Fin’s Birth Story

Jul 20, 2020

Six months ago, on Sunday 19th January 2020, at 12:44pm we welcomed our baby boy, Finleigh Winston Westlake into the world.

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I started writing Fin’s birth story back in February, but you know, life with a newborn… I didn’t post it. Then Covid-19 happened and it didn’t feel right to post it. You see, my experience wasn’t 100% positive (it wasn’t 100% negative either); but I felt so grateful that I didn’t face the extra worry or restrictions that women giving birth during lockdown have done that even a slight moan seemed unfounded.

That said, I really do believe it’s important to talk about birth experiences – the good, the bad and the in-between. We need to demystify birth because I think most first time mum’s will agree that there’s a lot of apprehension about labour. What does a contraction feel like? How does a baby fit through there!? ….Will I tear and just how painful is the whole thing going to be?

As I started out by being slightly terrified at the prospect of giving birth I decided to do some research and came across The Positive Birth Company. Their online hypnobirthing course wasn’t nearly as hippy-dippy as it sounds. It dived right into the science of birth and clearly explained how hormones can help or hinder labour. Armed with some knowledge I attended pregnancy yoga classes, practiced my breathing and wrote out my birth preferences…

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Here’s how it went down:

Following in his father’s punctual footsteps, I went into labour at exactly 39 weeks. Pregnancy up until that week had gone fairly smoothly. Apart from the extreme tiredness and rollercoaster hormones, I’d had no major complaints. However towards the end of the second trimester, despite lathering myself in bio oil daily, I got stretch marks… then my stretch marks got stretch marks. I was big! And measuring over the 90th centile. Anyway, during that final week my stretch marks became insanely itchy… to ease the itch I put a cold flannel on my tummy – big mistake!

Finleigh clearly did not appreciate the cold flannel and flipped over, and that evening I noticed a dip in my bump. At my routine midwife appointment on Friday 17th the midwife thought he had turned back to back and told me to get cleaning the skirting boards. That evening I gave the cleaning a miss but did lots of yoga… unfortunately not enough to turn him though…

On Saturday 18th January I woke up with cramps. I tried to sleep through them until contractions started, at which point I ran a bath. I knew the best thing to do at the early stage of labour was to rest so after my bath I got back into bed and thought contractions had worn off… At around midday I felt the infamous pop and quickly went to the loo. There was quite a bit of blood which made me panic. I rang Ben who was on his way back from work and then rang triage at Birmingham Women’s Hospital who told me to come in. Cue gathering our final bits together, throwing everything in the car and heading to the hospital.

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Once at the hospital I was monitored for around an hour, which was a really uncomfortable experience. I was lying on my back in a small stuffy room with bright lights. No one told me I’d be monitored for so long and had I known I’d of asked to be sat upright and have the lights dimmed. At the end of being monitored I was examined and was 4cm dilated. Good news, I didn’t have to go home. Bad news, due to the blood loss I wasn’t able to use a birthing pool and was admitted to the delivery suite for continuous monitoring.

I had my birth preferences typed up… I didn’t want to be cannulated or continuously monitored – but that’s what was happening. I had a wobble and said I needed some air – against the midwife’s wishes, Ben and I went outside and I had a cry… Nothing was going how I hoped, but I knew I needed to try and stay positive and not let fear take over.

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At 4:22pm I was hooked up to the monitor. We did our best to get the atmosphere calm and cosy – dimming the lights, putting tea lights out and playing our playlist which started with the soundtrack to 500 days of summer.

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The rest of my labour although quite long, went by in a blur. As I suspected Fin was back to back I wanted to stay mobile and keep in an upright and forward position. I used the ball and Ben as a support to keep me propped up. The continuous monitoring was a pain, as every time I moved the belt slipped and up popped a midwife readjusting it. Apparently I was being monitored because when I had a contraction Fin’s heart rate was dropping, although this wasn’t explained to me at the time. My biggest complaint of my whole experience was how little explanation and choice I was given… there was no “we recommend doing this because”, it was just “okay we need to do this”.

