This is the continuation of Amber and Mark's birth story: the story of Ruby's birth. If you would like to read about how Ruby came to be, I highly recommend it as it will make this birth story that much more poignant and relatable. It is a sweeping tale of sacrifice and deep longing, emotional strength and physical endurance, unwavering partnership and an entire family committed to one common goal, bringing a little essence named Ruby to life. This next definitive chapter is no different... it is absolutely the embodiment of 'unconditional love'. Amber moved mountains to bring Ruby earthside. And Mark was beside her every step of the way. This is the story of one couple's journey to bring their last precious baby into their arms, and I praise them with all of my heart and soul, for their courage, strength, perseverence, endurance and unwavering love and partnership, and finally, for their generosity and honesty in sharing their story with readers far and wide, in the hopes of inspiring hearts and spreading hope to those who are also on long and painful journeys of infertility, trying to conceive and moving through the stages of birth.
I could probably write a whole novel about my experience as Amber and Mark's doula and birth photographer, but for this blog, will have to condense things to a more reasonable degree of material. Amber has graciously written out her account of her birthstory, and I would love to include it here, as a woman's own story is more powerful than any other's interpretation or recollection of events. Again, please refer to her in-depth fertility & pregnancy story before reading her birth story for additional insights and context.
Amber's Birth Story: in her own words.
On April 24th I went for a fetal assessment to check on baby's size based on my gestational diabetes, well after explaining what was going on with my blood pressure they consulted their obstetrician and agreed they didn't like what was going on. So back to Steinbach we went with a plan to see a resident doctor working with our GP to discuss what to do next. I knew we were having a baby that week......things were not good with my blood pressure and my body did not feel well.
I was sent to the hospital for an NST (nonstress test) and to be put on blood pressure meds, they also ran my urine again which was showing mass amounts of protein. Well the NST went well thankfully, baby was doing well and measured on track. We were eventually released and sent home. Later that evening my phone dinged and a friend who happens to be a doctor had messaged me. She did not like the way things looked and asked me to come back to the hospital. I had also just taken my blood pressure again and was getting readings of 160's over 100's, I knew we needed to go in as well so off we went. Little did I know that would be the last time I'd be "free".
We spent the night at the local hospital and was sent to Women's Hospital in Winnipeg. By the time we got there I was not well, shaking uncontrollably and ready to pass out. A couple nurses came down and wheeled us up to the high risk ward.
The doctors decided it was no longer safe for me remain pregnant, my body was not happy and the placenta needed out. So we agreed on using cervidil to help my cervix become favorable. I never noticed much with it in and after 14 hours the first dose was removed and a second was placed as not much had happened. Again I didn't notice much.
During that time I started shaking uncontrollably again and so they gave me magnesium to prevent seizures which went fine but caused my severe edema to become even worse. The next morning, Wednesday April 26th I woke up even more swollen. My joints hardly moved. It was horribly painful. At around 2:45pm, oxytocin was started..... and by evening contractions had started and were painful. I worked through each one, envisioning each one getting us closer to our very longed for baby. Pearl Jam played in the background and helped ground me when I needed it. Mark and Elliana were also amazing supports as I moved through each surge. By midnight the contractions were horrendous, very close together and lasting for what felt like forever. I eventually caved and asked for pain meds, there was no way I could keep going without help. This was nothing like my spontaneous labors with my boys, years ago. The morphine surprisingly helped, at least in my head I could manage.
I wish I could have withstood more, it helped immensely but with the severe edema it was horribly painful and just not doable, it actually broke my heart as being in the bed was like torture. But I did what I had to do, getting up as I could. Around 12 hours after starting the oxytocin they checked me and I was only at 2cm........ I sobbed. I could not believe all those ridiculous contractions resulted in so little progress. But I collected myself and pushed on. Asked for more pain meds and worked through each surge.
Around 11am they came to check me again as things felt like they were getting even harder to manage. This time I was told they'd be breaking my water and turning up the oxytocin again as I wasn't progressing as fast as I should be. I was at a 3cm...... still so far to go. Well I begged for an epidural at this point, told them to have it on order before my water was broken. Little did we know things would get shoved into the fast lane once my waters were broken.
I went from 3cm to pushing in less than 40 minutes! Those 40 minutes were the worst 40 minutes of my life. Contractions never went away, no break at all, they just went up and stayed up. Then I felt that all familiar feeling, my body's need to push. And push it did. Pushing has always been the most empowering thing I've even done in my life, it feels relieving and I know the end is near. I knew our sweet Ruby was almost here.
