Finn's Birth Story
Updated: Feb 23, 2019
Sharing my story of my second baby, Finn's, birth - not the home birth I planned but a very redemptive and positive experience.
I spent days and weeks convincing everyone that our bodies and babies know best, that I was in no rush to meet this baby, he would come when he was ready and I was going to wait it out as long as we needed to. As the 42 week mark started to approach I realised that I needed to keep convincing myself because I was starting to wonder if this baby boy ever would come out.
If you know about the birth of my first baby, you will know that she was also late, and my gynae bullied me into an induction at 41 weeks even though my body showed no signs of labour, and all was healthy and well with the baby. It was a traumatic few days trying every home induction under the sun and after two medical inductions, I finally had Lexi after a 17 hour, very difficult labour which was constantly interrupted by monitoring, checks and all sorts of stress.
So this time round I found a fantastic midwife team and planned a home birth, far from the pressure and bright lights of a hospital. I had a lovely and very supportive back-up gynae, Dr Truter, who was encouraging and affirming and after hearing that I had birthed a 4kg baby before, told me to go and have this baby at home. I knew that this would mean no pressure and I could just wait until 42 weeks, although I was sure Finn would come sooner. At 37 weeks we took delivery of the birth pool, and starting preparing towels and sheets and all we would need. The weeks ticked by, the supplies gathered dust, my belly kept growing, and no sign of our baby boy. They say the last month of pregnancy is the longest, well try the days and weeks after you hit that 40 week mark - those are just torture. Luckily I had a very active 18 month old to keep me busy and keep my mind off things.
41 weeks and still nothing. Ingrid (my midwife) mentioned that at 42 weeks it was advisable to go to the gynae for a scan, even though baby’s heart sounded great, it’s good to keep an eye on the placenta and the amniotic fluid. She also warned me that the gynae may try and encourage me to have an induction and I started to feel a bit panicked. I had spent months convincing people that our bodies know what they are doing and our babies come when they are ready but I was starting to wonder just how much I believed it.
At about 41 weeks I started having mild and irregular contractions. They would pick up towards evening but always fade away once I went to bed. Some were fairly painful but nothing I couldn’t handle, more of an irritation then anything to get excited about. I was losing a fair amount of mucous and had some bloody show and my cervix was still high but about 2cm dilated. My midwife offered to do a stretch and sweep but couldn’t reach at first. A few days later she was able to do a partial sweep, and then the next day it was much lower, softer and 3cm dilated. But things still just didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and then the bad news came - my blood pressure was starting to climb. High blood pressure can be a sign of preeclampsia, a potentially life threatening condition in pregnancy. I wasn’t presenting any of the other symptoms but over the next few days it continued to rise, and as it rose, my spirits sank. I had a few good cries, realising that I probably wasn’t going to get my dream of a peaceful, intervention-free home birth, in fact I may even end up with a c-section if the blood pressure became serious. I was so angry with my body for letting me down after I had boasted for so long about how capable it was of intervention-free childbirth.
On Tuesday morning (41w +6), Ingrid came round to check up on me and discuss some options. My blood pressure had stopped climbing but was worryingly high but my cervix was low, soft, almost 4cm and she could feel the baby’s head and the membranes bulging. We discussed various ‘natural’ induction methods, including breaking my waters at home, but she decided she wanted to run it past the gynae first. He said that he would be happier if I was in hospital with elevated blood pressure and we could come straight to the labour ward. I was disappointed but I had made peace with not giving birth at home, and having a plan of action and something to do after weeks of waiting was actually such a huge relief! I called Cam to let him know we were heading out, packed a bag, packed some snacks, and we got on the road. Cam was so chilled and wonderful, we had a really great drive, talking and laughing all the way. I had about 7 contractions on the way.
When we arrived, we had lunch at the cafeteria, and went upstairs to check into the ward. The two midwives were lovely, and Truter was there shortly. Ingrid was by our side every step, although in a hospital setting she was now acting as a doula. She wasn’t at all shy to let Truter know what we had hoped for - minimal checks and monitoring, pushing in my own time and position of choice, delayed cord clamping and immediate skin on skin. I was so glad to not have to fight for what I wanted as I was so emotionally drained from the past few days.
