Gus Finnigan. 6 lb. 2 oz. 18 1/4 in. born at 7:26 pm on Fathers Day.
This is long. Like… excessively long. But it’s our story and I just wanted it all there. The italicized sections are Kai’s perspective and thoughts.
Monday, June 10th
It’s grocery day. While leaving Costco, I feel a small leak and think perhaps I’d peed my pants. Not a usual occurrence for me, I have exceptional control. When I go to check it out, I have several more leaks and can’t stop the flow so I immediately think it’s not pee. We decide to wait to call the doctor or our doula until a little later and by the time we get home I have no more leaking and no contractions so I assume I had just peed all over Costco and Hy-Vee. So sorry to whoever had to clean that up…
The false start with labor didn’t do much for me feeling any more prepared. I can distinctly remember thinking about how to mentally prepare myself for labor as I was sitting in the car trying to figure out whether or not Rachel had peed herself or if her water had broken. I can admit to repeatedly smelling the seat of the car. I ran through all the possible ways labor could progress and how we should deal with each step. I didn’t, however, come up with a plan for how things actually happened.
Friday, June 14th
2:30 am – We stayed up late to watch a movie after Kai got home from work and when I get up to go to bed, I have a gush of fluid. In the morning, I text AJ, our doula, and call the doctor about possible amniotic leak. I’m 37 weeks today so I’m freaking out because although technically full term, that is still pretty early. I’m a little excited but prepared to be told it’s nothing. It’s a lot earlier than we had planned but we could be meeting our baby today! I call around to some family to see if they can watch the kids during our appointment but all of our usual people are busy or not able to so we decide to just take the kids in with us and hope they don’t keep me. I don’t want to tell anyone what’s going on until we know for sure. Just as we are leaving for our appointment, I get a contraction. It’s different than the Braxton Hicks I’ve been having for a few months and I’m nervous that it might actually mean something.
I only have one more contraction before our appointment. We have to see Dr. Finley’s partner because he is out. Kai and I joke about all the planning we did and all of our babysitters are busy and our doctor isn’t in. They check me and my water has definitely broken. I have to decide whether or not to get checked. I had planned on saying no in this situation because it will increase the risk of infection and mean I can’t labor as long before we have to start talking ‘options’ but it is also good to have a baseline. I decide to ok this one check and I’m disappointed, but not surprised, to find out I’m not dilated at all and 50-70% effaced. So pretty much, nothing going on except broken water. Dr. Larson wants me to call in at the 12 hour mark to see if there is any change. I will also need to call Dr. Finley after 5 when he is back on call to see what he says. We leave and I cannot control the gushes and we have to stop on the way home to get some adult diapers cause I am not walking around like this.
Usually during appointments we either have someone watch Dex and Veda or they come in the room with us. It has always been important to us to be involved in each others health care. This time, however, I spent the whole appointment out in the lobby with the kids while they played with trains. I can attest to two things about doing things this way instead. First, it seems like it takes forever, and B the kids chairs are uncomfortable for a grown man. I am also still convinced that labor isn’t starting today.
I send Kai the message “Thundercats are go!” to let him know that did indeed my water broke. We do what we always do when I’m disappointed about a labor situation. We go get Mexican food for lunch. I’m super embarrassed the whole time because I’m literally wearing a diaper and I feel nauseous and emotional. The kids are squirrelly because they are picking up on our feelings of excitement and nervousness, so we don’t stay long.
I check in with Dr. Finley and as long as I don’t develop a fever or have any more checks and I can feel baby moving then he has no time limit for me to come in at this point. I expected this but I’m still relieved.
Rachel downplays how worried she is about the time limit situation. It turns out that it isn’t really a situation at all but that doesn’t stop her from continuing to worry about it. I can tell that she feels like she is under the gun now and that feeling continues all the way to right at the end. It’s a recurring theme in this pregnancy that Rachel gets prepared for a fight that ends up never coming. At first it was a fight to get a doctor on board for a VBA2C which turned out to be a non-issue. This time it was a fight to keep her out of the hospital too early, which wasn’t a problem. Later it will be a fight for pacing labor that she had no control over.
We drop Dex and Veda off at my sister, Jamie’s house in the evening for their sleepover. I ask Jamie to braid my hair before we go because I’m pretty sure I’ll need it out of my way. I’m hungry but nauseous still and we decide take a walk around the high school track. It’s relaxing and fun and we just spend the time laughing and talking. Contractions start up a bit at 20 minutes apart. A storm is coming in and I’m worried about the kids staying over for the first time. When we get home we pop in a movie and do some of the positions we learned in class to see if we can get baby in a position to produce better contractions. Kai gives me a new position every 30 minutes and tells me to pee and drink water just like they said in class. We are excellent students. It gets late and we decide to listen to what our doula and our class said and go to sleep so we will be rested for labor the next day.
