Like every family that has been created, our birth story is very personal.  Whether you’re a couple, a single mom or adoptive parents, if you have children, we all have lived through a story of chaos and beauty in creating our families.  Despite how much our experience felt like a nightmare, I also know we’re very lucky.  It felt overwhelming and difficult but not everyone has had it so easy.  I’m also grateful we brought my camera.  The experience sits in such a brain fog, I remember everything and nothing. I wasn’t sure if we’d even get around to using it but I put it on ‘auto’ and hoped for the best.  

Here’s our story… 

I was exactly two weeks overdue with Ruby and while my water broke (thanks to a crazy castor oil cocktail), labor just didn’t want to start.  When I got to the hospital on Saturday, we discovered– despite being overdue, I wasn’t dilated at all, not even a smidge. That was pretty shocking. Not to mention, a bit of a blow. 

My mom had been in town the past week waiting, waiting, waiting past my due date like any good Grandma.  In my head, I had always imagined my mom being there for the birth, so I was incredibly grateful that she flew out. Also, being two weeks overdue, I was extremely bored.  We watched a LOT of ‘Call The Midwife,’ which proved to be strangely comforting. 

I happened to get pregnant at my heaviest weight.  (I don’t recommend that route).  The last time I had been weighed was at 38 weeks (below).  At the time, I had gained about 45 pounds.  

When I look at these photos of me in the hospital, I don’t even recognize myself.  The final month my guess is that I gained an additional ten pounds at least, maybe more? To me, I look really, really bloated and unwell.  While uploading photos, I asked my husband if I had actually gained that much weight or if the fluids they had me on caused me to swell.  He said the photos did look like me and that the last two weeks overdue, I got really big.  Jiminy Christmas… 

While in the hospital, they told me my blood pressure was ‘a little high’ so they were going to put me on a magnesium drip. I began an endless bunch of drugs to assist with dilation and after two full days of various medications and painful internal exams, I had finally dilated to 2 cm.  Unfortunately, every time I had a contraction Ruby’s heart rate would dip, and because at this point I had been in the hospital for two days after my water breaking, they thought a c-section was necessary so as not to get an infection or distress the baby. 

Looking back, while the waiting game was annoying, I am super thankful for that.  Soooo many women have had to push painfully and endlessly before having to have an emergency c-section.  This was not the case for me and I’m beyond grateful.

Up until this point I had been working with a wonderful midwife in Loma Linda and we had plans to give birth in their beautiful tub of my dreams.  *swoon* Despite this birth plan, at 39, I was always open to a c-section if complications arose.  Having a healthy baby was all that mattered, as they say.  When we got to the hospital, though, it got really emotional.  Even typing this today, I get nauseous and my heart starts racing.  PTSD is real, homies!

For starters, we had major issues with the blood pressure machine. Each time it started, it would squeeze my arm so hard, it would cause sharp pinching pain so severe I would wince and it would literally take my breath away.  Of course, this made my heart race even faster. Another time, it made my arm swell so much around my hospital wristband, it cut off the circulation in my hand.  My hand grew pink and swollen and my husband had to rip off the cuff.  Another time, it got so tight it just popped off of my arm completely. In these instances, my heart would race from pain and the readings would be off the chart– like 180 and 220. 

While I wasn’t denying I had high blood pressure, some of these readings couldn’t possibly be correct. For whatever reason, the hospital staff wouldn’t listen when we told them what happened during those high readings, like this obese person just couldn’t come to terms with her high blood pressure. No one would take my blood pressure manually even though I asked.  And once, I was told by a nurse that the reason the cuff hurt is because I have high blood pressure.  Ummm… no. 

My poor mom also had nowhere to sleep.  When I was on another round of meds to be dilated, Lliam drove her back home. I think all of us knew it was for the best.  She was able to feed the animals and ‘Mima’ even learned how to work Netflix on her own!  🙂

The nurses were doing all of these really invasive things and I finally asked to speak to the attending doctor. When she arrived and mentioned the reason for the invasiveness was because ‘preeclampsia is pretty dangerous,’ we were blown away. We never knew they had diagnosed me with preeclampsia or that they found protein in my urine. To me, that is a huge deal to not tell a patient because preeclampsia IS dangerous.  I told her if we had known I had preeclampsia, we would have been more grateful for the invasiveness.

