Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Birth of Daniel Olen, Part I

As Daniel is nearly a month old, I've decided it's high time I share his birth story here:

I went into pre-term labor in my 34th week and then for weeks after that I was having intermittent contractions, both painful and more pressure-like Brackston-Hicks-type contractions. On Friday afternoon, June 21st, they became more intense and more frequent, about every 3 minutes lasting 1.5-2 minutes. I called Jaymz while he was still at work to find out when he was coming home, and he told me later that he knew something was up by the tone of my voice.

When he got home I told him about my contractions, and we decided to walk to the grocery store to buy a few things. I'm pretty sure Jaymz was just trying to distract me with that trip, but it was nice to get out of the house for a while. I was needing to stop during my contractions and breathe while squatting or holding onto Jaymz and "slow dancing." I remember walking through the store leaning on the cart wondering what people were thinking of this woman, great with child, laboring in the grocery store. It took us about 45 minutes to walk less than half a mile home from the store because I needed to stop so frequently to focus on my contractions.

When we got home Jaymz called one of our midwives, Catherine, and let her know I was having contractions, and that we were hoping someone would come over and check my cervix to see what kind of progress I was making. The nurse Carissa and naturopathic student Kit came over and checked my cervix, and I was dilated to 1. We decided to send them home and call back when things seemed like they were picking up.

On Saturday at some point, they came over again and I was dilated to 1.5. My cervix was very stretchy and "agreeable," I was 75% effaced, and baby was low at -1 station. I was advised to get as much rest as I could and eat and drink plenty, and call back if my water broke or if things picked up some more.

On Sunday the 23rd, Jaymz's birthday, my acupuncturist came to our home and did a treatment to try to get the contractions to be stronger and closer together. We had another visit that night from Catherine and Kit, and they used the sarong I was wearing as a rebozo and they rocked me some with it to help with the low back pain I was having. Catherine told Jaymz he should stay home from work on Monday, and when she came over that evening I was dilated to 2, but things still hadn't kicked into high gear yet.

So, that's pretty much how it went for the rest of the week: Jaymz and I distracted ourselves by playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 (his birthday present) while I rocked on the birth ball through contractions, and we beat the game quickly. I ate and slept as much as I could (using Skullcap earlier in the week and then Ambien or Vistaril later in the week to help me sleep through the contractions at night). Jaymz drove me to acupuncture several times (he did have to talk me out of driving, silly me). I took an ever-changing cocktail of herbs, vitamins, supplements, and homeopathic remedies to try to help my body figure out if it was going to go into labor already or stop. They included GABA, 5-HTP, large amounts of Calcium/Magnesium in liquid and tablet forms, pulsatilla, black cohosh, and argentum nitricum. I had a lot of bloody show, particularly after any cervical checks, and lost my mucous plug sometime in the middle of the week. Jaymz went back to work on Tuesday, but he brought home a work laptop so he could work from home some and do half-days in the office. Jennifer came over on Wednesday and we all had sushi together while I breathed through my contractions and she cuddled baby Tomás. Rachel came over on Thursday evening for a while for a visit.

The last pregnant photo, between
contractions on labor day 7,
the day I wrote this.
We basically tried to keep our life going, even though it felt like everything was so up in the air. I kept wondering, Will I ever have this baby?!? I tried to keep myself centered by listening to Hypnobabies mp3 tracks as much as I could. I even bought the "Baby Come Out!" track and listened to that several times. I also really enjoyed listening to an ocean waves track, as it definitely seemed to mirror the sensations I was having. I rocked and bounced on the birth ball, and swayed leaning over the counter in the kitchen a lot, while saying "Open, open, open."

I felt very discouraged that my body didn't seem to be working the way it should, and I had quite a few cries about it. Jaymz and I came up with a plan about taking it one day at a time and re-assessing each day whether we wanted to go to the hospital to be induced. That never felt like the right decision, so each day I decided I could do one more day, and we just kept on keeping on. It was a bit of a trick to try to figure out each day if I was going to have enough energy to do another day of this, and then go into active labor (for who knows how long).

Catherine, Carissa, and Kit were all very encouraging, supportive, and extremely caring through the whole ordeal. I am particularly grateful for Catherine's patience with my body. There were several times when I wanted her to break my water and she considered it, but she wasn't willing to do it without me actively dilating. She talked me down several times, telling me how common this kind of lengthy early labor is. The thing is, usually people go to the hospital and intervene with this process, so it's not something we hear about very often. I really appreciated how she didn't want to mess with what my body was doing unless it was medically necessary (or unless I couldn't go on any longer).

I also had really great support on the phone and in person from Rachel, Jennifer, my sister Suzanne, and Jaymz of course. I got wonderful, encouraging emails from my therapist Debra, and my yoga instructor Camille, which I read over and over in my moments of self-doubt. It was really amazing to know how many people were praying for me and that the other mommas at yoga were all setting good intentions for me and my birthing time.

In all, I had 4 acupuncture treatments that week, and I tried everything I could think of to try and jump-start labor (I even tried castor oil belly rubs to no avail, although I stopped short of actually ingesting it.) On Saturday the 29th (yes, 8 days into this prodromal prelabor) I started a new homeopathic remedy to try to stop the contractions, so my body could have a bit of a rest before active labor, and it worked! By Sunday, they had slowed down to about 1 an hour, which was totally manageable and gave me a much-needed break.

Jaymz and I went out to dinner that night to satisfy a salad craving and ended up having a really great dinner date. When we got home I took a sleeping pill so I could get some sleep, but little did I know, that was not going to happen....

Stay tuned for Part II!


  1. What did you take to slow the contractions down? I'm still learning about all this and am fascinated that something could give you that break.

  2. @Holly: I tried several homeopathic remedies throughout the week, and I can't remember now which one it was that finally gave me some time off from contractions. It was certainly provided me with some wonderful and essential rest before having Daniel the next day!


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