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Today Dr. Elana shares her birth story which, as most birth stories end up, didn’t go exactly “according to plan.” We talk about going past your due date and why she felt comfortable and confident even as she approached 42 weeks. Dr. Elana also shares how different this postpartum experience has been from her first, how she set herself up for success and how she’s navigating current breastfeeding challenges, something she didn’t experience after her first.
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Elana Roumell 0:03
I think there are some really beautiful things about hospital birth some great things about home birth. And I just wish every mom who’s listening the best of luck. If you’re pregnant, having your own labor, it could be fast, it could be slow. Whatever it is, it’s perfect. Have no assumptions. And I would just say try to find gifts in all of the struggles because there really are a lot of gifts, and you’re going to get through it just like we all have.
Stephanie Greunke 0:26
Welcome back to the Whole Mamas podcast. We’re here to give you tools, resources and evidence based information so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Whether you’re trying to conceive or navigating life with a toddler or a teenager, we’ve got you covered. I’m Stephanie Greunke, registered dietitian and program director for Whole Mamas Club. I’m also the co-creator of Whole Mamas pregnancy program where I teach mamas how to navigate the endless decisions regarding pregnancy.
Elana Roumell 0:50
And I’m Dr. Elana Roumell, pediatric naturopathic doctor and creator of Med School for Moms – an online resource where I teach moms how to safely be a doctor mom.
Stephanie Greunke 0:59
Before we dive into this week’s episode where Elana shares her birth story we want to thank our podcast partner Four Sigmatic. Mama should not be allowed to get sick! We have so much on our plates and the last thing we need is a cough, snot, or fever to weigh us down. That’s why I use chaga as part of my winter cold prevention plan. In addition to the basics like hand washing and keeping my sugar intake low I use Four Sigmatic’s decaf mushroom elixir with chaga. Chaga is a medicinal mushroom with vitamin C, antioxidant and immune boosting properties. While it’s good to take anytime I’m mindfully included in my routine when I’m traveling, when my kids are home sick from daycare, or I feel like I’m catching the bug that’s going around. Outside of the immune boosting benefits, Four Sigmatic mushroom elixir with chaga includes the adaptogen eleuthero, which naturally boosts energy even though it’s caffeine free. If you’re cool with a little caffeine, choose their mushroom coffee with lion’s mane and chaga. This combination can boost productivity, creativity and focus in addition to the immune benefits. I prefer to use two packets when I make it for extra therapeutic benefits. I simply warm up a cup of nut milk, add two packets, a touch of honey or stevia and blend it with a frother. If you’d like to try Four Sigmatic and enjoy the warm hug and a mug in the mornings, while boosting your energy and supporting your immune system, we have a special discount for you. Head over to Four Sigmatic.com/wholemamas or use discount code Whole Mamas at checkout to get 15% off your order. All right now on to our nourish yourself segment. Elana, how did you nourish yourself today?
Elana Roumell 2:35
Okay, so Steph I’m actually nourishing myself right now as we speak. I actually have my son with me and it’s so sweet. This is my first podcast ever, that I actually have my son Raffi with me. He’s now almost six weeks old as we’re recording this. And I could have probably given him to my mother in law or maybe like figuring out a way to schedule this during a time my husband can watch him but like, I’m still pretty attached to him (baby cries) oh, you just heard him. I’m a little bit nervous because I don’t want him to interrupt. I tried feeding him, but we’re gonna try to get him back on the breast to keep on eating a little bit. So I just want to first apologize if there’s some interruption in this. But you know, today we’re going to talk about my birth story, which I’m really looking forward to, I think that’s actually nourishing in and of itself. But what’s really nourishing is that I get to just be able to do this with my new baby in my arms and still be able to help you Mamas and I know that because our listeners are so many moms that you guys would understand the fact that I have a baby here. So thank you for that grace. And I’m really excited that I get to do this. So and, you know, nourish him and nurture him because that’s nourishing to me.
Stephanie Greunke 3:42
Well, it’s kind of like a win win – you’re nourishing him and he’s nourishing you. So that’s so beautiful. I’m glad that you’re able to do this and we do not mind the noises at all.
Elana Roumell 3:55
Stephanie Greunke 3:56
For my nourish yourself, I’m going to keep this short because I really want to dive into your interview and talk about your birth story. But I have been practicing the concept of self parenting. And I’m not sure if you know – you know what it is by theory. But for those that don’t know what that is, it’s basically talking to yourself the way that you talk to a loved one. So, if you go crazy on sugar on Christmas, you don’t beat yourself up and say, I’m a terrible person. Why did I do that? You talk to yourself, like you would talk to a best friend that told you they just ate a ton of sugar on Christmas. You’d say hey, it’s okay. It’s Christmas, you know, next bite, nourishing, like, you’re fine. It’s not a big deal. And so we’re so hard on ourselves. So kind of practicing talking to ourself in a more kind way has been very nourishing to me.
Elana Roumell 4:39
I love that stuff. That’s very inspiring. It’s like just how we talk to our kids. Why not? Why not talk to ourselves like that.
Stephanie Greunke 4:45
Of course we’re with ourselves 24/7, so why not be nice to ourselves. But you know, Elana I just want to say thank you for for being here today. I know people are interested in hearing about your birth story and you have a lot of gems that I think our listeners would benefit from hearing when it comes to going over your due date and how you stay so calm and collected and all of your, you know, adventure with breastfeeding the second time around. So before we get into all that, I have to ask how the heck are you feeling? Really?
Elana Roumell 5:20
Thanks, that’s so sweet. Well, I’m pretty good about being authentic about things. Honestly, this was a much tougher postpartum for me than it was with my first with Aviva. I think I feel the first four weeks with so many breastfeeding challenges I felt like it was, not like wasted is the word, but like I got the first four weeks of my life almost stolen from me almost like you know I’m on a time crunch with my maternity leave and going back to seeing patients and you know, how much time I really have to spend with Raffi and it almost makes me sad sometimes. And I’m like what, four or five of those weeks, I felt like worse. It was so inundated and so overwhelmed with just feeding him and how to navigate having life with two kids. And now I’m like, wait a minute, like, hold on, I’m supposed to go back to work when? So I’m starting to second guess that and trying to figure out, what is my balance? And what can I really do. And I’m really committed to making sure that I, I really do honor those thoughts and those feelings. So it is like a different experience. But I feel like now that I’m, just approaching my six weeks, I’m really starting to feel like myself again. And I’m really starting to kind of get the groove of all of this. And I didn’t expect it to take this long, but I’m really happy that now I can answer the question and saying, like, no, like, I’m really getting back into this. And I’m really, really enjoying having Raffi in our lives. I mean, he’s just such a sweet, sweet baby. So I am really happy with that.
