You can try and plan for everything, but it will never prepare you for everything. I am grateful and so very much in love with our beautiful boy Finley, but nothing could have prepared me for the adventure we had bringing this sweet being into the world.
I did more than just plan on having a quiet, natural home birth. I did absolutely everything within my means to ensure it. Not a single thing went according to plan.
I had done my research. I reluctantly read birth stories, not something I ever enjoyed, but was encouraged by some truly beautiful and peaceful birth stories. I also watched videos of beautiful births. This is not how my story goes.
This is the birth story of my baby boy Finley coming into this world, and of my husband Josh and I becoming parents.
This photo and above by Catherine Farquharson
Preparing For My Natural Birth
Given my personal values and philosophy, I was keen on having a natural, home birth. It was the right choice for us, and more so, I believed it was the right choice for our baby. One of the first things my midwife said to me was that I was set-up for success. Natural births have become trendy, she explained, but most women who want a natural birth, aren’t living a fully natural, tuned in life. Our midwife and our doula both had full confidence that this would work for us.
When my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 11+ weeks, I had my first lesson in the ways of pregnancy- that all I could do was my best, and the rest would be out of my hands.
I became pregnant nearly immediately after the miscarriage.
I had a text book pregnancy. All of the boxes were being checked off as I progressed week-by-week. The due date assigned by one of the two ultrasounds I got was June 7th. The due date I assigned based on knowing my cycle and conception time was June 12th. No problem, my midwife said, we’ll settle on June 10th and go from there.
June 7th came and went. June 10th, and then June 12th passed by and I became bigger and more uncomfortable than I thought possible. This was also when the first inkling of worry set in. I did not want intervention but as the pregnancy went into 41 weeks, and the baby still hadn’t dropped into my pelvis, I started to have some concerns. At the urging of my midwife, on June 19th (41 weeks and 5 days by the medical due date), I went for an ultrasound.
The ultrasound showed that my amniotic fluid was low and the technician measured the baby at 9+ lbs.
Research has shown that these two factors are not indicators of serious risk to the baby at this stage of pregnancy. Firstly, ultrasounds are notoriously inaccurate when it comes to measuring the size of a baby. When I looked into the implications of low amniotic fluid, the biggest risk factor listed was induction. This inferred that with low amniotic fluid, your greatest risk is not that the fluid is low (which can be caused by anything ranging from the position I am lying in, my hydration levels all the way to baby’s kidney function), but that your primary care provider will ring the alarm bells and push for an induction (loads of research is here).
I was not overly concerned by these two pieces of data. My midwife was.
I have defied conventional advice and experts in the past. That was how I healed from Crohn’s Disease. This time around, however, it wasn’t just my health or my life on the line. It was my baby that I was concerned about.
Up until this point I had absolutely no fear around labour and delivery. I had taken hypnobirthing classes, read loads of books, and talked with every woman I knew who had a natural birth. I had prepared my body with pelvic floor therapy, osteopathy, prenatal yoga, prenatal pilates, acupuncture, massage, optimal nutrition and more. I had truly progressed through this pregnancy shedding any fears as I went.
Once the results of that ultrasound came in, my midwife said it was time to start taking action to get this baby moving out. This was when fear started to set in.
Intervening On Nature
That evening, we went into the midwifery clinic and my midwife did a stretch and sweep, attempting to manually open the cervix before it was naturally primed and ready. This is considered a gentle way to stimulate labour. There was nothing gentle about it. Minor contractions began shortly thereafter.
Intervention had begun.
A doppler, an ultrasonic instrument for fetal monitoring that I had hoped not to have to use at all, was strapped on to me for 40 minutes to take a reading. After two hours at the clinic, I went home feeling bruised, battered and scared.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to unfold. Intervention wasn’t in my plans.
That evening, my acupuncturist came over and did nearly two hours of acupuncture and massage to try and stimulate labour. The goal was to further stimulate the uterus to contract as it had following the stretch and sweep, in hopes that labour would commence overnight.
My intuition had never been louder- The baby needs more time.
From the midwife’s exam, it seemed the baby’s head was turned slightly on an angle, preventing him from dropping into the pelvis. I immediately called my osteopath to find out what I could do to try and reposition the baby. I followed these exercises but feared I should have started this weeks earlier.
On Tuesday, we went in to meet with the midwife and, still not in labour, she recommended we plan to meet her at the hospital the following morning to be induced. This is when the fear started to suffocate me. Just like that the plans for a natural birth were dismissed.
I need more time, I told her. She did another stretch and sweep, this time stretching my cervix to 2-3 cm. At this point I was truly scared. I had given my power and confidence over to those with more experience than me and now all I could do was trust that they were right.
We agreed that if I did not go into labour overnight, I would try induction with castor oil.
Again, that evening, I had acupuncture at home. With contractions being more intense, Tanya worked on me for nearly three hours, until well past midnight when the surges petered out.
I slept well, woke up, drank a smoothie, and went for a long walk. It was time to drink the castor oil.
I am no stranger to cleansing, but castor oil had always been something I avoided due to how aggressive it is. I drank a shot of castor oil every 45 minutes. By mid-afternoon I was pooping oil and the cramping in my belly was beyond uncomfortable.
My midwife came to our house around 5:00pm to do another stretch and sweep, this time getting me to three centimeters. Within 30 minutes, I was in full-on labour.
Ideally in labour, contractions start gently with a solid eight to ten minutes to recover in between. My contractions began at three minutes apart and they were doubling and tripling on each other. Before a contraction ended, another was beginning.
The next eight hours are a blur for me. Our doula arrived in the evening and her presence and massage through the intense contractions renewed my belief that I could do this. I tried taking a bath. I tried taking a shower. I rolled my hips on the ball. I walked. I lay down. I did everything I had learned. Nothing could ease the searing, life draining pain that shot through my body.
My water broke abut six hours into labour as my energy was waning and I started shaking violently. There was still oil leaking out of my body and with my contractions coming so close together, I couldn’t eat and could barely drink before another wave of pain would hit me.
