Matthew Finn’s Birth Story

Birth date: Wednesday, April 17th, 2024
Birth Time: 10:31 AM
Weight: 5lbs. 10oz.
Length: 19 in.

The start of Matthew’s birth story begins a few months ago… when I had the idea that Stefen and I should go on a babymoon before this baby arrived. We’ve never left the kids for more than a night or two, and never to go out of the country. I figured since Ollie, the “baby of the family”, was almost 5 this would be our only chance I’d be comfortable going away, until the next baby is almost 5… so we booked a 4 night stay at an all inclusive resort in Dominican Republic! I had made a mental note before we booked anything that I didn’t want to be flying after 34 weeks, since I knew it could result in early labor (which happened to my sister in law). So we booked a trip that would get us home a few days after my 33rd week. I had talked to my midwife about it and she reassured me there was no reason I couldn’t fly because I’ve had no history of pre term labor. My pregnancies all have a history of going well past my due date, and I was anticipating this to be my longest pregnancy yet.

Babymoon Here We Come!

Fast forward to the week of our trip. My nephew and his girlfriend would be taking care of the kids while we were gone. I stocked our kitchen with all of their favorite foods and snacks. So much ice cream in the freezer… I hid a basket of crafts and activities in my closet that I was going to call and surprise them with sometime during our trip. I washed alllll the laundry and layed out all of their clothes for the week. They were set for us to not be there. 

The night before we were to leave I packed my clothes, put all of my toiletries in little travel size containers, and shaved my legs for what felt like two hours. I said afterwards I wouldn’t be shaving again until right before the baby comes, which I figured would be in 10 more weeks. That night we went to bed with the anticipation of waking up very early and getting a ride to the airport from my Dad. Instead, I woke up 4 hours before we were supposed to leave to what felt like I had peed myself. It wasn’t much, but it was something. I was confident in what I thought it could be, but I’ve also heard so many stories of this happening and it turns out to be just that, peeing themselves. Besides, my water has never broken in any of my previous pregnancies until I’m basically pushing, and not that I’m a pro or anything but, this is number 5, so I figured my pattern would stay the same. 

Bye Bye Babymoon

I was torn between what I believed was true and complete denial. I stayed up for a little while to see if it would happen again. There was no “big gush”, no constant leak, just a little here and there. I called my midwife and decided we’d be staying home just in case, I was going to go back to bed, and then schedule an ultrasound in the morning. I had to wake Stefen up and tell him, “bad news, but we need to stay home. My water may be leaking”. I had my appointment with my midwife the next day. She tested for fluid and scheduled an ultrasound to measure fluids. The test came back negative! So, since we had already cancelled our trip and the kids were pretty set for the week, I stayed in bed as much as possible just to be safe. I was feeling great, baby was moving constantly, I had no other signs of early labor, and figured that if there was a leak it must have been high up and would possibly seal back up because it wasn’t getting worse. So I continued to hydrate, eat good foods, and rest. Pretty much pretended I was on the vacation we had planned.. but not exactly. 

All is well—until it wasn’t

A few days later, at 33w4d I had another ultrasound and fluid check with my midwife to see if there were any changes. This time I did get a positive, and my fluid was measuring a few cm lower than the first ultrasound. Low enough that my midwife suggested I go home and get things ready to go to the hospital. Low enough that there may not be enough fluid / cushion for baby to handle contractions if I did go into labor. I went from feeling overall at peace with what I was doing in this situation, to throwing my hands up and accepting that the outcome would be a C-section to get baby out as soon as possible. After all, the last time I transferred to the hospital I didn’t get a fighting chance. And I didn’t have the energy to even try and fight this time.

I could birth babies at home, but I was positive that my body wouldn’t be capable in a hospital. It shut down with Blake’s birth and I was prepared for it to do the same. I messaged my friend, Katie, who is a nurse at the hospital I planned to go to, wondering / hoping she was on shift, and telling her I was basically on my way to have a C-section. She tried to talk me down and convince me that didn’t have to be a definite, but I didn’t feel like giving any other option any bit of hope. 

Stefen and I got home from my midwife’s office, slowly packed up some things (most of which were already conveniently packed, like my toiletries) spent some time explaining to the kids what was going on, and getting some last minute cuddles in before we left.

The Hospital

When we arrived at the hospital we were taken to our room that was ready and waiting. Another friend of ours, Laura, was on shift at the time and met us in our room. As soon as they mentioned getting changed into a gown she asked if I had my own gown and said to wear that if I wanted. I know this is such a simple thing, but every moment like this brought me right back to that similar moment in the hospital with Blake. I still remember how uncomfortable I felt sitting in nothing but an itchy hospital gown, shaking, telling them of course my blood pressure was high, I wasn’t even “allowed” to wear underwear. 

So, I changed into my gown I had brought from home, (kept my underwear on!) and got as comfy as possible in bed. First steps were checking for fluid again to confirm it was a definite, followed by another ultrasound to see where my fluid levels were measuring. To my surprise my fluid level was almost double what it was at my midwife’s office. I was grateful it went up, but of course questioning if it was necessary to be here now. 

