I promise this isn’t going to turn into a birth story blog, but this is such a good one that I just had to share. Plus, like everyone I know is having babies at the moment which makes these stories major low hanging fruit in terms of blog posts.
Leslie is a good friend from college who welcomed her first little dude into the world in a pretty awesome way, just two weeks after Forrest was born. She’s also a great writer and apparently born to give birth, both of which make for a great read.
Thursday, July 5th felt totally normal: I took Rowdy on a long walk, helped Scott at the shop, did a big grocery store run so I could cook up a storm before I went into labor… I even went to a wine bar on the wharf with Jen, stealing sips of her champagne flight as we gossiped! I did notice that I was having more of the “fake” contractions, and as I finally settled in at home around 8pm, I realized they were coming consistently about 10 minutes apart. My heart quickened a bit as I wondered if maybe these weren’t fake after all, but they didn’t hurt at all, which certainly wasn’t what I expected labor to be like. I called my doula, Courtney, around 9pm just to give her a heads up that MAYBE something was happening, though I didn’t really think so. She reassured me that even if this wasn’t labor, my body was gearing up. Courtney encouraged us to get some rest and check in with her in the morning.
Scott fell asleep immediately (of course), but my head was swimming with questions and anticipation. I re-read Joy’s birth story, looking for clues about what to expect, and the contractions started to pick up. She had mentioned something about tracking her contractions with an iPhone app- there seriously is an app for everything!- so I found one and downloaded it. When I started tracking at 12:10am, they were about six minutes apart, and at that point, felt similar to menstrual cramps. I tried to remember from our birth class how long the various phases of labor are supposed to last, with no luck, but according to the app’s quick reference page, it appeared I was moving from “early labor” to “active labor”. Eeeeeeeeee!
I woke Scott up around 12:45am to let him know this seemed legit. We were both excited but surprisingly calm. I decided to take a shower, and I yelled to Scott each time I had a contraction so we could keep tracking them with the app. Around that time things really cranked up: now the contractions were more like three minutes apart. I called our hospital to let them know I was in labor and would be coming in at some point, and when I gave the nurse details about my contractions she seemed to think we had plenty of time. My big concern had been that my labor would stall out midway and require interventions like Pitocin, which was part of why I wanted to labor at home as long as possible before going into the clinical environment of the hospital that often slowed things down. It’s funny how opposite things turned out!
Timing the contractions with the app kept me somewhat distracted, but I was definitely in a good amount of pain, so we called Courtney around 2am to ask her to come over. I also called my parents; even though I knew it would freak them out, I felt like they should know what was going on! I announced to my mom “It looks like I’m having a baby!” and she responded “so what do I do?!” I assumed she could wait until morning to make the half an hour drive here and still catch plenty of the action.
Courtney arrived just before 2:30am, watched me moan through a contraction, looked at the handy list on the app charting the duration and frequency of my previous contractions, then promptly took my phone away from me so I could focus on the labor instead. Darn her! She encouraged me to loosen up as the contractions came, especially my shoulders, and I suppose that helped. However, that point it was hard to find any position that was remotely comfortable: I leaned on Scott, we “danced” in the kitchen, I leaned on walls, and finally I was on all fours on the couch with Courtney next to me rubbing my back.
At around 3:30am I decided this was as intense as things needed to get at home; I was ready for the security of being surrounded by medical staff at the hospital. Scott had to stop by the shop to put up a sign indicating we would be closed that day (because we were having a baby!). He was gone no more than 10 minutes, but by then I was starting to go a little nutty. The short drive into the hospital was brutal, and as we tried to walk in I doubled over in pain with another contraction. I’d said all along that I wanted to go as long as possible without any pain medications- ideally making it through to the end- but the idea of some relief was starting to sound really great.
As the medical staff started the check-in process, I could see why people claimed the hospital atmosphere could slow things down. They couldn’t find my pre-registration, so I was forced to answer questions about my Social Security number, my phone number, etc… all while in intense labor! I was alternating between pacing around, leaning on the bed, moaning/ screaming, and I heard the nurse say to someone on the phone “I think we’ll end up admitting this one.” You think?
After what felt like forever, the nurse checked me and declared I was five centimeters dilated. I hadn’t held any expectations about where I should be at that point, but that seemed pretty good. I figured I was about at the midway point after less than five hours of “real” labor, which certainly made the 24 hour labor (or more!) that I’d feared less likely.