The midwives showed up around midnight and did an exam. I was only four centimeters dilated. The baby wasn’t moving down. His head was still on an angle, they said.
At their urging, I tried walking up and down the stairs during contractions and doing deep lunges. I was exhausted, sweating and scared. All my confidence, my knowing that my body was made to do this, was gone. I didn’t know how I could go on. I didn’t think I could live through another contraction.
Looking back on these moments, these early morning hours that ticked by- every moment feeling like it would never end, it seems naive to think that dim lighting, a soundtrack of kirtan chanting and theta waves, some crystals and essential oils were going to help me. I wanted this to end. I needed this baby out of me.
Tossing Out The Birth Plan
Josh and I had spent a lot of time devising our birth intentions. We did deep research into every intervention, and knew what we were saying no to, and what would have to happen for any of them to get a yes.
- I did not want to go to the hospital.
- I did not want to be induced.
- I did not want pain medication.
- We wanted delayed cord clamping (not cord blood banking!)
- Oral vitamin K instead of the injection
- We did not want the erythromycin eye ointment.
- I didn’t want more people than essential in the room for the delivery.
- I wanted quiet and calm.
- I wanted immediate skin-to-skin.
I was so clear on these intentions that in the birth plan I wrote that if I asked for pain medication, to please talk me out of it. I had a greater fear of the cocktail of drugs being injected into my spine than I did the pain of labour. I felt comfortable and confident physically, emotionally and spiritually. I knew that the cascade of hormones in labour and birth were to work in my favour. I knew that oxytocin would help me through along with the support of my birth team- my husband, our doula and midwives. No one had any doubt that I was coming at this from the right place to ensure a successful home birth.
But the baby’s head wouldn’t budge and my cervix wouldn’t dilate. Now that I know my boy, I get it. He was just chilling.
Four hours after the first exam, and ten hours into labour, the midwives did another exam. I was now only five centimeters dilated. Our midwife gave me the option to try another two hours at home or transfer to the hospital.
Josh knelt beside me as I was shaking and writhing in pain. He told me I could do this. I knew with every fiber of my being that I could not. I have never been more sure of anything. I knew it was time to move.
He told me I could do this. I knew with every fiber of my being that I could not.
Transfering To The Hospital
Preparing to leave for the hospital was a blur. We walked out of our house into the pre-dawn morning as the sun was beginning to rise. The fifteen minute drive to the hospital felt like a lifetime. I was dropped off at the emergency entrance, moved into a wheel chair and was swiftly wheeled up to the labour and delivery wing of Mt. Sinai hospital.
Upon entering the room, I was changed into a hospital gown. I have a vague memory of the anesthesiologist reviewing the potential side effects of the epidural. Pain. Headache. Paralysis. Death. I agreed that I understood the risks. I felt the pinch in my back. Within moments, sweet relief overcame me. I could breathe again.
With all my being I wanted a natural birth. I wanted all the benefits, and wanted minimal interventions, not just for my benefit but moreso for my baby. It was my baby I was most concerned about.
I was on an IV of Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin), an anesthetic and a saline solution. In front of me, was a giant clock and I watched the hours tick by. I remember thinking how very long this day was. I thought about my team at work and what they would be doing. I fell in and out of an exhausted sleep. My midwifery team had a change over so my primary care team could go home and sleep. My husband and doula stayed by my side. My mom arrived at some point. I had a midwife monitoring my vitals. There was constant fetal monitoring.
Every few hours the obstetrician on duty came in to check on me. I was dilating about one centimeter every two hours.
Would This All End With A C-Section?
The first signs of meconium showed around 2pm. It had leaked out of me with the contractions. The risk was that the baby could aspirate the meconium and go into distress. My midwife had mentioned this as a risk of going past the due date and of long labour, but had said this had happened only once in her fifteen years of practice.
At 4:00pm, my midwife explained what would happen with a c-section, that I would be transferred to another room, be given an IV of antibiotics, and more anesthetic. I was told what would happen after the baby was delivered. I was overcome with fear and when I looked over at Josh, I saw the tears in his eyes.
And still we waited.
Let’s Bring This Baby Into The World!
At 7:20pm the obstetrician came in to examine me. At twenty-five hours into my labour, I was 9 1/2 centimeters dilated and she said I could try pushing to see what what would happen. I had one push to determine whether I could continue with a vaginal birth. I felt nothing from the waist down. I didn’t feel any contractions. I couldn’t feel an urge to push.
About a dozen people poured into the room, the OB, her students, and a resuscitation team. The bright lights came on over me, and I also noticed the lights go on over in the corner for the infant resuscitation table.
It was time to bring my baby into the world in every way I had hoped for it not to happen.
I had been taught ways to breathe the baby down, and to wait for the body’s natural inclination to push. Instead I pushed in all the ways I had been instructed not to. This was what is commonly referred to as purple pushing. My legs were being held up by my doula and my husband, and a blur of people around me shouting push, push, push.
We need you to push again, the doctor told me, so we can position the baby’s head for the vacuum or forceps.
I didn’t want either. Pushing this baby out, was the only thing left on my birth plan. On the next contraction, I pushed again. I couldn’t feel anything. I looked at the clock. 7:26pm. I had pushed so well, that we were good. No further intervention was needed. I just had to get this baby out fast. There was more meconium and I could tell there was some concern.
With each contraction I pushed. They could see the head, all the hair of our little babe. Still I couldn’t feel anything. I was numbed by the drugs and by exhaustion. I looked at the clock. 7:40pm.
One final push and the baby arrived.
Seven pounds, four ounces, born at 7:42pm on Thursday, June 22nd.
That Was The Easy Part
After 25 hours of labour, where nothing went according to plan, a nightmare slowly began to unfold.
The baby came out limp and blue. I knew it often took a moment for a baby to cry, so I wasn’t too concerned. There was a long pause, looks around. Someone said, It’s a boy!
Josh was urged to cut the cord. We wanted to delay clamping, he explained.
There isn’t time, was the response. I was ready to receive my baby, to lay him on my abdomen and let him find my breast, and to nurse skin-to-skin.
