Labor and Birth

The day I gave birth to my sixth baby began early; I woke around 3am with my water breaking in a slow leak. By morning, I was having a few mild contractions and feeling more water leakage. I applied 2 drops of Nutmeg oil to my palms and rubbed it over my adrenals. Nutmeg is supportive to the adrenals (kidney area); support I needed after the interruptions in sleep the night before. This oil is cautioned for use in pregnancy as it may exhibit estrogenic effects, and I had avoided touching it while pregnant. However, now that labor had begun, the estrogenic support was a boon for encouraging contractions.

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As I made breakfast for my family, I poured myself about an ounce of Ningxia Red wolfberry juice. This delicious antioxidant rich juice is enhanced with essential oils and is an amazing energy booster. I had been reserving an unopened bottle of the juice for “Labor Day” so cracking the seal marked my acceptance of labor and the birth date for my child.

Contractions continued to come all morning; the mild contractions of early labor which are only slightly painful and best ignored. I busied myself with tidying my home but began to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and urgent, so I went to my room for a few quiet moments and applied Stress Away liberally to the back of my neck and wrists. A few deep breaths and I was ready to get back into “nesting mode” with my husband and children who were also rallying to tidy our “nest.”

Since I was planning a home birth, my first area of concern for cleaning was my bathroom and bedroom where I would give birth and recover. Bathroom cleaning spray can be made with many different essential oils. Thieves is one of my favorites. Right now my spray bottle holds:
40% white vinegar
60% water
5 drops each Melelueca Alternifolia and Peppermint essential oils

By noon I called my midwife to tell her my water had broken but I was still able to walk and talk through contractions. I used these mild contractions as practice for heavier labor by swaying, or bending and holding my knees to focus on relaxing my pelvic floor. I ate a sensible lunch and continued to sip on the Ningxia Red for energy and stable blood sugar as labor increased.

My husband scrubbed the jets of our large bathtub, and then filled it with water. He put about 10 drops of Purification into the water and ran the jets; this anti-fungal oil which includes citrus and lemongrass oils removed the algae scum that grows in jets, without any harsh chemicals. The fragrance filled the bathroom, giving me a sense of clean and calm. When the tub was clean, I ran my diffuser in my bedroom with the oil blend Gentle Baby which helps mothers feel grounded and peaceful. I had been using this floral oil on my belly for several months.

I showered and my contractions increased in severity and timing in the hot water, which is always a sign to me that labor is active. As I dressed, I put several drops of Ylang Ylang, a hormone supporting and balancing oil, on a sanitary pad for topical application. I also used a few drops of this beautiful fragrance on my wrists and neck at the base of my ears. The contractions were now painful in my low back/sacrum area, so I rubbed several drops of PanAway into my sacrum; I was amazed at how this eased my pain. Although I was also feeling quite a bit of pain low in the front with contractions, I did not use PanAway in that location as the icy hotness of the wintergreen and peppermint have been known to turn a baby (away from the heat) and since my baby was already in perfect, head-down position, I did not want to risk a breach.

It was now about 5pm and I took a “Morphine Bomb”: 5 drops each of Idaho Balsam Fir, Frankincense, and Copaiba in a capsule, and rubbed the residual from the dispenser tops onto my wrists and inhaled deeply for a few minutes. There is no morphine in the “Morphine Bomb” -it is a pain and inflammation reliever. It did not take away my pain, but it did take the edge off.

I continued to bend over for contractions and focus on opening up, now moaning away the cramping pain. My parents arrived to help with my children, and my husband put in a call to the midwife to go ahead and come to our house.

The midwife and nurses arrived, and I applied my Birthing Labor Blend on my ankles and inhaled it from my palms, which gave me a sudden overwhelming desire to cry; this passed quickly. I had waited until the midwife arrived to use this blend as it is far more estrogenic than the oils used so far and I was unsure if it would speed my labor along too quickly. It can also be applied low on the abdomen; I did not apply it there but would if I were to do it again.

