I've been adding bits and pieces to this post for the last several weeks. Birth, and the arrival of a beautiful baby feel so sacred and I want to do it justice with my words. I shared Cooper's birth story back in 2019, and Finn's birth story feels equally precious, but very different. Here we go!
About two and a half weeks before my due date, all three of us came down with the stomach flu. Sparing the details, it wasn't pleasant (but is it ever?) and left us exhausted and weary. We kept saying to each other, "At least this is happening now, long before the baby comes." On Sunday night, just over two weeks before my due date and only a day clear of stomach flu symptoms, I felt some contractions. At the time, I was actually watching a peaceful home birth, Nicholas and I were sitting together in his home office, doing our own things alongside each other. I wrote off the contractions as Braxton Hicks, in part because I didn't feel ready to have this baby and after all, we needed a few more days to recover. In those few days, I remember asking friends to pray for us to trust the Lord's timing in this baby's arrival, even if it meant I went into labor before what we deemed to be an ideal time, little did I know that those prayers were precisely what we would need.
I didn't even mention the contractions to Nicholas that night, but figured that even in the slight chance that this was the beginnings of labor, I needed to go to bed and get some sleep. Overnight, I had around four contractions, very sporadically, but strong enough to wake me up. I was able to sleep fairly regularly most of the night. The next morning, the contractions continued, and I may have mentioned them to Nicholas at this time, although I still assumed that it could be false labor, since my midwife had mentioned that is more common with subsequent pregnancies. He worked from home, as usual, and Cooper and I went about our day. I intentionally chose to be nonchalant about labor, since we were prepared for a home birth, and I didn't want to feel especially stressed. I took a photo of Finn's newborn and 0-3 month clothing, all folded and tucked in a drawer, alongside the elephant Cooper picked out for his little brother.
The contractions continued, and while they weren't really time-able, they did feel stronger as the day went on. We stayed close to home. I played with Cooper in the backyard, tossing a tennis ball up the playset slide to him, leaning on the deck or the playset with each contraction. They were definitely stronger, but still rather short, around 40-50 seconds, and not regularly spaced.
That afternoon, I finally (whoops) communicated to Nicholas that the contractions were persisting, and he said, do you think you should call the midwife?? I messaged her around 4 PM, mentioning that this was likely false labor, but wanting to give her an FYI. We kept in touch, she told me to keep her updated. I remember Nicholas asked me, "Do you think this is it? Do you think we might have this baby really soon?" And I said, "I think so, maybe?!"
Around 6pm, the midwife called and after sitting through a contraction with me and asking some questions, she said it could be early labor, but since my contractions weren't very long or incredibly intense yet, it was possible that they would ease up, but that I should keep in touch, eat dinner, and try to get some rest, in case it was labor.
I made dinner, just scrambled eggs and sourdough toast with avocado, pausing to breathe through contractions, while Nicholas fed Cooper and ran around the house, tidying up, since it was messy after a weekend of the stomach flu. I deliberately needed to lean on the counter with each contraction, and a switch flipped: I knew that this really was labor. This baby was coming! The photo below is the last photo I have of me pregnant (very sweaty and flushed, I may add).
I packed Cooper's overnight bag to give to my SIL, Katelyn, since we knew for sure it was labor, while Nicholas ran around the house, getting literally everything else ready, sending messages to work and arranging hand-offs before a six-week parental leave.
Cooper was asleep around 8 PM, and I continued to labor in the guest room, trying various positions, depending on what felt best. I texted my midwife again, to say that the contractions were more intense. She called, and said, you're definitely in labor, and that she could come at any time, but didn't want to crowd or rush me. We opted to keep in touch until the contractions became more intense or I could no longer breathe through them, and she told Nicholas to set up the birth tub.
We called my SIL to pick up Coop, so he could spend the night with her, and she came around 9 PM. (Fun fact: she is only person other than Nicholas to visit me in labor both times).
I got in the shower to help with the intensity of the contractions and found it soothing. Nicholas sent a last minute message to wrap up work stuff, and then he called my midwife to tell her that although my contractions weren't that much longer (only around 50 seconds or so) but they were far more intense and that they should come to our house. I got out of the shower and labored on the toilet for a bit, since neither the bed nor standing felt comfortable. The birth assistant arrived and started setting things up around 10 PM, getting a stock pot out to brew up an herbal blend for recovery, and she checked on me through contractions.
My midwife arrived shortly thereafter, and they checked Finn's heart rate with the doppler; everything was reassuring. I started to get really shaky at this point from labor hormones and I remember my midwife saying, "Well, you're definitely in active labor, let's get you in the tub."
The tub offered a huge amount of relief. Immersion in water, coupled with the anticipation of it and waiting to utilize it as a tool until the last stages of labor, really helped me. The contractions were still rather short, but very intense at this point. I prayed parts of Psalm 23, as my friend Rachael had in her recent labor and delivery and it came to mind readily. I also breath prayed and vocalized through the contractions, and rather than get caught up in a cycle of this is terrible pain, leading to anxiety and tense muscles and more pain, etc. I tried to view them merely as intense and purposeful.
