As I laid on my bed in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic at La Casa de Diana, in a small town in the mountains I felt different. I had been feeling tired and my breasts felt sore every time I fed Cadyn. I had been in this beautiful country for 3 weeks now. Enjoying the sandy beaches and beautiful culture. I was also visiting my mothers and fathers extended family. This small town was my rest from all the traveling and adventures. Nestled in the mountains it felt like I was in the jungle. Our room with just screens to keep the bugs out, exposed us to the outdoors all day and night. Just a short walk away from my room, there was a river we would go dip in regularly. Passion fruits fell from the vines onto the earth and I would scavenge for them daily. Fresh coconut water, bananas off the trees...I was in tropical paradise.
After a few days of sore nipples I told myself I had to know for sure the cause of them. I had this feeling once before and it was with my pregnancy of Cadyn, while breastfeeding Grayson. So my gut was telling me (my nipples really), pregnancy again.
We had some neighbors from Canada that were doing some volunteer work in the local Haitian community and didn't have a vehicle. I offered to drive them to the supermarket so they could grocery shop. I took that opportunity to leave Grayson and Cadyn with my mother back at the room and go buy a pregnancy test. It cost 100 pesos (about $2USD). While my Canadian neighbors finished up their shopping, I went to the bathroom to pee on the stick. Just as I expected 2 lines started to pink up. I snapped a photo and threw the test away. I called my husband who had returned to the states to return to Italy for work. He had been with me for the first 2 weeks of the vacation. We were both surprised as this was unexpected. I had 1 menstrual cycle prior to the vacation. The first one since becoming pregnant with Cadyn. Breastfeeding keeps my periods at bay. Being away from Cadyn for 2 months consistently, for 3-5 hours a day, my period reappeared.
I returned to NYC and spent a few more days with my parents before embarking on my trip to Sicily. Once I arrived I had no intentions on seeing an OB since I knew I would be birthing in my own comfort. I wanted to get a proof of pregnancy for paper trail purposes since we are a military family and it would make life easier down the line. My first visit was when I was 15 weeks. The doctors first question was what took me so long to come in. My immediate thought was “how are you changing my circumstances by coming in”, but I knew that wouldn’t go over well and stated I was away and had just returned. I continued to go to my visits as I knew they helped my husband feel more at ease. But every visit I grew more and more frustrated that I was adhering to something I truly did not believe in.
The 20 week ultrasound was something I did not want. I kept telling myself it was pointless. I believe it was a way to show me that some things are inevitable. We can only control so much, so why put it in the hands of tests that all they have proven is how inaccurate they could be? And harmful at that. Our base hospital is not equipped with doing this ultrasound. I was booked with an Italian OB to do the ultrasound out in town. Up to the day of the appointment I was telling my husband we should not go. I don’t remember why I still went. At the appointment the doctor is doing all his checks when he stops and seems apprehensive about something he has seen. He says that the way it looks it is not something they like to see, but that it could also be nothing and go away. He says the baby’s positioning is making it difficult for him to know for sure and he would like me to come back in to recheck. He never said what the “it” was. I tell my husband I am not going to go in for another ultrasound. When I got the call to confirm my ultrasound I told them I will not be getting another one. This was on a Friday. It was a long weekend. Wednesday I get a call from my Doctor asking me to come in Thursday. My husband and I go in and my doctor tells me that the results of the ultrasound show some markers for down syndrome. The italian OB had never mentioned this. Now my husband and I hear this news for the first time and are a bit taken aback. I know the statistics, I know how inconclusive these tests can be, but hearing that made us really start thinking. Would I want to continue this pregnancy with 2 younger children? How would we cope with a child that would need more of my attention? Would we have to hire help or move closer to family? My mind started racing. The doctor took this chance to tell me how these important blood tests I chose to skip were so important. I told him I would do them now to get a clearer picture of what was going on because we needed to know how we would proceed. I went in the next day for a blood draw as we were heading to Germany in the afternoon then back to the USA. I was 22 weeks when I had my blood drawn.
I received a phone call around 24 weeks from my doctor saying the tests were negative for down syndrome, but this still didn’t mean I was in the clear. Once again, why was I doing any of this? These tests supposedly would give me answers but here I was still with no 100% clarity. We finished our trip and returned to Sicily where I was booked for another 30 week ultrasound. This one I went to because now I wanted confirmation that my baby was ok. I told my husband multiple times though, that our baby was ok. That nothing was wrong with my baby and I knew this. These doubts were put in my head and I had to get rid of them. The 30 weeks ultrasound thankfully revealed a healthy baby. That was the last time I went to the doctor. I told my husband I was done with this nonsense and I would never return to a doctor again on any pregnancy.
