I’m a first time mom. I was told my entire pregnancy that we tend to overreact over what we believe is labor the first time around, and I swore that wouldn’t be me, but it was!
This was the first strong contraction I felt, and I use the word “strong” very lightly now that I know what active labor is like. I had felt some Braxton hicks the day before while I was working, and I warned everyone that I probably wouldn’t be at work the next day, so I thought I was mentally prepared. I called my midwife and let her know I would be timing my contractions (I used the Ovia app) and could be in active labor any minute, and they recommended I take a nap to build my strength up and take a bath to relax. I’m sure they could hear how nervous and excited I was over the phone.
My contractions were 5 minutes apart, but not strong enough to get excited about. I let my midwife know how close together they’d become, but she told me the pain hadn’t reached anywhere near what it would so it wasn’t time to head to the birth center yet. At this point I was uncomfortable, but the pain was tolerable. Almost like severe period cramps every 5 minutes.
I went to my parents’ house for further support. I wanted to be near my mom who was amazing the entire time I labored. She was prepared with snacks and Powerade so that I was always fueled. She was nervous that my contractions were so close together, but even she admitted my pain level still seemed low. She had done natural birth twice before so she knew what real pain was, but she had quick labors both times so she believed I could have my baby any second. I sat on an exercise ball to “speed up” my labor, and it was much more comfortable than laying down at this point. I napped on their couch when I could, but once again I was convinced baby was coming soon. We were wrong!
I experienced my first contraction that made me double over. My mom looked at me and said it was finally getting started! While those contractions were happening, I couldn’t talk or walk, but they weren’t happening consistently. I still felt some sort of contraction every 5 minutes or so but they weren’t all one minute long. I told my husband the pain couldn’t get much worse than the level they were at now (I was in for a surprise) because of how I could barely breathe during each contraction. I waited a few hours, then I called the midwife and asked to be transferred to the birth center because I couldn’t stand the pain anymore and needed guidance. She agreed to meet me there to check my dilation. I was THREE CENTIMETERS. 12 hours of labor, 4 hours of contractions that made me tear up, and I was only three centimeters. They sent me home and asked me to sleep, I still had a long way to go. She also told me to try nipple stimulation with my husband, but I was in so much pain that it was totally out of the question. I slept that night but woke up every half hour or so to moan and complain about the pain. I was miserable.
I had a horrible nights sleep. I was up and walking around again, mostly because I wanted to try to speed my labor up. I visited my midwife again around 11am and was only 5cm dilated. I was devastated at how slowly I was progressing. I was becoming discouraged, but there were plenty of tips they had to induce my labor. For starters, I was tensing up way too much with each contraction, and I wasn’t breathing through them either. I needed to relax or my labor would not progress.
I tried everything I could, except sex. When you’re in pain as intense as I was, the last thing you want to do is be frisky. The main thing that worked for me was the nipple stimulation. I was so against it at first because it was just uncomfortable. It felt forced, and how much could my nipples really push forward my labor? Let me tell you it freaking WORKS.
Nipple stimulation is the holy grail of natural labor induction.
The instructions for nipple stimulation to progress labor are as follows –
Your partner has to suck until you scream out in pain because a contraction has started. You then take a break throughout the length of the contraction, and then start again as soon as the contraction ends. You keep going through at least four strong contractions, and you want them to be building up in strength and length each time. This works because it produces natural oxytocin in your body, a chemical that induces labor. In a hospital they would inject you with Pitocin to achieve the same effect, but why shove chemicals in your body when you can produce the same exact thing naturally? It worked way too well for me. I was screaming in pain by the end of it, and we went back to my parents house for moral support. My poor mom and my sister were so anxious. My dad was pacing and pretending to be calm, and kept refilling my water and getting me snacks. My sister decided she would go with us to the birth center and be there for the birth, which meant a lot because I know how nervous it made her. My family is awesome.
