My official due date was Friday, May 16th, 2014. My last scheduled doctor appointment was that Wednesday, the 14th. I was practically positive that I was going to go in and she would shepherd us off to the hospital because I would be in labor.
Yeeeea, that didn’t happen. I had made half of a centimeter of progress since the last appointment. How is that even possible? Remember that latent labor I was in two weeks ago? We had previously asked about induction, just for the information, and my husband asked about it again. Dr. Pagan told us I was a strong candidate for a successful induction if that’s what we chose – or we could wait it out. We asked her three million questions that she patiently answered and scheduled a follow up on my due date (two days later).
On Friday, we showed up back at the office sure that this time I would show signs of labor. Nope. No changes. We had done some soul searching and had sent it out to committee. If Ruby didn’t come on her own, we would go ahead with the induction on Sunday night. Our doctor, our amazing doctor, answered another round of three million questions and assured us that this was an acceptable decision – and reminded us that it wasn’t a binding contract. If we changed our minds or got cold feet, we could always just not go. She was so good at walking the line and making us feel supported with either decision. I never felt pressured or judged one way or the other – which is why we love her so much. She is a feel-good, relatable human who I trust to always have my best interests at heart. How many doctors can you say that about?
All weekend, I was a nervous wreck. Sunday, I was practically certifiably insane over it. I felt like we were potentially missing out on the excitement of labor starting organically… and also just anxious about all the horror stories you hear about inductions… but also elated at the idea of meeting my girl and finally holding her in my arms. My husband was my rock. He kept this runaway train on her tracks.
My aunt (mom’s sister) flew in Sunday afternoon from Miami. She had asked if I’d like her to be there and I surprised myself by really wanting her there. I guess most girls imagine their mothers being in the delivery room (or at least at the hospital) when they have their first baby… and since that’s not possible (in flesh anyway), my aunt was a fantastic substitute. I didn’t realize until this experience how many of my mom’s mannerisms they share.
When my aunt arrived around lunch time, we went out for my “last meal” – a salade sampler at La Madeleine. My kind doctor had advised me to eat light if I wanted to avoid pooping on her (a concern I had voiced a few times and already apologized in advance for – I’m sorry, but it’s true. I didn’t want to defecate on my medical professional!). Then, we went home to nap, shower, and get ready for the main event.
The afternoon seemed to rush by. It felt surreal as we loaded the car, said goodbye to the dogs, and headed to the hospital. I felt like I had been pregnant forever. It had started to seem like we were preparing for a kid that was never coming. With some of my earlier pregnancy challenges, sometimes I wondered if she really would ever make it. It didn’t feel real to think that I would be holding her in less than 24 hours.
My aunt met us at the hospital at 8:45. We went upstairs to check in with Labor & Delivery. Even though we had preregistered, we had to go back downstairs to be formally admitted. They said Todd could go check me in and I could wait in the room, but I didn’t want to sit alone (Alone with my own thoughts? Are you kidding me?). Since it was so late, we had to go to the ER to check in. Let me tell you, there were some colorful characters lurking around the ER waiting room. Luckily, I was busy with paperwork and questions, so I didn’t notice exactly how colorful they were. On our walk back upstairs, Todd told me the guy pestering the ladies at the desk had just been dropped off there from jail, complete with his paper bag of personal items. No wonder he was so desperate for cigarettes. It was a nice distraction to imagine what his deal was. I bet he didn’t think he’d end up as a colorful detail in someone’s birth story.
When we got back upstairs, the nurses wasted no time. The first order of business was fingerprints for Ruby’s paperwork. It really hit me in this moment that she was coming and soon – after she used the ink pad for my prints, she set them to the side (by the baby bed!) for Ruby’s footprints. We would have baby feet soon! Then, it was time to put on the sexy hospital gown, compression stockings, and bright yellow no-skid socks. I called the look “duck feet”.
They hooked up my IV and connected all the monitors. It turned out I was already having contractions that were just a few minutes apart. I will always wonder in the back of my mind if I would have ended up there that night anyway with or without the induction. I was also hooked up to the bane of my existence – the blood pressure cuff that was set to automatically go off every thirty minutes. Let me tell you, I hated that stupid cuff more than words can say. It’s impossible to sleep through and my arm was over it after a couple of hours. I may or may not have timed my bathroom trips to take place around the time I knew that cuff would be going off. The only downside of bathroom trips was the process of disconnecting myself to get there. I had to unplug the monitors, take off the cuff, and drag the IV pole with me… and then replug and connect everything when I got back. Of course, the monitors around my tummy moved while I was walking and peeing, so the nurse would have to come back in and readjust them every time. It was just… a process. Ugh.
