*This post contains graphic birth images.
Just over three weeks ago we welcomed our fourth sweet boy into our family. I have a few separate posts to go into depth more about specifics related to his birth (unmedicated birth, why I chose an unmedicated birth this time, how my birth plan changed and why you NEED a doula!), but today I wanted to just share about Cole’s birth story.
Christmas came and went. I was MISERABLE. And honestly, saying I was miserable was an understatement. I don’t know what it was, but this time the last couple weeks dragged on and on. And each day seemed to feel like an eternity. I was in so much pain overall, lower back pain, everything was swollen and just hurting, sleep was intermittent, I was hungry but had no room to eat. For whatever reason on Christmas Eve was overly uncomfortable. Here’s a great photo my cousin captured of our family after dinner and it’s clear from my face just how I felt.
Christmas Day wasn’t as bad, but I was just so anxious to be done. And kind of annoyed I didn’t get to enjoy Christmas fully because I was just so flat out miserable.
The day after Christmas I had a doctor appointment and I was planning to ask my OB to do a sweep of my membranes. I turned 39 weeks that day, so I figured they’d have no issue doing it. My last OB did this and I had a baby that night. So I go to my doctor visit and I saw the physician’s assistant that day. She first did a cervical check upon my request. I wanted to see how far I’d progressed. I was 4cm dilated and 50% effaced. I asked about the membrane sweep. She said sorry we can’t do that because you’re positive for GB strep.
Long story short — I always test positive for this bacterial infection called GB strep which most OB’s test you for around 36-37 weeks. And basically if you test positive (it’s nothing extremely harmful or detrimental to mom) they give you an antibiotic for it once you’re in active labor so that it can’t be passed to baby, although that has yet to happen to any of my babies.
I asked well why not? Since my last OB did it — no problem and it kicked my labor into gear since it seems I have no problem dilating, but actually getting labor activated isn’t as easy. Frankly, the PA didn’t have a very good answer. So I left very frustrated and annoyed having to make another weekly appointment for when I’d be 40 weeks.
After a trip to Panda Express to dull my aggravation with some American Chinese food I decided to try something somewhat controversial, and went on the hunt for some castor oil.
Before your eyes bulge out of your head — I did a lot of research on ways to kick start labor. All the things like walking, spicy foods, pineapple, squats, bouncing on an exercise ball, sex, etc, etc — none of those have ever worked for me. I was always very hesitant about castor oil because I’d only ever heard horror stories of it and found on my own the reasons why it can be frowned upon. However, I also found some really good blogs from other women who used it and had good experiences so I went with my gut and tried it. 1) I needed to go to the bathroom anyway (TMI but end of pregnancy is just awful) and 2) if it didn’t work, then oh well. I was already dilated and effaced plus I wasn’t past my due date, so the risks were minimal. I do think that if you’re not already dilated and your body is totally NOT ready for labor yet, using castor oil isn’t a good idea.
I went with one woman’s specific recommendation of taking a very small dose that was diluted (so you couldn’t taste it) and then following it up with another very small dose a few hours later. On Wednesday evening the day after Christmas, I got the kids to bed, cleaned up the house, got showered and ready for bed. Just before I laid down I took 1 tablespoon of castor oil mixed with some OJ.
At this point I hadn’t had any consistent contractions in days. So I honestly wasn’t expecting much but maybe (and hopefully hahaha) a bowel movement. I took it around 9:30pm and set an alarm to get up around 12:30am to take the second small dose.
Around 11:30pm it started to kick in and I had to use the bathroom. No big deal. Nothing horrific or gross. I laid back down to get some rest and by 12:30am I was up again. But this time with contractions. I started timing them and thinking no way are these real. I literally just took that stuff a few hours earlier.
After about 45 minutes I texted my husband and my doula letting them know that I’d started timing my contractions and by that point they were a few minutes apart, but they still weren’t really painful. I told my husband it’s probably nothing. I think I just have to use the bathroom.
At 1:45am they had started to get more intense, so I called my doula and she said yeah we need to get to the hospital.
I was super hesitant to go because I didn’t want it to be a false alarm and get everyone riled up. It was the middle of the night and we’d need friends to come over to stay with the boys, but after talking to my doula she encouraged me that it was better to be safe than sorry. I let my husband know he needed to head home and I started rallying the troops to come help us out.
I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I really wasn’t expecting this to work, so I had NOTHING packed. I had never gotten around to packing my hospital bag, so I was dashing around trying to gather things while having contractions. One of my friends showed up to be with the boys in the morning and another who was coming to be apart of my birth team.
