Here is Ben’s birth story as written by J. I’ve been asking for this story since a few hours after Ben was born, and for a mother’s day gift, J has finally given it to me! Enjoy a birth story from the father’s perspective! *As a side note, Ben was born on Father’s Day, and I had promised Lemon Cupcakes for J as a Father’s Day gift. However, I was a little busy being in labor and then taking care of a newborn baby….so he never got them. He WILL get his lemon cupcakes this year!
I won’t ever forget just how shocked I was when we found out that we were going to have another baby. We had been trying for a little while, but it wasn’t happening nearly as fast as it did with Henry. And while the work was certainly fun, knowing that we were older this time around continued to play in the back of my head as another month went by with no luck. What if we couldn’t do it on our own? Could we afford fertility treatments? Was this the universe’s way of telling us it wasn’t meant to be? It’s hard to shake those fears and concerns, so with time they definitely become more persistent. So, this was any other Friday afternoon. I had stopped at Harris Teeter to buy some beer and whatnot and we were planning an evening at home with Henry, then just hoping to chill and watch a movie. I was putting said beer in the fridge when Amanda came into the garage with the news that she was pregnant! Turns out I wasn’t going to have to share that beer that evening 😏
Now, faithful readers will remember that Henry’s pregnancy was certainly no cakewalk for Amanda. And after all of the trials we experienced in 2011-12 we thought we were prepared for anything. But we were wrong. Now this is a birth story, with the happiest of possible endings, so I do not want to dwell on some of the scarier moments. But, I think it is important to enter it into the record that there were a number of times during this pregnancy that I honestly feared the worst, and that we would never get to meet, hold or love on C Minor Second. While the majority of bumps in the road we had with Henry we centered around Amanda’s health, Ben seemed to struggle more this time around. It seemed like every month or so, there was a new fear or a new potential complication. Do you know how hard it is to be told, “We’ll check again in two weeks and see if there is a heartbeat. If not, I’m sorry…” It was pure agony. I tend to respond to most things in life by trying to remain light and sarcastic, because it is how I cope with things. But, that was hard even for me a few times over those 9+ months. That being said, at every turn we were there for each other, and Ben persisted. He’s a stubborn kid, and I guess that’s a good thing.
I do feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t share at least one or two of these more harrowing stories before jumping to the cupcakeless Father’s Day of 2016. First, was in April, during the final tech week of our musical. We were putting on Beauty and the Beast, and it was a MAJOR undertaking. I had not been too involved with the whole process (because I had enough on my plate), but I did assist with some aspects leading up to the event and was rehearsing and directing the pit orchestra (my first time doing that). The orchestra was made up of my students and some of my peers, and it is a SUPER hard book (both for singers and instrumentalists). I knew going into that week was going to be tough, because we had rehearsal with the full cast and orchestra planned from after school until 10 or 11pm every evening, with shows on Friday and Saturday. So I was in rehearsal one afternoon, and the cast was taking a break when I got a phone call. Amanda had not been feeling well for a little while, and was starting to get really concerned. She thought, given all the scares we’d had with Cm6/4 to that point that she needed to err on the side of caution and go to see the midwife to get checked out. We knew it was going to be late, so I called Matt and he and Jenn agreed to watch Henry for the evening. Since I was in Hillsborough conducting while Angie (the chorus director) was running lights and sound, we decided I would stay at work and Amanda and Christy would keep me in the loop via text.
So, I went and filled Angie in and told the orchestra as well, just in case something came up. And back to it we went. Well, about an hour or so later I get a phone call. I dash out of the auditorium while they are working on a scene with no underscore and find out that they are sending Amanda back to Women’s Hospital (second trip that week) and that on top of whatever was wrong with Amanda, she was having contractions and that they might have to kick off labor that night. Naturally, I freaked out and ran back into the auditorium. I filled in Angie, who told me to get the hell out of there and not to give the show a second thought. I literally threw my belongings into my bag, ran out of my office and into my car. I made it from Hillsborough to Greensboro in around 45 minutes (I’d never made the drive so fast). A lot of that evening was a blur, but when I got there I remember trying to keep the mood light and not add to anyone freaking out (I believe we watched the Office for a little bit). At that point, the doctors were still uncertain about what was going on, and the chance that something might have to happen regarding the baby was still on the table. I can remember pacing the hallways outside of the ER room as we waited for Amanda to be moved to a room for the night, calling Angie and discussing contingencies for if I couldn’t conduct the show. We were able to formulate a plan, and I went with Manda to move her upstairs for the night. I drove home, and after getting pulled over in the Harris Teeter parking lot by a VERY nice officer who informed my that my tags were expired, I was able to get some food and get home to eat dinner a little after midnight.
