Finley represents many things for me that are unique to him, out of all of my children. He is my bonus baby, my surprise blessing, the brother Cody never thought he’d have… not to mention the (biological) son RJ never thought he would have. Finley is like a bridge between two families—Westropps and Gentrys. He’s the final piece of the puzzle that has completed our beautiful, complex, chaotic blended family. He’s also the child that, just by coming into existence, made me eat my words once again. Because I said I was done! And the truth is, I was utterly done with having babies after my last one, Amelia—but then my whole life changed.
When I met RJ and fell in love, everything changed. Pretty early on I knew I wanted to have a baby with him someday. Still, when Finley was conceived, it was a big surprise! It wasn’t the timing we’d planned, and I wasn’t exactly eager to go through pregnancy and birth again. But I believe that God’s plan and timing are perfect, and while I may not have planned for Finley at the time he was conceived, God did. RJ and I quickly moved from shock to excitement—and we were even more thrilled to find out we were having a boy. Three girls and two boys is a pretty amazing balance, and it felt so right for us.
While this pregnancy and birth were exceedingly uncomfortable, we are overjoyed to have our son with us now. As always, this precious baby was worth every moment. And despite knowing that nobody really believes me anymore, I do mean it when I say I am now retired from making tiny humans.
Finley James Gentry was born on Monday, June 19th, 2023 at 9:22 AM. He was born at home, completely unmedicated, in about 10 hours from start to finish. He was 20 inches long and weighed 7 lbs 4 oz. Here’s how it all happened.
From the beginning of my pregnancy, I knew that I was likely in for a rough ride. My pregnancy with Cody wasn’t terribly uncomfortable—I had nausea for a little past the first trimester, and that was it. But with each pregnancy after that, it got worse. I was sick longer with Abigail, and with Amelia I didn’t have relief from pregnancy sickness until after she was born! I also had worse heartburn with each subsequent pregnancy, which further limited the kinds of foods I could eat.
With Finley, I was once again nauseous and experienced moderate heartburn throughout my pregnancy. My mental health, which has been a struggle for most of my life, has often been worsened by the challenges of pregnancy and the postpartum period. This time was no exception, and feeling literally sick and tired for nine months, while navigating some pretty huge life changes and parenting four other children, took a heavy toll on me.
In the final weeks of my pregnancy, I struggled with a lot of anxiety and depression around the waiting. It felt endless, but I also felt like even when Finley was born, I wasn’t sure that I would feel better about life in general. Life is hard, and I haven’t chosen the easiest path over the past couple of years. At times, I can get overwhelmed by it. So, in the days leading up to Finley’s birth, I was spending a lot of time by myself just trying to rest and cope. RJ has been taking care of so much so that I could make it through this time, and I am so thankful for such a caring, supportive partner.
Even though I knew that statistically, I wasn’t likely to begin my birthing time until after reaching my guess date (40 weeks of pregnancy), I still was hoping that I would get lucky and have him a little early. After reaching term at 37 weeks, I desperately wanted to get to the finish line! But, of course, birth is unpredictable and pretty much out of anyone’s control—so nothing I did seemed to have any effect on getting things started. It was disheartening, and every day seemed to drag on endlessly.
At 38 weeks, I had a prenatal appointment and asked for a cervical check and membrane sweep if possible. This is a fairly common method of encouraging birthing to begin, but it requires at least 1-2 CM of dilation. Most prenatal care providers don’t offer this induction technique until 39 to 40 weeks of pregnancy, and my midwife doesn’t typically do them until after 40 weeks. However, she also respects my informed decision making process and was willing to do it at 38 weeks; unfortunately, I wasn’t dilated at all so it couldn’t be done.
At my next appointment at 39 weeks, we tried again and were able to do the sweep. She successfully encouraged my cervix to dilate from 1 CM to 2 CM, and that was encouraging. Membrane sweeping has been found to encourage birthing time to begin within 48 hours, so I was hopeful that it would do the trick.
Every day after the sweep, I waited for my birthing time to start. RJ was able to do a sweep for me each night, after being given instructions and precautions by the midwife. (Ultimately, I suspect that the repeated sweeps are what triggered my birthing time to begin before my guess date!) But at the time, I didn’t know if it was having any effect. Occasionally I noticed more pressure waves that could have been my early birthing time, but they didn’t progress. It took four days until I did go into my active birthing time on Sunday, June 18th around 10:30 PM.