Instead he was rapidly transferred to the resuscitation team. He had aspirated meconium and wasn’t breathing. He was intubated, his lungs were pumped, and I kept waiting for an answer to my question, Is he okay?
The baby boy was wrapped in flannels and I was able to hold him for a minute or two before he was whisked away to the resuscitation room. Josh followed them out.
By this time my dad and my mother-in-law had arrived . We were all celebrating the arrival of our baby boy, but the baby wasn’t there. I didn’t know what was happening. I kept waiting for them to bring him back.
His First 24 Hours Of Life
I was transferred into a shared room in the maternity ward. The basinet the baby was meant to sleep in was quickly wheeled out. The order of events that followed is blurry for me. I was told that our baby had been transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit. The fire alarm was going off in the hospital, a siren blaring every few moments. You could hear the cry of all the newborns, but not mine.
Through the blaring of the fire alarm and my exhausted haze, the doctors attempted to explain what had happened and what was happening. Our baby was going for a chest x-ray. He was being given antibiotics. They were running blood tests. He was having trouble breathing. Soon I could go up and see him.
Josh wheeled me up to the NICU, as I began to disconnect from this reality. I was seeing all the babies in their incubators, connected to machines. One of them was mine.
I cried for our little man, who was in such distress, his chest heaving as he tried to breathe. There were tubes up his nose, monitors on his chest and an IV in his hand. And I cried because he didn’t feel like mine. It was now midnight. I moved into a chair and they took the baby out of his incubator and put him on my chest. He cried and I cried. I didn’t know what to do.
I couldn’t nurse him because his breathing was so intense, they were afraid he might choke. I didn’t know how to comfort this baby.
Josh and I spent that night in the shared room in the maternity ward, being woken by the cries of other people’s babies.
In the baby’s first 24 hours of life, I was able to hold him for a few moments at a time. He underwent three chest x-rays, numerous blood tests and ultimately ended up on two different antibiotics, along with a fluorescent yellow IV of dextrose.
I had no choice but to zip my mind up.
I couldn’t think about all of the needles, and x-rays, or the antibiotics being the first thing to enter his fragile system. I couldn’t think about him getting fluorescent yellow corn-based sugar water as his first food, or the constant glow of fluorescent lights, lack of fresh air, persistent beeping of the machines, immediate use of a pacifier, the hand sanitizer being doused on the hands of every nurse and doctor before they entered his room, the WiFi router blinking it’s blue light directly over his incubator, or the petroleum jelly they were using on his bottom.
This couldn’t have been further from what I had imagined his entry into the world would be.
All I could do was hope and pray that he would be okay, that he would recover, that he would survive this. No one could tell me that.
On Saturday morning I was discharged from the maternity ward while our baby was undergoing a spinal tap. His blood work had shown elevated levels of inflammatory markers and there was concern of a secondary infection or meningitis.
One Week In The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
I was moved into a “nursing mother’s” room. It was a tiny closet of a room, just large enough for a single bed and the shared bathroom was across the hall. Everything about this felt wrong. I had just given birth to my baby and here I was in this room alone, with my baby too far for me to walk to him on my own.
On Saturday afternoon I was given the go-ahead to try nursing. Any first time nursing mother knows it’s not that simple. It didn’t help that he’d been sucking on a pacifier since the moment of birth and that his hunger was being soothed with intravenous sugar water. He just cried.
That evening I connected with a lactation consultant. She graciously agreed to come to the hospital Sunday morning to help me get the baby to nurse. The NICU rules don’t permit anyone aside from the parents to hold the baby, so Taya stood beside us, and offered direction. Within 15 minutes the baby was latched and hungrily nursing away. By 12:00pm his IV was decreased, and by 4:00pm he was off completely, receiving 100% of his nourishment from me.
At last, on Monday we received good news. His cultured blood work came back clear. Despite there being no sign of infection, the baby had to continue on his course of antibiotics.
I spent the next three nights in the nursing mother’s room. The nurse on duty would call me every two hours throughout the night to come feed the baby. Josh was with me from first thing in the morning until I went to sleep.
Our baby continued to improve through the week. He grew stronger, his colour changed, his smell changed, and his poops changed. His cry got louder and he nursed with more urgency.
A few nights later, I was moved into a new room, where there was space for Josh to stay over with me. And on our final night in the hospital, our baby was detached from the machines and permitted to stay in the room with us.
It wasn’t until Thursday, a full week after his arrival, when I signed the discharge papers for our baby, that I could truly accept and celebrate that our baby had arrived. He was here, he was safe, and it was time to take him home.
So It Wasn’t A Natural Birth. That’s Not The Part That Keeps Me Up At Night
Throughout the time of early labour, through to our discharge from the hospital, I couldn’t think too hard about what was happening. If I started to, I don’t know that I could have coped. There were definitely moments in the shared bathroom, as I was showering and brushing my teeth that I grieved the calm, quiet bonding time I had envisioned at home. I got over that, though. All that mattered for that week was that our boy was getting better.
I left the hospital so incredibly grateful to all of the doctors and nurses that saved the life of my baby, and I do believe, my own life too. I am beyond grateful to live in a country that provides the medical care we received as part of being a citizen of this country.
I have had people ask me since the birth of our son, how I feel about the birth and the fact that it was not at home, not natural and as far as possible from what we planned. In complete and total honesty, I don’t care at all. Having a natural birth was my choice because it felt like the right one through and through. I know that once labour began, I did everything that I could to ensure the safety of our baby. I don’t stay up at night imagining what the birth could have been. I don’t feel remotely guilty or regretful.
There are questions I asked in the days following our boy’s arrival. Did my determination to have a vaginal birth put him at greater risk? Would he have been better off with a c-section delivery once we saw the meconium? Would that have spared him all of the interventions that followed? Should I have skipped the castor oil, and opted for a medical induction? Should I have insisted on one more ultrasound before intervening at all?
These aren’t the questions that haunt me.
