I started my blog, Chaos and Cammies, as a way to not only connect with other moms but military spouses too. I want other people to understand a little bit more about our military lifestyle because it is very different from the civilian world. My blog is also a way to help other people. I do have a very giving heart and it is my passion to help people, whether it is by saving money, time, mom hacks, motivation, or just laughter. Helping and entertaining people is my ultimate goal!
I was asked a few weeks ago by a fellow Marine Spouse, Natalee Hines, to write a blog post on my childbirth experience as a military spouse. Natalee is a certified Birth Doula in our area, owner of Calming Waters Birth Services and writes a blog as well! You can check it out here. I was honored and excited to share my experiences! I had not really written them both down so this will be a great way for me to remember them.
I have had two VERY different childbirth experiences! My husband, Cliff, was in the Marine Corps Reserves when we had our first daughter Charlotte. We knew that we both wanted children but chose to wait until Cliff got off of active duty because the thought of him not being there during my pregnancy, labor, and raising our kids, made me so incredibly sad. He had already been deployed twice and one of those deployments was 9 months long. I know that people do it EVERYDAY and hats off to them; I might end up having to one day too! I just would prefer to not have to.
Fortunately, I had a fairly easy pregnancy with Charlotte. I had suffered a miscarriage before her and so I was an anxious mess throughout my entire second pregnancy. I was also very protective over my "bump" and didn't even like to go grocery shopping for fear that someone would crash into my cart, can you say anxiety? I had a fair amount of "morning sickness" but was still able to work my 40+ hour desk job. I worked up until my due date and was sort of bummed that she did not come a little early to miss out on some work!
My due date came and passed. My doctor had already set up an induction 2 days later since she was plenty big. I know, I know, babies will come when they're ready but due to some extremely unfortunate circumstances with people that I know and going over their due dates, I chose to go along with the induction.
At this point, 40 weeks and 2 days, I had not felt a single contraction. Well, I didn't really know what to expect but now since having Claire, I know exactly what they feel like. They started me on pitocin that morning and then broke my water soon after. I never had any super intense contractions after that but I started getting pretty crampy and uncomfortable. I opted for an epidural around 1 pm and am so glad that I did! Had I have waited to get it, I would have had to endure a ton of pain because there were 7 inductions that day. Yes that is a lot and yes I wanted the epidural because honestly, I am a wimp. I did my research and did not think that the risks were high enough to seem concerning.
For the next few hours Cliff and my younger sister brought on the entertainment as I rolled from side to side holding this peanut ball to help me dilate. Sure enough, by 7:15 that evening, it was showtime. I took this advice from my friend that is a nurse and mother of three, and held my thighs and bore down as hard as I could....less than 5 minutes later, our beautiful rainbow baby was out and in my arms! What an emotional moment! We were thrilled and so relieved that our precious baby girl was now in our arms!
Charlotte Reaves 7 lbs, 20 inches
Ow man! I'm starting to hurt just thinking about it! We moved to Virginia in October of 2016 when Cliff took active duty orders. This was quite the transition as he had been somewhat of a "free man" for the past three years. He only had to leave for Marine Corps training for two weeks out of each year. It was a quick move and his original orders were only for six months so we opted to live on base. This was all so new to us but we were grateful to have somewhere to live on such short notice. Two months after arriving in VA, we found out that we were expecting our second angel baby!
Now that Cliff was on active duty orders, our insurance changed again. Normally, if you live on base, you're given Tricare Prime and you have to use the facilities on base. Our base here in VA, only has a health clinic and not a hospital, so that concerned me. If we had been put on prime, I would have had to deliver at the Army base, Fort Belvoir, which is about 20 miles north on 95. That does not seem like very far but traffic here is an absolute nightmare so I was fearful that I'd end up giving birth in the car on 95! Again, my pain tolerance in low so I did not want to risk giving birth alone nor without any medical professionals.
Anyways, we have Tricare standard so I chose an OB GYN that was about 25 minutes south of us and planned on delivering in a civilian hospital like last time. This office was quite busy so I saw a nurse practitioner throughout my entire pregnancy because it was easier to get an appointment with her. Once I hit 37 weeks, I was somewhat annoyed that I had never seen or met any of the doctors that would potentially be delivering my baby. I had to call the office coordinator and finally had an appointment with one of the doctors two weeks before my due date.
Cliff's original orders were up during my pregnancy but were extended until 2 months after Claire was born, so fortunately, we did not have to move and have to find a new doctor's office or hospital!
I consider myself rather independent so I went to all of my doctor's appointments alone (Charlotte in tow). It is too much of a hassle to see if Cliff can get off of work. He was able to come to the anatomy scan but mainly so he could wrangle Charlotte during it.
