It’s taken me almost a year to write this.
I have been avoiding the pinned tab with this Google Doc for months (11, to be exact) because my labor and delivery was unexpectedly traumatizing and emotional. It’s been difficult to muster up the energy to write it all down.
Disclaimer: I’m 1000% certain that I don’t have all of the medical terminology correct here. Also, this is all based on what Tyler and I remember and a very lengthy and loopy text I sent to my best friends a couple days after I gave birth. I apologize if any of the details are hazy.
Secondary disclaimer: If you don’t care about birth stories, don’t read this. It’s long, semi graphic, and truly only for other moms or people who actually care about the logistical details surrounding childbirth. It’s also for me. And Charlotte.
Anyway, back to the story.
My whole pregnancy I had prepared myself for Charlotte to come late. Her due date was October 27th, so I figured she would either arrive on Halloween–my least favorite holiday–or precisely two weeks late.
Up until the morning of my due date, I hadn’t let myself get to the point where I was anxious or impatient. I somehow remained very calm about the whole thing.
As a reminder, I also wasn’t too worked up about a birth plan. I even wrote in a blog post on my due date that I didn’t have anything very specific in mind, just that I wanted an epidural and for her to get here safely.
As the due date–a Saturday–rolled by without leaving any indication that our girl was ready to join us, Tyler and I put our energy into long walks, breakfast burritos on the beach, and fun dinner date nights.
As the weekend progressed, I start to feel a rising tide of nerves and did my best to squash my growing feelings of impatience. My doctor had let us know that he was leaving town the following Thursday and wouldn’t be able to deliver Charlotte if she came any time past that day.
The more days passed without signs of labor, the more and more I began to feel NOT OK with Dr. Cobb not being there for her birth.
That Monday morning, two days past my due date, we went to the doctor where I blithely requested a cervix check and membrane sweep, please.
Dr. Cobb’s partner tried to check my cervix but couldn’t even reach it, which meant that my body was nowhere near ready, I quickly learned.
We went home that day and I catapulted myself into every wife’s tale about labor inducement I could find: pineapple, dates, bouncing on an exercise ball, long walks, level 8 Thai food.
I was a mad woman, and I NEEDED to have this baby before Thursday morning at 5am (I finally broke Dr. Cobb down into telling me what time he needed to leave for the airport for his precious vacation).
A couple more days passed, and I’m sure you can imagine the lengths Tyler went to keep me calm. I of course was experiencing Braxton Hicks but hadn’t had one single “real” contraction yet.
Finally, on Wednesday morning at 5am, I woke up to go to the bathroom (every hour, on the hour, the whole pregnancy). As I rolled–literally–out of bed I felt a rush of water that at first registered as urine but very quickly and excitedly corrected to my water breaking!!
I sprinted to the bathroom, leaking all over our floor. I looked down and realized I had also lost my mucus plug which both delighted and disgusted me.
I yelled for Tyler and he shot out of bed faster than he does when he has a black widow nightmare. I told him that my water had broken and had to repeat myself four times before he finally processed it.
He said “Ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok what do we do!!” I started the shower and asked him to clean up the floor while I called Dr. Cobb.
Dr. Cobb, groggy and possibly miffed that I hadn’t waited to call him until I reached his “411” rule (contractions every four minutes, lasting one minute, for an hour), sounded a little surprised that my water had broken without any contractions yet. He told me to keep an eye out for contractions and track them when they did start rolling in. He said “Ok keep me updated and I’ll call you if I don’t hear from you in 12 days. I mean 12 hours,” which was hysterical to me at the time.
Tyler launched into his signature hyper productive mode and made us a green smoothie, washed the sheets per my request, took out the trash, and cleaned all the counters.
Freshly showered, I waltzed around my room putting the finishing touches on my hospital bag. I even journaled for a few minutes!
I laughed at the irony of going into labor on Halloween, just as I knew my luck would somehow arrange it. At least she was officially on her way now!
