Beckham Free’s Birth Story – 13 lbs 11oz Vaginal Delivery

On September 18, 2019 by Bethany

Note: this birth story contains content surrounding a traumatic delivery, such as not breathing at birth… as well as normal delivery/birth story words like urine, placenta and sewn up – if any of those things make you uncomfortable, you might want to pass on this one.

Click here to go straight to delivery day.


With all the other boys, our birth stories start off around the 36 week mark, when I started dilating and progressing. But with Beckham however, this pregnancy has been filled from the beginning with crazy milestones that I want to remember, so I’m going to list them below.

October 24th – Surprise positive pregnancy test when our friends were over at the house.

Cue 15 weeks of intense morning sickness on progesterone.

Then more weeks of plain morning sickness.

January – found out it was a baby boy!

February 1st – I got sick for the first time with a cold.

End of February – I cannot clear my month-long congestion.

March 1st – I start feeling tightness in my chest.

March 20th – I noticed I was having increasing trouble breathing and went to the doctor.

March 24th – Diagnosed with pneumonia.

March 30th – Diagnosed with a heart condition and put on temporary bed rest.

April 1st – Pneumonia and heart condition testing begins – doctor decides to put me on full bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy.

Around this time – fail my first Gestational Diabetes test by a few points, nothing major.

Three days later – pass the second Gestational Diabetes test by a good margin at the 3 hour mark.

April 10th – Echocardiogram comes back good, x-rays look good, doctor diagnosed my heart condition as just “pregnancy induced tachycardia” pulse is 130 at rest, shooting to 170 upon any exertion. Bed rest is mandatory, but I can still move about within the house.

May 23rd – Had only gained 5 lbs up until this point in the pregnancy… had my first weight jump of 10 lbs in a week. Concerned it was from preeclampsia swelling. Labs every appointment now. Appointments every week.

May 30th – Preeclampsia symptoms reach a concerning level with a high level of protein in my urine, admitted to hospital for monitoring at 34 weeks. Baby is measuring 9 lbs on the ultrasound and staff want a follow up ultrasound for the next week. Doctor plans to induce at 37 weeks if labor doesn’t begin before then. Another weight jump of 6-8 lbs this week. Small amounts of sugar in my urine, but my blood sugar was great upon testing. Meet with cardiologist who starts me on a beta blocker. Strict bedrest begins, I move to Little Rock.

June 6th – 35 weeks. Beckham fails his NST but passes his biophysical profile test. Measures 8 and a half pounds on the new ultrasound around 34+5 weeks and everyone takes a breath. Blood sugar is good, no sugar in my urine but protein is still present.

June 13th – 36+3 weeks. I begin having consistent contractions everyday and I’m feeling absolutely massive. I have to turn my stomach with my hands in bed. Beckham is good, just not moving much on his last two NSTs – passes biophysical profile on ultrasound and is measured to be 9 lbs 13 ounces. I think whoa, he gained a bit in less than 2 weeks. But- okay cool, Rockwell was 10 lbs 8 oz, I can do this no problem.

Then comes the day – June 21st – Our scheduled induction:

It was such a calm morning. I remember Eric praying over us before we left for the hospital and us both being SO excited that this season of bed rest would finally be behind us. We were simply giddy to be able to hold this new baby of ours in our arms and get our family back under one roof. We were like school kids laughing and so excited – we could barely contain it. But, I was feeling a little nervous too, because I was going to be induced “cold turkey” as they say. I was having contractions around every 4 minutes, but I could only feel them if I was laying on my back rather flat, so I wasn’t sure if they were real labor or not. This makes pregnancy #3 that I couldn’t tell if I was in labor… Thankfully, once we got all setup at the hospital, I learned that they were indeed real contractions. Whew! We got started on Pitocin around 8:00 in the morning.

I decided to go ahead and get my epidural around 9:30, since my last 2 births went so quickly. By the time the anesthesiologist came to do the epidural I was at a 4 and feeling good.