There is a bigger what if that I will live with the rest of my life. What if I had trusted my instinct? It’s not time. The baby just needs more time. He’s not ready. This is the thought that keeps me up at night.
Post traumatic stress disorder is not uncommon following births that don’t go as planned. People will say to you, It’s okay, you have a healthy and happy boy. Everything is fine now.
I am overjoyed, and truly overwhelmed with gratitude that Finley recovered fully. As I write this he is a thriving, incredibly healthy, calm, smiley, and very chubby 3-month old. This fact does not undo what I went through. It can’t erase the emotional, physical and spiritual memory. It doesn’t undo the trauma that was experienced. People will say to me that you forget. That I’ll forget. I don’t think I ever could, nor would I want to.
Photos by Catherine Farquharson
Thinking about the days in the hospital are harder now, than they were to live. Now I know Finn. Now, he is my son. Now he feels like my son.
There are so many factors, so many variables to consider as we decide how to bring our children into the world and how to best raise them. Though I continue to wonder what would have happened if only I had trusted my intuition, I am also coming to realize this is the mind of a mom and a dad. There can always be more what ifs.
I continue to work through and process our family’s birth experience. There is no point in ever looking back at our choices with what ifs. It can make us crazy. As parents, I do believe, it is our responsibility to simply make the best decisions we can in the moment, with what we know and what we feel to be right.
Yes, I had planned for a natural birth. I was the perfect candidate for such a birth. I ate right, did all of the physical therapies to prepare my physical body and spent a lot of time meditating, reading, walking and spending time in silence to mentally and emotionally prepare. I have no doubt that, even though all of my preparation wasn’t used for my natural birth, it was invaluable in my recovery. My physical body recovered remarkably well, and for ever bit of time and energy and effort I put into preparing for birth, I am forever grateful. It meant that I had the physical and mental ability to cope with the days and weeks that followed our traumatic birth.
This isn’t an easy story to tell, but it needs to be told because I know I am not the only one. After Finn’s birth, so many women reached out to me with their traumatic birth stories. It’s okay. Our stories have their own beauty, much of that beauty coming in the form of the strength these early challenges have given to us as women and as mothers.
We are foolish to think we can control how our lives, and the moments that make up our lives unfold. All we can ever control is how we choose to respond in any given moment. Right now, I am choosing love, gratitude and presence with my baby boy.
51 responses to “Our Birth Story: Where Nothing Goes As We’d Planned”
Thank you for sharing this Meghan! ❤️
Pregnancy and childbirth are in my experience the ultimate example of trusting yourself and your support system and giving up the idea we can control everything. (And from a Type A person, this was a hard lesson to learn!)
Our little guy decided to arrive not peacefully in the dimly lit, perfectly set up birth center we’d chosen but surrounded by doctors and midwives in the university hospital after my water broke at 32 weeks. He spent 4 weeks in the NICU and it definitely wasn’t the way I imagined by first month of being a mom would be.
But he’s a happy, curious and full speed 2 year old now and his beginning will always be a part of his story – and ours.
Love seeing the photos of you, Josh and the adorable Mr Finn.
That was an incredible and brave story to tell. I was a forceps child and taken away from my mother for the first 24 hours of my life. It is an experience I believe both deeply affected both my teenage mother and myself. Thank you for this honest account.
Congratulations on your healthy, beautiful boy Finn, and thank you for sharing your story! Mine was very similar though I was not a follower of the best health choices as you are at that time. My daughter was induced 15 days late (despite my resistance) and after I suffered for two weeks with PUPPP (Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy) which is like having chicken pox all over your body except for your face. She was induced with Pitocin w/no result; my water was broken by OB 3 hours later. Contractions began intensely, I asked for a pain shot, and then another; finally, I had an epidural with much relief. Several hours went by with little movement. The medical team tried to get me to push, but like your baby, I felt like she needed more time. She resisted! I experienced shooting pain down one leg and asked them to cut it off and then deliver the baby because the pain was excruciating. The dr. told my husband to massage my thigh because the baby must have been putting pressure on my Sciatic nerve. 13 hours after I was induced and with my hubby & male nurse anesthetist locking forearms & pushing on my stomach, she made her way into the world at 9 lbs. 6 ounces…healthy and lovely; She could not room in with me because so many babies had been born that my bed was in the gen. surgery unit. 18 hours later she was whisked to NICU w/ 102 fever, a spinal tap, antibiotics and sugar water which was so frightening. 48 hours later no infection, but like Finn she remained on antibiotics. She stayed 8 days until she stopped vomiting after she ate. At one feeding, my hubby actually hid a burping towel the baby had vomited into so they would think she kept down a full bottle and could come home, LOL! It was a crazy and unanticipated birth, but today my daughter is a kind, bright, funny, beautiful and successful attorney! No. 2 pregnancy & delivery was textbook and easy peasy! Enjoy each moment with your precious boy!
Thank you so much for sharing your heart-wrenching story. Take care of yourself in the coming months – mentally, emotionally and spiritually (which I know you already do). It’s ok to have bad days and questions. It’s amazing to have loads of good days too. I don’t believe you ever forget. You don’t forget but eventually, the pain and confusion lessens. Never diminish your own story. It’s what makes you …. you! You are a real inspiration – your family is gorgeous. Bless you guys heaps!
MEGHAN, what an honest and vulnerable account of your journey. I’ve come to expect that from you, but this one really hits home, as I’m “older” and am still contemplating having children. I have fears around it and hospitals and the usual birth process, too. It’s easy to speak out against traditional medicine because of our histories with it, but to be able to see what it can do in a time of crisis, even though it wasn’t our plan, is helpful. I was talking with my therapist the other day about having kids and how I’ve always felt like I have to be in control and making sure things go just so. She said, “Having children is the ultimate loss of control.” It sure seems like it, but maybe that’s a reminder to be taken to heart – that even the best laid plans sometimes fail us and we have to take another road and learn what we can from it. I try to ask myself, even in the most difficult circumstances, what is the gift or the lesson here? What am I meant to see or hear or share as a result of this journey? Who else is in it with me but feels alone in their struggle? Thank you for sharing yourself from the depth of your being. You are an inspiration, and I just want to give you a hug and tell you how awesome you are! 💕
Your story made me really emotional. It reminded me of the birth of my son. We had our son after going through 9 miscarriages. I hemorrhaged at 21 weeks due to placenta previa. When that happened we did not know if the baby would survive or me. My baby though was very responsive even then trying to tell me that he is safe. I was on bed rest at the hospital till I was 32 weeks when I bled again and my baby decided my mom has had enough. I had an emergency C-section. Baby was whisked away the moment he was born. He was in the NICU for till he was 38 weeks. The only challenge was he could not feed and breathe at the same time. So I ended pumping milk for a long time. He is 10 yrs now – happy and healthy.
