April 5, 2016.
I was 6 days overdue with my first baby and irritable as a grizzly bear. Huge, swollen, in pain, I was so ready for my pregnancy to be over. We had tried it all…spicy food, red raspberry leaf tea, walking, climbing stairs, bouncing on an exercise ball, and I had eaten so many pineapples my mouth hurt. And still, I remained pregnant. I could not have been more done. I just wanted this baby OUT.
During one of my many Google searches on how to induce labour naturally, I came across the idea of using castor oil and after more research decided to give it a shot. I knew its use was controversial but my midwives gave me the go-ahead so I felt comfortable with the plan.
I took my first dose on a full stomach (I had read that doing so would guard against nausea and diarrhea that is common after taking castor oil) around nine in the morning. I put two tablespoons of the oil in my blender with one cup of orange juice to mask the horrible taste, whizzed it for about thirty seconds, plugged my nose, and chugged it. At this unfortunate moment, I looked out the window to see our dog barfing all over the grass. Great, just what I wanted to see while trying to drink OIL. It took all my strength to not do the same into the kitchen sink.
I chased down that disgusting mixture with crackers and cheese for some protein to hopefully avoid any nasty bathroom experiences. I then proceeded to clean the entire house and scrub the floors on my hands and knees (because the baby would certainly notice if it were dirty 😉).
Ready to pop! Come on, baby…
Twenty minutes after my first dose I took a trip to the bathroom but it was nothing out of the ordinary, thank goodness. Two hours later and I was feeling nothing. No cramping, no bowel movements, no nausea, and most importantly, no contractions. Fifteen minutes later my lower back started cramping, which was nothing new. I had experienced worse, yet here I was overdue. But I was glad to be feeling something. By noon I was feeling slightly nauseous and dealing with some Braxton Hicks. Again, nothing I hadn’t been having for weeks already.
My husband came home for lunch and read the paper where I had been keeping track of my symptoms. He told me I was going into labour but I didn’t think so. It had been three hours now and barely anything was happening. I was more convinced than ever that I was going to be pregnant forever.
The backache stayed with me for the afternoon but never intensified. I was not glued to the toilet as I had been told to expect. I finished cleaning and laid on the couch for the rest of the afternoon, too discouraged to go for a walk or bounce on my ball. The backache grew to include my stomach but I just assumed it was painful Braxton Hicks.
By the time hubby came home from work I was so discouraged. I had hoped labour would be well on its way by then. We were invited to my in-laws for supper, and before we left hubby pulled me close (as close as he could with my watermelon in the way) and prayed that I would go into labour that evening. Then he made me chug another two tablespoons of castor oil for good measure, even though I didn’t think it would do any good.
By 8:00 I noticed that my backache was intensifying every few minutes. I was pretty tired and uncomfortable so we decided to head home just in case this was the start of something.
I vividly remember my first contraction. We were still driving home when it hit me like a truck. I was on the phone with my mom and I couldn’t finish my sentence for a full minute. The pain was mainly in my lower back so I tried not to get my hopes up. The book said you were supposed to feel contractions in your stomach and that they would start about ten to fifteen minutes apart and gradually increase in intensity and frequency.
THE BOOK LIED.
Thirty minutes later I was on my hands and knees on the floor *trying* to cope through minute long contractions that were coming fast and furious every two minutes. None of which were being felt in my stomach. I was experiencing back labour and not getting a break in between contractions. The pain would diminish but still feel quite strong. I felt frightened by the strength of them.
“Is. It. Supposed. To. Be. This. Bad. Already?” I asked hubby through gritted teeth. He didn’t know, of course, so no reassurance there. I told him to get our birthing kit out (we had planned a home birth) and set everything up while I got in the bathtub. I kept on yelling at him to hurry because I needed him to coach me through the contractions. He finished after what felt to me like forever, in reality, it was less than ten minutes. My contractions had been two minutes apart for an hour by then so I told hubby to page the midwives. After talking to me on the phone for a few minutes and listening to me go through a contraction, she said they would make their way over.
