Elizabeth Tate’s Birth Story

Our sweet baby girl Elizabeth Tate arrived just after midnight on December 15th.  She is the perfect (and final) addition to the Vail family and we are all over the moon in love with her.  Not finding out the gender this pregnancy made for such a fun surprise and even though I’m not sure I could have waited to find out the first two times around (I found out the second I could with both Jack and Caroline) I’m so glad we decided to keep it a surprise this time.  Labor and delivery were still difficult (of course) but the anticipation made it so exciting too!

I never shared Jack’s formal birth story on the blog but I included a recap of it in Caroline’s birth story, which you can read here.  Jack was a c-section due to fetal distress after I got an epidural, Caroline was a VBAC 22 months later, and Tate was another VBAC 27 months after Caroline’s birth.  3 kiddos in just over 4 years.  Caroline’s birth was speedy once labor really started, but Tate’s was even faster.  From water breaking (with no contractions) to delivery it was just over 4 hours.  Everything went as expected and I couldn’t have asked for a better final birthing experience.

Ok enough rambling, here is Tate’s birth story and I’ve included the story on her name at the end as well!

Saturday, December 14th was the day of the Army Navy Game.  I went to West Point and even though I don’t watch any other football game during the year I always try to watch this one.  There was an Army Navy watch party at Pearl Harbor sponsored by the USO and Chick-fil-a (we don’t have Chick-fil-a in Hawaii yet…they traveled all the way from Atlanta for the event and brought food with them!) so my parents, Caroline and I went to the event.  Jack had spent all night puking the night before (thankfully my parents were here and they cared for him so Tom and I could sleep) and Tom stayed home with him.  Army lost terribly but it was still a really fun event and we each got 2 full Chick-fil-a meals to enjoy.  I’m a Georgia girl and have missed it!

Once we got home we put Caroline down for a nap and I was able to take a really good nap and woke up feeling very rested.  (Not a frequent occurrence when you’re 9 months pregnant.)  That evening we all walked down to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean and while we were there the wedding venue nearby started playing Jack Johnson’s song Better Together, which was our wedding song.  We swayed together with Tom’s arm over my shoulder while watching the kids play barefoot under the banyan tree and it was one of those perfect nights that will always be very vivid in my memory.  After we walked back to the house Tom fed the kids a late dinner and I got the itch to finalizing my hospital bag (here is my blog post on what I packed).  I’d felt a little twinge down below and a little leak so I figured it was time to get serious, since I was due in just 3 more days.  After a couple minutes I could tell that something was going to happen (my water broke with the other 2 kids as well so I kind of knew what it felt like before anything really happened), so I ran to the bathroom and right as I sat down on the toilet I felt a pop and my water broke and gushed down into the toilet.  I never saw my mucus plug the first two pregnancies but definitely saw it once I wiped this time.  It really is a plug made of mucus!  I had my membranes swept at my 39 week appointment the day prior, and just about 34 hours late my water broke.  I don’t know if it helped speed things along (I was only at 1 cm when it was done), but Tate is my only child that was born early so it’s definitely worth a shot if you’re considering it.

Anyway, after that happened I took a quick shower, threw on a pair of Depends diapers, put on a little makeup (something I never did with the other two), and told everyone it was time to get moving.  (This was right before 8PM.)  My mom hadn’t planned to come with us because Jack and Caroline are a handful, but because it happened on a Saturday night she was able to come because we knew that my dad would be able to just lay low at the house with the kids on Sunday morning and not have to worry about getting them to school.  She wasn’t at either of their births because we lived so far away (DC and Hawaii) and she was still teaching 1st grade, so it was really special that she was able to come this time.  We kissed the kids goodnight and Tom, mom and I packed up to head to the hospital (Tripler Army Medical Center, which is where I also had Caroline).  The timing happened to work out so that my instagram friend turned real life friend Shannon Garay (@hey_shannongaray on Instagram) was on duty (she’s an Army labor and delivery nurse and mom of 5, soon to be 6).  I texted her after my water broke and she said that she was on night shift and she’d just helped deliver another baby and she was ready and waiting for us to show up!  Having a friend as your nurse is in incredible experience and she helped make sure we received the best care (and a really giant room too).  My friend and photographer Stephanie of Stephanie H Photography was also able to come and she took all of the birth photos for us.  This was her first birth photo experience and I’m so glad she was up for the challenge because I know I’ll treasure these forever.