After a few naps for Eric and I, breaking my water (which was when we realized I had polyhydramnios again) it was around 12:30 and I started feeling some pressure. I had the nurse check me and sure enough, I was at an 8. She said “so, do you think I have time to go pump?” (she’s mom to the cutest 6 month old ever) and I just laughed and said, “I can’t make any promises!” knowing that I usually go from a 7 to complete at 10 very quickly. So she headed out and I focused on not having a baby any time soon. 😉

And then boom, 10 minutes later, I noticed I was feeling some pressure. About 2 minutes later you could scratch that statement- it turned to a LOT of pressure. I didn’t want to freak Eric out, but I was in a lot of pain and I could feel him descending into the birth canal. Like, whoa-I-am-reliving-Atticus-in-the-car-all-over-again, but doubled, pain. It was like my epidural was nowhere to be found and I could feel everything.

I was thinking – “what in the world? Even if the epidural is gone (That happened with Edison), it shouldn’t be this painful. I don’t ever remember feeling like this.. oh well, whatever it is, you’ve got to steady yourself for the pain to come, Bethany. You’ve got this.” I was determined that no matter what, I would be present and aware during his birth – I didn’t want the sudden realization of the failed epidural to take away from my focus or our first moments together. (sidenote: my epidural most likely didn’t fail completely, it was just that it couldn’t take away all of the pain from how big he was).

Eric was asking me over and over to call the nurse and I just kept saying no, I was just thinking “she’s got to pump for that baby – I can give her that time!” (Jessica if you are reading this, do not feel bad! I made that decision myself. haha) So when the pressure became too much, I called for my nurse and they started prepping the room, I focused on breathing and not pushing with my contractions, while we waited for my doctor to come.

I was feeling so much pressure and pain, and this odd feeling like I could feel him stretching me from within… it felt like he was going to push through my entire body, and pop out my back. It was a wild feeling, to say the least! With each contraction, I was getting more antsy, every nurse walking in the room knew my history with Atticus and Rockwell and having them in just a few pushes. We were all just standing there, waiting for my doctor and I was feeling this crazy mix of emotion – nerves for the unknown, sadness for what will possibly be my last delivery, excitement to hold our baby and love for Eric, standing at my side.

But with the next contraction, I got a little bit of a push in, I couldn’t help it. It was the kind of push that should have moved him down in the birth canal quite a bit, the same kind of push that made Atticus crown in the elevator… but I noticed he didn’t move – at all.


And I thought “hmm, maybe I’m not as close to pushing as I thought” so I just kept breathing deep and told Eric that it was okay, I could hold off just a minute more.

After my doctor got in the room, we saddled up for the first push and I was so excited to meet Beckham! I could feel every ounce of pressure and pain – but the pain took a backseat to the rush of knowing I was going to see him in just a few pushes!

So I pushed.

3 long, beautiful, hard and full pushes during that first contraction.

…. and nothing happened.

And I pushed again – HARD, FULL and LONG… nada, zilch, nothing. My doctor made a joke like “alright, the next go around, let’s actually push. 😉 ” We have a great relationship and I laughed with him and thought I was just maybe I was holding it all in my face or not focusing my force downward or something. You know, all the things you’re taught…trying to figure it out. What was going on?

My third push, he told me Beckham’s heart-rate was dropping and his head was ready to be born, we just needed to get him out now. I gave it all I got, and finally they said his head was out. I was relieved.

But, after the fourth push, I knew something was off…I couldn’t budge him after that. With Atticus and Rockwell, I barely pushed to get their bodies out, and they were both big boys.. I knew if I couldn’t budge him, something was going on.

And right about that time, they moved Eric out of the way and up to above my head, two nurses grabbed my legs and pushed, my doctor called for a vacuum and episiotomy – two words I never thought I would have heard him say in my life… and a nurse jumped up on the bed to push down on my stomach. They laid me down in the bed flat and put an oxygen mask on me. Things shifted from normal delivery to emergency delivery very quickly.

This was the beginning of what I thought was the scariest 15 minutes of my life, but afterwards, I learned was actually only 3 minutes. I couldn’t understand what was going on and the nurses were hyper focused on getting Beckham out. I looked over at Eric for answers and found a face I’ve only ever seen from him once before in my life, and it was enough to stop me dead in my tracks – we were losing Beckham, I knew it.

My instincts took over and my fear gave way to an animal like determination. I began pushing with all my strength.

After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only seconds, my beautiful and angelic head nurse explained that his shoulder was stuck and they were working to get him out. The other nurse pushing on my stomach stood up on the bed with her foot next to my face and applied her body weight to my stomach and hips to help position him so he could be manipulated out. I remember just pushing continuously for those few minutes, breathe – push for 10 seconds, breathe – push for 10 seconds, breathe – push for 10 seconds… it was all I could do. I had to keep trying.

