I felt like it was going to be soon. Well, obviously it was going to be soon. My due date was only days away, but I also knew that it could also be a week or more away if things went like they did with Sebastian. I was prepared to let Bean stay in that long too, as long as everything was going okay with both s/he and me, because babies come precisely when they mean to...Just like wizards. :)
I didn't think it would be that long though. I just had a feeling. A feeling that I was going to meet my baby very, very soon. I didn't say anything to anyone, not even Michael, because I knew I could be 100% wrong, but I sat down on the night of the 7th and wrote this letter to my little womb dweller. I was nervous, and a little scared, with the knowledge that I'd soon be holding my third little, but I meant it when I wrote that I couldn't wait to meet him/her. There is something amazing that happens in those first moments after meeting, and I looked forward to experiencing that again.
Superstition and the Old Wives put a lot of weight in the power of the full moon. Apparently the moon can make people crazy, but it also has the mystical power to throw poor, unsuspecting mothers into labor. We not only had a full moon upon us, but very early in the morning on the 8th we were also going to have a full lunar eclipse and what they call a "blood moon". I wondered to myself if the moon would work it's magic on me and Bean, but I again didn't mention my musings to Michael. I knew he'd laugh at the thought, and I would join him. After all, I distinctly remembered going outside in my back yard to dance under a full moon shortly before Parker arrived, and it didn't do a thing. (Except possibly entertain the neighbors.)
There was also a part of me that didn't want to get my hopes up. If I let myself think that my gut was right, and the moon just might be the trigger my body was waiting for to go into labor, I knew I'd just be disappointed if I was still pregnant the following night. So I kept my thoughts to myself and went on just like it was any other night. I did set my alarm for 4:30am though in hopes of getting some neat pictures of the blood moon. (And possibly dancing under it in the wee hours when, hopefully, no one would see me.)
I woke on my own around 4:15 the morning of October 8th. If you have ever been pregnant, you will understand that you don't actually sleep through the night for the last several weeks, sometimes months, of pregnancy. You body likes to get you ready for those sleepless nights with a newborn by waking you frequently while pregnant to use the restroom. (There is only so much room in there, and between the baby and the bladder, guess which is going to give?) I stumbled up to use the restroom, and decided that I might as well check on the moon while I was up, especially since my alarm was going to go off shortly anyways. It was slightly cloudy, but I could see a bit of the eclipse. Thinking I would get up again to check and see if it looked more "blood-like" in a bit, I snuggled back into bed with Michael and Bash (who had come in at some point during the night).
Something else that happens in late pregnancy? Your body starts to "clear out". I won't go into any more detail than that, but I thought that the stomach cramps that I was having were related to "clearing out". They felt nothing like labor, but exactly like what it feels like when you have to go to the bathroom, and every time I got up to use the restroom over the next 10 minutes or so my body seemed to confirm my suspicions that the cramps were more upset stomach related than baby related. I even remember thinking, with some disappointment, that the moon must not be working for me, but at least the fact that my body was "clearing out" might mean that I would go into labor within a few days.
The cramps were coming in waves, and after several of them, I started to wonder if they were coming on any kind of pattern. I'd put a contraction timer on my phone a few weeks before that, and I decided to start timing them, more out of curiosity than because I thought the cramps could possibly be contractions. After all, this was my third time around. I, of all people, would know when I was having real contractions. Right? If anything, timing them did even more towards convincing me that I just had an upset stomach. The waves were coming about every 2-5 minutes. In both of my labors with the boys by the time my contractions are 2-5 minutes apart I am in transition and only minutes away from pushing. It was because of this that the OB and I had talked about not waiting until the typical "5 minute apart for an hour" rule to come in. My labors just have never progressed like that. So I let Michael continue to sleep while I wondered how long it would take for my upset stomach to let me join him.
Instead of calming down though they began to get more intense. It wasn't anything I couldn't handle easily, and I still felt good between them, but I began to think that this might actually be it. That this might be the start, though unusual for me, of labor. I was grinning when the next wave hit, and I remember saying out loud to myself: "You're going to meet your baby today!"