We waited what felt like a lifetime for her. 6+ years, 4 IVF (in vitro fertilisation) cycles, 3 frozen transfers and travelled half way across Canada to get her. She. Was. Coming. And my heart swelled.
As my body pushed and it pushed hard, I felt her descend. I wanted her out now so I mustered all I had and within 10 minutes she was here. Our sweet baby Ruby. Our greatest journey. All the years of pain, trauma, heartache and loss came at me like a freight train and I sobbed. In disbelief she was here. She was born at 11:54am! All our kids were born on a Thursday morning.
Mark and I sat in shock, and still do, bewildered that she's here. That she's ours. She was worth it all. We're so thankful that we had a happy ending.
Now I know somewhere during the really hard parts a particular song came on, twice. Leonard Cohen's hallelujah. This was my (step) dad's song. It was sung at his funeral and makes me sob to this day. We had him write a list of names when we first started trying in May 2011, Ruby was one of those names. He passed away on May 26th, 2011....... It's ironic that song came on twice and that this blog post comes at this point in late May. Gentle reminders he's here, watching us, loving us.
My biological dad (who passed recently) is in all this as well, Ruby looks like him. It makes me sob some days when I stare at her and see him.
Ruby is our greatest journey. I cannot say that enough. We thoroughly love taking care of her and love her with every fibre of our beings.
Ruby arrived limp and needed some extra help from the amazing staff of Women's Hospital. Mark was invited to cut her cord and she was swiftly taken over to the warmer next to Amber's bed where she was given the attention she needed. Emotions ran high at this critical moment, but Amber had complete trust at this moment that her baby's fate was in the good and competent hands of her care providers. I asked her how she felt at this moment, and she told me that fear was not one of the emotions she felt. She had trust, and relief, that Ruby was here, and was going to be okay.
Amber's first words when Ruby was placed on her chest were:
We've waited so long for you. So so long.
You're finally here.
So a couple of really cool interesting facts about Ruby's placenta. It was heart shaped. Which isn't very common. I'd like to think she had 2 very special grandpas watching over her. Secondly, there was a smaller placenta inside hers. Something most of the doctors and nurses had never seen. I think it was the second embryo we transferred, I'm guessing it started developing but wasn't viable and Ruby's placenta grew over it preserving it. ~ Amber
Amber and Mark's teenaged sons were restless all night and texted their parents late into the night and in the early morning, checking in on things from home. They drove into the city with Amber's mom and her partner and a few hours after Ruby was born and had had a chance to have her first latch and feed, there was a beautiful, emotional reunion in Amber's hospital room. Her 17 and 19 year old brothers were especially taken with her.
After the family had left the room, Amber finally let go and gave in to the rest she so badly needed. I didn't have the heart to wake her to say my goodbyes, so I quietly packed up, hugged Mark, gave Ruby a snuggle and left.
This was the last thing I saw, before I left their room.... Mark, watching over his tired wife, holding his newborn daughter.
My feet and body may have been sore, but my heart was so swollen with love and happiness for Amber and Mark and Ruby, I could barely contain it in my ribcage. That was an amazingly good day. Hallelujah!
Some last words from Amber... my most sincere thanks to her & Mark:
Having Elliana at the birth of Ruby was a given the second we saw two lines. After all we'd been through we knew she'd document our story with love and understanding. And she did an amazing job of it.
The moment Mark messaged Elliana to let her know the oxytocin was being started she readied herself to come join us. It was a bit early but we're so glad she came when she did. She was invaluable. Just her calm demeanor made things right in a very scary situation for us. She normalized it and I am forever grateful for it.
She caught the moments I couldn't be present for, I could relax and focus on my labor and delivery.
She was also a voice for me, making sure I was heard and that I understood what the Drs and nurses were telling me and making sure they respected my wishes as well.
She was also a source of support for Mark, someone to talk to to pass the time.
Elliana you will always have a special place in our hearts. Thank you for being so amazing, thank you for documenting our story, thank you for capturing those moments I couldn't be present for. ❤
You are gentle, kind, caring and loving. There was no judgement, only acceptance and love.
Elliana Gilbert is a full-time Birth Photographer & storytelling art photographer in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. To contact Elliana for inquiries, booking, pricing or just to chat about your story, please send a message, or contact her by email or phone (found on the same page).
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