It in the spirit of catching up, there is a story that needs telling. Though it is not mine to tell, I will do my best. It’s not mine to tell, because it’s Ruth’s, but every story needs a storyteller, and humbly, I take on the task.
And each story has a hero, or in this case, a heroine. This story has Ruth.
Ruth and I met about six years ago after she had a cesarean for the breech birth of her son Nate. Our bond grew closer over the years with 5 pregnancies each, but only two live births a peace, and the grief that we supported each other through. For her part, Ruth had deeply desired a drug free, natural, normal birth as much for herself as for women in the future to whom she would tend as a doula. How can you encourage a woman through her epidural- and pain medication-free birth if you have no idea how she really feels? You can, but it’s hard to do it without feeling like a hypocrite. She had been successful at a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC), but having learned in early labor with her 4th full term pregnancy that her baby Rhys’s tiny heart had stopped beating, she did exactly what most of us, certainly I, would have done; she accepted relief for her physical pain, an epidural. Surely it would do nothing to touch the pain that the weeks, months and years to come would hold.
She became pregnant again, and little Autumn was born, of necessity, by cesarean. Her heart had begun to show irregularities, and after losing Rhys, no chances were being taken. A cord wound twice around her neck in the womb showed the wisdom of her mode of birth. Still, needed as it had been, and thrilled as she was to have her healthy girl safe in her arms, Ruth’s heart still had a door that had never been unlocked. It seemed she might never know what it could be to consciously birth.
Fast forward to mid November just two months ago, as Ruth awaited the birth of a baby boy. His name already chosen, all tests showed baby Gabriel to be healthy. But signs began to indicate that his placenta was aging too rapidly; he needed to be born soon. Ruth had asked me to attend her birth, which I agreed to do though it would break all my own rules. I had a small nursling, little Natalie, only five months old. And I had yet to regain my own health and strength after our year of trials. But this was Ruth, one of my dearest friends. Of course, I agreed.
Ruth called one afternoon to let me know an induction was to begin that day, a Friday. Because of the two cesareans quite literally under her belt, care would need to be taken to prevent a rupture. Induction drugs would be used, but at only very low doses.
Friday became Saturday, and though true labor had not really begun, Ruth needed me to come, so I did. I knew I would have to bring Natalie, but Ruth’s sweet papa took her easily and cared for her at times so that I could tend to Ruth. We struggled through the day and night, and yet another day. Emotions ran high for Ruth, and frustration was constant because of the reluctance of her body to "kick in". I packed Natalie on my back when needed, and we worked into that third night with labor at last in full swing. It was Adam’s birthday, and my heart ached to miss it. It is the dilemma of everyone who tends to mothers in birth; when the needs of the mother collide with those of our own children.
Ruth’s mama and daughter came, and Ruth worked as only a mother who has labored in full feeling can begin to understand. Steve, her sweetie, tended her heart and whispered support gently in her ear. Slow and steady progress having been made throughout that third night, Ruth finally went into transition, and in a sudden and surprising turn of events, her body sprinted the last lap, her baby coming in a rush of just a few minutes.
Gabriel Alexander was born November 25th, at 2:51AM, weighing a hefty 9 lbs 14 oz. Just as she had hoped she would, Ruth welcomed her baby into the world fully present in body and heart. Though she had delivered a live baby, Autumn, after her stillborn, baby Gabriel was still a “rainbow baby”. He fulfilled a longtime dream for her, being born into her arms without anything to dampen or muffle her experience. He was her fifth living, sixth born child from her ninth pregnancy, but the first baby she actually felt being born. Her body performed its task beautifully, and the ripples in the pond of her heart, having had this experience, will continue on and on as she takes both what she learned, and the healing and confidence it has given her, to use for a blessing in the births of every woman she will tend to for the rest of her life.
Welcome Baby Gabriel.
It was a privilege seeing you take your first breath, and a greater one still to witness the courage of your amazing mama.
(and you also broke my record for longest birth attended...41 hours!)