After finally getting him out, there was no celebration, no gooey baby placed on my chest, no sight of him even…and I couldn’t breathe, I just knew he was gone. Eric’s tension was palpable and drafting off of him in waves as he ran his hands through his hair and gripped the bedrail for support. His fear pierced right through my heart.

And that’s when I realized no one was speaking. It was silent in that room, save for the calm, quiet instructions of my doctor to his nurses and this odd rhythmic swishing sound… I realized with sudden horror it was the sound of them giving him respirations via mask. Around 15 nurses stood still, waiting for the NICU team to stabilize him. But I had no idea if he was even breathing. I just kept begging for someone to tell me when he started to breathe – over and over I begged for someone to tell me he was okay and was breathing. But they couldn’t. They didn’t know for sure, so they couldn’t say anything, except “They are doing all they can.” And in those moments, I knew of nothing, save for that sound and the silence. Nothing of the placenta, if it was delivering or not or the episiotomy being stitched or when the cord was cut. Nothing but fear and hope and despair and joy and pain that he was here….but grappling with the question: will he make it?

It was in this moment that I felt my heart fill with the presence of the Lord. Not in any big way, not in prayers or words or visions, but like a friend who comes over and uses the spare key to enter the back door and plops down on the couch next to you. Familiar, familial and organic. He was with me, holding onto my hope for me, like He has so many times before.

I remember being hyper-aware of the hands all over me. Hands from Eric in my hair and squeezing my hand so tight. My doctor working on me. Hands from nurses were everywhere – on my legs and holding my other hand and on my feet and on the bed frame. Just near me. Next to me. With me. They never let go.

Then, after what felt like an eternity, my nurse finally said “he’s having trouble breathing, he was stuck for quite a bit, so they now have him intubated and will be taking him to the NICU. Eric, you can come and see him for just a second, but they have to go.”

And the color restored to my world.

Eric said he got to see him for about 10 seconds and see him moving his arms and legs and that was enough to give him some peace.

I still hadn’t seen him at all.

In those moments after they left and I was being sewn up and it was so quiet, I just prayed over him. I prayed over his breath and his lungs and his body and his safety and his future and his salvation and his life. I poured my heart out to the Lord, not caring who heard my raw and ugly tear-ridden requests for my baby to live. And the Lord met me in that moment, met me right where I was on that bed, stained with blood and mascara and heartache. And He didn’t promise it would be okay, but He climbed into that bed, held me and listened as I cried out to Him.

As I opened my eyes, Eric’s tear-filled eyes met mine and I wept at the oddity of it all. We’d definitely never ended a delivery without a baby on my chest before. We weren’t sure what to do, not knowing how long he was without oxygen and what damage that could have done. So we just held hands like it was our lifeline, like somehow we could will him to make it, that we could send our love riding on the air, through the walls and to him.

And with my prayer over, the room began to come alive again, bit by bit.

I delivered the placenta intact and started hearing comments about how big Beckham was from the nurses – “there’s no way he was 10 lbs” “I’m thinking 11, maybe even 12” “he looked like a line-backer” and they marveled at my huge, beautiful placenta that grew this big ole baby boy.

And then, one of the nurses came back in the room and said “THIRTEEN SEVEN, Bethany!!” And I just remember thinking “what does that mean? is that some sort of special code? Was that the time he was born?” and she looked at me and said “that’s how much he weighed, Bethany!” And I almost passed out from shock. They later corrected his birthweight to 13 lbs, 11 ounces, once they officially weighed him in the NICU.

So then our minds were racing…

What in the world. I mean, I’ve had big babies, but not like this. This is like.. nuts.

I couldn’t even imagine what a baby that big looked like. I remembered that Rockwell, who was 10 lbs 8 oz when he was born, was 13 pounds when he was 2 months old. So… he was going to look like a 2 month old? (spoiler alert, the answer is yes.)

They got me all cleaned up, situated with something to eat and drink, cleaned up the room and then before we knew it – it was just Eric and I together in an empty room, having our “magic hour” without our baby boy. We didn’t even know what to do, Eric just kept pacing in silence and I ate a turkey sandwich like it was the last food on Earth.

We weren’t able to see him until I had an hour of rest and they got him all ready in the NICU. And then finally, after 2.5 hours, it was finally time. I was going to see my baby boy.

