We decided it was time to check into a hotel the morning of December 28th in need of a real bed, a place to spread out, and mentally prepare for Jude. Andi and Drew had also arrived in town to help with the delivery. The night was great! Our large family sat around the table eating pizza, drinking beer (sorry Tracee), and playing Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens. Before we left to return to the hotel, I remember Tracee saying “we definitely can’t have a baby tonight, I’m the only sober one!”
The call came around 5am the next morning (Jude’s due date). He was coming! I immediately sat up in bed – and apparently hung up on Tracee! “Donavan, wake up! What do we do? I have to call Andi! We have to go! Do we have time to shower?! Ask Tracee! Where is our bag?! What do we bring!?” I called Andi and screamed “Hey! Its go time!” and hung up. Donavan kept telling me to stop screaming – I had no idea that was happening! We realized right then we actually weren’t as prepared as we thought and had to pack a go-bag quick, then pick up ice for Tracee because their freezer ran out.
We sped down the road with all our stuff trying to get there on time. We opened the front door quietly hoping to not wake any kids, with breakfast for all in hand. Walking into Justin and Tracee’s room, it was filled with candles, dimmed lights, a blow-up pool, and music playing. She was bouncing on her ball and leaning into him with every contraction. They hadn’t slept much at all that night and the contractions continued getting closer. Elysa and Julie, her doula, arrived to complete the support team.
We sat around watching old Survivor episodes as we waited for Jude to be ready. Eventually, Tracee got into the pool to help ease labor. Julie took some photos and timed contractions. They were holding steady, but not close enough together to help her transition. It had been a few hours, the kids were awake by now, and Andi, Drew, and Elysa were helping them with breakfast and to keep from killing each other.
It was hard seeing Tracee in so much pain, Donavan and I just wanted to help. With her past pregnancies in mind, she’d estimated a 3-hour labor. We’d been in their bedroom for longer than that, and she said “we just can’t go over 6 hours” because that was her longest labor. It had already been 7 hours by this time! Donavan and I had been in and out of the room trying to be a support for Tracee and Justin, but also help with the kids. Being there for extra days ahead of time helped, we’d learned their schedules well.
Early afternoon arrived and Julie suggested taking a walk around the block to help Jude progress. While they were, I was a mess. I was stressed and anxious. I couldn’t eat or carry on conversation. I needed a moment away to just cry. I didn’t have any experience with birth and babies. Because the morning had been far different than what I’d expected, I thought something was wrong and it was difficult for me to figure out what was going on.
They returned and I could see how wiped Tracee was. She and Justin tried to sleep through contractions and rest up. Jude was not coming today. We made dinner for the kids, watched a movie, and got everyone to bed. Said goodnight to Tracee and Justin and headed back to the hotel. She mentioned the possibility she may be gun-shy to call us again, and when she did, we had to get there ASAP. We laid down in the hotel bed for maybe an hour before that phone call came in at 11pm, still on the 29th.
Here we went for Round Two! Again, the team meets up at the house. The moment we stepped foot in the bedroom this time, we felt an amazing vibe – its time, this is happening! The room was warm and dim, Tracee was already in the pool, with Justin sitting on the side helping her through contractions. Julie arrived shortly after and we are all sitting around the pool, watching as Jude was getting ready. Andi and Drew stepped out into the living room, thinking it may take a little time again.
Contractions were definitely closer together and Tracee yells “get in the pool!” Justin, Donavan and I look at each other totally confused on who she is talking to. We had discussed our roles in the birth ahead of time. Justin was there to help Tracee both in and out of the pool. He had done a home birth with her and their son Remy, so he knew what to expect. Donavan’s role, which he was rather excited about, was pooper-scooper if the need came. Perfect for her little brother! I was going to be delivering the baby and we’d agreed she would let me know when it was time to get in.
Tracee pointed at Justin and motioned for him to get behind her in the pool. Ok, that made sense! She pushed up against him for a big contraction – we were so close! I ran up to the pool and she let out what Donavan described as the loudest, most primal scream with her hands in the air and lightning bolts coming down from the ceiling. Ha! One more loud scream, and Justin was helping me hold Jude’s head. His face was looking down, I could feel his nose! I quickly jumped into the pool right as Tracee gave one more push and he slid out into my hands! Jude Jameson was born at 12:14am on December 30th, 14 minutes after his due date end after 20 hours of labor. I thought I was composed until I noticed the tears running down my face. He was so slippery but I held him tight. He let out a few cries, but then was quiet and content.