My contractions were closer than usual at this stage, but I was still confident that I had time to spare. Again, judging off my previous births, I was still feeling good and functioning just fine through contractions, so I wasn't worried that they were unusually close together for me. I was excited by the thought that, if this labor went as fast as Sebastian's, I might have a baby by 8:30-9:30 that morning. Part of me still worried that I was wrong, and I hated the thought of having Michael call into work and take me into the hospital for nothing. I also would have hated to have him go all the way in only to have to call him to turn around and come take me in though, especially since the hospital was 40 minutes away in good traffic. I was torn, and I decided I would wait to wake him until I had dressed myself and set out socks and jackets for the boys. (I was just going to let them go to the hospital in their jammies since it was so early. They had changes of clothes in their overnight bag, and all of our bags were already packed and in the van. I felt prepared.)
My first clue that I should be worried at all was when I had a contraction while up getting their socks that I couldn't actually keep walking through. I sat down at the top of the steps and waited for it to be over, but after that I decided that it was time to wake Michael. Contractions had gone very quickly from something I could manage to something I wasn't able to walk through with Sebastian too, and I knew full well that I could have another quick labor. I'd even talked about having a birth kit in the van, but we'd never gotten around to putting it together. It was okay though. I still felt great between contractions, they were only lasting 40 seconds to a minute, and they only seemed worse while I was up moving around. I was confident that once I could sit still in the van they would level out again on the drive to the Evan's, the hospital on Fort Carson.
I woke Michael with a gentle "We're going to have a baby today." and a smile. I was rather put off when, upon telling him how long and frequent my contractions were, he sat up with a demanding: "Why didn't you wake me up earlier?!" I'd thought I was being nice by letting him sleep. Besides, I hadn't been sure it was labor at first, and once I was my thought process had been that I was going to need him as rested as possible to support me during labor. Parker's labor had been traumatic for both of us, and he'd been deployed during Sebastian's, which had been amazing and healing for me. I wanted the same experience for him this time. I was confident it would be. After all, I was prepared.
Michael rushed around getting the boys up and ready, dressing them despite my assurance that they could stay in jammies, and he called work. I called the hospital to let them know to expect us, and then got in touch with Roze, a friend of ours who was going to sit with the boys in the waiting room. Despite Parker asking if he could be there, I wasn't sure that child birth was something they were quite ready for. I was a little worried that 5am was too early and I would be waking her, but she had just finished feeding her 5 month old daughter, so was awake and excited to meet us at the hospital. By the time I was done, Michael and the boys were pretty much ready to go too. We grabbed up the last minute things that we couldn't pack ahead of time like phone chargers and the camera, and I grabbed some towels just in case my water decided to break in the van, and we headed out.
My contractions were certainly more intense. There was no mistaking them for anything else at this point. It seemed like I was going to have another quick labor, but I was still confident that they would settle down in the car when I wasn't up and moving around quite so much. I was a little worried at this point, because it really was quite a drive to Evan's, and the nurse on the phone had mentioned that the gates at Fort Carson were packed this time of morning (which made sense), but I convinced myself that we were going to have a nice, easy drive...Perhaps with some moaning through contractions, but I had prepared both boys for that possibility as much as I could. They both know that mommies have to make noise in order to help the baby come out. I hoped that it wouldn't scare either of them, or that if it did, it wouldn't scare them too much. Parker had helped me moan through contractions on the ride when I was in labor with his brother 3 years before, and he'd not seemed worried about it at all. Bash I was more concerned about, but I knew we'd manage.
As we pulled out of the driveway I started making phone calls. Grandmama first. I still felt pretty good during my quick conversation with her, and I assumed that meant that I'd been correct in thinking that my contractions would settle down a bit when I could hold still in the van. That confidence didn't last long at all. I called Mom next. She laughingly asked me if I was sure that I wasn't going to give birth in the van, and I responded honestly with an "I don't know." This was as we were driving off base. It only takes about 4-5 minutes to drive from our house to the gate, and in that short time I was starting to really worry about the 40+ minute drive ahead of us. The contractions were coming closer together, and were much more intense than anything I'd experienced at home.