We headed to the birth center where I was 6 going on 7 centimeters and could finally be checked in. We called my in laws and my mother in law went over to support hubs. I started labor in bed because I’m exhausted, mostly due to the fact that I ignored my midwife and haven’t slept in the last 36 hours. It was a huge mistake, because now that I was in active labor I had no chance to rest. First they recommended a second round of nipple stimulation to possibly break my water and open up my cervix, so hubs and I took a shower together and got to work. My midwife kicked everyone out of the room first, so don’t worry. My water still wasn’t broken, and I couldn’t wait any longer so I asked them to break it for me. The contractions after that were incredible. I would pass out in between contractions, but that was about it as far as sleeping went.
I got into the tub. My midwife would reach in to help stretch my cervix out further with each contraction, which sounds uncomfortable but once you’re in labor nothing matters. Trust me. I could feel her pulling my cervix back each time, and within 20 minutes I was pushing. I pushed for about 40 minutes and totally felt the “ring of fire” once baby’s head was in the birth canal. My midwives would apply counter pressure with each push to prevent me from tearing my perineum.
Baby got stuck about halfway through, and I was on the verge of passing out. My husband could see his hair and we were both able to reach down and feel his head. My husband was so calm this entire time! I was cussing, I had kicked everyone out of the room except hubs, and I was bruised all over from throwing myself against the tub. It was a full on exorcism at this point and I told my husband I could not do it. I had tunnel visions and could feel myself on the verge of blacking out. My mom and sister told me they could hear everything from the waiting area. He looked at me and told me I could do it if I just breathed. He was the best support system I had and I can’t believe he was so prepared for how difficult my labor was.
My midwife saw that I didn’t seem to have the strength to push while on my back in the tub, so she recommended I get out onto all fours. I was done ignoring her instructions, so I climbed over the tub with baby’s head halfway out and positioned myself on the floor. I then got into “runner’s pose” which is where one foot is up by your arms, like a runner about to start a race. A couple pushes in this position and I heard baby cry for the first time!
Tears ran down my face, my body had absolutely no strength left in it. I looked at my baby for the first time crumpled up on the floor of the birth center. They helped me on to the bed where I held him and asked for my mom. We did skin to skin and I remember being so exhausted I almost couldn’t push out my placenta.
While they checked me for tears my husband started skin to skin with our son. My mom held baby while they did his newborn screens. They of course recommended we keep the vernix on and avoid bathing baby. He never left our side at the birth center. He was 8 pounds exactly and 21 inches long! I didn’t have any tears because of my amazing midwives who applied pressure and guided me on when to push. Believe me, I was convinced that I had ripped myself open! Despite the pain, everything had gone perfectly.
So, what do I recommend now that the experience is over?
- SLEEP. Take a nap before you’re in active labor and the pain is too intense.
- Use the peanut ball IF you have to lay down. This is a huge peanut shaped rubber ball. I only used this when I was exhausted.
- Take a shower, if your birth center or hospital has hand rails inside the shower that’s even better. I used this to have water hit me while I squatted. Plus, after 30+ hours of labor you tend to need a shower.
- Bounce on an exercise ball. This was one of the most comfortable positions to be in. Bent over and on the ball.
- Labor in the bathtub. The midwife did not recommend being in the water until I was closer to beginning to push, as it could slow down my labor even more. I spent the last hour or so of my labor in the tub, and it does help with pain.
- Lots of walking, but this may feel impossible when labor furthers
- Sex (yeah, right) but really, if you can! Keep trying to produce more oxytocin
- Nipple stimulation is my #1 tip!!! It works!!!
- Think you know more than your doctor/midwife. You’re in control at all times, and they made that clear to me, but had I listened to her I would’ve shortened my labor.
- Stay awake because of your anxiety. Drink tea, relax, and sleep so you’re rested for the hardest part.
- Lay down! It was the most uncomfortable position to be in, and gravity from propping yourself up helps move your baby down!
- Be afraid to tell people to get out. I was uncomfortable being in so much pain around everyone, so I got the courage to kick them out. It helped me mentally.
Regardless of what I’ve learned and would do differently, my husband and I are so happy with our experience. The midwife knew exactly what to do for each situation that occurred, and my healing has been amazing. We wouldn’t have had it any other way.