Around this point I started asking about pain medication options, and Courtney encouraged me to get in the giant tub first to labor in water. “They call it the midwife’s epidural; it could really help!” she reassured me. A real epidural didn’t seem so bad at this point, but since I had been looking forward to the tub (if that’s the right way to phrase anything involving labor?!) I did want to try it. I had actually bit down on Scott’s shoulder and wept during one of the contractions, so he was freaking out a bit at seeing me in that kind of pain and seemed open to whatever might help.
The tub is when my memory of everything gets less clear, probably because I was a bit out of my mind! Every contraction would take over my entire body, starting right underneath my chest, and I felt completely out of control. It was beyond intense and somewhat scary. As promised in our birth class, I started to doubt myself and tell Courtney I didn’t think I could do this, to which she calmly but firmly responded that I could. During one of the seemingly brief breaks between contractions, I reasoned with myself that there was no reason for me to suffer like this when I could have pain meds, and if nothing else I just needed a break, so I apologetically told Courtney that I wanted to try fentanyl. It would “take the edge off” for about an hour, which sounded dreamy. Courtney reassured me that I’d done great, and while I don’t remember it, apparently she asked if I wanted to be checked again first. The nurse (who had barely been around at this point) popped back in, I requested the drugs, and since she still needed to draw blood for some reason anyway, she said she’d be back to set up an IV lock.
Scott was also in and out of the room; he called my parents with an update (again thinking they could probably wait until morning), and then he left to use a restroom out in the lobby.
My water still hadn’t broken, and I started to feel an incredible amount of pressure. I reached down and discovered what felt like a balloon bulging out between my legs. When I told Courtney, she said that I could push a bit to help it break. I pushed and felt it get bigger; at this point the pain was accompanied by an intense burning. I don’t know exactly how many times I pushed, but I just wanted to make the crazy pain go away, and in my head I was determined to break that darn balloon.
No more than a few minutes later, I felt the pop of my water breaking, accompanied by a powerful gush. The relief was immediate and AWESOME. I sighed “thank God!” and sat there blissfully catching my breath for a second. When I opened my eyes I noticed all sorts of nastiness around me in the tub… and to my surprise, floating next to me was what appeared to be an umbilical cord. I recall thinking “that’s not supposed to be out yet, is it?” as I continued to look around in the dim mood lighting Courtney had set up.
Then I noticed something larger floating in the tub. As I reached to scoop it up, I realized it was a baby. Yep, a BABY. He was still perfectly curled in the fetal position, angelic and quiet. I was in such shock that I didn’t even have time to worry if he was okay or not before Courtney started yelling “BABY!!!!”
I sat there, holding the baby up like a prize I happened upon and wasn’t sure I had earned, as suddenly all sorts of hospital staff came running in. A moment later, Scott came in, equally confused and with tears in his eyes, and I hoisted the baby a little higher in his direction, kind of like “Hey, look what I did while you were gone!” At some point during all this commotion, our baby started crying.
It’s funny how fuzzy those few minutes after birth are in my memory, but I suppose my brain was busy trying to wrap itself around the fact that I’d just had a baby essentially by myself, in a bathtub. As much as I knew things don’t always go according to plan in labor, this was miles away from anything I ever would have imagined. And as the hospital staff would point out, both at that point and repeatedly throughout the next two days of our stay, patients aren’t supposed to give birth in the tub, so they were all rather baffled by the situation as well.
I think they drained the tub then refilled it with clean water to rinse us both off, then an entire team of people lifted me out (while I held the baby close) into a wheelchair to transfer me to the bed. As I recall, it wasn’t until then that it occurred to anyone to ask if it was a boy or a girl, so I pulled him away from me to confirm we had indeed gotten the boy we’d expected. From there I pretty much just stared at the tiny baby on my chest as the hospital part of this whole experience kicked in: Various people examined and discussed the condition of my lady parts. A doctor finally showed up, though not mine, as I had figured I could wait until a reasonable hour to call her since she wasn’t technically on duty that day. Someone offered Scott scissors to cut the umbilical cord. I was jabbed with a needle then the unknown-doctor delivered the placenta. More shots and some stitches. I still couldn’t believe that this had all actually happened so fast.
I was admitted to the hospital at 3:45am, and Beckett Radford Ruble was born at 4:51am. (At least that was the guess, given that no one was in the room to officially record it.) He didn’t mess around. Beckett weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces, measured 19 inches long, and he had a solid amount of blonde hair. Not surprisingly, we found him to be absolutely perfect.
Pretty amazing, right? I thought you all would enjoy. I don’t know if I could ever tire of birth stories. They’re all so different and all so miraculous, each and every one.