Sharing Finn’s birth story from early labor and all the details until he made his entrance into the world. If you’re looking to hear more about the pregnancy, check out Trimester 1, Trimester 2 and Trimester 3 updates.
Oh man… Almost 8 weeks later and I am finally now just writing Finn’s birth story. Fast forward another 4 weeks later and here I am trying to finish it. Oh and then another 4 weeks. Guess that’s mom life for you.
So some of you may be wondering why I’m sharing our birth story…
Maybe you haven’t heard of others sharing their stories.
Maybe you don’t want kids.
Maybe you just don’t care.
Totally fine. Feel free to skip this one.
But after hearing from the FMK Instagram community that “YES! PLEASE SHARE!” … well, here we are.
Trigger warning: Please know that if you are trying to conceive, working through fertility struggles, experienced the loss of a child, going through adoption, whatever the case may be, my heart goes out to you. I understand reading these stories can be overwhelming and bring up all kinds of feelings. . I am thinking of you.
I look back on my first and second trimesters and I couldn’t read a birth story or watch a birth scene from a movie without crying. I don’t know if the crying was from a deep rooted fear of the unknown or hormones or what. But without fail, tears would flow.
As I got further along, learning more about the physiological side of birth, the birth stories got easier to read. I felt more confident in my body and knew I could trust it. Hearing others personal stories – especially from those women I knew personally on some level – probably helped me the most, actually.
So I hope that by sharing my story, for those of you that need it, you’ll find it helpful in some way.
Here we go…
I saw the nurse practitioner at 39 weeks and 3 days. Everything was fine and I remember being nervous they would bring up induction… but they didn’t. My 40 week appointment was actually scheduled at 40 weeks and 3 days so I was really hoping I wouldn’t make that appointment.
But I was also fully prepared to go late and take it one day at a time.
In the days leading up to my due date, I tried not to think too much of anything… but I was definitely waiting and trying to analyze every little change in my body.
July 9th we went to bed and I had what I assumed were contractions on and off all night. I wasn’t 100% sure they were real contractions but they did feel different from anything else I had experienced thus far. They were very mild, but I was a little worried I was going to go into active labor early on in the morning, so I remember going down to the kitchen around 2am and eating a few handfuls of cereal, just in case. (I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to eat at the hospital.)
But come morning, nothing major happened and the contractions, which really just felt like minor back cramps, had mostly subsided.
Drew was working about an hour and a half away that day, and I told him to go ahead and head to work.
I was really calm all day and just remembered what they said from one of the birthing classes I took:
“As normal as possible, for as long as possible.”
So I checked in on some work things, I think I made cookies, and I put on Harry Potter.
Throughout the day contractions were sporadic and not consistent, but I was more confident this could be the real thing, so I made sure the hospital bag was fully packed.
By the time Drew got home from work around 4, they were definitely more regular. But I still felt fine and they weren’t really any stronger.
So we ordered food from the food truck in town. Drew left to go pick up our order as I was trying to be mindful of what was happening to my body, contractions definitely getting closer together and stronger.
I remember being relatively calm and excited. Kind of giddy – eating our dinner while realizing this was the real deal, as my contractions were quickly approaching the 4-1-1 rule.
(4 minutes apart, 1 minute long contractions, happening for at least 1 hour.)
I texted my sisters and some friends, looking for some kind of confirmation that “Yes, go to the hospital.” But at the same time I was afraid of going in too early and being sent back home.
We had about a 20 minute drive and not knowing how things could go, we decided we’d play it safe and go in based on the strength and timing of my contractions.
To the Hospital
As we got to the hospital around 7:30pm, we originally pulled up to the wrong entrance. The signage at the hospital was not great and even though we did a test drive weeks before, we clearly didn’t know what we were doing.
Because we were coming in “after hours”, we were told we’d have to go through the emergency room entrance.
At this point I could tell my contractions were slowing down.