Everything happened so fast in that moment. Tracee called Donavan to do his job!. Andi and Drew came running in the room and saw Jude in my arms. They heard the scream, but thought it would still take some time, then heard me say I felt his nose and got up and ran in, only to see him already out! Someone handed me a warm towel from the dryer to wrap Jude in. Donavan was in the pool as well, and everyone was close by staring at the beautiful baby boy. The pool I once thought of as big, was now full and cramped with four grown adults and a baby inside.
Holding Jude was amazing, it felt like time swirled around us. We were in our perfect little world. In our family ‘blood bath,” the water was literally red with little floaties, but no one seemed to care. I felt like I was hogging baby, so I handed him to Donavan for some time, and then he came back to me. We were waiting in the tub for Tracee’s placenta to deliver and it took some time. I could see the worry on Justin’s face, the only goal he had for this delivery was that Tracee couldn’t die. Julie suggested giving it an hour and then we would discuss about next steps, if needed.
I mentioned earlier the strong energy in the room – it was there, powerful and beating the whole way through, hitting its climax during a short, quiet lull. Just a second of quiet, we were all sat together, looking at each other and our new baby boy. Justin said “Hey Alexa, play Hey Jude by the Beatles” and I lost it inside. That song, at that time, meant everything. It was a perfect finale.
Tracee shifted positions, held tight on to Jude, and tried pumping to induce contractions. She amazingly got a whole ounce of colostrum out! It got the placenta moving! Justin delivered the placenta and put it in a bowl for Julie. And that was it, the end. She did it! WE did it! Our big family had a new baby!
The rest of our night went quickly again. We took turns taking showers. Donavan held Jude while I cut his umbilical cord. Jude pooped thick meconium on him. We weighed and measured him. Justin taught Donavan how to make a burrito baby. I put on the most unsecure diaper in the world, my shaking hands! Tracee had bought Jude a shirt that said “I am special, I was born at home.” Everyone was exhausted. Donavan and I held Jude skin to skin until I fell asleep, and then he held him while sleeping with Jude asleep on his chest.
Jude’s home birth was the most amazing, loving, and motivating experience I have ever had. The energy, excitement, struggle, and love put into bringing this boy to us is unforgettable. The generosity Tracee and Justin offered and went through was remarkable. We are forever grateful.
We went between the house and hotel with Jude over the next four days. The kids loved meeting their cousin and holding him. Justin and Tracee had many tips and tricks during his first few days to help us out. We had quite a few first time parent moments. Andi and Drew were a huge support during their time there alongside us as well.
New Years was another special holiday to remember that year. There were fireworks, champagne bottles passed, and card games. My fragile emotions broke me down into tears as Justin genuinely, and drunkenly, told me how happy they were for us, how he knew everything would work out and we would be amazing parents. We have been through a lot together, so much more than a typical brother/sister and brother-in-law/sister-in-law ever could imagine.
Our last day was very emotional. Julie had come over to do our post-delivery meeting. Unspokenly, everyone somehow knew we needed a drink in hand before this meeting. We all reviewed our versions of the birth story. Donavan and I started at the beginning of our story, just as I’ve written here. We all talked about open-ended feelings, thoughts of the past, and thoughts of the future. I cried the whole time, and I do not like crying in public, you know, that weakness thing. I really have to break that feeling. Lots of emotions, lots of love, it was so healthy and so needed. We had no idea how much it was needed.
I fell asleep around 11pm that night after we put on a movie. But the Donavan, Tracee, and stayed up watching How to Train a Dragon until early morning, when it was time to drive to our train stop. Tracee and Justin sent all their love with Jude as we boarded the train. Four hugs each all around and many I love yous, and we were on our way home!
Oh that damn train! As fun and cool as it was, we continued to be delayed and delayed and delayed! We were in the tiniest of sleeper cars for almost three days headed from Yuma, AZ to Chicago. We didn’t care though. Jude was amazing! We had to walk through four train cars to reach the restaurant car for meals, so he was the talk of the train. Everyone had heard of the little baby and his baby-wearing parents walking up and down the aisles.
We arrived in Chicago, took a Lyft from the train station to the airport car rental, and drove a big SUV our last 6 hours North to Minnesota for a very early morning arrival home. Our whole trip was pretty amazing being able to see the desert, turn to green, turn to snow, and watch the temperature drop again. Jude was so content and easy sleeping the whole way. Home, sweet home.