Pregnancy and child birth are two things people tend to picture a certain way. As I anticipated my first pregnancy, I had no frame of reference other than what I knew from word of mouth, limited research and maybe a little Grey’s Anatomy. As a full-time RVer with no plans to stop RVing, my main question was how is this going to work?
As Eric and I prepared to grow our family, we had many questions and few answers. But I knew for certain that I could be pregnant, give birth and care for an infant as a full-time RVer. I knew because so many other women have done it, and full-time families have never been as prevalent as they are now. Starting at that point of empowerment, the rest is just details!
This article isn’t meant to be a comprehensive overview of pregnancy options for full-time RVers. I will try to include resources where you can learn about women doing pregnancy differently–in ways that work best for them–but my goal is to share my personal story about the choices we’ve made and why. As cliche as it sounds, every woman’s pregnancy is different and involves radically different choices, due to necessity or philosophy. Your insurance carrier, only one factor of many in this pregnancy maze, can necessitate certain choices all on its own.
The big question to answer is where your baby will be born. As full-time RVers, we have much more flexibility than others! Those who care deeply about natural birth may travel to a reputable birth center or midwife where they can achieve the experience they value. Others may base their choice on job opportunities or the location of family members.
Community was the deciding factor for us. As our home base, Austin was the logical choice for baby’s birth. We have friends here and are familiar with the area. My parents live only three and a half hours away in Corpus Christi, so they’re close by to support us now and when the big day arrives.
But we weren’t pregnant yet, and Eric and I had a huge trip planned for 2016. At 11 months, it would be our longest trip ever, and it would also take us the farthest from Texas we’d traveled with the RV since moving in in February 2014. Before we left our home base of Austin at the beginning of 2016, I took the following steps:
- Researched OBGYNs in Austin who were covered by our insurance, TriCare Prime.
- Scheduled an appointment with an OBGYN to discuss our travel lifestyle and what we should expect.
What My Doctor Said
My doctor was supportive of our travel lifestyle and willing to work with our schedule. She said I would need to confirm the pregnancy eight weeks from the beginning of my last period. I could confirm the pregnancy elsewhere, but there were corresponding blood tests and examinations she wanted to do herself.
Once the pregnancy was confirmed, she said the regular appointment schedule was every four weeks through 28 weeks pregnant, then every two weeks after that (with more frequent appointments right before my due date). She said it was best to be near her from 30 weeks on, and that I should definitely be in Austin proper from 37 weeks on.
How RVing + Pregnancy Has Worked Out
We figured it would take a few months for me to get pregnant (30% of couples get pregnant during the first month, with 80% pregnant after a year). Since pregnant women can generally fly through 36 weeks, I planned to fly to my first appointments. We were open to scratching the remainder of our trip, in order to return to the Austin area for the later stages of pregnancy. With this plan in place, we were comfortable leaving Austin at the beginning of January 2016 for parts unknown.
We started trying in early March, and the odds were in our favor. I took a home pregnancy test on April 5 and it was positive. The nausea and tiredness seemed to kick in simultaneously. I never actually got sick, but my tummy was constantly upset during the first trimester. As we were headed towards Monterey, CA on the Pacific coast, and Eric loves seafood, this time period sucked. To this day I look back on our two weeks in Monterey with a feeling of disgust. Which is funny, considering I think I would’ve loved the place under different circumstances.
I contacted my doctor’s office immediately to set up my first appointment. Here’s what my appointment schedule ended up looking like:
- Appt. #1 – 8 weeks – I flew to my first appointment on April 25. The pregnancy was confirmed and I gave samples of various bodily fluids. I also had my first ultrasound, and got to see Baby Nomad and hear his heartbeat! This was an exhausting two-day trip, but it felt good to be official.