She seemed a bit surprised we didn’t know but did her best to downplay it because we were pretty shocked and angry.  And when she was describing my high blood pressure, she–again!!– mentioned the few super high and faulty readings like they were law, partly being taken into account for the diagnosis. Ack!!

This photo was before the epidural.  I toooootally look like my brother.  Ha!

Everyone kept saying how sorry they were that I wasn’t having the birth I wanted like we were upset about not being with my midwife. I’m sure they didn’t mean it this way, but it felt condescending because that wasn’t the case. We were upset because faulty information was used in decision making, and things weren’t being communicated properly. And I don’t know about you, but when I feel I’m not being listened to and I’m not a part of major decisions or conversations involving myself, my body or my baby, my anxiety– and blood pressure– reeeeeally goes through the roof.  It feels like a crazy nightmare, like you’re in an episode of Black Mirror wringing your hands, screaming as loud as you can, and no one will listen.    

Did I have high blood pressure before I gave birth? Yes and no.  At the very start of my pregnancy it was in the low 140’s but when I quit a stressful job, it went down thirty points in two weeks and hovered at 110 for months.  So I know stress and anxiety is a huge factor for me.  When my husband and I moved back to California, I had readings in the 120’s with my midwife toward the end of my pregnancy but at the time we also had no place to live, no jobs, no money, etc.  It was very stressful so we both took that into account.  Another symptom of preeclampsia is protein in the urine and having tested that every week, I was totally fine.  Also, surprisingly, I barely had any swelling in my legs and feet throughout my entire pregnancy so I wasn’t concerned.  Unfortunately, preeclampsia can come on and be diagnosed at any time.  Previous to that, it’s not to say that I didn’t have high blood pressure at some point during my life, I just wasn’t aware of it.  

After two very long days and no sleep, the resident doctor told us we needed to have a c-section.  A very cerebral guy, he spoke like a robot half asleep, showed no emotion and kept giving us information like it was being downloaded.  My husband and I, a little worse for wear, asked him to leave so we could discuss.  We knew it was our only option at this point but needed a few moments together to feel all the feelings.  When he comes back, my husband had changed into a BMW t-shirt.  All of the sudden the doctor’s eyes lit up, he points at my husband’s shirt and says, “That’s a 2002 BMW!”  

He enthusiastically proceeds to talk to my husband about how much he loves working on BMW’s and how it’s probably the reason he became a doctor.  Because… “I figured if I could fix cars, I could fix people.  Except, come to find out, that 24.2% of people react differently to treatment.”  

WHAAAAAAAAT???????????  

For a metaphysical, partially crunchy and super spiritual gal, my jaw dropped to the floor.  Comparing fixing humans to fixing cars, this doctor was literally my worst nightmare.  At that point, I was like “Okay universe, CLEARLY I’m not allowed to have ANY control here.  And that’s cool, I throw my hands up, Jesus done take the wheel already, I surrender!  

“Um… I would, however, like to ask that these people don’t kill me.”  

I wasn’t sure my prayers were being answered as I was drugged, strapped down to my bed and wheeled into the surgery room.  I know this is all routine and standard procedure  but I remember thinking this is probably how alien abductees feel, completely helpless, as a ginormous bright light blinds you from above. I was nauseous and told its okay to throw up if I needed.  But how?  I was strapped down.  Was I just supposed to let chunks drizzle down my face?  

“God, please don’t let me choke on my own vomit and die during my c-section.”

I was so drugged and tired, I fell asleep through the surgery. Lliam had to wake me when they removed Ruby from my guts.  Even looking like ‘Carrie,’ I love her sooooo much. 

They laid her on my neck wrapped up.  All I remember was being entirely uncomfortable and out of it.  I looked up to the plastic separating me from the doctors just in time to see one of them roughly compressing my stomach with their folded hands like they were trying to resuscitate my uterus, or jamming an overstuffed suitcase closed. I could feel it but not feel it. It was insaaaaane. I remember feeling entirely outside of my body and thinking this was the most surreal experience of my life. 

