A few weeks ago I came across some really convincing anecdotal evidence that drinking a strong infusion of raspberry leaf tea during active labor will help with the entire process of labor and childbirth. It supposedly decreases pain, making contractions less intense yet more productive.
I’ve been drinking a cup of the raspberry tea every morning for the duration of my pregnancy, yet this seemingly miracle protocol calls for an ounce of loose leaf tea. So I found a great herb store and bought some a few weeks ago to have on hand for the big moment.
This past Sunday morning was Father’s Day, and my baby’s actual due date. My two year old and I slept in until about 9:00am. I had been waking up every morning for the past week or so feeling some contractions, but they would always go away once I got moving. This morning I felt them too, but I also felt like this might be the last morning I’d have with only one child sleeping soundly next to me and I wanted to enjoy the moments as they passed.
Four days prior to this peaceful morning, I’d had quite a discouraging doctor’s appointment. After weeks of being head down in position in my pelvis, my ob told me my baby had moved “back up,” and she couldn’t even feel my cervix to tell me if it had effaced or dilated at all. She thought he was laying sideways now because she thought she felt the top of his head (which she said was big- all great things to say to a woman who hopes to deliver without any pain medication!) She also told me she expected me to have a 9 or 10 pound baby, because I had gained 40 pounds and wanted to talk c-section if I went past my due date. Let’s just say I was less than thrilled when I left that appointment.
I did what I always do when faced with something I have questions about, and went home and researched, researched, researched. I found a great website about turning babies into optimal birthing position called Spinning Babies and followed any and all advice I found. I also discovered a website called The Unnecesarean which contains lots of great information and birth stories about OB’s recommending c-sections because of big babies and then women going on to deliver vaginally with no problems.
As I always say, I know these medical interventions save many women and babies’ lives, but I like to be armed with as much information as possible before going into any situation.
I then spent the next three days walking, bouncing on the birthing ball, cleaning on all fours, doing pelvic tilts, squats, cat/camel poses and tail wags. I was a woman on a mission.
So, back to that beautiful Sunday morning…while I lay there reveling in the peace and quiet, I felt some strange things happening inside. I really think I felt the baby flip. My first clue was the crazy shapes and pushes and pulls I was seeing and feeling, and then I felt hiccups up at the top of my uterus.
When we finally got out of bed, and walked into the family room, I realized these contractions were more intense than they had been thus far. My mom immediately sensed something was up, and asked me if I was ok, saying I was moving a lot slower this morning. I said I was fine, just waiting for these contractions to go away.
I made myself a cup of red raspberry leaf tea, and then tried to do as much as possible to get my mind off of what might be happening. We were all trying to time my contractions, but I kept forgetting to tell my husband when I was having another one, and then I kept forgetting what time the last one started and stopped.
My husband put the hospital bag in the car, but I was still not convinced we needed to do that. We were getting ready to go to brunch for Father’s Day, and since the restaurant is closer to the hospital than where we live, I thought that was safe…I could walk around the restaurant grounds during contractions if I needed to.
I got out the bag of loose red raspberry leaf tea so my husband could make if for me if indeed I was going to need it that day. When I did that, my parents asked about it, so I pulled up my post that described all of those “too good to be true” birth stories from women who had followed the directions about drinking it during active labor and read it to them.
Finally, around 11:15AM my dad started timing my contractions and writing them down. After about 45 minutes, we realized they were 3 minutes apart and lasting between 45 seconds and a minute. At that point, I realized maybe something was going on. My dad and husband quickly opened father’s day gifts, pausing for my dad to time and write down my contractions and my husband to let me hang on him while he massaged pressure points in my hips. I then got my two year old dressed, and we put him in my parents car so they could head to brunch.
We paged my doctor and waited about 30 minutes for a call back, but one never came. I really didn’t think they’d tell me to head to the hospital, since I could talk through all of my contractions and I know that is one of the things they use to determine if it’s go-time or not: if the mother can speak during the peak.
