(born at home on Aug. 19, 2008 at 12:40 AM)

After a beautiful day in Central Park with my husband Steven and son Julian (2.5 yrs.) on Sunday (Aug. 17) I started to feel some contractions in the evening. They continued through the night. I called our doula (Gabriela Ammann) and midwife (Valeriana Pasqua-Masback) but didn’t really trust it was labor because they were very manageable and spaced far apart. I was breathing and relaxing through the contractions. They continued through the night like that, not really changing in intensity. I couldn’t sleep, though, because I was excited and the sensations were too distracting. In the morning I checked in again with Valeriana and Gabriela and both thought it was some kind of pre-labor based on my description. Around 2:30 PM on Monday (Aug 18), Valeriana came over to check on me; we discussed our options since I hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before and things weren’t really intensifying. We were still thinking it was pre-labor. I asked her to check me, although she doesn’t do this routinely. I was already about 6 cm dilated! She said I was in full-on labor and she would be staying! I called Gabriela to come too. My parents who were there, taking care of Julian got the birthing pool set up and prepared my laborade. We made all the preparations and labor continued at a pretty slow pace, still not really intensifying. At some point I was sent out for a walk outside with Steven to try to get things going more. Things did get heavier during the walk. I would lean on him and sway during the contractions.

My parents eventually took Julian to spend the night at their house. I got very emotional about this – it was our first night apart and it felt sad to send him away knowing another child would be born. In the end it was the right decision though, since things continued late into the night. After the walk, things were intensifying a bit. I was sighing and moaning through the contractions, leaning on Steven or Gabriela, sometimes pausing to sit on the birth ball. At some point I was encouraged to get into the birthing pool although I didn’t think I was ready. The water felt amazing, and it was set up in front of our windows facing the river… Steven and I were in there at sunset…. The sky was glowing pink.

I was so relaxed that contractions slowed even more. I was telling everyone nothing was happening so I got out eventually to try to move things along. I started walking more around the apartment, squatting or swaying during contractions. Later I listened to my hypnobirthing tape, but again it made me so relaxed, the contractions weren’t coming any faster. I went for another walk outside – this one barely had an effect. I was getting exhausted and everyone was discussing whether I should try to take a nap, or whether I was dehydrated etc. Finally around 10 PM Valeriana checked me again, I was somewhere between 8 and 10 cm, and she gave me a big talk about how I could push the baby out in 2 hours if I really wanted to. She also gave me a homeopathic remedy based on my situation. I took her advice seriously and got up and walked into Steven’s office, kicked everyone out except him and started squatting and pushing every time a contraction came on. I did this on the toilet too. Suddenly I felt a lot of pressure – it was the bag of waters. My water broke in the toilet and then everything was happening. Steven really wanted us to get back in the tub but the water had cooled off. He and Gabriela started trying to heat it back up but I didn’t think it was a good idea to get back in. Neither did Valeriana. So instead they set me up on the bed on hands and knees. Valeriana was applying compresses with Weleda perineum massage oil and somehow the smell of it (rose geranium oil) made everything more manageable – getting another sense involved instead of just feeling the pressure. I had hoped for gentle quiet breathing down of baby, but it turned out I need to do more active pushing with pretty loud vocalizing. I wasn’t screaming in fear though, the way I did at Julian’s birth when all the doctors and nurses were yelling at me to push. This time I felt totally nurtured. Valeriana was telling me not to be afraid and not to move away from it. Steven was stroking my head and back. The baby’s head came out and I could hear crying already. The body came out and suddenly the baby was placed under me on the bed and I was still on hands and knees above him. He was crying loudly, and I was just in awe, gasping and exclaiming out loud again and again while I looked at him. What a reward for all that work! It was 12:40 AM on Aug. 19. Eventually I turned over and held him on top of me. The cord remained attached for a long time; everyone left the room and Steven and I just lay with the baby, until I birthed the placenta and Steven cut the cord. He was measured and weighed and he nursed. I was checked and got a few stitches and eventually everyone left. We spent the night with him in bed skin to skin against our chests. It was a beautiful thing to have such an intimate experience – no intervention, just assistance, to birth our baby and to enjoy these first moments and days at home basically in private.