It’s hard to believe it, but it has officially been 6 weeks since I gave birth to my third tiny human. As if to solidify this reality, we drove my mom back to the airport this weekend. It’s always such a blessed relief when she comes to stay with us, and a steep learning curve when she heads back home.
As I ease back into my routine, I’m reflecting on the first 6 weeks of Eden’s life. The first 6 weeks with your baby is a slow-moving, sleepy time. The days drag, and you feel like you’re not getting anything done (aside from ticking seven Netflix shows off your must-watch list). But then you blink, and it’s been 6 weeks, and suddenly it’s time to get off the couch.
Before I officially get off the couch, I want to share my birth story. This is mostly for me, so that I can remember the wild and amazing experience that was bringing my third baby into the world. But I also want to share it for anyone who wants to know what it’s like to have a baby at a birthing center. This was my first birth that wasn’t in Labor and Delivery, and it was such an empowering experience for me. Here we go!
My contractions started in the middle of the night Sunday the 15th – three days after my estimated due date. They were mild, but coming 5-7 minutes apart, and I couldn’t sleep through them. So I got up and went into the spare room to wait for them to progress. I was up until about 4 a.m. Monday morning, when I finally fell asleep from exhaustion. I called my doula a few hours later. She told me to try to get some rest, so I went to sleep for a couple of hours.
The contractions continued during the day, so I got everything ready for the hospital and packed up the car. My mom and I then went to walk around the mall to see if it would move things along. But sometime early in the afternoon, the contractions fizzled out.
The Mental Tug of War of Prodromal Labor
I was so disappointed—I didn’t even realize you could have contractions with that kind of regularity and not go into labor. When it happened again the next night, I did a little research. Apparently prodromal labor is quite common, especially for women who’ve had multiple pregnancies. According to the American Pregnancy Association, “Prodromal labor consists of contractions that can be fairly regular (between 5-10 minutes apart) and can be painful like active labor contractions, more so than Braxton Hicks contractions. Typically each contraction will last just shy of one minute.”
I spoke with my doula, who assured me that this was quite normal, and encouraged me to try to keep my mind off the contractions by going about my routine, going out on dates, and trying to relax. I did the best I could, but when the prodromal labor continued for days and days, I couldn’t help feeling pretty defeated.
At my 41-week appointment, I passed the non-stress test and the midwife told me I was 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced. If Eden didn’t come by herself in the next 5 days, I would have to be induced. That was really not what I wanted, and it’s what I’d feared ever since I decided to have a natural birth at the Midwifery Center. Induction would mean I would have to give birth at Labor & Delivery instead of the center. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it also wasn’t the experience I’d been hoping and preparing for.
Over the next few days, I tried everything under the sun to try to get labor going. We made labor cookies (delicious; will definitely make you poop if you eat 20 of them in one sitting). I ate spicy food, pineapple cores, eggplant parmesan. I took Evening Primrose Oil, tried nipple stimulation (OW!), and of course did the act that got me into this whole pregnancy ordeal in the first place. NOTHING was working. The prodromal labor continued. I started to accept that I would need to be induced.
Desperate Measures: My 11th Hour Castor Oil Experience
But there was still one thing I hadn’t tried (out of fear from all the horror stories I’d heard), and by Sunday I was ready to do it. I sent my mom out for a bottle of castor oil. According to What to Expect, “In multiple studies of women at term, more than half of those who took a dose of castor oil went into labor within 24 hours—that’s compared to only 4 percent of those who didn’t glug it at all.”
I figured those were decent odds for someone 10 days overdue. I took two doses of 1 tablespoon mixed in orange juice, with about 4 hours between each dose. It was a little gross, but certainly not as bad as what all the Mommy forums made it out to be. My contractions intensified and carried on throughout the night, but they didn’t get closer together, and I was able to sleep through them that night. By about 11 a.m. Monday, they had fizzled out again.
