Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Baby Ruby: My Birth Story

What are some defining characteristics about my birth story? I think to myself, as my legs tremble slightly and a rush of heat glides across my cheeks and forehead. The muscles in my abdomen tighten, as I glance down at my now much flatter stomach. A deep surge of pain radiates through my lower right side, and I’m reminded of my surgery – being hoisted onto a brightly lit operating table, with a huge team of medical personnel poised for action, focused and attentive, as my family practitioner facilitated each cut, each movement, and extremely quick extraction of my baby girl from my womb.

Pressure, they said I’d feel pressure and no pain. The surgeons and nurses briefed me, in what felt like seconds, on what I could expect as I was wheeled into the operating room. It was an emergency C-section, and my situation had just bumped the lady who had been waiting to go into surgery before me. In less than 30 minutes from start to finish, I heard baby Ruby’s first loud cry – as if Heaven and Hell were being shaken, and watched as she was immediately carried to a warm baby incubator station to my left. Whisked over to her by a nurse, Ken observed as Ruby was cleaned and suctioned, and got to help cut her umbilical cord.

Without delay, she was brought to me for a moment, and I started crying. Ruby is so beautiful, I whispered, as I fought to control my emotions.

Shaking, I couldn’t stop shaking. A sweet nurse clutched my hands as I said good-bye to Ken and baby Ruby, who were then taken to the recovery room, while my body was sown back up. My eyes caught a flash of light reflecting off the mirror above my head and I could just barely make out the scene taking place below the giant blue wall of sterile curtains.

I cringed, and looked away.

“Water, I need water!” I begged the hospital staff, as multiple blue-coated, facemask-donned workers passed to my right and left.

“You must wait, I’m so sorry,” each person replied, as I became increasingly agitated and desperate.

“I’m going to throw up. I feel so sick. Please just a drop,” I instinctively bellowed, in a Hail Mary attempt to gain access to any form of hydration.

I instantly started dry heaving, as my body went into shock, while a nurse grabbed me a small plastic container to catch throw up. My stomach was completely empty, except for a few small drops of saliva. Those were now in the plastic container.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Thoughts swirled above me, caught up in the mix of incredibly white fluorescent light shining on my face. Unsure if I was dreaming or delirious, I thought back over the last 24 hours.

Just yesterday, I had checked into the hospital as a labor induction. Baby girl was nearly two weeks past due and at my doctor’s urging, along with a peace that it was time to ‘get things moving along,’ my husband, my friend Alisa, and my mother-in-law accompanied me, as I prepared for what I hoped would only take the day. The doctors were aware of my desire to move through labor as “naturally” as possible. I had met with them for the past 9+months and they understand how earnestly I desired a normal, vaginal birth for baby girl. Because of that, my Doctor began by breaking my water at 10 a.m. in hopes of getting contractions going. By 2 p.m., I was still only dilated to about 3 cm, so I was given my first IV and slowly fed Pitocin, which mimics the body’s Oxytocin hormone, and hooked up to an electric baby-monitoring device. My pain gradually intensified although by the evening, I still had not dilated any further. My Doctor then inserted a contraction monitor into my uterus, to pinpoint the strength of each contraction. By using that device, the nurses were able to up my Pitocin level to a higher level.

My pain continued to grow, as I moved through contractions 1 ½ to 2 minutes apart that registered as ‘very strong’ on the monitor.

This really hurts, I thought multiple times, as I focused on breathing and relaxation techniques, exercise, and rest. By early morning, I was only about 5 cm dilated with a fever rising from an infection now plaguing my body. Since my water was broken so early the previous day, bacteria got inside my uterus and was making it harder for baby girl to be comfortable and safe. Multiple times, the nurses asked me to breathe into an oxygen mask, hoping to assist my baby through the stress of labor. Her heart rate would drop intermittently, in spurts, and that completely freaked me out.

My desire to labor naturally quickly diminished after realizing that baby girl was not coming out. Something was wrong, and I was scared for her. I needed to protect my precious little girl, and at the bidding of the night nurse, I finally decided to get an epidural in hopes of relaxing my body enough to continue dilating. Those few hours of relief from the intense pain allowed me a few short moments of rest and quiet. Ken held me in bed, as I questioned what was going on with my body. I cried out to God and asked Him to please keep my baby safe, at all costs. I was willing to do anything.

A few hours later, my Doctor came in to consult with me. It was a little past 7 a.m. and I still had not gained any ground in dilating. My body was exhausted; I was feverish, and unable to move through the labor process.

I broke down crying - those sobbing, hysterical cries that reflected the intense disappointment deep within my heart. Failed expectations. Grief over what I could not control. Fear over what comes next.

“Yes,” I resolved, giving all I that I had left to say those words. “I will do whatever it takes to get baby girl out safely. I’m ready for a C-section.”


It’s been a little over a week since my beautiful baby girl Ruby greeted this world. Every day I feel stronger, and better able to work through my feelings about how things went while at the hospital.

My battle scars are slowly fading, as I trace the outline of three separate IV sites on my left arm, place my fingers on the remaining surgical tape below my belly, and wean myself off my prescription narcotics for pain. I spent six days in the hospital, as both baby girl and I underwent rounds of antibiotics. At one point, my initial infection seemed under control and then suddenly I had another separate infection. My Doctor put me on three different antibiotics and ran all different tests to rule out other causes. It was all very uncomfortable.

But I can say without any doubt in my mind that my baby was worth fighting for. Everything I experienced, in labor and post-delivery, paled in comparison to the incredible joy of holding the most beautiful child in my arms. Nursing her and cuddling her, and speaking words of life over her. Her delicate features are breathtaking. Ruby’s soft, delicate skin and her long eyelashes. Her medium brown hair and grayish-blue eyes. Her ever-changing facial expressions. The way she immediately responded to my voice that first time, and every subsequent time, when I’ve tried to comfort her.

Pain took on a completely new meaning for me through the birth of my baby. I didn’t get the ‘picture-perfect’, Pinterest-worthy birthing process that I so earnestly longed for. All the natural birthing books that I diligently read and studied, didn’t apply when I had to make the decision to have a C-section. Likewise, all the stories from other women about how they navigated their own labor, faded into the background, as I walked through my very own story of labor and delivery.

And this is how it had to be.

These past couple weeks, I’ve grown in ways that I can’t easily describe. God walked with me through some of my deepest fears and I came out on the other side. Stronger and better equipped, perhaps, to handle setbacks – believing in faith that God knows what’s best for me. Although I’m still struggling to do many of the normal tasks that many mothers are able to do right away (such as driving, lifting more than 10lbs, cooking, cleaning), I want to give myself extra grace in that I’m recovering from major surgery.

My body and my heart are healing. And that’s OK.

I’ve been blessed more than I could ever imagine with the gift of stewarding a little human. Baby Ruby is a treasure, an example of God’s rich love for me. She is healthy and strong, and full of life. I praise God for her, and for the unique story of her birth.

My hope is that Ruby will grow to recognize that there is hidden beauty in unmet expectations, and that life is worth fighting for.

I fought for her, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.


  1. Our mutual friend Sarah shared your story with me because she had also shared my birth story with you. So I just wanted to say, "Hi," and that Ruby is lucky to have a brave mama like you. The idea of searching for beauty in unmet expectations is powerful; I'm going to be thinking about that one for days.

    1. Thanks Lydia! I really enjoyed reading your birth story and continue to enjoy following your blog. I feel like we are kindred spirits, although I am one of the few who still enjoys writing handwritten letters. ;) Thanks so much for your sweet and thoughtful comment and perhaps I will see you at Sarah's wedding? Best, Maile