The couple were expecting a new addition to their family in early July and in the midst of a move from Dogwood Terrace to Palmetto Terrace. “I just kept repeating, ‘let this move be over before the baby comes,’” said Jennifer.
Luckily, they had just completed their move when Jennifer felt the stork might be on its way.
“At 7:30 or 8 p.m. I felt contractions and went to the hospital. They checked me out, but at that point, I was only two centimeters dilated — considered the early stage of labor. They hooked me up to a monitor and the contractions were 10 minutes apart, so they sent me home and told me to come back tomorrow to re-check how I was progressing,” said Jennifer. (Early labor, according to the American Medical Association, can last up to 20 hours, depending on how long it takes the cervix to dilate).
“We got home around 10:30 p.m. and I told Tony I was going to lie down,” she said. “When we had our first baby, Cadence, 21 months, she had been a quick birth, but I didn’t expect the contractions to go from ten minutes apart to less than two or three in the course of a night.”
Near midnight, as she tried to rest, Jennifer felt a change in her contractions.
“I somehow knew the baby was coming,” she said. “I tried to call Tony, but he was conked out on the couch, so I went into the bathroom.”
Jennifer conducted a self-examination and felt the baby’s head in the birth canal: Then, to her surprise, her water broke.
“At that point,” she said, “I didn’t think about it any more. I just had an instinctual urge to push. So I crouched in the bathroom, delivering the baby, while my husband was asleep downstairs.”
As soon as she delivered her baby girl, Kendall, Jennifer wrapped her in a blanket.
“She cried right away, which I knew was a good sign. It was just surreal, and that’s how I felt the entire time it was happening. I asked myself over and over, ‘what just happened? Is she OK? My first worry was for her,’” she said.
The pride came later.
Many women might think a home delivery without anesthetic would be a harrowing experience. As for Jennifer, the “self-delivery” was a haze.
“I don’t remember anything as far as pain. This one was incredibly quick and easy.”
Then came Jennifer’s long walk from the second-floor master bathroom down the stairs while holding the baby, the umbilical cord still attached, the placenta still undelivered.
“I kept calling for Tony, but he was sound asleep until I got to the bottom of the stairs. Then he woke up,” she said.
At first, Tony said he was totally confused.
“I woke up suddenly and I heard a baby crying and thought ‘What’s wrong with Cadence?’ I saw a bundle in Jennifer’s arms and thought, ‘that’s too small to be Cadence,’ and suddenly realized what must have happened.”
What Tony remembers most, beyond the bombshell of an unexpected home birth, is “how completely collected and calm my wife was. “I was totally amazed,” he said.
“His eyes got so big,” said Jennifer. “He said some choice words I won’t repeat. But then he went into instant combat attitude. He called BJACH’s (Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital) labor and delivery and then 911 because the placenta still hadn’t delivered. He was in definite protective mode.”
An emergency 911 dispatcher instructed Tony on how to clean the baby and tie off the umbilical cord.
And, like many Soldiers who learn to improvise in a “combat” situation, Tony ran into the garage and came out with a shoelace, the only implement he could find at such short notice that would serve to tie off the umbilical cord.
“He was such a trooper,” said Jennifer. “Though he’s normally squeamish, he went back and forth and did exactly what needed to be done.”
Tony’s words of awe are reserved for his wife and baby: “I’m married to (super hero) She-Ra,” he said. “And Kendall — it was amazing seeing her for the first time. She’s absolutely gorgeous.”
Beyond awe, there’s genuine delight and pride: “This is something that we did, and we’re proud.”
Soon after the emergency call was placed, Fort Polk’s military police arrived at the Ezzell home. They rearranged the living room furniture to accommodate the stretcher on which they placed Jennifer and baby girl Kendall.
“I was still in total amazement; everything was surreal. Nothing about the situation processed until I saw the baby at the hospital, said Jennifer.”
Meanwhile, said Tony, “I had to stay home until a friend came to watch Cadence. I must have paced back and forth a thousand times.”
At the hospital, said Jennifer, she was treated with utmost courtesy and professionalism.
“The nurse who attended me was great. We’re really lucky. The nurses and staff were very nice and it was overall a great experience. We have absolutely no complaints.”
When the new addition arrived home — the new addition the Family calls “awesome” — big sister Cadence fell in love, too.
“Cadence knows who her sister is,” said Jennifer. “She often goes up to the baby and says, tenderly, ‘baby.’ Like she’s in wonder, too.”
Because Kendall arrived on both her father’s birthday and the anniversary of her grandfather’s death, her arrival seems especially like a blessing to her parents. “Kendall is a mixture of my father and my daughter,” said Tony.
That palpable reminder of his father is, he said, a gift.
“I look at her and see beauty and can’t imagine her not being here,” both her parents said.
“I thank God every day for how things turned out, that there were no complications. Someone was looking after us,” Jennifer said.
“Our family is now complete.”
Editor’s Note: This story would never have come to light if someone hadn’t taken the time to call the Guardian offices with the scoop. The Public Affairs Office encourages the Fort Polk Community to keep up the good work by continuing to convey quality story ideas to the paper. For more information call 531-1392.