Cole’s Home Birth Story

I was 4 days past my due date and extremely discouraged that I didn’t have my baby in my arms yet. I’m a doula, I know better, a due date is just a guess date, but I was still frustrated. My mom was in town for the birth and scheduled to leave in 3 days! What if she came into town for the birth and MISSED it?! That was the most stressful part of waiting for me, because I needed my mom there! Thankfully, Friday October 30th, I woke up at 2am with contractions. I was THRILLED! I didn’t wake Jimmy and I just let my body do its thing. They were mild enough that I could fall asleep between them but continued steadily at 5 minutes apart until about 6am. I woke Jimmy at 5 and told him not to go into work because today was the day! I got out of bed around 7 when Kennedy woke up and excitedly told my mom! Not long after Kennedy woke up did I notice my contractions slow way down. I have heard that this can happen when you have other children, that your body can just push pause on labor because you are needed by your other children. Well, that sucks I thought! Jimmy wasted a precious day off for nothing. But, it was pretty nice because my mom stayed with Kennedy and Jimmy and I were able to take a long walk around the neighborhood together while I pounded some red raspberry leaf tea. I was having contractions still but they were like 10 minutes apart and not consistent or very long. We got back from our walk and I decided to join my mom and Kennedy on their trip to Meijer. The contractions slowed down even more. I was pretty bummed. When we got home, I took a nap as my contractions had completely stopped. Around 4pm, we all decided to walk to Family Video to rent a movie. It’s about a 2 mile walk round trip and we had made that trip countless times that week hoping to kick start labor. Sure enough, my contractions started back up! By the time we left Family Video, I needed to stop and breathe through each one. They were getting stronger but were still very manageable. On our walk home, they were about 7 minutes apart and I was so hopeful that today was still the day! We ordered Chinese takeout for dinner and I had maybe 2 bites. A true sign that I was really in labor, as I hate eating during it. The contractions slowly got closer together but I managed them well by just breathing and swaying my hips. By 6:30pm I decided to call my midwife, Kathi, and give her an update. My contractions were 4-5 minutes apart but were still totally manageable. I told her that I wasn’t ready for her to come yet. She kept asking me, “Are you sure?” I was sure. At this point, I actually thought to myself, “Maybe I got better at giving birth, this really isn’t that hard!” and “I’m way tougher now than I was when I had Kennedy!” HAHA oh how cute and naïve of me!

I switched up positions and labored on the birthing ball a little and read books to Kennedy before she went to bed. It was a little emotional for me knowing she would wake up and she would no longer be the baby. Jimmy put Kennedy to bed at 7 and almost instantly my contractions kicked it up a notch! They were getting more intense where I would require my mom to give counter pressure on my back. I started to quietly moan through each contraction. We continued watching Last Man Standing and I took each contraction as they came, still thinking it would be a long time before the baby was born. At 8:30pm, I had an exceptionally harder contraction and I felt two pops and my water broke while I was standing in the dining room. That was a new feeling since I didn’t feel my water break with Kennedy as it happened while I was pushing during her birth. I changed and told Jimmy to call Kathi pronto! I knew my labor was about to get SO much harder. I even texted my friend Leslie saying, “My water broke. I’m scared.” I’m pretty sure she said, “You should be. I’ll pray for you! HAHA” We laughed about it and I was right, the contractions instantly became harder. It was right then that I felt like I actually was in labor!
Kathi didn’t answer when Jimmy called but she called me right back in between contractions and I told her my water had broken. She immediately said, “I’ll be right over!” She arrived at 9pm along with Tianne, a missionary midwife who works in Sudan and who attended Kennedy’s birth and just happened to be back in TC for the month and was able to attend another birth of ours, AND Kristen, a nurse and student midwife who I just met for the first time that night. I was still chatty between contractions so I was happy to see everyone all huddled in my bathroom, setting up for the birth. Jimmy set up the birth tub and quickly tried to fill it (I had told him I wasn’t ready for the tub all night so he was scrambling knowing it was time!) Each contraction came intensely and close together and I needed hard counter pressure on my back with each one.
I got in the tub around 9:30 and had found my groove for each contraction. I needed to be holding Jimmy or someone’s hands while my mom or the midwives provided counter pressure. Contractions were incredibly close together, giving me about 15-30 seconds of a break between each one. Occasionally I would get a minute or so break between them and I began to DREAD that because that meant that the next contraction would be horrible and last about 2 minutes. Which, if you’ve ever given birth, you know that’s like an eternity! At one point, I asked for prayer and everyone in the room took turns praying over my labor and my sweet boy. It was such a memorable moment that I will never forget.