The next 24 hours went by fast and slow at the same time. I keep thinking back to all that happened in that time and it feels like a week worth of events, and then I remember it was really just one day. Friends and family stopped by, not just once but multiple times to bring us home cooked food, clothes and whatever else I needed from home, more food, snacks, a tea kettle and coffee pot, super special outfits for baby. I had multiple ultrasounds, conversations with the nicu doctor, signed forms over and over, discussed with nurses what I was ok with and what I was not ok with. Most of my friends may know the anxious feeling that can bring on. What I was not expecting though, complete understanding and empathy with everything I said. I never once got a dirty look or someone telling me I was making the wrong choice, they never tried to convince me otherwise when I said I did or didn’t want something. Instead, I was met with a smile every time. “Ok!” or “yeah I agree you don’t need that” “Do you want to take your placenta home? Great!” “Do you want to delay cord clamping?” “And you want to do skin to skin as long as possible right?” I not only never felt crazy or weird, I felt like I knew what I was doing. Like I was the mom making the best decisions for me and my baby and no one was questioning me. I felt vulnerable and as if my outcome was lying in their hands, but I also felt heard and safe. 

Dr. Erin A. Mateer

And then it was time to meet the doctor on shift, who would now be my doctor, Mateer. I had heard her name mentioned multiple times in the birthing community, but never payed too much attention because that was never part of my birth plan. As soon as she walked in the room I felt comfortable. I had still convinced myself this was probably going to end in a C-section though. She’s a doctor, my fluid is low, I’ve never delivered naturally in a hospital, I’ve never been successfully induced in a hospital, and I’ve never ever had a baby so early. And somehow laying all my doubts out there and convincing myself to give up, she did the exact opposite. She voiced all the reasons that she believed I could have this baby naturally. She reminded me that I’ve done this before and my body does know what to do. Over and over she would say “I don’t see why you can’t do this”. But still with every sliver of negative info, I would cling to the possibility that it couldn’t happen, as if to not get my hopes up, like if I kept telling myself it couldn’t happen I’d be prepared. 

I still can’t fully comprehend or explain the feeling of sitting back and “throwing in the towel” and having the one person I expected to not believe in me, instead be the one fighting for me. Every ultrasound that confirmed my fluid was lower and almost non existent, to the baby’s heart having decels throughout the day. She would be there right after and assure me she wasn’t worried. The plan had stayed the same, to continue monitoring me and get me to 34 weeks (which was two days away) but possibly even to 35 or 36 weeks. As long as baby and I were doing well, she was not in a rush. Speaking of not rushing, every time she would come in my room to talk over things, when she was done she would just sit for a little while. And every time it caught me off guard because it’s not what I expected. You expect this kind of care with a home birth midwife, there is a lot of sitting and just talking. But I know it’s not the same, she has many other patients, it makes sense to quickly do her rounds while visiting each one. But simple little acts like this made all the difference. 

It’s Go Time

At around 8pm Tuesday night, Dr. Mateer had stopped by for what we thought was the last time that night. She again talked through everything with us, and said the plan was the same, keep monitoring baby and take it day by day. Baby’s heart would have decels but concluded it was only because of position, possible cord compression, so if I rotated to the other side lying down or my back, all was well. When she left, Stefen and I FaceTimed the kids, and then quickly fell asleep. Only to be woken up 3 hours later, at midnight, by one of the nurses and Dr. Mateer adjusting the monitors on my belly. She said, “I know I just told you we were going to keep waiting but, baby keeps having more frequent decels and I suggest we induce soon.” I responded, “right now?” And in an instant my legs started to shake uncontrollably. This is something that first happened when I was in the hospital with Blake, I had never experienced it before that, and now it would happen any time they gave me the slightest bit of “negative” news. I kept saying in my head I was open to any possibilities at this point, I really felt at peace for the most part, but I had absolutely no control over what my body was doing in these moments. I would have to close my eyes and focus on breathing to calm myself down for it to eventually stop. 

I told Stefen to call my Mom and niece, Genesis, to let them know the plan. I also asked him to text Katie, who wasn’t on shift but had said she would be there for this baby’s birth and I was holding her to it! She didn’t respond so Dr. Mateer offered to call her (I felt a little bad but, I figured getting a call from the doctor at midnight would wake her up..spoiler alert: it did not. She obviously needed the rest!). My Mom and Dad went to pick up Genesis and arrived around 1am. Pitocin was started at this time, as well as a catheter for an amniofusion (a procedure to insert fluid into the amniotic sac). I had asked my doctor, “I know you can’t really give me an answer but if you could, how long do you think this will take?” She responded, “I think you’ll have a baby in 12 hours”. This was comforting to me because with all of my previous labors I would always give myself a long timeframe, (for example, with Jojo I told everyone the night labor started that I’d probably have her by the next day, and she was born that night. And the morning labor started with Ollie I said I’d probably have him sometime during that day, and he was born a couple hours later). Stefen, my mom, and dad were all resting, so it was just me and Genesis up talking, which really helped take my mind off of everything else. 

