*This birth story is written from the point of view of the mother’s sister*

I was lying in bed, having just turned out the reading lamp. The house was quiet—Colter and Greta were asleep, and Brent was in Leavenworth on a stakeout. Even though I was tired, I was excited. Reagan’s water had broken sometime earlier, and that meant my nephew would most likely come soon. I tried to sleep, knowing I would need all my energy to devote to helping Reagan get through labor and deliver the precious baby we had all anticipated for a long time.

But sleep did not find me that night. Jere called me at 1:00, just a few minutes after I had turned off the light. His voice was calm, but filled with excitement. Reagan was having regular contractions, and they were going to meet the midwife, who was driving in from Lawrence, at the birth center at 2:00. That meant I had an hour to pack up Colter and drop him off at my dad and stepmom’s house, and join Reagan and Jere at their house.

Colter woke up easily and quietly listened as I explained what was going on. It wasn’t until we were halfway to Grandma Micki’s house that he broke down with worry about whether she would have cereal for him in the morning. I assured him that he would be well taken care of.
After tucking Colter into bed at my dad’s house, paranoia got the best of me. Even though I wanted to speed over to Reagan and Jere’s, I took a page from my husband’s book and drove back by my own house, and double checked the alarm system was on, and the garage door was shut. I did not want anything else on my mind as I assisted Reagan.

After that I sped down Gage, almost hoping to get caught by a police officer so I could maybe talk him into a lights and siren escort. Thankfully, no one slowed me down and I made it to their house in good time. Walking in through the front door and into the low lit living room, Jere met me and whispered how regular Reagan’s contractions were. We sat on the ottoman in front of the couch on which Reagan laid on her side. She looked beautiful, her eyes shut in concentration, and her curly hair strewn about as she cradled her stomach with her arm.

Before too long, a contraction gripped her and she requested that Jere put his arm on her leg and press. After that contraction was over, Jere said he was going to lie down, which meant I took over. After a few contractions, it was apparent that they not only very close together, but gaining in intensity. Reagan made more sounds of discomfort as they progressed.

It occurred to me that this was the real deal. Even having gone through labor myself, I had been foolish enough to forget its all consuming power. When a woman is in actual unmedicated labor, no one can sit around and read, even though I had brought my book thinking I could do so. On top of that, I was not going to be able to enjoy my sister’s company as she went through this, but rather grit my teeth as she faced contraction upon contraction.

That was another thing that occurred to me, watching her lie there on her side, I realized I did not want to see her in pain. It was a little too late for that, but worst-case scenarios ran through my mind as they did when I was younger and she would get sick with colds or the flu. I was thinking about this as Jere walked out from taking a nap and glanced at Reagan. He did not seem frightened at all, and I knew he loved Reagan as much as I did. With that in mind, I resolved myself to do whatever it took to lessen her pain.

Eventually, Reagan opened her eyes and looked at me for the first time since I got there. As she sat up she said “I need some water.” In my haste to get her water she needed, I grabbed my own water bottle, which was sitting right next to me and stuck the straw in her mouth. That water bottle became very handy throughout the delivery, as it could not be spilled and the straw was easy for Reagan to drink through.

After a while, Reagan got up to go to the bathroom. I kind of stood in the doorway, trying to gauge what she wanted me to do. I knew as labor progressed, her sense of modestly would lessen, but I didn’t know if that was already in effect. As I stood there, Jere’s mom arrived at the house. I asked Reagan if she wanted me to shut the door and leave her be, and she immediately made it clear I should do no such thing. She finished doing her business, and walked out to the living room where I helped her put her shorts back on. It was then that Jere said it was time to leave, and Reagan made her way out to the car. I smiled a joyful smile at Mary as we walked through the door, eager to share my excitement with someone. Smiling so big felt disloyal to Reagan, who was suffering such pain, but I couldn’t help it. I promised Mary I would send her text message updates.

I hesitated outside, and asked if they wanted me to take my own car to the birth center, thinking they might want to ride home alone with the baby. Reagan again made it clear that would not be ok.

We made it to the birth center, and Reagan strode purposefully inside as the midwife, Emily, held the door open for her. As soon as she entered the room she had another contraction, and hunched over the bed frame, trying to breathe through it.

Emily listened to the baby’s heartbeat on the Doppler and announced quietly that he sounded good. Reagan was lying on the bed by that point, and Jere came in from parking the car, having unloaded Reagan’s bag and other essentials in the waiting room. Emily was patiently checking Reagan’s vital signs between contractions, which wasn’t easy because they were perhaps a minute apart. Eventually she checked Reagan’s cervix, which we were delighted to learn was completely effaced and dilated to six centimeters. As Reagan lay on the bed Emily asked me in a whisper if I was Rachel. I smiled and nodded to her yes, because to speak felt disloyal to Reagan, even though I’m sure she couldn’t hear us and wouldn’t mind if she did.

