The Birth Story5November 21st, 2013
Since so many of you have asked. And since you know I want to tell (warning: it’s long and unedited!)
On Saturday, November 16 at 10:56 p.m. I gave birth to my daughter, Molly Kate Ruddy. I was just hours shy of being 41 weeks pregnant, something I hadn’t expected at all. With my first two kids, I went into labor on their due dates and gave birth the next day. I was thinking the same might happen this time. I had been really afraid of going early because I wasn’t prepared so obviously I jinxed myself. Saturday the 9th and Sunday the 10th came and went without so much as a cramp.
Every night over the next week Nick and I had a last hurrah dinner with our kids. My hospital bag taunted me from the bench in my room. I started answering texts and emails and calls with, “nope, not in labor.” On Wednesday the 13th I had a biophysical and sonogram to check on the baby. She looked great and my fluid was good so my doctor was on board to let me forge on as planned (I did not want to be induced as I really wanted a drug-free birth). For the next few days I walked—outside, on the treadmill, at the mall—I ate spicy food, I nested, I spent a lot of time at the new Target near my house. I tried everything (yes, even that). It was a really strange week. I was bored, frustrated, confused and I couldn’t think about anything else. (I wrote this post about it.)
On Thursday, I went for yet another long walk with a friend. Later that night, Nick and I took the kids to a great dinner at a yummy local Italian restaurant and I ordered eggplant rollatini (not something I would normally eat but I’d heard eggplant could do the trick and I was getting desperate). I took one bite and I swear I had a contraction. We had an awesome dinner (yet another perfect last hurrah for our family of four), and that night things got started. Slowly. I had contractions throughout the night. They were strong enough that I had to sit up and occasionally get out of bed and onto the exercise ball, but not really painful or regular. I thought for sure when I woke up in the morning I’d be in full-blown labor. I was not. My sister, Meghan, who was my labor coach/confidant just as I’d been for her back in March (she had a 30-hour drug-free labor and delivery and was a total champ) came over and we went for a walk. Nada. So Nick, Nora and I went to Target to return some of my “where-the-eff-is-this-baby, I’m-just-gonna-buy-stupid-stuff” purchases then Nora and I went to a playdate with friends. All the while I was cramping but nothing bad at all. If I didn’t know I was in early labor I would have just thought I had a stomachache. I came home, put Nora down for a nap and showered. And I blew out my hair, just in case… (I blew out my hair almost every day that week—it gave me something to do and, yes, I’m a little vain).
To be honest, at this point I was starting to get worried. I wanted the baby out. I wanted to meet her and know that she was OK. And I was anxious about giving birth (one way to get more anxious about something is to put it off for a week). I started to feel like I couldn’t trust my body. Fortunately, one of my oldest and dearest friends is a doula who I was texting with during this time and she kept sending me positive, “your-body-knows-what-to-do” notes. Friday night the kids slept at my parents’ house because we thought we might be going to the hospital in the middle of the night. Nick and I dropped them off and picked up pizza (sure I was in early labor but a girl’s gotta eat). We watched a little TV and I got into bed around 8:30. At this point I’d barely slept in two days and with labor imminent (I’d hoped) I wanted some rest. But of course that night things ramped up again and I was hopping in and out of bed all night to walk through contractions and go to the bathroom and sit on the exercise ball. (My sister, Meghan, loved laboring on the exercise ball…I found it aiight but I was willing to try anything to keep me going). At around 3 a.m. the contractions slowed down and I fell asleep.
Again, I thought things would progress quickly when I woke up. They did not. Meghan came over again, we walked, I ate some toast with peanut butter. I felt fine. I was having mild contractions but nothing I couldn’t talk through. And they were far apart and totally irregular. So we decided to go to the kids’ soccer games. I stood on the sidelines for about an hour, chatted with the other parents, had a few mild contractions and enjoyed the gorgeous day. At this point my mother-in-law arrived from Michigan, a total Godsend. Now we not only had my parents on call, we had my mother-in-law staying with us. That afternoon I just lied around resting, watched a shitload of The Good Wife on Hulu (I just started the series and it was a good distraction) and having mild contractions. I took another hour-long walk with my sister. There was a full moon and she had me pose for a picture in front of it. We agreed it was a good day to have a baby. But it did not seem like she was coming any time soon….
