I should begin by saying that days before I went into labor, I knew that I was really close because my male Border Collie became extremely clingy and worried over me. Finally, by Saturday night (the day before Mother's Day), I thought I was losing my mind and declared, "I guess Ollie is just acting weird--must have been a false alarm." That was when I went to bathroom and realized that I had lost my mucous plug!! That was the morning of Mother's Day.
My husband and I packed up all our stuff for the hospital and decided to travel with it...just in case labor was truly close. We spent the day with family, taking walks and eating food and I tried not to think too much about my labor progressing. By the end of the day, my husband and I decided to make our way home, maybe get a good night's sleep, and see if labor would progress more at home (instead of at my mom's house.) We brought along my friend, Jenn, who is also Ruby's godmother.
By the time I got home, being in my own environment really stoked the fires of labor and it was less than an hour before we headed back to my mom's in Lewes to be closer to the hospital. My plan had been to labor as long as I could at my moms, but it wasn't long until we were thinking we might want to go to the hospital and at least get checked out to see how things were progressing. So, about 11:40PM on Mother's Day, we made our way to Beebe in Lewes. I was formally admitted at 12:30AM because they thought that my water had broke. The bad news? I was only 1 CM dilated. It seemed I had a long way to go....
The nurse, Mary, wanted me to take a sleeping medication and rest, but I refused--no interventions meant no interventions. She was a little dismayed when I also declined the routine IV, but she was supportive and assured me that no one would offer me pain medication throughout the duration of my labor, as was my request. The hospital was really quite accommodating; because Jenn was with us, it brought my total of people in the room to four; my mother, my husband's mother, my husband, and Jenn. Surprisingly, they let her stay (I think it was the gift basket that really tipped the scales.) We prepared to rest and wait for baby Ruby to make progress. We figured it would be a while...
By 3:00AM, I was fully checked in (blood work done, questions answered, waivers signed, IVs refused), and surprisingly, hard labor seemed to have begun as well. Contractions came on hard and strong, surprising even me. That was when my team swung into action. My husband's mother scented the room with essential oils, they turned the lights down low, and made sure I was constantly in different positions to ease the labor pains. Early on we established a system of getting through the contractions. I would yell, "GO!" and my mom and Jenn would watch the clock. Jenn would call out 30 seconds and then again at 60 seconds. This system became my lifeline during labor...if I could make it through 30 seconds, I could make it through 30 more.
When the contractions really started coming strong, I knew I was going to lose my lunch. Finally, as their intensity increased, I began throwing up a lot. All of a sudden, Mary (the nurse) swooped in, thinking that I was transition, and once I was done throwing up, she checked me. She thought I was fully dilated, but also felt something she wasn't sure of. Another nurse was called in. I asked what was wrong. "The baby is butt down and folded in half," she said, "DON'T PUSH!"
Suddenly there was a sense of urgency in the room. The second nurse checked me and confirmed what Mary had said--they both through that Ruby was breech. They told me I would be getting a c-section. My heart sank. I asked for an ultrasound. They agreed that I would get an ultrasound, but began prepping for a c-section anyway. My mother in law got very emotional, I could see her disappointment for me written all over her face, but I wasn't ready to throw in the towel. My mom was also really starting to panic. The nurse swept everyone but my husband out of the room.
The ultrasound machine came in, I held my husband's hand, and there was Ruby: perfect, head-down, but not fully engaged. What they had been feeling? My water bag, which hadn't actually broken yet. WE WERE BACK IN THE GAME! At that moment I was so happy, I began to cry, saying, "I know I can do this! Someone call the midwife!" They called the midwife and she came in, called me her hero (never a bad thing to hear when you are in labor.) As we were assessing whether or not she should manually break my water, WOOOSH, that water bag broke and the games had REALLY begun.
There was just one more bit of bad news to contend with: Ruby was still sunny side up, so I was going to have to battle through back labor. Back labor, for those of you who haven't experienced it, is incredibly painful. It feels as though your back is going to explode and fall out of your butt. So it was into the shower with me, along with the birthing ball.
My husband really rose to the occasion at this point, giving me encouragement, water, and coaching me. Throughout the entire labor, he was an amazing rock for me, and I know that there is no way I could have done it without him. He employed nearly everything we had learned in lamaze class, and when I was in the haze of labor, he helped me reach my potential. Also, I remember a couple of times as I was walking around, naked and feeling half crazed from the pain, hearing my mom say things like, "You look beautiful." At another point, as I was doing my moan breathing, Jenn said, "it sounds like beautiful music." These things were sustaining.
At one point I came out of the shower, and I was in so much pain. I declared I just couldn't do it anymore. My mother in law asked me to wait it out another half hour. My mom and husband reminded me that I was almost at 6 CM and that the pain was going to plateau. They kept me drinking water. Jenn kept the contraction counts. I forgot about time entirely.
I marched when the pain got to terrible and said, "GET OUT BABY!" I laid in the bed on all fours during contractions and rested in between. When I didn't know what else to the do and the pain was just immense, I simply yelled out "WHY?!" And then, suddenly, I popped up, and I felt the urge to push. The midwife who had originally come in had left (her shift had ended) and in came another midwife, Sally Ruby...how fitting! After what seemed like forever of me being "sure" it was time to push, it was actually time to push.
They brought in a mirror, which I was hesitant to look at, and there I saw the whole thing unfold. I pushed for about 45 minutes and then finally, out came Ruby! The midwife said immediately, "This baby really is a miracle, look, her cord is tied in a knot." Ruby took her time crying, but she was awfully alert. They laid her on my chest and I looked at the people around me--my husband and the women who had ushered me on this incredible journey--and I said, "We did it guys!" I was so thankful.
I did it all naturally. It was hard, hard work, but it was absolutely worth it. I wouldn't have had it any other way. The whole thing still feels completely surreal. I can't believe I've had a baby. I can't believe I did it naturally. I am so proud of our family. I hope that other women find encouragement in our birth story and the strength to give natural childbirth a try. I really felt that the staff at Beebe Hospital was great--in fact, I plan on writing another post about that for anyone who might be interested--and I was nervous about giving birth in a hospital! In the end, though, everything came out just perfectly; we have a healthy, beautiful baby and I was able to have the natural birth experience I was hoping for.
There is no way I could have made this journey without the incredible support of my husband and my birth team, dubbed "Team Ruby." Everyone pulled together to help me realize my full potential, and for that, I am so grateful.
A very proud and intimate moment where we realized: we came through it together and we are parents.
Not pictured, my doula, who didn't attend the birth but has been an intricate part of the process (and continues to be,) who also deserves a big thank you!
Ruby and Daddy getting skin to skin!