When Labor Stops| I Am NOT Defective! And Neither Are You!

On Monday morning, November 26, 2018, at around 1:30 am, I awoke with a start. I thought I had heard a noise in the house (which is what initially woke me up) but I was also mid-contraction. A few minutes later, another contraction hit. Then another.

These weren't Braxton Hicks, either. These were the real deal. All day long the day before I had felt miserable. Crampy. Pressure in my pelvic area.

I was 38 weeks pregnant with my sixth baby.

My mind went back to a recent conversation I had just had with my midwife, Christine. She requested that I not wait until the contractions were way too intense to call her, as my contractions don't get intense until the end. She also preferred my not waiting until my water broke, either, because I always deliver very quickly after my water breaks. Since we are having a home birth and my midwife lives about 30 mins away and my doula lives about 35 mins away, I really am putting myself in a predicament by waiting too late. I mean, babies will come when they come, midwife or no...but I personally prefer having my midwife and doula there...and they have equipment that they need to set up.

After a few more contractions, I got up and went to the living room to walk around and do some hip rolls on my birthing ball. They continued coming, so I decided to start timing them. They were 3-5 minutes apart, lasting 60-90 seconds each.

Isabel started fussing in my bedroom, so I went back to bed to pat her butt and get her back to sleep. When I got back in bed, the contractions began tapering off. Then nothing for about 30 mins. Then, suddenly, they began again. More contractions. Still 3-5 mins apart and the same intensity, spreading across my stomach and lower back. So I decided that maybe I should give my birth team a heads up. Just in case.

But I didn't want to call Christine and wake her up. What if it wasn't the real deal? It was about 5:45 am by this time. I decided to just send her a text of what was going on. But I emphasized in the text a few times that I wasn't quite sure if this was really labor. I was ashamed...this was my 6th baby. I am supposed to be a pro at this. How could I not be sure?

Christine texted me back right away, assuring me that I did right by letting her know. She said that she'd just jump in the shower and would check back on me in a few minutes. I decided that a shower would be good for me, too. A warm shower can either slow down the contractions (indicating that this wasn't time yet) or could intensify them, meaning it was Baby Time! But the confusing thing was that I didn't really have a change. They were still coming...but no change in timing or intensity.

But one thing was clear to me: I needed to poop. Now here's where it gets tricky. When a woman in labor feels like she has to poop, that's not always accurate. Sometimes it's the baby moving down and it FEELS like you have to poop. Sitting on the toilet can really facilitate moving the baby down. But I also didn't want to poop in the birthing tub again like I did with Isabel. So I was mentally struggling with this. I decided to throw caution to the wind...I texted Christine and told her that the contractions were staying the same but I had to poop. I said "But you know me! It probably really is poop!" The next text from her was a group text between me, Christine and my doula, Shaconna....in it Christine told Shaconna to get ready, they were heading to my house.

I woke up Antonio and had him start getting things ready while I did absolutely nothing. Just kidding. I walked around and sat on my birth ball while I had contractions. Mahri heard us and came out and began helping straighten up.

Christine called to see how I was doing while I was mid-contraction. She told me that they were en route as I breathed through the contraction. I remember blurting out "okay! See you soon! But I really have to poop, so I'm going!" and hung up. Poor Christine was probably freaking out.

Without going over details, let's just say that I went to the bathroom and no baby came out. Whew!

After all that, I decided to go outside and start walking up and down my driveway. Walking helps to speed up labor in addition to just helping the labor experience altogether.

While I was out walking, Christine and Shaconna pulled up. They began unloading everything and bringing it into the house.

Then Christine suggested doing a pelvic exam to see where we stood in terms of dilation and effacement. Ugh...I hate those exams. They are so uncomfortable. And I was so frustrated to find out that I was only 3 cm dilated. BUT with Isabel, I went from 4 cm to delivering a baby in under 2 hours. So really those numbers don't mean too much.

Shaconna directed Mahri and Antonio on how to brew up a special herbal tea blend that helps to facilitate labor. Then she and I went outside to walk the driveway some more. She had me go into a squat each time I had a contraction while she timed the contractions. It was cold and windy out but we walked for awhile. Then we came inside and she had me sit on the toilet for awhile (remember how that is optimal positioning for moving a baby down) while Christine went to check on another one of her patients that lives near me and had recently had a baby. Shaconna and Mahri set up my essential oil diffuser in the bathroom with some clary sage and we just sat in there for seemingly forever. By the time Christine returned, Shaconna let her know that contractions were about 1-3 mins apart.

Since I had been up since around 1:30, the ladies felt that some rest would do me some good, so that I wouldn't be too tired when active labor hit. They put me in bed in a position known to help with keeping things going (on my side, top knee pulled up and propped up with pillows) with the clary sage diffusing right next to me. Christine began adding Cotton Root Bark to the tea I was drinking. I stayed like that for awhile and continued having contractions....but nothing was really progressing. I was getting frustrated at myself. I was tired and grumpy.

We decided that Christine and Shaconna would go grab some lunch nearby while I tried to relax and focus on the baby. I opted to get out of bed and start walking the driveway again. Mahri and Antonio joined me and we walked (and squatted!) for about 30 mins. But then my extremely nosey and annoying neighbor decided to get involved. Let me preface this by saying that I cannot stand this woman. She is racist and prejudiced and just a mean crotchety old woman. She will taunt my dogs then call the police on them for barking. I mean, who does that?! Ugh. Anyway, as we were walking, she pulled her car out of her driveway and started out going the opposite direction of our house. Then she must have seen us because she hit her brakes....and just sat there in the middle of the road. Cars were literally having to drive around her as she sat there, watching us. We started walking toward our house...while she throws her car into reverse, heading towards us! Anyone familiar with labor can tell you how detrimental fear is to a birthing woman and labor progression. (I am not physically afraid of this woman...but I cannot stand her and hate confrontation...so her doing this was NOT helping matters) Once we got in the house, we watched her from our windows as she backed up to in front of our house and just sat there, staring at our house. Then she backed into our other neighbor's driveway, turned around and came back to sit in front of our house again! She just sat there, staring into our windows for awhile. Just sitting there! Finally, she pulled away and left.