I wasn’t sure if it was actually the real deal at first—as usual, since I can never tell for sure until I’m much further into my birthing time. But I had some bleeding earlier in the night, and then my pressure waves were forming a fairly consistent pattern, coming about every 5-15 minutes and lasting about 45-60 seconds. For me, that is about as good of a pattern as I usually get until I’m in transition (the final stage of dilation), so I was optimistic. But the most promising sign that my birthing time was for sure in progress was the intensity of the waves. When I feel the need to use my hypnosis to stay comfortable, and when I start feeling like vocalizing during my waves, that’s when I usually know the time has come. And, by 1:30 AM, I was doing both. Still, I was anxious about calling my midwife too soon and wasting everybody’s time, let alone getting my own hopes up. So I pushed myself to wait until 2 AM to wake up RJ and have him call the midwife, Christy.
At that point, I was as sure as I could be, so we got things rolling. RJ called Christy, who then started getting her things together to head over to us. Then he set up the birthing pool, made the bed, and made other necessary preparations while we waited for her. I continued to work through my waves, and was feeling good at that point. All of the kids were with us that night, but they were fast asleep throughout the beginning of my birthing time.
When Christy arrived, she set up all of the birth supplies and then checked my dilation, something we’d previously discussed. While I believe that there are pros and cons to cervical checks during birthing time, I decided to request them periodically because in the past they’ve given me encouragement about my progress. Unfortunately, for this birth, they were the opposite of encouraging! I don’t think that the checks caused me not to progress, but learning that I wasn’t progressing as fast as I’d hoped was discouraging, nevertheless.
At my first check, I’d been in active birthing time for about four hours. I was expecting this birth to be at least as fast as my last one (which was only six hours), so I was hoping to be close to full dilation already. But, I was only at 3-4 CM! I was discouraged to hear that, considering that I was already about 4 CM when RJ had done my sweep earlier that night. Still, I had enough energy to feel optimistic that things could progress quickly from there. Soon after that, my midwife’s assistant Ana arrived. The cool story with Ana is that she was part of my prenatal care team throughout my pregnancy with Amelia—with a completely different midwife, in a different county! It felt like a crazy coincidence to find out that she is one of Christy’s assistant’s now (and is now a fully licensed midwife, rather than a student). And, since she didn’t end up attending Amelia’s birth, it was really cool to have her here for Finley’s. With her arrival, we were all ready for baby to come. We also called my mother-in-law, Marsha, to come over and take care of the kids later, around 6:30 AM.
As the hours passed by and my pressure waves began to increase in intensity, my energy level started to fade. I’d had no sleep whatsoever that night, and the waves were powerful. My hypnosis was not keeping me as comfortable as I would have hoped. So, a few hours after my first cervical check, I asked for another one and found I was about 6-7 CM. That felt like insanely slow progress to me, and that was the point where I began to feel I was close to reaching my limit.
This process repeated, with another couple of hours of very intense waves followed by another desperate cervical check. I was still at about 7-8 CM, and at that point I knew I couldn’t go on. I needed to be fully dilated and start pushing, but I wasn’t there yet. Christy offered to break my water, but I wasn’t confident in that plan because typically when the water breaks, the waves become even more intense. If that happens when fully dilated, then great, because you can start pushing baby out! But, my fear was that having more intense waves at that point, before being fully dilated, would be more than I could take. I was already at my breaking point.
I started asking seriously about transferring to the hospital. At that point, I was ready for help. I fantasized about having an epidural and Pitocin and finally getting Finley out—just like I had ended up doing for my first birth, with Cody. For me, it wasn’t the end of the world, and I knew it would be okay. I just wanted to be done.
At first, RJ encouraged me to fight the impulse to go to the hospital. He knew that having a home birth was my preference, and he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just in my “I can’t go on” stage of birth, which I had warned him would happen. But we continued to discuss it and I was adamant that this was what I needed at that point. I could tell he was anxious about the change of plans, but he supported me. The midwife started making preparations to begin the transfer, and was about to call the hospital when I suddenly felt a pop. It was a sensation I had felt before and I announced that my water had just broken.
Everybody asked what I wanted to do then and I said I had “no fucking idea,” with an exasperated laugh. It was a ridiculous situation. There was a chance I would be able to get to the hospital in time for an epidural to help me through any more waves, in the case of continuing active birthing waves for possibly hours longer. However, in my past births, after the water broke I was always pushing soon after. Pushing waves and the pushing process were much more manageable for me, and I knew it wouldn’t be worth it to have an epidural just for that. I decided to have yet another cervical check to confirm my water was broken, since there wasn’t a lot of liquid on the pad I’d been sitting on despite the popping sensation.
