I gave birth during the pandemic at Maine General in Augusta, Maine.
This is the first time I have written any of this down.
Thank you for reading along as I share the story of when I gave birth to my third son, three years ago today.
I was ready to not be pregnant.
I think the majority of folks at the very end of their pregnancy can relate to this feeling. I was feeling exceptionally awful. My hips and lower back were aching so bad, and being a stay at home mom to two other kids, resting wasn't much of an option. I had spent my entire pregnancy feeling gross to some degree. Maybe I was full on throwing up, maybe it was a day of being completely put off by any and all food (this was most days), or just general nausea. It was brutal. I was so grateful to be growing a third healthy human, but holy hell was I ready to carry him outside of my body. The regular vomiting had come back at the end of my third trimester. I was throwing up so hard I was either peeing myself, or blowing capillaries all over my face, known as petechia. Weekly chiropractor visits weren't relieving my extreme body aches, and all of the typical remedies for nausea didn't do anything to help.
My estimated due date was November 27th, 2020. It was the height of the pandemic, and everything was so uncertain. The week after he was conceived was when the country shut down. I cried often about the world he was going to be born into. The two weeks wasn't actually two weeks, as we all know. How was this going to impact my birth experience? How would this impact my baby after he joined us earth side? Would we have support postpartum, from the very small village we had?
The day before I gave birth, I had an appointment with my chiropractor and an appointment with my midwife. I knew I could birth my baby. I knew I could trust my body after the redemptive birth of my second son. I was reluctant to do anything to encourage labor, but after a lot of back and forth, I decided to opt for a membrane sweep. The state of my mind and body were...not great. I decided if it was meant to be, this would get labor going, and if not, that would be ok too. I felt some cramping that afternoon, so I thought maybe that could be early labor!
We went about our night as always. I went to sleep, but woke up in the wee hours of the morning because of the sensation of the contractions. I texted my midwife, and she suggested trying to get more sleep if I could. I couldn't. I tried, but I was too uncomfortable and excited and anxious. I was a little on edge thinking about how fast things had gone with my second birth. I didn't want to be in denial like I was that time. My midwife knew I had some stress thinking about getting to the hospital because I had only gotten there with an hour to spare last time. I was glad to have spent as little time there as I did. But, this time I wanted to arrive with enough time to get settled and fill the tub and actually use it. I didn't have the chance last time.
I finally decided to get up around 2:30-3am and take a shower to see if that eased the contractions. I was in there for about 45 minutes, just swaying my hips and focusing on the hot water flowing over me. The contractions didn't go away or even slow down, so I texted my midwife again to let her know.
I woke my husband up when I got out of the shower to let him know that this was for real. We'd meet our baby today. Our two boys were sound asleep in their rooms. We expected them to be awake at 5am, per usual. I think it was around 4:30am that my husband texted his mom that I was in labor. Luckily, they built a little house on the back of our garage. So, when my mother in law didn't answer, he was able to walk over and knock. My husband told me his Mom was confused about why he was there. Which, considering the time, was understandable. I'm sure he said something to the effect of "It's baby time!?!?". We all get a good chuckle looking back on that now. My in laws came over right away, and shortly after they got here, our boys woke up. We were able to say good morning and give them hugs. I was so happy and relieved that I got the chance to see them before we left.
I looked at the calendar to see the date. 11/24/20. I noticed that all of our boys would have a 4 in their birthday. My oldest was born on the 14th, my middle the 4th, and now my youngest on the 24th! All different months thank goodness. I liked that it was the 24th.
We headed to the hospital a little after 5. I drove. Driving us to the hospital in active labor actually makes me feel a little bad ass and makes me smile. Of course I would do that.
I don't remember if it was me or my husband who got in touch with our photographer. She had missed my last birth by seconds. I was hoping that wouldn't happen again! I'm remembering her getting to the hospital not long after we did.
I felt like I was going to throw up not long after we arrived. I was sitting on the bed and the nurse handed me that silly little round plastic bag, just in case. My photographer was pregnant at the time, and scooted out of the room super quick as soon as I said I might vomit. Thankfully, I managed to not throw up, which I was so grateful for.