My original plan had been to call everyone as we were driving, use it as a way to pass the time, but I instead asked Mom to call my Dad, brother, sister-in-law, and sister. Contractions were close enough together that I didn't want to try to be on the phone through them anymore. I snapped at Michael for asking me if I was having another contraction as one started, so I knew that chatting with my family on the phone wasn't the best idea at that moment. I needed to concentrate and focus. I was having a baby.
I moaned through contractions all the way into town. I tried to reassure the boys between the contractions that Mommy was okay. That the noise I was making was helping me. I remember hearing Michael reassure them when I was in the midst of (very loud) contractions. he sounded so calm and collected, and I was so happy that he was there for the boys, especially since I hardly had the time to breath between contractions, much less explain to them what was going on and that I was okay. We had just about made it into town when I realized that I was pretty sure that I was in transition, and we still had quite a distance to go. I might have panicked at that point. If I didn't panic then I can assure you that I did a few minutes later when we came around a bend in the highway and saw the first exit that led off to one of the post gates.
Red. Nothing but red tail lights ahead of us, and a line all the way from the gate, up the exit ramp, and onto the highway. I may have lost it a little. Michael would probably say a lot, and we should go with his judgement at this point, because this was the first time that I think it fully hit me that having this baby in the van might be a very real possibility. It was almost 6 am, prime time for people trying to get on post to work, and I was in labor. I remember wondering to myself what I had been thinking to do this again, and Michael says I wondered it out loud too. (Probably loudly) I was pretty terrified at that moment, and steadily repeated "I can't! I can't! I can't" through my contractions. Michael was calm and reassuring and kept telling me "You can. You're doing great, Baby. I'm right here." which was exactly what I needed, though I was also pretty sure he was crazy.
I kept looking down at my stomach and thinking about that poor little baby in there and how traumatic this must be for them. I've always thought that birth, from the baby's POV, must be terrifying. At least we, as mothers, understand what is going on and why, even if we are in pain while it is happening. For our newborns though, what an experience! All they know is that their entire world is literally caving in on them, then they are forced out of their warm, dark, liquid filled home into a much larger, colder, brighter space where people poke and prod and examine them. How scary must that be to such a small littler person? I kept rubbing my tummy and assuring him.her that they weren't alone. That we were in this together. That it would be okay.
Because it would be, even if I didn't feel like it would be at the moment.
I'd talked about what would happen if I'd had the baby in the van. With Fort Carson being 40 minutes away from Schriever in good traffic, it was a topic that had come up. A topic I'd joked with friends and family about. I'd even meant to put together a small birth kit for the van just in case, but I'd never gotten around to it. If I'm being honest, I never in my wildest dreams thought something like that could happen to me. Not really. That was the kind of thing that happened in the movies and on YouTube. Yet here I sat, feeling a pressure that was all too familiar, looking at a sea of tail lights, and realizing that something I'd thought could never happen might very well become a reality in the next few minutes.
We finally got to our exit, mere minutes from the gate that was closest to the post hospital, and I felt my body start to spontaneously push with my next contraction. I was already half way up the back of my seat (sitting was getting increasingly uncomfortable), clutching onto the handle over the door that I am sure someone put there exactly for this kind of situation, and my body was taking over very much without my consent. Bean was my third delivery, and I knew what that meant for me. I was only a handful of contractions away from delivery, and we were only a handful of minutes away from the hospital.
"The baby is coming." I gasped out to Michael, trying to sound calm about it and probably failing. "The baby is coming."
"Not yet." He assured me in the same calm, soothing voice he'd been using for the entire ride. "Almost there."
"No, no, no. The baby is coming!" Obviously he knew the baby was coming. Everyone in the surrounding cars probably knew the baby was coming too. (Though it was a cold morning, I'd gotten hot at some point and rolled down my window slightly.) I didn't just mean the baby was coming though. I meant that he needed to pull over because the baby was coming now. For some reason I couldn't manage to get that out, and only kept repeating that the baby was coming.
