“Hebrew Women are Vigorous and Give Birth Before the Midwives Arrive…” Exodus 1:19

At 10:30 AM, Friday March 9th, I called Joseph to say he should come home from work. I didn’t feel comfortable being alone any more.

Just four days before, I’d happily phoned my mom with news of regular contractions for over an hour and a half. I told her to come as soon as possible.  I called my sister too, and when they arrived a few hours later, we were excitedly anticipating the birth of a child before the end of the day.

Well, we waited and waited. Nothing happened. Contractions disappeared.  The next day my sister went back home and the following day my mom returned as well. Between them both, they’d driven 18 hours for nothing.

When I began to have contractions on Friday morning, I didn’t call them right away. I sent Joseph off to work, figuring even if this was the day, we’d have hours and hours of laboring ahead of us. Joe II’s birth took 24 hours from start to finish, so even if this labor was cut in half, I figured we wouldn’t have a baby until about 5 o’clock.

Midmorning, I just had a feeling it was time for Joseph to come back, even though contractions were still sporadic and very far apart. Nothing like the “3-5 minutes apart, lasting approximately 60 seconds” which supposedly indicates the active stage of labor. We had a big lunch and talked happily about the impending birth.

Over the next two hours. I began to have a nagging feeling that I needed the midwife, but I was hesitant to call her when my contractions were still irregular. Around 12:30, I finally did call. I was surprised to hear my own voice shake.

“Please come now. I need you.”

“I’m an hour an half away but I’m headed your way. How far apart on your contractions?”

“3-5 minutes, maybe? Not that close but please come.”

“I am. I’ll be there in an hour in a half.”

“Ok. Perfect.”

I hung up, feeling confident that my contractions would be regular by the time she got here. We’ll have a baby a couple hours after she comes. I thought.

I called a friend to come get Joe II. While we were waiting for her to arrive, I had another contraction. Joe II walked over and patted my arm. “It be all right, Mommy. Not a big deal.” The unsolicated reassurance of a two year old was surprisingly helpful and eased my pain.

At 1:30, Joe II went home with my friend and Joseph and I were left alone. The midwife was about 45 minutes away.

“Great.” I told Joseph. “Joe II’s off and the midwife is on her way. We’ll have this baby soon.”

I meant “soon” as in “as soon as the midwife gets here and we’re all completely ready” kind of soon.

But five minutes later, I was in a major contraction, begging for the heated rice sock. Joseph put the sock on my back with every contraction, pulling me into him so that it pressed hard into the small of my back. Since heat travels through nerves faster than pain, it cut the severity of the contractions in half.  I started noticing some signs of transition–the final stage of labor before pushing–like getting into a birthing ritual, zoning into an intensely focused space during each contraction, nausea, and hot and cold flashes. Even then, I thought we still had time.

Worry crept into my brain when I got the urge to strip. I changed into a t-shirt. Fun fact: Joseph got a freebie Rush Limbaugh t-shirt in the mail the other day for being such a loyal member. It was the first thing I grabbed.

Now, I don’t want to gross anybody out, but during labor there’s a lot of pressure down there. So naturally, I got the urge to go to the bathroom. While sitting down, I felt a little push, just like everybody does when going to the bathroom. I didn’t think it was a baby push–I thought it was my body clearing out my system in preparation for the baby coming.

Then my water broke.

Then another push came. And another, and another. Joseph was with me by this time. I looked at him and laughed.

“Did that seem like a real push to you?”

“Yes, it did.”

“The midwife is not going to make it. Are you ready to catch a baby?”

“Of course.” He didn’t even flinch. Joseph was perfectly calm.

Pushing, just for the record, isn’t painful like contractions. And there can be several minutes between each push if they are allowed to come instinctually. I hoped that my body would take a little break and wait for the midwife to come. Each push was so gentle that I really thought my body was taking a little break, waiting for everything to be ready and for the midwife to get there before releasing the baby.

Then, while still sitting down on the toilet, a GREAT BIG push came. Along with a primal grunt. And then I got scared and it got very painful.  Another push came before I could even process the last one and all the sudden I was yelling,

“Oh, God help me. Help me! No, no, no. Wait! Wait!” And it occurred to me, somewhere in my brain, that we planned to go the emergency room if the midwife didn’t make it for some reason, but there wasn’t any time to go to the emergency room. I must have looked like I was climbing the walls as the excruciating “ring of fire” hit me. Joseph held me and calmed me and a second later I said,

“Is he crowning?”

“Yes, here he comes.”

And for a few awful seconds I didn’t think I was going to make it, but then his head slid out and I put my hand on it.

“Oh, catch him, Joe.” And with one more push his little body slid out and relief from the physical pain washed over me. Joseph put him in my arms and I craddled a brand new, gooey baby. Within seconds, he turned bright pink and opened his mouth to cry. He was absolutely perfect.

Joseph got a nasal aspirator and sucked away the muscus from his nose and got me an old pillow.  On the floor, I nursed the baby and held him skin to skin.

“Well, let’s call the midwife and tell her not to hurry.” Joseph said.

Start time? 10:30 AM, when I called Joe to come home.

End time? 2:05 PM, when the baby slid out.

Midwife’s arrival? 2:15 PM.

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People say the darnedest things…about home birth

Yes, I plan on having a home birth. I’ve got a midwife and plenty of hot water.   So when folks ask, as they typically do as part of polite conversation,

“Where are you delivering?”

I reply,

“I’m having a home birth.”

EVERYBODY gives me a blank stare. Some folks are faster at covering it up than others, but I get the blank stare every time. Then I get one of these inevitable responses:

“By yourself?” Yup, then I’ll go right back to picking rice from the fields and washing clothes down by the river.

“What if something goes wrong?” We’ll go to the hospital. Duh.

“Isn’t that kind of messy?” Yes. We’re thinking of setting up outside just so clean up will be easier.

“Oh…” along with a period of awkwardness. At least you’re nice enough not to say you think I’m crazy out loud.

“Can you still get an epidural at home?” Here’s where I give them a blank stare.

and my personal favorite,

“Ooh! Can I come?” Yes, but it’s BYOB.

Sometimes…very rarely…I get the pleasure of speaking to a mother who’s also had a home birth. You know what they say?

“Once you have a home birth, you’ll never go back.”

And then we’re instant friends.