Our Bradley Birth Story

Elliot Announcement bannerAnnouncing Baby Elliot!  Our sweet girl was born on September 22nd, at 8:11am – one day before her due date.  Our birth experience was so many things:  intense, overwhelming, exciting, and very positive.  We had a natural hospital childbirth (no medical interventions and following the Bradley Method of Husband Coached Childbirth).  Here is our story:

Anticipating Labor

With a few weeks to go in the pregnancy, I began having lots of menstrual-like cramping, and then sharp pains in my cervix every once in a while.  My midwife said that was normal and, though disappointing to me, did not mean labor was right around the corner.  In the morning, I would wake up with cramping for a couple hours and have steady, dull cramping each night.

As we approached the due date, Ben was certain that the baby would be early.  I was sure I would go a full 42 weeks – I guess just anticipating the worst and feeling like I would be pregnant forever!  Ben was adamant about getting the bags packed, making lists, and having everything ready to go.  I was the one dragging my feet…but eventually we were ready to go!  We were SO grateful that everything was prepared.

We decided to decline cervical checks at our last appointments leading up to the due date because I knew that any information would have been stressful.  I could walk around at 4cm for days before anything happened – or if nothing was happening, it didn’t mean labor couldn’t suddenly begin!  The nurse  said that was fine – that it basically just gave you a number to tell people when they ask and didn’t tell you anything definitive.

On Friday the 19th at 39 weeks and 3 days I began losing mucus.  I called the midwives’ office, and they told me – as I expected – that it was a good sign!  Labor could begin today, or it could still be several days.  Over the next day or two I began having contractions – this was not period-like cramping or Braxton Hicks.  It was more cervical pain and a little back ache with it.  I tried not to get my hopes up. . .

Labor Day! – Early First Stage

My cramping (contractions) started at 5pm Sunday night.  I was working on my laptop in bed.  I had a few more – 5:15, 5:30… I went and got Ben to tell him I wasn’t sure what was happening but, yes, we are going on yet ANOTHER walk in the neighborhood.  In the Bradley Method – if you’re not sure if it’s real labor, you’re advised to walk, eat, drink, take a shower, and take a nap.  I never paid attention to the frequency or length of the contractions. I just knew we weren’t even close yet.

After the walk and eating a sandwich, they stopped.  Guess it wasn’t actually labor!  I decided I really wanted a nap, so, at about 7:30, I went to sleep.  I woke up again just a little while later and bounced on my birth ball for a while, but still no contractions, so I went to bed for the night thinking we’d have to wait a while.

What Ben was thinking…

While we were walking, I was (discreetly) timing everything. I could tell this wasn’t what had been happening throughout the week, and I could tell they were close together. But I also knew that if Jo started paying too much attention to time, she’d go crazy. She asked once if I had been timing, and I said that I had a little bit but that there wasn’t anything too conclusive. But I was about 90% sure labor was happening tonight. She still thought we were at least days away. When she went to bed, I tied up some loose ends to get ready.

First Stage

I woke up at 1:15am and felt that back cramping with cervical pain again.  I woke Ben up, not because I thought it was labor, but because I was REALLY uncomfortable and wanted some help.  I decided to take a shower – which was conflicting to me because a warm shower can slow down labor, but I really wanted one if we were going to end up going to the hospital.  Since I thought we weren’t in labor, I decided it wasn’t a big deal.  Ben told me he would stay in the bathroom just to chat, but I needed to tell him each time I had some kind of pain.

Things started to feel more serious.  I turned on some music and leaned over a table sitting over my ball.  I remember asking him to push on my back.  After a contraction was over, I grabbed him and stabbed my thumbs into his back.  THIS is what I need.  Poor Ben!  Unfortunately I wasn’t too talkative at this point.  I went to the bathroom and then felt really nauseous.  Nothing new to me though.  During the pregnancy I threw up until 30 weeks and had evening nausea pretty consistently every night.  Then I leaned over and (gross!) threw up in the tub.  The first thought in my mind was, who have I been around recently with the flu?

