so much more comfortable than staying in the hospital the way we did with Viv. Of course, if either of us had needed any kind of follow-up care, we would have had to go a different route, but I’m grateful that we were able to get back to our own space.
So I think that’s it! Sorry for the long post, but you know I’m a stickler for the details. All in all, we’re just so happy to finally have our little girl out of my belly and in our arms.