After getting off the phone, I got out of the tub and into bed so that I could lie down and rest. Hubby dimmed the lights in our bedroom and lit some candles. By now I was getting used to the contractions and was much calmer. I laid on my side in bed going over all the pain management techniques I had learned. I discovered that the more I relaxed the less pain I was in. I concentrated on taking slow, deep breaths and making sure that I didn’t tense up and fight against my body.
My midwives, Mahnaz and Fahteema, arrived around midnight. They did an exam and told me I was dilated five centimetres. Yay! Halfway there. To celebrate the good news I promptly threw up all of my supper, which was good, a sign of labour progressing.
The next six hours were uneventful. The midwives went and slept in the living room since I was handling the contractions well and hubby was being an amazing coach. We laid on the bed and dozed. We woke up with the contractions every two minutes, and hubby applied counter pressure with his fist so I could have some relief from the intense back labour.
By six am I was nine centimetres. The midwives asked me to get up and walk around because my contractions had spaced out to five minutes apart. We needed to keep things moving. I had been at this for ten hours with barely any sleep, and they didn’t want me to get exhausted. Moving was the last thing I wanted to do, but I did it anyway. The constant backache was wearing me out. I had no breaks from the pain. Everyone kept on encouraging me that soon I would be pushing and that it was the best part of labour. I envisioned holding my baby while I kept labouring, laying over the exercise ball in the middle of the kitchen floor. Hubby was constantly at my side and talked me through each wave of pain, whispering encouragements in my ear. I was sweating and my hair was a tangled mess. The midwife gently brushed it back in a braid for me.
Mahnaz scrounged around our kitchen and made me a bagel with peanut butter to eat which I was unable to choke down. Food seemed unappetizing to me, but I needed the energy to keep labouring. My contractions were still five minutes apart and Mahnaz said that they were basically doing nothing towards getting the baby out at those intervals, they were only sapping my strength.
I told hubby to call my mom. I had originally planned to only have my husband and the birthing team with me but this was longer and harder than expected. I just wanted her there. That would also give hubby a chance to sleep for a while and take a break. I had barely let him leave me even to use the bathroom up until then. He was my focus point, my rock. He didn’t want to admit that he was tired, but I told him that he needed to be rested for when the baby came, so he agreed to call.
My mom arrived around nine am with a strawberry smoothie and chocolate bars, which was definitely more appetizing than a dry bagel. Hubby went for some much-needed sleep in the other room and Mom took over the counterpressure job. My back labour still had not let up, and it felt like a knife was stabbing into my spine, increasing in pressure and intensity during a contraction before easing off slightly when it was over. I discovered that heat helped the pain immensely and kept a heating pad on my lower back constantly.
At some point during all of this, Terri-Lynn arrived. She was an aspiring midwife waiting to start her first year of university, and also a mother of five. She entered the room right as a contraction began and as I was leaning over the bed and breathing I heard her comment to the other midwives, “Look at that, she knows exactly what to do!” I instantly knew I was going to love her, and I did. Her presence was calming and comforting, and she kept the mood light, chatting and joking with me in between contractions.
After eating the smoothie and chocolate I felt my energy increase and the contractions picked back up to two minutes apart. Fahteema checked again and I was still at nine centimetres. At 10:30 they decided to break my water in the hopes that it would get me to fully dilate. Nothing happened. The baby’s head was acting like a cork and keeping all the water in. Hubby had only slept for one hour but I needed him back. I was finding it harder and harder to keep calm and breathe normally.
“The baby is NEVER going to come,” I moaned, completely believing what I said.
“Oh, sure he is!” Hubby said in a cheerful reassuring voice.
He told me afterwards he was feeling the same way as me but I couldn’t tell. He didn’t let on at all, thankfully. He left the room for a few moments to pray and regain control of his emotions. Mahnaz came up to him and said quietly,
“I don’t want to worry you, but if she doesn’t have the baby soon we will need to transport her to the hospital. She’s been at nine centimetres for six hours. That’s not normal.”