Stephanie Greunke 6:45
I love how authentic and real that is. And I know many of us can relate to that feeling of pressure to sit back and enjoy it but also realize that the clock is ticking as far as our maternity leave. So that’s so real. And I know part of this for you is just the unexpected that happened, you know, kind of seeing how having this vision of what birth and what postpartum was going to look like and then having it be totally different can kind of shake you up and make it really difficult. So we’ll get into that when we talk about your story but before we dive into the actual birth story I want to take a moment to talk about due dates and some of the concerns about going past your due date. Now you went into labor at what week?
Elana Roumell 7:30
Well, I was actually just nearing my 42nd week. So yeah, I was really 41 and six, when I finally went into labor, and I was getting really nervous. I thought I was going to need a little bit more induction help. So I was so thrilled that my body just naturally did it at that time.
Stephanie Greunke 7:46
Yeah. So you are you’re so close to kind of being cut off from having that home birth. But what was really cool for I know for me to see and for your community to see was how confident you were in your body and how you came to the decision that going past your due date was the best option for you. But I also know that there were some people that were watching you go past your due date that were really concerned and voiced that. So can you talk about your thought process when you went past your due date? What made you feel comfortable going past your due date? And what did your midwives have to say about it?
Elana Roumell 8:19
Great – That’s a great question because I did get a lot of messages on Instagram and even family, a lot of family calling me up being like, shouldn’t you just go get induced, what’s going on – being almost more worried than I was worried, which then would worry me. So I had to check myself and make sure that this was something that I wanted to do or not. I didn’t want to be influenced by so many outsiders. So what I chose to do was really talk to my midwife, one on one. I said I need to quiet all of the voices from outside because this is really my labor and my birth story that’s just about to happen. And I need to make sure that I’m choosing this wisely and I feel comfortable. Because going in with any fears or insecurities is just going to make the labor, I think that much more challenging. So when I had a good one on one with my midwife, her name’s Nicole. So I’m just going to start calling her, Nicole. She explained to me a few things. The first thing she said for me, and my individual case is that I was measuring small throughout my pregnancy, and that she kind of felt like in order for me to have a child that was above six pounds, and have at least fewer possibilities of nursing challenges, she actually felt like it was a good thing that I was going over my 40 week due date. And she thought and encouraged me to feel like it was better to have more time for him to get bigger. And that actually comforted me a lot because I realized, well, of course, I want to do what’s best for him. So if that means he needs more time, and I’m measuring small then of course, that makes sense. And that’s what kind of kept me really calm. Another thing that I really processed, a lot of is she kept on, reminding me that 40 weeks is still like a made up number, right? Like our due dates, and that we call them due dates is truly not necessarily the most common time to even have a baby, it’s only 5% of people will actually have a baby on their due date. And that anytime between 40 to 42 weeks is a normal healthy term pregnancy. And so that also really comforted me to know that it wasn’t even that I was necessarily past due or, or a late term, I was actually still in the normal healthy time period. And yes, after 42 weeks, that’s considered past due, and that’s when your risks get higher or greater. And this is why I was really diligent about trying to keep myself less than the 42 weeks. So when I was getting in the 41 and a half weeks, I started getting more nervous. Or 41 and five or 41 and six and that’s when I was like okay, if I go past 42 I’m going to start really being more concerned. So that’s why I was really pretty calm about staying within the 40-42 weeks knowing that all right, it gives my baby more time to grow. It gives my body just a little bit more time to prepare for labor. And in all honesty, being a mom of now a second child, I just looked at it as bonus days. And that’s what I called it every day, I got more time with my daughter, the last time ever in my life, I’ll be a mom of one and that I just looked at is what are the gifts in it? And that was my biggest gift was just those bonus days with Aviva.
Stephanie Greunke 11:33
Oh, that’s beautiful. I love that idea of bonus days, because really it is special time – just the two of you before Raffi enters the world. So I know when I was talking to you on the phone, you didn’t even want to think about doing induction techniques until you got later on in your pregnancy. So what are some things I know our audience is probably wondering like, Well, why are you doing anything actively to get baby to come on his own? So can you kind of share a little bit about that?