- Appt. #2 – 10 weeks – At my first appointment, my doctor gave me the Harmony Prenatal Test to take with me. Instead of flying back to Austin just to give blood for the test, she said I could go into any lab during my travels and mail the box test in. I went to a lab in Petaluma, CA on May 10 for a blood draw. I paid out of pocket, but the cost was reasonable. My blood samples were packaged up in a box and I just had to drop them off at a FedEx location.
Note: Harmony is an optional test for trisomies 21, 18 and 13 that can be taken as early as 10 weeks. If the parents choose, it can also reveal the gender of the baby well in advance of the traditional 20-week ultrasound. In fact, it’s more accurate than the ultrasound because it’s DNA-based. Only six days after my blood draw, when I was 11 weeks pregnant, my doctor’s office called to tell us we were having a baby boy!
- Appt. #3 – 16 weeks – This is where things got messy, and being pregnant as a full-time RVer was heart-breaking. I had my next appointment scheduled for June 21. The flight from Portland to Austin was booked and the rental car was reserved. But due to circumstances beyond my control, the plane ended up returning to Portland and I missed my appointment. I won’t rehash the details because you can read them in this article, but I wasn’t able to reschedule that appointment.
Appt. #4 – 21 weeks – It was a looooong wait between my April appointment and this one on July 28. Serious test of patience and lesson in trust. Eric and I completed our month in Seattle with his mother and our kids before we undertook an intense repositioning to the Austin area with our RV. We covered an intense 2,300+ miles in five days. My dad flew in to Seattle to drive the RV (he’s a professional truck driver), while Eric drove our new Jeep. Neither of them would let me drive! We scheduled everything so I would be back for my appointment. And as Eric and I held hands through that ultrasound, we breathed a huge sigh of relief and shed happy tears.
Since we got back to the area, I’ve been on the regular appointment schedule, with visits at 25 weeks and 28 weeks.
Stationary for How Long?
We’ve been stationary for just shy of two months now. After moving every two weeks for the past two and a half years, it’s a jolt to our systems! I’ve been so busy that–for the most part–it hasn’t bothered me. But lately I have found myself day dreaming of places we’ve been, and looking forward to getting back on the road. It’s patient day dreaming, though. This is a necessary and blessed phase, and it’s flying by.
The plan is to stay at our current RV park in San Marcos, TX through most of October (Pecan Park Riverside RV Park). At some point next month, we’ll head down to Iron Horse RV in San Antonio to get our annual maintenance done, as well as some minor repairs. We don’t usually visit Iron Horse until December, but that’ll be Baby Nomad’s birthday, so we need to go early this time.
On November 1, we’ll move to La Hacienda on Lake Travis. This is one of the closest RV parks to my hospital, so we’ll be in a good location for my December 3 due date. Our reservation at La Hacienda lasts until mid-2017, but I doubt we’ll stay put that long. We’ll nest with our baby bird into the new year, until we have enough energy to pull up our shallow roots and get that kid initiated into life on the road.
I’ve enjoyed sharing my pregnancy story so far, but I can’t help wondering whether it’s helpful for anyone else! We’ve chosen to work “in the system,” planning our RV travels around mainstream medical recommendations and opting for a hospital birth (that last part is a story in itself, but probably not one I’ll end up sharing here). If this were my second+ pregnancy, I may have done things differently. But I feel good about my choices so far and can’t say I would’ve done anything differently.
There are so many scenarios I can imagine that would cause another mother to make different decisions. Do what is best for you and your family! One of the most important things to have is community–always a challenge for full-time travelers. I recommend you join the Facebook group “Fulltime Families Births on the Road.” It’s an off-shoot of the main Fulltime Families organization and Facebook page. It’s a safe place to ask questions and learn about non-traditional birth options that may work better for you.
If you’re comfortable doing so, I’d love for you to share your experience, thoughts, lessons learned, etc. in a comment. If you have questions for me that you aren’t comfortable posting publicly, you can use our contact form to get in touch with me. I’m no expert, but I’m happy to share what I know.