Once I showed up at the hospital I went to the triage room.  My water was still leaking everywhere so they didn’t even have to test the pad/underwear for amniotic fluid (an issue with Caroline’s birth because the pad had soaked up all the fluid so they didn’t really believe me that it had happened…and I didn’t know to bring the underwear that I had had on when it happened).  They saw that when I coughed amniotic fluid would leak out…a beautiful mental picture for you, I’m sure…so I was admitted pretty quickly, despite not really having any strong or regular contractions.  (I started tracking them on our way to the hospital with the contraction tracker on The Bump app but they weren’t all that bad and not at regular intervals.)  Unfortunately, despite having normal blood pressure my entire pregnancy it happened to be elevated when we arrived.  More on that later.

I threw on some mesh underwear and a pad, put my shorts back on and Shannon took us back to our room right at 10PM.  Contractions started rolling pretty quickly and I decided I needed my shorts off because even though they were pretty low I couldn’t handle the pressure of the waistband on my belly during contractions.

Shannon confirmed that I was at 4 cm once we got to the room, and knowing how fast I went from 4 to 10 cm with Caroline I decided to ask for an epidural pretty quickly.  The contractions were already really strong and close together, and I’m not ashamed to admit that epidurals are amazing.  I was given one some time around 10:30 or 11PM, I’m pretty sure.  The anesthesiologist was the same one I had when Caroline was born and he was fantastic both times and it was nice to see a familiar face.  He administers it with you lying on your side curled up in a ball, and I think that’s a little different from what most anesthesiologists do.  Once I got the epidural I laid on my side with a peanut shaped inflatable ball thing in between my legs and that helped keep my pelvis open as I progressed and also allowed me to get a little rest.  Shortly after midnight I mentioned to Shannon that I though it was almost time to push because I could feel a lot of pressure down below.  She checked and I was fully dilated and ready to start pushing!

Caroline came out in two contractions worth of pushing (honestly, the epidural was so strong that it didn’t hurt and I only felt pressure), but with Tate I still felt a good bit of pain while pushing.  Obviously not like an unmedicated childbirth, but the pushing part of Tate’s birth was much more exhausting and I felt it a lot more.  I also used the mirror that was available in the room and watched all the crowning and everything.  It was pretty mind blowing and amazing to witness what was happening to my own body.  I pushed for a total of 15 minutes and then our sweet baby Tate was born!  Tom announced the gender to the room and she was immediately put on my chest.  She was covered in vernix and I could not believe the head full of light brown hair that she had!  Jack had a decent amount of hair that was kind of long and Caroline was totally bald so it’s still kind of crazy to me that she has all this hair.  She latched immediately when I tried to nurse her.  I kept saying over and over again to Tom “I can’t believe we have another girl!”  I was mentally prepared to have a boy (and I certainly would have loved him just the same) but was secretly hoping for a girl so that I could do all the matching outfits for a pair of sisters and also reuse all of the cute clothes I have for Caroline.  Plus I couldn’t imagine having a boy with less energy than Jack and I think have 2 boys like Jack would do me in, haha.

With Caroline I had a painful second degree tear (probably because she came out so quickly), but this time I only had a tiny 1st degree tear that required one small stitch.  While I was pushing, the midwife was very specific on how hard to push to help avoid tearing, and I think that really helped.  Pushing took a little bit longer for Tate to be born but my recovery has been much easier and we didn’t have the breathing scare that we did with Caroline.  (She turned completely purple in the minute after she was born because she came out so quickly and she couldn’t breathe because fluid was still in her lungs.  Apparently the squeeze the baby’s body gets while going through the birth canal helps push any fluids out of their lungs, but because she went through it so quickly it wasn’t forced out of her.  Super duper scary and surreal watching a team of doctors surround her and work to get her breathing.  Thankfully she was fine once they were able to clear her airway and lungs.)

Tate was 20.5 inches long at birth and weighed 7 pounds 15 ounces.  She was 2 ounces heavier than Caroline and a pound smaller than Jack.  It’s been so fun to compare what all 3 babies looked like at birth.  They actually all looked very similar in the beginning but by a couple days old Caroline had her own look while Tate continues to remind us of baby Jack.  It’ll be so fun to see how she changes this next year!