We were living in an Italian home up on the side of Mt Etna. It was a beautiful home with wonderful views of the city down below. The house never felt like home. It felt colder and colder with each month that went by. Nesting never kicked in. I could not come to terms with birthing here. I kept trying to come up with solutions of how and where I would birth. I just could not imagine birthing here. It felt unfamiliar, cold, and not right. For weeks I asked my husband what were we going to do. I went as far as messaging The Farm and asking for availabilities and living with them for weeks. Financially I knew we shouldn’t do it. And then I laughed at the thought of licensed midwives telling me I “had” to do anything if it came to that. I knew I wanted a freebirth and I would make it come into existence.
We were to be in Italy until June 2018. Around February my husband was dealing with choosing our next home. Usually this is done well in advanced. But he had cancelled an extension to stay until 2019 as I no longer wanted to reside in Italy. It was lonely. I needed a village. I needed support. I knew I would need it having a third child. The man working with my husband caught wind of me not wanting to be in Italy. He asked my husband how soon did we want to leave. I said if I could leave tomorrow, I would. Next thing you know this man worked some magic as we received hard copy orders within a week of us telling him this (military doesn’t usually work this way!) We received our orders on a Thursday 08Feb2018, by 22Feb2018 we would be on an airplane heading to our new home, Norfolk, Virginia. Now a lot of things had to happen in 15 days. My husband would have to do a complete turn over at work, sign off on a million things, we had a house to pack, clean and pass an inspection before turning it in, ship our car, say our goodbyes...15 days to leave and move across the ocean. Then arrive at a new state ready to hit the ground running to find a new place to live all while telling this baby to hold on while we got situated.
Bumps on the road does not begin to describe this long and painful process of moving countries. But we did it. We were on an airplane to the states. I was still in disbelief we pulled off moving while I was 8 months pregnant, 4 months before we were suppose to actually move! We arrived to Norfolk where the base hotel accommodated us for 10 free days. After that all charges would be up to us. There was no time to sleep off the jet lag. We woke up bright and early the next day to get to business. We needed a car to rent to get around, that was a hiccup but we finally got one. Now we needed a place to live. We agreed buying a home would not be ideal due to the timing of everything. We googled apartments, read reviews tirelessly, until we narrowed it down to 10 places. In the midst of all this we needed to buy another vehicle as the growing family would no longer fit in our small vehicle. Also, our car would not arrive until April, leaving us carless for 2 months. My husband would need to get to work, and renting a vehicle for that long would not be cost efficient. We got the new car to fit our families needs, and found a place to live for at least a year. Now I felt I could finally breathe.
March 5th we moved from the hotel to our new apartment. My due date was March 27th. It was perfect timing to begin to nest. But we had no stuff other than the suitcases we brought. I kept the apartment cleaned and organized expecting a baby to be born “any day now”. Mid March we received a phone call that our express shipment had arrived. It had mostly our clothes and kitchen stuff. This helped time go by a little faster. I was beginning to get impatient. I had no vehicle to go out, the boys and I were stuck in the apt complex. All I could think of was holding my sweet baby.
Being on the East coast we were now closer to family. My mother had a vacation from work and headed down our way March 24th. The rest of my family agreed to come the next weekend. This made me a bit nervous. I remember how much I wanted to be left alone with my prior labors/births. I know how much a person can influence a birthing space. After all we had been through I refused to let anyone ruin this moment for me. My mother was a wild card to me. She never attended one of my births. I had seen her first hand at my older sisters birth 10 years prior, lets just say it wasn’t a person I would want at mine. More recently she had been at my niece’s and nephews birth...and she is far from someone I would ever consider inviting into my space. I told my husband that if it came down to it I would send her to the opposite side of the apt or she would sit in our car. This sounds cruel to some, but it was my birth and it would be my terms. I know how a birth imprints on women. No one was going to ruin this for me.
This pregnancy I had more braxton hicks than ever as well as prodromal labor which I had never experienced before. My labors before were straightforward. They started-several hours later, baby. This one had me questioning “is this it” almost daily for the last two weeks. I joked the baby would be born March 21st a Wednesday because my other children were born Monday and Tuesday. It also happens to be my older sisters birthday. 40 weeks hit and I thought wow this is new. I have never reached this point in a pregnancy before. Now I surrendered to the fact that I could very well be pregnant for another 4 weeks. March 27th the husband and I had some alone time which is rare because our children usually put us to sleep. We had sex and fell asleep. All night long I continued to feel contractions but never once did they wake me. Around 4am I woke up to pee and felt extremely affectionate. I wanted to hold, hug and rub my husband. This is so unusual for me, especially this far in pregnancy. I thought this is extremely weird I am probably in labor, then I laughed at that thought since I would “know” if I were in labor. This lead to us having sex again. After we finished, I got cleaned up and got back into bed. We stayed up talking for a bit. I kept feeling liquid dripping out of me and I believed it was excess from our session but it was ridiculous on how much was coming out that I needed something to dry off. I tell my husband to toss my shirt off the floor to clean up. But more continues to come out. Now I get annoyed because I need to go back to the bathroom and clean up again.