I am so glad you had the courage to share your birth story (and miscarriage story too). More than 35 years ago when I gave birth to my eldest daughter via an unplanned C-section after requesting a natural birth, no one was openly sharing their stories. We need to hear all the stories not just the ‘pretty’ ones. Had I heard your story many years ago it may have made my birth journey less frightening. That I hadn’t failed my daughter (she too had meconium staining), myself and my husband. Please continue to bravely share – you are helping others!
Beautifully written, even if it’s not what you had imagined it would be. My twins were born at 26 weeks & 4 days on Christmas Day 2009 via emergency c-section, weighing 2lb5oz and 1lb14oz, and were rushed away to the NICU without me even seeing them – certainly not what I had planned. They then spent 89 days in 2 NICUs with IVs, antibiotics, blood transfusions, brain bleeds, spinal taps, and on and on. At the time I just did what I needed to to get through it but as they approached their first birthday I started having panic attacks and flashbacks (that were worse than when I was actually going through it) and was diagnosed with PTSD. They are almost 8 now and it’s much easier. I will never forget it but it’s not all-consuming as it was before. More often than not now I’m overwhelmed to see how far they’ve come from such a crazy beginning. Congratulations on such a beautiful and strong boy :)
I’ve been following you for several years now and I just wanted to say how grateful I am that you shared this very REAL, RAW birth story. I hear you – trauma is real and you don’t need to forget it. Sending much love from the States.
I think it’s an important story to share because there are a lot of us who have had similar challenges and doubts if we could have done something different. I am a Chiropractor and was also planning to have a natural birth with Midwives when my son was born 22 years ago. When I went into labour everything started to go wrong. After almost 20 hours of “natural” labour, my son was delivered via emergency c-section because my cervix was swelling and he was in distress. His apgar was low initially, but bounced back quickly.
My lesson was that while it’s important to take care of ourselves and childbirth is not a medical procedure, for different reasons things don’t always go as planned and this is where allopathic medicine really shines – saving lives in emergency situations. My experience taught me not to judge decisions my patients make and appreciate the role different providers offer. Parenthood is a challenge and one where we learn quickly that we have so little control over situations right from birth to decisions our kids make as teenagers and young adults. It’s possible that if you were not induced, it may have even been more serious. Welcome to parenthood – and and all the joy and difficulties that come with it!
Oh I cried for you reading this. I have been there. It’s very hard when you can’t rely on your own intuition, your own efforts at healthy living. It felt so out of control and made me question myself as a mother. That definitely haunted me for awhile. My second baby was a VBAC and the birth was beautiful, just as I wanted. Very healing. Best wishes for you and your family. He is beautiful!
Thank you for sharing your story Meghan. It’s an important one. I too wanted everything natural. I had the “kit” to have a home birth and then one night I had a dream that I should have him in the hospital so I went with that! Leo ended up being posterior and after 26 hours of labour I was minutes away from getting a C-section which at the time I was ok with because I just wanted him out healthy. I’m thankful for my midwife because she did everything she could to turn him and I didn’t need the section in the end. He too had meconium and had to go to the NICU and I remember that feeling of being alone in my room with no baby. I don’t regret any of it either. He’s here. He’s healthy and we’re blessed to have a system in place to provide us with what we needed. My second on the other hand came in 4 hours and with no meds or any intervention so there’s hope if you ever have a second my friend! ;) Blessings to your beautiful family!!!
You have no idea how much your birth story will help women. Quite honestly, your lifestyle is the “ideal” and deviations from it sometimes make me feel lesser…. I know that’s nonsensical, but it’s true. I don’t have the stamina to take on world all the time. I wanted a natural birth with my first child….at 42 weeks I was induced. I now know there are many methods of indiction and we didn’t even get to the Pitocin. However, having contractions 40 seconds apart with no doula or family with me deteriorated my will (my ability to breathe) and an epidural was forthcoming. I’m now 16 weeks pregnant and have a doula and my husband should be here for the birth of our second child. Once again, I’m hoping for a natural birth in a birth center.
I think that it’s important to know all your options, because if you don’t know them, then you have none. I quiz the midwife/doctor team religiously about their individual practices and preferences and tell them each mine.
Your story is so helpful to women. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but its honest and forthcoming, it showed a willingness to adapt, and intelligence in your research and options. It’s important to share stories not only for our own healing but to support moms-to-be in their journey. Thank you for yours.
Congratulations on your beautiful family and thank you for sharing your story. I can’t imagine the fear of a newborn in distress. You are such a strong, amazing mama!
I have a similar story, with exactly the same birth plan as you, but we had the out of hospital experience and I have to say it really seems like it all come down to nuanced details and honestly luck. I also went to 41 weeks, baby was 8.5lbs, I did the stretch and sweep with no luck at 40+3, when my water broke about 7 hours in we had meconium, and it all came down to that 1 push at 9cm wether we faced a transfer or not. We didn’t and baby came 20 minutes later, though we only delayed clamping for a few minutes until the placenta was born and it turned out it was torn and deteriorated from going so far past term (a fact that if anyone had noticed earlier would have landed me with a c-section). There’s just such a fine line and my story could have been yours or yours mine- in the end we just do our best and learn to hold all of the feelings good and bad in our heart and sit with what we have. That’s all happiness is I’ve been told, learning to find gratitude in the completely imperfect version of reality you find yourself in. You’re an awesome mom and I continue to love and follow your work and life. Thanks Meghan! You rock!