Elana Roumell 11:59
Yeah, you know I was actually scared to do that stuff to be honest. I mean, not even the just the natural induction stuff. I mean, even like sex, I was kind of like, Oh my god, I don’t want to do this and I’m going to explain why. I kind of felt and this was just my theory and my gut instinct is, if I were to induce something that wasn’t yet ready to naturally come on its own, would I be prolonging labor. And with my first labor being 26 and a half hours, I was like, so scared of having such a long labor again, because I was trying to induce something that I just was discouraged from trying anything to push it in a way that maybe shouldn’t happen. And I just wanted to trust that my body would go into labor when it’s ready to go into labor. And we’re going to go into my birth story and unfortunately, my labor was still really long. So whether that was a good theory or not, who knows? But I remember when I had Aviva and it was the 26 and a half hour labor. We had sex right before my labor started and I felt like well, maybe I did induce it too early. And maybe that’s why my labor was so long. And so I kind of had this thought of Elana don’t do anything to induce it, because you just don’t want to prolong it. And again, my labor was still pretty long. So who knows if that was the case. But I will say that I did start getting antsy around 41 weeks. And so I started doing a few things. I did go to an acupuncture session. And what was interesting was, when I showed up to an acupuncture session, the acupuncturist said, you know, you look pretty small. And I said, Well, I actually feel really good. I don’t feel like I’m having this baby anytime soon, because I’m feeling so good. I’m still cooking, I’m still walking, I’m still, like, not even that uncomfortable. He goes, You know, I don’t even want to induce labor for you. I’d rather just do uterine tonifying points. But at this point, unless you’re like 41 and five days, I don’t even think I support doing labor induction points and I was like, Okay, well, whatever you think and that also helped calm me down because especially with another practitioner encouraging me to wait. I also felt okay waiting and I could just kind of tell them my body I just wasn’t ready yet. So I attempted to do acupuncture to induce labor, but then I was kind of talked out of it and I supported that. The other thing that I did and I was doing that starting at 38 weeks was evening primrose oil. That’s supposed to help ripen the cervix, but again, it wasn’t like I was doing that so intensely that I thought that was going to do it for me. I don’t like red raspberry leaf tea, so I didn’t even drink any of that. I read so many articles on eating dates, but to be honest, I just felt like it was too much sugar for me. I didn’t even want to do that much. Maybe I would eat a couple dates here and there, but I wasn’t going to eat six or seven every day. I just tried to listen to my body with that one. I did do a lot of body work. I mean, I loved having massages and I loved that my midwives were so inept and capable of doing what they call like spinning babies type of body work or balancing body work is what they call it is really helping the baby be in a good position. And there are some induction points that people can press on during massages. But I also was really hesitant to have them do that I’d rather them just help me relax and help baby get into good position. And he really did. He was in really great position before my labor, I was so happy about that. Unlike Aviva was not in the great, greatest position, but Raffi ended up going into great position. And I think a lot of the body work helped that. So those were some of the things that I did do. One of the things that I was considering at 41 weeks and six days was doing castor oil. I said I’d rather wait until the absolute end of you know, getting up to 42 weeks to do castor oil. And luckily I went into labor naturally without doing it. But I would have considered doing that if I didn’t naturally go into labor right at 41 weeks and six days.
Stephanie Greunke 15:54
Thank you. Thank you for sharing all that. Those are great suggestions of things that you did and what I love hearing from your story too, is just how you I mean, you definitely chose the providers for a reason, but how your providers really were looking out for you. And they wanted the best for both you and Raffi and they were listening to you on a really special unique level. So I just it warms my heart, knowing that those providers were on board.
Elana Roumell 16:18
They were great. And I actually want to add one thing because I want to be very realistic about waiting so long. There was one scare I had at 41 weeks and about five days. So it was right before I went into labor about a day before, but it’s something that really concerned me and I just wanted to share if you don’t mind. One of the biggest risks of going over 42 is a stillbirth. It means that the baby doesn’t survive. We’ve had now actually a number of podcasts on this topic. And that obviously freaked me out. I mean, that was real for me, right? I mean, I was getting closer and closer to that and that was really scary to me and at 41 weeks and five days. For the first time in the evening. I wasn’t feeling him kicking and I said to my husband, I was like, I’m actually now concerned. It’s been easily 15 minutes and I’m trying to like, move my belly and wake him up. And, you know, it’s okay if you don’t feel kicks all day every day, but I was like, kind of trying to move him and wake him up so I can feel it because I was kind of checking in on him making sure he was okay throughout this time. And every time I felt a kick, I was like, Okay, he’s good. And there was just a moment that I was like, wait a minute, is everything okay? And I kept on trying to like move him and still nothing. So I started getting a little concerned. And so I ended up leaving the house and going on a walk, I was climbing hills. I was climbing steps, I was on a mission to get him to move and my husband started even looking at me like, has he moved yet, has he moved yet? And I was like he’s not moving. So I ended up calling my midwife. I think it was like nine o’clock at night. We were just about to go to bed. And I called her I said, You know what, I’m actually concerned. I need to hear his heartbeat. I need you to come over because she always reminded me if you need anything I can come right over. And I remember calling her like really worried. And so she came over, she literally was over in about 15 minutes. It was like a godsend. And I remember saying to Anthony, like, if I didn’t have a midwife, I would have gone to the hospital right now. I would have gone to the hospital, I would have made them do an ultrasound or do something just at least with the Doppler or something so I can hear his heartbeat. And I’m so blessed that our midwife could just be here within 10 or 15 minutes. And we didn’t have to hassle to go to the hospital this at this hour. So she came over and I got on a table. She got her Doppler out, and the batteries were dead. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I literally started panicking and I’m so calm and cool, usually, but I was like, I need to know he’s okay. And like I she’s like, Oh my god, I’m so sorry. So we got new batteries in and then she, you know, she got everything all ready. She put the little gel on me and then she found the heartbeat. And I cried I bawled, Steph. I was so worried and I couldn’t even believe it. Like I usually am not so worried, but I think a lot of It was the month prior. So all of October was our month of perinatal loss. And we were doing episode after episode on these, you know, these parents that lost children. And I was like, Oh my goodness, I thought for that second, I was like, I don’t want to be one of those parents like, that is so hard, like, what am I going to do? And I like, live through this whole thing. And I even have the chills right now. And I, and you know, it kind of kept me going. I was like, you know, all those parents we interviewed, like, they got through it, and they are so strong. And like, if I need to get through it, like, I will get through it. Oh my god, I’m going to start crying right now. Like, that has to be one of the hardest situations ever. And my heart goes out to these parents. And I was like, in the moment of, this could be my story. And I just kept on looking for hope and looking for the strength and courage of these parents. And I’m like, if they got through it, I can get through this. Like, if I don’t hear a heartbeat like I got this, we could do this. It’s just, we got this far, you know? And so the minute I heard that heartbeat, I was like, I literally was in tears. I was sobbing and, she’s like, it’s okay. And I’m like, okay, it’s okay. It’s okay. And then I was like, okay, we need to deliver this baby, you know, like, we need to do this and what she said to me, which I never knew. She said, You know, sometimes movements of the child decrease right before you’re going to go into labor. If you are worried at all about it, I will be back. In fact, I can leave my Doppler ultrasound here for you, but I have a feeling you’re going to go into labor within the next 24 hours. And I did. I went to labor the next day or that evening, I think, but it was such a scare to me that I knew. I was like, Okay, it’s time, it’s time for him to come. I no longer want to wait. And then he came the next day. So that was really helpful. But it was so comforting to know that my midwife was there and that I could get those answers right away and that I had the strength and courage from our community that really helps us get through some of these difficult times.