I was really thankful that the tub was filled in time for me to use it. I was in there for hours. I did my best to just let my body float when the contractions would come. It was hard. It was intense. My husband held my hand. He told me I was doing great. I could do this.
I tend to go deeply inward when I am laboring. I know this about myself. I made sure my husband (his name is Cam, by the way. Have I not mentioned that!?) knew this about me too. I can hear everything going on around me. I can think up responses to what I hear. But, most of my time is spent with my eyes closed. Staying in. Unable to speak up much at all despite the thoughts running through my head.
Getting a covid test when you're in very active labor really fucking sucks. So, there's that.
I vaguely remember FaceTiming with big brothers while I was in the tub. It was just for a couple of minutes to say hi. I was so happy to see them, but it also brought my emotions to a whole different level. Big big feels. I missed them. Their whole worlds were about to change so much. Mine too.
My husband, nurse, and photographer all took turns getting a cloth for my forehead and neck. It felt nice. The mask wearing and the warm water and the work I was doing had me feeling pretty hot. And that godforsaken purple glove! Oh my gosh. How annoying that thing was. But, they had me wear it to keep my IV port dry.
Labor is hard! I went back and forth from laying in the tub to sitting up and leaning over the edge.
I got to this point of just feeling defeated. I was tired. It was so hard. How much longer. Can I really do this. I need a break. Why can't I just be done with this already.
I began to cry. I was overwhelmed.
My husband held my face in his hands and wiped my tears. He offered me reassurance and love and encouragement.
I moved and swayed in the water. I continued to do my best to breathe and stay open and relaxed. My midwife, Angela, suggested after the next contraction that I try to get out of the tub. Covid policies. I could labor in the water, but couldn't push my baby out in it. I knew this ahead of the time, and was really bummed because I had wanted to give birth in the water with each of my babies, and it just didn't happen. I should have just stayed home and birthed my baby there. Hindsight sucks, am I right?!
I didn't want to get up. Like, for real?! Get up?! It felt like an impossible task at that point. I think everyone else realized how close I was to pushing, but not me. I was just riding the wives, taking it second by second. I I sat up on my knees and had a contraction. It was different.
My midwife asked if I wanted to take my bra off before he was born so I could be skin to skin without anything in the way. I said yes. And, yay, that must mean he would be here so so soon.
I managed to stand. Another contraction. "Help me!" I called out. I was pushing. I needed physical support to stand. I was exhausted and the fetal ejection reflex was wild. I had nothing to lean my body on. My husband jumped into the tub. He got his arm up under mine, which allowed me to put more of my weight on him.
I felt like my body was doing its own thing. I guess because it was? It was so intense. I could feel his head coming out and it burned like a mother fucker. Aside from that, I remember warmth. Feeling his warm head in between my legs.
"Stand up!" My midwifes voice was crystal clear and the loudest over everyone else's. Once a baby's head is born, they can't be submerged in the water. I had so little strength left that I was really close to dipping his head into the tub.
And then he was born. I feel like I only pushed a few times. It's hard for me to recall three years later. But truly, it was quick. I joke sometimes about my second and third babies pushing themselves out.
I immediately sat back down in the tub. So much relief. My son wasn't crying like you'd expect. He was kind of gurgling. He let out some raspy yells. I remember my midwife saying over and over "he's just stunned!" "he came out fast, he's just stunned!".
He was warm and slippery. He looked different from each of his brothers. He was perfect. He had vernix on him, and some of it was on his eyes. I could see he was trying to open them, but the sticky vernix was making it hard. I asked for a wet cloth to try to wipe it away for him. I feel like I was weirdly fixated on him being able to open his eyes but it seeming hard for him.
A lot of people came into the room. The nurse had pushed a button for some reason. Everything and everyone was fine.
