One year ago, my younger sister delivered her first child, a precious baby girl. I was so happy to have been there for her labor and delivery–as her doula, photographer, backup coach, and encourager. Let me tell you about Evelyn’s birth story.
Haleigh’s husband is a Marine and they live on a military base in southern California. We learned about halfway through Haleigh’s pregnancy that Nick would be deployed to Afghanistan very close to their child’s due date. I knew that if he had to miss the birth then I would do everything in my power to be there as Haleigh’s coach–even though I live over three hundred miles away.
As July 2014 approached, Nick’s leave date kept changing and he wouldn’t receive his official orders until one week prior. I decided that I would drive to California on Sunday, July 13 (the day before her due date) and stay for as long as I could. Our prayers were answered and Nick wasn’t scheduled to leave the country until July 18, but there was still a chance that he could miss the birth if Haleigh didn’t go into labor by then.
You see, Haleigh and Nick chose to have an intervention-free birth assisted by a hospital midwife. They researched and read as much as they could and knew this was the very best choice for them and their child. So when the option to induce labor was mentioned, Haleigh and Nick took the risk that he might miss the birth and bravely declined. Oh, and they were waiting to find out the sex of the baby until he/she was born!
Early July came and went with no signs of labor so my plan to head to California on Sunday, the 13th was a go. I started to pack my suitcase on Friday, got some rest, and woke up on Saturday to a call from Haleigh. She was awake most of the night with some moderate contractions and wasn’t sure if she was in labor quite yet, but I decided that I would make the trek to California a day early just in case. I left after lunch and arrived on base by 7pm. We had dinner, I got settled in, and we went to sleep. Apparently I was the only one to get any sleep that night.
By 2:30am, Haleigh’s contractions were seven to ten minutes apart. She tried to rest and get some sleep, but couldn’t. We had breakfast around 9am and relaxed around the house. At 10:30am, Haleigh and I went for a walk around the neighborhood, came home, and she got in the bathtub. After lunch her contractions escalated to five to eight minutes apart. She continued to labor at home for several hours, took another long bath, and by 6:15pm her contractions intensified and were consistent at just two to three minutes apart.
We left the house and made the 30 minute drive to the hospital and arrived around 8pm, July 13, 2014. After an hour in triage, Haleigh was admitted, given a labor and delivery room, and told that her cervix was dilated to three centimeters. They also discovered that the baby’s amniotic sac must have broken while Haleigh was in the bathtub.
Having a natural delivery is not easy. It’s called “labor” for a reason. By 11pm contractions were just two minutes apart and the baby’s heart rate was perfect. (Because Haleigh arrived to the hospital on a weekend, she would have an OB/GYN assist her birth because the midwives are only on-call Monday thru Friday.)
Sunday came and went and Haleigh continued to labor into the early Monday morning hours. It was getting hard. Really hard. Having intermittent monitoring can be a blessing and a curse. It’s nice to be able to move around to allow labor to progress, but for 20 minutes every hour she had to wear the fetal heart rate monitor which prohibited her from getting into a comfortable position. The doctor examined Haleigh at 12:30am and determined she was dilated to five centimeters, was 90% effaced, and Baby’s head was at a -3 station.
Haleigh found solace and some relief in the hot shower, so Nick and I took turns attending to her and keeping her company while her labor progressed. She felt some urges to push so the doctor examined Haleigh again. At 2:15am she was seven centimeters dilated, still 90% effaced, but Baby had moved down to a zero station!
Back to the shower she went, where she stayed for quite a while. By this time, Haleigh had been awake for over 24 hours and was exhausted. She was crying, grimacing, in a lot of pain, couldn’t get comfortable, and felt like there was no end in sight. Nick and I were tired, hungry, wished we could take her pain on ourselves, and wondered if we should talk to her about considering an epidural or other options when all of a sudden Haleigh comes out of the bathroom and says, “I feel like I need to push!”
Haleigh was experiencing transition, the most painful part of labor. She got through it with no medications like a champion. It was five o’clock in the morning and she was 9.5 centimeters dilated! Haleigh waited just a few minutes longer, got into position on the hospital bed, pushed for just 15 minutes and the baby was born at 5:31am on Monday, July 14, 2014 after 27 hours of labor. It was the most beautiful and perfect delivery I could have imagined. As the doctor placed the baby on Haleigh’s stomach I couldn’t help myself to shout, “IT’S A GIRL!”
We succumb to more tears and shouts of acclimation. She’s here! Evelyn Irene Brown: seven pounds, five ounces and 18 inches of perfection.
Haleigh and Evelyn were released from the hospital on Wednesday and on Friday Nick had to report for deployment. It was a heart-wrenching goodbye but, thankfully, Nick was only overseas for two months before coming home to sweet baby Evelyn. Nick has had to be away a few times this year as he courageously and selflessly serves our country, but his bond and relationship with Evelyn is so beautiful. She loves her daddy so, so much.
Haleigh and Nick, thank you for allowing me to be present at the birth of your precious Evelyn. I love you both so much. Your love for your daughter is apparent in everything you do and I cannot wait to stand by your side as we raise our children together. Evelyn is the happiest little girl–I’ve honestly never seen a baby smile as much as she does! Happy 1st birthday, my sweet niece. Aunt Brenna loves you to the ends of the earth!