Stephanie Greunke 20:49
Oh, I have the chills to there’s so much I want to say to talk about what you just said. But I also want to make sure that we get to your birth story.
Elana Roumell 20:56
I know, I’m so sorry! I don’t want this to be too long.
Stephanie Greunke 20:59
No, and you said everything so beautifully. I couldn’t agree more. So we’ll just get into it now. So your midwife so that you would go into labor within 24 hours, and you did. So let’s talk about that. What was the actual labor like for you this time around?
Elana Roumell 21:15
Okay, so like I kind of already mentioned, it was much longer than I expected. So I just want to kind of brief over, or not brief over, I don’t want to skip the idea that there were so many assumptions that I went into the labor with. Okay, so everyone always told me Oh, it’s your second labor. It’s going to be at most half the time of your first labor or, oh, Elana, babies just slip out. Okay. Everyone keeps on saying “they slip out” with your second or your third. I just want to make it very clear that there was zero slipping happening. He did not slip out and we’ll get to the ending of how, what the pushing was like, and it was not half the time. I was like I said 26 hours with Aviva, so I kind of assumed maybe 12 or 13 hours. It was an 18 hour labor and I was really hard on myself because at about 12 or 13 hours, I was still in early labor at that time. I didn’t even transition into active labor and I was so disappointed. I remember saying to my midwife like this isn’t fair, I should be done at this point what the heck. I guess I just want to say before I go into all the details is to moms – just have no assumptions every one of us is so unique and every one of us has such unique labor’s and unique birth stories that there’s no right or wrong way to have a labor – some labor’s are fast like, Steph, you’re I think blessed with just really fast labor’s. I on the other hand, have a body that really just likes long slow labors and there’s beauty in in both types of labor’s and so I just I kind of, I kind of regret going into it with this idea and these assumptions that things are going to be fast, or baby is going to just slip out, because I think that really didn’t help my mindset with it. I think it ended up prolonging my labor because I was so hard on myself throughout, especially the early labor stage. So I wanted to just preface that before even going through the details. Alright, so let’s start maybe with like my early labor part of it that was, I think, a little bit unique and surprising. I started having contractions in the middle of the night around 1:00 AM or so. And I remember kind of not even getting that excited about it because I had what’s called prodromal labor for, I would say, at least seven to 10 days prior to the day that I did finally go into labor. Prodromal labor are just contractions that come that are more intense than Braxton Hicks that could technically be that you’re approaching labor. But sometimes, oh, I shouldn’t say sometimes – all the time – they don’t end up progressing into labor. They just kind of dwindle out. So prodromal labor contractions can be maybe even an hour of regular contractions and then everything stops. And then nothing happens and you go on with your day and there’s absolutely no progression of labor. Then maybe the next day you have some contractions that lasted 30 minutes that were regular that were a little bit uncomfortable. But then it stops and nothing ends up happening. So I had days of that. And if you can imagine you kind of get your hopes up. And then you’re like, Oh, I guess today’s not going to be his birthday. Let’s keep on going with the day. And so that was a little bit discouraging to me, but I knew that that was going to happen. And so anytime I would just get some of these labor contractions I was just like, all right, this could just be prodromal. But now I knew I was at 41 weeks, and now I’m creeping up to six days and I was like, this better go somewhere. At this point, I was getting like, come on, we got to get there. So at 1am I’m getting these contractions and I’m now counting the hours and I’m at now four hours of regular contractions that I think are starting to get a little bit more intense, but nothing too crazy. But enough where I was like, No, this is happening. And I was getting excited because I really believe today’s the day and they were regular. They were really like four minutes apart, and so I couldn’t sleep I was awake. I’m like, Okay, this is happening. So I really felt like that was the case. So I started calling my midwives around at 6am. They started coming over and they were unpacking and Steph, all of my contractions just stopped. So I had easily four to six hours of regular contractions, thinking that they were only going to get more and more intense, and everything pretty well just stopped when my midwives came. I was so upset. I was like, Are you kidding me? Like this has to be the day. And another thing that just kind of kept on creeping up in my mind was like what I was doing with Aviva. You know, like when you go into a birth with your second child, you’re also really concerned about what what are you going to do with your child, the toddler, what are you going to do with them and so I always knew that that also could prolong or kind of get in the way of my regular contractions and I was also scared about that. I was like, I don’t want Aviva to stop my contractions, I just want to go into labor. I also had the assumption that because I had so many days of prodromal labor, that I would just start, when my labor would come, I would go right into active labor. Like surely all of the days of the prodromal labor was just getting me closer and closer to active labor where once I was really ready, I wouldn’t even go through early labor, I would just jump right into active labor. And that was kind of like how I envisioned it was just no worries, like, you’ve got this Elana, all of your prodromal labor’s just going to get you, you know, a shorter labor, so don’t even worry about it, let the prodromal contractions just come. And I was completely wrong about that. I had those four to six hours of the labor in the middle of the night. By the time I midwives came, it really slowed down. And at that point, I was like, well, what can we do? We just we took walks together, contractions would come and then it would stop for easily 15 minutes. And then we would just hang out at my house and just talk and then and then another one would come after 15 minutes. And there was a time where I even got to take a nap which was really actually so nice because I was able to recuperate some of my energy for then what was coming. I ended up sending the midwives home. I just said, I need my body to get back into a regular rhythm. And at this point it’s not so just go home, I’ll take a nap. And I’ll call you and hopefully things will start picking up again. Anyway, I kind of want to stop for just a second. Did you have anything you wanted to say? Because I can just keep on going. I didn’t want to keep on going over it.
Stephanie Greunke 27:21
No, no keep on going.