Emily had filled the bath tub before we got there, and Reagan got in after we asked her if she would like that. I helped her into the bath tub and helped her put her sports bra on. The warm water did seem to help her. Mostly she hunched on the side of the tub on her knees, which left her back exposed. She liked it when Jere or I pushed on her lower back. We took turns doing that, meanwhile the other was at her head, holding her hand and stroking her hair. A couple of times I was doing it the wrong way or too hard and she would let me know. Eventually she only wanted Jere to press her back because his hand was bigger and therefore more effective.

After every contraction I would offer her cranberry juice, or water, and she normally took one or the other. She labored in the tub for about an hour, switching positions every so often, and asking for more hot water occasionally. We would whisper encouragement to her, saying that she could do it and she was doing great. Once when Jere was holding her hand at her head, he asked her what that one song was from our childhood. He mentioned something about a telephone pole, and immediately I knew what he was talking about.

When we lived in West Virginia, our house was on a mountain, and we used to go to the Shenandoah River, which was in our neighborhood, but at the bottom of a long, gravel road hill. When it was time to go home, we would have to climb that hill, and often, exhausted from swimming, we would get so tired and the hill seemed eternally long. A family friend made up a cadence for us to say as we climbed that hill. It went “Put. One. Foot. In. Front. Of. The. Other. Stop. At. The Telephone. Pole.” Jere started to say that, and Reagan told him to be quiet. But I whispered the rest of the cadence to him. Unfortunately, there were no telephone poles in the birth center, and the contractions would not have given Reagan a rest even if there had been, so the song wasn’t much help.

Reagan had invited the doula who taught the birth classes at the center, Kelly, to assist with the birth. Emily called Kelly, and Kelly arrived less than five minutes later, bright eyed and smiling even though it was around 3:30 in the morning.

Soon after Kelly arrived, Emily checked Reagan’s cervix, which had progressed to eight centimeters. Emily told Reagan to let her know if she felt like she had to poop, which meant the baby was moving down. Finally Reagan said she felt like she had to push. Emily asked Reagan if she’d like to get out of the tub, and Reagan said she would. She climbed out and we toweled her off and put a fresh nightgown on her. Emily asked if she’d like to use the birthing chair, so Reagan sat on that and leaned up against the bed. I sat beside her on the birthing ball, pressing my hand into her back. I whisper asked Emily if Reagan was completely dilated, and she said she thought Reagan probably was, because Reagan had the urge and was pushing with every contraction.

So we sat like that for a while. Jere was lying across the bed at Reagan’s head, holding her hand and whispering encouragement. I was to Reagan’s right, pressing her back and holding her hand. Emily was to Reagan’s rear, using a mirror to monitor the birth canal during contractions, and Kelly was to Reagan’s left, whispering encouragement and patting her back.

Eventually the baby started crowning with each contraction. Emily tried to show me, but I was at a bad angle, and what I thought was the baby crowning actually turned out to be Reagan’s anus, which was straining with each push, proof of how hard she was working. I never actually saw the baby crown while Reagan was using the birthing chair.

Soon, however, Emily told Reagan the baby was making his way further down, and asked if she might like to lay down in the bed and try pushing. So I helped lift Reagan’s legs up and she climbed into bed. She was lying on her right side, and I was on that side holding her leg so give her some leverage against which to push. Soon after though, Jere and Kelly and I switched around, so I ended up on Reagan’s left side, holding her other leg to give her leverage. We were all whispering encouragement.

Meanwhile, the nurse that Emily had called was moving around the room, turning on the warming lamp for the baby, and getting out blankets and other necessities for the baby that was not there yet, but would be soon. It made me more excited and anxious to see the baby that would be using all those things, and who was the reason we were all there. The nurse also placed plastic liners under Reagan’s bottom and over my leg so I wouldn’t get messy when the baby came out. I realized then I would have not minded getting all bloody and mucousy, but there was no reason to, so I stayed under the protective plastic. Emily told Reagan that one the baby’s head was out, she might ask Reagan to stop pushing, which would feel unnatural, but it would keep her from tearing.

