This is the story of the boy who changed our hearts and made everything new. The story of a little soul who chose us as his parents and made us a family. This is my favorite story — the story of Baby Jude’s entrance into a beautiful world, ready to love him.
I’m not even sure how to choose the right words here, but it’s important to me that I try before the details begin to fade. Jude’s birth day was an emotional, fast-paced, incredible blur. It was such a beautiful, life-changing, and empowering experience for me and writing out the details here has been harder than I expected. No words can really encompass that day. Not even poetry could accurately describe the surge of strength and tenderness it took to welcome Baby Jude. But I will try my best to piece it together here for nostalgia’s sake.
I won’t go back as far as the day in December when Ben knew I had big news as soon as he walked in the door from work, or when we held hands in anticipation in the dim ultrasound room to learn he was a he, or even as far back as when I was in New Mexico at a spiritual retreat and felt those first few kicks (followed by instant tears of so much love). No, this isn’t a pregnancy post. This is a story of arrival.
In all of our childbirth classes and in most anecdotal birth tales from friends I’d been told that for first time moms, it was likely that I’d experience some contractions that came and went for potentially days (or even weeks) before it was the real deal. There were also a couple of other (grosser) signs to look for that might indicate that labor was impending, too. I experienced none of those. At 39.5 weeks along I felt huge, sure, but I actually expected to be pregnant for a couple more weeks because I hadn’t had one indicator of something happening. I sort of felt like I’d be pregnant forever, actually.
Above all else, I'd learned that it’s incredibly rare for your water to just break randomly as the first sign of labor. I wasn’t anticipating a dramatic hollywood water break by any means. I mean, having the cast of ‘Saved by the Bell’ deliver my baby Mrs. Belding style in an elevator would’ve ruled but I didn’t have any expectation of things moving that quickly.
My mom had been in town for about a week before the big day. She wasn’t going to the birth center with us but she would stay with Murphy when we left and would be around afterwards for support. That time spent doing projects and walking with her while we waited are such precious memories for me. I’m one lucky daughter.
On August 21st it was a blue moon and Martin Sexton was playing an outdoor concert in Denver. This is of note only because Martin is our favorite artist and we’ve seen him 10+ times in our 11-year relationship. His live performances are inspiring and moving and electric. It’s weird he was in our city and we weren’t there. In fact, that morning I made a few calls to see if we could get our hands on some last minute tickets but had no luck. I’d joked that if this babe could only hear Martin Sexton’s voice calling him out he’d start making his exit promptly. Turns out Baby Jude already had plans to show up on his own.
That evening Ben ran over to his brewer buddy’s house, my mom headed out for an evening walk, and I got into a bath. It was a little hard to tell what was happening, but long story short my water broke in the tub at 7:15pm. Ben had just called to check in on me (this happened a lot toward the end of my pregnancy) and I’d told him to take his time over at his friend’s. When I stood up out of the bath I knew immediately that my water had broken so I calmly called him back and said “hey, yknow what? I actually think it might be good for you to come home now. Some things… are… happening.” : ) He and my mom were both quickly back to the house. I still have Ben’s teary smile burned into my memory when I told him it was time. His joy was contagious.
It was bizarre to be leaking water but not feeling any contractions. I told Ben, “but I wanted to vacuum!” like for some reason our baby couldn’t enter our house unless we had perfectly clean carpets? He said, “I’m on it!” and got out the vacuum at superhuman speed. We were laughing together a lot during that time and contractions started to pick up. I called my midwife and my doula. Both said to eat and sleep while I still could. It was hard to imagine doing either, but we gave it our best go.
I decided to blow dry my hair and rearrange our bags as contractions got closer together. Ben got us Jimmy John’s. I started timing contractions. We decided to try to lay down and get some rest. I kept timing but closed my eyes in between. We listened to Belleruth Naparstek’s 'Guided Imagery for Labor and Deliver'y on my iPhone while we “slept.” Ben actually did fall asleep but after a while I couldn’t lay still and decided to sneak out and walk around the house.
