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Birth Story Childbirth military life

A Birth Story: Leap Day, 2020

Claire writes about the experience of giving birth during a deployment

Now that our family has been complete with the addition of our 3rd kid for a whole year already, it’s about time I share his birth story.

Obviously, this wasn’t our first rodeo, but it immediately offered us something new and complicated to check off of our Military Life Bucket List: Give birth while husband is deployed.

With the fun new challenge of factoring a deployment into the mix, I created plans A, B, C, D, E & F for this birth. Most of those plans included my dad being around to help out, but once I found out I was already 4 cm dilated at my 36 week appointment, and my dad couldn’t get there until my 39th week, I added extra plans for what to do in case I was still on my own. I had a list of people I could call to take care of my boys and another list of people who could take me to the hospital. I called them my “Baby Pit Crew.”

February was a very fun suspenseful month. My due date was March 7th. We spent a lot of the pregnancy joking about me either going into labor at a big event that month called “Chili Cookoff” or getting me to try to induce labor on February 29th.

February 19th was the first day I actually needed to activate my Baby Pit Crew; I began having contractions late that evening. The first few I shrugged off as Braxton-Hicks, but as they kept coming, I started timing them. They were regular, wrapping around to my back, and getting closer and closer to 5 minutes apart. The contractions weren’t painful, but this being my 3rd kid, I wasn’t sure how quickly I might go from 0 to crowning.

I called my friend Kaytlyn to come over to my house while I shuffled around the house trying to figure out what I should do. I was confused. The contractions weren’t going away, but they weren’t painful, but I knew I was already dilated and did I mention I had lost part of my mucus plug? It still just didn’t feel like it was time! 

I talked all of this out loud, while my kind and gracious friend sat and waited with me. Finally, I decided that things weren’t progressing, so we wouldn’t need to go to the hospital right away. But since they weren’t going away either, I asked Kaytlyn if she would spend the night at my house just in case I needed her. She didn’t miss a beat and even slept in my bed with me. She is truly one of the treasures some of us are lucky enough find in this military life.

Morning came. With contractions still coming, we made a plan to get to the hospital after dropping my other 2 boys off. We got to triage and with all the contractions I had experienced, there wasn’t a whole lot of physical progress I was 4-5cm dilated and about 70% effaced, which was really only slightly more advanced than when I had my last appointment. They gave me the option of being admitted or going home to wait things out. I chose the latter option since I was still comfortable just sitting around.

I texted my husband on the other side of the planet to keep him updated, we talked about 02/20/20 being a pretty cool birth date, but eventually much later in the afternoon, my contractions eased up and dissipated altogether. One big giant false alarm.

This made every day that followed even more suspenseful.

I had an exciting time sitting down and freezing my butt off at Chili Cookoff in my cheerleading costume. There was no exciting rush to the hospital with all of us in various costumes, but we were certainly prepared to make a fashionable entrance. IMG_20200223_092157_202

Surprisingly, I made it through a whole extra week without any further incident.  My sons’ preschool, which had become like family over the years, even took my youngest on days when he wasn’t normally scheduled to attend, just in case I went into labor during the daytime.

Finally, my dad arrived Friday, February 28th to provide some much needed reinforcement. He stayed with the boys that evening while I went to an informational dinner about my husband’s approaching homecoming. I ate great Mexican food and joked with other spouses some more about having all of Saturday to go into labor and about trying to keep the baby in long enough for my husband to be there.

As I went to sleep that night, I tossed and turned from what I figured must be a little bit of indigestion from too much extra gauc. A few hours later I was lightly awakened to my younger son waking up in the middle of the night around 3am to snuggle up next to me in bed. I made it back to sleep but woke up again a couple of hours later uncomfortable and slightly wet. Looked like one of us wet the bed. Turns out, it was me. After going to the bathroom, determining that it was actually my water breaking, not pee, and spending a moment or two chuckling to myself at the incredulity of willing a child to be born on a certain date, I went down the hallway to wake my dad and tell him that my water had broken. This was the first time I had ever experienced my water breaking before getting to the hospital with any of my babies.