Here is the Birthing Labor Blend:
9 drops Helichrysum
10 drops Yang Ylang
10 drops Sclaressence
3 drops Fennel
3 drops Peppermint
equal amount apricot oil
The midwife did an internal check and said I was at 7cm; a huge relief that I had made it so easily and quickly through active labor and was now ready for transition. In the past, some of my labors have lasted for several days. We filled the bathtub with hot water and I got in, someone cut the lights and gave me a fluffy white towel to lean on facing forward at the side of the tub, my window was open a few inches and I could hear a songbird outside in the gentle spring rain shower as dusk fell. My husband and the nurses took turns applying counter-pressure to my low back and bringing me my glass of Ningxia Red to sip on, which significantly helped to increase my energy.

When I was nearly complete/ready to push, I took a drop each of the Morphine Bomb oils under my tongue (which tasted like eating a Christmas tree) and then chased them with another drink of Ningxia Red. At the time this seemed like the fastest way to absorb the oils systemically, however it did cause a little bit of heart burn, and taking the larger amount in the capsule probably would have been more potent. I also applied several drops of Valor to the back of my neck and inhaled it from my palms, praying that God would give me the mental strength to face crowning. I’m a bit of a coward about birth/crowning, so I needed all the Valor I could get. 🙂

Since the contractions were still manageable and I did not have an urge to push, I continued to labor in the upright position, with knees/pelvis splayed to allow the baby’s crown to descend lower into my pelvis. This wasn’t really a conscious decision, but rather that continuing to labor seemed more desirable in the moment than heavy pushing. Of all my children, only my first baby and this last baby were born with noticeable head molding, and with both of these labors I was able to continue laboring as the baby’s head descended, rather than push them out because labor wasn’t tolerable. The first baby was born with an epidural (the only one I had an epidural for) and the last with oils. Please understand that the oils in no way took away the pain or gave numbness like an epidural, but I was able to labor without experiencing the “I can’t do this anymore!” frantic stage of pain and feeling out of control, and my moaning never got to the point where I “sounded like Chewbacca” according to my husband.

When I was ready to push, I pushed with all my strength through three long contractions, still upright in the warm water, and Torsten was born at 9:28pm. I cried out a prayer of thanks to God for delivering me and the baby, then turned to receive my new son from the midwife. Unique to this birth was the complete lack of bloody show/blood until after the placenta was delivered. Additionally, as I continued to use oils through my post-partum week, I had no blood clots at all in my flow.

Immediately following birth, while still in the tub, I began to shake and have some leg cramps. My midwife gave me some homeopathic CalPhos minerals; after I moved into my bed I took a dropper of Cramp Bark tincture in alcohol to relieve uterine cramping. I took this every few hours for the first day or so and never needed any synthetic pain reliever. The one last oil I used that day was Nutmeg, again applied over my adrenals and inhaled from my palms.

There is nothing which can describe the peaceful contented feeling of being tucked into your own bed with your sweet little newborn by your side! I’m so grateful for the chance to have such a peaceful, safe, and satisfying birth with the excellent support of my caregivers, loved ones, and essential oils.

Up next: Trauma and Drama; Essential Oils during baby’s first week.

Labor and Delivery

Ten days ago I gave birth to my sixth child. At 9lbs 8oz, he was my largest baby. Yet his birth was my best.

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Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t easy to give birth “once you get to number six.” 🙂 It is still labor. It is still transition, pushing, crowning, the whole works. But by this time I have learned how to work with my body, how to relax, and a few things to help the process.

This was my first birth using Essential Oils. (See my post on Labor and Birth for all the details!) I absolutely think they helped my labor to progress, my cervix to dilate, my pain to be decreased, my energy to not give out, and my emotions to stay stable and confident. I feel it was the oils that helped me avoid feeling out of control…the “I can’t do this!!” stage. I will be guest posting the details soon over at The OG Blog.

Additionally, having a caring supportive and highly qualified midwife from A Gentle Beginning, being able to spend transition and pushing in warm water (in the tub in my own bathroom), having my caring husband, mother, and for the first time, my oldest daughter on hand to support me, having a dark and calm environment…these all helped me to handle each contraction well.

Holding your new baby in your arms…the baby you just powerfully birthed…that is just about the pinnacle of life’s great moments!