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Despite the continuous monitoring, the cannula, and the lack of explanations, I didn’t find labour that painful. One thing I really wanted to know whilst pregnant was what labour would feel like. Contractions come in waves and one of the benefits of the monitor was that I could see a contraction building so I could prepare myself for it. When it hit it was a bit like cramp. Some contractions lasted longer than others and they got stronger and closer together towards the end. To manage the discomfort I visualised my muscles working, used a tens machine, breathing techniques and positive affirmations…

“My contractions cannot be stronger than me because they’re part of me.”

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I remember when it hit midnight, thinking the end has to be in sight now… well it took another 12hrs and 44 minutes from that point! My labour progressed slowly. I think I was in active labour for 22hrs. I’m sure the stuffy room and my inability to move away from the monitor didn’t help. Clock watching was happening be the medical team too. I was expected to reach a certain dilation by a certain time. I remember at one point about 5 people entering the room and being told that if I hadn’t progressed by so much at a certain time I’d be started on the hormone drip. When I questioned why if both I and baby were okay this was necessary the consultant barked at me, “because it’s failure to progress!” Again, the lack of explanation and opportunity to make an informed choice did not contribute positively to my experience.

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2020-07-18 11.02.26 2.jpgThankfully I avoided the hormone drip and made it to 10cm at around 8am. After pushing for 4hrs and Fin not budging I had an internal examination, which was by far the most painful part of the whole experience! I took gas and air for this, which I can highly recommend. The Dr confirmed that Finleigh was back to back and had swelling on his head. By this point I was done and ready to sign up to anything that got him out. Because he was so far down the birth canal they wanted to try an episiotomy and forceps but in case that didn’t work, they prepped me for a C-section. All of a sudden Ben and a midwife were throwing all our gear into bags, I was being stripped off, being asked to sign my womb away and wheeled into theatre. Getting on the bed whilst having contractions on top of one another was not easy. But the relief from the spinal block was glorious. It was a really surreal feeling having half your body completely numb. I felt like my legs were still on the bed despite being hoisted in the air.

In order to get Fin out with forceps I still needed to push. Not being able to feel anything from the waist down, pushing felt impossible, but my midwife Beth was amazing at this point. She told me when to push and for how long. I’m not sure how I did it, but I did!

We’d chosen not to find out the baby’s sex so just before the final push Beth asked us for our final bets on girl or boy… Ben said girl, I said boy!

As Finleigh was delivered, Ben told me we had a boy, and this purple baby was placed on my chest.

Finleigh had the cord wrapped around his neck twice, and was so full of mucus that he struggled to breathe. I remember him being put on me for a few seconds and then whisked away as he needed some help. Tears were streaming down Ben’s face and I think I was completely oblivious to the fact that he still hadn’t cried. Eventually the cry came. I looked over at a doctor rubbing him as she said how long he was. They then proceeded to weigh and measure him. I’m so glad Ben took photos as I missed these first moments. He was then wrapped up and wheeled past me as they wanted to take him for his checks. I told Ben to go with him.

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At this point I was completely drained. The anaesthetist was obviously trying to keep me awake by chatting to me about wedding photography. I managed a few garbled sentences whilst they stitched me up. Once I was in a recovery bay I must have fallen asleep. Ben says he was left alone with Finleigh for what felt like ages. From the photo time stamps we know Fin was away from me for nearly 2hrs. I still feel quite upset about this as I really wanted to have skin to skin with him within the first hour. Again no one explained why this didn’t happen or why it was necessary to do his checks straight away. Once he was brought back to me, Beth placed him on my chest and he latched straight away. It was the first time I got to hold him and really take him in.

Both Fin and I were given antibiotics to treat infection caused by my waters being broken for so long before delivery. This meant we spent 5 nights in hospital, which I won’t go into as this blog post is already long enough!

I felt quite emotional about how my labour went for a while. It really helped to talk through what happened with Ben. People always say the only thing that matters is baby is healthy, but how women experience birth matters greatly too.

Despite my experience not all being positive, it hasn’t put me off having another. I wouldn’t describe labour as being painful really. Exhausting and uncomfortable yes, but not the screaming in agony that gets portrayed. Understanding how my muscles were working and having breathing techniques helped me massively. I’d consider home birth next time and definitely stay away from cold flannels at the end!

Six months on, I’m so pleased I wrote my experiences down and Ben took these photos. It’s crazy how much he’s changed and grown in such a short time. One day I’ll be sitting down with him showing him these photos and telling him all about the day he was born…

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