As a good friend welcomes the birth of a new baby, I’m inspired to look back at Finn’s birth. I remember feeling a bit traumatized by the birth and for quite a few days I avoided discussing details. It was weeks before I lay down on our bed beside Finn to look back at photos of his birth. Yes, he gave me strength to look back. Just as we worked together to bring him into the world and adjust to the newness of life with Finn in a postpartum world, together he and I came to terms with our birth story.
If you haven’t already, you might be interested in reading about our plans to have a home birth and how we arrived at that decision. You can do so here.
The Lead Up
What surprised me most about the days leading up to Finn’s birth, especially as the due date June 30 came and went, was the emotions that coloured each subsequent day. These days seemed clouded over with low feeling in what I termed “due date blues” as I waited for labour to start. Though I knew surely the baby would come, I felt moments in each day when I mourned that I wasn’t yet holding my baby. I yearned for my baby. At a time when I should have been soaking up my freedom and the opportunity for rest, instead I couldn’t tolerate the wait.
We whiled away the days that passed by the estimated date of delivery with no sign of labour. Instead of roaming the house in my misery for another day, I happily climbed in the boat with Joel to spend the day on the lake with some of our close friends. Underlying all of the summer fun, I could sense the shared anticipation amongst my friends, who were both expecting their second child at the time and who could in their own way empathize with my anxious impatience. Looking back, I’m glad I took that day to enjoy a bit of summer with supportive friends. I would come to mourn the ease with which we could do so after the birth of our baby.
That evening I began to feel the onset of labour contractions. In an effort to shield my baby from anything not naturally occurring during pregnancy and labour, I chose not to have any Tylenol to ease the pangs of early labour enough to allow for sleep. Instead, I took a hot shower with a bit of wine and went to bed.
Contractions woke me at around 3 am, but Joel kept sleeping. I went to the living room to pace, feeling the excitement that my baby was on his way. No, we didn’t yet know the sex, though I suspected I was carrying a boy and had secretly been calling him Finn as I gave thanks when I climbed into bed each night, especially leading up to the end. I worked through the contractions, which I remember to be fairly mild, though I think time and hormones may have done away with the worst of the feelings.
By noon on Monday labour began intensifying. The contractions were becoming quite difficult and heavy on the back. We called the midwives and were instructed on some positions I could try to help turn the baby and minimize the strong back labour I had been experiencing. This was very difficult for me. I did the most of these positions in our bathtub. Joel snapped a picture of me in his excitement, in which I’m not looking very pleased. By the time I was out of the tub, the contractions were intensifying and I demanded that Joel call my sister. My need for her to be with me was incredibly strong.
Wondering how things were going for us, and I suppose in their excitement, my parents arrived at around 4 pm that afternoon. My sister and her son, Chael, arrived at around 6 pm. I continued to labour through the night. Joel, exhausted, slept for much of it while I paced and danced through contractions with my Mom my quiet companion. Through the night, my favoured place was in front of our closet door in the master bedroom where blood speckled the floor as my cervix continued to dilate. Mom slept on the couch or swept the floor of Tess fur repeatedly as she patiently waited for my labour to progress. Erin and sixteen month old Chael slept in the basement, resting for the active labour to come.
Our midwife arrived at the door by mid-morning on Tuesday, having expected to hear from us at some point in the night. When she checked, I was 4 centimetres dilated and so she stayed, declaring me in active labour. I celebrated this news, welcoming her support and an end to this long labour.
Much of the rest of that morning and early afternoon was spent in the windowless bathroom downstairs with my sister, Erin. By this point I was tiring and even lost my desire to eat. I wanted to lie down, but the surges were intense when I tried to lay to rest. My midwife’s encouragement was needed to stay the course. Seeing that my energy level was failing, my midwife suggested an IV in order to hydrate. Oddly enough, I had to overcome fear of inserting the IV, which was crazy considering what I was enduring in the midst of labour.
With the IV attached, I felt somewhat rejuvenated. Joel prepared our birthing tub, which we had set up in the middle of the basement. Once I was in the tub, my midwife suggested breaking my water to move things along. Doing so brought me to 9 centimetres dilation and she pushed the lip of my cervix to make room for the baby — whose head was already crowning. Frequent checks of my baby’s hear rate showed that my babe was not in distress and was patiently waiting for me to do my work in bringing him into this world. How comforting that he should already have such faith in his mama.
After a great deal of pushing, I wasn’t able to progress further. We tried a range of positions at the suggestion of my midwife and sister. In one position I had my feet on the footboard of the bed while holding on to a wrap that had been gathered into a long bunch. Joel stood at the foot of the bed and pulled on the wrap while I pulled opposite him and pushed the baby with all my might, knowing that our time at home was running out. Our midwife reached inside of me during contractions and pried my pelvic bone apart to make room for babe while I pushed. Without a doubt I can say that we tried every strategy imaginable at the time to realize out home birth dreams, but my two hour pushing limit had lapsed and it was time for intervention and a transfer of care.
While the midwife called for an ambulance and notified that hospital that we were on our way, we grabbed our packed hospital bag in a rush. The ambulance arrived and paramedics carried me out of our house on a stretcher.
Friends later told me when they heard the ambulance siren in the neighbourhood, they knew it was me. I can only imagine their apprehension after two days of silence from me and the sound of the siren’s wail.
What these friends couldn’t hear was my wailing as I endured contractions, yet resisted my body’s desperate urgings to push. I kept thinking of my baby’s head continuously pushing against my pelvic bone. Joel rode up front with the driver while our midwife travelled in the back of the ambulance with me. I sought out her support as the waves of contractions crashed through me. This was the most trying and helpless part of my labour.
We arrived at the hospital and while we waited for the OB to arrive, my wailing continued uninhibited and uncontrollably. I recalled looking at Joel as they readied the laughing gas saying I couldn’t take any more, and that I was prepared for any intervention to get the baby out. I was done.
After what seemed like forever, the obstetrician arrived — with the news that an epidural wasn’t an option because the anesthesiologist was busy in the Operating Room. Comforted in the presence of the OB, I asked if I could resume pushing since I couldn’t tolerate working against my body any longer. Seeing the force with which I still had energy to push, the OB suggested she use forceps, saying “ten minutes and your baby will be out.” The magic words.
She began giving me local anesthetic. Joel later told me it was at the sight of the large needle that my strong sister had to back away. Joel, however, made himself watch everything I endured. After the episiotomy, forceps were in hand and the nurse standing next time me helped to watch for contractions, as I was a bit stunned and overwhelmed by this point. I began to push through confused sensations of simultaneous numbness and discomfort. The baby’s head was out and with another push the body followed! At the OB’s prompting, Joel declared our baby to be a boy! My supporters, who had grown to include our secondary midwife, celebrated. The baby was immediately brought to my chest and I gazed at him in stunned awe.
I delivered the placenta and in a confused haze I brought the baby to my breast while those around me celebrated, took photos, stitched, added meds to my IV and pushed on my stomach to ensure that all of the afterbirth was emitted. It was a hectic scene.
Finn Oliver was born on July 7, 2015 at 9:30 pm to two very joyful parents.
Welcome baby Bowen.
Featured image by Joanna Crichton Photography of Finn’s new friend, fresh baby Bowen. See Joanna’s portfolio for more incredible maternity, new baby and family photography.
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