My contractions were getting really strong at this point. To be real, it was so hard, it hurt, and I had awful back labor but my attitude this labor was so much different than it was during Kennedy’s. I was very much able to focus on each contraction and I didn’t let myself think about the future contraction. I dealt with each hard one as it came. I actually didn’t even get checked the entire labor, we just let my body do what it needed to do knowing the baby would come when he was ready. I had such an amazing birth team, everyone alternated giving me counter pressure, holding my hands, and keeping the tub warm.

Things were getting pretty intense and Kathi was surprised that I hadn’t had the urge to push yet. So she suggested I get out of the tub to pee to see if that was what was holding things up. So around 11, as soon as my feet left the tub, a huge contraction hit me like a train as I leaned into Kathi’s arms! I looked down, saw blood on my leg and screamed with excitement, “YES! BLOOD!!!!” Hahaha! Weird I know, but I knew that meant that I was almost done! My baby was going to be there so soon! I made it to the bathroom, peed, and then my next contraction came. I was standing in the middle of the bathroom yelling that I was pooping. I knew I wasn’t and that my body was starting to push but I said it anyway. I was leaning heavily into Jimmy’s arms, still needed counter pressure, and pushing while standing in my bathroom. At some point, I realized it probably wasn’t the best idea to give birth to my baby while standing up but I physically wasn’t able to move beyond a few steps. I couldn’t make it to the bed or back to the birthing tub so I just dropped to my hands and knees in the crammed carpeted space between my bathroom and bed and decided that right there was where I was going to have my baby! It wasn’t exactly an ideal spot to give birth but that’s where it was happening! Thankfully, I have a strong husband because while pushing I was still leaning into him with my whole body weight/pulling his shirt/biting him. Haha he handled it and supported me like such a rockstar!!!! It felt so comforting burying my head into his chest with each push. It really felt like we were “doing it together” as I pushed to meet our son. Only 20 minutes of pushing later, and at 11:35pm Cole Joseph Kraus was born! He was passed under my legs and into my arms! He was 8lbs 4 oz, 20.5 in long, and had a head full of dark hair! It was such an incredible birth experience! I couldn’t have done it without the help of Jimmy and my mom and our 3 amazing midwives! We got to cuddle our sweet boy in bed, he nursed like a pro, and Kennedy was overjoyed when she met him in the morning! Just like that, we became a family of four!

Ramona’s Birth Story

On Thursday, January 23rd, the day before my sister’s birthday, I awoke with Rob in the morning like usual. Who knew that would be the last time it was just us! I took a shower and got ready for work, noticing some mild contractions (I thought they were just Braxton Hicks contractions, but they were probably real) and a teensy bit of bloody mucous. Not thinking anything of it, I ate breakfast and went to work. It was around 8am at this time.

While at work, the contractions continued, but I still kept thinking “This can’t be the real thing.. it’s really not that bad!” I had a little bit more mucous/bloody show and I took the boss’s dog for a walk, which didn’t make the contractions go away. Thinking that this could be it, I told Mary (my boss) that I should go home and try to figure out if this is real labor or not. I stopped at Meijer on the way home to get a few last minute groceries.