I went from not needing to be monitored, to being monitored whenever I wasn’t going to the bathroom or walking around, to eventually needing to keep the monitors on constantly. So much so that they brought a portable toilet next to my bed to use. By 2am, they were picking up contractions on the monitors, but I still wasn’t feeling much, besides some pressure every now and then. 

Around 4am, my doctor asked if she could do a cervical check, which at first I declined. I never had cervical checks this early in labor, and with most of my previous births I didn’t have any at all. But after talking it over I agreed to. I was getting to the point of wanting to do whatever I could to get the baby out faster. Pitocin was gradually increasing, 6, 8, 12, 16…  It took a few hours to start feeling any real progress with it, and when I did start to notice it, it was mostly painful because I wasn’t able to move through contractions. I would lay in the same spot hoping it was a good position to keep his heart rate stable, and if he started to decel I would move to the other side.

I remember looking at the clock around 6am and thinking “half way” according to Dr. Mateer’s guess. I got a text from Katie assuring me over and over she would be there for this birth. About 30 minutes later, at 6:30am, contractions officially started to get painful. After a few more contractions lying down, my nurse suggested I try standing up and see how the baby did with that position, and thank God baby did great! As soon as I was able to stand and move through the contractions it lessened the pain by about half. I tried some heating pads for the first time, and also used my niece’s birth comb. They both seemed to relieve a little pain, but the most effective was still having Stefen apply pressure to my lower back/ hips. When they’d start to feel more intense I would close my eyes and visualize riding the “contraction wave” as it reached the top and then came back down. This was so helpful rather than just waiting for it to pass.

Katie arrived at 8am! At 9am Genesis had texted Lindy and said she thought the baby would be here in 1-2 hours, so Lindy got ready to head to the hospital. She told Genesis her eta was 10:30am. Since my Dad brought my Mom and Genesis, he was hanging out in the room for the most part, and would walk out whenever I needed privacy. I called Stefen over at one point and asked if he thought it would be weird if my Dad was in the room for the birth. He never has been before and honestly *I* have always thought that was weird (no judgement to others, just my personal preference) but this whole experience felt very different. Without any hesitation Stefen said “no, it’s not weird”. So I let my Mom know that he could stay if he wanted. I’m pretty sure he had his back towards me the entire time and stared out the window until we told him he could turn around, but at least he would get to hear baby’s first cry. 

For the first time in any of my labors I was engaging in conversations during contractions with everyone instead of just listening to them as background noise. The kids called during this time as well so I FaceTimed with them for a little. Ollie asked if I was wearing pants and when I told him I not only wasn’t wearing pants but I had a toilet next to my bed he thought it was the craziest thing and kept laughing.

Contractions were getting more intense. It brought me back to Ollie’s birth, an hour before his birth to be exact, where I was standing in the bathroom thinking “this is getting more intense, I probably have a long ways to go”. But fortunately this time I finally accepted that I have fast labors, and that if it was the same as Ollie’s, I was getting very close. I kept saying, “I really wish I had a pool right now. I want to be in water”. I knew it would have relieved the pain, but since it wasn’t an option I continued to sway through contractions. 

Around this same time my Mom said, “you’re probably in transition“ I agreed with her, and she went out to tell the nurses. This was a little after 10am. Lindy had just arrived, and Judah was there to bring Rosie to Genesis, who she wore in her carrier for the rest of the birth. At 10:16am they all came running in after my Mom went out there to tell them it was getting close. When they came in my nurse asked if I was feeling any pressure, to which I responded “no” but then just as quickly with the next contraction I felt pressure. Someone suggested I try getting on all fours in the bed, and since that was the position I was in for my last two births, I was eager to try. As soon as I changed to that position, it took a little more of the intensity of the pain away. A nurse asked if I felt the urge to push, and again I answered “no” but when the next contraction came I did feel my body pushing. It was around this time they had called for Dr. Mateer to come in. She sat down on the floor, at the end of my bed, waiting for baby to come, and after the slightest push baby’s head was out, and then shortly after, the body.

Looking back on pictures, my bed was surrounded by nurses, and against the walls was a whole nicu team waiting for baby. But in my space I never felt crowded, never felt rushed to get baby out. I wasn’t being touched by anyone unless I asked for a hand to hold. 

As soon as baby was born I was expecting them to rush away to be checked out by the nicu doctor, but instead Dr. Mateer passed baby through my legs and on my chest. As she did that and I pulled baby to my chest, I took one quick glance and realized this baby was definitely a boy! When it was time for them to take him over to be checked out, she asked me multiple times “is it ok if we take him now?” And then shortly afterwards his doctor brought him back over so I could hold him one more time before they took him to nicu. 

After I was admitted to the hospital and felt so much support and empathy from the very beginning -from every single nurse and doctor that came in my room- my mom had said, “maybe you’re here to have a healing birth after Blake’s”, and I think she was completely right. Every single experience during Blake’s birth that was bad, was made good in this experience. I can honestly say I don’t regret or wish things were different. I don’t feel like I missed out by not having this baby at home, because I gained so much by having him in the hospital. 

I was confident in birth before. I knew I could birth in my home, in the comfort and familiarity. After Matthew, I’m confident I can birth anywhere.`

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