Each evening for about a week, I have had quite a few contractions, usually between about 7 and 10:30 at night. None of them were really painful, except for the pressure his head would put on my cervix, so I'd just go to bed and sure enough, they'd fizzle out and in the morning, a new day of being pregnant would start.
On February 4, 2:00 am, I was awaken by a particularly strong - even painful - contraction. Wow, I thought, I wonder if that will turn into anything! Another one came about 10 minutes later, so I started to get the feeling that things might be happening. At about 2:30 I didn't want to lie in bed so I came downstairs and IMed with Megan - what a huge blessing that she was online and I could voice what was happening!
At 3:00 am I went upstairs and took a shower. I figured that if these contractions were just more false labor, the hot water would soothe them and I could get some sleep. Alif said, "what are you doing?" I told him I was going to take a shower and he said, "what for?" I said, "I think things might be picking up." After the shower I got back in bed and did not sleep but got some good rest in between the contractions, which were coming really far apart, about every 10 - 20 minutes or so. They felt productive but I was really irritated that they weren't getting any closer together - or stopping, one of the two. I laid there wondering whether to call LaMonica and felt really stressed out about that. I didn't want her to come and watch me labor like this for hours and hours, with nothing happening, but I also worried that my water could break and then everything would suddenly happen very quickly. I really did not want to have the baby without my midwife!
Finally a little after 7 am I called LaMonica to tell her what was going on. She suggested that I take a bath and try to get really relaxed. She said that sometimes if you can get the contractions to stop, they'll return later in a better pattern. I got in the bath and it felt great, and the contractions did slow down a bit. After I got out of the bath I felt like, what do I do with myself? Alif suggested I just take it easy. LOL That seemed obvious but how? Do I lie around in bed? Try going to church? Go about the morning as usual? By this point I really was tired, so lying in bed seemed like the best option. I called Mom & Lynette to tell them what was going on too. Mom said she'd get showered and ready and Lynette said she would stay home from church just in case.
About 10:30 I decided to just get up and go about my day. I wondered if being up and around might get things going a bit. I washed some dishes and sure enough, the contractions started coming more regular. They were coming about every 5 minutes and I had to breathe through them. I called LaMonica about 11 something. She listened to me through a contraction and said she'd gather her kids (she was in church) and distribute them, and if I needed her to be very fast to call her, otherwise she'd be here as soon as she got everyone settled. She said that if I started to feel out of control, to go ahead and get back in the bath.
Pretty soon after that I did get back in the bath, around 11:30. The contractions were manageable but I was worried about things moving too quickly and having the baby without LaMonica there. Caris came in the bathroom with me and she was like a 3-year-old doula, pouring warm water over me, getting me cold water to drink, a pear and some grapes to eat (I hadn't eaten all day and couldn't tolerate more than a bite of pear at a time) and of course plenty of toys in the bath. Lynette arrived, then Mom, and it was very reassuring having them there. Alif was mostly tending to the kids but checking in to see if I needed anything every so often. I really felt pretty under control. The water felt amazing, and I knew I wouldn't want to get out anytime soon so I asked Lynette to bring me a bra so I wouldn't feel so self-conscious. That made all the difference for me - I was completely comfortable in the bath after that.
I was so happy when LaMonica got there, I think around 12:00 or so. By that time the contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart, and definitely required my full concentration. The hot water was crucial by this point and I couldn't imagine coping with the contractions without it. LaMonica came in to see how things were going, then she stepped out and for a while it was just Caris, my Mom, Lynette and I in the bathroom. Things started getting more intense for me and I asked for LaMonica to come back. That was probably around 12:45 or so and from that point on she knelt next to the bath and never left. Soon after I needed Alif, so he took the kids across the street to be with Aztlan and Chamil, and by the time he settled in to the bathroom for good (about 1:45) I really needed his support. He rubbed my back, poured hot water over me and encouraged me nonstop. He's a wonderful labor coach!