And because of COVID, we couldn’t just stroll right in. Drew had to park the truck, get as much from the vehicle as possible and then meet me at the check-in before triage.
As I was getting checked in (by myself, waiting for Drew to park the truck) I was having another contraction as the nurse asked me to sit down. I said I didn’t want to (because it hurt) but she needed to take my blood pressure.
As I was getting situated they asked me who my Doctor was and I told them. When they said a different doctor was on call, I didn’t recognize the name. A wave of fear rushed over me and I said, “That’s not my doctor.”
I was not aware out of the three doctors in my office that there was a chance NONE of them would be on call. So I could feel myself starting to almost cry out of panic and frustration. The nurses thought I was crying because of a contraction when in reality I was crying because I didn’t know who my doctor was and all of my calmness and preparedness felt like it was thrown out the window in three seconds.
My blood pressure read much higher than it ever had. And I firmly believe what happened when I checked in played a part in how the rest of my labor went…
As they took us down to triage I felt annoyed on so many levels.
They checked my dilation, I was at 3cm and 80% effaced (I think). I felt frustrated and wasn’t sure what to do. The doctor said we could walk around for an hour and see if I “progressed” or had the option to head home. At that point we made the decision to walk around and see if I would continue dilating. I was still having regular contractions and they hurt. Not to the point of me not being able to talk through them, but they were strong and uncomfortable – all of the intensity happening in my low back.
An hour later, a different OB walked in. He happened to be male and looked like a punk rock singer from a band I used to listen to in high school. My inner dialogue kept referring back to Ina May Gaskin’s book and how lots of different people coming in and out of hospital rooms can affect the trajectory of your labor.
The punk rock doctor checked me – 3.5cm. Again, frustration and worry.
He offered us the option to head home or get checked into a room.
At this point it was about 9:00pm, and because of the drive time to and from the hospital, we opted for the room.
Note: From here on out I lost track of time. I was afraid to look at the clock, timing my dilation and worry if I was progressing “fast enough” or not.
9:30pm Checking In
Once we got the room I started to feel a little bit more calm. I got out my “Birth Plan” chart that had clear icons of my preferences for labor and delivery to give to the nurse. I wanted as little intervention as possible and made the assumption that once they had the paper with my easy-to-read icons, I wouldn’t be asked so many repeated questions.
Note: I used the one from Mama Natural’s website.
I was introduced to the OB on call, who looked very young and another red flag in my head went off. Because not only did I not know this doctor – had never met her – I just remember thinking to myself, “How old is this woman about to possibly deliver my baby?”
The nurse we had, English was her second language, and unfortunately because I was so distracted and concentrated on getting through my contractions, I had a hard time focusing and understanding her questions with all of the different hospital terminology.
I just wanted to be left alone and stop having them ask me about epidurals and pitocin (which I felt like they constantly asked me about.)
Anyways, the nurse strapped the fetal monitoring device around me, thankfully I was able to move around freely and even get in the shower with it.
So I tried the shower on my back to help ease some of the contractions, but I kept accidentally getting the monitor wet so they’d have to change it out because they kept losing the signal.
I assume after a couple of hours (because I stopped looking at the clock), I agreed to be checked by the OB because I thought, “Okay I have to be getting somewhere with how much stronger these contractions are…”
But there I was in the middle of the night, only at 4 cm.
I once again felt discouraged and tried to remain calm.
From then on getting through contractions was a mixture of the hot shower on my back, counter pressure on my low back from Drew while I leaned over onto the birthing ball and walking around/staying upright as much as possible.
We also had the Freya app meditations going which truly helped, but we switched to some music as well.
Several times the OB came in and asked if I wanted to be checked. But I thought back to Ina May Gaskin’s book (again) and recall a story she shared about the constant moving in and out of the room by the staff actually causing the laboring women to go back in dilation. I was afraid she’d check my cervix only to find out I was back at a 3… So because I didn’t feel my contractions were too different, I declined.
