Here is our birth story, written on February 20th, 2008, now that we have had some time to recover and reflect on everything that happened:
Saturday night at midnight I started feeling small contractions. I had just been to the movies and had drunk a large caffeinated beverage, which I never do. So I was extremely wired and unable to sleep. I wasn't sure if it was Braxton-Hicks or real labor because they started at two minutes apart. I woke Paul up at 2:30 in the morning and he started timing them. They were about 2 minutes apart and 22 seconds long. I got in the portable jacuzzi tub and Paul lit the candles in the room and put on soft music. We played the hypnobirthing CD's, did my best to relax, and Paul quoted me excerpts from a book called Supernatural Childbirth. This continued until 5am and some of the contractions were up to 45 seconds long. We then called Dotti our midwife. She said I was in early labor still and suggested I try to get some sleep between contractions.
Prior to all of this happening, I had organized two prayer phone chains to be called when I started going into labor. This was about 60 people. I was nervous about starting the chains until I was certain I was in labor. At 6am Paul called the heads of the chains to start them and a couple of other out-of-state people.
I tried to sleep but couldn't because of my continued caffeine high. Dotti arrived at 8 am and told me I was completely effaced and at 2-3 cm. I was actually disappointed with this news, because I wanted to be further along. Soon Dotti's assistants Carol and Sarah arrived. I was a little nervous about having Carol there, because I had never met her before, and we didn't know she was coming. But I got over it and happily accepted her help.
By 11:30 I was at 5 cm and I was getting more impatient to be done. I was able to fall asleep between contractions a couple of times while leaning on Paul in the hot tub. We also walked around our cul-de-sac 3 times in which I had to stop and lean on Paul during contractions to relax.
After this, my maternity masseuse Kimberly Matthews arrived to help massage me through labor. This was not planned but was a totally sweet surprise that she was willing to come on the spot. Kimberly is a doula as well. So now I had a team of 5 people helping me labor in the hot tub.
Now I was in active first stage and I really had to work on my breathing. When a contraction came, my whole team moaned or hummed with me. It was the most supportive thing, because when I ran out of energy or air, the team pulled me through with their energy and rhythm. One of the women was constantly pressing ice cold wash clothes on my face and neck. This was pure heavenly bliss. Another lady would be putting a straw in my mouth any time I opened my lips. I kept my eyes shut a lot of this time. Paul and Kim were constantly giving me massages. Kim is a Christian woman and has a gift for ministering to women in labor. There were several times when I would turn to look at her and tell her that she seemed to be able to read my mind, because I never had to say where it hurt or what I needed her to massage. She just knew. By now I was in second stage labor. The midwives told me they were amazed I was still able to talk so much between contractions.
At this point Dotti checked me again and I was at 9 cm. I was determined to find out how much longer it was going to take. So I started to feel for the baby's head. I told the group that the baby was descending and that I wanted to go to the bathroom. I was able to get to the bathroom but then was shaky and wasn't sure I could get up. Paul lifted me up and helped me back to the room. Dotti encouraged me to sit on the birthing stool because I had already started having the urge to push. It was now 4:30 pm. Each of the ladies surrounded me and continued ministering to me. I was only there for 15 minutes. I asked for a mirror so I could see what was happening. I remember seeing only about a silver dollar’s amount of baby head and hair. I remember thinking that I didn't want to push 19 more times. So on the next push I was going to give it everything I had. I remember the ladies telling me to wait to push until the contraction started. One started and I pushed . I remember yelling a little and then Dotti handed me the whole baby. I was shocked because I didn't think my pushing would even get the whole head out. I got the whole baby! It was 4:45 pm. He was not covered in vernix but had some blood on him. Once he was cleaned off he was absolutely beautiful. The midwives were astonished at how cute he was immediately. He had an Apgar score of 10. They wanted me to breastfeed him immediately. After that they weighed him at 7 lbs. 4 oz. He was 20 inches long.
When I think back on this experience, the number one thing that surprised me was how emotionally supported I felt by this team of people. They rallied around me and praised me in such a way that I don't think I could have had this experience in a hospital. I really think the water birth made it all easier. At one point Dotti asked me to try laboring in the bed. It was so hard to move and get comfortable because I felt like a beached whale. The contractions were definitely more painful, because I couldn't adjust my position as well. When I returned to the hot tub it was so easy to shift my weight, change my center of gravity, or completely move effortlessly. I would definitely recommend a water birth to anyone. I also think being in the hot water helped me to stretch for the last part of labor.
Dotti said that Paul was one of the best husband coaches she had ever seen. He was in the hot tub the entire time with me and knew exactly what to do at each stage. He was in the throws of the blood and guts at the very end and was able to cut the umbilical cord.
Wendy was amazing during this whole thing and the midwives also commented on her great ability to relax between contractions. I was also surprised that when the baby barely crowned that the rest of his body flew out all at once. How could this huge guy have been inside my wife?