"He was not born in the water!" my midwife said. The peds team was probably worried about it. Apparently my nurse too? I knew my midwife wasn't. I could hear her not being concerned about my gurgly baby. I knew that he was fine. But, I couldn't say anything. I couldn't form words. None that I recall. I could hear everything going on and had thoughts in my head, but I couldn't get them out. So, when the peds team took my baby to give him a look over after a couple of minutes, I allowed it. I'm not sure if I directly or passively agreed.
My husband went to the warmer with him. He had to ditch his pants and socks at some point along the way because they were completely drenched with birth tub water. It was so funny seeing him at the warmer in a t-shirt and boxers, but I loved him more for it. He didn't care. He just wanted to make sure he didn't step away from our baby for a second.
I made my way from the tub to the bed. I ended up needing a repair. I do every time. It's unfortunate, but I had a feeling it would happen. I had a direct line of sight from the bed to the warmer where my baby was. I had specifically asked that no residents/students/anyone extra, come into my space. I was pretty sure not everyone there was necessary. The whole thing, having him over there, was unnecessary. I definitely had a moment pass over me where I just felt pissed. I didn't want them there. I didn't want them having a direct view of my midwife repairing my tear. I wanted my baby, and for my husband to come back. I wanted both of them back.
"Can I have my baby now?" I'm not sure if anyone heard me. I'm pretty sure I did actually say it out loud. Maybe I even said it was a little sass. I was feeling spicy after all. I don't think it was longer than a few minutes before they came back over to me. I think birth and the immediate postpartum feels like a time warp. No real concept of how fast or slow time is passing. No grasp on the outside world.
He was here. In my arms. We were safe and happy. I held him skin to skin and nursed him. On November 24th, 2020, I became a mother to my third son. I gave birth to him standing up! I was so surprised by myself. I was also admittedly a bit disappointed that I didn't give birth in the water, and that, for some reason, the nurse felt the need to push a button that caused chaos in my room for no reason at all.
I felt supported by my husband. I was proud of myself. I was relieved baby and I were both safe. I felt like an absolute badass. The birth high was fabulous.
Angela, my midwife, made me a chocolate shake and let me tell you what...it was the most delicious shake of my life. Maybe a tie with the one she made me after I gave birth to my second baby.
All was well. My baby and chocolate. Just what I needed.
Because of the pandemic, we were not allowed to have any visitors, which meant our older two kiddos couldn't come meet their baby brother. Thankfully, because everything was straight forward and we were healthy, we were able to go home the following day.
Overall, it was about 8 hours from the first attention grabbing contractions to my son being born. Not too shabby! He was 8lb 11oz (my second biggest baby) of absolute perfection.
Today, we celebrate our youngest. Cheers to 3 years of being a family of 5!
Kellan Carter Finn, Happy 3rd Birthday! I love you endlessly. Thank you for making me laugh always. Thank you for choosing me to be your mama.
I've never shared any of my birth stories before. I've never taken the time to write any of them down, even though I think about them all the time. I'm sure there is a lot I have forgotten. Some bits and pieces will hopefully come back to me eventually. I share other peoples birth stories, but have been so nervous to share my own. More so because of me, less so because of all of you. To walk through it and process it in this way, especially now as a birth photographer myself...There are things I wish I would have done differently. There are things that are upsetting and disappointing. Seriously though with that hindsight...
There is also so much good. So much.
I'm so glad I had my birth documented because I am able to see how strong I was. I'm able to be reminded of how attentive my husband was. How, in the face of giving birth in a hospital during a pandemic, I did the damn thing. And you know what?! I rocked it.
Looking back on these photos also gives me a great sense of appreciation for my body. My aching, tired body. What an amazing thing to see my pregnant belly in the final moments of carrying my baby. It's beautiful. I'm beautiful. My body will never be the same, for it has grown and birthed and fed three human beings. Three human beings that I love with every ounce of my being. Whew.
Thank you for reading my story.
ps. I totally forgot he shit all over me until I went back through these photos. I didn't notice it happen in the moment, so that was pretty funny. We both had meconium all over us. As I'm sure many of you know, that's the most sticky substance known to humankind...so my husband had a fun task of cleaning us up hehe...
My birth photos were taken by Mariah, of Mariah Clemons Photography