Rob and I took a long walk with Jackson (our black lab/retriever mix) when I got home. My contractions still did not go away, but did not get stronger. I called my midwife, Kathi, CPM, and explained to her what was happening. She told me it was probably pre-labor, and that it could last a whole week or just a day. As we all know, birth is very unpredictable!

So, Rob and I went about our day as normal, watching the Wizard of Oz and dozing off for a short nap. We cleaned a little here and there. I washed the sheets and baked chocolate chip cookies. Then it came time for Rob to leave for work. I decided to tell him to go, since nothing had gotten stronger and the contractions had pretty much stopped since I woke up from the nap. He left and I spent the rest of the evening relaxing and reading.

Around 7pm, I decided to take a warm bath. As soon as I drained the bathwater and stood up, I had more bloody show and the contractions started again, this time a little more intense, although I STILL did not believe it was the real thing! I decided to make myself some dinner. I guess in some part of my brain, I figured I’d need the energy. In between chopping up green pepper and mashing avocado for my veggie burger wrap, I’d lean against the counter and breathe through contractions. (I still did not believe it was actually happening at this point, despite my frequent trips to the bathroom to urinate with bloody show.) After eating my dinner, I got ready for bed and texted my doula and friend, Ashley, about what was going on. She called and told me that if I was having bloody show, my cervix was doing at least SOMETHING, and I probably wasn’t just being a big wuss like I thought. I said I’d let her know when things get more intense, because I still didn’t feel like the contractions were that big of a deal.

I laid down and tried to get comfy enough to fall asleep. After about 5 minutes, I had to get up to pee again and as soon as I started to stand, the intense contractions began. I called my husband at work, and he did not answer his phone. I tried the land line and told the hostess to tell my husband, Rob Stucky, that this is his wife on the phone and she thinks she’s in labor! He quickly came to the phone and I was breathing heavy and told him, “I think I need you now!!” Rob started heading home and called me on the way so he could listen to me through a contraction, telling me to breathe. I just kept thinking “I must be a huge wuss because I’m not going to be able to handle this for 12 or more hours!! (First births usually last on average 12-24 hours, USUALLY!)

While waiting for Rob to get home, I french braided my hair in between contractions, because I didn’t want to deal with hair in my face while in labor! I also started texting my sister to tell her that her husband Jay was probably going to be right about the date my baby would be born, but I had to drop my phone and lost my train of thought because a strong contraction hit right then. I was standing in the bathroom, moving my hips back and forth and breathing when Rob walked in.

I told him to call Kathi, and he did. She talked to me for a minute and listened through a couple contractions. They were very close together at this point, but it was hard to tell exactly when they were stopping and starting. Kathi told Rob to start timing them and to call her back when they were consistently 40-50 seconds and 1 minute apart. As soon as he hung up and started timing them, they were 45 seconds and about a minute apart! I was naked in the bathtub at this point, with bloody show dripping and on my knees. I tried to stand up and put my arms around Rob a few different times. My poor husband was running around rearranging the bedroom and trying to set up the birth tub when I would yell, “Baaaby!” and he would come in and hold my hand while I had a contraction. I told him to call Kathi, that this wasn’t right, it was happening too fast! He called and she said she would be on her way. Rob called Ashley, my doula, as well. She said she’d be there as soon as she could.All I remember thinking was “I must be a huge wuss.. how can women tolerate this for so long??” But I never felt like it was actual pain or that it hurt.. just some really intense feelings.

Kathi got there first and began setting everything up. I was still in the bathtub when she came in and I asked her to check my cervix for dilation when I was able to talk. Ashley arrived sometime around this point. We got to the bedroom and I had a couple contractions on the bed before Kathi was able to check my cervix. When she was able to, she said something like, “Oh, I feel a little bubble… and… Jeanne, you’re completely dilated!” I think I said, “Oh boy, oh boy!! Oh, wow!” And smiled a lot! I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t a wuss after all! The whole time I thought I was in the first stage of labor, I was actually much further along than that! Nicole, Kathi’s assistant midwife (also CPM) arrived around this time as well. Rob called my mom, who had planned to be here for the birth and lived about an hour away. She’d be on her way as soon as she could!