Elana Roumell 27:22
Okay, great. I’m not used to talking so much in a podcast. So I appreciate this. Okay, so at this point, they’re gone. I’m now napping, which I did really appreciate. And now I wake up from a nap. It’s probably like 12 in the afternoon. So we’re going from one in the morning to 12 in the afternoon and, and I’m just sitting thinking to myself, like Elana, this is not how I envisioned it. What is wrong with my body, and I started really doubting my body. You know, you said how I trusted my body with waiting to go into labor, but now I’m starting to doubt my body and even being able to like, hold regular contractions, and I was really beating myself up which I was really surprised that I was doing that because I thought I was going to like rock this labor. Well, I was really having a hard time. So anyway, after I woke up from my nap, I started feeling that the contractions were actually getting a little bit more intense, even though they weren’t very close together. They were definitely getting more strong. And I thought that was a really good sign. I thought that was a least something I was progressing in some kind of way. And so I said to my husband, I’m like, you know what, let’s go ahead and eat some lunch. I can’t nap anymore because my contractions are too intense. And then they started getting a little bit more regular enough I was like, you know, let’s call them midwives again. Maybe they could do some body work. Or maybe we can maybe do a membrane sweep like just let’s get things going because the baby needs to come. This is my labor. This is happening. I was starting to get to be a little bit more antsy. So they came back and once they came back, I actually started feeling like my contractions were a little bit more regular. I didn’t feel like I was in active labor yet. I was still talking in between contractions. I was able to have more awareness with my body like I was able to just process things and I knew when I was in active labor, I wasn’t able to talk or anything. There was none of that. I knew I was still in early labor. So they came back. They did a little body work on me. Contractions were picking up. And then I started like, getting in like the flow again. That was like, Okay, my body’s like, I got this, like, things are starting to move forward. And Stephanie, at a moment that I thought things were starting to flow and things are starting to pick up. I lost it. I started crying so hard, Steph. And Anthony, my husband’s like, are you okay? And I was like, Anthony, I’m scared. Like, I know this is going to be so uncomfortable really soon and it is not fair. Why don’t you have to do this?
Stephanie Greunke 28:49
I had the same thought!
Elana Roumell 29:27
I was like, this is not fair. I wish you can do this with me. This is all me. This is not fair. This is starting to get more and more uncomfortable. This is not fair. And I just had this big emotional release, Steph. And I felt like once I just like cry, I just like, I just let it go. I cried so hard, things really started picking up. And that was really my transition into active labor. It was almost as if looking back, I was almost like holding myself back from really progressing into active labor. I think I was unconsciously just so scared, going back through what I went through, because you know, I’ve been through labor before I knew what to expect, I knew is just going to get more and more intense. I knew it was just going to keep on going, that I was like, almost holding my own self back. And now looking at that, I think if I have a third, I would process those fears sooner, just so I wasn’t holding my early labor back so much. So anyway, I wanted to mention that because I do think I could have gone through that a little bit more gracefully if I would have maybe done some work and thought that there was some fear there and there was there was definitely some fear there for me. So after I kind of had that, like emotional release, my contractions definitely picked up. And so now they’re much more regular. They’re much more intense and I’m not talking in between them. I’m you know, I’m grasping Anthony’s hand, I’m bending double, I’m holding on to him as tight as possible through every contraction. So I was like, Okay, my body, I’m not going backwards at this point. It’s only moving forward. There’s no napping, there’s no relaxing, there’s no doubting. I didn’t even have time to feel discouraged at this point. And that’s when you know, you’re really in active labor, like things are moving really fast. And I want to share that there were two things that really happened and I shared this with people on my Instagram stories, because I did share my my birth stories on there, but I actually wanted to elaborate a little bit. There was one point that I actually felt like it was a very spiritual time. Like, I wasn’t even able to think about the discomfort. I wasn’t able to doubt myself. I was just in it. Like it was like this flow and this beautiful practice. Just like, all right, another one’s coming, breathe. Okay, here it is. Just keep on going, you know, whatever you need to do just do. And there was a moment that I saw and I felt my father who passed away. I felt my grandfather and I felt my brother. These three men all who passed away who, actually Raffi is named after all three of these men. And it was so special to me. I felt like I they showed up for me and they said to me, like, you’ve got this, like, I will help you kind of thing like, I will help you through this labor. And I just started crying again, because it felt so like real to me. And there was a moment that I had a contraction that I felt like my dad hugging me. Oh, I’m totally gonna lose it right. So just give me a second.
Stephanie Greunke 32:44
I’ll talk while you’re recovering. I think that’s so beautiful. And giving birth is such a spiritual journey and you’re out of your body for a lot of it because of the pain and because it is this transition into a new version of you and I don’t think that gets talked about as much as it really should. That huge, momentous, new you that is being born as well as the baby.
Elana Roumell 33:10
Yeah, it’s I just had like this moment of crying so thank you. It was so special, Steph. Out of probably my entire labor and even pregnancy and even with him coming out, it wasn’t even as special. I hate to say this, but I’ll get to the end and tell you why. But like, I had not felt my dad hug me in so long. Like, you’re for that, right? It’s been over five years now that I had that and even if, like I try to imagine him hugging me, it’s not the same but like, he hugged me. And the pain like totally went away in that contraction. And I felt him so strongly and what I didn’t share my Instagram story or what I shared, but after my labor, I told Anthony I was like, Anthony, my dad, like came to me. I felt him. He goes, Elana, you told me he hugged you and I couldn’t tell you this but right before you told me, he hugged you, I like locked eyes with a picture of him and you at your graduation. And I saw him and I locked eyes with him. And then you right away said, my dad just hugged me. I know I have the chills. Like it was so special. He said, Elana, he was so there with us because he gave me that message. And you just said that he was there with us. And I said, I know he was there. And so I get the chills right now. And I’m like, that was so special. And there is this like, beautiful part of labor as challenging as it is, you know, Anthony and I, we talked about this a lot that oftentimes our greatest struggles do provide some of the best gifts in life. And I do believe that like, when you work so hard on a project, you can really reap the rewards or when you work so hard on nourishing a pregnancy for nine to 10 months and then going through this really challenging labor that reward at the end is that much more beautiful and now much more rewarding because you work so hard for that baby. And so I just thought that was so special that even amidst something that was so challenging for me, but this long labor and this intense, drawn out labor, I got that time with my dad. And that was just so profound, profoundly special for me. So I really wanted to share that because I do also think that helped me go through active labor. As intense as it was, that also kind of helped transition me into just like I got this like, keep on going, because you need that encouragement to just keep on keeping on because it is it is challenging. It’s very uncomfortable during that time.