The midwives had been checking the baby’s heartbeat every fifteen minutes during my whole labour, and it was time to check again. There were a few moments of panic (on our part, not theirs) when they had a hard time locating it, but thankfully they picked it up again. However, they were not comfortable with how things were progressing. I was still at nine centimetres and barely keeping it together. They all walked into the next room to talk and call the most experienced midwife on their team, Susan, to get her opinion.
I started crying and hyperventilating. I was trying to breathe normally but I could feel the panic rising up. It had been roughly 16 hours of hard labour at that point. I didn’t think I could keep going anymore. Hubby climbed on the bed and got right in my face.
“Look at me. Breathe. Just breathe with me,” he said.
He started taking slow deep breaths. I immediately snapped out of my panic and was able to focus on his face and regain control.
The midwives came back into the bedroom.
“You’re not going to like this,” Fahteema told me, “but I need you to walk up and down the stairs, two at a time.”
If looks could kill, she would have dropped to the floor. I stared at her angrily, in disbelief. She wanted me to do WHAT?! I could barely move. But she was insistent, so I obeyed begrudgingly.
The idea was that taking the stairs two at a time would help to stretch and open my cervix the last centimetre that I still needed to go. I hated her guts every step that I took. I went up and down the flight of stairs twice and then refused to go anymore. Another contraction hit me, and as I leaned on the steps, I realized it felt different.
“I’m going back to bed, ” I told her.
Another contraction came and I started groaning like a man doing a three hundred pound deadlift. Mahnaz came running into the room, she had been dozing on the living room couch.
“Somebody is ready to push!” she said cheerfully.
When the contraction was over Fahteema checked my cervix. There was a large lip left, I was still not fully dilated. She let me roll onto hands and knees as another contraction came. They were closer than two minutes now. When it was over she continued with the exam. I felt yet another contraction coming.
“I need to roll over,” I told her.
I could not cope with the pain laying on my back, it was much worse. She ignored me and I yelled again,
“I need to ROLL OVER!”
The contraction was nearing its peak, but she continued to ignore me. I understood why a few moments later. As the contraction reached the height of its strength, she worked with it and manually stretched my cervix to the full ten centimetres. That was the most painful moment of my entire labour. The pain enveloped me and I involuntarily kicked her in the chest with both feet. But it had worked. I was finally ten centimetres.
It was now 12:30 pm. They propped pillows behind me so I would not be flat on my back. Everyone sprung into action, and soon all the birthing equipment was laid out on the bed. I was not feeling any urge to push, but they told me I needed to. I started crying again.
“But I don’t know how to push!”
“We will help you, you can do this, honey!” Mahnaz encouraged me.
I tried my first push, but I was forcing it through my chest and making lots of noise. They immediately stopped me.
“No screaming, you’re wasting your strength.” Mahnaz said, “Push like a bowel movement.”
Strangely enough, that helped, and I had the hang of it in a couple pushes. Two more pushes and she saw the head for a brief second before it slipped up. For over an hour, it was two steps forward, three steps back, but I knew I was making progress.
However I did not enjoy pushing, and it definitely was not the best part of labour like they had all promised. My back labour had moved down with the baby and it was now in my hips. I felt like I was being split in two, and the pressure on my tailbone was unreal.
Mahnaz was between my legs dealing with all…that. Fahteema and my mom each held one of my legs because I was too exhausted to hold them back myself. Hubby had his arms around my shoulders and wiped my face off with a cold washcloth after every contraction, while Terri-Lynn made me sip Gatorade every few minutes. I could see the excitement in all their faces and it was encouraging. No one was panicked or yelling at me. I kept on asking how much longer, how many more pushes, but they did not give me a time frame. I would have crumbled with discouragement if I had gone past what they said.
Suddenly, my back pain dropped drastically. Unbeknownst to me, my baby had been posterior (the back of his head was against my spine instead of his face) and that was the cause of my horrible back labour. My body had been working twice as hard to turn him around the right way and had finally succeeded.