My dad could stay at home with the boys, thank goodness, but it was still not even 6am yet, so I had to start calling to see who might be awake to drive me to the hospital. My neighbor, Amy, answered the call. She came right over and we made our way to the hospital. I called another friend, Krista to meet us there so she could help me with labor support. 

I remember trying not to sit too heavily in Amy’s passenger seat because I knew my water had broken with a trickle, not a gush, so one wrong move could have meant I would be sending Amy to the car detailer after the hospital. 

We got to the hospital and Krista arrived just a few minutes behind us. Even though my water had broken, I wasn’t really feeling any big contractions yet, but as I stood in triage (once again) filling out paperwork. I felt a contraction creep up and stiffen my back. Our baby’s arrival felt a little more imminent. 

As the nurse got ready to admit me, she mentioned I could have one more support person in the room with me. I looked to Krista to to see who on the “Baby Pit Crew” chat was awake. Sara, our nurse friend, was awake and ready, so I asked her to join the party. 

Besides the actual birth, one of our main objectives that morning was to get the full amount of antibiotics I needed for being group B strep positive. Luckily, having Sara there meant I had constant reassurance that my IV was okay and that the various bells and alarms going off weren’t life-threatening.

The next couple of hours passed by with “easy” contractions. I warned everyone the room that they might be bored for a little bit. We left the TV in the room on the news (and I feel it’s worth mentioning that the news banner all morning was almost entirely focused on the first U.S. COVID death in Washington…a tiny peek into a monumental change that was about to take over the world). 

I can’t remember who helped me get my husband on the phone, but we started out by getting him on stand-by on video chat and we were checking in with each other at least every half hour.

I also warned my support team about the range of my volume during labor; As we creeped towards more difficult contractions  I “go internal” –  I go completely silent and my strategy is to just close my eyes, breathe and ride the pain. As they get more difficult, I start to moan. When it’s time to push, I definitely feel the urge (especially with no epidural) to SCREAM and push.

Once those contractions started closing in on each other, I knew the time was near. I kept my husband on video chat to stay live for the whole thing this time. I had someone go get the doctor and he confirmed that once I felt the urge to push I could go for it. I waited through a couple more contractions. I actually remember being nervous. I think even up to that minute, I had a slight mental block about giving birth without my husband there. Part of me wasn’t ready to push yet.

But the contractions were telling me to get this baby out of me – something I actually screamed to myself even though everyone could hear. Amy was documenting the whole thing with her camera. Krista and Sara were right by my side ready to help me push, so finally I did.

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I didn’t feel happy about my husband not physically being there but I felt something different and special happening as I squeezed Sara’s hand to push. She, Krista and Amy showed up for me in a way that I will always hold close to my heart. They weren’t family by blood, but they were there to make me feel supported and loved and are forever a part of our family’s story.

After a few short minutes, “Tex” was finally here.

Adrenaline gave way to relief and emotion. It felt awesome to finally hold my baby boy and look around the room at the emotion on everyone’s faces, especially my husband’s (even if it was on a tiny phone screen). Krista took the honor of cutting the cord and Amy documented the unique way my husband and I were welcoming our son into the world.

The hours that followed were filled with even more joy from the rest of my support team. With the birthing team exhausted and in-need of rest, the second shift of my Baby Crew came to the hospital. My neighbor Dana helped get my dad to the hospital to meet his new grandson, then she helped me get my other 2 boys on the phone to meet their baby brother. 

Kaytlyn and Melody came too. They got to be there for the calmer more relaxed hours of the day and stayed with me as the evening hours arrived. They held sweet little Tex and had dinner with me. As visiting hours came to a close, I had to say goodbye to all my friends and soak up some solitary time with my baby. 

As I laid there in the quiet room, there was something about the day that I still can’t quite put into words. I was eager to be at home again reunited with my husband. I wanted to thank everyone a million times for being there for me. It was amazing and exhausting and emotional. 

I think what it comes down to is that the moral of this story turned out to not be about how sad or hard it was to do this without my husband, no. Instead it was about what an AMAZING experience it was to have a village, my tribe, show up for me exactly when I needed them to. It was a moment I’ll hold dear for so many many reasons.

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By Claire

Runs: Half-marathons at most. Prefers relays.
Mom to: 3 boys - no more, no less.
Wine: I'll take a cab.

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