Contractions had been described to me as sort of like the worst cramps you’d ever had and that was about right. Mine picked up in frequency at a rate that surprised us all. I had planned on laboring at home with my doula, Kari, for a good amount of time before going into the birth center. Instead, by the time Kari reached our place it was time to head into Mountain Midwifery. My contractions kind of skipped over the 3-1-1 rule and many were just 2:something apart. since we live only about 15 minutes from the birth center, the midwife decided to have us head in to be checked at 1:30 am or so.
The car ride was the worst. Having to stay still in a seatbelt during contractions was awful. I was relieved and (as throughout most of the first part of the process) anxious at the time of our arrival. After we got settled into the room we’d marked as our preference, the midwife checked me. Only 2-3 cm dilated and 80% effaced. We chatted for a bit about heading back home to labor there. I didn’t really vocalize it but I knew that would be a bad idea. I don’t know how but I totally sensed that things were moving quickly and that taking that car ride twice again wasn’t going to be smart. We decided to let me labor for another hour or so at the birth center and then reassess.
That time period was rough. I drank some Recharge and moved around a little bit. I puked a couple of times and labored forehead to forehead with Ben. I had expected to want to put my doula to work a lot more than I did. She tried to massage, provide counter pressure, have me walk around. Nope, nope, nope. I think I knew that my body was doing what it was supposed to do on its own and all I could really stand to do was to just be and let it happen. I was pretty quiet. I squeezed Ben’s hands and breathed. I just let it progress as it needed to.
After about two hours had passed, the midwife checked me again and I was 8 cm! Yes! I was so grateful we hadn’t tried to pack up and go home just to turn right around. I’m glad I trusted my instincts. Ben gave me that huge grin again — he was SO excited to meet his son and proud of me.
It was time to get into the birthing tub, which I had really looked forward to. We put on the calming birth playlist I had made (Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, Nick Drake, Ray LaMontagne, Gregory Alan Isakov, Nathaniel Rateliff, Phosphorescent, etc). Kari offered to do some aromatherapy but that also sounded terrible as I was still a little nauseated. Poor thing, she’s so talented and prepared and to most of her offers I simply refused. I got into the tub and it felt wonderful. Anyone who knows me knows that the bathtub is my happy place and my therapy so I had expected to love laboring in there. While it did feel good, my contractions were getting pretty gnarly and it was hard to really stop and appreciate being in water.
Ben mentioned later that I never once seemed to hit a wall, give up, or even consider moving over to the hospital for an epidural. I guess I hadn’t realized that but like I said, all I could ever stand to do was simply be present in each moment. I rode each contraction, I was grateful for the respite in between, and I breathed. And breathed. And breathed.
My body started pushing on its own after a while. Tiffany checked me again and I was at 9 cm “and a lip.” Basically that meant that while it felt like pushing was the right thing to do, I had to somehow try to not. This was the most difficult part of labor for me, by far. Breathing through each contraction was really hard because it seemed so counterintuitive and my body was fighting against me. She popped some arnica under my tongue, I rode out a few more contractions, and then finally (thank god!) she told me I could push if I wanted to.
Pushing was the best feeling ever. It hurt, yes, but it felt like I was actually making progress and assisting in the process. It hurt more and more with each push but I just knew each contraction was bringing me that much closer to meeting our boy and I got really excited. Sometimes there were long pauses between contractions and I swear, I fell asleep. I don’t even know how I did that in the water but I did and it felt incredible. Labor and delivery is such an out of this world experience. I can’t imagine sleeping for three minutes at a time in a hot tub in my day to day life but during labor my instincts just took over and my body did was it was designed to do. Pretty amazing.
I now know that I pushed for an hour. In the moment, I had no concept of time and didn’t care. Ben gave me a million sips of ice water and let me squeeze his hands to death. He was so incredible throughout the whole thing. He is my safe place and my support and very few words had to be exchanged for us to be in sync during the labor process. He put cold washcloths on my neck and told me he loved me and whispered sweet words about meeting our son. He said he was proud of me and that I was powerful. He loved me through the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. My gratitude for my husband grew exponentially that day (and has only continued during this first tender month as a family). He makes my heart beam.