They tell you to wait until contractions get close together—5 to 8 minutes—last about a minute and are intense enough that you can’t talk through them. Then you know you’re really in labor and you can go to the hospital. Well mine never got to that point. So when it came time to order dinner, I wanted in. (I was also ravenous from being in labor for what was now going on 48 hours). I stayed up in my room and ate a pretty big bowl of plain pasta, some nuts, some plain popcorn and cheese and crackers (I was seriously hungry). If I had been laboring in the hospital at this point I would have been on a strict ice-chip diet…another reason I wanted to stay at home as long as possible. I knew I might regret eating a lot of not-so-bland food (the pasta had garlic and olive oil) but I also had no idea when I would be having the baby and I needed the energy. In between bites I’d have contractions (and I’d pause The Good Wife so as not to miss anything). As far as labors go it was quite lovely.
I spent a little extra time saying goodnight to the kids that night and then retreated back to my room. At 8:30 I had the first contraction that took my breath away. “Intense” I scribbled next to the time on the little green post-it note I’d been half-heartedly recording things on. From there I had a few more intense contractions on and off, but still about 10 minutes apart. Meghan was at a restaurant with friends and asked me if she should come over (she didn’t want to go to dinner at all but I insisted). I hesitated. “Not sure,” my text read. “I’m pretty relaxed right now lying in bed. Just enjoy dinner and text me on your way home.” At 9:43 p.m. she checked in and I wrote: “Thinking maybe I should go in. Contractions are really painful. But still only about 10 minutes apart.” When she got here, we pulled everything together pretty quickly and headed to the hospital. At this point I still had no idea how far along I was. I suspected I might be close but I’d suspected that before and been wrong. I told Meghan and Nick that if I was only three centimeters, I may not make it. I was exhausted mentally and physically. When we pulled up in front of the ER (we had to go in that way since it was nighttime), I had a super strong contraction. But then I walked in and got myself registered. On the way up in the wheelchair (I really wanted to walk but they wouldn’t let me), I jumped out and had another. In between contractions, I was talking and walking—though I was definitely in the this-is-for-real zone.
The nurse who greeted us in labor and delivery immediately recognized us from seven months ago when our roles were reversed and we were doing the same thing with Meghan. She brought us into a room, I got undressed, went to the bathroom and had a swig of Gatorade (behind the nurse’s back since it’s not allowed). I had one more intense contraction during which Meghan told me to try to relax my shoulders (she had been very good about encouraging me to open up and stay relaxed and all that stuff). “I’m past the zen shit,” I said, “I’m gonna need to curse at this point.” (And I did.) The doctor on call came in and we chatted for a sec while the nurse set me up on the bed with the monitor to check the baby’s heartbeat (my beloved doc, who pretty much guaranteed he’d be there to deliver me had to be at a conference that day and was at that point driving through the Queens Midtown Tunnel). I felt a really strong contraction coming on, called Nick, squeezed his hand and…my water broke. I kind of freaked out because when that happened, I also felt the urge to push. Like for real. “OMG, what was that,” I said, “And I think I need to push, I think the baby is here,” I hadn’t even been checked yet! I had just walked in! They rolled me over, the doc felt my cervix and said there was a tiny rim left so not to push but we’d get ready.
Anyone who’s given birth this way knows that when you feel the urge to push there is almost no way to stop from pushing. But I had literally just read the part in The Birth Partner about why you don’t want to push if there’s still any cervix left undilated (it can swell the cervix and stall labor, among other things…no thanks). So the super awesome nurse looked at me and got me focused and helped me breathe through them. For two super-intense contractions I just breathed and resisted the overwhelming urge to push. It was torture, literally the hardest part of my whole experience. I dare say, the only real hard part. (Meghan and I later said we suspect that the reason they didn’t want me to push is not that I wasn’t ready but that they weren’t ready…which I totally understand seeing as I had just got there). While the nurse was getting me to focus and relax and bring my legs back and breathe, the doc was furiously arranging things so she could catch the baby. On the third contraction I begged to push, someone grabbed my legs, I took a deep breath and the baby was out in two pushes. As soon as I could push I felt great. I mean, it didn’t feel good but it felt like what I was supposed to be doing and I knew she was right there and it was seriously that easy. Two pushes. (I deserve this, by the way…I pushed Alex out for two and half hours!).
