This is the account of Ruby's birth that I wrote a week ago, at the hospital on the day she was born:
It all began on Monday, June 5th. I woke up to minor, consistent contractions that continued for an hour or so before petering out. When they began, I was completely dual minded. On the one hand, who wants contractions that don’t lead to a baby? On the other, my mom wasn’t going to arrive for another 10 days and I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone with an early delivery. I made pancakes for the kids, sent Luke off to work, and then plopped down on my rocker recliner and pouted. Then I started having strong, inconsistent contractions. Timing them just made me angry, so I stopped. “Stop trying to make labor a thing, Marlee,” I told myself, “It’s not happening.”
By all accounts, Monday should have been a miserable day of minor pain and major sucking-it-up, but my friend, Polly, came to the rescue. Armed with double strollers, we walked for a bit together – not so much to induce labor as to just get some of my angry energy out and talk about birth. Anyone who is full term knows these inclinations well. I had a few more strong contractions, but again, inconsistent and short-lived. When we returned to my house, she insisted that I lay down and rest, which I did and took a much-needed nap. I woke up with no more signs of labor, but with a renewed lease on life. That had been false labor, we concluded. Productive, probably, but it was gone and it was for the best. I needed to think of the timing, after all. It simply wouldn’t do to have a baby two weeks early. I wasn’t ready and it wasn’t the plan.
My beloved husband came home after a day of many inquisitive texts and calls. He knew that I was exhausted and totally done with being a functioning human after a day of involuntarily working out my abs and making and abandoning plans. He did a family night lesson with the kids where he talked to them about how the new baby was coming soon and they needed to be extra good helpers and listeners. Ivy was all about that, while June was only prompted to help and listen when she was promised a stovetop s'more as recompense. He explained to Ivy and June that when the baby came, they would stay with grandma or, in the event that the baby came early, they would spend the day and night at their friends’ Grant and Laurel’s house. Ivy was thrilled with either contingency. I soaked in the bath for a while before laying in bed. I felt all day like a heavily pregnant barn cat, moving from place to place, irritable and edgy, never satisfied or comfortable. Luke and I tried to watch a movie but I couldn’t sit still and I went back to bed. At around 10:30, the contractions started up again and I tried to sleep through them. By 11, I was back downstairs with my contraction counting app and miserably inputting data that I was certain would lead nowhere. I kept telling myself that I was two weeks before my due date. I kept reminding myself of those nights I used to stay up tracking contractions when I was pregnant with William, only to wake up the next morning, phone in hand, no labor in sight.
I called Kristen and talked to her until I couldn’t talk comfortably through the contractions. They hurt, but were they real? I called Polly and the nurse at the naval hospital where I would be delivering. They both said the same thing – “GO.” So Polly came over to sleep on my couch at 2 in the morning (I did mention that she's the best, right?) and I hastily packed a bag and roused Luke. As we drove, I talked to my mom and tracked contractions. With each one, I could feel a deeper pain and I felt confident that I had made the right call. Then about 15 minutes away from the hospital, the contractions rapidly slowed down, but their intensity increased. I was so confused and frustrated. When we arrived, at around 3:15, and they began to monitor me, it took at least 10 minutes for a contraction to even occur and register. I was in so much pain during each one, but this wasn’t what active labor looked like to me. After 20 minutes, they checked to see how much progress I had made. I wouldn’t have been surprised with a “sorry, you aren’t dilated much and you haven’t had many contractions, so you need to go home/walk around/go cry in your car.” I was ready to do at least one of those things. But surprisingly, the nurse said I was at a 5 or 6, and she would check with the doctor, but she was fairly certain they would admit me. I was shocked on both counts – to be that dilated and that I wouldn’t get admitted right away. I focused my energy on breathing through the contractions, which were still only 10-15 minutes apart. They hurt like the dickens, but I was curious about what the doctor would say. About 20 minutes later, he checked me and said that I was at an 8 and probably wouldn’t be able to get an epidural.
I had had so many surprises up to this point, it almost didn’t register, but I was absolutely exhausted and asked for the anesthesiologist to be called. Literally, called at his house, since he wasn’t currently on the premises. Luckily, he lives on the naval base, so there was at least a chance he would make it. As they walked me to the delivery room, it finally hit me that I was really going to have this baby today. A full 11 days before her due date. As I was powering my way through contractions, getting an IV and signing papers, the epidural man came. I love that man.
The last part of labor was considerably more calm and I could finally realize how tired I was. But no time for that! I felt the gentle pop of my water breaking and it was time to push. Two hours after we arrived at the hospital, she was born. Her first cry was short lived as they placed her on my chest. She was so purple, but soon turned into a rosy pink that every nurse and doctor has noted.
I will forever be indebted to my friend, Stephanie, for taking the kids with very little notice and even less preparation on my part. I had every intention of gathering up clothes, favorite toys, snacks...and none of that happened. She makes taking care of two five-year-olds, two three-year-olds, and an almost two-year old look easy, and we all know it is NOT. She is my hero.
As I contemplate the events of today, I am just filled with gratitude. For a healthy baby, amazing labor and delivery, friends who love my children when I am unable to, and all the events that lead me to this ridiculous moment. She is already so loved by so many.
And now, a week later, we are adjusting to a new little baby in the house. Ivy, who asks me for the baby every 10 minutes, comes up with new pet names for her daily - today is was "Sweet Bun," "Flower Sugar" and "Lovey Girl." June, who wants to hold her about every 1.5 days, is more temperate with her affection, but I can tell she will be an intensely loyal big sister. William will walk up and demand that I give him the baby, only to shove her away a second later. He has been very soft and nice to her, though, and doesn't seem to be feeling the pangs of jealousy that I worried would befall him.
My friend, Rachele, took these beautiful pictures for me. She was so patient with my wiggly, ever-starving baby and I will treasure these pictures forever.
My mom arrived today and I am so excited to have her here to love my FOUR children. Life is so good.