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First term Airman, first time father Pt. 3: Welcome to our family!

Erin Beihl, spouse of Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, watches baby monitors in the labor, delivery and recovery room at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Miss. Aug. 22, 2016. After several hours of labor, Erin gave birth to her first child, Mackenzie Beihl, at 10:29 a.m. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl/Released)

Erin Beihl, spouse of Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, watches baby monitors in the labor, delivery and recovery room at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Miss. Aug. 22, 2016. After several hours of labor, Erin gave birth to her first child, Mackenzie Beihl, at 10:29 a.m. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl/Released)

Erin Beihl, spouse of Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, hugs her daughter Mackenzie in the labor, delivery and recovery room at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Miss. Aug. 22, 2016. Mackenzie was born at 10:29 a.m. with a weight of 6 pounds, 5 ounces and measured 17 and 3/4 inches long. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl/Released)

Erin Beihl, spouse of Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, hugs her daughter Mackenzie in the labor, delivery and recovery room at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Miss. Aug. 22, 2016. Mackenzie was born at 10:29 a.m. with a weight of 6 pounds, 5 ounces and measured 17 and 3/4 inches long. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl/Released)

Mackenzie Beihl, daughter of Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, gets her hearing tested in the mother/baby suite at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Miss. Aug. 22, 2016.  Mackenzie was born at 10:29 a.m. with a weight of 6 pounds, 5 ounces and measured 17 and 3/4 inches long.. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl/Released)

Mackenzie Beihl, daughter of Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, gets her hearing tested in the mother/baby suite at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Miss. Aug. 22, 2016. Mackenzie was born at 10:29 a.m. with a weight of 6 pounds, 5 ounces and measured 17 and 3/4 inches long.. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl/Released)

Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, hugs his wife Erin after their baby, Mackenzie, is born in the labor, delivery and recovery room at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Miss. Aug. 22, 2016. Mackenzie was born at 10:29 a.m. with a weight of 6 pounds, 5 ounces and measured 17 and 3/4 inches long. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl/Released)

Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, hugs his wife Erin after their baby, Mackenzie, is born in the labor, delivery and recovery room at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Miss. Aug. 22, 2016. Mackenzie was born at 10:29 a.m. with a weight of 6 pounds, 5 ounces and measured 17 and 3/4 inches long. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl/Released)

Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, and wife Erin hold their daughter Mackenzie in the mother/baby suite at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Miss. Aug. 22, 2016. Mackenzie was born at 10:29 a.m. with a weight of 6 pounds, 5 ounces and measured 17 and 3/4 inches long. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl/Released)

Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl, 81st Training Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, and wife Erin hold their daughter Mackenzie in the mother/baby suite at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Miss. Aug. 22, 2016. Mackenzie was born at 10:29 a.m. with a weight of 6 pounds, 5 ounces and measured 17 and 3/4 inches long. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Travis Beihl/Released)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

(This commentary is part 3 of a 3-part series about my and my wife’s journey to becoming first-time parents in the Air Force.)

This journey to becoming a parent has been stressful, emotional, but above all rewarding. It’s hard to believe 9 months ago we found out about our little girl and now we get to smother her with kisses and rock her to sleep every night.

Our third trimester was, predictably, more active than the other two; more appointments, a labor false alarm, working to finish up  baby Beihl’s room and finally, the birth of our little girl.

Within the final stretch of the pregnancy, we got to personally know our doctors at Keesler Medical Center. Capt. Megan Donohue and Maj. Sarah Martin helped tremendously by fielding our questions during appointments and making us feel like we were a part of their family.

All this planning and organizing was quite a handful but was mostly manageable thanks to some lessons I’ve picked up on throughout my service. We’re consistently reminded to ‘pay attention to detail’ and ‘plan ahead’ and it helped, until Erin called me at work and told me she was having contractions two to three minutes apart.

Through all of our planning, we didn’t expect our little girl four weeks ahead of schedule! We hurried over to Keesler Medical Center and talked to the wonderful people in labor and delivery. Erin was having contractions at the right interval, but they weren’t anywhere close to as strong as they needed to be. Much to our dismay, it was a false alarm.

After that day, Erin and I thought our little girl was going to arrive early. Erin made calls to family and updated them on everything that was going on. My mother decided to come down as a ‘just in case’ and also to help out with odd jobs around the house.

With the welcomed assistance of my mother, baby Beihl’s nursery was finally completed. She gave me peace of mind by being with Erin and talking her though what she was feeling. For me, having family at the house to keep her mind busy and help take Erin to the hospital or store was a true blessing.

Then on Sunday, one day before baby Beihl’s due date, Erin’s water broke! Erin called Keesler Medical Center to find out what the next step was. As she was on the phone with them she received some sad news; they weren’t admitting patients due to HVAC issues.

After a small panic attack, they told us we could choose any hospital in the area and we ended up going to Memorial Hospital at Gulfport. Forget the birth plan of walking the hallways and using yoga balls during labor! Once admitted, the team decided to induce Erin, which kept her in bed, because her water had been broken for so long.

I knew my wife was strong before, but watching Erin in labor gave me a new understanding for how strong she really is. She was able to get her though the first half of labor, however she eventually need help from her new best friend, Mr. Epidural. We finally got to meet our little girl not too long after.

I . . . I can’t even begin to explain the myriad of emotions I felt when we heard and saw our little girl. We both were crying tears of joy as we held her hand for the first time. Erin and I both looked at each other with tears still in our eyes, smiled, looked back at her and said her name, Mackenzie Beihl.

As we held her, all we thought about was how beautiful she is and how our little girl could change the world. Soon after, she was weighed, measured and bathed. She weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces and 17 ¾ inches. Erin was moved to another room and Mackenzie soon joined us.

In lieu of the 81st Medical Group, the staff at Memorial were amazing and very professional. Shortly after Mackenzie was born, the HVAC issues were resolved and we were able to schedule our appointments through our normal doctors. We took Mackenzie over to Keesler for her two-day and two-week checkup and just as we experienced before, nothing but the most professional and caring technicians, nurses and doctors.

Erin and I want to thank everyone for following our story and thank everyone who helped us along the way. We’re excited to learn, share and grow with our daughter!