It’s the middle of the night and I have no idea what time it is. Just that both Drew and I were falling asleep. I was sitting upright with my head nodding off until a contraction came on, where I’d then smack Drew’s arm for him to get up and apply pressure on my back.
(Drew was an amazing birth partner, by the way.)
In the early hours of the morning I may have progressed to 5 cm after agreeing to be checked. But it was not without conversation of potential interventions to get things “moving” along.
I again declined and just wanted to keep doing what I was doing, trusting my body and hoping things would move along quicker than they were.
7am Shift Change
Fast forward to 7am and the shift change. I was introduced to my new doctors and nurses. As the doctor asked what practice I went to, she mentioned she trained one of the OB’s at my office. I immediately felt this wave of relief rush over me.
“Okay, she trained my doctor, she seems older, she seems legit.” I probably said to myself.
My contractions were getting stronger but I was reluctant to be checked too soon so I continued to wait and work through the contractions. Neither Drew nor I had slept at all.
Several hours into the morning later I agreed to be checked. But was still only at 5cm. I could tell they were worried about how slow I was progressing, based on the questions and “next steps” they were offering.
The next step was for them to break my water to help get things moving.
After every question (intervention) they asked me, I thought back to the acronym “B.R.A.I.N.” – that we had learned in the birthing classes.
- What are the Benefits?
- What are the Risks.
- Are there any Alternatives?
- What is my Intuition telling me?
- Okay, we’re doing Nothing.
When the doctors asked me if I wanted to break my water at 5cm (because I had been there for so long) I first thought to a friend telling me, “They had to break my water with my first and he was born in two hours.”
So even though I wanted as little intervention as possible, I thought, “Okay, maybe the water breaking could be a good thing…”
Side note: another reason why hearing others birth stories had been incredibly helpful – I had some kind of idea as to what to really expect.
But I asked the doctors if we could wait a little longer, and I’d get back in the shower to see if that would help. They agreed that was a good alternative for the time being.
About an hour later and it was almost time for the doctors to come back in, Drew and I were discussing the option to break my water and the nurse could tell I was hesitant about it. She said to me, “If you don’t want them to break your water you do not have to. You’re in control here. This is your show.”
I just have to tell you in that moment, hearing that from our nurse made me feel seen for the first time since we arrived at the hospital.
When the doctors did come back in to see what I wanted to do, I agreed to have my water broken, in hopes that would get me dilating a little quicker.
After being up walking around for probably about 15 hours, I got on the bed for them to break my water. It felt good to lay down but the contractions while laying down were extremely intense everything I felt was in my low back.
The nurse helped get me into a position to use the peanut ball during my contractions. About 2 hours later I was at 7cm and I was having a hard time. I had to shake my leg to keep my mind off of what was happening in my spine, while squeezing Drew’s arm as hard as I could, trying to focus on my breath, listening to Drew tell me when the contraction was on its way back down. The Doctors again offered more interventions, this time pitocin but I declined, knowing that it could lead to stronger contractions and an epidural I didn’t want.
I continued to lay with the peanut ball between my legs, the nurse helping me rotate every so often. She also had to put a rolled up towel under my low back, to help get Finn to rotate and get lower, as he was pretty sideways. The contractions started getting as intense as ever, and I remember thinking, “I don’t know how people have more than one child. I don’t think I can do this again…”
I am not going to lie, I was screaming through contractions. I 100% could not help it, the pain almost unbearable. But at the same time I kept thinking, “I am hitting the wall they talk about. I am getting close. I have to be close.” I tried to think about all of the other women before me. I heard the nurse encouraging me to listen to the guided meditation (Freya app) and just continue to breathe. I kept repeating in my head, “You can do this. You can do this.” over and over, and over again.
I stalled at 8cm for about three hours.
I look back and wonder how the heck I made it through those intense back contractions for 3 hours straight without a break.