"Did your water break?" Michael asked as he turned into the entrance of the gate.
"No! Baby, it doesn't have to!" I told him. Sometimes babies are born in the caul, after all, and from what I could feel, it was beginning to seem like that might be a possibility for our baby too. I'd never reached down to feel anything with either of the boys births, but it seemed the thing to do in this situation, and it certainly felt like we might have a baby in the next minute or two.
We got lucky. The gate closest to the post hospital is also farthest away from almost everything else, so there was only a few cars in front of us when we got there. The poor gate guards weren't so lucky though, as I was "verbalizing" (read: bellowing like a birthing cow) through another contraction when we pulled up to them, Michael with our IDs in hand.
"She's in labor." I heard him say as he reached out to hand our IDs to them. They usually scan them with a little hand held machine, which can take a minute or so if the machines are acting up (which they usually are), but not this time.
"Go, just go." The guard said with alarm, and I am sure he was just very eager to get us out of there before he had to deliver a baby.
"We're here now. Almost there." Michael told me, and he was right.
"The baby is coming. Now." I repeated to him. The hospital was literally right around the corner. I could see it, but the baby was coming. Now.
"Do you need to take off your pants?" Michael asked, making it sound like a completely every day question, and I nodded. I might have even answered him, but another contraction was coming, so I'm not sure. "Should we take off your seat belt?"
"NO!" For some reason, the thought of taking of my seat belt in a moving vehicle seemed like the height of absurdity to me at that moment, even though I was already several inches off my seat at this point, my right foot propped up on the dash board (I had to check with Michael about that), but at least I was buckled! Looking back, I might not have been thinking clearly. I think I told Michael to pull over at some point here, but he insisted that we were almost there and kept driving. (We really were right there too, just not quite close enough.)
It crossed my mind that it would be very interesting to get pulled over right now, driving through an Army post with no pants on, yelling through contractions, two children in the back seat, and my husband calmly driving to the hospital...The poor Security Forces officer would probably never recover. None of us might, because it was right about then, as Michael made the final turn into the ERs parking lot, that my water broke.
Warning: I'm about to give birth. There aren't any pictures or anything, but it might be a little graphic. I am describing child birth. The squeamish should stop reading now.
"My water broke!" I announced right before a little hair covered head was born into my hand. "The head's out!" This was the only moment that he sounded anything but 100% calm to me.
"Wait, what?!" I didn't answer. My baby's head was out, but I couldn't see anything, and I didn't know what condition my baby was in. I had no idea if the cord was around their neck, or if they were facing the right way, and all I could think was that I needed to get them out. Now. Nature completely took over at that point, and I went with it instinctively. So I pushed. One, almighty push!
I felt the baby's body turn on their way out, and I was fairly sure I felt myself tearing. I didn't care. the next thing I knew a slippery, warm little body came out into my hands. Pulling my baby up against my chest I announced to no one in general "The baby's out!", and I heard my little bean cry.
I had one crazy moment where I thought Oh my God! We need to pull over! The baby isn't in a car seat! but I actually laughed at myself a moment later. A car seat was the least of our worries at the moment. Instead, I concentrated on our baby. I held Bean close to keep him/her warm. The van was nice and toasty, but it had been so cold outside that morning, and I didn't have anything right on hand to wrap around my newborn. My mind seemed to be taking in inventory on fast forward. My first thought was that my "giant" baby didn't seem so big at all, despite the doctor's dire predictions. (Bean ended up being only 8lbs 7oz, smaller than Bash by quite a bit, and only 2oz larger than Parker.) S/he had a nice, strong cry, though s/he seemed a little shell shocked and was going between crying and being quiet. And there was hair! Much more than I am used to on my littles. They had told me they could see hair during the ultrasounds, but I'd just laughed and said I'd believe it when I saw it. Well, I could see it now.
We were at the doors of the ER. Michael, again calm and collected, at least in my mind, put the van into park asking "Are you okay?"