Saturday, June 15th
Contractions slowed down while we were sleeping to about once an hour but I’m feeling more pressure like he moved down at least. I know things are going to pick up soon. It’s a beautiful morning so we decide to take a walk on the trail near the house and a light summer rain comes in. We reminisce and banter and I feel so much love for him. We have always been strong together but we’ve had so many hard things to deal with. We’ve come such a long way. I feel confident and excited that we are doing this together. Contractions picked up a little bit but I’m tired so we go home to try some natural augmentation methods (walking, nipple stimulation, acupressure, etc.) that help move contractions to 15 minutes apart. We try to keep the momentum going and try rotating through the positions to help baby move down. Finally after a few hours there is some small signs of dilation! I’m feeling frustrated that things aren’t moving faster but I know early labor takes a really long time.
Rachel had spent the last two years preparing for a natural VBA2C. She spent countless hours reading and researching all of her options. She’s made several new friends in the natural birth community and had opportunities to be an amazing advocate for natural birth, VBACs and the general improvement for the state of birth in this country. She thinks it’s silly that I mention this here and that I’m so very proud of her for all that she has done, but I think it’s important that you understand the frame of mind she is in as all this is happening. She has trained and prepared herself mentally for a challenging and long labor and delivery and she felt that even though our doctor said that there was no time limit, that there would come a point soon that he would no longer support us laboring at home.
Around lunch time my sister calls and tells me to come over for a little while. Surprise! There is a baby shower waiting for me. Good thing my labor is moving slow, I feel great and have a good time. I’m hoping all the happiness will get some Oxytocin flowing and get some good contractions going. I do some dance moves and that really gets me some contractions. We head home with contractions 8-10 minutes apart but pretty soon they space back out to 15 minutes. We rotate the natural augmentation methods again and wait things out.
We spend some time sitting outside in the evening. It is amazing out there. The sun is so warm and the breeze is just cool enough. I can hear the birds chirping and across the field I can see the horses walking around. I love being able to sit and hear the wind through the trees and feel the sun on my face. I feel so peaceful. Kai comes out and sits with me a while and I feel so relaxed.
I was doing dishes at the time when she called me outside. I was surprised as I hadn’t even noticed that she had gone outside at all. When I came out I saw her sitting under the big shady tree in the back yard. She looked so beautiful and peaceful just sitting there in the grass in the shade. I took a mental picture of that, and it’s one of the most precious memories that I have.
We are coming up on 48 hours since my water broke. Dr. Finley said there are no time limits but… who really knows? There is still a clock even if I don’t know what time it is set for. Talking to AJ gives me some reassurance that everything is going fine and we don’t need to worry about how long it is taking. She may not be able to be with us if we go in soon because another mom is in labor too. I’m ok with both of her backups so this doesn’t really worry me. I feel like it won’t be an issue. That mom will probably go way before we get anywhere at this rate. I do feel bad because I know AJ is probably in for a long few days. (Turns out she had 3 mamas in 4 days I think!) We spend the evening watching my favorite movies to try to shut off my brain a bit. I’m worried about the kids having to stay another night away from us.
Remember what I said earlier about time limits. Her worry is starting to show more and more. I try not to worry myself. I have faith that Rachel’s body knows what it is doing. I remind her that contractions aren’t the only sign of labor progressing. I tell her that her body is just being really efficient in getting things ready before getting all this contraction business going. I tell her that I bet labor will go really fast as her body will have gotten everything ready the last couple of days.
We take a long shower and go to bed feeling frustrated at another whole day down and no closer to having the baby. Kai is great at keeping me from feeling down and we talk about how lucky we are to have this extra time together. I’m so relieved that he keeps me focused on the positive things going on. He has this whole labor support stuff down and he is everything I need during this time.
Sunday, June 16th- Fathers Day
I wake up to a couple of contractions. They are stronger and much worse when I am laying down so I get up and rotate through some positions. After I get up and have a little breakfast things are spacing out again so we take a walk on the gravel road. It’s nice to be outside and so peaceful but it is already hot and I have to try to time when contractions come with shady spots along the road. I’m feeling frustrated with everything already. Contractions are 6 minutes apart when we head back inside but I can still manage them fine with Kai’s help. We stop and slow dance with every contraction, swaying with Kai pushing against my lower back to ease the pressure. Cars pass by and probably think we are weirdos for dancing in the middle of the road. Of course, when we go back inside everything slows down again.
