Ruby Allison McLean: A Birth Story
From the time I woke up Wednesday morning (December 17) I was having regular but very light contractions. They continued through the day and did not go away, so I started to feel that they were not Braxton Hicks but the real thing! I texted our doula Star to update her on what was happening and then we went on to have a regular and relaxing day to see how things would progress. But we were very excited because we knew today was the day!
By afternoon I was feeling very antsy for things to progress and wanted to get out of the house. We went out for a walk but it was freezing cold so the walk did not last long. During the walk I called Star and told her the contractions were pretty close together but they were not very intense. She said she could hear just from talking to me that we still had a long ways to go. Michael and I decided to go for a drive.
By evening we were really wondering when things were going to pick up. After dinner we sat down to play a game of Phase 10. Neither one of us were having very much fun. I got up to use the bathroom at about 7:30 and when I got up off the toilet there was a huge gush of water! My water broke! I was not expecting my water to break so early in labor because I knew it only happens to 1 out of 10 women but it was kind of fun and exciting like they show in the movies. I called the midwives. Mercedes was the midwife on call. She told me there was no hurry and we could labor at home for a while longer. We called Star and asked her to come over at this point.
As soon as my water broke the contractions became much more intense. From this point on, everything was dark and quiet which was really nice. I sat on the bed and rocked and moaned while we waited for Star to arrive. Star came and talked with me and thought it looked like the baby was posterior (facing up rather than down) so we started a Miles Circuit, which is a series of positions to try to turn her around. I found most of it really uncomfortable. The whole thing lasted an hour and a half. Star and Michael fed me cheese and crackers as I did lunges in the bathroom. By the end I was tired and in quite a bit of pain. I decided it was time to go to the hospital.
Originally in my birth plan I said I wanted to labor at home as long as possible. I could have stayed home for several more hours but for some reason I really wanted to go at this point. I think it was because I wanted to settle in and be in the place it was all going to happen before things got really serious.
I remember when we left our apartment building that every speed bump in the parking lot was torture. In triage I discovered I was only 3 centimeters dilated when I thought I was a lot farther. But at this point I didn’t care and was glad to be at the hospital so we could settle in the birthing suite. I was really looking forward to getting into the tub. It was 11:30pm on Wednesday when we checked in to the hospital.
From this point on I don’t remember things very clearly but specific moments do stand out in my mind. I liked kneeling in the tub a lot and would have stayed in that position, but Star encouraged me to keep moving to different positions to move things along. It was wonderful how Michael stayed by my side the entire time and kept his hands on me as I labored in the tub. One of the only things I remembered from my preparation and put into use was to make low vocalizations and to keep my jaw loose so that is what I focused on during each contraction. My birth affirmations did come to mind occasionally but it was most useful when Michael whispered them to me. I really liked picturing myself as a mama whale in the water and it helped me a lot. My birth music was playing the entire time and at some points I wished it was even louder so I could hear it over the people talking and everything. But it was quiet in the room for the most part and they kept the lights dim which was wonderful.
The nurse had to regularly check for the baby’s heartbeat but other than that the hospital staff was wonderful about not disturbing us and following our wishes in the birth plan. Mercedes my midwife was also there the entire time, along with a midwife in training. They stayed back and let Michael and Star comfort and help me until we reached the pushing stage.
There was a moment when I was in a lot of pain and I looked Michael right in the eyes because I needed to know that he was there and that he understood how hard it was for me. He said later that was the worst moment for him because he felt so bad but really just him being by my side the entire time was amazing. He only left my side once to go to the bathroom and didn’t have anything to eat or drink the whole time.
Eventually I had to get out of the tub although I didn’t really want to. I started feeling like pushing but when they did a cervical check I was only 8 centimeters. I was a little frustrated to hear that but put it out of my mind and kept going. From this point on I feel that all I did was complain and whine. I couldn’t stop saying things like “This is too hard,” “I can’t do this,” or “This really hurts.” This was the only point where it even crossed my mind to ask for an epidural but I knew I didn’t want to so I pushed the thought from my mind and kept going. Everyone was nice and sympathetic but I really just wanted it to be over. I was so tired and worn out. I was ready to push her out and be done with it!
I’m pretty sure this is when I was in transition. I was laying on the bed on my side with Michael holding me when I said “I’m going to throw up!” My stomach emptied but since I had been drinking apple juice all night that is all it tasted like coming back up. Then we got in place for pushing.
I felt a definite urge to push overtake me during each contraction but pushing was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. Mercedes was really helpful at coaching me and directing me which muscles to push and which to relax. It was very difficult to focus on the right muscles. Towards the end Mercedes held a knotted blanket and I reached up and pulled on it each time I pushed. I think that really helped.
I do remember feeling the baby moving down the birthing canal and that was pretty amazing. Eventually the head was crowning and I could feel the excitement in the room. I thought it was almost over but it still took so many more pushes to get her out! It went on and on and I thought it would never end! They told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head and that was so amazing. Michael even went down to watch the whole thing and I was so, so happy that he did. They offered me a mirror so I could watch too. I declined but I think next time I would like to see it. Each time I pushed the head was a little farther out but still not there yet.
Mercedes kept telling me to let her go out into the world and stop holding back, that it was time to share the baby and not to be scared. I thought of Michael and how much he wanted to meet our baby girl so I tried to let go and push even harder for him. Every time I pushed they said just one more push but there was always another push after that and then another. It felt like forever! But every time she was closer until there it was – her head was out and another big push for her shoulders and then they were putting something on my chest and it was her and she was so big and beautiful.
She was born at 6:37am on Thursday, December 18. I remember asking if the sun had come up yet because I thought it would be beautiful if she was born just as the sun was rising. It was still dark outside but it was a beautiful early morning birth just the same. From the time my water broke labor lasted about 11 hours, and I pushed for an hour and a half. The baby was 9lbs 4ounces which surprised everyone but me.
Michael and I just stared at her together and we were so happy to be a family. Michael asked me which she was, an Esther or a Ruby and at first I couldn’t tell and wanted to focus on breastfeeding and our skin to skin. But by the time the nurses took her and weighed her and her skin turned bright red as she screamed and screamed we knew she was Ruby and we were so happy to welcome her into our lives.