Reagan was pushing regularly, and working very hard. I could see the baby’s head now, and a couple of times, Reagan reached down and touched him. Reagan couldn’t believe all this work was actually getting her somewhere. But the baby was coming indeed, albeit with only a little progress with each contraction. Reagan was working so hard. I suggested to Reagan that she roll over to the other side and see how that helped things. She did and it pushed the baby’s head out a little more, which was encouraging. However, when the nurse checked the baby’s heart rate with the Doppler, as she had been doing regularly, she found the heart rate had dropped considerably. We rolled Reagan back to the other side, and the baby’s heart rate rose happily. He did not like that side and he let us know!

Emily was trying to stretch the vaginal opening, but the baby was kind of having a hard time coming through. He would go back in a little after each contraction, but he was staying out more and more in between. We kept telling Reagan this, and encouraging her to use each contraction to its full potential. I was holding Reagan’s foot, to give her something to push against, and without knowing it, I was squeezing her foot. During one contraction she cried out “Rachel! Don’t squeeze me!” I was embarrassed for causing her pain instead of helping her.

The next contraction she was holding Kelly’s hand and the other hand was grabbing Kelly’s shirt and pulling, to which Kelly smiled and kept saying words of encouragement. Finally with one big push, his head was out. It was surreal to see it down there, just kind of sitting there, before Emily pulled out one shoulder, and then the other, and then he was out. Time seemed to slow down at this point. Emily unwrapped the cord that was once around the baby’s neck, and put him on top of Reagan. It was 4:33 in the morning, only two and a half hours after we had come into the birth center.

At this point tears were traveling down my face, as I watched momma, baby and daddy meet each other for the first time. Reagan was calm and was talking to him immediately. The baby was talking too, getting all the mucous and water out of his lungs with healthy cries. Once he finished crying on one side, they switched him to his other to make sure all of it was out. Reagan was talking to him the whole time, and looking at him with amazement and love. Eventually they wrapped him in a blanket and he settled down and started taking in his surroundings. I sat on the bed with them the whole time, just watching. Reagan asked me if I would like to know his name, and Jere told me. Brighton Justus –A beautiful, strong, masculine name that fits him perfectly. It was worth the wait.

Momma and baby tried nursing, which was tricky because Brighton was moving his mouth the opposite way he should have been. Meanwhile, I watched Emily give Reagan one stitch to her lower vaginal opening, which made a big difference and straightened things out down there. Having wanted to be a midwife when I was younger, I was really fascinated by watch the whole process from labor to birth to delivery of the afterbirth. It was quite a learning experience.

After a while, the midwife and the nurse left, and daddy and momma and baby all took a nap together on the bed. After a few minutes trying to read in the rocking chair, I tip toed out into the waiting room, found a blanket, curled up on the couch and went to sleep.

An hour later I woke up when a new midwife helped Reagan into the bathroom to use the toilet. I lay on the couch for a minute and then went into the room again. My memory from here gets kind of sketchy, but I know Reagan tried nursing again, the baby got weighed, (7 lbs 4 oz, 20” long) and Reagan and Brighton took a bath together. I was a little nervous about that because I remember the first time I gave Colter a bath, and how slippery he was, but Reagan had no problems with that. I helped wash his head with a brush, and when he was all clean, Reagan handed him to me. Holding him like that, nervous I would drop him; I knew I would do anything for that tiny baby, and that I loved him like my own.

I put a diaper on him and helped get him dressed. At that point, we started packing up to head home. I helped them do that, and we said goodbye to all the midwives, the doula, and the nurses who had helped us. We put baby Brighton in the backseat and I sat next to him for the short ride home.

Both Brighton’s grandmas were at Jere and Reagan’s house, anxiously awaiting the arrival of their grandson. They had been keeping busy by doing laundry and other cleaning work. I helped get Brighton out the car seat, and handed him to my mom. After that, Grandma Mary held him and both grandmas sat next to each other on the couch, marveling at the precious addition to the family.

Reagan, Jere and I all had sticky buns and orange juice, which made us feel a lot better. Reagan was feeling fine, up and walking around like she hadn’t had a baby just three hours before. Mary told me she had wanted to slap me because I hadn’t sent her any updates, but I told her I had been helping Reagan the whole time, not in the waiting room like she thought. All was forgiven then, and even though I didn’t want to, I had to get Colter and go home to bed, thinking I had to work that night. I gave Brighton a kiss, and left. I called Vicki on the way to pick up Colter, and she informed me that Colter had eaten two pieces of cinnamon toast, and declared that it was better than the cinnamon toast I made him at home. So his fears about starving were completely unfounded. I went home, found someone to work my shift for me, and went to sleep, thanking God for keeping Reagan and the baby safe, and excited about the future of our family that will now include a sweet little guy named Brighton.

Rachel