Soon enough I started to feel some contractions, but they were very inconsistent which confused us both. Some lasted thirty seconds and some lasted two minutes. I’d have ten minutes to rest between some, and others would return within three or four minutes.
The morning continued like this with contractions gaining more and more momentum but still never really settling into a consistent groove like Dr. Cobb had advised they would.
We finally decided to go to the hospital at 11:30am. My contractions were still all over the place-some every five minutes and others every two minutes–but since my water had been broken for 6 hours I felt like I needed to head in that direction (I learned over the course of that day that you have around 24 hours after your water breaks before they start to worry about a possible infection).
My mom, Tyler, and I made our way to the 5th floor, and I shimmied over to the check-in desk where I proudly announced that I was in labor and could someone help me get settled.
The triage nurse tried to check my cervix but wasn’t able to reach it. I couldn’t believe it! She said, “Honey you aren’t dilated at all, I’m sorry.” Since my water had broken and my contractions were rolling in even faster, they admitted me anyway.
We got settled into my room and my dad and little sister showed up ready to party. I think they were a little disappointed when I told them that, no, the baby was not coming anytime soon.
Dr. Cobb came by to check on me a couple hours later and discuss our options. He checked me and my cervix was dilated to 1 cm. Lol.
Now, Dr. Cobb is a little hippy, you know? He’s all about letting the body working its way towards delivery in its own time, blah blah blah.
But in that moment, he suggested putting me on Pitocin to try to move things along. It had been 9 hours since my water broke at that point so he wanted to make sure we weren’t in danger of going over the 24 hour mark.
I asked him if he thought I’d deliver before he had to leave for the airport in the morning. He laughed and said he hoped so. I very seriously told him that I had all but willed this baby to arrive before he left so could we just all try to make this happen.
They started me on Pitocin and I tried to relax. My dad and Miriam left to go see “Free Solo” at a movie theater nearby to kill time. (a baffling choice–I remember just be an angel to be around).
As the Pitocin set in, my contractions started getting more intense. I stood up to try to relieve some pain. My nurse happened to be in the room when I did that and noticed that the monitor had lost Charlotte’s heartbeat.
She sat me back down immediately and called for some more nurses to come in. They laid me down, put me on oxygen, and flipped me back and forth on the bed trying to find her heartbeat.
I don’t remember how long they lost it for but I do remember it felt WAY too long. The oxygen machine was really loud so I couldn’t hear what they were saying, so I just stared at Tyler wide-eyed, silently begging him to make everything okay.
They finally found her heartbeat again and stopped the Pitocin right away.
My mom–who had given birth to my stillborn brother David almost 28 years ago to the day–had to leave the room. Tyler came over to me, let two small tears roll down his face, and told me that she was alright and everything was going to be fine.
After that, I decided to ask for my epidural because the contractions were getting a little excessive for my taste and I was beginning to realize it was going to be a very, very long day.
The anesthesiologist arrived and for reasons that can only be attributed to the overarching theme of my birth story, it took him four pokes to find the right spot. It was HORRIBLE.
Well after the amount of time they tell you to wait for the drugs to kick in, I was still feeling every contraction. I could even still feel my catheter which was so uncomfortable on top of everything.
The anesthesiologist came back in after an hour or so and said, “I don’t know why but this isn’t working. We have to redo it.” My heart sank, and I burst into tears.
I was so scared to have him poking around back there again so I started shaking and couldn’t stop. Tyler and the nurse had to hold me while he put the epidural back in (took him several tries again, not kidding!!).
The second epidural did work (for the most part), so I was able to calm down after that.
When the nurse came in to check my cervix at 7pm that evening, I was only at 3cm. After the day we’d had so far, I was SO discouraged.
She and Dr. Cobb decided to wait a few more hours to start the Pitocin again because Charlotte’s heart rate and both of our blood pressures were all over the place.
Finally at 9:30pm, they felt comfortable starting it up again.
We all tried to get a little sleep after that, but about an hour later I woke up to a bunch of nurses rushing in to try to get the baby’s heart rate under control again.