I finally decided we should just go. I figured I could always do laps around the hospital parking lot if I wasn’t far enough along to be admitted. But first, I had my husband prepare my red raspberry leaf tea! It was crazy looking and smelling, and I was supposed to drink it as hot as possible. It was 106 degrees outside, so I wasn’t really looking forward to it, but I really wanted to test it. I drank as much as I could before we got to the hospital because I thought they wouldn’t let me have any once they admitted me.
I wasn’t impressed AT ALL with the taste of it, and I was a bit concerned it would make me throw up. As we were walking down the ramp into the hospital my husband drank some to “feel my pain.” He said, “It pretty much tastes like spinach mixed with clippings from freshly mowed lawn with a little pot thrown in.”
He was right. So as we got to the reception desk on the labor and delivery floor, he asked them to pour out what was left. I drank quite a bit of it, but I had reached my limit.
I was still unconvinced the hospital would even admit me, because I felt so much different/better than I had with my first baby and really thought when they examined me I wouldn’t even be dilated.
The admitting nurse asked me my pain level on a scale of 1-10, 10 being totally unbearable. First of all, I really don’t like to call it pain because of the power of suggestion within my mind. A friend of mine gave me this tip when she was encouraging me that I could have a natural childbirth with my first, and I really appreciate her for that. She preferred to use the word “intense.” That makes so much sense, because it really is different than any other type of pain. It is intense for a minute, then it TOTALLY goes away and you feel completely normal.
I told the nurse I was maybe at a level four, but that seemed high, maybe more like a three. She then examined me and said very calmly, “You are dilated 6-7 centimeters, 80% effaced and the baby is at a +2.”
I was in shock. I then asked her what position my baby was in, and she said his back was on my left side and he was facing right- which is the optimal birthing position- his back had been on my right and he was facing left for the past 6 weeks at least, so I was right- he had flipped that morning! CRAZY.
Anyway, we got to the hospital at around 1:00PM, and when the nurse admitted me and had finished my paperwork an hour and a half later she asked me about my pain level again. This time I said, it’s gone down- maybe now it’s a three or two? I was worried that by laying there waiting for her to finish everything I had stalled labor and maybe I was closing back up (is this even possible? I have no idea, but I was just so ready for some major pain (intensity) to kick in, that I was convinced something of the sort was happening.)
She then checked me again and I was dilated to 9 centimeters. No, labor hadn’t stalled. During each subsequent contraction I would focus on the empty mug on the shelf in front of me and wish I hadn’t thrown the rest of my tea away.
Thirty minutes later I stood up on the side of the bed and hung on my husband during each contraction, then sat down to conseve my energy in between. I also got my cell phone and texted my sister to tell her I was “at a 9.” See what I mean about feeling completely normal during the breaks? Our bodies are wonderfully and fearfully made and this is one more area I see our amazing design. It might be unbearable if we had one constant contraction for hours, but instead, we have this one minute of intensity, and then 3 or 4 minutes of feeling fine.
I also learned about the positive pain feedback loop our bodies cycle through during labor, where the more pain is felt, more natural pain relieving endorphins are released. How incredible is that?
So two and a half hours after I got to the hospital I felt the urge to push, and was completely dilated. Our baby boy was born 21 minutes later.
It was a spectacular second natural child birth.
If it is your desire to have a natural childbirth, let me encourage you. Prepare your body as much as you can, take a childbirth class, learn coping techniques, walk, walk walk. Don’t let negative experiences from other moms deter you and don’t focus on negative things your doctor might say. Inform yourself about all scenarios as much as possible. More than anything, trust your instincts.
All that being said, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. There is no need to be a martyr- afterall 75% of babies born in this country are born to moms who received epidural analgesia. It has helped many women who have gone for hours trying to do it naturally get just the amount of relief they need to deliver their babies. A healthy baby is ALL that matters. I tell my story to remind you that it can be done and to try it if it’s something you’re interested in.
When my parent walked in to see their new grandson for the first time and asked me how it went, I said, “Great!”
My dad asked, “Do you think it was the tea?”
I definitely think it helped.