Sitting down to write Finn’s birth story is a very emotional experience for me. I have tears in my eyes even typing these first words of the post. In short, it went nothing like I expected and that’s something I’m working to process every day in hopes that I can move through and let go. I’m doing my best to stay in a place of gratitude that I was able to deliver and bring home a perfectly healthy baby boy and that I had a seriously amazing care team.
I don’t want to drag this out and break it into multiple posts so settle in and get ready for a long read.
WATER BREAKING + GOING TO THE HOSPITAL
My water broke around 10:45 p.m. on Thursday, May 17. I had just gotten in bed to read and was about five pages into my book when I felt a pop inside of me. I knew through other birth stories that the pop was a sign of water breaking so I bolted out of bed and onto the toilet. I peed first and then felt a big warm gush that was undeniably my water.
Since Finn was late, I knew to check my fluid for meconium (this means the baby has its first bowel movement inside of you and is common in late babies). When I looked down into the toilet I saw bits of brown floating so I knew I was likely dealing with meconium.
As I was sitting on the toilet I started to violently shake. I don’t know if it was a hormonal rush or just me freaking out that this was finally happening for real. I got myself up and woke up Tanner and then went into the guest room to let my mom know that something was happening. I also texted my doula to let her know that I was going into labor on my own. I told all of them I was going to try to get back in bed and relax and rest. My doula had recommended REST, REST, REST at the onset of labor if possible and since we had just gotten in bed and no one had slept yet, I knew we all needed it.
Well, that lasted all of a few minutes and it became clear that baby had other plans. I immediately started having painful contractions and they were coming close together. Also, something no one tells you is that your water doesn’t just break and you are done with that…it keeps leaking out of you when you have contractions. It was a mess!
I got up again and told my mom that I was calling my doctor’s office. I talked to the on call nurse and told her what was going on (water breaking with meconium and close contractions) and she told me to head to the hospital immediately and to be there within an hour. My plan all along had been to labor at home for as long as possible before heading to the hospital but I didn’t even get a chance to do that because my contractions were so close together.
We all scrambled to get dressed and to get everything together. At this point I was still able to get around pretty well even through the contractions were picking up in intensity. I got dressed and put a big pad on to catch the leaking fluid on the way to the hospital.
The craziest thing happened…Tanner loaded his car with ALL of our hospital stuff and the car LOCKED ITSELF while we were standing outside of it with all of our bags in it! This is never supposed to happen in keyless start vehicles! Luckily, my mom had a rental car so I hopped in the car with her and Tanner stayed behind to call a locksmith. I just had to totally let that go in the moment…the hospital bag was the last thing I was worried about.
ARRIVING AT THE HOSPITAL AND TRIAGE
Luckily, we only live about 15 minutes from the hospital so we arrived quickly. I think it was just before midnight. I had several contractions in the car and they were really uncomfortable. My mom was able to snag one of the “women in labor” spots (they’re usually all full) and we were up in labor and delivery and checked in within minutes.
I had to take all of my clothes off and put on hospital underwear, pads and a gown. On the way to triage the nurse told me that “we’re really busy tonight” so that didn’t exactly bolster my spirits about getting into a room. I got checked while I was in triage and they said that I was at a 4. I also had a fever of just over 100 (due to the meconium) so they were definitely admitting me. My contractions REALLY started to pick up in triage and were becoming increasingly painful. I joked on Instagram that I was only smiling because I was between contractions and that this was the last anyone would hear from me.
ARRIVING IN MY LABOR & DELIVERY ROOM + LABORING NATURALLY
I think it was around 1:30 or 2 a.m. when I got into a room. At this time my doula could join us and Tanner had been back from getting into the car for a while. (It took the locksmith an hour to “break in!”)
My doula encouraged me to change out of the hospital gown and to wear my own clothes. I was comfortable in just a tank top. I was SO hot while I was laboring. For the first 20-30 minutes I was in my room, they made me labor in the bed while they monitored the baby…it was TERRIBLE. Once I was able to get off the monitors and move around the room things were a little better. I stood on a giant pad (fluid leakage) in front of this chair for quite a while and when a contraction would hit I would hold the sides of the chair and sway and moan. My doula encouraged me to soften my knees and my jaw and to relax through the contractions. She had me turn on my birth playlist, and I was glad that I had made it super chill and relaxed.
I also tried laboring in the shower but that didn’t last long because they needed to put the baby on the monitor again.
I will be 100% honest when I share that I was not coping well. My contractions were coming really fast and were so intense. Sometimes it felt like they lasted 90 seconds to 2 minutes and I would just look at my doula and ask, “why are they lasting so long, this is terrible.”