Oh Meghan <3 <3 you are so wonderful to share this honest and brave story with us–as a grandmother of 2 with another on the way–I would love to share this with my daughter–but whether I do or not–you have a sweet little boy and even though we know it could have gonr better–it also could have been much worse–love you for your knowledge but acceptance of what had to be
Meghan, what a beautiful, honest and moving recollection of your birth. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I do not have kids yet but it is in my plan for the future and just like you I feel like I have been preparing for the most natural birth possible for ages now. I wish for it to be as natural and peaceful as possible. But, of course, I have NO idea it will all unfold. All I can do at this stage is to keep an open mind, remain flexible and learn to trust my intuition. Thank you for reminding me that even if NOTHING goes as planned, the most important thing is (as you said): to do my best with what I know in that moment. Congratulations to both you and Josh on becoming parents. Your baby boy is so beautiful. Lots of love to you and your family <3.
Wow. I am so grateful that your family is safe and happy. I’m sitting here wiping the tears off my cheeks. Birth is unpredictable. My dad is a GP and worked in a very small town for most of his career. He has attended many labors and the one piece of advice he gave me when I was first pregnant was there is no such thing as a low risk pregnancy and birth. Until mom and baby are both stable you must think of the situation as high risk incase mom or baby enter distress. Not meaning you overtreat the patient, but you must be careful and cautious and thoughtful. I always thought that was interesting and it really shaped my birth choices. I have 3 children, all births attended by wonderful midwives in a hospital setting. First baby was not natural although that was my intention. I had a really poor experience with the epidural and was able to do my next 2 labors natural. Your little one is drop dead adorable and I’m so glad he is healthy and thriving! Yay for medical help to keep maternal and infant mortality rates low!!! Congratulations ❤️
Thank you for having the courage to share this story. I have been following your pregnancy journey since the beginning and was immediately worried when you posted your first announcement of Finley’s birth. You had a few veiled comments and my spidey-senses went on high alert. I was thrilled when you started posting a few pics after you got home, and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. I am not a nosey person by nature, so I wasn’t interested in your birth details once I saw his cute little face and knew you were home.
I had pretty commonplace births, so I can’t say we have that in common. I will say that even though you re-visit your “what if” thoughts I think that somewhere deep in your intuition you also told yourself to trust those around you, even if what they were suggesting was 180degrees away from your plan. Based on your story I don’t get the sense that you dug your heels in and stubbornly stuck to your plan. That’s what makes your story different from other women who followed their intuition until they were only actually following their pride.
I continue to proud to say that my lifestyle has changed drastically because of your (and Josh’s) influence.
Congratulations on your beautiful boy! P.S. – I think he looks like Josh! :)
Firstly, my most sincere congratulations to all three of you! Your birth story is very similar to my own son’s birth 19 years ago. He ended up being the most amazing baby, so curious and fascinated by the world that he barely cried. At 19, he is just now showing some of the effects of the trauma of being born this way. He developed quickly and was able to read at age 2 with mental processing speed that outstripped his peers by a decade or more. Testing showed him to be both gifted and possibly meeting the criteria for ASD. When we introduced food for the first time, it became apparent he had multiple food sensitivities and I wish I had known about you at this time. We did our best. I breastfed him as long as possible and food has been a lifelong challenge. We will never know if it was because of a protracted and stressful delivery, the antibiotics both he and I were on after his birth, or the antidepressant medication I “had to take” as I developed PPD, or all of this, but he is highly sensitive to the world and can be easily overwhelmed. He graduated high school with top marks, winning the art award and a full scholarship for his first year at university where it all became too much. The change in routine, the new environment, eating food I didn’t prepare, the travel on public transit to and from school, the new people, all of it, was too much. He only passed 1/2 a credit in his first year. The summer after first year, when I coincidentally first started following you, he was diagnosed with adult ADHD and social phobia and he wrote a petition letter for the university to give him a second chance. Because of what we now know about the role of nutritionally supportive food, everything changed for the better. We have been doing all we can to reduce stress in his life to allow him to find balance again. He is learning his own need for responsibility with regards to regular sleep, good food, and regular exercise. I have no doubt that you and your husband will do a better job with your son, knowing all that you do. Being raised by someone who will engrain the foundation of healthy living into him, he will hopefully never go through what my son did. The body has such an amazing ability to recover and we’re seeing the benefit of that knowledge for our own son, almost two decades later. Thank you for sending me down that path. And congratulations again on your beautiful healthy son. He’s going to be just fine because of you!
Wow! I will start by wishing you, Josh and Finn the very best Thanksgiving. Then, goodness! Even though your earlier emails had shown that Finn was thriving, this posting nonetheless had me holding my breath! I hope that time will bring you some peace. Clearly you did all you could. Thankfully Mother Nature-led medical science has advanced to where, when needed, specialists can help a mother and baby turn the corner. Sending love, hugs and good prana from Ottawa.
Thank you for sharing your story. It is identical to mine, with the exception of my first ending in an emergency c-section because his off the charts head circumference caused him to get stuck. As much as we try to lead natural healthy lives, we must respect the medical profession for saving our babies and ourselves in these situations.
I nearly cried reading this!
I too had hoped for a natural birth with my second after a horror first birth – I wanted to rewrite the narrative. And afterward I realised despite all that went wrong, all the monitoring, the labouring near the birthing pool and not in, I had rewritten it. My baby was safe, I was cared for, my team truely worked with me (the first time they had not, I was even yelled at and denied help when I begged for it).
Once we have the baby we hold it tight, we remember the lessons and we try to move on.
Gorgeous baby! Thanks for sharing. X
I felt the emotion of what you went through (at least I think I did) through your writing of your family’s birth story. Beautiful and wondrous and miraculous. I am amazed how the universe wants amazing things for us, but sometimes, has something different to teach us than we expected no matter our hopes and dreams. What a lesson Meghan and Josh and Finley. Finley came in how he needed to, I think, and look at the impact in your lives as a result. Heavy, difficult, challenging, overwhelming and scary, but in the end, a space of synergy. You now have this gorgeous boy and an incredible family. Congratulations and thank you for sharing your birthing story.