I was so upset at this point, I lost it a little. It was officially 11 days past my estimated due date, and I was SO done. I took the same dose of castor oil again—a last ditch effort before accepting my fate. The contractions started again. I did the Miles Circuit, which I had done a few times over the past few days on my doula’s recommendation. The contractions intensified. I started to time them, and realized they were now coming closer to 3 minutes apart.
Because of all the prodromal labor, I was a little hesitant to go into the birthing center. I called the nurse and explained the situation. A few minutes later, the midwife on duty called me back and recommended that I come in. In the short time between getting off the phone with Jake picking me up, the contractions had become intense enough that I needed to concentrate through them—and I was finally confident that this was the start of real labor.
Finally in Labor
Jake and I arrived at the Midwifery Center just after 4 p.m. I was 4 cm dilated. The midwife recommended an enema to see if it might speed things along for me. It didn’t sound like the most fun thing in the world, but at this point I was willing to do pretty much anything to avoid induction measures. So I went ahead with that, and then my doula arrived. I labored on the birth ball for a bit, and then she recommended that we walk the halls.
After probably an hour of walking, with contractions coming every 2-3 minutes, the midwife checked me again. I was still 4 cm, so she recommended breaking my water. Since I was 11 days past my due date, only a small amount of water actually came out. But it definitely helped kick my labor into high gear. We walked the halls again. The contractions were now very painful, and Jake and my doula took turns helping me through them with counter pressure on my lower back. My doula continuously reminded me to relax and breathe through the contractions, and to soften my shoulders and bend my knees. I can’t overestimate how helpful those reminders were—despite the pain, I felt in control the whole time.
Afterwards, I was pretty exhausted from all the walking. I desperately wanted a break, so I had Jake help me onto the bed. What followed was the most horrible contraction I’d had so far, and I immediately begged him to get me out of the bed. As painful as the contractions had been when I was upright, that pain was nothing compared to how it felt lying down. With that comparison, it’s no wonder to me why it’s so difficult for women confined to hospital beds to go through labor unmedicated (myself included—I had an epidural during my first two births).
After the horrible bed contraction, my doula recommended I labor in the shower for a bit. She set me up in the shower with a birth ball. I went in on my hands and knees and labored over the birth ball, with the shower aimed at my low back. The contractions were extremely intense now, but the hot water helped to dull the sensation. I stayed in there for a little over an hour as the contractions strengthened.
Okay, Here We Go—The Part Where I Have the Baby in a Tub
When I got out of the shower, I began to feel pressure along with my contractions. I knew the feeling from my previous births, so I asked to be checked again. The midwife came in and checked me, and I was measuring 8 cm. Immediately after the cervical exam, I had a powerful contraction accompanied by extreme pressure. At this point, I was no longer able to control my reaction, and I yelled. This is probably the point Jake started to associate the birth with “something you’d see on Animal Planet.” My midwife and doula suggested I get into the tub and I agreed.
As they began getting the tub ready, I had another huge contraction, and I knew the baby was crowning. I panicked and yelled something like “I can’t hold her in!” Jake and my doula helped me into the tub quickly. With the next contraction I grasped the doula’s hand and yelled again, “I’m scared! I can’t keep her in anymore!” She assured me I didn’t need to, that it was time to have the baby. She and the midwife helped position me on my hands and knees, and during the next contraction I pushed. I was gearing up to push again when Jake told me to turn around—she was already out.
The midwife placed Eden in my arms, and she started to cry. She was purple and soaking wet and perfect! They wrapped a big fluffy towel around us and gave us a few minutes to rest in the tub. It truly felt like a miraculous moment. After that, everyone helped the baby and me get out of the tub and onto the bed. We had a wonderful hour relaxing with her before the nurses did the whole cleaning up and measuring her bit, and the rest of the family arrived to see her.
There you have it! After a less-than-easy pregnancy, waiting that last 11 days was so tough. But I would do it all again to have the amazing birth experience at the Midwifery Center. Honestly, I’m still blown away by how capable and empowered I felt throughout my labor. The female body is so strong, and the process of birth is truly miraculous.