It’s been just shy of a year since Finn was born and I’m finally sitting down to write out his birth story!
But- since we’ve had a whole year to get to know him- first, a few things about Finn… He is a gateway baby. The kind that make you wonder how you got so lucky to be a mom and what you’re going to do when he grows up and he’s no longer a baby anymore?! Haha. As much as I enjoyed Asher and Silas’ baby stage, I don’t think I truly grasped how utterly amazing and special those first six or eight months of motherhood is until the third time around! Maybe it’s just me, or the always-crazy circumstances of our ever changing life, but third time was the charm when it came to enjoying motherhood at its fullest.
I wish I could say the same thing about my third labor and delivery experience. It’s obviously taken me a very long time to write this… I could blame it on lack of time, having a whirlwind overseas move soon after Finn was born, or just laziness. But the truth is I haven’t felt very motivated to write about it because this particular experience is one I don’t like to revisit. Finn is a dream, oh my goodness! But his birth was not at all what I’d anticipated.
Finn was due on April 18th and the evening of April 10th was when I had the first semi-regular, mild contractions. They seemed promising, but fizzed out by bedtime. After another day of no real activity, I woke up around 3am on April 12th with the real thing. These contractions were also very mild, but it was obvious that they were going somewhere. We called our friend who so kindly offered to stay the night with Asher and Silas if need be, and she was there in a flash. Thank you, Amber! Things weren’t painful yet, but since my labors tend to progress quickly we went ahead and left for the hospital.
Speaking of the hospital, we lived two blocks from it! So after pulling into the parking garage 30 seconds later (haha) I decided we’d better sit in the car for a while longer until things picked up. I guess I have this weird fear that I’m going to go to get to get there too early and get sent home. At least that’s what Thane is always accusing me of… But he can’t blame me! Every time I’ve ever checked into the hospital while in labor, all of the nurses give me these funny sideways looks like they think they’ll be sending me back home. They never admit this until after the baby is born a couple of hours later, but they do admit it.
Anyway, we walked into the labor and delivery ward around 4 or 4:30am (the details are starting to get fuzzy) and got checked in. I think I was about 5.5 or 6 centimeters dilated. Sadly, I didn’t have a midwife this time. Policies had changed since I’d had Silas, so my only option for Finn was a rotation of midwives and doctors. One of the doctors happened to be on call that night, but he wasn’t actually there yet.
I wasn’t in the delivery room for long before things started getting much more painful, so with no midwife there to coach me I did what worked best with Silas; went into the bathroom by myself for a little while. Having privacy and sitting on a harder surface made the contractions much more bearable during the transition phase with Silas, so I assumed it would be the same this time.
Wrong! So, so wrong. I don’t know if it was because it was happening too fast, or that I wasn’t as mentally prepared, or that I didn’t have a midwife for support, or that I falsely assumed this would be my easiest delivery yet. But before long I felt like I absolutely could not cope with the pain. This was nothing like my first two experiences with labor. Asher’s labor was longer and very, very intense, but it progressed more gradually and I had a fantastic midwife coaching me through every step. Then with Silas, my midwife wasn’t as involved but the privacy of the bathroom plus a much more bearable level of pain made it manageable. This time, with Finn, it all came on so terribly and suddenly that I felt like I was going to pass out with each contraction. I was light-headed, shaky, and I didn’t know whether to sit, stand, or just beg for my life. I hate to sound so dramatic, but oh my goodness, I wanted to die.
I left the bathroom and told Thane that I didn’t think I could do it without some kind- any kind!– of pain relief. If somebody had offered to knock me out with an iron skillet I would have gladly taken it. The nurse checked my progress and I think I was 8, maybe 9cm. Then she looked me square in the face and very, very definitively said “you will not being receiving any pain relief”. I think she was a very good nurse, and I was probably too close to delivery to do anything but continue on the un-medicated path…but in that moment I felt like she was handing me a death sentence.
At this point, a birthing ball or a tub probably would have helped tremendously. But with no midwife and no natural pain relief options, I just laid down on the bed and bore through it the best I could. Before long I knew I needed to start pushing, but the doctor on call that night still wasn’t at the hospital yet so the nurse started to panic and was on the phone with the front desk, yelling something, frantically telling them to get the doctor there before she had to deliver the baby all by herself. It was all a chaotic, nightmarish blur. At some point not too longer after this, the doctor arrived. I pushed two or three more times, barely able to breath and on my back (the worst way to push!). And praise God, Finn was born at 6:29am.
Let me take a quick break from singing my woes and just say that I’m so, so thankful that Finn was born, safe, healthy, and thriving! It was a fast birth with no complications and regardless of how I felt about the experience of getting him there, he was clearly the most important factor. What a relief! I remember one of the first things I noticed about him was that he had really long, skinny finger nails! Haha.
But boy… As thankful as I was to have Finn, the experience of birthing him was so terrible. It all happened so fast and felt so out of control that I felt scared and defeated afterwards. More like a victim of a crime than a proud new mom. I remember turning to Thane a few minutes after it was all over and telling him that I could not do that again. And I meant it. Yes, I had a great “natural birth plan“, and by the grace of God, I followed it (though not exactly by choice this time). But it couldn’t have felt farther from the joyful, empowered birth experience that all of us women hope for and that I was blessed to have the first two times. In the weeks that followed, I couldn’t even think about Finn’s birth without it bringing me to tears. The memory was like revisiting an intensely dark, depressing, and scary nightmare that you really just wish you could forget about.
And a much deeper appreciation for suffering formed in me; a heartbreaking pity for everyone who has ever been through painful, traumatic experiences. I starting thinking a lot about all of the women who’ve delivered baby after baby before interventions or medication was even an option, I thought about what Christ must have gone through when he suffered and died for us, I thought about all of the countless people around the world who are persecuted or abused or sick and who suffer on a daily basis. Surely I’ve experienced so very little compared to so many other people, yet even my few, hard hours of labor were enough to have me thanking God for my relatively light burden and praying for those who have it so much worse. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget to have compassion towards others until you get a small dose of what it is to despair of your own life, even if just for two hours.
If I’d written this birth story much sooner, the next line would have gone something like this; “Babies are wonderful! But childbirth isn’t fun. So…three is enough for us!”
Then January rolled around and we found out that Finn was not the last baby after all, and not only that, but that he didn’t even retain his “baby” status for more than about eight months. Hahaha! Oh boy. God is funny sometimes, isn’t He? I’m really, really thankful for the gift of another baby. But I’ll be honest…after what happened with Finn, I am extremely nervous about going through another delivery. And not only that, I’m extremely nervous about delivering in a foreign country! Lots of women here rave about how great and “natural” there birthing experiences are here, and meanwhile I’m thinking “no, no, no…not another natural birth!”
But I trust God. Time and time again He’s shown me that His plan is always better than my own, so I’m doing my best to take heart. After all, this is how He works! He’s a loving Father and wants nothing but the best for us. He doesn’t forgive us and redeem us just to let us go on living the same way we lived before; lost in sin, alone, and without hope. No…He teaches us, guides us, disciplines us, and sometimes leads us down paths that we know we can’t walk without Him just to prove that He’s in control and that He’ll work out the details!