My husband reminded me of Ricky Ricardo from “I Love Lucy”. He was very panicky and running around like a crazy person as if we’ve never done this before. He was cracking me up. I’m like who’s the one in labor here? As I stopped mid-sentence to breathe through a contraction.
We got to the hospital at 3am and by the time we pulled up I was jumping to get out of that car because sitting during my contractions was super painful and uncomfortable. I just needed to stand. But of course we parked on the wrong side, so by the time we actually got through the ER triage and up to the maternity floor it was closer to 3:15am. I can’t remember what time it was that we actually made it into our room, but they were pretty swift about getting us through the maternity triage because they could see I was contracting regularly. However, I don’t think they were prepared for just how quickly I was progressing.
For the next 45 minutes I labored in my room. My doula, Joy, was a true God send. She got some essential oils flowing in the room right away and rubbed some on my wrists and neck as soon as we were in there. I have an entire post dedicated to her and why you need to have a doula at your next birth, but all I can say is I wouldn’t have been able to do have done it without her.
Those 45 minutes went pretty quickly because I was so focused on every contraction. Only focusing on the task at hand. As soon as one was over I’d take a breather, chat with my husband, my friend Betty who was there with us and my doula, Joy. I had these wonderful birth affirmation cards that I got from my friend Rachel at Sun Stand Doula that I kept reading over and over again in between my contractions.
One thing I remember is that I kept having to pee. So I’d have to unhook all the monitors and waddle into the bathroom with the IV that they had me hooked to for my antibiotic for the GB strep. Another notable thing is my hospital and staff didn’t seem used to having someone who didn’t want to sit in the bed. Since I wasn’t getting an epidural they couldn’t force me to sit and stay there. So I labored the whole time on my feet. It hurt much worse to sit still, so I stood next to the bed the rest of the time for every contraction and swayed and breathed through it. At one point we did try a birthing ball (basically a giant exercise ball) and I didn’t like how that felt, so I chose to stay standing the rest of the time.
Around 4:15 (just an hour after we got to the hospital) I noticed my contractions had picked up. They were every other minute. And I remember saying that too. Like wow all of a sudden these are coming really fast. At one point I really thought I couldn’t do it anymore and I said that to Joy. She continued to encourage me as I swayed back and forth breathing through another one. Little did I know I was transitioning. The transition phase is the last phase of labor when you move from active labor to your cervix fully opening for the baby’s descent. I’d been told by several women when you feel like you can’t do it anymore that’s when your baby is about to be born. And sure enough that was true.
I felt like my body was telling me to squat down for the next contraction, so I did.
Right before this point my friend Brittany showed up to document our birth for us. And she captured these beautiful photos for us.
I squatted down through one contraction and it felt much better. I felt another one coming and the urge to push, so I pushed.
After that contraction I stood up and frantically said, “Yep, I need to get in the bed. He’s coming.”
At that point it was kind of a blur. I was hurriedly trying to get into the bed, but they have you hooked up to so much crap that I was fighting with cords and monitors to get into the bed.
My next contraction came and I continued to push. No one was ready. I just remember a blur of the nurses and resident doctor hurriedly trying to prepare for this baby to come out. My doctor showed up just in the knick of time. After a few pushes he was born.
All in all my labor was 4 hours starting at 12:30am until he was born at 4:33am. The fastest labor I’ve ever had. I’m thankful we left for the hospital when we did. My biggest fear was having this baby in the bathtub and without that epidural it very easily could’ve happened since I progressed even faster this time than I ever had before.
Cole William Dockery was born on December 27, 2018 at 4:33am weighing 8 pounds 4 ounces and measuring 21 inches tall. He came out covered in beautiful white vernix, a super long cord (funny because my last son’s cord was super short) and with a very bruised face and head. The doctors said he came so quickly that it caused the severe bruising to his face.
Cole is named in honor of my uncle Leonard William Griffith who we lost last year in a coal mine accident. We love you and miss you Uncle Len. I hope that Cole grows up to be the kind of man his Uncle Leonard was — loving, kind, family centered, genuine and just the best kind of human you want to know and be around.
My beautiful and amazing doula, Joy. I couldn’t have done this without you. You are the most compassionate, caring individual and I am so lucky to have had you by my side. Words don’t do it justice. I’m forever grateful for what you helped me accomplish. You are truly gifted and it was an honor to have you at my son’s birth.
I have so many photos to share! Enjoy!
This birth was healing for me. In so many ways. I struggled for several months that we were having our fourth boy. So for me this delivery made my bond to him so special. It was my first unmedicated delivery. It empowered me to know I was capable of something I always thought I could never do. And it forever linked my son and I. While I may never have a daughter, I now have four sons — all who have their own special story and who have their momma’s heart forever.