The Natural Induction Bender
One week past my due date, I experienced an internal shift from zen mama to mildly nervous nail biter. The baby was still squirming and stretching in my belly the same way he had been for the past few months, and I was still peeing every hour or so. “When is this baby gonna pop already?” I kept asking myself.
The next morning (day 8 post-due date) I went to an antenatal test appointment at my back-up hospital, St. Lukes, where my nervousness transformed into a more acute state of anxiety.
In general, the medical community is in agreement that most healthy women are very capable of having a natural birth until 42 weeks of pregnancy. Starting at 42 weeks, however, experts agree that there are increased health risks to the baby and to the mother, which is why many hospitals and midwives advise women to have their labor induced at that point.
At my back-up hospital St. Lukes, however, some recently published research about the optimum birth time period has led the hospital to officially change their policy. They no longer induce a woman at 42 weeks. The deadline to have your baby induced is now 41.5 weeks- or 11 days post-due date. If a woman wanted to be induced, they would only provide induction up until 11 days post-due date. If the woman chose to bypass this date, then she could no longer request an induction at St. Luke’s and would have to have their birth elsewhere.
The antenatal test showed that the baby was fine, but the nurse-midwife told me that my amniotic fluid was on the “low end” of the scale. She then explained the new hospital policy to me. She stressed that the policy was developed in the best interest of the baby, but that I could always go to another hospital at 42 weeks for an induction, should I not want to get induced at 11 days post due date.
This information left me feeling agitated. I hated the idea of getting induced, and staying in the hospital, but then I also wondered if I was self-indulgent for wanting to have a home birth when there were potential risks involved. Knowing I had less than optimal fluid in me didn’t help either.
So, with some trepidation, I agreed to schedule a hospital induction in three days time- the 11 day deadline- at the latest possible time permitted- 7pm.
On the way home, I tried to convince myself and my partner that I didn’t really mind going in for a hospital induction, although I was already beginning to dread it.
The fact was, I really did not want to be induced. Yet I was starting to panic and started doubting myself and my body. What if 42 weeks passed and the baby still hadn’t arrived? What about at 43 weeks? What would be my options then? My mind started racing, and a powerful surge of maternal guilt overcame me- guilt for wanting to stick to my original home birth plan.
I had booked a midwife appointment that same afternoon, so I headed over there. During that meeting, I explained my nervousness and my resignation about getting induced should labor not begin by 7pm on the 11th date post- due date. My midwife, Maria, said it was entirely up to me, but reminded me that I was a “good birther”, and urged me to trust in my body’s ability to birth. My first child, Ella Zhao, now 6 years old, arrived 10 days after her due date after all, and I had her at home without complications or tearing, after 14 hours of healthy labor. I nodded my head in agreement and took a deep breath- I had for so long looked upon my first birth as a “lucky” experience- not as a product of my body’s innate ability to birth. It was time for me to reframe that first birth in my mind.
She urged me not to make any final decisions at this point, especially considering my desire to have a home birth. Worst case scenerio, she said, she would help me induce my labor by having me drink a castor oil milkshake on the 11th day mark. And we could always go to another hospital for an induction at 42 weeks, should it come to that.
I left that appointment feeling like I still had options. I felt much more secure. And I felt determined to do whatever I could to get this baby out! I went home and embarked on a natural induction bender.
By poking around on the internet (man, the Internet is great in moments like this!), I found a huge amount of information on natural birth induction methods, including what herbs to take (chilis, oregano, basil), what acupressure points to press, what kind of foot massage to get, and other natural induction tips such as having plentiful sex, orgasms, nipple tweaking sessions, and strenuous walks.
That night I started with the herbs, (had a massive bowl of spaghetti with meat balls), the acupressure points, the orgasms and the nipple tweaking. I also made an acupuncture appointment for the next day, and a foot massage appointment for the day after that.
I also spent an hour’s time reading about women’s success with natural induction. I was particularly interested in the first-person narratives of women who gave birth at least 10 days after their due date. I discovered dozens of accounts by British women who had had successful homebirths between 10 and 20 days- some even more- after their due date.
The next day (day 9 post due date), I went for a hike with my mother and daughter, had an acupuncture treatment, ate a juicy burger with extra chili, and just tried to relax and enjoy myself as I poked my acupressure points and tweaked my nipples.
The following day (day 10 post-due date), I ran some errands, chugged some nasty Chinese herbs the acupuncturist had given me, and treated myself to a glorious foot massage at a dimly lit massage parlor whose other clients all consisted of middle aged men.
That night, my daughter went to sleep over at her grandparent’s house, and I was laying on the couch topless, watching the HBO series Rome and tweaking my nipples (not a bad Saturday night all considering). Out of the blue, I started to get cramps. Real menstrual-type cramps! I called to my partner and we gave my nipples ample attention together. It was midnight at this point, and with every tweak and suck my cramps came on stronger. He suggested that we go to bed and start again in the morning, since I should ideally get some sleep before heading into labor. (With my daughter, labor went through the night, and it was indeed exhausting not to have slept at all.)
I agreed, and went to the bathroom to start getting ready for bed. Then all of a sudden, at about 12:15am, the wave of a contraction took over my body from the middle of my back stretching both up into my neck and down into the core of my belly. BAM! It was on. There was no early labor really- it went straight into intense contractions with very little in-between relaxing time. We called my midwife, and she said to call her again once my contractions were at least 4 minutes apart. We called her again 15 minutes later and by 1:15am or so, my midwife arrived. She set up her things, looked at me, smiled, and told me that it was time to push.
My baby was born at 2:15am, after 45 minutes of pushing. I admit I was surprised by the intensity of the pain, even though it was my second time around. But, as with my last labor, just at the point where I didn’t think I could do it any longer, that I was somehow physically incapable, the baby arrived. Bruno Tai Ming was born at 8 lbs 5 ounces, lovely and healthy and covered in goo.
My entire labor was less than 2.5 hours total. Most likely, this is due to the fact that this was my second child. But I like to think that my natural induction bender helped nature along.