The second she was out and on my chest, all the pressure and discomfort was gone. That’s the coolest thing about a drug-free birth. You literally feel fine the second the baby is out. Also, I didn’t tear at all, which made a big difference. Huge difference with recovery. The whole room (it was just the doc, the awesome nurse, Meg, Nick and me) was stunned. We laughed. The doctor, who was great, texted my doc and said it was a drive-by birth. She also had me sign the consent form that I wanted to have my baby there. We laughed again! The nurse said she couldn’t believe how I walked in so nonchalantly she would never have thought I was about to give birth. She said it was 15 minutes from the moment I got into the delivery room to the moment the baby was out. I was shocked, too. I wanted to think I was close but after being a week late and laboring so mildly for two days, I knew anything was possible. And I didn’t want to jinx myself. Nick, who had lugged in the exercise ball and coconut water (fortunately I never had to drink that—yuck) and Gatorade and snacks, said: “Well, that was anticlimactic.” And it was. We seriously thought we were heading in so we could begin the tough part. But it was over. And it was so not that bad (the hardest part: those two contractions when I couldn’t push). We hung out in that room for over an hour. My mom and mother-in-law and sister, Melissa, came up, we chatted, we laughed at how shocked we still were, we took pictures. I nursed the baby so she could get some colostrum (I’m going back on my Gleevec this week so I won’t be breastfeeding). I got up and peed and put back on my regular clothes and we headed down the hall to maternity. And that was that.
For nine months I had been hoping to have a drug-free, empowered birth (one that felt like I was calling the shots, whatever those shots happened to be). It couldn’t have gone better and I am so happy that I listened to my body and let things unfold at their own (super slow) pace. It was my third birth experience and by far the best. And the easiest. I am so grateful to my sister, Meghan, who was so present and patient and a source of great comfort for me through the entire pregnancy but especially at the end. The birth only wound up lasting a few minutes but I was glad she got to be there for it!
Molly Kate is now five days old. She and I are both doing great. I have no pain, which is amazing (with Alex I had to do the sitz bath and sit on a donut for nearly six weeks!). I honestly have to remind myself I just gave birth so I don’t overdo it. Fortunately, my mother-in-law is still here so I have lots of help. I can’t imagine doing this without her (she’s snuggling the baby as I type this and will feed her while I take a quick nap—heaven). I am a lucky girl.
Thank you to everyone who has followed along with my pregnancy, sent prayers and well wishes and support. I truly feel the love and we are so so so happy Molly is finally here. Finally! Oh, and the best part about the birth experience: I never have to do it again!!! (I actually said that moments after she came out—I may have had a great experience this time but make no mistake, giving birth is hard work and I am done. Snip, snip!)
Thanks for posting this so quickly! It made my day! I love birth stories as well and I used to hate on Project Pregnancy when it would take weeks for someone to post. I get it, but it still annoyed me I couldn’t wait to hear yours when I saw your FB post! I actually had a friend deliver in her bedroom with only her husband there earlier this year, because literally within 10 minutes she went from, “We’re fine” to “Holy cow, this is happening here!” Glad you didn’t have to do that! I wish my body was as cooperative as yours. Even though I don’t think I could have done a drug-free birth, I ended up being induced both times because my water broke and contractions weren’t starting quickly enough. Plus both my kids came out transverse which made things that much worse. I cut the pushing time in half the second time, though! Anyway, congrats and enjoy the tiny baby time
Aww, congratulations!! That sounds like everything I want for my third birth (five months to go!). Minus the overdue part, I suppose:)
Congratulations! What a little beauty – love her name. She looks so, so peaceful. And you look fantastic. I love birth stories. My daughter is already 18 months old and I STILL have not written down her birth story (luckily I remember each and every detail so recording it should be easy). Reading yours is reminding me to write mine.
Congrats Erin! I’ve been wondering about you since it’s been a while since you blogged, but was so happy to see this in my reader. Glad to hear you had such an awesome birth experience, and welcome to Molly!
Congrats to you! Welcome Molly!
I kept checking in to see and was so surprised today to read the full story. Love baby stories. My first my water broke at 1pm. I got to the hospital at 3pm and he was born at 8pm. No drugs. Natural! My second I woke up to a pink show at 10am showered, walked, contractions 5 mins apart. Got to the hospital at noon and she was born at 1:19pm. Easy peasy no drugs… natural. No drugs no epidural… zero. It amazing how you feel afterwards. Ready to go home as soon as I showered with both.
So glad you had that experience as well! Best to you and your family!