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The other thing that kept me going was also just thinking of our community and I know this sounds like so cliche, but it really made a difference for me. I really started thinking about all of the millions of billions of other moms like us that we’ve all labored and we’ve all gotten through it, whether it’s a natural birth, whether it’s a birth with an epidural, whatever it may have been, we all go through this type of labor. And if billions of other women got through it, I knew I could and I just kept on tapping into like, the the love and the support from all of like my Instagram followers that would just keep on sending me love and messages because they knew I was nearing labor or even my nourish staff of doctors, they all like poured out text messages and love that Anthony kept on telling me about it. And I knew my close friends, you included Steph, you guys were all like rooting me on like, I just heard all of you guys in the background like you got this, like, keep on going. And again, I have the chills right now all of that support and that community support really made a difference for me at a time where I really needed it. And you need that because you feel like you can’t do it. And then you realize like you’ve got this, you can do this because it’s just naturally what’s going to happen. You don’t really have much control over it. And so you just have to trust you just have to keep on going when you think you can’t, you can. And all that community support really does make a difference in the mental state. Oh, okay, that was a little bit hard for me to share. So, we went through my early labor, and then we kind of went through my transition into active labor. So now going into active labor, I want to just share a few points. And the highlighted points was, I really wanted to get into the tub. And I was so excited that I had the warm tub to go into because there was a point where the pain was, you know, challenging for me, and I needed some relief. And I looked up at my midwives, I’m like, I need a new position. I need a new something, a new pressure on my body, I need something and they said, Do you want to get in the tub? And I said, Oh, my gosh, the tub. Yes, I want to get into warm water. And at that moment, I kind of felt like okay, I have to be close to pushing because I know that if you get into the tub too soon, it could actually slow down your labor, but they felt confident enough that my labor was progressing enough that it wasn’t going to stop it. So we got into the tub and I felt so nice to get in the tub. You know, it’s just like a different scene a different feel it was different, you know, sensations in my body. And although it still was difficult, you know, it’s still painful to experience the contractions. I felt like it was really just comforting to sit in a new spot and have the water kind of just like in wrapped by my belly and just like kind of help ease things. Although, one of the uncomfortable parts of it was that it was really hot, and I was sweating. It was a warm tub. And so my midwives were like fanning me off, they would give me like warm, cold washcloth. So all of that really, I think helped me through the active labor stage. And there was a point where I said to my midwives, I’m like, you guys, like when do I push? When do I push? When am I ready to push? And I want to really talk about this a lot because I chose not to have cervical exams during my entire pregnancy or labor. And I didn’t actually know how far I was, I didn’t know when I was supposed to push, I didn’t know that I was actually, you know, progressing slowly or progressing quickly. I didn’t know when I was ready to push. And I did that because I didn’t want that to be a complicated mental game for me. And I want to kind of talk a little bit about this. I’m not against cervical checks and and everyone’s going to choose this on their own. For me personally, I knew that if I was three centimeters dilated, or if I was eight centimeters dilated, that my labor could still have been 18 hours long. It wasn’t going to give me enough information. I know some people who were eight centimeters for hours and still not progressing and I know some people who are three centimeters and within one hour had their baby. And because I knew that the the number that they would tell me that I was dilated, wouldn’t really give me that much more impact. I thought that he would actually play more negative mental game on me. For example, if I got in the tub and I was only seven centimeters, I would have thought, Oh my God, this could be another seven hours. Who knows? If I got in the tub and I was only five centimeters, I would have been like, nope, we’re going the hospital I’m getting an epidural. There’s no way I’m going to, you know, continue with this. Like, I just didn’t want anything in my way of my mental space, I needed to keep it as clear as possible to get me through. So when it got to like the feeling of well, when do I push, I really didn’t even know if I was seven or if I was 10 centimeters. And so I said to my midwives, like when do I push and they said, Well, do you want a cervical exam? And I was like, No, I got this far. I don’t want to cervical exam they said, Okay, then why don’t you just try to push and see how that feels. And I was like, Okay. And I remember with Aviva, I had a great urge to push, like I wanted to push so badly and every time I push it actually relieved some of the discomfort, but my midwife told me don’t push. If you push too soon, you could actually do more harm than good. And so I got so confused, because I’m like, hold on, should I push or should I not push? They’re like, just push, if you feel like it actually makes the pain worse than you stop pushing. So I was like, Okay. So when the next contraction came and I tried to push, it actually relieved some of the pressure and the pain. I had a lot of pressure at this point. And so it kind of took off some of the pressure. And so every time another contraction came, I tried pushing, nothing really happened. But it actually relieved some of the pain so I just kept on doing it. So I was pushing for easily about 45 minutes. And when I was saying pushing, I knew I wasn’t like really pushing the baby out, but it just kind of gave me some relief that I just kept on doing it. But I just didn’t feel like I was making much progress after 45 minutes of pushing. I’m thinking to myself, either I’m just not 10 centimeters dilated and I have no idea how dilated I am and pushing too soon, or this baby’s just not slipping out and I need to push a lot harder. And I was like, what happened to the slipping out phase like this is where I was like so disappointed because I just assumed it would be much easier. So there was a point I remember during this is probably at least 30 or 45 minutes, I said to my one of my midwives, I was like, hold on, my water hasn’t even broken yet. Like, I forgot about that. And she goes, well pop your water. And I was like, Well, what do you mean? Like, how do I do this? You know, I’m like, and then like, hold on, there’s another contraction. I couldn’t talk when there was contraction. So then another contraction came and then I was like, Okay, I have a break. How do I get my water? Can you pop it? Can you like, what can we do? And she goes, really bear down your next contraction, really bear down as if you’re having a bowel movement. Try to pop it yourself, really visualize and I was like, Okay. So I’m in the tub by myself and I really bear down for that next contraction. And I hear this big pop. And we were all like, Oh my god, I did it. I don’t know why I didn’t even think to visualize popping. The membranes you know, I say it like popping because that was like the sound. There’s just this big pop. And luckily I was in the tub. So as Everything was pretty clean. I mean it just like the water broke right into the tub. No blood, no meconium nothing. And all of a sudden my contractions just like skyrocketed. I was shaking like I couldn’t even I couldn’t even handle them anymore. And I sent her I was like, I feel like I need to I feel like I need to poop. I feel like I need to poop and she goes, Well, maybe you need to poop try to poop and I was like, Okay, I need to get out. Let me just go to the toilet. I don’t want to poop in the tub. And so I get out of the tub and I get on the toilet. And I’m like, I need a poop. I need a poop. And she goes that’s the exact sensation that a