Just for some context, here’s Ruby’s birth story. The pregnancies and births couldn’t have been more different and yet in each one, there was profound love, grace and power.
So last Thursday, the 17th, I had my NST(non-stress test) appointment and then was supposed to have an OB checkup. Ajax took Thursday off because he just had a feeling he’d need to. At my last few NST appointments (I was going in twice weekly to check Emme’s heart rate), my own blood pressure had been high, particularly for me. I’m usually 116/75 or so, but in the last weeks of my pregnancy it was up to 145/85… And last Thursday it was 160/85. The nurse sent us straight to the perinatologist who recommended we be induced that afternoon.
Cue us rushing home and packing our bags in a frenzy! Luckily my mom was able to pick Ben’s mom up at the airport and my Pops came to hang out with Ruby.We got all packed and sat down to say goodbye to Ruby… which is when I discovered she had a fever of 100.5. Oh my mama heart didn’t deal with that well at all. One baby sick, another one needing to come out and be healed. Leaving was hard. Our big girl, our sweet little Duckie was staring at us out the window, no big grins or giggles like we usually get. Just big wide eyes.
We ran to Vons for snacks, which was oddly akin to a pre-Burning Man Reno run. We had the best intentions of getting “good” food, but came with PopTarts and pretzels… Then zip off to Kaiser for our 1 pm appointment.
The first doctor came in to check me around 2 and I wasn’t really dilated at all. Or effaced, meaning the cervix wasn’t thinning out at all. And Emme wasn’t at zero station, meaning she still needed to get her head down a bit. They warned us that inducing from basically nothing could take 24-48 hours. Oy. Then they started the induction. First they inserted a Foley balloon into my cervix and inflated it to 3.5 or cm. Then they tugged at it to put pressure on the cervix. And yes, that was as lovely as you’d imagine it would be. That was around 3:30 and they again warned us it would take up to 12 hours for it to pop out. But the basic idea was to get my cervix thinned out and open to at least 4 cm before starting pitocin. So we hung out and waited.
Our amazing doula Sada Simran came in and chatted with us, helped us navigate all the hospital jargon and equipment. By about 8 or so it was evident we’d need to hunker down and get some sleep so she went home and Ajax and I tried to sleep. And we actually did doze, but surprise – the Foley balloon popped out at 9:30 – six hours earlier than expected! I took that as a good sign. The contractions definitely picked up after that, though they weren’t regular…
The docs came in to check me around 11 and started pitocin then – the lowest dose possible. I love Kaiser for this reason – they are very conservative in their use of interventions. The pitocin pretty much kicked in right away and the contractions got very regular – every 2 minutes I had a 30 second contraction. I was so grateful for how short the contractions were because I could really wrap my head around doing something for 30 seconds. My yoga practice, particularly the keep-up exercises we do in prenatal yoga, really helped with this.
Over the course of the night I dozed and occasionally the contractions would kick up a notch and wake me up. With each one I pictured Emme and I in the ocean and I’d say to her “here comes another wave, just ride the wave with me” and I’d breathe through it. From about midnight to 5 I was half-awake and doing that. Ajax was mostly asleep and I really was enjoying the experience of labor. Really. It was magical and quiet and reflective.
Then my water broke and things got real. :D Just like with Ruby, I was laying on my side and felt this giant POP. It woke me up but I wasn’t sure that’s what it was until the nurse checked me and hello GUSH of water! That was around 5:30 or 6. Ajax called Sada Simran to come back. The contractions definitely got harder then, but still at that same pace: every two minutes for 30 seconds. I can do anything for 30 seconds. Anyone can. Try it.
Once we got to this stage of labor, though, I needed to go deeper than just riding waves in the ocean. I was vocalizing in this deep low voice, moving the energy down down down around Emme, helping her to get down lower. I could feel, and the docs confirmed, she was still a bit high up, so I used each contraction to help her release any fears and move down, down, down into the birth canal.
By the time Sada Simran got back (around 7?), I was deep in this other world. I was able to doze between contractions but each contraction got more intense and I was incredibly aware when my 2 minute break was up and had to psych myself up to go deep inside, into faith, rather up and out to fear. I told myself that it whatever sensation came, it was just a sensation – it was up to me to ascribe to it a name. If I chose “pain” it would be painful. If I chose “love” it would be powerful. I chose love.
There is a video of a home birthing midwife in Mexico that I’ve seen probably 25 times, thanks to my job at Golden Bridge. The mom, deep in labor, described each contraction as “love bursting through” and as I moved into that last stage of labor, that phrase was all I could think or say, when I could talk. Emme Mabel Valentine, my universally lovable love, was bursting through.
With Ruby’s birth, the pushing had been the hardest part. I was terrified and sure I’d not done enough walking/yoga/perineal massage to get her out. Which then turned into being terrified I’d be the worst mother ever, that I’d screwed up before she’d even been born. I went so deeply to that place of fear and worry and self-doubt that I paused my labor. And my midwife literally smacked me on the ass and yelled “Get out of your head!” LOL.
With Emme, I knew I could do it. Even though I’d barely walked, hadn’t made it to yoga in a month and did zero perineal massage. I knew that I couldn’t afford to think like that, and that I could push her out. Because I knew that I was connected to Emme and to the experience we were having together in a way that I didn’t with Ruby. I could literally feel her head enter the birth canal, feel her shoulders pressing through, feel her feet leave my uterus. It was magic. It was hard. When she crowned I was sure I had to poop and the was yelling at the doc to let me poop. Then she had my shift my hips and I yelled “That’s not poop, that’s a HEAD!!!!” Oh birth… so glamourous.
I pushed her out in 5 or 6 sets of 3 hard pushes each. The ring of fire is no joke people. I didn’t feel it with Ruby because Sada Simran poured half a bottle of olive oil on my perineum and my midwife was expert at helping me not tear. This time I tore. I didn’t care. I felt Emme’s head and it gave me the motivation to get her the rest of the way out.
She came out with a gush and a rush, purply-pink, slimy and squalling, as newborns should. I grabbed her, kissed her vernix-y head, told her I loved her and was proud of her and then let her go.
Hardest thing ever to get her go to the NICU staff, but they kept her in the room until my placenta was delivered so I could watch her as they cleaned her off, measured her and suctioned out her nose and mouth. Then she and Ajax went to NICU and I recovered as best as possible.
Emme’s birth was by far the most powerful experience of my life. As was Ruby’s. Both so different.
Both girls, already so different and yet both the loves of my life.