I have really wanted to write down my whole labor story, for me, for you, and maybe even a daughter down the line who will ask for my advice and stories when her pregnancy time comes. I don’t want my post to go TOO long, so I will break it down into the three stages of labor. For those who don’t know too much about pregnancy and labor yet, I will give you some background. The first stage has three levels: early, active, and transition labor, where you are going through all those lovely contractions as your cervix is opening and getting ready to be able to have a baby come out. This stage is by far the longest. The second stage is right after the transition where your cervix is now fully dilated at ten centimeters and you are ready to push; this is the pushing stage. The last stage is right after birth; you have done all the hard work and the placenta just needs to be delivered.
As my due date approached, I wanted that baby out and in my loving embrace! A week and a half before my due date, I was looking up all things natural to help my labor come sooner rather than later. I ate and drank a bunch of pineapple juice (love making healthy Dole Whip, easy recipe here), did some acupressure, drank Organic Raspberry Leaf Tea, had sex, and even walked up and down my stairs a bunch of times. I had been reading up on drinking Castor Oil which people swore by to start their labor. I had read and agreed that you shouldn’t TRY and start labor BEFORE your forty weeks is up; why would you want your baby out before he is completely developed and ready to come out? All my natural encouragement would help speed up the process if baby was already ready. So Justin and I agreed to try the Castor Oil ON my due date, June 1st. I was really anxious to get this baby out by then. I knew my body was prepared since at my thirty nine week checkup I let them do a vaginal exam and I was two centimeters dilated and at least fifty percent effaced. This only really meant though that baby could come that day or still take a few weeks. My Bradley Method instructor (Rachel Benson, who I highly recommend if you live in Orange County) had recommended not even getting a vaginal exam early since it can cause false hope since even when you are a little dilated, no one can determine when you will actually go into labor. But of course I HAD to know, so I did the exam anyway, and was shocked I was two centimeters dilated. I hadn’t felt any Braxton-Hicks contractions so far, so didn’t know I could dilate without contractions.
When pregnant I was really interested to know what a contraction would feel like. As I read up on other women’s descriptions, I realized a lot of people describe it in different ways. To me, as it is to many women, it seemed like an extreme menstrual cramp. A lot of pressure, and I knew it was an actual contraction, because it is distinct and different then anything I had felt my whole pregnancy. But as my Bradley instructor had kept telling us, don’t get an excited adrenaline rush or it can stop the contractions! So I calmly (as calm as I can get…) told Justin we should probably go on a walk around the block. As we were slowly walking, every three minutes I would have to stop and let a contraction go by. Yes every three minutes, not starting with one every hour, or even ten minutes, but every three minutes. And that is definitely when I knew I had started my first stage of labor.