I got down on the floor on the plastic table cloth that was originally going to be under the tub and someone put some chux pads down under me, since we wouldn’t have time to fill up the tub. I was on my hands and knees and asked Ashley what it would feel like when I needed to push (even though I already knew, I guess I needed some reassurance). She told me it would feel like I needed to poop and I would know. I said, “Okay, I’m pretty sure it’s happening now!” Just then, with a mighty splash and burst, my water broke! I didn’t see it, but it sounded and felt like a water balloon. I thought that was pretty cool! Right after that, with every contraction came pushing. I don’t think I even tried to control or think about what I was doing, I just let my body do the work.

Rob was sitting right in front of me, holding my hands. So much for that dinner I felt like I needed to have, since I threw up with pretty much every contraction! I’d throw up, then chug water, and so on. Ashley was to my left, taking pictures, Kathi was behind me, massaging my perineum with oil and pressing where I needed to focus my energy while pushing, and Nicole was to Kathi’s right taking notes and assisting Kathi. After about 30 or 40 minutes when I finally shouted “FUCKEEEER!!” (not usually in my vocabulary), I decided to get on my bottom, in between Rob’s legs with my knees up in the air. It felt really good to be supported by my strong and amazing husband, and hold my knees to focus my energy down and out. It didn’t take long after getting in this position to make a lot of progress! I felt very loved and supported the entire time. I remember yelling a lot, and thinking I sounded like a ferocious lion roaring. I’d bear down and roar each time I felt a push coming on.

Finally someone grabbed my hand and put it where I could feel my baby’s head coming out. “Oh baby, oh baby!” I said with smiles and felt so much emotion. I wasn’t long before the baby’s head was crowning and Kathi told me to just breathe, don’t push. “I have to push!!” I yelled. She said, “Ok, tiny pushes.” With tiny pushes and breathing, my little one slipped out perfectly with ease. I opened my eyes and couldn’t believe our baby was finally here! It was 11:46 pm. I reached down and pulled her up to my belly. Rob said, “It’s a girl!” and called her Ramona right away. I guess the name just fit her! I brought Ramona up to my chest and just kept looking at her over and over, tears forming in my eyes. I couldn’t believe how lucky we are to have such a perfect angel, covered in thick, sticky vernix! Our own little sticky Stucky! I kissed Rob and we said I love you to each other and our new, sweet baby. The midwives wrapped Ramona in blankets and towels so she didn’t get cold. Ramona latched on like a pro.

After about 10 minutes, Kathi told me to push out the placenta whenever I felt a contraction, so I did. It felt so slippery and good! Soon after, Rob cut the cord. It was so gristly and cool! Ashley brought me some Emergen-C to chug since I’d thrown up so much. Shortly thereafter, I was assisted onto the bed and nursed Ramona. I couldn’t believe how well she nursed right away! My mom arrived around this time to meet her new granddaughter. She was surprised to see a new baby already born when she walked into the bedroom! Ashley made me scrambled eggs and toast with peanut butter. I didn’t feel much like eating, because I was so enthralled in our new family and overjoyed with the wonderful feelings of natural birth.

Kathi and Nicole checked me and found no tears or anything, just swelling. I took some homeopathic arnica and Nicole gave me an ice pad to put on my soreness. It really didn’t hurt that bad at all! I remembered my midwife asking if I was afraid of pain in childbirth at my most recent prenatal appointment. I told her I wasn’t afraid and that pain is just a state of mind.. but ask me again after I’ve given birth! Well, we remembered that conversation and I told her that no, I had not changed my mind about pain even after giving birth!

