Quick recap of Atlas’ birth: she came out acynclitic, which means she was turned to the side instead of facing my back. This resulted in 19 hard and painful hours of backlabor with her so I wanted to avoid that all costs. Here’s her full birth story for your reading pleasure.
Typically, once you hit 36 weeks, you start visiting the midwives weekly and during my previous appointments, this baby still wasn’t in the optimal birthing position. Yes, most babies who aren’t in the right position will still turn before birth but I also knew Atlas got a bit ‘stuck’ inside of me. So I did A LOT of things to attempt to get this baby in the right position.
What I did to avoid the awful experience of backlabor :
- Weekly chiropractor visits
- Daily 90 minute ‘Miles Circuit’ starting at 37 weeks
- Sitting on an exercise ball for everything starting at like 28 weeks
- Never leaning back on a chair or couch or in the car since month 3
- Sleeping on my left side always
- Talking to the baby to convince him it’s in both of our best interests for him to get in formation #Beyoncé
It’s Monday afternoon, July 15th and Atlas wants to go swimming. We take her to our local rec center, where I proceed to float on my very pregnant stomach for a solid hour, trying to get this baby to get in the right position. Afterwards, I’m changing and feel some moisture coming out of my nether regions (don’t worry, I’ll be using the word ‘vagina’ a lot more shortly).
Any woman who has been swimming knows that your vagina kind of turns into a water pocket so this wasn’t too much cause for concern.
My water never broke naturally with Atlas so I wasn’t totally sure what that might feel like. I have no other symptoms of labor and I’m only at 38 weeks so I figure I have a larger water pocket thanks to giving birth vaginally previously.
The next morning I wake up and my underwear is sort of wet but not a ton. It’s slightly tinged with color but nothing shocking. Let’s be real – it could very well be pee because that’s also a thing that happens after you’ve given birth vaginally.
Your pee betrays you.
Ryan goes to work out so Atlas and I get going. More fluid is sort of leaking out but again, not a ton. At this point I know it’s not my bladder betraying me. Ryan walks in the door and I’m like “Oh hey. How was your workout? Pretty sure my water is in the midst of breaking. What time is your flight tomorrow?”
Thankfully now it’s Tuesday and Atlas goes to school on Tuesdays. He drops her off and I call my mom to let her know she may be on Mimi duty. This entails picking Atlas up and potentially bringing her to the birth.
I call the midwife on call and tell her what’s going on. She says I should come in so they can do a test to make sure it’s amniotic fluid and not a prankster bladder.
Ryan and I meet her at our birth center at 10am. Her name is Sophie and she was on the short list of the midwives I hoped to get so yay! She does the test, which is either a vaginal swab to put on a test strip or can test it on your underwear/pad. If memory serves me, the test strip turns blue if it’s amniotic fluid. Mine turned blue.
This meant she would start my ‘time’ at 6am that morning, when I woke up. I'm now on the clock because you have 36 hours to get into active labor and still be able to birth there at the birth center vs. a hospital. Well. I didn’t have 36 hours.
My husband booked one, last final keynote on July 18 and had to leave July 17th to ensure no travel hiccups. His flight was due to leave in 20 hours. Remember, this baby boy's 'due/guess date' was July 31st!
She hooks me up to the fetal stress test machine (pictured above) to make sure baby was healthy and happy. Thankfully, we're both all good! She also checked my cervix and asks if I want to know how dialated it is. I say 'yes!' At this point I'm 1.5cm (out of 10cm for a baby to come out) but that's fine because I've had zero contractions and no other signs of labor except for leaking amniotic fluid.
Sophie asked how aggressively I want to try to get things moving. Since now the clock was ticking on for when Ryan had to LEAVE THE STATE OF COLORADO AND ME, I said 'very aggressively.' She starts me on Cotton Root Bark and I take it every 15 minutes for an hour then an hour off. Then one more hour of it. She also recommends I try to get in to see my acupuncturist and thankfully she has an opening.
The midwife says that if I’m still not feeling much, then to take castor oil at 3pm. I push that out of my mind because obviously, this will happen before then.
Ryan and I go to my acupuncturist and I explain what’s going on AND that baby still isn’t in the best position. She works her magic on me to help induce labor, get him to turn and to calm me. Then we do some stair work in a very public stairwell to get my pelvis to open up. That was fun.
Side note and hilarious story: I’d been seeing my acupuncturist, Anita, since before we left for Australia. Over the months of seeing her, I've told her about our business and how my husband is THE keynote speaker!
She'd never met him but needed to ask him to go get my Cotton Root Bark out of the car.