I have never in my life felt pain so intense and after a few hours of it, I started to feel completely out of my body. In between contractions it was like everything that was happening in the room was far away…people talking, nurses coming in and out, etc. I was so out of it.
My doula suggested that I hang on Tanner through contractions and this was one of the most effective coping strategies that I found.
At around 6:30 a.m. I was physically and emotionally done. I was terrified and felt so out of control. The pain was just relentless and too much. The doctor came in to check me again and said that I was still at a 4, maybe a 5. Everyone told me that I was doing great but at that point I knew I was going to ask for an epidural. In my mind I couldn’t even fathom continuing like this for another 5 or more hours.
I also had to get back in the bed to be monitored and lie on my side because the baby started to have some decels in his heart rate. I was so freaked out by everything and my mom was an amazing comfort for me.
Once I made the decision to get the epidural, the team was so quick. The anesthesiologist was in my room within 15 minutes and he had the epidural in within 10 minutes. My night nurse Lauren was absolutely incredible and held me throughout the epidural insertion. Getting the epidural felt like nothing after the pain that I had been experiencing for hours.
LABORING WITH THE EPIDURAL AND BABY IN STRESS
Around the time that I received the epidural, my care team also changed. My nurses changed over and the next doctor on call for my practice came on rotation. Luckily, the doctor who was on call was the one who saw me when I came into triage at 27 weeks so it was nice to have a familiar face versus someone I didn’t know.
I was also checked again during this time and told by multiple nurses that I was only at a 1. How that was possible after being told that I was at a 4 that could be stretched to a 5 totally blew my mind and made me feel so defeated.
The baby continued to be in stress after the epidural was inserted and I was put on oxygen and my care team had me try tons of different positions to try and take the stress off the baby. My nurses, Mandy and Amy…who were angels…I was so lucky to have them, and my doctor were in my room for probably an hour and a half watching the contraction and heart rate strips and trying to get the baby stable. My doctor told me that there was a chance of a c-section but they were doing everything they could to give me the vaginal delivery that I desperately wanted to have.
We finally found that he was happiest when I was sitting straight up and I stayed there for hours. They also inserted fluid BACK into my uterus (how crazy is that?) to try to “float the cord” to help out the baby. At some point, I can’t even remember when, I also had internal monitoring put in for the baby’s heart rate and for my contractions.
I felt hopeful that things were turning around because I was quickly back to a 5. I still don’t know what was up with that whole situation.
My spirits were lifted and I felt like things were headed in a more positive direction. My doula encouraged me to put on some more upbeat music, bring Dorie back into the room (she had come in to say hi and my doula was like, “you need more of THAT energy in here”) and to lighten up the mood. Tanner surprised me by pulling out a stuffed animal that I have had for years and years. That brought me a stupid amount of comfort. It was around 11:30 a.m. at this point.
Right after this my doctor came over from the office. He wasn’t on call that day but had been keeping tabs on my labor. He was so wonderful to me throughout my entire pregnancy and I was so grateful that he was invested in my labor and delivery even when he wasn’t on call.
I asked my nurses if I could take the oxygen off and they said we could try it. My doula encouraged me to try and get rest since we had all been up all night long.
Baby was not a fan of me being off oxygen so I had to put it back on and kept resting. I had made it to a 6 that could be stretched to a 7 and then a 7 that could be stretched to an 8. Everyone felt positive about the progress that I was making on my own.
A couple of hours later I started feeling really flushed, panicky and emotional. I started crying and felt so unsettled and scared. The nurses said they were going to check me and I was up to a full 8. I guess I was in the process of going through transition and my hormones were in overdrive.
The nurses and doctors had been mostly out of my room from late morning to early afternoon, which they told me was a good sign. So when they all came back in later and had me start changing positions again, I knew that it wasn’t a great sign. They told me that I was still at an 8 and the baby was experiencing decelerations in his heart rate again. They said if they could get him stable they were willing to try the smallest dose of pitocin to see if it could get me to a 10 but warned that the baby might not tolerate it.
They must have started the pitocin around 3:45-4 p.m. and within 10 minutes I had a roomful of people and the nurses were ordering me into different positions. They had me try lying on both sides and then belly down like in child’s pose and nothing was helping the baby. His heart rate was dropping to 65 bpm when 140 was his baseline. Some amount of decel is normal with contractions but I was in beyond the scope of normal and into a zone where baby could experience major complications from how low his heart rate was.
My nurse Amy looked at me and said “everything is going to happen really fast and there are going to be a lot of people in the room but you’re going to be okay.” My doctor said they had to proceed immediately with an emergent c-section and before I knew it was was signing a consent form with the shakiest hands ever and my tank top was being cut off of me. I looked at Amy in the eyes and said, “are you coming with me?” and she reassured me that she would be right there. Within 2 minutes I was being rolled out of the room and down the hall into OR 3. Everything felt like a bad dream. I was absolutely terrified.