My night nurse and I had a lot of time to chat with all of these frequent readjustments and whatnot. She had a son with some learning disabilities and saw that I was a teacher, so she asked me some questions about her son. It was nice to focus on teaching/human stuff while all of these machines were getting placed around me. I was starting to feel like I belonged in a sci-fi flick.
My husband went home to take care of the dogs, as planned, around midnight. Some people think I’m crazy that I asked my husband to leave me in labor to take care of the dogs, but they are as much our kids as the one I was in labor with. They sleep in our bed and have a routine that I didn’t want totally disturbed before we brought Ruby home to totally disturb the routine again. Besides, I had my aunt with me… and I can’t imagine them both sleeping on that love seat. Well, I can, but it’s not pretty!
Around the same time, the nurse examined me again. Shortly after, I got up for another potty trip and noticed I was dripping (and had red blood). I mentioned it to the nurse, but she wrote off the blood and wetness as due to her exam. It was actually my water breaking (which is what I thought), but we will get to that.
By about 4 am, I was at my breaking point with contractions. I didn’t want to get an epidural that early, but I accepted pain meds instead. Going back and reading the text messages I sent my husband about this were hilarious. I told him that I was getting pain meds that would make me drowsy. He said he was going to be headed back to the hospital soon. I told him to take his time because I was already feeling a little woozy (as the meds were being injected into my IV)… and then radio silence. It sent me straight to sleep… and when I woke up a couple of hours later, my contractions were really strong and overwhelming, especially since I was feeling so groggy from the pain meds. The nurses were switching shifts at 7am and the new nurse seemed kind of cold. I was thinking to myself – great, and this will be the nurse I deliver with. It turns out, however, that really she had walked into a mess. The night nurse had my Pitocin drip at 18 (my doc had ordered a max of 20) while I’d been out with the pain meds (which is why I woke up feeling like I had a Mac truck trying to get out of my uterus). My blood pressure was elevated and so was Ruby’s heart rate. The new nurse slowed my Pitocin waaaaaay down and started me on oxygen… and my doctor was on her way to check in with me. Soooo, the nurse didn’t really have time to chit chat.
I was so glad to see Dr. Pagan. She has a very calming, positive presence that immediately relieved the stress in the room. She told me that she was going to examine me and rupture my water bags… and then she examined me and realized my water had already broken. I was only dilated to 4cm though. They started me on antibiotics since they weren’t sure when my water broke. My haze was starting to clear and that’s when I remembered my drips last night. I told my nurse who seemed relieved and made a note of it.
My doctor stopped by again and encouraged me to go ahead with the epidural if I wanted it, since things would probably move more quickly from here on out. My husband begged me to go ahead with it too. He hated watching me go through the contractions and feeling helpless. He could see them coming on the monitor before I felt them, which he now says was the worst, knowing the pain was coming before I did. About an hour later, I decided it was time to bring on the drugs and asked for the epidural.
It took FOREVER for the anesthesiologist to make it to my room. That wait was the worst. I identified with those crazy movie ladies who are screaming “Give me the drugs!!!” It sucked to finally cave and ask for the epidural… and then have to wait… and wait. Thank goodness my aunt coached me through my breathing (which I’d apparently forgotten how to do) and was willing to let me squeeze her hands to death… I mean, to death. I’m surprised she didn’t end up downstairs in a cast.
When the anesthesiologist got there, they booted my husband and aunt out, telling them it would be about 20 minutes. They went downstairs to get coffee and make phone calls. My nurse, who I still hadn’t bonded with, was my solace throughout the whole thing. My contractions were so bad that I couldn’t stay still through them. They had to work in between them to even do my epidural. The nurse watched the monitor (and my face) while the anesthesiologist worked… and eventually took pity on me and let me squeeze her hand while she rubbed my back and coached me through them. We turned a corner, she and I.
…especially when the anesthesiologist hit a vein and had to redo my epidural. Wish I was kidding, but I’m not. I have the bruise to prove it. One epidural sucks, two epidurals double suck. After she finished up, I laid back down and realized I still had sharp, crazy pain on my left side. They called the anesthesiologist back and she verified that my epidural was working everywhere else and gave me some kind of super shot. Nope. Still could feel it. After having me try a bunch of positions, they concluded that Ruby was somehow pinching a nerve on that side of my body and preventing the epidural from doing what it’s supposed to do. (Thanks kid!) So, I went through the rest of my labor with a weird half numb, half excruciating pain thing going on.
