Since I haven't been blogging lately, this is going to be a long one.
Also, this is a graphic birth story.
You've been warned.
After trying to go natural using the Bradley Method last time with Grayson and falling just short of our goal, we knew we wanted another shot at it. (We're now convinced that she was in transition (or just about) when she got the epidural and we just didn't realize it -- and definitely didn't have the tools to cope with it.)
I knew we had to approach things differently this time around to make it more of a priority, so I talked Jennifer into taking classes. We found a series of classes nearby that were being taught by Vanessa Cox that would end the day before Jennifer was due, and we figured it was worth it even if we missed a class or two.
The classes did exactly what I was hoping -- they got us to focus on practicing the relaxation and other exercises together. As the weeks progressed, our confidence grew. After we left class each week, we would talk about what we had learned or what we were thinking about (or were anxious about) that week. I learned things to help relax her, and I learned things I should never do. We really learned a lot.
The week leading up to going into labor, our nightly relaxation practice was tested with real contractions (that we would actually time but would fade away as Jennifer relaxed and fell asleep). Although she wasn't sleeping well in general, she said she slept the best the nights we did the exercises, which was even more reason to keep up with them.
We could tell things were getting close for a couple of weeks, but Jennifer said things felt differently than they did with both B and G. While that gave me a LOT of hope that baby Beckham wasn't facing forward like they had both been (which would hopefully mean she wouldn't have the same intense back labor), it also made us question just about everything. We seriously felt like first-timers. Because of that, and because both B and G had been 3 and 4 days early, respectively, we were on edge expecting her to go early.
Side note: to help deal with the discomfort of the pregnancy, and to help keep everything aligned so baby had the best possible chance of being in the correct position, Jennifer had been going to see Dr. Julie at Chiropractic Solutions regularly. We've been believers ever since she got Grayson to flip last time. Spoiler alert: it worked. Seriously, she works wonders. Go see her.
On 4/21 at her 39 week appointment, we decided to have her doctor sweep her membranes (as she had done with the others). We went home that day seriously expecting things to get going, since her other labors had all started shortly thereafter.
While it didn't work that time, things still kept changing and progressing, to the point where I was afraid to go into work so I continued to work from home.
On Friday we decided to take advantage of not yet having a newborn and went out for a nice dinner date at The Melting Pot. (Fun fact: the only other time Jennifer has eaten there was during our babymoon trip to Gatlinburg while Jennifer was pregnant with Grayson.)
Nothing much changed the rest of the weekend -- it seemed like things could still happen at any minute.
I was excited we were able to go to our final Bradley class on Monday (although I was hoping we'd be going with our new baby in tow). There we heard two birth stories and wrapped up the series. We were ready; we were excited.
We had our 40 week doctor appointment on Tuesday morning where we did another membrane sweep. Jennifer had been measuring perfectly all along, but at that visit she was measuring smaller, which told the doctor he had dropped. Jennifer felt validated that all of the pressure she had been feeling was real. She was 4cm and 70%.
That afternoon, her contractions started again. Initially they were very mild, but they were coming fairly consistently. Jennifer started timing them again but we weren't holding our breath.
After dinner, with contractions that were still coming less than 10 minutes apart (Jennifer was timing them, but I think they were averaging more like 4-6 minutes apart), we knew it was definitely labor so we called her parents to come get B and G so we could do our thang.
Once the boys left, her contractions started spacing out again. (While we were getting them ready, they were coming every 3-4 minutes, but after sitting on the couch for a few minutes they spaced out to 8 minutes, and sometimes even up to 15.) Since she was still in early labor based on her signposts, she didn't need a LOT of coaching. I just sat with her and rubbed her shoulders and back and played with her hair (and reassured her that this definitely was labor and we had done the right thing by sending the boys away).
We were so focused on taking one contraction at a time the time actually flew by. I remember getting up and walking with her, and grabbing a snack around 8pm, and the next thing we knew it was going on 11pm! Since things were still progressing slowly we decided to go to bed to try to rest as much as we could. At first I kept timing the contractions (I could tell when they were starting because her breathing became more focused and deliberate), but around 1am I fell asleep and she let me get some rest.
After having a couple of stronger contractions she woke me up at 3am. We grabbed our last-minute things but we stayed home and kept working through one contraction at a time.
Around 4:30am they started getting strong enough that she really had to focus to stay relaxed. I was still worried about things progressing quickly, so I convinced her that we should get ready to head to the hospital so we'd have time to get checked in and settled before she really got into late first stage labor.
