It’s been a little over two months since Ruby was born, and as you can imagine, I’ve been a bit busy. But I’ve been wanting to sit down and write out the story of her birth, so here it is. Please do not read on if you do not want to hear a detailed description of birth.
Ruby was due on September 5th. For the few weeks before her birth, doctors at my OB practice were telling me (among warnings that I had a “big baby” in there…not helpful, OBs!) that I was a few centimeters dilated, almost completely effaced, and I could expect the baby to come any time. I think that made the wait even worse. Several friends had all had their babies early that summer, and I was just sure she was on her way soon.
I scheduled a Non-Stress Test (NST) for September 6th, thinking no way would I make it that long. Well, I did. The due date came and went with no baby. I showed up for my NST the morning of the 6th and sat in the chair to get hooked up for the test. The nurse took my blood pressure. Then she took my blood pressure again. She asked if I normally have high blood pressure. No, I said. She called my doctor to let them know my blood pressure was up, and my OB said she’d like me to go to the hospital to have it monitored.
I called Elliot. “They want me to go to the hospital to have my blood pressure monitored. I guess it’s a little high. I can just call you when I’m done,” I said. “No,” he said, “you can come get me right now. I’m going with you.” What a sweet husband. I went and picked him up before heading over to the hospital.
I gave my doula a call and let her know the situation. She confirmed that she thought they would just monitor me and send me home. When we arrived at the hospital, we checked in and a really nice, pretty nurse came in to do some testing. She said my BP didn’t look so bad, and thought they’d probably send me home, but she’d check with the doctor on call.
Soon, the on-call doctor came into our room where we were waiting. “So, do you want to have a baby today?” she asked. I thought she was making a joke, so I said, “Yeah, of course!” She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Ok, this is what’s going to happen,” and started explaining how she wanted to induce my labor that afternoon. I was honestly shocked. I wasn’t unhealthy, and I wasn’t that far past my due date, and I really, really did not want to be induced. Thankfully, she listened to my concerns, and explained that my high blood pressure was caused by a placental issue, and that she was concerned that if they let me go any further, I could develop pre-eclampsia, and there was no reason to let me get sick and endanger the baby’s and my health. After talking with her, I felt like it was probably the right call and agreed. She gave me the option of just breaking my water, but said that she thought that would take too long, and I would get tired laboring all night. She suggested breaking the water and giving me just a little Pitocin. I explained that I had read it gives you pretty bad contractions and would prefer not to have it. She said that it’s bio-chemically the same as what your body releases to create contractions, and she thought I’d be ok.
I was a little worried about that, but agreed. They got me set up in a delivery room, and then the doctor came back in, said she’d thought about it some more, and had decided the right choice was not to go with Pitocin, but something called misoglandin (which I spent the rest of the day calling miso soup), which is an oral version of a ripener that they sometimes will stick up a lady’s vag. Thankfully, my cervix was quite ripe and ready to go, I just needed a little nudge apparently, and she thought the misoglandin would do the trick. I would have to be monitored while I was on it though, which was ok. Hopefully it would only be for four hours, and then my body would take over and I could be off the monitors.
It was then I realized my grave mistake in not stopping for the largest meal I could consume on the way to the hospital. While the nurses were out of the room, I inhaled the few snacks I had with me in my purse, cursing my choice of a bagel for breakfast that morning (already now 5 hours earlier) and not something more rich in protein.
They broke my water (that’s a pretty weird experience) and gave me the misoglandin around 2pm, I think, and hooked me up to the monitor. The nurse assigned to me was super nice. Bethany (our awesome doula) met us at the hospital, stopping first at our house to pick up our hospital bags. Unfortunately, Elliot didn’t realize there were two, so we only got the diaper bag, and not the bag with extra clothes in it for Elliot and me, snacks, etc. Oh well. The three of us hung around in the hospital room, playing Ticket to Ride on the iPad (I won!), and laughing about this and that. Finally, around 5pm, my contractions started in earnest. Thankfully, since we had Bethany with us, the nurse kind of left us alone for the most part. When they came back to assess my progress around 6, they were glad to see my contractions were getting closer together, and that my body had seemed to take over from the drug, so they let me go off the monitor. They even let me have a little granola bar as a snack! I was so thankful. The doctor said if I didn’t keep progressing as she wanted, they’d have to give me more drugs, but thankfully my body totally took over. Bethany and I took a walk while Elliot went down to get some dinner. The contractions were getting worse; we had to stop each time one started. It made what I had thought were contractions earlier that week seem so cute. And later, these would seem cute too.
I took another walk or two, I think, and spent some time in the bath in my room. The best part about being off the monitor was definitely being allowed to go in the bath. It was so soothing. I made Bethany and Elliot tell me funny stories, and tuned them out during contractions. The next thing I knew, the contractions were getting way worse. They were getting more intense, and closer together. I was also throwing up quite a bit thanks to some heavy nausea, so they gave me something for it that they promised wouldn’t affect my labor; it would just help me not vomit. I asked Bethany to remind me why I had decided to do without an epidural, and she quietly ticked off the reasons in my ear, massaging my back all the while.