I have actually had two different people mention that they saw us walking up and down the road that morning.
I walk into our room and see some of Dex and Veda’s things. I break down and cry. I do too. I’m so tired and frustrated and I miss them so much. I’ve never been apart from them for more than a few hours. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I had been prepared for normal labor: contractions start, get stronger and closer together, water may or may not break, go to hospital, hit transition, push baby out. This waiting for things to even get started is excruciating. I just want labor to really start. Will this last days more? How long can I really go with my water broken? How long am I willing to go? Even if it started picking up now it would be Monday before he came and Tuesday before we could go home. I’m worried about the kids… It’s been days. I’m so discouraged again because I haven’t had any contractions in a couple hours. I have to try to stay optimistic so labor can progress but I’m so mentally exhausted from trying to see the bright side. I have a good, hard cry for a long time before we talk and decide to stop rotating positions and stop any augmentation methods. I just want to switch off from labor and we start cleaning up the rooms and make sure things are ready for when they really do get going.
Around 3:30 we lay down and cuddle and talk about how great it has been to have this time together. We haven’t had this much alone time in 4 years and it has been so amazing. It’s been relaxing, fun, and playful even with all the frustration.
By 4:00 contractions have started again at 6-8 minutes apart and I cannot manage them laying down. We get up and I’m really hungry so we decide to get out of the house and drive into town. I’m hoping that not stressing about the contractions will keep them going. I have 4 contractions on the drive and make Kai pull over for a couple of them. Bumpy country highway is not a fun way to labor.
By 4:30 contractions have hit the 4 minute mark and I really have to “vocalize” my way through them as they have become very intense. It’s only been an hour since I started having contractions regularly again.
At 4:53 pm I text AJ that contractions are now at 4 minutes apart but only for a half hour. I want to give her a heads up that we will probably be able to come in to the hospital soon. I think our plan is to wait until 3-1-1 (contractions 3 minutes apart – lasting 1 minute each – for 1 hour) so I don’t get to the hospital too early. We want to be at least 5-6 centimeters dilated when we get there since things can slow down a bit at the hospital.
5:15 pm Kai calls AJ, Dr. Finley, Hospital, In-Laws, and Jamie. Contractions jumped to 3 minutes and I can’t talk much during or between them and I feel like we have to go NOW. I can’t stand being here another minute and I have to get out.
Often I hear doulas talk about how you can tell the stage of labor a woman is in by how they sound during contractions. This is absolutely true, and terrifying if it happens really quickly to a husband who isn’t expecting it. Up until this point the contractions would come on and Rachel would breathe through them with a quiet focus and sometimes a low moan. She had two contractions while bracing herself on the back of the couch. The first one was like this then about two minutes later she had another that doubled her over. She arched her back like an angry cat and let out a loud (for her) guttural moan for the entire contraction. The difference was night and day. Shit just got real.
From here on out I have no idea of the time line. Kai helped me try to piece together this part but I was completely unable to process time.
I want to preface this next section with a bit of information about my lovely wife and how she likes to describe things. Rachel in most social interactions is very quiet, polite, and reserved. She will disagree with this statement but, if you know her IRL you would agree that it is really weird when she yells or swears. It’s not that she doesn’t ever do it, it’s that it seems like it shouldn’t come naturally to her. Also this description of events can seem very much like the “funny” depiction of laboring women that we see so much in movies and tv, all out of control and screaming hot mess. She really wasn’t like that, but I can’t describe how it was any better than she did so…
5:15-6:00ish Car ride. Wow. I was under the impression that the contractions would slow down a little on the way in because of stress. No. I can still talk during the contractions a little bit. Enough to joke a little and yell a little. I’m very “vocal” and I can’t tell if I’m using guttural screams or the loud, low moaning we talked about in class. I feel like contractions are still being managed ok but I’m a little worried about how long I still have to go. I say all kinds of funny things to Kai like “stop driving like a bitch”, “why are you turning in the middle of my contraction? <that’s how the road goes, honey> then pick a different damn road”, “this is bullshit”, etc.
She has a tendency to really hang on word choice internally for, well, everything. So when she’s faced with having to get through stressful situations she tends to just push all the crazy thoughts out so she can focus internally. So outside it’s all yelling hot mess so that inside she can focus. When she gets quiet in these situations, that’s when I worry.