More oxygen, more tears, more confusion. They gave me a shot of terbutaline to try to get Charlotte’s heart rate up which made me shake violently. It was so scary.
They stopped the Pitocin again. I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea of a c-section when they nurse checked me and told me I had gone from a 3 to a 10 in the last hour!
Our nurse and Dr. Cobb wanted me to “labor down” for a while before I started pushing. I tried to rest but could still feel every contraction, so I was pretty uncomfortable.
Then it was time to start pushing. I remember thinking, “Ok no problem, she’ll be out in five minutes! All of my hours of Bar Method are about to pay off.”
I pushed for an hour and a half.
I had my mom on one side of me, Tyler on the other, our nurse in front coaching me through every contraction, and Miriam on the couch in the corner of the room DJ-ing.
My nurse didn’t seem too impressed with my pushing skills, and Charlotte’s heart rate was still dropping during every contraction, so she called Dr. Cobb in.
Dr. Cobb came in at 3:30am, and the energy in the room totally changed. Think Jim Harbough in the fourth quarter but in the best way possible.
At first I was really scared because a bunch of people from the NICU and a respiratory nurse came in with him, just in case, but I didn’t have time to dwell.
He said calmly, but quickly, “Ok Ruth I really want to get her out as soon as we can, so let’s try pushing a few times. If I can’t get her I’m going to use the vacuum.”
After briefly voicing my concerns about giving the baby a cone head with the vacuum, we went to work. I pushed three times with Dr. Cobb when he pulled out the vacuum both to my relief and despair.
I closed my eyes and let out a half-hearted scream–because, ouch!!–while I pushed with the vacuum.
In one motion, Dr. Cobb pulled Charlotte out, unwrapped the umbilical cord from around her neck, and THREW her on me. My eyes were still closed when she landed on my chest, and I immediately burst into tears.
It’s hard to even describe that moment. I have never felt such a rush of emotions and exhaustion and relief and raw joy as when I held her for the first time.
She was crying, and for some reason I just kept saying “you’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay.” I looked over at Tyler and he was bawling. The whole thing was just so insane.
It only took a couple of minutes to check her vitals–still on my chest, thank goodness–and they cleared her and said she was totally fine. The cord around her neck had caused all of the decelerations in her heart rate but she was totally fine once she was out.
The first thing I noticed was her dark brown hair, a true curveball! And the second thing I noticed was her hands–they were huge!!
My mom made it over to my side and was crying. Miriam took a few pictures but had to sit down so as not to faint at the accidental sighting of my placenta coming out.
My dad came in, and then Tyler’s mom. Everyone cried. And Char was so sweet.
Dr. Cobb was busy stitching me up (I don’t want to talk about it lol), and it hurt so bad. I tried to distract myself by making jokes about feeling unprepared to raise a brunette. But it was taking him way too long to finish stitching, so suddenly I snapped and said, “EVERYONE OUT!”
And all our parents and Mir drove home and crashed for the night.
The next couple of hours were heaven. As long as I live, it will be impossible to beat those first quiet and surreal moments as a new family.
Charlotte and I had our golden hour which sort of turned into two hours. She nursed right away and was so peaceful.
Then Tyler held her on his chest for a long time too. Watching him hold her, finally, after nine months of taking care of me and rubbing my belly, was something I’ll never, ever forget.
After such a long, emotional, and tiring day, we finally had our healthy, beautiful baby in our arms.
I have to say that Charlotte’s timing was impeccable. She arrived at 3:37am on November 1, 2018: 3 hours after Halloween and 2 hours before Dr. Cobb had to leave for the airport.
She weighed 9 lbs and 2 oz and was 20 inches long, a size that made me feel much better about not being able to push her out swiftly and athletically like I had imagined.
I was (and am) so thankful that Charlotte was safe and healthy. Giving birth to a healthy baby is something I count as the biggest and most profound blessing of my life.
I can’t believe how fast the months have flown since then (as they all say), and we are so enamored with our girl. I’ll cherish the story of her forever.