It has taken a while to write this post. Not because I couldn’t have squeezed in a few minutes here and there to get the words down, although spare moments are few and far between right now. This post and life in the last six weeks, have been a time of learning, trusting, joy, sadness, and ultimately thankfulness.
This post is the story of our seventh child’s entry into this world, but in the bigger scheme of things it is a post about how God uses the things of this world to draw us unto Him and cause us to rely on the Creator, not the created.
A Birth Story
Five weeks before Spencer was born, I woke in the middle of the night to a horrible pain in my upper left side. The pain radiated into my left shoulder and arm. I assumed right away that it was a gallbladder attack, although I have never had any type of gallbladder trouble before.
I went into the ER the next day and was admitted to labor and delivery. After an ultrasound ruled out gallstones and inflammation, I was given Tylenol to ease the pain. Over the next 5 weeks, I continued to have periodic “gallbladder” attacks every few days.
The herbalist in me researched all that I could and tried to do the best I could to avoid attacks. When I would have an attack, I would use wild yam as an antispasmodic (although with little relief). I also started taking milk thistle, knowing that it supports the liver and subsequently the gallbladder.
Ultimately, I found that if I didn’t eat anything in the late afternoon/evening, I could usually avoid an attack in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, I began to lose weight because of this and knew that baby was probably being affected by these gallbladder problems.
Day of Arrival
After several days of contractions starting and stopping, I finally felt like things were picking up for a delivery two days after Spencer’s due date. We were planning a home birth with our daughters (ages 19, 11, and 8) present to help. My oldest daughter is studying to become a midwife, so this real life training was exciting for her.
I had her call the midwife around 7:00 in the evening to let her know that I was in labor and felt like things were progressing. The midwife informed us that she was at another birth 2 hours away, but would call the backup midwife and give her a heads up.
I was starting to feel the “I can’t/don’t want to do this” kind of anxious feeling (that usually slows labor down), so I decided to take a nervine (motherwort, milky oats, skullcap) tincture to help calm my nerves. It helped tremendously and I was able to get into the zone and relax for the birth.
At around 9:00, I could tell things were picking up and had my daughter call the backup midwife to come over. She lives an hour away. During the hour wait, I tried to relax through each contraction. I kept the room dark and alternated between walking around swaying through contractions and sitting in the recliner in my room gently rocking.
As 10:00 approached, I could tell that transition had arrived, so I climbed into bed to ready myself to start pushing. I took a couple of doses of my nervine tincture. I was a little worried that it would slow down the progression of labor or make my contractions ineffective. What I experienced was a lengthening of the restful time between contractions, but then the contractions seemed to work more effectively.
My husband and daughter were anxious because we still had no midwife, but I was focused on the task at hand knowing that baby would be here soon with or without the midwife.
I started feeling a slight urge to push with each contraction, but didn’t really feel baby moving down as I pushed. I remember in between contractions, I could feel little feet kicking at the top of my abdomen and his little head readjusting. During the next contraction I felt him start to move down. It was around this time that the midwife arrived.
Because I had my eyes closed, I didn’t see whether or not she was ready but baby wasn’t waiting. Baby’s head came out in the caul (in the bag of water), the midwife removed the cord from around his neck as the rest of his body quickly followed. I opened my eyes to see my new baby and the lady who delivered him (first time meeting her as well).
Everything had gone exceptionally well with the labor and delivery. Baby and I got cleaned up and settled into a warm cozy bed. I started to feel the after birth cramps, so I took a dose of Contract Ease from Trilight Herbs. I drank apple juice and ate a bagel, then tried to get a bit a rest.
It wasn’t long until I started to feel that all too familiar pain in my side. I couldn’t even enjoy the new baby beside me because my gallbladder was hurting again. I figured it was the labor process/food late in the evening combo that set it off. I was able to get through the rest of the night, but didn’t get any sleep.
The next day, I tried to feed the baby when the pain began to be more than I could handle. I started getting a headache, throwing up, and my blood pressure rose dramatically. My husband took me in to see my primary doctor who ordered bloodwork and another ultrasound. She was convinced it was gallstones and went over the possibility of going in for a gallbladder removal the next day. I was in a daze–hoping to get relief from the pain, but not wanting to have surgery and leave my new baby.
I got a call from her later that evening letting me know that the ultrasound looked great, but my bloodwork showed that I had HELLP syndrome. HELLP syndrome is a form of pre-eclampsia that often develops late in pregnancy or after delivery. I am still learning about it and all the effects of having it, but the two main problems I experienced right away were elevated liver enzymes (and subsequent upper right quadrant pain) and low blood platelets.
HELLP syndrome is life-threatening and I didn’t realize how serious it was until I started the research process after Spencer’s birth. I am so thankful that the Lord brought me through it and continues to carry me as I experience more symptoms of the disease.
Currently, I am working through the effects of HELLP on my milk supply. I have always nursed all my babies and have never had any problems producing plenty of milk for them. However, poor little Spence has lost more than a pound since his birth.
Thankfully, I was able to meet with a very knowledgeable lactation consultant who is working with me to bring up my supply.
I have been drinking Mother’s Milk tea and started taking fenugreek capsules in large amounts (3500 mg daily). My daughter made a batch of lactation cookies so that my snacks count!
In the meantime, I have started supplementing with formula…one of the hardest choices I have had to make. I realize people feed their babies formula everyday, and their babies grow up to be happy, healthy kiddos. But for almost 20 years, I have nursed my babies. It has been a time of both nourishment and bonding. Combine that with fluctuating hormones and sleep deprivation and you have a mama that has felt absolutely crushed. But the Lord is all sustaining and truly gives me a peace that passes all understanding!
Trusting in God, not Herbs
One of things that has been on my mind through all of this, is how can I help others (as an herbalist) if I have never experienced the hardships and trials of health that others experience? How can I empathize with a woman who yearns to nurse her child when I have easily nursed all of mine?
I must always remember that healing comes from the Lord. The plants can sometimes be used to facilitate that healing, but there are other times when the healing doesn’t come. It is during these times that we must lean on the Lord and trust that His grace is sufficient.