On the eve of our baby’s first birthday, I’ve been thinking a lot about the birthing of our two babies…the excitement, the fear, the preparation…and navigating the realm of labor inductions. If you or anyone you know has been pregnant in modern times, this is a topic that often comes up and needs to be discussed. I’ve had two different experiences–from full on drugs to au natural–with “bringing on baby” and hope these stories and techniques may help parents finding their way during this delicate/powerful time.
I felt wonderful but had gestational diabetes so next to nobody in my professional pregnancy posse was open to me going too far past my due date. There are certainly legitimate reasons to medically induce. With gestational diabetes (which I had during both pregnancies), there are concerns of a large baby, a baby with diabetes, or even a still birth. The pressure from doctors was on me to be induced so my husband and I finally heeded their advice. We were under the impression we would check into the hospital on Friday night for my induction and have a baby on Saturday. While this may be the case for some, this was absolutely not our experience. After speaking with many other parents, it wasn’t theirs either.
Deciding how to proceed when there are possible complications is certainly a balancing act, but I do wish I knew more about the process before signing on for major medical intervention. Inductions increase the possibility of entering into C-section territory (essentially doubling your chances). Bodies and minds become tired and stressed, and in the hospital if a water bag has been broken for over 24 hours, your time is up.
Hanging with Balka the cat before heading into the hospital. We were excited!
For our first baby, my induction experience included an excruciating foley balloon. It is meant to pry open the cervix and feels like, well, prying open the cervix. I found it extremely painful. Being in the warm bathtub at the hospital did help some but not a lot.
Tens of needles and hands poking and prodding, a lot of television viewing and waiting…
…water bag popping, Misoprostol, Pitocin, and four days into unmedicated laboring an epidural, a vacuum, an episiotomy, liters of blood loss and a trip to the operating room for a multi-hour surgery repairing my ripped cervix while my newborn baby was sent to the neonatal intensive care nursery. Baby and I were both stressed out by this five day induction process when she wasn’t ready to be born and I wasn’t ready to give birth. Fortunately she was born strong and courageous, kind nurses and family members held her constantly when in the NICU, and breastfeeding came easily for us.
Here’s Iris once we got her home. So healthy and peaceful.
New pals. : )
While Iris and I both made it out alive, got to test our mettle, and learn some life lessons, I was highly motivated to do what I could in crafting a different birth experience the second time around.
2016 baby bump…
…quickly turned into a full baby belly! Iris always standing watch over my expansion.
I felt well, and our baby’s vitals looked strong…but the gestational diabetes made everyone uncomfortable so it was decided a hospital induction would go down a week after the estimated due date if nature didn’t take its course. Having a hard date looming, I wanted to do all I could to “encourage” labor in the most natural ways possible.
It was on. I was my own science experiment in this delicate dance melding medicine, art, spirit, and cosmic luck to bring on baby.
About a month before giving birth, I learned and practiced cupping at the East West School of Planetary Herbology seminar in the Santa Cruz mountains. Fellow pregnant herbal practitioner Natasha DelFiorentino was my willing practice partner in our first foray into the wide world of cupping. Michael Phelps and his purple circles would soon turn many onto the ancient Chinese technique during the 2016 Rio Olympics.
When pregnant and not desiring to stimulate labor, cups are to be kept away from the lower back, hips, and belly. But when it was go time back in San Francisco a week until my due date, that’s exactly where I wanted them.
Enter Dr. Amy Baird Schlegel wielding acupuncture needles with electric currents, cups with flames, and smoldering moxibustion sticks! Recommended by dynamic doula Tracie Enis, I had seen Amy for acupuncture during my first pregnancy. We became friends while talking on the table and over playdates with our daughters. I trusted her suggestions in the realm of summoning this baby out into the world and was willing to take things up a few notches this time.
…and acupuncture needles complete with added electricity! Electroacupuncture provides an extra boost of charge to the system to get energy moving.
Add to that the wafting aroma of burning mugwort sticks above meridian points, and we were…en fuego! This traditional medicinal technique encouraging circulation is called moxibustion. Here are some shots of me trying my hand at making a stick. Beginning with the fluffy herb…
…a wooden stick wrapped with paper to create a tight tube…
…and the paper tube filled with mugwort and pressed in with the wooden dowel rod. It’s now ready to light up and smolder over pressure points.
While some of these methods may looks intense, I was never in pain. Sure there were some tickles and tingles here and there, but for the most part all was pleasant and relaxing. I even took soon-to-be big sister Iris with me so she could see these healing therapies in action and be a part of the process of inviting our new family member into the world.
In addition to my visits to see Amy on a daily basis for a week, awesome midwife Kara Engelbrecht of Mothercraft Midwifery began “sweeping my membranes” by using her finger to separate the amniotic sac from the wall of the uterus and cervix. It’s not terribly comfortable, but the stakes were high.
The Scarlet Sage Herb Co. with an extremely knowledgeable staff and healing products galore was my next stop to pick up tinctures. Ten drops of Black Cohosh mixed with three droppers full of Cotton Root Bark were to be taken every half hour for 2-3 hours.
I tried drinking Castor Oil to get my first pregnancy rolling, but it didn’t seem to have much of an effect on me. The idea is to rev up the digestive tract which can stimulate the uterus. A common recommendation is to drink 2 ounces of Castor Oil and follow that with another 2 ounces in half an hour. I mixed mine with orange juice.
Long walks, spicy foods…check! They couldn’t hurt.
Have sex. Orgasms release oxytocin, and semen contains prostaglandins which are hormone-esque natural chemicals that nudge the cervix to dilate and contractions to begin. Also, some robust nipple tweaks are highly recommended! This nipple stimulation via hands or pump calls in contractions and increases oxytocin.
Doing my best to relax and allow Mother Nature to do her miraculous thing, I also knew I needed to do my part in checking in with my feelings to see if any lingering beliefs or fears may be holding me back from bringing this baby into the world. The physical and emotional trauma (as well as surrender, relief, and love!) of my first birth was certainly still knocking on my subconscious so working with meditation and therapy were huge parts of letting stories of powerlessness go.
Also, I really enjoy pregnancy…the little love kicks, the feeling of my body and baby as one. This would most likely be my last baby-the joyful completion of our family mixed with some sadness at the end of a life chapter. I wanted to be present with that, to give all my attention and then let baby know it was safe to come out so we could begin our lives together in the world. So, speak with a friend, a therapist, an intuitive, a spiritual advisor…whatever works for you and let your feelings flow.
Talk to your baby. Come on sweet, dear child, let’s do this together.
We were ready to roll with the carseat, diapers, and all other baby prep. I had wrapped up work projects, everything was off my plate awaiting the arrival. I began going through old writing spirals, scripts, notes, journals—throwing away pages no longer resonating, deeply cleaning out my closet as well as my emotions.
I’m not sure which–if any…or maybe all–of these labor encouragements worked, but I did go into labor right on my expected due date one year ago from today.