Meanwhile, my husband and aunt were freaking out because they had said 20 minutes and it had been almost an hour and a half with no updates. I’m proud of them both for not assaulting a nurse for answers. When they were let back in the room, I explained my left side situation… and why I was still wincing in pain for every contraction despite two epidurals and a super shot. My husband was a trooper and applied pressure to my side. I don’t know how or why, but him mashing his hand into my side made it bearable. Eventually, both of his hands tired and he used his head to apply the pressure. Seriously, trooper!
The time between my epidural and when my doctor came back to check on me seems like a blur. I don’t know how much time passed or what happened, other than a lot of pain on my left side and the stupid blood pressure cuff and the nurse finally telling me I could take off the oxygen mask that I was taking off when she left the room anyway, because it made me want to crawl out of my own skin.
My angel of a doctor came back around noon to examine me. She came bearing fantastic news – I was fully dilated. She had me do a couple of “practice pushes” and declared it time to push for real! I didn’t believe her. I just remember thinking, “Are you sure??? Should we wait a little longer??? I think we should wait a little longer!!!” but I don’t think any of that made it out of my mouth. I hope not. They converted the transformer-style bed and got into position. I started pushing at 12:30.
Flashback to previous doctor appointments, my husband had decided that he felt most comfortable staying up by my head, maybe holding my shoulders, but he wasn’t going downstairs to look. He also didn’t want to cut the umbilical cord because he was afraid he’d do it wrong (and it’s also kind of gross). I was totally okay with this – because let’s be honest, if he went downstairs, he was gonna see some things that he couldn’t un-see. My doctor apparently knew better. I didn’t know, but when she walked in the room, she looked at Todd and said, “So, you’re cutting the cord, okay?” Once pushing got under way, he couldn’t have been more different. He was right in there. He and my aunt took turns holding my leg or shoulders while I was pushing. Another nurse had my other leg. When she started crowning, he was down there with the doctor checking everything out and twirling Ruby’s hair. I mean, he was hands-on like you wouldn’t believe.
I couldn’t have asked for a better team of people to have been surrounding me. Todd and I feel like our doctor was as excited for Ruby’s birth as we were. I think all three of us had moments of doubt about the viability of my pregnancy over the last nine months. This was our little miracle, thanks to a lot of prayer and a lot of science. My memory of the pushing phase is nothing but positive. I was so excited and overwhelmed that Ruby was almost out. I had never felt more in love with my husband (or my doctor, haha). I was so grateful for my aunt being there. The nurses were all upbeat and laughing at the bad jokes I cracked. I have to say, I was glad to have a team with me that understood my sarcastic sense of humor. I’m sure part of this is the amazing biological dance of hormones, but I basically remember laughing Ruby into the world.
Around 1:30, I was feeling really discouraged. I had been pushing and pushing and Ruby was never going to come out. Ever. I was 100% sure of this fact. I have never ever in my life seen so many adults so quickly turn into a team of perky, bouncing cheerleaders than in that moment. They were not going to let me lose momentum. There was one very soft spoken nurse who hadn’t said much through all of the pushing… but all of the sudden, she got caught up in the excitement and was cheering louder than anyone else. I can’t remember her name, but her enthusiasm was honestly what kept me going. “This is going to be it! Come on! One more push!” … she was a filthy stinking liar, because it was like 20 more pushes, but I believed her every time she said, “One more push! Come on!”
At 1:51pm, Ruby finally decided to come greet the world (or maybe got tired of all the commotion). I can’t exactly describe that insane burning sensation when a baby pops out, but the “ring of fire” description is pretty spot on. I knew it was fast, but the actual baby-coming-out part happened much faster than I imagined it would. However, the thing that surprised me the most was the “live” nature of the umbilical cord (which Todd did end up cutting, by the way). I didn’t expect to feel it, uh, flopping around as it came out. I was mildly concerned I was birthing a snake, my least favorite thing in the world. My placenta came shooting out only a couple of minutes behind Ruby. I was so glad to be rid of that stinking placenta that had caused us so much grief earlier in my pregnancy.
The moment they laid her on my chest was the single best moment of my entire life to that point. She was purplish and cone-headed and absolutely perfect in every way. I had never seen a more beautiful baby in my entire life. I didn’t know I could love someone so much. I didn’t know what I did before that exact moment, because nothing else seems important. I felt like I would never do anything nearly as important as I just did when I gave birth to this perfect tiny human.
Ruby Jean, born May 19th, 2014 at 1:51pm. 8 lbs, 2 oz. 22 inches.