But my contractions had stopped. Not slowed down. Not weakened. Just full on ceased. Shaconna texted me to check on me and Ibtold her what had happened. She had me sit on the toilet again...but nothing really happened. I wasn't losing any of my plug (I began losing it 2 weeks ago for a few days but that was it). No water breaking. No contractions. Nada.

She instructed me to drink more of the special tea and to begin walking on my elliptical machine. Which I did for about 10 mins. And it worked! Contractions not only picked up but they were strong! My lower back was killing me and I wasn't able to walk or talk through contractions. But I was exhausted. As they returned to my house, I was heading back to bed where my room was saturated with misty clary sage. They had Antonio make me some eggs and toast and we just waited to see what would happen.

Nothing. That's what happened. Nothing. Contractions slowed back down. And I was just sitting there, feeling like a failure, despite how much they tried to assure me that I was doing nothing wrong. I asked if it was prodromal/"false" labor. They said that we were not putting labels on anything. That my body was just doing what it was doing. Nothing wrong. Christine suggested another pelvic exam to gauge if any progress had happened that maybe we weren't seeing. I agreed to it, heartily. Still desperate to prove that I hadn't called them over for nothing. And while I may have progressed, in terms of dilation, it was only slight. In about the 5 hours since their arrival, I had only dilated maybe another half of a centimeter. So 3.5 cm total. Ugh. She did say that my cervix was softening and effacing, so THAT was good. But, during the exam, she noticed something else...baby appears to be posterior. That means sunny side up. That means back labor. Noooo. Not again. Back labor during active labor HURTS. Like your spine is being ripped apart and torn from your body. Because the baby's head is pushing against your spine as it descends, grinding against your backbone. It's painful, ok? This was not good news. But I also have A TON of fluid, so that makes it a little more difficult to determine the baby's position by touch. She kept feeling around inside my cervix and said that "baby's got a bony head!" Hahaha

Afterwards we had a discussion on how I wanted to proceed. The supplies were all laid out. The birth pool was inflated in the living room. But baby was just not seeming very interested in our plans. Christine and Shaconna assured me that they could get baby out. Clearly, my body responded positively to walking and that I could "walk the baby out". But they said that it wouldn't just involve simple walking. There were tinctures and herbs that would be ingested. Rigorous exercise. No more lying in bed. We would not only get the ball rolling but we'd be kicking that mother down the hill!

Now, let me say this. My ego had been bruised. I had, in my opinion, screwed up. This was not labor. I was wrong. I didn't know the signs of labor and apparently was a complete idiot. Again, this was my ego shining through in all of its glory. I cried. I mean, ugly cried. But I could "fix" this. I could still make it happen with the aid of exercise and herbs. I could still be holding my precious baby by evening!

Thankfully, I put my ego in check. I was tired. My body needed to rest. There was no way I was going to make it through labor easily. And what about after the birth? I would definitely be beyond exhausted and how would that affect me in those crucial moments following delivery? As someone who is very susceptible to post partum (and antenatal) depression, I feared that I would be setting myself up for disaster. I took a deep breath and told Christine and Shaconna that they could go home. That I needed to sleep. My body needed some rest and good food. I wasn't doing anyone any good, least of all myself or my baby, by being stubborn and tired.

So they left, leaving behind all of the birthing stuff all set up. They were sure that I would be calling them before morning with THE CALL.

They left and I immediately fell fast asleep. They probably weren't even off of my road yet before I was out. My doula called a couple of hours later to check on me...but there was nothing new to report. I asked if I could go to my chiropractor so that he could begin working on my hips to move baby into better position. (Ironically, at around 2 in the morning before I texted Christine, I had googled something along the lines of "why would contractions be strong and regular but suddenly take a 20-30 minute break before starting back up again"....and Dr Google said that some doctors believe that if a baby is in a bad position, such as posterior {like Mistletoe}, close to delivery, that my body would put itself into labor to try and move Baby into proper position. If, after not succeeding, it would abruptly stop the labor....only to try again later. I found that remarkably interesting considering Christine thinking that Mistletoe is posterior)

I went to the chiropractor and all of the walking had started the contractions again. He told me that my hips were definitely needing to be adjusted, my left hip in particular. He specializes in the Webster Technique, which has been proven to move babies...even turning breech babies! I'm not sure if it worked but I'm hopeful! I had contractions all the way home and when I went to bed but after I fell asleep, they stopped. But I was so thankful for the rest. For getting to snuggle Isabel to sleep with her being the only baby of the family one more time.

I awoke at around 4 am (insomnia not contractions) and talked to Mistletoe for awhile. And while I will keep some things private, I will say that it was a great talk we had. I assured my baby that Mama was so excited to meet him/her but that I wanted to wait until they were ready. I don't want to rush this. That I am so very excited to snuggle with them and give them some milk...but they would be the one to decide when. This is Baby's journey. I am just the one to facilitate their journey and to bring them into the world. And as long there were no complications, I would wait for them to be ready.

And, until then, I will be waiting in excitement for them on the other side.


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