“Foot go to sleep. Foot go to sleep. Foot go to sleep.”
Justin’s mantra made me focus my thoughts on my foot to completely relax it. We were practicing relaxation techniques for my labor. We were a few weeks away from Beatrice’s birthday and we felt very prepared. We were fresh out of a hospital-hosted class that gave us great tips to labor with a birthing ball, we had our Bradley book opened on the floor for reference, and we had my Labor Box.
My Labor Box was a small pink box with no lid that was filled to the brim for things to help me during, what was sure to be, a long labor. Candles, bath salts, pictures of our honeymoon, hand massager, heat pad, healthy snacks, CDs, and all my confidence. While I waited for what seemed to be an eternity for my stubborn sweetheart, I kept adding things to the box and would stare at it longingly. My birthing ball rested in the corner.
Forty-one weeks and six days into pregnancy I came home from work, desperate. It was the weekend and I did not want to go back to work on Monday. I was going to do anything to help make that happen. I stared down the castor oil on the kitchen counter. There was no way the gooey liquid was going to pour out of that bottle-necked hole fast enough for me to down all 2 ounces before I’d puke. I transferred the contents into a shot glass at 6pm. Here goes nothing.
One hour later I sat on the toilet with my stomach in knots. I kept screaming at my husband nonsense words. It hurt! I laid on the bed to help with the stomach cramps, tears streaming down my face. I was a day away from being 42 weeks pregnant, I just drank the thickest, nastiest poison on earth, and now my body was punishing me with trips to the toilet. I ran to and from the bathroom for another hour. Then, I felt a sharp pain in my back. Great, I thought. Moments later it happened again. It was surely the effects of the castor oil. I cuddled my pillow harder and continued to sob until, ouch! It happened again.
I went into the living room to find Justin on the couch. “This could be it.” I tell him. He jumps up and grabs his phone to be ready to call our midwife. I tried sitting on the ball. Holy cow did it burn! Not happening. I started to put dishes away to take my mind off of the impending labor. That had been my plan, after all, to start cleaning to relax myself. Nope! I couldn’t stand up straight during the pain, which I had by then decided were definitely contractions in my back. I glanced at the clock and tried to put away a few more dishes. BAM! The pain made me grab the counter. I looked at the clock again. Less than four minuets had passed. Yup, I was in labor. It took every ounce of effort I had to call my sisters and mom. I fumbled a text message to my close friends.
I tried the ball again. Absolutely not! The pain seared as soon as I sat down. I started to panic. I can’t sit, I can’t stand, I can’t lean! Justin, remembering the Bradley book guided me to bed and put me on my left side with a pillow under my top leg. It worked but it was still too much. Justin put his hands on my hips and pressed in during a contraction. Relief! I told him to keep doing that with every one. And the sweet man did.
“Justin I feel like her head is coming out!” Justin got our midwife on the phone and put her on speaker. She was in her car and on her way. Her calm voice talked me through the contractions while she listened to me scream with each one. That’s right, I screamed with every contraction. Every. Single. One! My midwife arrived around 8pm, just one hour after the contractions started. She helped to unclothe me and then she checked my cervix. Ten centimeters, 100% effaced (no surprises there), and her head was descending. She instructed Justin to change out the water in my birthing tub and she took over pressing on my hips while he did.
I’ll leave the story for a second while I’m contracting and screaming and demanding pressure on my hips to talk about my longing for the Labor Box, sitting unused on the dinning room table. I didn’t have hours to whittle away while my body slowly pushed out my darling. I didn’t have scents to smell, or CDs to mellow out to. Relaxation techniques? Laughable. I had searing pains in my back and Braxton Hicks to curse for lying to me about what contractions feel like. My contractions started four minuets apart and only 4-5 contractions in I was in transition labor. Wham. Bam.
The labor assistant arrived at some point and my team helped me up from the bed and to the bathroom. I had one contraction while sitting on the toilet to empty my bladder. The searing pain returned that I had when I tried out the birthing ball and there was no one to put pressure on my hips. As soon as the contraction was over I hurried as quickly as I could to the tub for the next one.
The water gave me an instant comfort. I continued to need pressure on my hips and I continued to scream with every contraction, but the water lessened the pain. I positioned myself at the side of the tub, squatting, with my arms resting over the side. When a contraction came on I would signal Justin by calling his name, who was sitting in the tub behind me, to squeeze my hips while I gripped the side of the tub, and screamed!
It would be another hour before my baby arrived.
Continue the story here at Megan’s Labor Story Part Three: My Home Birth.
Managing Back Labor
I never felt any contraction pain in my belly. It’s not typical to have all back labor pain like this. However, I would recommend that preggo mamas be informed about how to manage back labor pain in case they have my luck! Here are some techniques that I used and some others that might work for you.
Numero uno! Justin would place his hands on my hips and push inwards with every contraction. During a contraction I might give a one word instruction like “higher,” or “lower” and Justin would reposition his hands, pushing through the entire contraction. By the end, he was keeping at least some pressure even between contractions.
It was actually more like an intense groan. I wasn’t screaming in reaction to feeling pain, but I instinctively started this groaning to help ease the pain. A low-voiced belly groan, or scream, helps relax your bottom as well. Be careful though, if your voice is high-pitched it will cause your muscles to tighten and you will start to work against the contractions. Relax your throat and push the air out with your diaphragm.
I felt immediately more comfortable when I got in the birthing tub. A combination of the warm water relaxing my muscles, the buoyancy, and, I don’t know, magic… it all helped in relieving the pain. I’ve read that laboring in water can decrease pain perception by 30%. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But I can tell you from experience that it was indeed a tremendous help.
A common cause of back labor is the baby is in a weird position, including sunny side up. Squatting will help give that baby room, by opening up your hips, and can help her get in a better position.
If a birthing tub is not available, I would recommend this as an alternative.
If you have ever deserved a massage mama, it’s now! We had tennis balls in our Labor Box for Justin to roll around on my back. Had I not skipped active labor I know we would have used these!
On all Fours
Get on your hands and knees to take the pressure off your spine.
While on your hands and knees arch your back up into the angry cat yoga pose then come down to a flat back. This will help relieve the pressure off of your spine. Find an example of the angry cat here… haha! JK. Find it here.