"We're fine." I assured him, though I'm not sure that fine exactly describes a mother who just gave birth unassisted, unplanned, and in a van. I felt fine at the moment though. A little shocked, but fine.
"Okay. I'll be right back." Michael got out and went inside to get someone. I didn't find out until later, when my friend, Roze, asked how his head was, how apparently panicked he looked rushing into the ER. Legend has it that my calm, collected husband ran into the Evan's Army Hospital ER so quickly that he didn't wait for the doors to fully open and may or may not have gone face first into the edge of them. It doesn't matter. He'd been everything I'd needed from him during the labor and delivery. He was entitled to a moment of panic. (And his head was fine.)
While my husband was inside, either being calm or freaking out depending on who you ask, I was out in the van completely freaking out. I was okay, and the baby was okay, but I'd just had a baby in my van! I was convinced, in those moments, that I had completely scarred my little boys, who were still sitting silently in the back seat even though I had announced to them that the baby was here. I was also fairly certain that I'd ruined the birth experience for my husband. We'd both had such a frightening, traumatic experience with Parker, but I'd had the chance to have an amazing, healing birth experience with Sebastian. I'd so wanted Michael to have that this time with Bean, but how in the world could anyone possibly call this healing and non-traumatic, especially for my poor husband?
He couldn't have been inside for more than a minute before Michael returned, Roze and her daughter and two paramedics in tow. He opened my door, still looking calm and collected, even happy, as he beamed at me like any proud new daddy would.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" I immediately started apologizing. To Michael, to the boys, to the paramedics, to Roze...I wasn't sure who I was apologizing to exactly, or what for. Everything, I guess, but it felt important to me that I let them know how sorry I was. That this wasn't what I'd planned. Michael just kept beaming though, and shook his head.
"What are you sorry for?"
"I gave birth in the van!" I cried out, because that clearly explained everything. Michael didn't look ruffled at all though.
"What do we have?" he asked me. I'd looked while he was inside, but it was with my mind whirling as I took inventory of my newborn baby, and nothing really felt like it had stuck in my head. So I looked again...and then did a double take, because my son's penis, which is what I had expected for almost 40 weeks to see, was not there. I had a moment of "Where is his penis?" panic before my brain caught up to what was happening, and I beamed back at my husband in disbelief.
"A girl! We have a girl!"
A daughter! I had a daughter! Just like that, nothing else mattered. I was on cloud nine. Michael carefully helped me onto a stretcher while the paramedics jokingly asked if I was trying to put them out of a job. They bundled blankets around me and my little, and I comforted her as she cried out at all of us again, letting us know her complete and total disgust at the entire situation. Michael promised to be right behind me as they wheeled me away, and I snuggled my new baby to me, beaming at the world in general.
One of the paramedics said something about clamping and cutting my cord once we got into the elevator, which brought me back off my high quite rapidly.
"You can't cut it." I broke into their conversation.
"We have to, or it could be horrible for both of you." one of the paramedics insisted. I was in too good of a mood to argue the complete lack of fact and science in that statement, but I held my daughter closer and shook my head.
"This is our third child and my husband has never been able to cut the cord. He's cutting this one." I watched them exchange a look and hoped that I wasn't going to have to argue with them. I really was in too good of a mood at the moment.
"We have to at least clamp it." We'd wanted to do delayed cord clamping, and I was pretty sure that we'd achieved that with our impromptu van birth. Ideally I would have waited until I'd delivered the placenta, but I didn't see the harm in clamping it now, especially if it would make them feel better. And it would mean Michael finally got to cut a cord.
"Fine." I agreed, and watched them carefully as they clamped our little girls umbilical cord.
I was met upstairs by a team of midwives and nurses, all of them cheery and joking.
"Didn't I just talk to you a little while ago?" One of them, who I'd spoken to on the phone when I called to tell them we were coming in, asked.
"We can leave if you have this handled." another laughed. I sat there, beaming at everyone and joking back, caught up in the euphoria of childbirth. Michael joined us after seeing the boys safely into the waiting room with Roze, asked about the cord, and I told him I'd okayed them clamping it, but that he still got to cut it. I didn't get a picture, but I will always remember my husband's smile as he finally got to cut the cord of one of his children. It was a very special moment.
