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Welcome to the World, TZF! The birth story of Tiago Ze Fox

The Bradley Method Birth Family in Tub
For everyone that knows us, they know that we like to be prepared. We like to have things ready to go well ahead of time, and don’t like to wait to the last minute. From about 32 weeks pregnant, we started to get the sense that our “Little Roo” had picked up that personality trait. We had a strong suspicion that Roo would make his appearance in the world well before he was expected, and spent a lot of time and effort focusing on getting to the magical “37 week marker” that would allow us to birth at the birthing center.

That 37 week mark came and went on Christmas Eve, and when we had no Christmas baby, we both reevaluated, thinking we may have been duped and that we would probably not meet our little munchkin until after his due date. However, just to be safe, we spent the week after Christmas tying up loose ends and “nesting” in preparation for Roo to arrive. Looking back, that two week period leading up to Tiago’s birth is something I will always remember and cherish. I feel so lucky to have had those days to spend with Joe, and I think it strengthened our bond going into labor.

We had a perfect New Years Eve – or at least perfect in our little world. Ironically, we got everything in our house "in order," with groceries bought, house cleaned, and fun times spent with soon to be Grandmom Fox and Uncle John. We even washed our dogs after they got a surprise trip into the creek courtesy of their Uncle. We went to bed around 10, content to welcome in the New Year in the morning. Little did we know what the morning had in store!

We woke up just before 8 am (pretty late for us, though the few days before that Joe had instituted a "no alarm rule" for the rest of the week, knowing that might be our last chance to sleep in for years!), and I noticed that my pjs were damp. I went to the restroom and became fairly convinced that my mucus plug had come out and that I was leaking fluid. Given that we had just resigned ourselves to the idea that Roo would actually be late, rather than early, and that so few women have their bag of waters rupture before active labor, I had a tough time getting my head around the concept. My first thoughts were disbelief and fear – worrying that labor wouldn’t progress as necessary and that I might not be as well prepared as I had thought.

I told Joe what was happening, and soon after, it became a lot more obvious that my waters had ruptured! We called our Midwife to tell her what was going on. She asked how far along we were (38 weeks!) and told us to meet her at the birthing center around noon, regardless of whether contractions had begun. We then called Stacy, our Bradley Method teacher for some last minute coaching, and took a few minutes to let the grandparents know what had happened. With all conversations, we told everyone we would keep them posted. Neither of us had any idea how little time we would have for updates.

I started having contractions just after 9 am. They began as just cramping, but quickly progressed beyond that. Joe wisely tied up loose ends by taking our dogs to daycare and finished packing our bag. He encouraged me to eat a good breakfast and get a shower. By the time we made it upstairs to shower, my contractions were already coming about 3 to 5 minutes apart. Joe started writing down each time I had a contraction along with duration and realized just how close together they were. They were fairly short, ranging between 30 to 60 seconds, so we figured we had plenty of time. As I got ready, I lost my ability to talk through contractions but was still able to talk and joke between them.

I finally finished getting dressed around 11 am, and by that time, the contractions were stopping me in my tracks. Again, I could still talk and laugh between them, but it was getting more difficult. We came back downstairs, and Joe started to load up the car in between contractions. Things began to progress very quickly at this point, and Joe points out that he could very clearly notice the emotional sign post of me becoming serious and getting down to work. Because he was keeping such good track of the contractions, he knew exactly how much time I had before another contraction would begin. He would say things to me like, “You’re about to start in 10 seconds.” I would respond by saying, “How do you know?” but then right away the contraction would begin, like clockwork. It was very valuable for him to be able to chart them like this because it made the logistics of getting out of the house more manageable. He knew exactly how much time he could spend away from me before returning to my side. He only missed one contraction, and I remember that one very clearly! It was the exact moment at which I realized the true value of my coach. He did not miss another contraction, and that was the key to the rest of our labor.

We finally made it into the car to leave around noon. Joe held my hand and would let me know where we were and how much further we needed to go. I would communicate with him regarding my contractions by squeezing his hand at their start and stop. I had to work through six contractions on the 15 minute drive and those were some of the toughest!

We got to the birthing center at about 12:30, and my Midwife brought us into the exam room to check me. She waited until in-between contractions and then checked to find I was fully effaced and four centimeters dilated. We moved quickly upstairs, working through two contractions on the staircase before getting to the birthing room. I wanted to lie down immediately, but resisted it a bit because I remembered being warned in class not to lie down too early. I remember saying how exhausted I felt, I felt weak, like after running a long race. My Midwife said, “It’s ok, your body is working hard.” I felt reassured and lay down. Joe stayed right behind me and would try rubbing my back. Ironically, I did not like to be massaged during contractions. I needed Joe’s touch, but only to know he was there working through this with me.

From the moment we got into the birthing room, I felt like my contractions progressed very quickly. I often did not feel like I would get a break from the end of one to the start of the next. I kept thinking of a quote from my Bradley Method materials that said, "Nature is kind, it will always give you a break." I continued to run that through my head, but often felt like my break didn’t come. However, I also ran through my head Stacy’s words from class – "The more relaxed your body is, the better it can work." I took this to heart, and every time I began to clinch my fists or tighten my jaw, I would focus to release that tension. I knew Joe was watching me, and he was looking for spots of tension. He would touch my hand or my face as a gentle reminder and I would think, “I want Joe to be proud of me.” and I would let it go.