I could tell I was starting to experience “the ring of fire.” Yeah… it stings! Tiffany asked me if I wanted to reach down and feel my baby’s head during the next push. I replied with “no thank you,” I think. What I didn’t have the energy to explain was that I didn’t want it to be less than I expected. I still just wanted to be in the moment and do my work without analyzing how far along things were. Another push later she double checked, “are you sure you don’t want to feel his head?” to which I replied “yknow, I feel like I’m feeling his head preeeetty well right now without reaching down.” The room laughed at that one. I just kept pushing.
A few minutes before Jude emerged, Martin Sexton’s a capella version of “Let There be Peace on Earth” came on the playlist. This is a song I’ve sang more times in my life than I can count being sung by my favorite voice on earth. I love to think that the lyrics and Martin’s voice called Jude Man out, just as we had predicted.
I pushed his little head out and was immediately told I needed to step out of the tub. I had been forewarned that if the midwife tells you to get out of the tub you need to do it and fast. I didn’t really have time to get nervous but it definitely was jolting. Turns out the baby’s hand/arm had come out with his head and in order to carefully guide his shoulders out without injury, I needed to be on all fours so that they could more easily see what was happening.
Thinking back now to the fact that I stepped out of that tub with half of a baby out of me is insane but in the moment there was no time to process anything, really. They told me to push as hard as I could. This was tough because I wasn’t having a contraction to help me but I did as I was told and a sweet, slippery baby came out. Ben hadn’t had a very clear view while I was in the tub but once I was out got to see his son enter the world.
They passed him through my legs and helped me over to the queen sized bed where Ben climbed in and we got to take a look at our baby. He was here and he was instantly adored. Together we experienced this amazing cocktail of shock, wonder, gratitude and falling madly in love with a person that was half of him and half of me. He was perfect. We had made a person!
My water broke right about as the blue moon was rising (and Martin Sexton was going on stage) and Jude Everett Polly joined the world as the sun rose at 6:03 the next morning. Oh, and he got in on the last day of being a Leo. His timing all around seemed pretty impeccable.
We spent a long time together in that bed and in our dreamlike state. They brought us crackers and cheese and fruit. I took a bunch of Advil. Jude worked on finding some milk. We kissed him a million times. We spent a couple of hours there and it’s part of what made me more grateful for the birth center midwifery model of care than I can express. That family time was heaven.
Next they drew me a healing herbal bath and I was separated from Baby Jude for the first time. I was a little shaky and in shock, I think. The nurse and doula helped me move around and gain some strength. While I hadn't wanted much of Kari's physical help during the process, her emotional support was so appreciated and always doled out in just the right way. Whe chatted with me while I was in the bath and Jude went skin-to-skin with Ben and got weighed, measured and examined. 7 pounds 12.5 ounces of love and 21 inches long. Our little string bean. Our favorite person.
And here comes the really wonderful part of our natural birth story — four hours after Baby Jude entered the world, we loaded up and drove home to climb into our own bed and rest. We introduced Jude to Murphy and his Grandma Kelly and then we got into bed and took the biggest, best family nap you can imagine. I took this photo of five-hour old Jude Everett on Ben’s chest at home. We were living on a cloud.
Jude is now a month old and I still cry tears of pure love most every day (I wonder if that will ever go away?). We are completely enamored by his big, kissable baby lips and one-then-two dimples and long, tree-climbing toes. The tiny, milk-drunk sigh he lets out as he falls back asleep at night, his curious eyes, the way he is comforted by us and knows us all knock us over with love. He makes everything new and is a universe worth of potential all wrapped up in the tiniest, cutest package we could’ve dreamed up.
Joy is your birthright, Baby Jude. We are grateful to be your parents and to try to teach you that. The world receives you with love. Thank you for choosing us as your mom and dad and making us a family. You are our happy.
A special thank you to my dear, sweet friend Heather Gray who showed up to document Jude’s arrival. Your beautiful heart and compassion you have for people shows up through your photos in a way I haven’t experienced before, friend. There is no one else I can imagine having had present at this event and we will be forever grateful for the way you told this story. Thank you for being you and doing what you do. xoxoxo!
PS — if a crazy number of Jude Man photos is just what you'd like to add to your daily life, feel free to follow me on Instagram @wildflowertara.