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Vegetable Cleanses

[This is the second post in a series. Check out the introduction post on cleansing diets here.]

Now let’s take a look at some specific cleanses. These are all cleanses I have tried, or a close family member has tried, so what I share is just my personal opinion and experience, is not medical advice, and should in no way replace the recommendation of your trusted physician.

Vegetable and/or Fruit only Cleanses, including:

  • Vegetable juicing: using a juicing appliance to extract the juice from vegetables and fruits. A great deal of vegetable nutrients can be consumed in a small amount of juice, however the tendency to use sweet veggies and fruits (i.e. carrots and apples) can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes and exacerbate candida overgrowth.
  • Raw Vegetables: mainly a raw vegetable  cleanse, can include raw juices. Some people eat “raw” as a lifestyle, and often include nuts and raw dairy, which are often avoided for a cleanse. The idea is to benefit from the live enzymes in the raw veggies, which help to break them down. However, raw vegetables can still be difficult to digest in persons without sufficient supply of enzymes for breaking down fiber and other plant carbohydrates.
  • Vegetable soup cleanses: another variation on vegetable cleanses. More vegetables can be consumed than in a raw cleanse, but enzymes are destroyed in cooking. More fiber than a juice cleanse.
  • Grape cleanse: when only grapes and water are eaten. The high sugar content may exacerbate candida or other fungal overgrowth.
  • Seneca Indian 4 day cleanse: a combination of all the above: day 1 raw fruit only but no bananas, day 2 herbal teas with maple syrup only, day 3 vegetables of all kinds: juice, raw or in soup, day 4 rich vegetable broth only.

Unless you are using organic vegetables, you can forget it as a detox. Other than the detox properties of the cleanse (with organic only), vegetable cleanses seem to focus cleansing on the colon. Since this organ stores and then moves waste out of the body, it would seem a logical organ needing a periodic cleaning. A few days to a week has been more than sufficient in my experience, however every body is different. Note that “cleaning out the colon” does not mean that flora imbalances are corrected: if you have overgrowth of Candida (fungal) or harmful bacteria, this kind of cleanse will not correct that (you will likely need a combination of herbal and/or pharmaceutical medicines and probiotic supplements supervised by a doctor, with follow-up testing to confirm efficacy). Vegetable cleanses are excellent for breaking food cravings.

Cleansing and/or detoxing while pregnant and breastfeeding is not recommended, since toxins will be mobilized and could harm a baby in the womb or at the breast. This can be very frustrating for women in the middle of childbearing years, especially when they plan to nurse beyond a year with each baby, and find breastfeeding and pregnancies come back to back. I have been told by a Midwife whom I trust that the only “cleansing diet” she recommends to her moms is a raw vegetable/salads with lemon diet for one week while nursing (not pregnant). However, this should only be done after the milk supply is well established (perhaps after 6 mo. postpartum of full-time nursing). I did try this with my first baby, but had a hard time feeling satiated/getting enough calories, so I gave it up after 2 days.

There is no doubt: vegetables are good for us. However, I do not advocate vegan or vegetarian diets as healthy: they just haven’t held up to science or to my own experience. And don’t think that only vegetables help us detox; meat protein contains many amino acids not found in veggies . . . amino acids which detox certain kinds of chemicals accumulated or manufactured in our bodies. So (as I state in the intro post on this topic) the best cleanse is a long-term clean balanced diet.

Your body is detoxing every single day, whether you are on a special diet or not! Another way to approach the long-term detox lifestyle is to purposefully include more of the detox powerhouses into your diet:

Foods that enhance liver detox:

  • asparagus
  • grapefruit
  • artichokes
  • all dark leafy greens: kale, spinach, romaine, chard
  • onions
  • garlic
  • olive oil

Foods that enhance kidney detox:

  • cranberry
  • lemon
  • water, water, water (only purified)
  • cucumber

While systematically removing detox blockers from your everyday diet:

  • any kind of heated vegetable oil, such as found in fried chips, baked chips, french fries, box cookies
  • refined sugar
  • conventional dairy

Up next: some fasts and more specific cleanses.