We stayed in the delivery room for a while because the recovery rooms were full.  Once we got there though my dear friend and fellow Hawaii blogger Kait Hanson and her husband Dane visited us!  It was a treat to see them and to introduce them to our newest addition.

The kids were so excited to come visit her at the hospital.  Jack didn’t get to visit us after Caroline was born (he was still very challenging and didn’t understand what was going on so we decided it wasn’t worth the drama), so it was really special for us to have Jack and Caroline come meet their sister at the hospital.  The first thing Jack said to me when he walked in the room was “mommy you can run again!” because he knows I had to quit running and I’d told him I’d be able to run again after the baby was born.  It was pretty cute that he remembered me saying that.  Caroline had a meltdown when we wouldn’t let her hold Tate all by herself (“me hold a baby” is something we hear constantly these days) but Jack was so gentle with Tate and he continues to be really sweet and wonderful as a big brother to his littlest sister.  Caroline loves her too but we all know 2 year olds are never all that gentle and there is something very enticing about baby eyeballs to them haha.  She kind of tries to smother her when she’s lying on the boppy lounger on the floor too (see this recent instagram post haha), so we’re on high alert when they’re in the same room.  It’s safe to say the big kids love their baby sister fiercely already and I can’t wait to watch these 3 grow up together.  I’ll share more about the transition from 2 kids to 3 in a future blog post.

We spent one full night at the hospital after she was born and then we were discharged around noon the day after she was born.  There was a brilliant double rainbow out the window right before we left, a beautiful welcome for our sweet Hawaii-born baby girl.

Ok on to the blood pressure drama…I never had high blood pressure during this pregnancy.  In fact it was typically under 120/80.  It was elevated in the 2 readings I had prior to delivering though, but it went back to normal after giving birth while we were in the recovery room.  Due to the high blood pressure readings during labor though I had to go back 3 days later for a reading, just to make sure I didn’t have postpartum preeclampsia.  I was sure I didn’t have high blood pressure, but sure enough we went back in 3 days later and it was still elevated but not quite in the preeclampsia range, which is 140/90.  I had to go back in at 1 week postpartum and it was still high.  I was pretty worried by this point because postpartum preeclampsia can cause seizures and strokes.  Thankfully by 2 weeks postpartum it was down to 123/82, so I’m officially in the clear now.  Going back in to the hospital for blood pressure readings with everything else that was going on was kind of a pain, but it was better to be safe than sorry and I’m glad I followed the doctor’s guidance.

Now on to the story behind her name!  I fell in love with the name Tate when I was a teenager and knew a sweet little boy with that name.  I also have a childhood friend who has a daughter named Tate, and she’s the absolute cutest.  I also read a book shortly before getting pregnant and the protagonist was a woman in her early 20’s and her name was Tate.  (It wasn’t a particularly good book but I did love the character’s name.)  It’s traditionally a boy’s name or a surname, but I like many boy names when they’re used for girls (Parker, Cooper and Charlie to name a few that we were also considering) and I think Tate is strong but also classic and preppy, yet it’s interesting and rather unique too.  As for Elizabeth, its a family name that runs deep for both of us.  Tom and I both had grandmothers named Betty, and Elizabeth is also his sister’s middle name, and my aunt’s and cousin’s name.

Our sweet girl has been here for 6 weeks now and it seems like she’s been asleep for most of it.  She’s a dream baby!  Tate is so mellow and goes with the flow and rarely has crying bouts that can’t be ended by nursing, swaddling, or a diaper change.  She sleeps well at night (I typically nurse her twice during the night and she always goes right back to sleep) and she’s gaining weight incredibly well.  Anyone else a side-lying nursing fan?  She still has a head full of hair and I can’t wait to see if it remains light brown or if it’ll turn blonde like her siblings.  Nursing on one side has been a bit painful due to a small inversion I have and a crack that formed inside it, but a DIY version of Newman’s Ointment (aka All Purpose Nipple Ointment) has helped it heal and it’s almost pain free at this point.  Newman’s Ointment saved me with Jack but unfortunately there isn’t a compounding pharmacy here so my doctor prescribed me the components (or as similar as possible) that are available in the military pharmacies and I mixed them together in 3 equal parts.  Please note that I am not in the medical field so obviously can’t give medical advice, but the 3 things I’ve been mixing together in equal parts are Betamethasone Valerate Cream USP, 0.1%, Mupirocin Ointment USP, 2%, and Miconazole Nitrate Cream (2%) (I purchased this one over the counter).  I make sure it’s completely wiped off before nursing and it has helped heal the crack that nothing else worked on (lanolin, Silverettes, polysporin).