It all went fast from there. They could see more and more of his head with each push. I felt a rush of adrenaline.
“YES. I CAN DO THIS!” I shouted, and everyone cheered.
I kept pushing, using all of my strength. I still had no urge to push, so thankfully I was not numb from an epidural or I would’ve been unable to push him out. I had to feel exactly what my body was doing and work with it as best as I could.
“Your baby is going to be here in one more minute. KEEP PUSHING!”
I gave another desperate push. I felt the ring of fire as the baby crowned, and the midwife put her hand against me so the baby would not be born too quickly. I was sure I would be torn to shreds, I had never felt pain like this. I took a deep breath and gave one last final push. There was a rush of relief as the baby’s head was born, followed almost immediately by his shoulders, torso, and legs. It was an unforgettable moment as I felt his body slip through me, and all the pain was instantly gone.
It was April 6, 2016, at 2:24 pm.
The midwife caught him and immediately laid him on my chest. He was warm and soft, and a bit blue.
“Oh my goodness, it’s an actual baby,” was my first thought.
I felt something drip on my arm and hubby bent over both of us, tears streaming down his cheeks, laughing and crying at the same time.
This is literally the worst picture of us ever…but I want to keep things real. This is about thirty seconds after he was born.
We knew we were having a boy, but hubby decided to double check. The ultrasound was right, we had a beautiful son.
I was on a total high. I felt no pain, just contentment and wonder. Fahteema put a blanket over both of us and rubbed the baby until he cried to make sure that his airways were clear. He started to pink up, and hubby cut the cord.
Mahnaz was still down there taking care of me but I was oblivious, totally enraptured with my baby. She told me she was going to give me a shot of oxytocin and I immediately felt the sharp jab of a needle in my leg.
“Oh, that means I’m bleeding,” I told hubby matter-of-factly.
Mahnaz began vigorously massaging my stomach to encourage my uterus to contract. Hello again, pain. I distracted myself with the baby and Fahteema helped me get him latched on my breast but he wasn’t that interested so we left it for the moment.
My bleeding stopped quickly after the shot, then Mahnaz had to give me one stitch and she was finished. I was shocked I had not torn. She said it was just a tiny scratch. They cleaned me up a bit, and I got out of bed so they could take away the birthing things. They swept away the messy layer to the freshly made bed underneath and I climbed right into my own bed and they handed me my fresh-faced newborn son, all wrapped up cozily.
Everyone left the room so hubby and I could be alone for a few minutes with our new bundle. We stared at his perfect little face in awe. I thought my heart would burst with happiness. I sat in bed munching on fresh fruit and snuggling my precious newborn, drinking in his sweet baby smell and marvelling that we had made him. It was one of the most beautiful moments of our lives.
After an hour and a half of relaxing and bonding, it was time to weigh him and perform his newborn exam. We were all shocked when he weighed in at a whopping nine pounds and twelve ounces and twenty-two inches long, exactly the length and weight that his daddy was when he was born. He was perfectly healthy, we were so thankful.
Getting weighed. No one could believe he was almost 10 lbs.
The midwives all headed home three hours after the birth. I had been up to the bathroom, the baby was nursing like a champ, and everything looked great.
My mom stayed to do laundry and clean up. After a while, I told hubby I needed to pee again. He helped me stand up and walk down the hall to the washroom. While I was in there I realized that my bleeding had picked up quite a bit. I noticed my stomach was puffy and soft. I figured it was probably normal so I put a new pad on and tried to relax but I was feeling uneasy. I decided to call the midwife for reassurance. She wasn’t concerned and said that it sounded normal. She said I would likely have heavy bleeding because my placenta was so large. After I hung up I saw I had soaked through my new pad already, but I didn’t realize the seriousness of that. I replaced it and went back to bed.