Truter examined me, and confirmed at I was 4cm and the membranes were bulging and ready to break. The hope was that breaking the waters would allow baby’s head to engage and kick the contractions into full swing. Truter went as far as to say that they would monitor me for 15 minutes at the beginning of labour and then hopefully only check again when I was ready to push! I couldn’t believe my ears. So he went to get the hook, declaring that it would be an easy break. A few frustrated tried later he exclaimed that it was the hardest easy break he’d ever done and the tough membrane just didn’t want to give. Eventually it broke and he left, and then we waited to see what would happen.
(All photographs by Robyn Oosthuysen Images https://web.facebook.com/robsoosthuysenimages/)
Pretty soon the contractions started to pick up, but I could still breathe through them. Cam and Ingrid offered to help or massage me but like last time, I really just wanted to be left alone and to labour in silence with some instrumental music in the background. In the moment I chose a strange middle eastern soundtrack which ended up being amazing for swaying to while I breathed through the contractions, which were soon coming pretty hard and fast. Ingrid kept telling me that they were really good contractions and that I was doing really well but I didn’t take her too seriously because I was trying to pace myself for the long haul. At one point the midwife came in to monitor the baby but she didn’t even strap the monitor on, just held it in place for a few minutes and then was gone, I barely noticed her there.
I tried a few different positions but really just wanted to sit on the bed, rub my legs and sway through the pain. After a while my lower back began to ache and I asked Ingrid and later Cam to put pressure there. It felt like a while but Cam says it was only about half an hour. And then things began to get really intense. I was getting a bit more vocal with contractions and Dr Truter arrived and wanted to check me. I didn’t really want to be checked because I was scared that despite all the pain, I would still have a long way to go. He told me not to worry and that he would just lie to me. He checked, and told me that I was pretty much fully dilated and just needed a few more contractions before I pushed. He was so matter of fact and I was so surprised, I thought he was lying to me! But he was dead serious and sure enough I could feel that urge to push a few minutes later. I didn’t push then but it started to become hard to hold back. I could hear Truter and Ingrid and the midwife talking outside - making a plan for how I could push. I could sit on the bed and birth in a conventional way, or turn around and hold onto the head of the bed and push. In the moment this definitely seemed like to best option. I needed the toilet but was also really scared I was going to push the baby out by mistake, but managed to go anyway. I got back on the bed, faced the wall, and waited for the next contraction. When it came I gave a big push which was such a wonderful relief, and Truter told me he could feel the head and the next push was it! And sure enough, with the next push, out came the head, then the shoulders, and then with a last big push, a shout and a gush of amniotic fluid, he was out and I heard him cry! He was quite tightly wrapped up in cord but once he was untangled, they passed him to me through my legs and I could put him straight on my chest. Amazing what happens when you listen to your body, follow your natural urge to push, and let gravity help you along.
I turned around and sat on the bed with him on my chest while Truter waited for the cord to go white before clamping and cutting. He then let me birth the placenta naturally without any pushing or poking which was amazing. Baby boy had a good scream when he came out but soon settled and started feeding nicely, latching so well from the get go - what a blessing. Truter checked me for any tears or injuries and there was nothing! We only weighed baby boy a little while later but he came out at 4.18kgs! Not a small baby but I have always believed that your body won’t create a baby that it can’t push out.
It was 14:30 when my waters broke and 17:35 that I pushed my baby out. In that time I wasn’t bullied, scared, monitored, poked, prodded or told what to do. I was left to labour in peace, however I wanted, in a dimly lit room with my husband and my midwife and my photographer. My wishes were respected, my gynae and midwife worked so well together and respected one another so well. And most importantly, my boy was born healthy and well, and I was also fine. I hadn’t had my dream home birth in a birthing pool but that was ok. I had a quick, peaceful labour and a healthy baby and as Cam pointed out, it was a really redemptive hospital birth experience after last time and I am incredibly grateful.
I must also add that while natural birth is incredibly special and important to me, I have respect for those moms who choose interventions or c-sections because having a baby is hardcore whichever way you do it, but I have a special respect for those moms who really try for a natural birth, and after hours of pain, need a c-section for the good of their baby or their safety. At the end of the day, we all carried these beautiful children in our wombs, and the hard part only really starts once we get home. This story not a judgement or criticism of those who do things differently, but rather a personal celebration of a special birth and a precious boy.