As far as baby products go, I still stand behind all of the items I linked in this blog post a couple months back.  The kiinde bottles and milk storage bags, Spectra S1 breast pump, noseFrida, 4moms rocker, boppy lounger, love to dream swaddles and uppababy stroller with bassinet and all the attachments are truly must-have products.

Oh and in case you missed it, here are the newborn and family photos we had taken 11 days after she was born.  I need to print some of these so I can fill some empty frames on the wall!

Thanks for taking the time to read this special blog post, if you have questions or comments I always love to hear them 🙂

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Katie Vail
Katie Vail

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12 Comments

  1. January 27, 2020 / 2:22 am

    Hi from London and congratulations!

    Thank you for sharing such beautiful birth photos – what a gift – and they make my scrapbooker’s heart delighted!

    I came across your blog/Instagram via The Everygirl and am glad I did. I’m always interested to have a link to military families (I’m ex-British Royal Air Force) and I’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii (hoping to make that happen this summer, fingers crossed!).

    • January 28, 2020 / 9:58 am

      Hi Ruth, thank you! I appreciate you deciding to follow along after seeing the Everygirl feature. Hope you’re able to make a Hawaii trip happen this year! I made the flight from London to Hawaii back in 2012 (I was visiting my dad who was working on his PhD at Oxford) and that is such a long day of travel…absolutely worth it though!

  2. January 27, 2020 / 4:08 pm

    Such a sweet family of 5, and I just adore the name Tate! So glad your final birth was wonderful and what you were hoping for 🙂 I love all the photos (we recently had a birth photographer as well) and you will definitely cherish them forever <3

    • January 28, 2020 / 9:58 am

      Thank you Brittany! I remember you mentioning that you were really happy that you had a birth photographer and that made me really hopeful that my friend would be available when I went into labor. I’m so glad it all worked out!

  3. January 27, 2020 / 9:16 pm

    EEEK!! Congratulations again, she is so cute! I love the rainbow photo by the window – so perfectly “Hawaii”!

    • January 28, 2020 / 9:59 am

      Thanks Kait! So glad you were able to stop by! And wasn’t that rainbow incredible? Not that they’re rare here but it was so neat that it was right out of our window. There was another one the day she was born and I totally forgot about that until now.

  4. Michelle Ward
    January 28, 2020 / 1:48 pm

    Oh man, I just love birth stories!! Each one is different and unique! And it is actually called a peanut ball, haha! And it takes serious skill to do a side lying epidural! On my l&d floor they do it sitting you upright. Just beautiful <3

  5. Lynn McClary
    January 28, 2020 / 1:56 pm

    Love hearing all about Tate, she has such a beautiful name. Congrats again your family of 5!

  6. Bridget Keller
    January 28, 2020 / 3:26 pm

    I love birth stories and especially love reading them while pregnant. I’ll be moving on to caroline’s now.
    You look gorgeous during and after delivery and I love that you had a photographer – something i’ve never considered but am toying with after seeing your photos.

    I love that your mom was able to be there with you. Congrats again! Such a beautiful family!

  7. January 28, 2020 / 3:32 pm

    Loved reading this Katie! Thank you for sharing! So happy for you guys and all that is in store for your sweet family!

  8. Kim
    January 28, 2020 / 3:41 pm

    What a great story! I love everything about it! The pictures…you looking at your husband, your mom with her hand over her mouth, seeing her new granddaughter for the first time, I mean, ALL of it is just beautiful!!! And, of course, Tate herself. What a precious little bundle. Congratulations to all of you!!

  9. Laura Lynn Stubbs
    January 30, 2020 / 12:58 am

    So beautiful- all of it! Congrats!

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