6:00ish We get to the hospital and contractions are 1 minute apart. I have 6 before I get to my room. I am very much “vocalizing” still and Kai helps me try to keep them low and moany as opposed to high and screamy. I have no way of knowing if that is successful so I apologize to everyone in the small time I have between contractions. Everyone says how great I look and I want to smack them all. AJ is suddenly there in the hallway and I’m so glad to see her. Now I can get my double hip squeezes and counter-pressure and Kai can rub my back and I can get some relief. I know I can go a long time now that I have both of them.
When we arrived at the L and D ward, I walked Rachel down the hallway to the nurses station. Rachel is upright and talking as we get there. Here is an exchange between the nurse and Rachel.
Nurse: So you must be Rachel. How are you feeling?
Rachel: I’m…… UUUUUUGGGGHHHNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNnnnnnnnnnnn…
Nurse: Ok, lets get you to your room.
This is the first indication to me that she was farther along than we thought. I don’t think a single human being has gone from pleasantries to all business as fast as that nurse did when she heard that contraction. We were in the room in less than a minute and they were getting our info. Also, AJ seriously just appeared out of nowhere like a magic doula fairy. I have pretty good spacial awareness but, I didn’t even notice her giving Rachel counter-pressure for that contraction until she started talking and I was rubbing her back the whole time.
6:10ish pm We finally get to the room and I want to get in the tub immediately. It is all I can think about. No one mentions the IV or Heplock to me and I’m not going to be the one to bring it up. I know AJ and Kai are fielding all those things for me so I don’t worry about anyone talking to me. The nurse asks if they can monitor one contraction and since the tub is filling up I just ignore everyone and let them do what they need to. I do register hearing the baby heart beat and it is a wonderful sound. I don’t have any way to really process anything going on around me. I feel confused like everything is going really fast and they keep saying I’m further along than I think but that can’t be right. It’s only been a couple of hours. I’m starting to get a little more worried about these contractions. I know everything will be better in the tub.
I’m so glad AJ is there as the minute we get into the room I get swarmed with paperwork. They’re pushing it at me as fast as I can sign things. I’m really glad I’m aware of what I’m signing and had talked to Rachel about all this before hand. I can tell that things are really moving now as the speed at which the paperwork is flying at me reminds me of how things were right before her emergency c-section with our first. If you take anything away from this story it should be two things: hire a good doula, and do your homework on your provider.
I get in the tub and it is immediate relief. And then it isn’t. I keep asking AJ for help. I want the double hip squeezes and the counter pressure and all the pain management techniques we talked about. I can’t actually form those words so I just keep asking her for help but I’m too far into transition. When they tell me that, I don’t understand. I call everyone liars and say it’s all bullshit. This hasn’t happened the way I thought. I don’t believe them. I feel like I can’t go on because even though I can take each contraction right now, I know it will be hours before this is over and I can’t imagine doing that. They keep telling me it’s the worst it will get but I know they are all lying to try to reassure me. I did all the research and I know how long each stage takes. I’m going to be here in this loop for a long time still.
AJ and I fall into a rhythm really fast as we’re bringing water and cold wash cloths to Rachel in the bathtub. She’s very intuitive and we are both working off Rachel’s cues. It’s really nice to have someone there to run interference between the nurses and me. After the paperwork was done I barely spoke to anyone but Rachel the entire labor. I didn’t even leave the bathroom. Seriously, hire a doula.
6:45ish Dr. Finley checks me it is an excruciating check. For those very few moments I was screaming in complete pain and fear. It was probably just really uncomfortable but I was so terrified that it would be just like Dex was and baby would still be at -3 and I wouldn’t be dilated much. I call Dr. Finley a liar when he tells me I’m 9 cm and baby is +1. I think I tell him to get out. I think AJ tells me he isn’t going to lie to me and I tell her they are all liars. Dr. Finley tells me it will be soon but not to push yet.
Up until this point I could tell that Rachel was worried about how this labor would go. I didn’t really see her scared until she was checked. We hadn’t made eye contact since the elevator ride up to the L and D floor. She looked right into my eyes after the check. She looked right through me. She was scared. I knew that look. In an instant I was right back where this had all started. I was back at Dex’s birth. I was standing next to her bed holding her hand as they were wheeling her into the OR. Then I was back at my darkest place. I was back at that moment, alone in the hospital room after Dex was born and the surgeon had to clear the room to stabilize Rachel, wondering if I’d ever see my wife again. It was just a second, but it felt like hours. I was back beside the tub. This moment was different. I needed to help Rachel focus on this birth.
