Eva’s birth story isn’t the one I expected to tell. Both of our girls’ pregnancies and births happened in the midst of so much change and chaos.
With Aubrey we found out we were pregnant while we were still stationed in South Dakota. I spent a few months living in North Carolina with my parents while Will completed some training. Then we shipped off to Turkey where I spent 5 weeks doing what I could to prepare our new home for our first born’s arrival, before leaving for Germany where she was born just a few weeks later.
We found out we were pregnant with Eva on the tail end of our adults only, last trip in Europe, in an adorable little apartment in Nice. I returned home to North Carolina and began renovating our new home, and Will returned to Turkey to fulfill his last few months with the Air Forge JAG.
A new birth center was opening here in Asheville, and I couldn’t have been more excited at the prospect of getting to have the water birth I had always wanted, in a facility that merged the gap between the hospital and home. I think I was the first person they entered into their database when I sent in my information before even getting pregnant.
The only problem was, as a new facility, they were still in the process of getting in network with the major insurance companies. We were also in a flux of insurances going from active duty (on Tricare) to relying on self-bought insurance policies temporarily, to going back on Tricare when Will was approved and started the reserves. The birth center filed all the necessary paperwork to become and authorized Tricare provider, and we started the waiting game, praying they would get approved before our little one made her arrival.
Because of all this, I started my care at a local OBGYN, then transferred to the birth center. When I was 35 weeks pregnant we finally had to make a call about where we were going to actually deliver our baby. Tricare still hadn’t approved the birth center, and we just couldn’t reason paying the full care cost out of pocket, especially when Tricare would cover a hospital birth almost entirely.
But, by this point I couldn’t let go of the opportunity to have a water birth. I couldn’t reprogram my mind from the serene, calm, comfortable environment of the birth center, to the harsh bright lights and sterile hospital. This was my last time giving birth and if I was able, I wanted it to be everything I had ever dreamed of.
So I began researching alternatives to the birth center and arrived at having a home birth. We luckily found a obstetrician that specialized in home births, and had availability for our due date. So at 36 weeks pregnant I transferred my care once again, and we finally had a plan for the delivery of our baby.
The doctor brought the birth pool out to our house in week 37. Then came back to set it up in week 38. Then at 39 weeks and 4 days I decided it was finally time to fill it and get the water heated to the right temperature in case Eva decided to come.
Around 5:20 on January 12 I started to feel what I was pretty sure were mild contractions. Unlike with Aubrey I hadn’t experienced the pre-labor contractions so it was hard to determine if this was going to be the real deal. I started timing them using an app on my phone and found they were coming every 8 minutes or so and were about 30-45 seconds in length. And hour or so later Will’s alarm went off and I let him know it might be a good idea to skip the gym that morning.
With Aubrey my contractions hit hard and fast, 3-5 minutes apart and 1-1.5 minutes in length right from the beginning. This time around 3 hours went by and my contractions were still around 8 minutes apart and a short 30-45 seconds. I wasn’t sure whether to tell Will to stay home or not in fear that labor wouldn’t actually progress. My mother in law came to get Aubrey. She was so curious about what was going on, but I needed to focus.
After that, our house was quiet. I labored in the bed, then the bathroom, walked through the house trying to get things to speed up, then tried the birthing ball for a while remembering it was my favorite position last time. My grandmother wanted to see the pool setup before the big event so she stopped by for a little, and witnessed a couple of contractions, something I’m sure was interesting for her since twilight births were the way things were done when she had her children.
She left and Will and I continued our little routine. He would check on me every few minutes to make sure I had iced cloths or heating pads, or to compress my hips through a contraction. At one point he was outside chopping wood while I labored to myself for a while. It was such an odd and refreshing experience compared to the last time. The sun was shining bright throughout our house, Will had set up all the diffusers created a fog of peace and calming, and in spite of the pain, everything felt so peaceful.
Different from last time, my contractions with Aubrey were so fast and constant the idea of resting between them was laughable. This time however, I was able to lay down in the bed and almost sleep a little between.
Finally around 2:00 in the afternoon the contractions started moving closer together and becoming a little longer. I had been texting with my doctor to keep him updated and asked that he come to the house and check me. Some women don’t like to know how far they are dilated because in reality it really means nothing. You can go from 2cm to 10 in no time, or stay at 6cm for a day. Even knowing this, I still wanted to know my status to help myself mentally.