I had been laying down nursing for about fifteen minutes when my stomach started hurting quite badly and I could feel that I was bleeding again. I wanted to go back to the bathroom but I was starting to feel weak, and I could feel wetness on the bed. Hubby noticed that something wasn’t right. He picked me up in his arms and blood poured down his legs and onto the floor. He ran with me into the bathroom, leaving a trail of blood on the carpet. He sat me on the toilet and my mom came running in.
“I’m going to pass out, ” I told him matter-of-factly.
“No, you’re not,” he said, grabbing my shoulders.
I could feel blood and large clots passing into the toilet.
“Yes, I am.”
And I promptly fainted.
I woke up on the bathroom floor with hubby and my mom leaning over me. I felt very warm and relaxed. My legs were propped up on the side of the bathtub. I felt as if I had been sleeping for a long time but it was only half a minute.
Hubby immediately got on the phone with the midwife and told her what was going on. Susan was closest, and she came rushing as fast as she could. I didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation, and I laughed at how concerned everyone was.
“I’m so comfortable, I’m fine,” I kept saying.
Susan arrived in record time and started working to get me stable and stop the bleeding. I was still laying on the bathroom floor. She gave me two needles in the side of my leg that really hurt. She attempted to start an IV line in my arm but she was unable to get a vein because I had lost so much blood already.
I was hungry so they propped me up against the bathroom vanity and I ate two bowls of broccoli soup and drank some orange juice. I still felt like I was going to faint every time I moved. The bleeding was under control for the moment but Susan told me that my uterus was worn out from the long labour and overstretched from having such a large baby. It was not contracting properly, causing me to hemorrhage. She estimated that I had lost two litres of blood already, and I needed to be transported to the hospital right away. I didn’t want to do that, I told her, I wanted to stay with my baby. After everyone reassured me that he would be coming too, I agreed to go.
At this point, I could not walk or stand by myself, but hubby got me back to bed while Susan called 911. My mom helped me get warm pj’s on while hubby ran around frantically throwing things into the diaper bag.
The paramedics arrived and hooked me up to their monitors. Susan and the female paramedic in charge did not get along well I noticed, even in my half asleep state. The stretcher didn’t fit through our front door, so I had to sit on a chair and get carried outside. It was raining and I was freezing while they transferred me onto the stretcher and strapped me in. The paramedic told Susan she was not allowed to ride with me in the ambulance, but midwives are extremely loyal to their clients and committed to seeing things through. Susan completely ignored her and climbed up beside me. I was so grateful to have her familiar face with me. As they shut the doors I called to my mom where the car seat was so that they could bring the baby to the hospital. Hubby got in the front seat with the driver and we left, lights flashing.
We arrived at the hospital around 8:30 pm and were taken straight to a private room in the birthing wing. They immediately hooked me up to fluids and oxytocin, which is what finally stopped the hemorrhaging for good.
Mom and the baby arrived thirty minutes later, and he was back in my arms nursing again. As soon as he knew I was going to be ok, hubby sat down in the chair by my bed and instantly fell asleep. Mom and Susan left after making sure I was stable and didn’t need anything. The nurses brought me a bassinet for the baby. He slept very well the first night, letting mommy and daddy get some much-needed rest.
The next morning they did bloodwork, and it showed my hemoglobin was at 64. No wonder I couldn’t walk. I received two units of blood in 3 hours and slept the whole time. When I woke up, I was able to walk to the washroom without help. My head felt clear and I was more alert. Night and day difference.
I was still very weak and unsteady on my feet even after the transfusions, so hubby was on baby duty. In fact, he changed every single diaper for the first week. He was a natural dad. I loved him even more than before as I watched him tenderly care for his new son. It was so special to see.
The next morning we were given the ok to leave. It was so exciting to bundle our new baby into the car seat and take him home. I already knew that I wanted to do this again someday, even though my labour was hard. It was worth it to be holding my precious son in my arms. We praised God for all He had brought us through, keeping baby and me safe and healthy.
Eleven Months Later…
“Honey, you better sit down…I’m pregnant.”
Click here to read my second birth story.
This post is part of my Real Birth series.
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