7:00ish I have to push. My butt is going to explode. I don’t understand how this is happening. I am so confused and I’m glad it is just Kai and AJ in there most of the time. Aimee, our nurse, comes in now and then and now she asks if I’m feeling pushy. Probably because I have started saying, “Ow, my butt! My butt hurts!” When I can think it’s kind of a jumble of – How am I supposed to know if I’m feeling pushy? Dr. Finley said it wasn’t time. So. No. I don’t know. Yes. Holy crap. Yes. My body is pushing and I don’t know how to handle it. It really is just like Kristi said in class. My whole body just curls up and even though I keep saying it hurts, the pressure is not painful but really intense. They tell me to use grunty pushing instead of screamy pushing or purple pushing so I’m still able to breathe and get oxygen to me and the baby. I’ve been pretty vocal this whole time and I feel completely crazy because the grunting I’m doing sounds scary but it is the only way my body will do it. I don’t register anything going on around me except I know Kai and AJ keep talking to me. Just hearing their voices is enough to calm me down a little even though I’m pretty sure I keep calling them liars and the whole labor thing bullshit. They read my mind and the washcloths are always rotating. The ice cold washcloths on my forehead and chest are seriously probably the only thing I’m hanging onto right now for physical relief. Between the contractions now and then I switch positions going from squatting while pulling on the railing, to all fours, back to squatting but holding on to Kai. All while wave after wave of contractions are forcing me to push as hard as I can. I can’t imagine anyone telling me to push. It is impossible not to push. There is no one yelling at me to breathe or push. It is quiet except for me and the soft reassurance coming from Kai and AJ. If I could actually process any of it I bet it’d be really nice. All I know is I’m confused and I don’t know how long this will go on but I’m ok – now – for this contraction and I don’t know how long I’ll be ok. I keep saying I don’t want to do it anymore and I just want it over. I want a section. Even as I say those things I know it’s not that bad – yet. I’m just so worried it will be hours like this and then it will be worse when transition really hits. I don’t know if I can handle that. Aimee checks once or twice to see if she can feel baby yet but he’s not quite down all the way yet. I think I say something about them being liars again because of course he’s not down they lied about how far I was and I’ve still got hours to go like this.
There’s this concept in the natural birth community about listening to your body and letting it do what it needs to do. This is all nice crystals and earth mother business to keep in mind while you’re in early labor. When things get serious it’s less a matter of trusting your body and more of not fighting the auto-pilot. Ina May would say this is letting your ‘inner monkey’ do it. Rachel’s monkey was out by this point. She was changing positions and really working through the contractions. I only got little glimpses of the Rachel inside the monkey in those rare breaks between contractions that she was talking. She’s still scared and confused. I try to comfort her but the contractions are too close and I can’t get through to her before the monkey is back.
7:20ish – Crowning. I think AJ checks and baby is crowning. I reach down but I have no idea what I’m supposed to be feeling. Then suddenly his head is out and I’m asking for help and his body is out and for a second everything stops and I see him in the water and I’m so scared and I don’t know what to do. Then I’m sitting back down with him on my chest. He’s perfect. He’s so quiet and I’m scared and I don’t know how this all happened. They clamp the cord and I start to freak out a bit because he needs all the blood so Dr. Finley removes the clamp and shows me that it has stopped pulsing before clamping it again. Now Kai is there and cutting the cord and he’s crying and it’s Gus Finnigan and he’s covered in vernix and his eyes are so clear and open. I want the picture. The one of that moment. Then they take Gus and give him to Kai for skin-to-skin while I deliver the placenta and get into bed. I’m shaking so badly from all the hormones and I have a 2nd degree tear to get stitched. I’m still very confused by the intense, fast end of labor. I had no time to process what was happening. After so much time with nothing happening and now it’s over.
I breastfeed Gus and he latches on like a champ. I keep thinking, “that just happened… how did that just happen… Kai tell me what just happened…” I’m still thinking that. Nothing was like I’d been preparing for. I pretty much expected anything but the way it happened. I can’t believe we did it. I don’t think I’ll ever believe it.
Everything happened so fast. I’m so proud of Rachel. I know that in some ways it wasn’t the birth she was expecting and maybe not the birth she wanted. It was such an amazing experience for us as a couple and as a family. Gus is such a funny little peanut. He arrived on Fathers Day and peed on me within moments of me getting to hold him. The last two years were completely worth all the worry and hard work.