Part II: Laying in Wait


Bed rest. Weeks of confinement and being sequestered in my bedroom with admonitions to stay put, the only exception being to use the bathroom. 

It is a mixed blessing really- an opportunity to send long handwritten letters to everyone in my address book. It is a chance to read and sleep, be waited upon, and to complete needlework and quilt projects (the Michael Hague Christmas stocking I’ve been stitching for Henry since he was 8 months old; the rainbow Trip Around the World quilts for Henry’s and Phillip’s beds).

The precise therapy that every frazzled young mother yearns for- and it totally sucks. 

Imagine the pending holidays: gifts to make and acquire and get off in a timely manner, tree to get up and decorated, cookies to be made, parties to attend, carols to sing, and being helpless to participate in any of it. 

Friends are enlisted to assist round the clock with Phillip, age 1 ½, and Henry, 3 ½ years old. Thankfully they are able to shower those boys (and me!) with love and attention enough to get us all through this difficult time. 

Donna and Cindy, the dear wonderful women tending to my household (mothering my children, doing laundry, dishes, shopping, changing diapers, cleaning, running errands, cooking, … and getting paid to do it!) while I am bedridden sympathize with my predicament, and chide me to enjoy being queen for a day or however long it takes these babies to safely enter the world. They help me to keep the bright side to all of this in view, serve me nutritious lunches too big to cram into the limited space afforded by two rapidly growing beings within, and marvel with me as the babies perform their gymnastics beneath skin stretched so taught it threatens to split wide open. 

The boys are so sweet marching up and down the stairs to visit, or share lunch, or read stories (The Little Engine That Could, Chicken Soup With Rice, Good Night Moon, The Cat in the Hat- over and over again until every word of these treasured favorites is remembered yet, almost 20 years later). Their little table and chairs have been brought into the bedroom along with various projects for us to complete for grandparents and Daddy. We make miles of paper chains, paint sweatshirts and pictures to be framed, and make wrapping paper. 

But it breaks my heart to see them go back over the stairs to carry on with the life that I am no longer a part of. 

The Boston Pops Christmas music drifts up the stairs, as do Henry and Phillip’s little voices laced with excitement over the arrival of the pine-scented Christmas tree. The aromas: warm cookies straight from the oven, and hot chocolate, and popcorn to be strung with cranberries, seem to reach from the holiday magic of my early childhood and once again I am filled with self-pity. It is so not fair that I am to miss such an important and historic moment in the early lives of my children. 

I can’t stand it a moment longer and creep down the stairs to at least observe and supervise the tree decorating. You know how it goes- no one else can get it just right. All previous lessons in letting go are forgotten for the moment. (Naughty Ruth- bad, bad girl!) 
That visit in the real world satisfies me for a few days until a dear friend brings a promising recruit for the family practice my husband belongs to. 

Can you just come downstairs for a few minutes, she so needs to meet you.” 

Oh, I guess a couple of minutes won’t hurt.” (Bad girl, Ruth). 

Furlough #3: The boys are planning to watch the Bugs Bunny Christmas special.  “Come on down,” pleads my husband. 

Oh, I don’t want to watch that, I’ll wait until Charlie Brown or The Grinch or Rudolph are on.” 

You should come down now, it will be good for you.” 

But I really don’t want to watch that.” 


Oh, all right!!” 
As I make my way down the stairs, I look out the window to the left to see a car in the driveway. 

Huh, someone is here.” 

I turn my head to the right to find the living room lit with the warm glow of dozens of candles and filled with about 20 women! My heart leaps into my throat. We’re having a Blessing Way! 

A Blessing Way is an alternative to a baby shower, the focus deeply spiritual, as opposed to the commercial bent of a typical baby shower, which neglects the sacredness of the birth process. Women gather to bestow upon me loving care and energy to help guide me through the birth. This involves massage, washing of feet, brushing of hair, singing, and prayers for a hale and hearty birth experience. 

The initial self-consciousness gives way to the restoration of my resolve and gives me hope to endure the last difficult days of a long and tumultuous pregnancy. 

Given my life circumstances and my incapacity for being told what to do, it is rather amazing that there are only four breeches to my sentence of bed rest, the last of which is our traditional ooh and ah ride to check out the Christmas lights around town. On Christmas Eve we all bundled into the car wrapped in blankets, Mickey Mouse and Alvin and the Chipmunks providing festive music to the occasion. The cold night air and the magical twinkle of colored lights in my first excursion into the world outside of the hospital or our house since the day after Thanksgiving fills me with great joy and that sense of magic that fills my children with awe. 

Finally, on the day after Christmas, I have reached term regarding the safe delivery of those little dickens’ that have totally dictated my life for this last month. I’m free!