From that point on, we were in constant vigilance. On top of the health scare for Amanda and the baby, our midwife swore up and down that labor would start naturally, and likely around 37-38 weeks. So, everything else on my work calendar for that year (and there’s always something…) became a potential issue. I organized alternative conductors for my concert, for Senior Awards Night and for Graduation. The day of graduation was a crazy one. Not only did we have to rent and drive a 26’ box truck loaded with our equipment to the Dean Smith Center at UNC, then Angie’s husband was in a car accident that afternoon on I-85. And to put the cherry on the sundae, Amanda was having some pretty strong and regular contractions. Seriously, I couldn’t make this up if I tried. I alerted EVERYONE at graduation, my students, co-workers, my Principal, about the situation. Even the UNC employees knew about it, and were doing everything in their power to ensure that as soon a we finished, we could pack up and exit quickly in case I needed to haul ass to Greensboro. Throughout the entire ceremony, I continually checked my phone for updates on Baby-Watch 2016, but while the contractions were still happening, she didn’t need to go to the hospital yet; but this might finally be it.
So after the ceremony, we loaded all the equipment, I drove the truck back to Cedar Ridge, and we unloaded everything with the help of some awesome band students and parents. Amanda was still at home, so we had one final thing to do. Angie and I drove to Durham to drop off the box truck and close the book on commencement activities for 2016. However, when turning onto I-85, a recent graduate of Durham School of the Arts ran the red light and plowed right into Angie’s car, hitting right behind where I was sitting. The airbags deployed, we got spun around a few times and ended up facing the wrong way on the on-ramp. While the cars were totaled, no one had serious injuries and we were able to walk away from the accident. I immediately called Amanda, who told me the contractions were even closer, and to please try and get home as quickly as possible. After speaking to the police, after about 45 minutes Angie’s aunt picked me up and drove me to my car so I could hightail it back to Burlington and grab the Go-Bag. But by the time I arrived, the contractions had all but stopped, and another false alarm was confirmed. Amanda swears that it was the shock of hearing the car accident news that halted her labor, and had that not happened there was a very good chance that would have been the night.
But alas, it was not. And the waiting continued. Summer break started, and each day that passed was one less day I would get to spend with the baby before the school year started back up. We walked around the neighborhood (A LOT), with Manda even walking with one leg on the curb to open her hips more. We did everything in our power to get labor to kick off (I thought Captain America: Civil War might have done the trick, but again, no luck). We had a few more instances of, “this is it!” But, they always turned out to not be. 38, 39, 40 weeks all came and went and still no baby. We were seriously worried we were on a path again for induction that could not be avoided. We even spoke to the midwife about it, but decided against it. Truth be told, I was disappointed, but I understood. I was just so ready to meet this new baby who was being (characteristically) stubborn.
So, at the end of another week lots of contractions, but still no baby. It was a really lovely Saturday, and we went on an extended family walk (I think around 2 miles if memory serves me right). Even though Amanda was definitely still preggers, we were excited because this allowed us the opportunity to go out and celebrate Greg’s birthday party downtown in Greensboro. Initially we hadn’t RSVP’d because we thought that by this point we might have a baby that was a few weeks old (and we could make a brief appearance at the party) or a brand newly arrived baby and wouldn’t be able to attend at all. But, since there was no baby, there would be beer. Well, for me anyway… So, Henry was gonna have a sleepover at my parents house, and we were planning on having what we fully expected a final date night before Cm6/4 arrived. Henry was super excited, and was reping both DC and Marvel attire (I remember this distinctly). We took him to my parents, dropped him off then headed to Gibbs Brewery downtown.