I’m thinking it was about 3:00pm at this point…
So the doctors come back in, showing concern for how “slow” I was dilating. Again offering pitocin and/or a uterine catheter to get a better look at the contractions to see if they really were strong enough to get me fully dilated.
I worked through several more contractions while Drew and I walked through “BRAIN” together. I really didn’t want the pitocin, but we needed to weigh our options.
I also asked the nurse about the epidural. I knew I didn’t want one (for a variety of reasons), and I think she knew that too. She explained what happens when you get an epidural, that I would have to be extremely still and with any type of intervention there is risk involved. She also said, “This is your decision and we can do whatever YOU want.” But hearing her words and thinking back to another birth story, where a colleague mentioned she wished she wouldn’t have gotten one, was enough for me to try and keep going without the epidural.
The OB came back in to check my cervix and go over the next steps, and I remember hearing her say, “I’d hate to have you done all this work and end up with a C-section.” Which quite frankly, pissed me off. Because I hadn’t agreed to pitocin yet, the statement almost felt threatening.
Anyways, I asked if I could have the smallest amount of pitocin to start and agreed to that, hoping we were getting near the finish line. During the contractions with the pitocin (which may have been a little bit more intense than without but honestly they all sucked) I remember feeling some pressure come to the front at the peak of my contraction. Because I hadn’t felt anything around the front, I assumed that meant I was ready to push.
But she checked me and I wasn’t at 10cm so they made sure I wasn’t going to actively push or I’d rip my cervix, they said.
So the contractions in my back that wrapped around to my front lasted another good hour and when I asked the nurse if I could be checked again (because I felt like I was either pooping or needing to push the baby out) the doctors came in and I was (finally) at 10cm, fully effaced and his head completely dropped, which meant it was time to push.
6pm – Push It
We *think* it was 6pm the next day at this point.
As the nurse and doctors were getting me ready for pushing I remember feeling so relieved. It was FINALLY time to get this baby out. I don’t remember the contractions in my back as much at this point and even though pushing was intense in an exhausting way, I wasn’t in excruciating pain.
I thought back to the pushing prep tips from The Belle Method and the diaphragmatic breathing exercises, feeling like I was ready to rock the pushing phase.
I asked the doctors if I had to be on my back to push, as I was laying down, (I pictured myself possibly deep squatting) and the OB said my hips were the most open this way. I was too tired to argue about other positions so I just agreed to stay where I was.
They started guiding me through the contractions and pushes, pushing for 10 seconds, 3 times through the contraction. Drew holding one side of my leg up, the nurse on the other, me pulling back both of my legs as much as I could while lifting my head. That. Was. Rough.
Through the guided pushing, I barely ever got a full 10 seconds on the third contraction, again working through conflicting information in the back of my mind, where a pelvic floor PT suggested pushing for 6 seconds and avoid purple pushing (which is exactly what I was doing) to help protect the pelvic floor.
At one point, maybe after 20 minutes of pushing, the OB offered to give me an episiotomy. I was extremely confused and I think I answered with an emphatic NO, I do not want an episiotomy. She was trying to massage and stretch the perineum, explaining I was really tight.
It wasn’t long after that something came over me and I started pushing on my own without the 10 second holds. Drew said something along the lines of, “You just started going crazy and pushed without even listening to them at all.” Clearly I was ready for Finn to come out and let my body do its thing.
Then at 6:40pm, Finn made his entrance into the world at 8 pounds 4.6 ounces. We didn’t know what we were having and as the doctors laid our baby on my chest I hear one of the doctors say enthusiastically, “Dad, are you going to tell her what it is?!”
Drew smiled at me and said, “It’s a boy.”
In the days and sleepless nights following, in the postpartum haze, I realized just how much of a miracle pregnancy and childbirth really are. Going through labor and delivery was the most intense, crazy, timewarp-like, amazing experience and I am still in awe of what women can do.
We GROW HUMANS. It’s insane.
photography by: Jena McShane