On Monday, the 28th of February, 2011, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. I had to pee, which isn't all that noteworthy, considering I had just reached the 40 week mark in this, my second pregnancy. Instead of peeing, I was sort of grunting and moaning and feeling generally horrible, and then I kind of think maybe I even pushed a little bit. Suddenly I realized, "Holy crap! This toilet feeling is how I felt shortly before my daughter was born back in November of 2007. Maybe I should call Cathy, my midwife." It's all so logical, but something must be wrong. After all, Elaine's "due date" was the middle of October, and she didn't appear until 21 days later. I had convinced myself that I was going to carry this baby for 43 weeks, and that she or he would be born in March. Today was my actual due date, but for heaven's sake, who gives birth naturally on her due date? My husband and I had told everyone that I was due in the middle of March, and I guess I had started to believe it, too.
When I made it to the telephone 20 minutes later, I woke up Cathy. I kind of gasped out that I wasn't feeling so great, and then I let out an involuntary groan. Cathy said, "Why didn't you call me when you first started feeling like this?", and I said, "This just started, like, a half-hour ago." Cathy said she was on her way, and then I assessed the situation. My daughter was still asleep, but I knew she would be awake soon.
I called my husband's emergency contact number. Thankfully, he was working a short shift in the local freight yard, so I felt pretty confident that he would get home in time for the birth. The person who I spoke to seemed incredulous that I wanted my husband to be sent home NOW. After all, she pointed out, his shift ended in 45 minutes or so. I just had a feeling that the baby would be out sooner than later...so I insisted that he be allowed to leave early. Next, I called my doula, Desiré. She lived close by, but had four of her own small children, so I wanted to give her plenty of time to make arrangements for her brood. Lastly, I called Tine (short for "Christine"), a friend of mine and also a proponent of women having lots of birth choices and being allowed to birth the way that is best for them. She fielded many questions about home births, but had never attended one. Tine had asked if she could come to my birth. She said she was happy to take photographs if I wanted, and also she could help out with my exuberant three-year-old. It was considered a bonus that I was having a water birth, too!
As soon as the last call was made, my daughter woke up. In no time at all, the people that I had called started arriving. By 6:30 a.m., Steve, Tine, Desiré, and Cathy had arrived, in that order. I do not recall thinking that it was odd that Cathy showed up with a friend of mine, Rinzen, who was only in my living room briefly before she left. I found out later that Cathy's Subaru broke down on the way to my house, and Rinzen saved the day by bringing Cathy the rest of the way! Cathy was so calm and collected that I didn't even know anything was wrong. Cathy and Steve started setting up birthing equipment on the dining room table while I was in the living room. The best way I can think of to describe what I was doing was "network-referencing"; I was making sure Tine and Desiré were comfortable with each other, and I really was trying my best to be chatty. I could tell that Elaine knew something was up; in fact, I had kept her apprised of what was going on all along. She observed at all of my pre-natal appointments, which were in my home, and she watched with delight all of the home birth videos that Cathy loaned to us over the past several months. Elaine knew there was a baby in my uterus, and she was excited to see him or her come out.
For a short while I bounced up and down of the big blue exercise ball that Desiré had loaned me months ago. Finally, around 7:30 a.m., I flew off the ball, landed on all fours, and started rocking and moaning. I could sense that I wouldn't be pregnant much longer. Cathy suggested that I go rest on the bed for a while with Steve, but I declined and said that I just wanted to be in the water. The pool was nearly finished filling up, and it was blissfully warm. I settled right in, with some serious contractions following closely behind. As the contractions intensified, I got increasingly more panicky and doubtful that I could endure this pain again. At one point I said, "This is the stupidest thing I have ever done!". Desiré wondered if I was second-guessing water birth, or home birth in general. I looked right at her and said, "No. Getting pregnant is the stupidest thing I have ever done." This got a chuckle from everyone in the room, expect me and Elaine, and it really pissed me off.
A short amount of time passed, and the contractions were wildly painful by now. So far, Elaine had been in the water, "helping" me. It was mostly fine until transition hit. Suddenly her presence just irritated the hell out of me. Under much protest, Steve removed her from the water so I could get serious about getting this baby out. Cathy was so calm throughout all of this,, but I got to the point where I just wanted to be out of my body. I said, "I can't do this. I can't do this. I just can't do this." Cathy calmly replied that I was so close now and that I could do it, besides, it was really too late to transfer to a hospital. The mention of "hospital" snapped me out of whatever zone I was in. In all seriousness I said, "I don't want you to transfer me to a hospital; I want you to kill me." Again, everyone else thought this was funny, but I just thought I was surely going to die, and soon.
Cathy assured me that my baby would be out soon, and, boy, was she right! Shortly after 9:00 a.m., I uttered an animal-in-pain shriek that would terrify just about anybody. Steve had taken Elaine out of the bedroom, because she was frustrated at not being allowed in the pool with me. From the living room, she heard my cry, and said, "Dad, we gotta get in there and help Mom!" The two arrived in time to see me birth the most beautiful baby boy (with a mango-size scrotum). At 9:18 a.m., Joel emerged. To this day, Elaine tells the story that she helped her brother get born because she heard me calling for help. Joel was such a calm newborn, content to just float and wiggle around in the water. His placenta was in no hurry, either. It remained intact for about an hour. I was still in the pool when I re-positioned my self, and then--fwoop--out the placenta came. Elaine had re-joined me in the water with her brand-new sibling, but I opted to have her not join us in our much-smaller tub later with an herb pack. Instead, she was content to feed me grapes one by one while I supported Baby Joel as he floated in the bathtub. It was hard to believe that just 4 1/2 hours earlier, I had been pregnant.