What Ben was thinking…

When we woke up at 1:15, my 90% turned to about 95%, but this was the point where I was 100% sure it was happening. She was afraid she’d caught a virus, but I knew we’d be heading to the hospital soon. Should I remind her that this is one of the signs of labor progression? No. She wouldn’t buy it, anyway.

I dragged an air mattress out by the bathroom to lay on (in the side-lying position – yay Bradley Method!) in case I threw up again.  Ever since I had woken up, contractions were all over the place:  8 min, 4 min, 7 min, 3 min, 5 min, 9 min.  There was no pattern, so I was really confused.  I started listening to my Doula app to help me relax (which I recommend to have around while your husband is packing the car!).  They started REALLY hurting, so I asked Ben to call the midwife.  This was at 2:50 am.  He told her my symptoms, that there wasn’t much of a pattern, and that he was pretty sure I was in labor.  She told us we could come in now or try to wait an hour…if I could.

I couldn’t.

Just in the few moments Ben was on the phone, they started coming so fast. They were just as long as they were apart, and I started getting scared.  The hospital was about 30 minutes from our house, and I was GBS positive, so I knew I had to get there soon enough to for antibiotics.  I told him to pack the car.  He started flying around the house and told me if I wanted to change clothes I should.  I went into the room, but I didn’t have enough time before another one came so I hit the floor on all fours.  I stayed that way for a few contractions just staring at the clothes I had picked out for labor.  Once I caught a break, I didn’t care at all about the clothes and just took off for the car.  On the way out the door, I asked if he had called our parents yet.  When he said he hadn’t, I told him that was good just in case this was false labor.

What Ben was thinking…

That’s why I never told her when I was timing things! We joked for weeks leading up to this that even when the baby was crowning Jo wouldn’t believe it was actually labor. The inconsistency of contractions still had her doubting, but I knew from what we had studied that she had moved into at least middle, if not late, first stage labor. She had gone from being very antsy (when she went to bed at 7:50 continuing into when she woke up at 1:15), into wondering if it was labor…but then talking herself out of it, and now had gotten very serious, determined, and wanted to be left in peace. The textbook timing wasn’t happening, but the textbook emotions were.

On the car ride, Ben kept trying to give me water, but I refused.  I was just sure I would throw up again!  I remember asking him to drive faster, and then once we hit the Kennedy Bridge – I was MISERABLE.  It is full of potholes, bumps, construction – the worst place for a laboring woman to drive over.  Luckily the hospital was the next exit.

Late First Stage

We walked in the ER entrance at about 3:45am, Ben with all of our bags, me groaning.  The woman at the desk points to the right and says “L&D?”  What gave it away?  We went into registration (thankfully our preregistration worked!).  I don’t remember answering any questions, just signing my name somewhere.  We had to wait through several contractions before they came down with a wheelchair.  I just threw myself over the back of a chair in the waiting room moaning.  Ben whispered in my ear, “She’s coming!” and I said, “No they’re not!”  and he said “I mean our baby!”  By then I think I finally believed him.

When they took me into triage, they checked me.  I was 6 cm and 100% effaced!  I felt really happy that we didn’t come in too early, but really scared because it was happening SO FAST.  I mean, I had just woken up a few hours ago!

We got to our room and I got settled in the bed as quickly as I could.  Ben started playing music from our labor playlist – the first song to come on was “With Everything” by Hillsong – one of our favorites and very inspirational.  They got the IV of antibiotics going, and I felt really nauseous.  I threw up, which I continued to do throughout the rest of first stage.  I labored mostly in bed, changing sides every once in a while. When I would get up to go to the bathroom, it was incredibly painful to move around.  I couldn’t wait to get back to the bed. My contractions were coming so fast that I had little time to relax, and my whole body would seize up during each one.  I finally got in a zone – focused on abdominal breathing and relaxing every muscle in my body.  We learned in Bradley that you want to relax everything so just the uterus can work and be most effective – and also to hep manage pain.  Relaxing made everything bearable, but it took everything I had just to focus on Ben’s reminders and encouragement.

They checked me again after an hour and a half – I was already at 9cm so they called our midwife.  Things really were moving fast!     I remember at that point telling Ben I just couldn’t do it.  We continued laboring, and when Damara (the midwife) got there I was still at a 9 with a little lip.  They helped us move into a position with a peanut ball to work on the lip, then they told me just to let them know when I wanted to push.

