In this series we share birth stories of all kinds from mothers around the globe — with the hope that they inspire, educate and inform expecting mothers. Interested in sharing your birth story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can read more birth stories here.
Baby: Ruby Eloise
Weight & Height: 7lb 13 ounces
Location: Upstate NY
Ruby Eloise was born on March 29, 2016 at Putnam Hospital Center in update NY. Her birthweight was 7 pounds 13 ounces of pure love.
Throughout the 40 weeks of waiting for my baby, I refused to let myself think about the actual birth too deeply. The thought truly terrified me no matter how I reasoned with myself: it was how I was going to finally hold her in my arms, it was going to empower and strengthen me, etc. The bottom line was I was terrified and anxiety ridden. I even cried (as silently as possible) during one of the birth classes my husband, Jacob, and I attended. Like all other realms of entering motherhood, I knew better than to have expectations. I told the nurses during our hospital visit that my birth plan was to trust everyone around me and do what was needed to ensure the safety of our baby and myself. Life was no longer about me only, so my romanticized visions of a birth would not be necessary. What I wish I knew then was that no matter how careful I tried to be about this, I was going to walk away with scars.
My last doctor’s appointment was on my due date and my body was done housing another human. Having known my midwife since I was sixteen, when she offered to induce me at 6 AM the next morning, Jacob and I agreed excitedly that we would go home to one more night as the two of us and report back before the sun rose to welcome our baby. We couldn’t contain our excitement; having had chosen to not find out the gender, it was one of the many pieces we were only moments away from finally putting together. We started letting family and close friends know on our drive home. The daunting reality of hospital food in our near future led us to our favorite Taiwanese restaurant where I finally admitted to myself that the contractions brought on by my earlier exam were not shaking. I started to mentally time them but had such a hard time concentrating while trying to mentally plan what I needed to do before being induced. The timing wasn’t consistent, so I told myself I was letting my nerves take over and I just needed to rest a little.
What was meant to be a cozy, milestone night, turned into me texting my mom every five minutes asking if she thought I was in labor. Just to take some of the crazy off of me, my mother was a nurse for 30+ years and had five babies. She happened to be working that night and planned on meeting us in labor and delivery at the end of her overnight shift. She just kept telling me to try to sleep. I don’t even think I ate anything (huge bummer) and finally decided to try to sleep. I kept my contraction notes next to my bed. They were the most manic looking piece of paper ever produced. But having it written down was the only calming force that I was not truly in labor yet. Then while in bed around 11 PM, I felt the unmistakable pains of true labor. This was not like any of the contractions I’d had earlier, this truly hurt and immediately got me on my feet.
I finally called my midwife who said I may as well head to the hospital even if they weren’t consistent; at the very least I could sleep. Jacob, having been asleep for hours, immediately sprang into action getting everything ready. He insisted I shower to try and calm myself a little bit. At this point there finally was regularity: every five minutes I was having a strong contraction. If you too have read every labor manual ever produced, you know this was starting to cut it close, especially considering we were a good 45 minutes from the hospital. Suddenly I was terrified that I would deliver on the highway and we would become a cautionary tale that future moms-to-be would hear about. Seeing the signs for the hospital turn was the biggest relief I may have ever felt.
Once settled in our birthing room, things were moving quickly and it was clear we truly arrived in time. I was progressing fast and all the nurses (including my mom) buzzed with excitement that our baby would arrive before their shift ended. Are their sweeter people on the planet than labor and delivery nurses? These women were the most soothing and supportive people. After my epidural, I tried to rest as much as possible. My baby was moments away from entering the world and I had been awake for a full on 24 hours. But then soon it was morning, and still no baby and not enough progression to push. What was moving so quickly suddenly was not.
Jacob was out of his skin; he absolutely did not know what to do with himself. I think he moved the car at least two times. He did however, remember some of the small things I was too exhausted to think of. He brought out the coconut water and reminded me to actually drink it. He turned on Pandora to “Blind Pilot Radio,” which is what you will hear playing 9 times out of 10 in our house, to make us feel more at home and even put it in a cup so it was loud enough to fill the room. And he wrote on the nurse’s white board under goal: “a nice baby” (this was the only answer I had for people who asked me if I wanted our baby to be a boy or a girl- aside from healthy of course). When the time to push finally came, he was practically jumping up and down cheering me on.
In an effort to move things along, my epidural had been turned off and things really changed after that. I was pushing, but there was still no progression. It had been an hour and a half and somewhere around the 45 minutes mark I had started to feel everything. This was where I had been afraid to be: losing myself in pain and uncertainty. Everyone assured me everything was fine and they were prepared to bring me in for a c-section if needed. But I kept seeing how people would step away to talk and were talking about me but not to me. I remember thinking to myself that it could have been days at that point or that it could go on for days. I had been trying so hard and listening to all the coaching but I felt myself getting lost in the pain more and more. They decided to give it another half hour. Despite the promise of a c-section from a doctor in the practice, I knew this was not an “easy way out” and mentally swore that I would give every ounce of myself to deliver.
Despite my efforts and all the amazing coaching from everyone around me, a half an hour later they decided to prep me for the OR. At this point I was in full on primal mode, literally begging every person in the room to please hurry and please tell me how much longer I had to wait. This cannot be sugarcoated: it was agony. Everyone’s efforts to calm me, try to help me relax were futile. I remember feeling like the “real me” was inside somewhere, but incredibly stifled. Like when watching Jacob, who’s over 6 feet tall, put on his long OR outfit and acknowledging that it was hysterical, especially in his very enthusiastic state. Or how by chance. one of the nurses was a friend ours from our high school and the thought crossed my mind how the sixteen year old in me would have been mortified to know she would one day see me crying while trying to push out a baby. But it just couldn’t come to the surface. Labor was no joke.
After I was properly drugged and Jacob was finally in the OR with me, my voice sounded dreamy as we talked about how surreal everything was and how we actually were not even close to having our baby on the highway after all. He kept telling me how proud of me he was and he had never loved me more than watching how strong I had been.
What I discovered later was that there was an element of fear in the room: our baby was low and it was a challenge to get her out. There would also be some tearing and other medical concerns that kept me in the OR for several hours. But in that moment, I was blissfully unaware as Jacob and I held hands and looked only at each other, waiting to become a family of three. Then, I felt our baby being removed from my body, loud and final, and she immediately started crying out. They held her up saying “Here’s your baby!” Once we knew she was a girl, I looked at him and said, “Ruby?” just to confirm our “girl name” still stuck. When she was finally brought over to me, swaddled and crying, wearing her first of many large bows made with love by a nurse, I just stared at her laughing and crying. The nurse held her for me to kiss and I told her I’d waited for her for so long.
Our hospital stay was long and filled with other bumps and lots of tears and lots of staring at our Ruby Lou. It took a long time for the physical and emotional scars of Ruby’s birth to feel OK and to let myself accept that her birth was difficult and it was a big deal, but the real scars and the ones I carry in my heart from her birth truly strengthen me every day.