I re-enter the real world to carry on with my life to the stares and audible gasps that the spectacle of my enormous belly evokes from passers-by. Each day the stretch marks get angrier and I fear that the babies’ gymnastics will push beyond the limits of the elasticity of my skin.
When I go to the grocery store, I knock over a display of oranges because I have not compensated for the space required by the three of us. My arms are barely long enough to reach the cart.
When I go to use public facilities, I am no longer able to close the door. And when we have dinner, I set the plate on my belly because I can’t reach it otherwise.
The due date for the babies passes. Day after day I long to reclaim my body, but since they were refused entrance into the world the first time, they are quite content to stay put.
 I teeter on the creaking stepladder painting the dining room. The boys and I build a giant snowman in the front yard, providing quite the spectacle for our neighbors as I awkwardly push the snowballs about with my fingertips. When we go sledding, my sled plows through the powder to skim bare the earth; it takes three people to help me up from the ground.
The babies won’t budge.
Drastic times call for drastic measures. On the sly I consult with a friend who is a midwife, seeking her advice in inducing labor. She suggests taking Castor oil. My partner in crime, Cindy, beloved caregiver and friend, makes the necessary purchase and makes a rather disgusting concoction for me to drink. No-go. Cleans everything but the babies out of my poor beleaguered body.
Dear Cindy seeks out Black Cohosh Tea, a remedy used by midwives for inducing labor, certainly not available in this little berg. She brews another nasty potion, which I readily gag down- to no apparent avail. They stay put.


It is not until 4:15 AM two weeks after their due date that I am startled awake by a monstrous and searing contraction. If there is a Richter scale for contractions, this had to have been a 9.5, and increasing my 3 cm dilation to a gaping 9 cm.

I awaken my husband in alarm, only to have him roll over, mumbling to wake him when my labor is serious. This is the point, of course, that is famous in the annals of birthing, cursing superlatives flying out of the poor victim of delivery and the birthing experience in an attack of the person responsible for this agonizing and miserable predicament.

I’m sitting on the edge of my bed, stark naked, huge belly spilling over the edge, waiting for the contraction to end, only to realize that it is continuous. Amidst the indescribable agony, I so wish that Tony could have a taste of it. (Oh to be handed that little bundle of joy with none of the immense torture, and taking half the credit to boot).

Then Baby Phillip wanders into my bedroom in his yellow sleeper, huge brown eyes, and pacifier; the stark contrast between the intense pain of transition and the soft warm little hand that takes mine is so dramatic that the moment will forever be precious in my mind. 

I am finally coaxed into the car as our bleary-eyed neighbor stumbles in to care for the boys while I bring their siblings into the world.

As we cross Main Street en route to the hospital, one thing is certainly clear. I want drugs! I have proven twice that I can give birth with no medication, and I’ll be damned if I have anything left to prove. I want drugs! And oh my God you better step on it!

We arrive to the maternity ward to the great dismay of the nurses on duty. We have forgotten to call the hospital to let them know we are coming. As I undress and am begging for drugs, I am aware of the poor woman in the other bed, calmly hanging out with her family and having to listen to me freak out.

There is a mad scramble to prepare for the double birth. My family doctor and his wife (my coach), the attending OB-GYN, our pediatrician friend, Susan, who is planning to be on hand in case of complications, are still in oblivious slumber.

The nurse who checks me says to my doctor husband, “I don’t know how you feel about this, but you might want to check her. I think she’s fully dilated!” –And to me, “Don’t push!! No, you can’t have drugs it’s too late for that now!”

Rush to the delivery room with frantic admonitions not to push. Cold metal sterility seems blinding to me. Doctor and coach rush into the room, and with my friend’s gentle grasp of my hand, I calm instantly.

The magic words “You can push now” vaguely reach my ears before “Baby A” practically shoots across the room in one push. It feels so, so, so, so good!! And I think to myself, this is how it’s done! 

It’s a boy!

Just after Baby A arrives, the missing cast members: obstetrician, pediatrician, anesthesiologist, additional nurses trickle in. Given that my husband is well known throughout the hospital, word has rapidly spread far and wide, and bets are being made as to time of birth and gender of the babies.

As with the births of my older sons, the crushing contractions cease and all is well with the world.

“Would you like to hold your baby?”

“No I can’t do that right now. (i.e, Are you crazyI’ll crush the poor kid trying to get this other one out!)

Everyone relaxes and we wait. And wait. And wait. Susan has taken charge of photography, having missed the opportunity to record Baby A’s entrance into this world. My husband takes the baby and I greet him, but yet refuse to welcome him into my arms for fear of doing him bodily damage.

I’m frustrated that everyone is taking this all so lightly, chatting and joking, and having a grand time. I need to concentrate.

Now, I had imagined that the second would arrive in mere minutes- totally disregarding my friend Laura’s comment that it could be an hour between births. But nothing happens.

“You aren’t feeling any contractions?”

“No.” The monitor shows no contractions.

“O.K. Ruth, we’re going to give you a Pitocin drip to see if we can get this show on the road.” And I’m thinking, oh God I don’t want to do this again.

The contractions start slowly but quickly pick up in frequency and intensity. Baby B is breech. Doctor jokes, “Don’t quote me but I think it’s a boy!”

By this time, I am watching everything that is going on from up in the corner of the room. The anesthesiologist says, ” We’re going to put you to sleep for a moment” and before I have time to object I’m awake again being introduced to my fourth son! He is one hour and four minutes younger than his brother, something he will never live down.

I eagerly reach for both squirming little prunes, albeit the most lovely of fruit. 

And I Thank God I won’t have to contend with adolescent daughters!
The Beginning…


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