The doctor arrived a little after 3:00 and upon checking I was 4cm, 100% effaced, and Eva was at a 0/-1 station. Not the best progress, but moments after he checked I had a contraction, in the bathroom thankfully, and with it my water broke finally. The doctor told me since my water had broken I could go ahead and get in the pool.
When I am in labor I shake so bad between contractions. One thing I loved about being home this time was the ability to crawl under the covers between them and get warm to fight off the hard shaking. When I got in the warm pool it melted the tension out of my legs and arms and felt like heaven.
Being in the pool I was able to actually get into a more squatted position that I hadn’t been able to do last time. I gripped the side of the pool through the contractions and Will kept a steady supply of iced cloths on my face, neck and back. The assistant midwife arrived shortly after I got in the pool and she began coaching me through the contractions. I had already started to feel the need to push, but I knew I wasn’t fully dilated yet.
Another amazing thing about laboring in the pool was being able to feel Eva’s head as it moved down the birth canal. I know that would weird many people out, but for me it gave me the peace of mind that we were making progress, and the motivation to keep working hard.
A few weeks before I read the caption on a photo of a woman in labor and it said, “riding the waves.” Many people refer to contractions as pressure waves, and for some reason this description stuck with me. I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I handle the pain of labor, and I’m always a little unsure how to answer other than saying, “it’s an unbearable pain, that somehow you can bear.” You just do it. I am not quiet about it. Even in my best efforts to relax and sort of moan through them, primal screams tear from the deepest part of me in almost every contraction. This time though, I held on to that little phrase, and as each contraction came on, the pain and my screams rising higher and higher, I kept in mind that it would always peak and we would come back down. And we did. The contractions are only temporary and I clung to that comforting thought.
Our midwife wanted to check Eva’s heartbeat so I moved over to sit on the little stool we had in the water. From there she began coaching me to make “horse lips” to help me dilate the rest of the way. Not too long after that I was finally complete and had the go ahead to push.
Last time I didn’t really understand pushing. Everything hurt so much and trying to push into that hurt seemed impossible. With Aubrey I pushed for four excruciating hours. The time around I felt much more aware of what I needed to do, and I knew I didn’t want to prolong my labor any more than I had to. I understood it was up to me to get my baby out and that’s what I did. I pushed with everything I had and finally, after a short shoulder snag, she came out at 4:48 pm.
I brought her little blue self up to my chest, rubbed her back, and watched her come to life. It was amazing. I couldn’t believe how chubby she was. Or that she had a head of dark hair. Will leaned over my shoulder to speak to her and she turned her little head and opened her eyes to look toward him. We were amazed at how she recognized his voice.
A few minutes later the cord was cleared and Will got to cut it and hold her while I got cleaned up in the shower and settled into bed. And hour or so later family started arriving and Aubrey met her little sister for the first time. She was smitten. She wanted to hold her and kiss her, and inspected every little detail of her down to sniffing Eva’s little fingers.
A few hours later our house was full of family and our doctor and midwife had gotten everything cleaned up and put away. My grandmother brought over a casserole of my choice and we celebrated our newest family member.
That night Will and I crawled into bed and marveled at our little girl. I can’t express how magical it was to be in our own comfortable bed, snuggled all together, resting after a long and exciting day. Things couldn’t have gone better (except for maybe a shorter labor), and I was so overwhelmed with gratitude and love.
I had come down with a bad chest cold just a couple of days before going into labor, and coupled with the screaming of labor, things turned for the worst a couple of days after the birth. Will was nothing short of amazing keeping the house running and clean and taking care of Aubrey so I could rest and get over my cold. Family rotated through to see Eva and take Aubrey out for some fun and distraction.
Sitting here just shy of a week out, life feels great. The weeks after Aubrey’s birth were pure magic as Will and I learned how to be parents and were able to travel through Germany visiting castles and living a little fantasy. I wondered how this time could possibly live up to those amazing memories. And yet, somehow it did. As a first time mom so much of your time is spent feeling unsure about anything and everything you are doing. It can be scary and stressful, and no matter how many times people reassure you, you are 100% certain that your baby is screaming at a decibel so high it’s got to be disturbing everyone around you. This time felt much like riding a bike as I settled back into the role of the mother of a newborn. I’ve worried so much less, and soaked in the baby snuggles and precious time with our little family of four more. I’ve been blessed to have my husband home for the most part, and felt wrapped up in his love as he took care of all of his girls and kept the housing running while I rested. Family has poured out their support and love. It’s been incredible. Everything I could have asked for. And I’m thanking God daily.