When I first saw him, I couldn’t control myself – I doubled over in my wheelchair and sobbed. It was shocking. He was so swollen and bruised from birth, not to mention his wires, tubes and being intubated. To top it all off, he was absolutely massive. And I felt responsible. He was in my womb for 9 months and I worked so hard to keep him safe, what happened?

His doctors believe that I had undiagnosed gestational diabetes, which can cause excessive weight gain for the baby and also prevent his lungs from developing normally. (I passed all my tests throughout the whole pregnancy, up until delivery and even after delivery for weeks…but most of the doctors believe this to be the only explanation of how he got so big in utero. No, we didn’t know he would have these issues. No, we did not know he was going to be this big.) His primary and more overarching diagnosis was Respiratory Distress Syndrome, he had shoulder dystocia and was stuck in my pelvis for 3 minutes, without oxygen. His secondary diagnosis was Surfactant Deficiency Disorder (which causes the lungs to collapse). He was given artificial surfactant right after birth to help combat this and help his lungs open up. And finally, he had the added struggle of aspiration of amniotic fluid during our traumatic delivery. This caused a lot trouble, when it turned into congestion into his already small and weak lungs. He was rushed to the NICU to be placed in therapeutic hypothermia to treat hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), but at the last moment the team evaluating him made the decision to not cool him, due to his umbilical pH being at a safe level. (Beth, you can correct me if I’m wrong 😉 ).

I learned that his APGAR scores at birth were 1, 5, and 6 at 1 minute, 5 minutes and 10 minutes, respectively.

It was overwhelming – the guilt, the fear, the sadness, the relief, the thankfulness, the hope.

I was in shock. I just sat there next to his bed, trying to figure out – how did we get here? What just happened? Nothing prepares you for going in expecting a normal delivery and almost losing your baby instead.

But, as I sat there begging for his forgiveness and trying to wrap my head around everything that just happened, I felt two strong hands slip around my shoulders  – Eric. His warmth and tenderness seeped into my bones and I listened when he told me over and over how it wasn’t my fault. I did my best to hear him and think rationally – but it was near impossible. But it was in those moments I knew we would be okay, the 6 of us would make it, together. We had a long road ahead, (52 days spent between two NICUs and insertion of a g-tube, in fact) but we would make it through because we had each other.

So I kissed my baby boy’s little fingertips one by one and made him that promise. That I would be there for him every day and that one day, we would bring him home and he would be safe, surrounded by a family who loved him more than he could ever know.


If you want to read Beckham’s 8 week NICU journey, you can search the hashtag #beckhamfree on instagram or facebook and it should turn up.

Beckham is now 2 months old, 18 pounds and 26 inches long. He has beautiful blue eyes, a dark brown mullet that drives momma crazy and the kindest smile. He is meeting every milestone and seems to have no lasting deficits from his complications upon delivery. He is even beginning to make strides meeting his eating goals by bottle, without the G-tube.

To our hospital team, including our incredible OB, I could never possibly put into words how much you mean to me. The Lord orchestrated every single person who was in that room that day – I believe that 100%. I hope you can understand that every moment of your lives that led you to medical school and all the hours and hours of studying and learning to get your degree and do this with your life – it was all worth it, if only for this very moment where you could save the life of my baby. Jessica and Becky – my main nurses that day and Beth, who intubated him and worked on him in those crucial moments right after delivery… I could never say thank you enough. To the over 120 nurses, PCTs, neonatologists, cardiologists, OT, PT, Speech and more – I will never forget you. I will always tell of you, as I tell Beckham’s story.

To our Beckham Free, you are a fighter. We have no doubts that the Lord has big plans for your life, it is evident by His hand of protection upon you. You are so incredibly loved and I truly think that fact is not lost on you.. as I’ve looked into your eyes these past months, I’ve found a wisdom there, a knowledge of the bigger picture. I think you have a divine appointment for your time upon this Earth and your fighting spirit will never give up on it.

Your brothers check on you with every little noise you make and are always giving you kisses, hugs (and shoving paci’s in your face) and we are all absolutely over the moon that you are ours.

We are so glad you are home, Beckham.

Beckham Free Richardson

Born: 6/21/2019

Went home: 8/11/2019

5 weeks at Baptist NICU

3 weeks at Arkansas Children’s NICU

13 lbs 11 oz

22 inches long



All my love,


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