“‘Cori, I’m having some pretty good contractions.’ Immediately awake at 2 a.m. in our Kailua home, Shannon and I quietly started to get out of bed to prepare for labor. We called our doula and our photographer to let them know we’d likely head to the hospital within the next hour or so. We were excited but relatively calm. We had a full-term baby, a solid birth plan, a great doula, a supportive OB team, and we were ready for anything. Anything, except an unassisted home birth.
2019 had brought significant change for our family. In late April, I came out as a trans woman. I was pretty terrified to come out, but my fears were unfounded. Shannon and I received an enormous amount of love and support from our friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers. I got approved by the Marine Corps to begin my transition and started hormone therapy in May. Even though the process is slow, the experience of living as my true self has been incredible. Every day, I look and sound more like myself, and I’ve never been happier.
Before I came out, Shannon and I decided to try for another baby. We knew it’d be extremely difficult to conceive after I started transitioning, and while we already had two beautiful daughters, we both wanted a third. With our hopes high, we gave it a shot. One day in early April, Shannon surprised me with incredible news: we had our third on the way! Soon after I came out, we announced we were pregnant. A few weeks later, we found out we were having a little boy, and we chose his name, Rowan Paul.
From the onset, we had concerns about this pregnancy. Our girls, now 6 and 4, had both been premature and had spent significant time in the NICU for various complications. We fully expected this baby to come early as well, and we tried our best to prepare for that eventuality. Shannon had to take weekly injections of Progesterone to help prevent preterm labor. All we wanted was to get to 36 weeks, after which our risk of significant NICU time dropped dramatically. Defying expectations, our little Rowan decided to hang out, and we sailed past 36 weeks safely.
On November 25th at 2 a.m., Shannon and I were getting ready to have our baby. I took a shower, woke up our kids and got them dressed, and started putting last-minute items in our labor bag. Tripler Army Medical Center is about a half-hour drive away, on the other side of Oahu from our home on Marine Corps Base Hawaii (and over a mountain). Even though our previous two births had been very quick, we thought we had plenty of time. I was in ‘let’s go’ mode, and to calm me down, Shannon asked me to fold some laundry from a basket in our room. I folded a few towels, realized she was distracting me, and we had ourselves a laugh. Then, around 2:25, things changed.
She had sat down to pee so she wouldn’t need to on the way to the hospital. I walked into the bathroom to say something to her and noticed some blood in the water. ‘Hey,’ I said, worried, ‘you’ve got some bloody show.’ She replied, ‘Yeah… I smell earthy.’ She stood up, and something in the air had shifted. Her contractions had powerfully strengthened, and she started moaning along with the contractions. Leaning against the counter in the bathroom, she looked at me and said, ‘I don’t think we’re gonna make it to Tripler. Call Castle.’ Castle, a hospital much closer to us, doesn’t normally take our insurance and was only an option if we absolutely couldn’t make it to Tripler. Now, Shannon is a certified birth doula and she knows what she’s talking about. Not only had she delivered our two daughters, but she’s also helped dozens of women through labor and delivery. When she told me to call Castle, I knew it was serious. I texted our Doula, Yvonne, and our photographer, Samantha, and told them things were escalating and that we’d be leaving immediately for Castle. Then I called Castle L and D, put the phone on speaker, and started hip squeezes.
Things progressed rapidly. Our oldest, Elise, ran in, ‘Mom! Mommy! Sam is here!’ Samantha Byrd, our best friend, and professional photographer lives a few houses down from us. When she received my text a few minutes before, she had hurried over to our house. The representative on the phone from Castle told us that we’d have to try to get to Tripler first, and Shannon told me, ‘We aren’t going anywhere. Call 911.’ As I hung up on Castle, Sam walked in, camera at the ready and asking how she could help. I asked her to call 911, put them on speaker, and find our towels. Fortunately, someone had recently asked her wife to fold laundry, and a bunch of clean towels were close at hand. Mother’s intuition, right? I kept doing hip squeezes for Shannon, trying to help her breathe as her contractions got stronger.
We briefly explained the situation to the 911 operator, who asked helpful questions like, ‘How old is the patient?’ and ‘How far along is she?’ Shannon announced to the room, ‘Baby’s here! He’s coming!’ Her water broke. I looked down and saw our son’s head. He’d crowned! One push later, our baby slid into my arms.
It was 2:50 a.m. Our girls, Elise and Murphee, who had been watching from the doorway with Sam, came in and met their baby brother. It was an indescribable moment. We were all smiles and shellshock. The first four people Rowan met in his life were his moms and his sisters. We’re so lucky Sam was able to capture these beautiful moments for us.
EMS showed up about 10 minutes after he was born, assessed Shannon and the baby, and transported us to Tripler to get us all checked out. Rowan weighed in at 7 pounds 13 ounces, 19.25 inches long, and had a clean bill of health. Elise and Murphee had both spent weeks in the hospital, but this time, we were discharged the following morning. The attending took one look at our chart, and said, ‘Well, it looks like you had a baby! Do you want to go home?’ We were absolutely thrilled to be able to take him back home so quickly.
This experience was so incredible for us. We hadn’t planned a homebirth, but Rowan decided he wanted to meet us as soon as possible. Shannon’s composure and calm confidence kept everyone at peace, and we did what came naturally. We might not be the typical nuclear family, but our love is strong, and our children see that love every day.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Corinne Bennett. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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