It’s 2 am and I get a nudge on the shoulder. “These are real, honey. I need your help,” she says. I rouse from my sleep and sit up stretching. My son snuggled in next to me asleep, completely unaware that his mom is going into labor with his soon-to-be sibling. I stumble groggily into the dark living room where my wife is kneeling on the floor, using the couch to aid her through her current contraction.
I light candles we had placed around the room earlier in the day waiting for this very moment. I check on her and place pressure on her lower back as she breathes through another strong contraction. “Call B [one of our midwives],” she says afterwards. I call and assure her it’s for real this time (we had false alarms earlier in the day). I made a few more calls to various people and went back to tending my laboring wife. “She’ll be here in 15 minutes,” I assure her.
We spent those 15 minutes swaying; her leaning on me with her arms on my shoulders while I put pressure on her back and hips; aided only by the light of the candles. It was quiet and peaceful. The only sounds being heard were her breathing and my encouragement. “You’re going to rock this birth, honey. Your body knows what to do and you know how to listen to it,” I say. “I am. I’m going to birth this baby. Right here and right now.” “Damn straight you are. We’re having this baby.” We kiss and continue our dance.
B arrived and checked baby’s heartbeat and observed my wife for the next 2 contraction before sending out an S.O.S. to the 2 other midwives working with us that this is indeed happening. In between contractions B checked my wife’s dilation to make sure we were on track. “6-7 centimeters” she says. I began filling up the birthing pool in our son’s playroom with hot water.
I reenter the living room and we spend the next half an hour or so doing our candlelit dance as the 2 remaining midwives and our doula-in-training/friend show up to complete our excellent supporting cast. They stayed quiet and removed while B caught up the other 2 on things. They allowed my wife to progress with relative ease and minimal interference. I could tell my wife was moving along by the length and strength of each contraction.
“Is it okay if I check you again to see how you’re progressing? You seem to moving along fast,” asks B after a lengthy contraction. I gently unclasp my wife’s hands from my shoulder as she lies on the couch to be checked. “Okay. So you’ve progressed to 9 centimeters in just 30 minutes. That’s great! And baby is right there.” I help her up and my wife states that she wants to enter the warm pool that’s only 1/3 full for relief. I help her change and she steps into the pool. “Oh that feels nice! That’s so much better!” she exclaims as she settles to leaning on one side with me holding one hand while our friend/doula holds the other.
N [other midwife] comes in saying she has a pot of boiling water to help warm the water (the pool has been cooling while the water tank heats up for another round of water). “I can’t carry it in, it’s too heavy.” I let go of my wife’s hand to bring the pot of water in. “I don’t think we’ll have time for another tank to fill this up. She’s moving quickly.” says K [the 3rd midwife]. “I have to push! I need to push!” Her hand squeezes mine as she silently pushes. “Baby’s crowning,” announces B, who’s been keeping tabs on what we can’t see below the water. “Since the water is so low you have to either stay in this position the rest of the way because once you come out of the water you can’t go back in.”
My wife waited. A moment of rest between contractions where nothing happened. A silent room with everyone waiting. “This is good. This will help with your stretching so you don’t tear,” says B. K put on a glove and reached her hand in the water. “I have support on her perineum for her next contraction,” she says. More silence. My wife breathes deeply, clutching my hand while I rub her back. “Oh! I have to push some more!” And she silently does. “There’s the head!” announces B. One more push and B gently pulls my wife back and I reach in the murky water to fetch my child.
I pull our baby out of the water and place her on her mother’s chest. She has a fair amount of vernix on her little body and N quickly covers her with a towel. “Best. Labor. Ever!” my wife exults with a deep breath of relief. We look at each other and I say “You did it honey. You had your natural homebirth,” followed by kiss. “I did it! I had my homebirth!” She breathes more breaths of relief and accomplishment. “Can we see what it is? I don’t know what it is yet!” my wife says after realizing we didn’t even find out the gender yet. We peek. “Oh! It’s a girl! We have a girl! Everyone meet N.G.!”
It took my wife only 1 and a half hours of active labor to birth our baby girl. The moments after were spent in postpartum care, checking baby stats: a very healthy 8lbs 8oz, 21.5 inches; and some skin-to-skin for me and N.G. while my wife showered off. During this time our son woke up, sat up in bed where my wife, newborn daughter and myself sat next to him, looked around with a grin and said “Mommy has a baby.” Crawling over to where we were he gazed at her while we told him he is now a big brother to his baby sister. A role he relishes.
The midwives and our doula/friend hung out for a while after, charting and cleaning everything up while the four of us snuggled as a new family in the bedroom. This experience could not have been any better. A stark contrast to the birth of TheBoy: hospital, bright and sterile, over 12 hours of laboring, impersonal and being checked in on what seemed like (but not literally) every hour for 3 days until we were discharged. At home she was able to labor how she chose to in an intimate environment with a group of close, caring and supportive women. When everyone left it was just my wife, TheBoy, our new daughter and myself left to enjoy the euphoric high in the peaceful quiet of our bedroom in our home.