Christy checked me and said she could still feel the bag of waters, and that I was still at about 7-8 CM. I said something like, “oh, okay so that was just some bullshit then,” and reaffirmed that I wanted to go to the hospital. But, as I was laying on the bed moments later working through another agonizing wave, I felt an even bigger pop and a huge gush of water. Ana could see the water rushing out, and we knew then for sure that my water actually had broken that time.
We all laughed at the situation, and I was asked yet again if I still wanted to go to the hospital. At that point, I knew I needed to see what the next wave felt like, but it was highly unlikely we were going anywhere. Within a few minutes, the pushing wave I felt confirmed it. “We’re not going to make it, he’s coming here,” I announced.
I’d already decided to push him out on the bed, instead of in the pool, since the pool had stopped helping with my comfort level hours before. I moved to my hands and knees and started pushing with my waves. I could feel him moving down, and RJ and Christy could see the beginning of his head. These waves were much more manageable, as I expected, and the feeling of moving him down and closer to birth was so much more productive and encouraging, which gave me the energy to keep going. A couple of times, I pushed him further down in between waves, which I suspect sped up the process further.
After about 20 minutes of pushing, he went from partway down my birth canal to crowning to head out within a single wave. As with one of my previous births (Abigail), his head came out but the rest of him was a little stuck. This time, I was prepared and knew exactly what to do—Christy had even discussed with us the plan we would follow ahead of time, in this situation. She unwrapped his cord from around his neck, quickly assessed his position, had me put one leg up in a runner’s lunge, and hooked his shoulder to assist me pushing him out. It only took a minute, and he was born. I scooped him up into my arms and sat back to rest and savor the reward of my labor. He was out! It felt like a miracle.
After that, recovery was pretty straightforward. I had a proactive shot of Pitocin, as requested ahead of time, which helped quickly to deliver the placenta and control my bleeding. I didn’t need a single stitch this time, which was great to hear. The midwives cleaned us up and cleaned up the room, and then we did the newborn exam and settled in to rest and recover.
Of course, we had to introduce all of the kids to their new baby brother! They all came in and took turns admiring him. After we cut the umbilical cord, they took turns holding him. Penny’s mom, Amber, had arrived by then to take Penny for the rest of the day and she was kind enough to cook us a meal and take her turn admiring the baby. Although Cory couldn’t be there because he was out of town, I felt a lot of healing vibes for our blended family that day. To have Cory’s mom and Penny’s mom there supporting us was a powerful moment for me, and it meant a lot. We may be unconventional, but we are all part of this extended family now and I love it.
Since Finley’s birth, we’ve both been doing great. Recovery has been easy and comfortable so far (other than some very uncomfortable afterpains, which fortunately are getting less and less each day). Finley is a professional nurser, and has had no problems getting plenty of milk around the clock. His siblings all adore him, and we are settling in nicely as a family.
As always, God was a huge source of comfort for me throughout my pregnancy and birth. While my relationship with God has changed a lot over the past couple of years, I know that the core of who God is, and who God is for me, is still the same. They are the source of my hope when everything else seems dark, and the light that guides me ahead into my future. As I venture into this next chapter of balancing a wild amount of things all at once, and the ups and downs that come with that, I know that I want to seek God more and more as a source of strength, joy, hope, and purpose in my life. I believe that They are the reason I will not only survive, but thrive in the challenging yet beautiful months and years ahead.
I am thankful for my amazing and wonderful partner, RJ, who will soon be my husband. He is loving, supportive, capable, and the best life partner I could ask for to do all of this with. I am thankful for my four biological children (four! Four humans have come out of me! How crazy is that!) and also for my awesome bonus daughter. Penelope, Cody, Abigail, Amelia, and Finley—you are my purpose in life, and having the privilege of loving and caring for you is something I will always be thankful for. And, I am also very thankful for the support network I have been blessed with in this life. Finley has come into my life at a time when I have so much to be thankful for, and I am so happy to bring him into the world under these circumstances.
As always, pregnancy and birth were an absolute beast. But, I survived! And, also as always, this baby was worth every moment.
Welcome to the world, Finley James. You are so very loved.