I sit on the toilet to pee again and hear a loud plop sound. I turn on the light and realize the shirt I had been using is stained with blood and I had lost my entire mucous plug. I tell my husband that it wasn’t his semen btw more like we are having a baby today and he is totally going to miss a dress uniform inspection he had been dreading. It was 5am when I texted my photographer. I thought I should probably call her since it was so early in the morning. I call her and she picks up right away. She asks me how far apart are my contractions. I had no idea as I had not been timing them or looking at a clock. I downloaded an app and timed them for 10-15 minutes before I got preoccupied with something else and sent her the snapshots. I still didn’t care to look at the timing of them. According to me I would have at least another 4 hours before baby arrived. I get 2 huge nauseous urges that I breathe through to avoid vomiting. I know this is a huge indicator to transitioning but there is no way I am in transition, I still have hours before baby arrives. Or so I thought. I begin getting the bath ready as I wanted to labor in there but birth in my room. I tell the hubby to set up the floor where I will birth in the room, boil more water as we have a large garden tub and our hot water tank would run out. He goes around the house getting everything ready. My photographer arrives at 6am and I am in the tub riding the waves. They were a bit more intense but I could still talk in between. We chat, joke, chat some more. She had brought her children with my permission because her babysitter failed her.
I spent days and hours on social media combing through all local photographers to find the perfect one for this moment. Finding her was pure luck. I messaged another photographer who referred me to her. She was not attending births at the moment, but decided to take me on since it was my 3rd child and a freebirth. One look on her social media and her captions and I knew she was my gal. After not documenting my first birth I vowed to never doing that again. One of the most precious things I have is my 2nd borns birthing video. I can not wait until he can fully understand and appreciate watching it. Having her children there were the least of my worries! Adults scare me way more in birthing spaces!
She arrived at 6am, set her children up in the living room and came into the bathroom where I was laboring. My husband came in twice with the pots of hot water for the tub. The first one felt great. The second one I felt was going to overheat me. It felt good in a way. I believe that made me labor harder being so warm. After what seemed to be like 20-30 minutes I could no longer hold conversations. I remember closing my eyes and never really coming back into the bathroom. It was like being in a haze. My husband kept bringing me into the bathroom because he was coming in and out. I finally got enough energy to tell him to stay put and not leave again. He was amazing after that. He sat there quietly holding my hand and putting the straw of my water up to my lips in between.
I wanted my children to watch their sibling being born, but they were fast asleep. Being so early in the morning I did not know how they may react to being woken up so I let them rest. I also could not formulate enough words to tell my husband to wake them and bring them. There was so much peace and calm in the air I did not want the environment to change.
I felt my body opening up so fast with each contraction. The intensity was something new to me. I was checking my dilation simply because it fascinates me to feel the baby descending and my body opening. I was amazed to feel my progress just by a few surges. I gripped my husbands hand tight as I leaned over the tub to feel a popping sensation in my vagina. The waters release. Now I know I am so close to finally meeting my baby. As I feel her head about to crown I continue to remind myself to breathe. Keep my mouth loose. I kiss my husband through some painful sensations as I remember reading through beautiful birth stories. It really helped to stay sensual. My moans were low and primal. Much like the moans we heard escape our lips earlier that morning. I hit my moment of doubt shortly after this, I tell him “I can’t do this”. He reassures me that I can and that we are almost there. The next wave I feel her head crowning. I flail as to try to escape my own body and rise up out of the water. I feel my body tense and remind myself to remain relaxed and let out a whimper that lowers me back into the water. This feeling was me fighting my body that was pushing, not to push. The wave ended but my body was pushing. I was so confused. Her head never felt it came out all the way but rather was stuck on her face. My body continued to push and she came out in one swift surge. I stayed there squatted for a few seconds before reaching down and bringing my baby up to my chest. She is beautiful, crying, screaming, eyes opened. I am still in awe that it happened so quickly. She was born at 07:09 am on Wednesday March 28th. A 2 hour short sweet labor.
My placenta shortly follows. I finally remember how I wanted my sons in there. Especially my older was who could not wait for his sibling to be born. I tell my husband to go get him. He comes in and watches quietly. He gets close and looks at me. He asks if he can touch his sibling. With straight fingers he runs his hand down her arm. He sees I am holding the placenta which we had spoken about many times and he asks if he can touch that too. Which he does. I then wash off the placenta and put it in a bowl. I lay there holding my baby for a few minutes.
I get really cold so I decide to hand her over to dad while I clean up to then have more skin to skin time with my baby on the bed. There she passed her first meconium while laying on my tummy. I had to clean myself again. My mother at some point had woken up after the baby was already born. To which my son excitedly told her. She was surprised and quickly went to shower and get ready. We spent the next days cuddled up in bed as we had a full lotus birth where we left the placenta and cord attached. She lost her umbilical cord at 3 days old. This helped me slow down and stay in bed as she never left the room. I never felt the birth high I got with my second birth. I was completely elated to have another baby but it wasn’t the same feeling. I was waiting for the rush of hormones but it never came. Many questions come into mind but I will never know what went on here. Nonetheless it was another powerful, beautiful, and life changing birth. I can not imagine birthing any other way.