Gibbs was a new place with really quality beer, and we were having a really good time. We got there a little late, so there wasn’t much food left, but I was frankly fine with beer. There was some less than stellar music there, and there is a distinct chance that this was what finally spurred the beginning of real labor. So, as we hung out with friends, I enjoyed a few drinks completely unaware that Manda was constantly having more and more contractions throughout the evening. Since we had experienced so many close calls and false alarms, Amanda just decided to not get anyone’s hopes up and keep this to herself. Eventually, we decided more food was needed and walked over to Natty Greene’s. While en route, a complete stranger on the street walked up and put her hands on Amanda’s baby bump; maybe this was the final catalyst?
We arrive at Natty’s, and folks ordered some food. I was being cheap, and not really all that hungry, so I just got another beer. We’re hanging out, having fun when Amanda leans over and said that she’s feeling uncomfortable, we should probably head home. Well, when your 41 week pregnant wife says it’s time to go, it’s time to go. We settled up, said final “happy birthdays” and goodbyes, and walked to the car. As we were walking, a car pulled up and the driver shouted from the front seat, “You gonna have that baby here on Elm Street?!” We laughed at this, but in retrospect, was maybe another subtle indicator of what was happening. When we arrived at the car, Manda makes me aware that she’s been on the DL having some serious contractions all day, and this might FINALLY be it. Despite all the false alarms, I was still very excited and more than eager to time the contractions as she was driving. That’s right, she was driving. And in labor. My wife is a boss. When we got home, we settled in to see what would happen. Amanda got out the yoga ball and I put “The Office” on Netflix (as was our tradition).
The other day, Amanda asked me when I knew that this “was really it.” And I told her, when I started chugging coffee. Since we’d been home, the contractions were clearly getting MUCH more intense and more frequent. It very quickly became evident that this was it, the real deal, the big show, GO TIME. Now, finding out that your wife is finally in labor has a very sobering effect, but it was already after midnight, and I was fully anticipating a LONG haul before sleep. So, I emptied the coffee pot and started throwing down some caffeine. We called the midwife and woke her up, who told us to keep her in the loop and she would start heading in (at least, that’s how we remember the conversation going). As it became 100% certain that we were leaving for the hospital, I went to wake up Christy and pack the Go Bag. We had the bags planned, but not really packed… They were more like “Go-ish Bags,” but I was moving fast so it didn’t take me long.
My memory is terrible regarding the actual time, but it was after 1 when we decided it was time to head to Women’s Hospital. Christy decided to drive her car so she could pick up Henry (thank GOODNESS he was already at my parents, another clue from the universe that sometimes things just line up) and head home when she needed to. As I threw everything into the Prius and started it up, I called my parents. They were clearly asleep, but I told them it was go time and we were heading to the hospital. I reiterated that NO ONE should worry about coming to the hospital and waiting for the baby to arrive, because it could be hours before that happened. Under normal circumstances, I think this would have created more of an argument, but since they were half asleep they were happy to oblige.
So, time to go. Or not… Amanda had to stop in the door of the car to get through a contraction, and they were beyond uncomfortable and into painful territory by now. I didn’t say anything to Amanda, but this was the first moment I was worried that we had waited too long and that we wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time. The contraction passed, and we laid her down in the front seat, getting her as comfortable as possible (no easy task). I then put the pedal to the medal as they say (with my little hybrid engine) and tried to get to the hospital as quickly – and safely – as possible. Amanda was in a good deal of pain and discomfort, so I tried to just keep talking to her throughout the whole drive. I kept announcing landmarks as we passed them, so she could track that we were indeed getting closer and closer to the destination.
When we arrived at the intake at Women’s, there were no cars in front and the waiting room was virtually empty (thank goodness!). Now with Henry, we didn’t act out this scene you always see in movies of the frantic parents bursting into the waiting room and demanding a room because the baby WAS COMING! He was induced, so checking in four years ago was like calmly checking into a hotel. So, this was all new territory for us. I was hoping that with the empty waiting area, we would be quickly whisked into a room; NOPE. Paperwork and waiting. I moved the car after we got Amanda inside, and soon Christy and Kenny (the doula) were there helping ease Manda through the contractions. They were handling a lot of the counter pressure, so my role was really to be there for Amanda to hang on to, and I was happy to serve. When we finally were admitted, I felt like they put us in the delivery room that was the farthest away from the entrance as possible; I swear Amanda had three or four contractions just trying to get down the hall. At this point, one of the nurses asked if our midwife was on the way, and I said that we spoke to her hours ago and were under the impression that she was already here.