My Midwife would come in to check on us, and often asked Joe, "Is she having contractions?" She later said it was really difficult to tell if I was working through contractions at all because I was so silent. I had all of my efforts focused on relaxation and did not want to lose energy on making noise. Joe also was able to be much quieter with his encouragement than I would have thought. Because of all of our preparation, all I needed from him was to know that he was there and his light touch.

Through the next hour, I moved from the bed, to the toilet, to the floor on all fours a few times. On three occasions, I felt myself begin to lose my mental focus. At one point, Joe got his face really close to mine as I lost control of my hand and clinched the bed post, and I snarled and nipped at his nose! It was the only way I could think of to tell him to back up a bit. He said it worked. Right after that, I told Joe, “I don’t think I can do this!” I thought for sure I had at least six hours of labor ahead of me. Two contractions later, I told him, "I think I need to push!" We were both surprised as it had only been about an hour and fifteen minutes since I had been at 4 cm, but he called my Midwife to have her come check. She did, and said I was right – I was a full 10 cm and ready to go!

`I pushed once on the bed, and then decided I would like to get in the tub. It was a bit hot so I had to work through one contraction while standing and waiting for the water to cool down, but immediately upon lowering my belly into the water I relaxed and knew we were close to the end. I was on my knees with my head and arms leaning on the side of the tub, with Joe in front of me. On the next contraction, I felt a strong urge to push and bore down. Little Roo’s head emerged half way, but then retreated. I didn’t like how that felt one bit, so I felt determined on the next contraction to push until his head emerged. I had to push beyond the contraction for that to happen, but it worked, and bruised the bridge of my nose in the process! My Midwife asked if I wanted to reach down and touch my baby, which I did, but right away I wanted to get back to work with finishing pushing. I pushed two more times, and Tiago Ze Fox was born at 2:11 pm after about 10-15 minutes of pushing! He was the first baby born in Allen, TX for 2011, and possibly the first Bradley Method baby nationwide!

The Bradley Method Baby Tiago He was immediately brought up to the surface. He came out of the water with eyes wide open, looking straight up at me. He barely cried, and I fell in love instantly. It was the most amazing day of my life. Within about three minutes of meeting my son, I remember telling Joe, “It wasn’t that bad! I could do this again!” I was completely blown away by the process and happier than I could ever remember being in my entire life. It strengthened my bond with Joe in a way that I could not have imagined, and it brought my son into the world in the best way I could have ever hoped.

From this birthing experience, we learned some very valuable things that I would pass on to anyone considering a natural child birth.

Really value the emotional sign posts of labor that you learn in your Bradley Method class. Our labor progressed very quickly, and it was hard to believe each time we moved from one sign post to another, but they were extremely accurate. Pay close attention to these and trust in them, regardless of where you think you should be in the process. If we would not have paid close attention to these, we probably would not have gone to the birth center in time.

With relaxation, the pain is not nearly as bad as I imagined. Relaxing through contractions made all the difference, I think. On our first day of Bradley Method classes, our teacher Stacy had us rate how painful labor was on a scale of 1-10. I think at the time I rated it an 8 or 9, but now I think I’d give it about a 6-7. It hurt, but was a very purposeful pain and much more manageable than I had thought.

The most important thing you and your coach can do is practice. Make sure to set aside time to do your "homework." We found a lot of value in practicing the exercises. While the exercises themselves I know were beneficial, this process also unknowingly strengthened my bond with Joe and he was able to practice recognizing tension in my body. When we would do exercises, he would see my face tense up and tell me to relax my face. I learned that relaxing my face meant that the rest of my body (other than the muscle group working) would relax. I used this over and over again in labor, and all Joe would have to do to remind me was rest his hand on my jaw. He knew what to look for and I knew the value of relaxation.

Make sure that you and your partner have ways to communicate nonverbally. We didn’t really practice this, but just doing our practice in general helped us be able to communicate this way during labor. For example, when I couldn’t speak any more during contractions, I could give Joe’s hand a small squeeze when a contraction began and ended. I wasn’t sure if he would understand what I was trying to communicate, but he did. This helped him continue to understand what was going on and to be able to give our Midwife an accurate picture of the labor when we arrived at the birth center.

Make sure you think of many comfort options for labor. I had expected that I would need a lot of massage and would physically rely on Joe much more than I did i.e. leaning on him, asking him to rub different body parts, etc. It turned out that I didn’t like to be touched at all during contractions, only a very light reassuring touch. I thought I might use the squat position during pushing because of the appeal of opening up the pelvis, but that sounded horrible during the actual pushing stage.

My coach was my world. From the experience of working through only one contraction on my own, I know there is no feasible way I could have managed this process without the unrelenting support of my husband. From the moment we found out we were pregnant, he did everything he could to ensure we would be successful with our goals. He rubbed my back and feet every night, read all the books alongside me, made sure we made time to practice relaxation, and remained extremely patient with me. I don’t know that I can describe the ways in which this process has pulled me closer to my husband. I loved him a whole lot before this, but I love him more now than I could have ever dreamed possible. I feel so unbelievably lucky to have him in my life, and I am beyond words proud to call him the father of my son. My trust in him and the strength of our bond is what allowed our labor to go as it did. He had worked so hard to help me get to where we were, and I wanted to make him proud of me. Tiago has his daddy to thank for the way he entered our world.