Since we do live on base, we have a very tight knit community and I will forever be grateful for them. I am also in a running club of military spouses that have been my rock throughout everything. Most military spouses are truly the most genuine people that you will ever meet. They have been through some of the hardest times, and most always alone, so they know what it is like and are always eager to lend a helping hand. I had many friends that were pregnant at the same time and some that went to the same doctor's office. They were lifesavers after Claire's birth and 7 different women brought us dinner. I cannot tell you how much this meant to me and still tear up thinking about their generosity.
I went into labor naturally with Claire on a Friday night! I was starting to cook dinner and had my first contraction at 5:30. Right from the get go, I knew it was go time. That first contraction was so intense that I had to grab the counter.
Since we live on base in Virginia, we don't really have any family close so this was my biggest concern about going into labor. Luckily, I had met an awesome Marine spouse that had just finished nursing school and that I trusted with Charlotte. I am EXTREMELY picky about who keeps my kids. I was a nanny for years before having children so I know how hard it is to find trustworthy childcare. I immediately texted her to see if she were free to come spend the night if tonight was the night. We had been in contact the last few weeks so she knew that I was going to reach out to her. If she had not been available, then I was going to take Char to another friend's house on the other side of base. She has two girls too but I just was worried about Char sleeping somewhere other than home without me.
My contractions intensified so I went ahead and texted the Marine spouse to come over about 9:30. I quickly showered and was definitely in pain when she arrived. We headed south but not before stopping to grab an Oreo McFlurry on the way! Last time, I wasn't able to eat for a LONG time so I treated myself!
We called the hospital on the way and it just so happened that the ONE doctor that I had seen ONCE during my pregnancy was on call! What a relief! We got to the hospital and sat in the waiting room while I was having contractions for at least 30 minutes before they took me back to triage. If we are blessed with another baby, I want to try to walk around instead of just sitting there. Once I was in triage, they checked me and I was only 4 centimeters dilated. However, the contractions were 5 minutes apart. The nurse left and said that they might send me home. Suddenly my contractions started coming quicker and quicker. I was in so much pain and was screaming bloody murder. I felt as if I was the only person in that hospital. We called for a nurse but no one answered the line and Cliff didn't see anyone out in the halls either. We called again and a custodian answered and said the nurses were in an emergency! We were so confused and I was in so much pain that I just continued to scream. About an hour later, they FINALLY came back in and checked me. I was now 8 centimeters so just then did they decide to admit me. Not only was I in tremendous pain, but I was so MAD. I had felt totally neglected and honestly did not know what was going on or to expect since this was completely different from my birth with Char. Poor Cliff was in the corner looking like a sad dog because I'm pretty sure that I said some not so nice things as he watched "Live PD".
They finally admitted me and wheeled me to a real room where I begged and pleaded for an epidural. I had to sign all of these papers in between screams and continue to beg them for some pain meds. They finally put in an IV and soon after, an epidural. I could have kissed that anesthesiologist.
After all of that excitement and what seemed like an scene from The Exorcist, I decided to take a little nap because I was exhausted. Thirty minutes later, my water broke. We called the nurse; she checked me and said it was time to push! They called the doctor in and again less than 5 minutes of pushing later, we were greeted by our second miracle baby!
Claire Harden 7 lbs 3 oz, 20.5 inches
Now we're a blessed family of four and hope to continue to grow! We are so very grateful for our sweet girls!
We had a rocky start with Claire's birth but my nurses and care after she was born was amazing! I even felt well enough that evening that I sent Cliff home to stay with Charlotte.
Cliff's parents came to stay for a week, a week after Claire was born. It was very nice to have their help but also overwhelming, mainly because the layout of our base townhouse is not conducive for visitors. It is 4 stories tall and our family room/ dining room are quite small. Cliff's mom is amazing in the kitchen, despite it being so tiny, and really helped out with meals for the week.
I ended up breaking my hand the next week due to unfortunate circumstances so I was a mess. My next door neighbor was amazing and came over to keep both girls while I drove with one hand to urgent care. She even helped me button my pants and helped me get Claire to nurse before I left. It was absolutely awful and I was in so much pain. I was so worried about Claire because not only would she not take a bottle but no paci either. I didn't want her screaming the whole time. Fortunately Urgent care was fairly quick and put me in a temporary hard cast until I could see the orthopedist. The orthopedic doctor sympathized with me as I had both girls in tow, 14 days postpartum, and a broken hand. He put me in a soft cast that I was only to take off while bathing. It was so rough and I cried for the next few weeks more than I care to remember. My hormones were so out of whack and Claire was not sleeping and only wanted me 24/7.
My mom, younger sister, and her 4 month old came to visit the following week. Again, our house is not conducive for visitors and now another baby. While I appreciated them making the trip to help me, I was so overwhelmed that I lashed out more than I care to remember and still feel bad about the way I acted towards them. The postpartum period can sometimes be so rough and people don't always tell you about it and you don't know what to expect. Then again, EVERYONE, EVERY BABY, and EVERYONE'S experiences are different.