baby’s coming. No, I just think I need a poop and so I’m on the toilet and I’m like, hold on. I like this position more than the tub. And so they brought into my bathroom, the birthing stool that is kind of like being on a toilet, but not on the toilet. So I don’t want to obviously deliver on the toilet. And so I come on to the birthing stool and I had probably two contractions and I do deliver him right on the birthing stool which I was like oh my god. I thought I was going to be in the tub but nope, forget it. He came on the birthing stool. And I want to explain now a number of things that happened on the birthing stool. But before I do, I want to make sure that I kind of talked about everything that I had in the water. Yeah, I want to kind of mention, I always envisioned him coming in the tub. And I was kind of like sad I wasn’t in the tub – Aviva was in the tub. Anthony was able to come in the tub to help me deliver Aviva. So he was in the tub at many points with Raffi but like, he wasn’t coming, nothing was happening. We were holding each other. He was helping me but like, Raffi wasn’t coming in the tub. So I did feel some relief that at least there was another position or something different. But I was kind of upset. I wanted it in the tub, but it’s fine, at that moment you just want to get him out. So I moved out. And I was happy to be on the birthing stool, but I didn’t really know what to do. I was kind of holding myself up. There’s a lot more energy on the birthing stool than in the tub. But I felt like that was what my body needed. So I just went with it. So now I’m on this birthing stool, and I just want to say something that I thought was really funny. If anyone follows my husband on Instagram, they know that he’s a gymnast, he does amazing stuff. Hw does handstands, he does punches he does flatline. He’s really incredible. But he looked at the birthing stool. And the birthing stool reminded him of these parallel bars. And I will never forget, he was like, Oh my god, this is so badass. My son’s gonna be birthed on a parallel bar. And I looked at him and I was like, You are an idiot. Like, I was like, What are you thinking? But that’s where his mind is. And I know you know him well Steph. So you probably laugh about that. But like, he was like, so excited that his son gets to come out while I’m literally like holding myself up on these like parallel bars. So I wanted to share that because I thought that was like so funny. It’s like, the funniest things that you remember during your birth, you know, and I was like, get over it. Like this is just the ways he’s coming. Anyway, so I’m on these parallel bars, essentially. And I’m really pushing and I knew there was like this one contraction where I went into this contraction and I said to myself, I was like, this is it Elana, like, you’ve got this push harder than you ever think you can push, push longer, push harder. You’ve got this. This is it. You’re done. I was so out of energy. I was so out of like, done doing my labor. I was like, I am now done. So this last contraction came and I said to myself, push harder, push longer. And that’s when he came out. And Anthony caught him. The midwives, you know, really talked him through that. And as he came out, there’s a lot of blood that was lost. And I want to go through a little bit of this because I did not expect this and was a little bit scary. And at that point, we also wanted my daughter to be present. I forgot to mention that our plan was for her to be present during the pushing phase, but she actually fell asleep. And it was like seven at night. Like I don’t know why her nap was so long, but it was better that that happened. She just kept on napping. I kept on saying Where is she? She’s napping. I’m like, I’m not waking her up for this. But I’m so glad she wasn’t present because there was a lot of blood that came out. And I looked at it and everyone looked at I was like, Oh my god, I probably tore this is horrible. He came out, he came on to my chest and Steph, he couldn’t go past my belly. He was like sitting on my belly. I couldn’t bring him up to my chest. My umbilical cord was so short. And so they like lied me down in my bathroom. He’s sitting like, on my belly, I could barely see him. Everyone was like, okay, you know, checking me everything was okay, they wanted me to deliver the placenta. I’m like delivering the placenta. And as I delivered the placenta, there was no blood with the placenta. Usually you’ve got a lot more blood with the placenta and way less blood with the baby. I remember with Aviva there was zero blood – we were in the tub and the tub water was so clear. There was nothing there. So when there was so much blood with Raffi I was like, what’s happening now he’s breathing fine. He’s fine. So I was just happy about that. But he’s like sitting on my stomach. I couldn’t even really see him. I want him on my chest. I didn’t realize how short my umbilical cord is. I finally delivered the placenta. They checked me and they said, Oh my god, you have no tearing. Where did all this blood come from? So we figured out after the fact that I actually had such a short umbilical cord that they theorize it’s just a theory, we don’t know for sure that the umbilical cord, as I delivered Raffi, the umbilical cord almost like pulls on the placenta, that it detached from the uterus, pulling the blood that should have actually come with the placenta. And the thought, well, maybe your labor was so long, that Raffi didn’t want to descend too quickly, because if you descend it too quickly, it could have potentially detached the placenta, which is like he is oxygen supply. That’s how he gets his nourishment. And that could have been an emergency transfer to the hospital. I mean, that could have been an emergency c section if that would have happened. And that was really cool for me to kind of hear it was like I think he was almost protecting us from having such a quick labor is he knew the umbilical cord was short he knew he if he descended it would have just had to be really fast and so maybe that’s why it was such a prolonged labor Who knows? But I’m just so glad everyone was healthy everyone was safe, but it was a little bit, I was startled by all that blood I lost a lot of blood but they kept on taking my blood pressure they kept on you know, taking my pulse everything was fine they kept on taking my temperature and I just was a little bit shaken up but after they you know, after everything was cleaned up and I got into bed and he you know was put on my chest I actually kind of said, You know what, I don’t even feel ready for him. I’m still shaking. Give him to Anthony. So Anthony was so lucky he got you know, skin on skin time with Raffi while I was kind of just like going through all like the overwhelm of what happened getting all cleaned up and the midwives just were there for me to make sure that I was calm. And then we were in bed all together and Aviva woke up from her nap was like the perfect time and we’re all cleaned up so there’s no more blood around. And we she crawled into bed we were like, all in bed together. And then it like, finally found I felt like after 15 minutes of me just like figuring out what just happened, I was able to then put Raffi like all my chest and get him on my nipple and all cuddle together in bed and it just felt like okay, this is all over like, Okay, I got this and then I really got to process the labor a lot more with every visit that the midwives came. I mean, they came to my house multiple times checking in on me when Raffi was having some nursing challenges, they were there, like almost every day, weighing him giving me some comfort, helping me with latching. I had such a great support team with my lactation consultants, like it was an amazing process after the fact. I mean, I really felt like I had so much support, but like going through now, this first story again, it’s just was like it was definitely a long, challenging labor but you know what, like, for the postpartum being, like, so awesome and so supportive. It’s like, you know, he took the time he needed, I had to go through some of those beautiful spiritual times with my dad and some of the transitions with the community support. Like, it was really looking back like the perfect labor for me. It was just how it was supposed to be. And I’m so happy that we had everyone was just happy and healthy by the end. And we get to cuddle our little baby in our bed and have really great support at that point.