The next thing I remember is feeling like I had to pee and poop frequently (all that pressure), so I was hanging out in the bathroom, riding the contractions as best I could. I was going to my zen place, and insisted we turn off the lights and music. I would have thought I’d like a soundtrack, but I just wanted peace. Even Karin and Linford were too much. I think we stood in the bathroom for quite a while. I would hug Elliot and bury my face in his chest during each contraction. It felt good to hang on him. And Bethany would squeeze my hips each time a contraction started. That also felt good. As good as anything can feel during what I later realized was transition. I do remember saying at one point, “Why do people do this!? Why do people do this multiple times?!” and “This is bullshit! It’s really bad and I haven’t even hit transition yet!” I saw Elliot and Bethany give each other a look over my shoulder and realized maybe I’d already hit it.
At some point during the evening, they had assigned a different nurse to me, and this one was quite talkative. She was awesome, but sometimes wanted to tell me or Bethany a story during a contraction. I remember sharply telling her “ME NOW” during a contraction when she was talking and I needed everyone to focus on me. I think that was the meanest I got, even in the midst of it.
Around 1am perhaps, I was starting to push without really realizing it. When the doctor came in to check me again, she said, “How many centimeters do you want to be?” “ALL THE CENTIMETERS” I said. She told me I was 9.5 centimeters (!!), and almost ready to start pushing for real, but that I had to wait, because I had an “anterior lip” and we’d need it to work itself out. For the next 20 minutes, Bethany laid next to me in bed (bless her) while I said “pop pop pop pop” during each contraction to stop myself from pushing. The urge to push was overwhelming.
When the doctor came back, I was at 10 centimeters and ready to push. I had really wanted to be upright to push to let gravity help, but I was pretty tired. I tried pushing on my hands and knees, and then I tried squatting, holding on to the bar at the end of the bed, but once they laid me back down to check me again, I stayed there. It was the middle of the night, and I was exhausted. I pushed during the contractions and slept in the few minutes in between each one. Elliot and Bethany lifted my legs up and down, placing them on the bar when I needed to push. I was so, so tired that I couldn’t even lift them very well myself. The doctors and Bethany coached me during the pushing and cheered for me when I finished each push. It was kind of neat having such an enthusiastic cheering section! I pushed for 3.5 hours. Finally they could see her coming, and I asked if she had hair. She did! They said it was dark, and that helped motivate me to keep going. I guess she got a little stuck coming around the corner of the birth canal, and finally the doctor said, “I think we need to give you a little episiotomy”. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea!” I said, and she laughed. She gave me a few more pushes to try without the episiotomy, but in the end, it was necessary. Ruby was coming out with the top of her head first, instead of the back of her head, which would have been easier.
Finally at 5:06am on September 7th, she slid out, and I screamed with joy and surprise! Elliot burst into tears and kept saying, “You did it, honey, you did it!” I wanted her on my chest right away, but she had sucked in some of the fluid on her way out and the NICU nurses needed to suck it out. I just kept yelling, “Her name is Ruby Jane! That’s my daughter, and her name is Ruby Jane!” in a voice hoarse from growling and moaning during labor. I had Bethany take a picture of her and show me on her iPod so I could see her sweet face.
Finally they brought her to me and put her on my chest. It was an incredible feeling. She was so new and tiny. Within a half hour, she latched onto my breast, which was so encouraging. She was beautiful and tiny and perfect. She weighed in at 8 pounds 0.0 ounces, and 22.5 inches, including the conehead she had. She would soon shrink to 21 inches. Eventually they wrapped her up, and Elliot got to hold her. I called my mom, and we cried on the phone. We called Elliot’s parents, my dad, and at some point, our siblings, I think. It’s all kind of a blur.
Maybe around 7, they wheeled me down to our recovery room, and we tried to take a nap. I don’t think I slept at all really, since Ruby cried as I rested my eyes. I fed and snuggled her instead of napping. I had been awake for 24 hours at that point. We ate breakfast (finally, food!!!) and around 9, the nurse came in and offered to take Ruby so we could sleep; they had to test her bilirubin levels anyway. I agreed, and we got like two whole hours of sleep before our family arrived.
It was twelve hours of active labor, and it was all pretty incredible. I remember a few minutes after she was born I thought, “Well, that wasn’t so bad, I guess. I could maybe do it again.” The recovery and all the hormones swarming around me the next few weeks were pretty rough – I’m not going to lie. I needed help the first few days just getting to the bathroom and in and out of the shower. My arms were really weak from holding my legs during the pushing, and I am still not completely healed from my stitches (9 weeks later). But, assuming I do feel 100% someday, I would do it again. Being a mom is an incredible challenge, but I want Ruby to have at least one sister or brother.
People ask if I miss being pregnant, and I really don’t. Sometimes I miss making my own schedule, instead of following Ruby’s or running out real quick to run an errand, or drinking wine whenever I please, but the feeling of nursing Ruby, holding Ruby, seeing her smile and being her mom is the most incredible (and difficult) thing I could ever have imagined.