While I was being wheeled down the hall someone told me that Dr. Danner (my OB) was on the way to the hospital and was going to be performing my surgery with the doctor on call from the practice. That brought me relief because I had established so much trust with him over the course of my pregnancy.
I have never had surgery other than a small eye surgery when I was 5 and having my wisdom teeth out when I was 18 so being wheeled into that OR was so scary. The anesthesiologists were so attentive in making sure my epidural was working correctly (I was SO glad I had it at this point so that I didn’t have to be put under for the surgery) and they dialed it up so that I couldn’t feel anything. It was the weirdest feeling because even with the epidural I had been able to move my legs when I was laboring. My legs were strapped down to the table and my arms were stretched out into a T-shape. I was shaking violently but they reassured me that it was very normal.
They hung the drape and I heard Dr. Danner’s voice that we were going to have this baby and was so happy to hear his voice. They started the surgery and a couple minutes later they let Tanner come into the room. The nurse anesthetist kept asking how I was doing and I told her that I was so nauseous. While I couldn’t feel anything, there were so many sensations and feelings of pressure, tugging and pulling. They kept pushing Zofran through my IV and who knows what else. I felt a tremendous pressure on my chest and Tanner said that Dr. Danner said something like, “it’s going to feel like I’m sitting on your chest.” I can’t even explain what that felt like but in the next moment Finn was born. I heard him cry and I started sobbing and saying “my baby.” I couldn’t believe how fast they had him out.
Sadly, due to the emergent nature of my c-section, I wasn’t able to do immediate skin-to-skin with Finn because he had to go straight to the neonatal team to be checked out. We were also unable to do delayed cord clamping or letting dad cut the cord.
It took 3-4 minutes for me to be able to see Finn for the first time and I was so upset that I was barely able to look at him or touch him because I was so nauseous on the table while they finished my surgery.
I think it took another 15-20 minutes to complete the surgery and get me all sewed up. During this time I mostly just laid there with my eyes closed trying not to get sick. The lights were so bright and it felt surreal that I had just had a c-section. I hated that I couldn’t hold Finn or even look at him.
Dr. Danner assured me that the surgery went well, they had “double sewed my uterus” and that my incision was very small and would heal well. He said the cord had been wrapped around Finn’s neck and that he was also posterior or sunny side up.
They transferred me off the operating table and onto a bed and wheeled me to recovery. It took 15-20 minutes in recovery but I finally felt okay enough to hold Finn and we got to do skin-to-skin. And when I did, I stopped shaking. It was a great feeling.
What was NOT a great feeling was the heaviness/numbness in my feet/legs/hips/butt. It was so disconcerting and I desperately wanted to be able to move them again. It was wonderful when I started feeling tingling and finally got sensation/feeling. I was also CRAZY thirsty. Like my mouth has never been so dry in my whole entire life. This was weird to me because I had received so much fluid throughout the course of the day (it had to be 8-10 bags).
The nurses told me I couldn’t have ice chips until I could move my legs but I begged them just to bring me a cup of water that I could swish my mouth out with and promised I spit it in an empty cup. They did and it was amazing. I finally got my ice chips and ice has never tasted so good.
I have so much to say about my time in the hospital and recovering from a c-section but I’m going to save that for another post.
WRAPPING IT UP
Nothing about Finn’s birth went as planned. I was hoping to have an epidural-free birth and to minimize interventions. In all the craziness of everything I left my birth plan at home and it was crazy to pick it up and look over it when I got home.
Earlier on the day on Thursday I was talking to my old OBGYN who I have a really good relationship with (she’s not practicing OB anymore) and she encouraged me to go into the whole experience with an open mind. She said “You’re going to go in pregnant and walk out with a baby. Trust your doctors.”
I truly believe that my care team did everything that they could to give me a vaginal birth. They let me labor for 16 hours before proceeding with a c-section and the c-section wasn’t optional when we reached that point. They tried everything in their power to keep him happy. There was meconium in the water, I was running fevers on and off all day, the cord was wrapped around his neck and he was sunny side up. All of this together with my waters breaking early made for a stressful environment for Finn as he was trying to make his way out into the world.
I still can’t look at the photos in this post or talk about Finn’s birth without crying. It was the craziest, most emotional and hardest day of my whole life. Part of me wishes I could go back and have a do-over and I sometimes question if I had elected for an earlier induction if things might have been different but I’m really trying not to play the “what if” game. At the end of the day, this was how he was meant to be born and it’s our story.
Thank you so much for reading and for all the love and support that you’ve shown me. I’m so grateful that baby Finn is here, healthy and that I’m his mom.