It was silent in the room (apart from me during a contraction, ha!), just the four of us, plus Finn. Laying on my side in the pool, I could very easily see Finn move down with contractions, which was extra encouragement that my body was doing what God designed it to do. And between contractions, I felt like I was truly able to relax completely in the warm water.
At some point, my tone changed during a contraction and Nicholas said my midwife and birth assistant sprung into position, and she said, "His head is right here." Another contraction or two and his head was born(!) and on the next contraction, he was born at 11:20pm, and Nicholas caught him and immediately I brought him to my chest and just cried with joy and relief and gratefulness. When we asked what time it was, I couldn't believe I delivered him before midnight!
Nicholas blew on his face to stimulate him and encourage a healthy microbiome. He had a lot of vernix, due to his gestation age (37 weeks, 5 days) but looked healthy and wiggly and he cried loudly. I got out the tub shortly after that, since the water wasn't that warm, and birthed the placenta on the bed and just held our precious Finn on my chest.
They got me some juice and my midwife examined me, and they gave us a lot of quiet time with just the three of us while they worked on paperwork and cleanup. Nicholas brought me some food and we continued to just rest and recover with Finn and he still cried for awhile, but then settled into a long nursing session.
After some time, the birth assistant got me up to go to the bathroom and Nicholas held Finn skin to skin. I got cleaned up some and she removed the top layer of sheets and shower curtain liner to uncover another set of clean sheets and then she literally tucked us into bed with Finn. Two hours post delivery, they cut the umbilical cord and weighed Finn (6 lbs, 12 oz!) and did an assessment of him.
Coincidentally, my midwife got a call shortly after I delivered that another one of her clients was in labor, so she left, and the birth assistant finished up by throwing in a load of laundry into the washing machine and starting it, and seeing herself out. Everything was tidy and put away, leaving us with a precious newborn, in our own home, around three hours after delivery. Being home the entire time felt a little odd (so different than Cooper's birth), but so right for us.
This recovery has been night and day different, emotionally and physically, compared to my recovery after Cooper's birth. There was never a moment of panic or deliberation of should we go to the hospital now? Our daily life eased into labor, and then after delivery, we eased into recovery mode, already at home. Physically, since I was more relaxed and less anxious, I felt less sore, and transition/pushing felt somewhat easier. We slept in the guest room on our main floor, adjacent to a bathroom and our kitchen, so I didn't have to do any stairs for a few days. And in the immediate postpartum phase, I spent a lot of time in bed, resting, snacking, nursing, and holding Finn on my chest, snuggled under the quilt my mom made for us, on the guest bed.
He is now six weeks old!
One of the biggest things I realized about this birth and the story of Finn's birthday, is yet again how the Lord provides. I briefly mentioned above that we were recovering from the stomach flu (all of us) just before I went into labor. While we were ill, we kept saying to each other, Well, at least this isn't happening just before labor, and we should have some time to recover. It would turn out that we only have around 24 hours absent of symptoms before my labor started. But I find myself learning, time and again, that the Lord's timing is perfect and that He provides. Because I went into labor in what I considered less than ideal circumstances, I could easily attribute the smoothness of labor and delivery to Him. Over and over we felt We're not ready, and in that reality, He provided all we needed for a safe and smooth arrival of our sweet Finn. He was born on the first day of spring, in a week that it would snow, which has long been my "stone of remembrance," of the Lord's faithfulness to me. Through trying to conceive, to years of awaiting the right time to move back up north, to a balm for my heart after our miscarriages and on hard days, both the freshness of spring and new snowfall have been reminders of God's faithfulness. And now, another reminder, in our arms: our rainbow baby, Finn.
Thank you, God!
I'm 36 weeks into this pregnancy, which is hard for me to believe. The second half of this pregnancy has flown by, and we are fully in the throes of preparing for the arrival of this little boy. I was texting my SIL the other day, telling her about my day, and she said, "You are definitely nesting!" Oh, yeah, that makes sense why I have this incredible desire to get things done.
It's a bit difficult for me to articulate, but over the past few years, I've noticed a habitual, or cyclical hardening of my heart. We've experienced loss and grief in ways that were unexpected and deep. Life as mama to a baby and now a toddler is busy and full and that's the nature of it. A nature that easily pulls me to indifference or an aloof heart. A head that says, "Yes, Lord, I know You're good. This baby is a gift from you, You are faithful and true." But a heart that doesn't always feel those truths deeply when I allow weariness to burden my heart to indifference.
I wanted to write out the specifics of a very special day, the day we met our little boy, before the details became fuzzy. Labor and delivery are truly incredible things; the way God designed our bodies to go through such an intense and wonderful process is amazing.