Wednesday October 2 was the big guess date. The day came and went without any tales to tell. As did the next day. And the next.
Britton and I agreed that at 42 weeks we'd go to the hospital to induce, so at 41 weeks I started to gently suggest Wren consider a change of scenery. Each day, I tried something new. Walks, homeopathic herbs, herbal tinctures, uterine tonics, cervical ripiners, sex, acupuncture... I tried it all. It was almost like with each new attempt, Wren got even more settled into her surroundings.
As we edged further into week 41, we started going to St. Luke's for non-stress tests (or, as I prefer to call them, stress tests). Wren and I were still going strong - fluids were good and her heart rate was perfect.
Without any significant changes, we decided to serve up a more serious eviction notice. Castor oil. Michelle and Virginia, our midwife and her apprentice, came over Sunday afternoon for a check up and together we mixed a tablespoon of castor oil with a bowl of strawberry ice cream. At Michelle's suggestion I chose a flavor I didn't like, and thank god for that. My interest in strawberry ice cream has since plummeted. We toasted and down the hatch! I did the same thing 2 more times over the next few hours and we settled down on the couch to watch a movie.
Around 8, I started to feel some mild cramping. Something was happening. The cramping continued and we went to bed to get some sleep. Within a short time, I was having real surges that went from mild to medium in intensity and started coming every 3-4 minutes. Britton was texting with Alexis, our doula, and we agreed that we'd continue to ride it out and check in in the morning, unless things picked up. It was a long night without much sleep, but manageable.
By morning the surges were coming every 3-4 minutes, but then would taper off to every 10 minutes or more. We already had an appointment scheduled with Michelle and Virginia that morning and after seeing me, Michelle decided they’d come back after another appointment they had that morning. We still had some time.
Alexis then came over and we did a hypnotherapy session. It was a heavenly respite from the waves of pain. She led me into a deeper state of relaxation and somehow I drifted off to sleep a couple of times in between contractions.
My irregular labor continued. It was painful, but manageable. I spent some time in the birth tub, but sadly it slowed my labor down and I had to ban the tub from my pain management toolkit for the time being.
My support crew through the day was amazing. Britton seemed to always be one step ahead of the surges and as soon as one was coming on, he reminded me to get ahead of it with a deep breath. Every contraction started in my back (the dreaded back labor) and spread around to my belly, and it was all hands on deck every time. Pressure on my lower back was massively helpful to keep the pain manageable.
Over time, I shifted how I moved through my surges. I went from just moaning to using positive imagery and words. A lot of "yes" and talking to Wren, working with her to make this happen. It felt so awkward at first, but when I realized it helped, I was all in. Anything to help. With all the moaning and talking to “baby”, it must have sounded more like unbelievably long and amazing orgasm instead of birth.
I kept reminding myself of my friend Elena. I was at her daughter Sedey’s birth a year earlier and somehow she had smiled through each surge. As much as I could, I’d muster up a smile or at least relax my muscles and breath deeply. It helped. When I could, I also conjured up the beach in Tulum - my go to escape. I tried to connect to the memory of those ocean waves and bring my own surges into that same natural rhythm. I was channeling my inner hippie anyway I could.
By the end of the day, things were looking less than awesome. Uneven labor patterns and an inability to keep any food down were the only constants, but I was still strong and committed. Since we were in a holding pattern, everyone decided to go home to get some rest.
We decided to call Jana, our friend who is an acupuncturist, and apparent baby conjurer. She came over and reset the house with Britton - candles, music, and lighting. Once we were settled, she started in on the first of several acupuncture treatments.
With Jana’s magic, contractions started picking back up again. Michelle, Virginia and Alexis came back over for a long night. The irregular patterns continued and we did what we could to get some sleep. I was hooked up to an IV for fluids (Britton had MacGyver-ed a hanging system for the drip next to our bed), and I somehow slept between surges. Our bodies have an amazing ability to preserve our energy.
Early Tuesday morning, we regrouped. I was concerned about my ability to keep going and questioned staying home. I'd had very little sleep over the past 2 nights and eaten only a little yogurt with honey. My spirits were up, but it was hard. Really hard. I had my moments when I considered calling it quits and heading to UCSF for a C-section. Or at the very least piling on a bunch of drugs. At the same time, the idea of transferring sounded awful and my team’s confidence in me wasn’t wavering. So I kept on.
All the tools I'd used initially to kick start labor were back in the game again - homeopathic herbs, herbal tinctures, nipple stimulation, walking, acupuncture. We also walked downstairs to the backyard for a breath of fresh air. When I came back, the house was reset again, even smudged with sage. Amber, our second doula, was there to take over for Alexis. And something in me shifted.
Jana did another acupuncture session. It was intense. She also treated the entire team, so all the ladies were walking around with needles coming off the tops of their heads. The onslaught of homeopathics and tinctures continued. I walked around the living room squeezing my nipples - if they'd asked me to walk naked down the street and I thought it would have helped, I would have done it.
Whatever the key ingredient was, things were happening. Everything was bigger and more intense. It felt like there was a real shift, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask Michelle if I was transitioning. If it wasn't happening, I couldn’t bear the thought of hearing that.
We decided to do another check and I was finally at 8 or 9 cm, though they didn't tell me that. Michelle broke my water manually, and with it came a wave of relief.
Labor continued to get faster and stronger. It was finally happening! Michelle said not even a freight train could get in the way of Wren coming out at this point, so I went back in the birth tub. More relief.
The next hour was fast. Hard labor. Britton got in the tub with me and soon it was time to push. It’s true, there’s no denying that feeling. You just know when it’s time. Michelle and I worked together through each push to help avoid tearing. She’d tell me how hard to push, how long to hold, when to release. It was the first time I felt like I had any real control, and it felt good. There was also a shift in my mental state. I came out of the haze and was more alert.
And then she was there. In my arms. And she was perfect.
Wren was born at 1pm in our bedroom, a mini-disco ball throwing dazzling lights across the walls. 41 hours after it all began.
In the moments after, Jana said “that was some jungle ass shit.” Not the most romantic way to put it, but so true. It was me and Wren, doing what we were made to do.
(After she was born, I did hemorrhage. Michelle and Sue, our backup midwife, flipped into action. They got me back on the bed and shot me up with Pitocin. Amber shoved a piece of placenta in my mouth to hold in my cheek (apparently another way to stop the bleeding). They closely monitored me, and everything was under control. I was still in good hands, and didn’t doubt for a moment that having Wren at home was the right choice for us).