Second Stage

The sun was starting to rise and morning was coming.  The time came when I told Ben I really wanted to push – about 7:30am.  He got me through that contraction and called them in.  They got out the squat bar and adjusted the bed for me.  I got into place and when the next one came, I pushed.  It felt SO GOOD.  Still incredibly painful, but I could finally work with the contraction.  And they started spacing out!  I was able to talk with Ben, the nurses, and our midwife in between contractions.  I even laughed a little!

The midwife checked me to feel for the head.  While she was checking, my water broke.  It was light green, so there was meconium already present.  I kept pushing, but everything felt a little different after the water broke.  She felt the head and guided my hand down to feel it too!  After the next contraction, I realized the room had more people – the nurse who had been with us was joined by nurses from the nursery, and our midwife had slipped into what Ben called “the birth poncho.”  This was really happening!

I began feeling exhausted – my legs and shoulders were working so hard.  So we moved into a modified squat, kind of sitting in the bed.  After the next push they told me she had lots of hair.  About three contractions later, she came out!  The song playing was that same one, back again in the loop – With Everything – almost like bookends to the night.  Then at 8:11am, Elliot was born, I heard her cry, and, when I saw her for the first time, I couldn’t help but yell out, “I love you!  I love you!  I’m a mom!”  They put her on my chest and she squirmed around while they wiped her with blankets.  Ben and I couldn’t stop crying and kissing.

What Ben was thinking…

I was surprised that during the pushing stage my thoughts weren’t as much about becoming a father, about Elliot  being almost here, or even about the intense pain Jo was feeling, which I couldn’t stop. For some reason, in the 10-15 minutes right before Elliot’s birth, the image that kept popping up in my mind was the sight of the doors in the back of the church opening on December 18, 2010 and my bride, Jo, walking down the aisle. That image kept playing over and over again in my mind. I was overwhelmed with pride at my choice of a wife, so proud of all the hard work she had done not only tonight, but for the past 9 months, and I was so thankful to be having a daughter with that girl–the one who walked down the aisle to me. This moment was as much about our marriage as it was about our new stage of life that was about to begin.

Our baby girl, Elliot Salem Cross, was 8 pounds 10 ounces and 20.5 inches long. And yes, Bradley moms, we had orange juice at the original birthday party.

Third Stage

The rest is pretty rough:  they kept pushing on my stomach hard longer than usual because they were having a hard time getting out the placenta and the rest of the blood and fluid.  They had to give me a little Pitocin to finish delivering everything.  It took them a while to stop the bleeding, and once I finally went to the bathroom a little while later, I passed out because of blood loss and dehydration.  And then I almost did again the next time, too.  They gave me IV fluids because I was so dehydrated, and recovery began getting better.

Our midwife and each one of the nurses who served us could not have been any more kind, caring, nice, helpful, and perfect for this experience. We are so grateful for them and for the hours they spent answering questions, gawking with us at our sweet baby, and helping us feel calm and comfortable. Our experience at the hospital was as good as we could have dreamed it would be, but we were still ready (even if a little nervous!) to get home and start our lives as a new family of three.


  1. OMGosh, I love birth stories. Yours reminds me so much of mine, it was a wonderful reminder. Thank you! Make me cry, Ben. Love your thoughts!

  2. Barb Harger says:

    I am so happy for you all! Congratulations! Elliot is almost the same size as Laura was at birth…just 4 oz. lighter, same length! Can’t wait to see her.

  3. ashley lynch says:

    Congrats on sweet Elliot! Love her name!!! Your birth story was beautiful. I know you are going to be a wonderful mommy! Miss you dearly! Hugs!

  4. Oh Jo. Congratulations on your beautiful little girl! And what a great way to share the experience. God’s richest blessings on you and your family. Love you!

  5. Melissa Greer says:

    I love your story! This is the story I always wished I would have. But I had labor contractions for 3 weeks, and even when my labor was induced with pitocin and my water broke I could never dilate past a 2. My sweet boy’s head was too big to fit. I’m really glad that everything happened the way you wanted it to. And your baby girl is so precious!!! Congratulations!

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