She said she was excited to see what he looked like because she had a very clear image in her mind. When I asked her to describe what was in her head, she said, “I picture someone older than you, that looks very scholarly – like with thick framed glasses and sort of a graying beard.” I had a VERY good laugh at this
I said, “Oh no Anita. You will be very shocked when you meet him. He’s pretty and young and very well kept. But he does have glasses.” HAHAH.
She has that above image in her mind and then this little baby face is who she meets! I am laughing as I write this. Fine, it was from our wedding 10 years ago but he's still a handsome, young man.
Ryan said when Anita came out, he looked like a full on teenager. He was sprawled on the couch with a baseball hat on and bright red tennis shoes, watching YouTube videos (I was in there for 1.5 hours).
Ah. I still randomly laugh at this.
I'm done with my laughing fit and treatment so we head out. I see a SteakNShake. Mama knows I need to eat since birth is an endurance sport. Hamburger and french fries for the win. The clock is slowly approaching 3pm and I still don't have any signs of labor. This means the castor oil reality is sinking in.
I remember my midwife saying that it’s not actually the taste of castor oil that people hate – it’s the consistency. She recommends either mixing it with a milkshake or mixing it into a tequila sunrise (seriously, midwives are the best). I’m lactose intolerant so I figure, if I'm taking castor oil and it's going to clear out my body...might as well throw it in a milkshake!
We get a milkshake too and bring it home in case the castor oil has to go down the hatch.
Now it’s about 2:45pm and I still feel 100% normal except needing to change a thin panty liner that has a minimal amount of fluid on it. I’m having some Braxton Hicks contractions, but I’d been having the same pressure ones since I was like 33 weeks so no real change there.
Ryan is hanging out – trying not be stressed about leaving for a trip. He’s due to be the closing keynote for a massive conference so it’s not like he could simply call in and not show up. He thankfully finds a flight that leaves at 8pm July 17th instead of 6am the following morning so that helps us both feel better.
He’s keeping our doula Merrie in the loop too.
Now it’s time for the castor oil since my body is still indifferent to the fact that this baby needs to be born sooner than later. I blend about half the milkshake and 2oz of castor oil together. The castor oil is the consistency of caro syrup, so thick it makes molasses look like water. I decide to drink it all in three large sips, which seemed so smart at first.
It was awful. It didn’t really mix well because again, it’s so grossly thick but I get it all down. Then I feel awful. I have a decent of amount of chocolate milkshake and castor oil sitting on my stomach and it doesn’t feel great. I go to lay down and then start crying because I’m freaking out that Ryan is leaving the next day and I really hate the anticipation of things. It wasn’t fun to sit around and wait for contractions or back labor to start.
Ryan does his best to console me.
By about 4:45pm, I start to feel some rumbling in my stomach. This means the castor oil is starting to work and I start to feel sick. ‘Powerful laxative’ pretty much sums up castor oil’s effects. I start feeling slightly stronger contractions but still nothing like I’d be starting labor soon.
Ryan calls Merrie, our doula, and lets her know that I’m starting to feel some things. She’s already on her way and gets there about 5pm. By 5:15pm, the contractions are getting more regular and slightly stronger. I’m feeling relatively okay, except for needing to be close to a bathroom and feeling a bit nauseous.
Merrie spends some time with the robozo thing trying to get baby into position. I start feeling some pressure in my back (nooooo, I did ALL THE THINGS TO PREVENT THIS). Merrie has crazy strong hands that serve as excellent counter-pressure.
Ryan calls the midwife again and let’s her know things are starting to pick up. My contractions are about 10 minutes a part. I head to the bathroom yet again and am starting to feel pretty nauseous and my contractions suddenly feel super strong and painful.
I walk out to tell Merrie and Ryan this and all of a sudden, I feel a ‘pop’ and then a gush and now I know what it feels like to have my water break! It was thankfully not like the scene from Coneheads. I race to the bathroom, have a few horrendous contractions while in there and then come barreling out saying ‘We need to go to the birth center NOW.’
Ryan, being the best birth partner (and life partner) ever, already has the bags packed with clothes and snacks so we hit the road for the drive to the birth center. It’s about 6:00pm at this point and the rush hour game is strong. I pop in my Hypnobabies recording and try to focus on anything else besides my excruciating contractions.
They start coming fast and furious now – it feels like barely minutes between contractions and the stop and go of traffic is less than fun. They get so frequent that there is no resting in between them.We arrive to the birth center, where I promptly feel both relief and very much over this birth. It feels SO VASTLY different than it did with Atlas....
Part II coming up next...
Black mother's are THREE to FIVE times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than white mothers. Brown and Indigenous women too have higher mortality rates too.
I'm educating myself more on this awful reality and donating to Black Mamas Matter.