I think she had 3 contractions in the car on the way, but she had the rice sock on her back and really didn't have trouble with them.
We checked into Suburban and got settled into triage at 5:30am. She was 4.5 - 5 centimeters dilated -- a little discouraging since she had been in labor for over 12 hours and had only progressed a centimeter. I wasn't happy that they hooked her up to a wired monitor and had her reclined in the bed, either, since that's what broke her last time (especially since we were told we could use a wireless monitor and move around). Apparently the wireless monitors were only in the L&D rooms. Since she was staying relaxed and on top of her contractions, I just let it go and continued coaching her.
The first two nurses we dealt with were friendly but they were hesitant to admit her. She labored like that for close to an hour before I went to get them so we could get her out of the bed. We got them to take her to the restroom and asked if she could do something other than lay there on her back. They said it was fine for her to stand next to the bed, which was perfect. She was around 5.5cm at this point, and they still weren't sure they would keep her (I mean really?? What, are you really going to send her home??)
I think it was maybe 15 minutes later that we had a new nurse come on with the shift change. She took her to the restroom again, at which point Jennifer started dry-heaving. This new nurse was seriously an angel -- she knew she was a lot further than what the other nurses had observed.
When she checked her she was "a good 6 or 7 centimeters" and suddenly everyone was scrambling to get our information and to get us to sign all of our consent forms. Her contractions were getting to the point where she was having trouble relaxing through them.
At close to 7am (which was just a few minutes later) they had a labor & delivery room ready for us, so we headed that way. Jennifer walked, but only because it felt better to stand than to sit. We had not been able to sign all of our forms.
She had 2 or 3 contractions in the hall, and at this point she was becoming very vocal with them.
Back in the triage room she had ever so politely told me that she didn't really care for the counter-pressure I was applying to her back, so from that point on I was primarily focusing on verbal coaching and holding her so she wouldn't feel like she would fall.
In the hall, she would grab onto the hand rails and do whatever she had to to get through them. She later said that she began feeling the need to push in the hall.
Once we got to the labor and delivery room she dove onto the bed on her hands and knees. She got into the side-lying position for the next contraction and was clenching the side rail and moaning. It was the most intense thing I've ever seen, and it was very similar to what she went through with Grayson right before she got the epidural. She said she needed to push, but the nurse (who unfortunately wasn't the angel from earlier) was trying to get her to breathe them out. Our doctor was still 5 minutes away rushing to get to us.
Jennifer did all she could to avoid pushing for the next contraction or two before our doctor walked in. Once she did, the atmosphere of the room completely changed. Dr. Nett went straight to Jennifer and told her to do whatever her body was telling her to do.
So she pushed.
After another contraction her doctor very calmly explained to Jennifer that she need to open her legs more and give long, deep pushes. We helped her get onto her back, and with her mom holding one arm and leg and me holding the other, she began pushing very effectively.
During each of these contractions Jennifer let out screams like she was in the most pain I've ever seen. And yet, she was okay. I wasn't worried about her, necessarily, because between the contractions she was calm and present and focused and okay. She later said that she was completely out of control of her body during those contractions.
Her bag of waters had not yet broken, so we could see it bulging. Before the next contraction her doctor warned us that it was going to "pop" and we would all jump. Sure enough, it broke with the next contraction and the fluid came rushing out. I think I looked back at Jennifer for a split second and when I looked back his head literally came shooting out. Everyone in the room was telling Jennifer to stop pushing (myself included) except for her doctor. Jennifer said she could hear one little voice telling her to keep pushing, so she did. And just like that, his shoulders were out.
At our doctor's appointment the previous day I had talked to our doctor about me catching the baby. She said I would just put on gloves and she would tell me what I needed to do. During the brief pause when Beckham was out to his waist, Dr. Nett was telling me to reach over and grab my baby.
As sweet as it would have been, he was all slippery covered in gross stuff and I just wasn't prepared for all that; I just let her do it.
A mere few seconds later, he was out and on Jennifer's belly.
And I lost it.
I think because this was something we had spent months actively preparing for. And because I had seen everything Jennifer went through -- again. It seriously is such a crazy emotional roller coaster to experience something that profound.
But mostly because I had never been more proud of Jennifer.
We set out to do something, and we had done it (although I absolutely give her the vast majority of the credit).
Beckham Matthew Cook
Born 4/29/2015 at 7:29am after roughly 16 hours of labor.
Weighing 8lbs, 5oz, and 21 inches long.
He is exactly as I had imagined him to be.
And I know already our lives will never be the same -- for the better.