I think every woman anticipating pregnancy wonders about the birthing process. There are so many unknowns… how many hours will it take, what will it be like, will the pain be that bad, will I be able to handle it, will I fall in love immediately?? So many questions to ask oneself. I know I did. I always wondered. I always hoped it would be like my Mom, 7 hours of labor, 30 minutes of pushing, and instantly head-over-heels. Over the past couple of years when I imagined the perfect birth story and began making a birth plan I saw myself at home. I knew I wanted a completely natural birth experience, and I am definitely a home-body. It is where I am most comfortable and feel the safest. I knew it would be perfect. When Beto and I found out we were expecting a baby (Mother’s Day 2012!!!), I started creating a mental to-do list which included finding an amazing doula and midwife for my eventual home birth. Around 20 weeks I met Autumn. Oh wonderful, beautiful Autumn. Without her I am not sure I would have made it though the pain. She is my chiropractor – which I highly recommend to all pregnant women – and my doula. While in the process of selecting a midwife we learned about Beckham’s heart defect. Due to his diagnosis I was unable to have the home birth I so deeply wanted, but I was determined to have as natural and beautiful of a birth experience as possible. Beckham’s cardiologist wanted me to have an elective C-section at 38 weeks, his surgeon didn’t see the need for that and encouraged me to at least make it to 39.5 weeks, and my doctor was willing to do whatever needed to be done. Let me just add that Dr. Kurian is the most amazing obgyn. She was on my side from day one. She wanted me to have a natural birth, and I trusted her 100%. On Wednesday, December 19th we finally decided to set an induction date for 39.5 weeks. My parents bought plane tickets for that weekend. I was stressed about it. I wanted a natural birth, and I felt pressured into something I was very uncomfortable with. I was scared on a lot of levels. I was worried about my body, but even more, I was worried about Beckham. With a mandatory countdown to his birth, I was terrified to let him go from my safe womb… to let him enter this world and face so much difficulty. Oh how glad I am that things happened so very differently.
At 1:30am on Friday, December 21st I woke up for a normal pregnancy occurrence, the late night potty break. I was worried that my water broke. But no… there was no way… I would be FOUR weeks early!? I went back to bed and Beto was still asleep. He rolled over and I said, “I think my water just broke.” His response was, “no…zzZ.” So I laid there feeling crampy every 5ish minutes and starting to freak out a bit. Around 3 I got up again, and this time there was no denying that my water had indeed broke. This time Beto jumped out of bed wanting to know what we should do. I asked him to start the shower for me. After I got cleaned up a bit we decided to call his sister, Ceci, first. She was filming the birth, so I knew we needed to let her know. Ceci said to call our doula and then the doctor. Beto and I had just met with Autumn on Wednesday night and she gave me her emergency numbers, it took 3 tries to get a hold of her since she wasn’t expecting a call this early. She told me to call the doctor, head into the hospital, and she would meet us there later. In the mean time, Ceci came over to help us pack. Being 4 weeks early, I didn’t have a thing ready. I had not washed any of Beckham’s things, packed a bag, or written out any type of birth plan. I walked around the house like a zombie unsure what to pack and feeling light contractions every 2 minutes lasting around 45 seconds. We left the house around 4:45 in the morning and checked in at Baylor a little after 5. The first time I was checked I found out I was 4cm, totally effaced, and -2 station. I was definitely in early labor at this point. I was talking through contractions and making phone calls to my family. My parents had just booked their tickets to come down (for dates when I was supposed to be induced in January) less than 48 hours before I called to let them know I was in labor. They tried to change their tickets, but couldn’t due to the snow storm in Chicago and Christmas. Instead, they packed their bags and hopped in the car. The best part was the my middle sister, Alicia, had the week off from work and decided to ride with them. So, my parents left Michigan and picked Alicia up outside of Chicago, and they were on their way.
By 8:00am Autumn arrived as well as my good friend Rachel. I asked Rachel to be there if my Mom couldn’t make it. I’m so glad these two women were there with me! They walked laps around labor & delivery with Beto and I. Every time a contraction would come they would hold me in their arms and coach me through it. Their calm and steady voices helped me relax and better control my breathing. Autumn would say, “let it go, let the pain go, breathe it away.” The pain was increasing with each lap we took. At 9:00am Autumn let me get in the bath. Oh, that glorious bath! It felt amazing and definitely lessened the pain. I was pretty emotional and wanted to get checked. I was sure, based on pain, that I was at a 7 or 8. My bath lasted a mere 15 minutes, and Autumn had me back up and walking. At 9:30 I finally got checked again and was almost to 6cm. I was discouraged. I thought for sure I would be further along. It was also around this time that my youngest sister, Jenna, arrived as did my friend and birth photographer, Sara.
Beto had Bon Iver playing on the room’s sound system. We had wanted to make a birth playlist, but that was another thing we had yet to prepare. The music was very calming, but eventually I didn’t even notice the music or the people in the room. The pain got so intense and consumed all of my attention and focus. Every so often the nurse would check Beckham’s heart rate. I remember thinking it would be more relaxing to lay in bed — wrong! At that point everything was painful and no position was comfortable.
At 10:00 Dr. Kurian arrived to L&D. My entourage and I were walking the halls yet again. When I saw her I fell into her arms and sobbed. I couldn’t stop crying. I was so glad she was there! She was so much a part of our lives this past year. I couldn’t imagine her not being a part of Beckham’s birth. My sobbing must have been a sign of transition, and the pain definitely increased. I couldn’t walk any more. Dr. Kurian came in to check me at 10:45 and I was at 8cm. Autumn wanted to try walking again — we didn’t even make it halfway down the hall. We came back to the room, and she had me labor on the birthing ball. This was incredibly painful. Instead of leaning forward for each contraction like I had been doing thus far, she wanted me to lean back into Beto’s arms. This was easier on the ball than standing, but oh so painful. Next, we moved to the bathroom before getting back into bed. It felt like we stayed there for a long time. The contractions were incredibly painful and close together. When it was time to push I got back into bed. I pushed and pushed for what felt like forever, but was only 40 minutes. I was completely unaware of anything going on around me. Apparently, at noon the NICU team and the doctor pulled out the table with tools. The pain was incredible and intense. I felt like he would never come out. I was so tired, drenched in sweat, and feeling frantic. I thought I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t focus on anything except the ceiling. Autumn would look me directly in the eyes, and tell me I could do it, and I had to do it. She would say, “this is exactly what you wanted. There’s only one way out.” I would focus on her voice with each contraction, “hold your breath, curl your body around the baby, and push through the pain… again… do it again… one more time… now breathe it away… that contraction is gone and you are one step closer to meeting your baby.” This lasted for what seemed like forever. I was exhausted. Beto was right be my side the entire time. I felt like we were a team. He was beaming with joy, pride, and excitement. He actually believed I could do it. I don’t think he doubted for a second. At 12:22pm Beckham was finally born! Holding Beckham was incredible. We weren’t sure we would ever be able to hold him before surgery, and holding him in that moment was the first of many amazing things to come in his journey. It was a beautiful moment. We were overwhelmed with love right from the start.