Stephanie Greunke 52:20
You know, I’ve heard your birth story before but you are just such I’m very blown away, by the way, how much you’re able to remember all of this and how clearly you’re able to communicate all this especially having a baby on your lap right now. Thank you so much for sharing that story. I think we can all learn so much and see a piece of our own birth story and what you share it so I loved every second of that. So thank you.
Elana Roumell 52:47
You’re welcome. I just want to say I think it’s very therapeutic to talk about it and even writing it out on Instagram, which I don’t recommend everyone write out their birth story on Instagram. But I felt so much support from the moms that follow me So I felt very comfortable and safe to do that. But it was incredibly healing for me to do it, which is why I actually did it all in one night. I didn’t think I had the energy to do it, but it was so therapeutic. And now even going over with you Steph, it feels really good to talk about it. I, I think in the beginning, it was it felt a lot more intense and, and heavy. And now it just feels a lot more light. And I could see more of like the beautiful parts of it. So I just want to end by saying I think that there’s no right or wrong way to labor. After I gave birth to Raffi, and after I gave birth to Aviva, I automatically said, If I have another baby, I’m getting an epidural. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with a mom who chooses to get an epidural. I mean, if I have a third child, I’m going to consider it. And I’m also going to consider a home birth. You know, we have options and I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about giving labor and going through pregnancy is that we do have options and we get to choose how we want to have our experience. And I just really, really want to, you know, honor every mother’s choice in that and I don’t think there’s any wrong or right way, I think you just have to dig deep down and go with your intuition on what is best for you. And I support any mom and I know you too, Steph. Even though we both chose to do home births. I don’t think it’s for everyone. I think there’s actually a lot of positives of having a hospital birth, like it’s a lot less messy and you can choose to have some pain relief. And you know, you don’t have to worry about your toddler you don’t have to worry about food, you know, they feed you like there’s so many different things. So I think there are some really beautiful things about hospital birth, some great things about home birth, and I just wish every mom who’s listening the best of luck if you’re pregnant, having your own labor, it could be fast, it could be slow, whatever it is, it’s perfect. Have no assumptions. And I would just say try to find gifts in all of the struggles because there really are a lot of gifts and you’re going to get through it just like we all have. It is a good way to end what do you think Steph?
Stephanie Greunke 54:55
Oh, you know, I agree with that. And I’m so glad you shared that because I think sometimes we hear birth stories, we immediately want to compare or, you know, go into that place. But this isn’t a comparison game, we all have our own unique stories and they’re all beautiful.
Elana Roumell 55:09
You’ve got it, and it’s okay that some are long, some are short, some are harder, some are more intense, some tear, some don’t. Some are emergency c sections. Just go into it with no assumptions and just trust your body and your baby. And that’s it. So anyway, this is so nice to talk about. So thank you, I’m really glad we got a chance to do this. So just to wrap up, we always do our kind of ending here. And so we always love when you guys you know, tune into these episodes we love when you share these podcasts with other moms who you think can benefit. We really really appreciate all the support because we do know that the support you provide us really we support you guys and everything and so it’s such a great partnership and relationship we have so thank you so much. Okay, so two of the best ways you can support us with if you don’t mind is if you love this episode, take a screenshot of it maybe on your phone and share it on social media and tag us @wholemamasclub. Or we also love reading your reviews on iTunes you read each one of those. And also if you have a few minutes we always appreciate you just sharing with your friends and your family. Also, we want to thank our partner Four Sigmatic who provides our favorite mushroom based elixirs. They keep us feeling healthy during these winter months. If you don’t mind, go head to their website for 15% off foursigmatic.com/wholemamas. Or you can just use the discount code wholemamas at checkout so you can get that special offer. Please remember that the views and ideas presented on the podcast are for informational purposes only. All information presented on the podcast is not intended to serve as substitute for the consultation, diagnosis or medical treatment of a qualified provider. Consult your provider before starting any diet, supplement regimen or to determine the appropriateness of the information shared on the podcast or if you have any questions regarding your treatment plan. Alright mamas now go on. Have a good day and nourish and nurture yourself and your family.
- Concerns about going past your due date
- How to stay calm and trust your gut when others are fearful
- Ways to keep yourself busy while “waiting on baby”
- Elana’s birth story
- Breastfeeding challenges before/after tongue, lip, and buccal tie revision
- Strategies to support physical and emotional healing postpartum
This episode's guest
The Whole Mamas podcast is led by Stephanie Greunke, a registered dietitian, and Dr. Elana Roumell, a naturopathic doctor, both trained in functional medicine and passionate about pregnancy, postpartum, and pediatrics. They invite experts on the show, answer burning questions, highlight key points, and make sure you feel empowered to take action. Find Whole Mamas and the Whole Mamas hosts on Instagram @wholemamasclub, @stephgreunke, @drelanaroumell, and at www.wholemamasclub.com.