Around 2:00 I started to feel a bit of pressure and when contractions came it began to feel pretty uncomfortable sitting in the tub, but I also needed that hot water. I wondered out loud if moving upstairs to my bed would relieve the pressure, but also made it clear that I did not want to move out of the water. Alif kept telling me after each contraction, "Let's get you up to the bed. I'll help you." I just could not and would not. Soon it was clear to me that something had to be done - the pressure was intense and I knew pushing could not be far off. I agreed to at least try and get up on my hands and knees, so after the next contraction, they helped me get up onto my knees. Wooah, major pressure increase!! Baby clearly moved down at that point and I knew I needed to push. I said (or moaned, as the case may be), "LaMonica, I think I'm gonna have to push" She looked at me like, well yeah, I knew you would. LOL At the next contraction I pushed as hard as I could, and LaMonica felt and assured me that his head was right there. I pushed again and his head was out! LaMonica said, "A face! He's looking right at me!" No wonder I'd had such back pain, he was posterior. There was a pause while I waited for another contraction, and it felt like a long, long time to me. Then the next contraction came, I made a loud animal sound, and pushed as hard as I could and he was out! LaMonica handed him right to me and he was . . . beautiful. Perfect. Sharon said, "Look at his dimple!" My Mom dabbed her eyes. I couldn't believe he was out!
I can't even begin to express how much this birth meant to me. We tried for so long to conceive this child, and then once I was pregnant I bled so much I was sure I was losing him. Then there was a little scare with his kidneys and heart, which turned out to be nothing, and all along the stress of feeling totally unhappy and unsettled with our care provider (first doctor, then midwife, then another doctor, then finally LaMonica). So much uncertainty about God's will for where to deliver this baby, and much, much prayer about it. In the end though, I got my heart's desire and my baby was born in the comfort of our own home!
Having a baby at home meant so much more than just the logistics of it, though those were important to me too (not having to worry about making it to the hospital in time, being away from my kids, having the kind of birth I wanted technically speaking, etc.). For me, a huge part of wanting a home birth was about the kind of care I wanted. I hated the steriity of seeing a doctor for 5 minutes a month to prepare for one of the biggest events of my life. I hated knowing that if I delivered in a hospital, one of the most intimate moments of my life would be shared with nurses (and likely a doctor) I'd never met before and would never see again. Instead, I developed a special friendship with LaMonica through hours of visiting at my prenatal appointments - not just about my pregnancy and the baby but about parenting and life in general. I felt connected to the person who would make sure my baby made a safe entrance into the world, felt cared for by her, and that was a difference I hoped for but wasn't sure I could really expect. I'm very relational and didn't want to put unrealistic expectations on a care provider, but she was everything I hoped for and more. I can't believe how much it meant to me that she cared for me from the start to the very, very end - she stayed by my side long after the baby was delivered, kneeling next to me when I felt like I might pass out when I got out of the bath and sat on the toilet waiting for the placenta. She helped me upstairs (I was leaning on Alif) and into the bed to go ahead and deliver the placenta there. She tended to the baby while I rested, then checked me out, then helped me get into and out of the shower. I just felt absolutely and completely cared for, and it means so much to me that I have tears in my eyes as I write this. Every woman deserves to have births that reflect what a monumental life experience it is, not to just be a cog in a machine. I have not had bad birth experiences in the hospital, but my needs were the same to the staff as every other mother's who delivers there. There's no room for specific desires in birth when you're in the routine of a hospital. I am so thankful to have had such a wonderful home birth!!
There are some things that we've laughed about a lot now that the labor is over. Alif and LaMonica were pouring water over me constantly at the end, using cups. I felt the pressure of Alif dipping the cup into the water and said, "You have GOT to get the water more gently." LaMonica said she had to try so hard not to laugh when she looked at his face, and she was like, how can he get it more gently? ROFL Or when I was nearly at the end of my ability to cope with labor and said so, and Alif said, "You can do this, Emily. You've got mad skills." And I said, "stop it!" Then LaMonica laughed and I said, "Stop laughing." LOLOL Oh man, I do get demanding in labor - but I'm very proud to say that I did not cuss this time, not even once!! YAAAAAAY!
Anyway, that's my birth story. We're all doing really well and I hope to report on a name for mister handsome baby very soon!