No words….maybe a few. Thank you for sharing your intimate story. Welcome home, Finley.
Meghan and Josh and Finley,
I felt a tug in my heart when I read your story. And I held my breath when I began to read it. It sounded all too familiar to me. I did everything I supposed to. Took care of myself and my unborn babies from the get go. However, life had other plans for me and my sons. Long story short, my first son was taken by C-section after meconium in the water and 27 hours of labour and only 3 cm dilated and in distress. My second son who was scheduled for C-section 4 years later almost to the day had other plans and my water broke 2 weeks early. My temperature spiked and they did an emergency C-section and his apgar score was “zero” when he was born and we both had “ecohli” and needed immediate antibiotics. They were both handled with the best care possible in the special care nursery of Southlake Hospital and are now 22 and 26 year old men. And….best part ever…I am a very proud grandmother to a very healthy, happy baby girl and was there for the natural birth of my granddaughter. I felt inadequate and as though I had failed as a woman and mother all those years ago. I had done everything right but had ‘failed’ to be able to pull it off. :-( And I learned as my sons turned into strong young adults that I had not failed, and had done the best I could and am welcoming their lovely ladies into our family that in the end that is really all that matters… A healthy, happy and bonded family. What more can a mother ever hope for?
Thank you for sharing your story. I am so grateful to share the same feelings when I delivered my second baby. A lot of confusion and noise that drowned out my intuition. You have really helped me this evening as I read this. I realize that the trauma of being separated from my baby for his first week of life still triggers me six years later. Congratulations! Finn is a lucky little boy. Xx
Such a bittersweet story. I too planned two natural births that require the use of pit. I was sad and emotional destroyed and felt like a weak woman… untill I talked to friends that has similar or worse stories. It’s important to understand that we gave birth! We grew a human! However that child comes into the world can not take away the fact that we are utterly amazing!!!
Thank you for being vulnerable and honest and I’m so glad you are both thriving three months later! I really wanted a natural hospital birth with my first and was faced with similar concerns that led to induction at 9 days late. My daughter was born 40ish hours later after seeing nearly every bit of my birth plan whittle away. I’m currently 33 weeks pregnant and concerned about going past-due again. I’ve considered refusing an ultrasound to measure weight and amniotic fluid level if it is recommended because I feel like everything may have gone as planned the first time if I had waited a little longer to be induced and i dont want to give the doctors (or me) any unnecessary sense of urgency. I appreciate your timely story. The what-ifs can certainly drive you crazy. The truth is you’ll never know what could have happened for better or worse. The best we can do is make our best educated guess decision in the moment and move on from there. But oh it is hard not to wonder all of the what ifs!
Meghan – I was very moved by your story – it must have been very distressing, particularly with the wisdom you have. I was so fortunate in that my body seemed made for giving birth easily. Simple births do happen and can happen after a difficult first one. And of course – the main thing is that you have a healthy baby. And as a friend once said to me, “no baby ever gives you a medal for not having an epidural”.. and she chose to have one with her 3rd of 4 kids, having not had anything for the first two… she just wondered, hang on, this hurts and it doesn’t need to, and so opted for it, with that line in head, which always made me laugh! Keep sharing.
I love the vulnerability and honesty of your birth story- how wonderful that you are all well and thriving!!
You experienced such difficult yet life saving interventions – it’s hard to read. But also so heartwarming to see finns chubby little grin.
I remember feeling that my admiration for women increased ten fold when I gave birth- what mothers go through in all stages of bearing life is phenomenal!
I was lucky with my home birth…and I only want to share this to support your sense that your intuition was saying something different. I say I was lucky because my midwife was hands off, fully trusting in the process of birth…I can’t remember how “overdue” I was but it was significant…into my 42nd week. But it was no big deal to her or other women in the home birth community. I guess I was lucky to have had that input too. So I wasn’t worried, just curious… and when I went into labour and reached the second stage quite quickly, pasco wasn’t moving down in a hurry, or not at all, his head at a funny angle too. But she never let on that there was a problem and I had no idea – just focussed on riding the waves, incredibly strong contractions. In retrospect she could have suggested a downward dog to give him room but my body made that happen by me throwing up violently and putting me in that position. After that, he moved his head and in two more contactions he shot out- into water thankfully.
The first inkling I had of her concern was when she came over with oxygen. He didn’t need it though.
Lots of things went wrong after that- like nursing – the pain of raw nipples was worth than birth ! Only after cranio fixing his strained neck did that improve – she didn’t pick up on that. And she didn’t stitch me up – I could have used a few stitches. But I’m eternally grateful that I knew no fear through the process. She trusted me which was as important as me trusting her.
I realise that what she trusted was every woman s intuition- within reason of course. Possibly from working in Africa for a long time, with fewer interventions available. Who knows, but it saved me from a possible c-section.
I remember the blissful feeling of meeting in myself the wisdom and power that our mind-bodies hold – something that I had never been able to access before in the way i did during labour
And really only thanks to my midwife’s own experience and courage. I reallyappreciate the opportunity to write this as it is a good reminder that that is there for us at other times too. I think we all meet that powerful wisdom and intuition during parenthood, both men and women, but it is so good to share with each other so that we remember to listen, and are encouraged by our community to do so.
Lots of love to you and your gorgeous family xxx
What a beautiful story! Motherhood and parenthood is so humbling. I had similar thoughts as I left Mount Sinai 7 days after birth being so grateful to have my daughter and I survive, to have a family. In the 3 years since, it is still hard to think back to that time as I’m sure you are still processing everything . But one thing I do know: becoming a mother is like life’s way of helping you truly learn what you need to in that moment. Your post is and will be so helpful for others. Happy Thanksgiving!