"What am I going to do with you?" I wondered out loud. Everyone had laughed, but it was a real question. Don't get me wrong at all. I'd wanted a daughter. I'd be worried that I'd never be able to give Michael a daughter or my sons a sister, but as I looked at her now I wondered what in the world one does with a little girl?! Logically I knew that it wasn't really any different from having a little boy...except when it was. And then it was really different. Wasn't it? Little blue-gray eyes stared up into mine with the reassurance that we would figure this out together.
Don't worry, Mommy. We're together in this.
While nurses and midwives fixed me up one of them discovered that I seemed to have some internal tearing. So they called in The Doctor. I am not a fan. This doctor was cold, uncaring, detached, and made me distinctly happy that I'd given birth in my van with my loving family instead of with him. I didn't even get a hello before he sat down to his work, and considering what his work was, a "Hi. How ya doing? I'll be the man putting my hands in you like a ventriloquist." would have been the least he could do to be considered polite.
Apparently cervical tears are rare, but I had managed to get one. Not a large one from what they tell me, but complicated enough. Doctor Detached set about trying to stitch it up, with all the finesse of a bull in a nursery, (and no numbing shot) and I just about shot up the wall. I'm still not convinced that he was actually trying to sew me up and not just shoving hot pokers up there and twisting them roughly. There was no more laughing or joking. I broke out into a cold sweat, and one of the nurses very gently suggested that I hand over my newborn to Michael because I was holding onto her rather tightly. I handed her over willingly and probably broke that poor nurses hand clutching onto her while the doctor got more and more obviously frustrated. Finally he gave it up as no good, stood up swiftly, and told the nurses to "prep her for the OR. I'll have to stitch her up down there."
After that everything seemed to happen quickly. I'll spare the details, (I was very hormonal and teary for many of them) but it was a very fast surgery, even though I had to be completely put under for it, (and I had to deal with an OR staff that was nowhere near as friendly as the L&D staff) and I came out of it fine. Michael spent that time with introducing our daughter to her big brothers and fending off the formula happy nurses. (I'd not been given time to nurse her before being taken downstairs to the OR.)
I'd been worried that I'd terrified the boys. One of the nurses in recovery had assured me that it was going to be good birth control for them in the years to come. However, when I was rolled into my room, the first person to great me was Parker. Far from traumatized, he was grinning from ear to ear.
"Mommy, I don't even care that you had the baby in the van! That was awesome!" Maybe he wasn't as traumatized as I feared. I might have just created a young male midwife.
Sebastian was a little more subdue. He'd been napping when I came in, and wasn't happy to be woken up. Though he'd changed his mind only a few weeks before and told me he wanted a little girl, (he'd spent most of my pregnancy informing me that he would cry and cry if he got anything other than another brother) he apparently changed it again and told me, stubbornly, that he wanted a brother instead of a sister. However, he also stayed as close to her as possible the entire time they were there, watching carefully and quietly. (And he is now the most devoted, in love big brother I could have ever hoped for!)
Right before we found out I was going to need the surgery I had been joking with Michael about how surprised my family was going to be to hear from me. I'd called them all less than an hour before to let them know I was in labor, and there I sat, holding my newborn baby. Of course, things had all gone all pear shaped for a bit then, and no calls had been made. The room they had us in was a windowless room in the center of the floor, so I wasn't even able to make calls when I was back in my room after recovery, but Michael called my mother while he was outside getting the bags and lunch. He gave her a very detailed account of what had happened, though he very purposely left out one very important detail...Our baby's sex. He said I'd earned the right to tell her, and I took great joy in informing my mother that she had a second granddaughter.
We didn't finalize her name until the last hour before we left the hospital, but I think it's pretty much perfect for her.
And we have a heck of a delivery story to share for the rest of our lives!
Here she is! Our beautiful, perfect daughter, Eleanor Patricia EvelynFaye. October, 8, 2014. 6:05am. 8lbs 7oz. 20.5 inches.