…oops. Turns out we misunderstood one another, and after speaking with us initially she had gone back to sleep. So, they quickly got her on the phone and told her to get herself down to the hospital. After we got into the room and they checked Amanda she was much farther along than we anticipated; those contractions were doing the work and the baby was coming that day! But, the contractions were moving fast, and until the midwife signed off on it, Kenny couldn’t even fill up the birthing pool for Amanda to labor in. She so wanted a water birth, and had worked so hard to keep this a possibility, we would have been devastated had that option been taken away. So, as we waited, the room was abuzz with nurses checking Manda and the baby, and Kenny and Christy trying to be sneaky and setup the pool as much as they could get away with. All the time, my job remained the same. I held Amanda, and let her hang on me to keep all the pressure downward for her hips and help move that baby boy out. Frankly, I was grateful to be of some help, because I know that Amanda was in a great deal of pain and discomfort by this point.
When our midwife did arrive (with her scrubs inside out), she checked out Amanda and gave the all clear. Amanda quickly got in the tub, and began the process of laboring in there. The labor with Henry years before had taken hours, so I was unsure of what to expect moving forward. But after a few contractions in the tub, with me leaning over into the water so Amanda could continue to hold on to me) it became clear that this was happening very fast. That’s when I got my hopes up, and things halted. After a bit, the momentum seemed to have slowed. The contractions were still strong and frequent, but the baby wasn’t getting anywhere. It’s never easy with these kids!! Turns out that he was stuck on a part of Amanda’s pelvic bone, and couldn’t move past. Apparently, we cannot have a baby without the midwife inserting herself into my wife… As she tried to maneuver the cervix while Manda was in the tub, it was clear how agonizing this was for her. I hoped it would be a quick adjustment, but no luck. Eventually, Amanda was told she needed to labor on the bed for a moment so they could keep trying. Getting out of the tub and onto the bed was a Herculean effort, and I felt so terrible I couldn’t do more to help or ease the pain she was going through. While on the bed, Amanda was screaming in pain as the midwife tried to make things work, and with each passing minute I got more and more worried that we were heading for C-Section territory.
Finally, it looked like the baby’s head made it past the lip and Amanda could get back into the pool. By this time, she was exhausted and in pain, and didn’t want to move. I remember telling her that she could do this, and reminding her how much she wanted this waterbirth for her and our baby. The tub was right there, let me help her get back into the water. Eventually, she summoned the strength and we lowered her back into the pool. Things quickly got intense again fast, and while the baby was moving it was clearly painful for Amanda. She had asked me to try and remain calm, stay in her line of sight, and remind her that she could do ANYTHING for one minute at a time. So I did that, and she kept pushing. When the baby crowned, I started having trouble with the line of sight bit, because Amanda was bearing down so much her face was in the water, but I was cheering her on as best as I could. Suddenly, you could see her shoulders relax as the baby cannonballed into the pool, flipping and being caught by the midwife. For a minute, the baby was quiet, and then suddenly a big breath and crying. We had another baby boy!!
We immediately helped to shift Amanda around so she could hold our son and relish in the fruits of her labor. He was beautiful. I was struck by how similar he looked to Henry (a trait that almost one year in, they still share). I helped to cut the cord, and got to do a little skin to skin myself with little Benjamin Sean. I was stoked for the name Ben, because it has NUMEROUS incarnations through nerd culture. He was amazing, and after all that time, all those false alarms and all the scary moments, we were holding our son. We were a family of four, and it was awesome.
The next few hours were a whirlwind, but soon we were in the recovery room, the sun was out, and Ben was asleep in Amanda’s arms. Soon, my parents came with Henry, and he got to meet his baby brother for the first time. Henry was so excited to be a big brother, and he continues to excel in that role more and more with each passing day. From that first moment, the two of them had a connection, and Benjamin continues to be enamored with his brother and follows him everywhere. I am very eager to watch them grow together.
Oh, we also had cheeseburgers and milkshakes! After a long night, there is little in this world better than a greasy burger from Cookout. The journey to have another baby had started a year ago, and we were finally at the finish line. I was so proud of Amanda, who throughout all the months was always doing everything she could to care for Ben and ensure he could grow and join us in this world. Every moment I spend with my wife and sons is the happiest moment, and I am so thankful for all of them.