This didn’t feel like a magical moment.  That is why I am so grateful we brought the camera.  Looking back, I’m able to see the beauty in these moments, though they didn’t feel beautiful at the time…. which is pretty much everything I know and love about photography.

Ruby Clementine Donohue was brought into the world on February 12, 2018.  My sister Jodianne’s birthday.  She is an Aquarius with a Gemini ascendant and a Capricorn moon.  🙂

Being overdue, I was for sure she was going to be 146 pounds with a pumpkin head.  I’m grateful she came out at the size she did.  🙂

After the surgery, we were wheeled into a ‘recovery room.’  On a kind note, my midwife told me they moved heaven and earth to allow me to do skin to skin with her and breastfeed after the c-section.  So I greatly appreciated that!!

I do remember how amazing it was to see Lliam with her, a ‘Papa’ for the first time.  He adores her so much.  

All of the nurses and the doctors (and anyone that has met her thus far) kept mentioning her ‘alertness.’  From day one, she’s always looked about intently, taking in her surroundings.  (Or maybe contemplating why the H she chose us as parents!)

We spent two more days in the hospital.  We really just needed sleep– desperately.  We had some really nice nurses but regardless of the situation, I just don’t understand how anyone expects you to recover while being poked and prodded every twenty minutes. Or less!  We were at a teaching hospital so it could be one nurse, groups of people, the cleaning lady,  people I wasn’t even sure of conducting a survey, etc.  We got NOOOOO sleep. I became depressed, teary and angry. Not to mention, we also had to take care of our newborn.  None of this helped my blood pressure.  I felt jittery like I was on 24 cups of coffee but drugged like a sloth.  Thankfully, we had her…

Ruby was jaundice and had to be under lights for six hours.  (When I imported these photos into Lightroom they were insanely blue.  I’m not sure why because they didn’t look that way in camera.  Regardless, I converted them to black and white and thankfully I like them this way quite a bit!).

I know it’s a pretty common thing but damn, it was hard to see her in there.  

I CANNOT FATHOM how parents must feel with their babies in the NICU.  They are my heroes. I am soooo grateful we’ve had no serious concerns with her, I can’t even tell you. 

Baby feet and hands come out soooo gray and wrinkled!  Like they’ve been waterlogged for weeks.  

I was so grateful when the blue lights were over.  I just wanted to snuggle her and tell her that one day we’d be out of this hospital and she would no longer be poked and prodded… You know, except vaccinations. I didn’t mention that part.  😉

She struggled with breastfeeding which was also stressful.  The overworked lactation specialist spewed information at such rapid fire, we didn’t stand a chance.  We were so tired, it might as well have been in another language. Typically, after a cesarean, recovery in the hospital is 2-4 days after birth.  We were so insanely exhausted that by the second day, with Ruby at 100%, we were desperate to go home. 

The doctors, however, weren’t feeling as optimistic.  My blood pressure was inching back up at 138 and they wanted me to stay and be monitored the extra 2 days. When the doctors kept pushing back, however, my panic set in and I got emotional.  Every time they took my blood pressure, it just got higher and higher. We couldn’t take another day.  I felt so shaky and delirious with fatigue, frustrated and helpless, that I felt like if we didn’t leave then, I might never leave.  It felt like they would always find something else wrong, and I knew I would never feel better without sleep.  Against their wishes, we headed home.  

As soon as we drove up the mountain and walked through the door, I felt SUCH a sense of relief.  It was amazing to be in our own space and in our own bed.  My mom was there to help out and I immediately felt like I could breathe.  It was the best decision we could have made for us. 

The high blood pressure did, indeed, come home with me.  That part of my recovery has been the hardest and scariest part by far, and I’ll be sure to share that part of our journey in my next blog. But in the meantime, I’d love to hear from moms and dads about your own birth story.  Do you remember it?  What was the experience like? Was it what you expected?  How was your recovery?  Being a mom is such a wild and incredible experience… how unbelievable that we come into the world this way. 

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