Oh Meghan, I am crying as this was me 3 months ago. Almost completely the same birth experience. Well done on exclusively breastfeeding, that must be beautiful! I was forced into topping up with formula which saved my baby’s life but I’m still working on weaning him off it completely. Your little boy is gorgeous, I am in love with his hair :)
Hi Meghan, how are you? I wanted to reach out to you after reading your story. I’ve quietly followed you for quite some time now after hearing about you through our mutual friend Catherine Farquharson.
I’ve been a doula for 10 years, and I’m also a coach. I do birth story healing and integration work with women, in a tradition passed on to me through my mentor, who trained with Pamela English and Caroline Myss. I would be honoured to support you to process your experience, if this is something you feel would help with your healing. I know that it’s not something that’s commonly available to women, and I wanted to share the opportunity with you, to see if you think it might help. Here’s some more information on what I do:
Wishing you and your little family strength, courage and health,
It is a beautiful story – it has a happy ending. When I think back to my last pregnancy it still challenges me. I felt it was overly medicalized (twins) and although I strongly believed I would carry them to term or close to it, I wasn’t able to do that. We had 17 days in the NICU and I well remember the sense of emptiness as I lay on a ward of moms and babies while mine were in little boxes in the NICU. I well remember the sense that they weren’t really mine. For many months/the early years, this experience hurt so much. Now I have healthy 9 year olds. I wouldn’t say that you will forget. I would say that over time it becomes less important. Viewed through the lens of years with many more unanswerable questions and difficult decisions, it just fades in importance. Their early birthdays had a way of rekindling the sadness and difficulty of their early days. I am glad for the perspective of time and healing. I can’t forget. I can just keep going and do the best job of being their mom that I can with the tools and resources I have.
Thank you so much for writing this and sharing. It’s beautiful. I just had big, hot tears reading this as it reminds me of our story. We had our son on August 5, and many of our experiences are similar (as were our birth plans, which clearly went out the window). I am just thankful that he’s here and healthy now. Fin is so sweet. Congratulations. :)
As I read your story, one word kept resonating in my being – “brave.” You are an incredibly brave woman and mother, and not only for what you’ve been through, but also because you have chosen to relive your experience in writing in order to help others. God bless you, Josh, and adorable Finn. Thank you for your transparency and vulnerability. So glad you have physically recovered and I pray that (mentally and emotionally) you continue to get stronger with each passing day.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Meghan. I remember that sacred space of the NICU with our third child back in 2008. Blessings to you guys and your precious little boy. :)
Thank you Meghan for the bravery and vulnerability it took to share your story. I wanted to let you know about Somatic Experiencing trauma therapy. It’s a body and nervous system oriented form of therapy which can help shift trauma patterns and guide you into post traumatic growth. Powerful stuff, and some Somatic Experiencing (SE) practitioners specialize in working with birth trauma, for mom and baby. Here is a link to one such wonderful practitioner: http://jessicakramer.com/ She is California based but may have some ideas of who to see in Toronto. Also you can check this website under “find a practitioner.” You can search in your area and put in the specialty prenatal/birth trauma. Looks like there are several available in Toronto. Feel free to reach out to me through my website at http://www.gutinstinct.clinic, if you want to know more about SE. Blessings to you and your sweet family! -Sarah Cotten
Just realized I didn’t provide the link for the SE website where you can click “find a practitioner.” Here it is: http://www.traumahealing.org
Thank you for sharing your story, Meghan. It’s so good to hear everyone is doing well. I don’t think there’s anything like the strength and perseverance of a mama or a daddy. Wishing your family the very best.
Thank you for sharing! This is extremely healing for me to hear as I have struggled with PTSD for 3 years, along with chronic pain, and unanswered questions since the birth of my child. While I am so grateful for a healthy, strong baby, and a doctor who saved my life. There is the “what if” that could have changed the years of physical pain that followed. I’m grateful to hear I’m not alone. I am sorry for your experience, but thank you for sharing!
An incredible journey of conviction, strength and love. The 3 beautiful smiles at the end bring joy to my heart. May the New Year bring everything wonderful, and most importantly, wellness.
Thanks for sharing your birth story! I loved reading it in the lead up to the birth of my son. It helped prepare me to know that nothing goes to plan!
I know it couldn’t have been easy, but I’m glad you found it in you to share this post. I feel like it’s only recently begun to find traction in medical circles, but the idea of post-birth-trauma PTSD is real and can affect mothers even if their child survived a stressful birth, such as yours. Even with all the developments around understanding traumatic births and what can be done to lessen the strain on mothers, much still needs to be learned and understood about the after effects and I sincerely wonder how many women aren’t able to put a name to their pain yet because of it.
Thanks for sharing this, and I have a similar birth story, also the complete opposite of what I planned. And also what keeps me up is the fact that intuitively I knew baby needed more time too. I went to 42 weeks and was living in Japan at the time. Similar story to you, traumatic birth, still processing it but I wish I had been more persistent about waiting. We are so vulnerable at that stage and fear for our unborn child, but we do the best we can at the time. Thanks again for sharing.
Thank you for sharing your experience. My son is now 2.5 years old and I *still* wonder… We can make ourselves crazy with what ifs and I am proud of the healthy, resilient calm little man he is today and so aim to focus on that.
Dear Meghan, I just stumbled upon your “shake” tutorial and your personality and spirit brought me here…
You are a brave Mama, (tears go down my cheeks while I am writing this ) may your relationship with your little boy be full of peace, love, magic and joy. And may your heart be full of calm for your baby…always!
Thank you Yana!
I read this intently and could feel you as a new mama throughout the whole post. I am so glad your baby is safe and healthy and I love your attitude of gratitude throughout the whole thing. I know how hard it is when expectations are not only unfulfilled but when the opposite and scariest things happen. I had a relatively easy birth but my postpartum period was from hell itself; and while it’s hard to forget (I will never), the suffering has been pivotal in my attitude adjustment and my newfound appreciation for life itself. Thanks so much for sharing your story, and I can’t wait to get to know you better through the CNE Program! Wishing you all the best to you and your lovely family.
Thank you for commenting, Heba. I look forward to having you in the program!