Kathi and Nicole did Ramona’s newborn exam about an hour or two after she was born. Everything looked great! Ramona is a perfect beautiful little girl. At birth, she weighed 6 lbs 10 oz, was 20 ¼ inches long, and couldn’t be more adorable! She has Rob’s eyes and ears, and my nose and lips. She has a sweet little birthmark on her head, about the size of a wild strawberry. Her chin is kind of long and pointy like Rob’s, and she looks like the perfect combination of him and I!

All night I lay awake gazing at our beautiful daughter, in complete awe of what had just occurred. I’m writing this 6 days later, and I still feel like I’m dreaming! Rob and I couldn’t be happier and my birth couldn’t have been more easy and enjoyable than it was. Everything went so perfectly. We both feel really lucky.

Life is but a dream!


As a side note, Ramona’s birthday was the first of two more baby girls in a row for my midwife during Northern Michigan’s snowiest and coldest winter in a long time!

Ciaran’s Birth

Ciaran Louis, 7 lbs, 21″. Born at 1:57 AM on his due date, August 9, 2015.

My son Ciaran was born at home, in the big, warm tub my husband set up in our living room. Even now, more than 19 months later, I find myself thinking about the experience – I’ll catch sight of the spot on our bedroom floor where I realized I was in transition, or I’ll have a sudden, visceral memory of sitting on the edge of my bed, rocking rhythmically between contractions. I was by turns excited and worried about giving birth at home, sometimes keeping myself up at night with endless what ifs. But when it came down to it, Ciaran’s birth was everything I hoped it would be. It was quick, but not too quick – I was in definite labor for only about seven hours, and only the last two hours were really hard to handle. I only pushed for nine minutes, and didn’t tear at all. The midwives made it here just under forty-five minutes before he was born, and he obligingly arrived on his due date. While I was in the worst of it, I know it didn’t seem like a good experience, and yet, the moment he was out, it became one. His birth made me feel powerful, and weirdly, intuitively attuned to my body in a way I didn’t realize I could be. It made me appreciate my body and what it’s capable of so much more than I already did. And it relieved the residual ache left behind by my first birth experience.

I gave birth once before, to our daughter, who is now five years-old. Part of the reason Ciaran’s birth was such a powerful experience for me, I think, is that our daughter’s birth felt incredibly disempowering. She was born in a hospital in Baltimore with the help of Certified Nurse Midwives, and while nothing terrible happened during her birth, the experience still left me feeling weak and strangely ashamed. Despite the fact that it allowed CNMs to practice there, the hospital, it turned out, was not very friendly toward women who wanted to labor naturally. I can still remember the bored eyes of the nurses and the wide stares of the two kids and their fathers sitting with us in the cramped waiting room (there weren’t any beds available when I arrived, and then they kept taking back women who were scheduled for inductions before they would take me). Because I felt incapable of moving or vocalizing at all during the contractions with so many eyes upon me, I squeezed my husband’s hands until their backs were stippled with broken capillaries. When I was finally given a room, I was immediately offered an epidural, despite the fact that I’d specifically asked not to be offered one in my birth plan, and I was feeling so vulnerable that I agreed. I also felt like I simply couldn’t do it any longer; my contractions were on top of each other, I was shaking uncontrollably and nauseated, and yet, because I was only three centimeters dilated, both the nurse and the midwife insisted I couldn’t be in transition yet. (They were in for a surprise when I ended up dilating from five to ten centimeters in less than half an hour).

We moved from Maryland to Traverse City when our daughter was a toddler, and I started meeting women – lots of women – who had given birth at home with the help of Dance of Life. All of their recommendations were glowing, and my husband, Stu, and I knew that when we had another baby, we wanted to have him or her at home. I got pregnant soon after, and we scheduled a meeting with Kathi, but I lost the baby before we were able to meet. Because I didn’t have any other provider to talk to, I called Kathi when I started bleeding, and even though she had never met me in person, she was so kind and so patient. I got pregnant again, and, again, miscarried, though this time we managed to meet both Kathi and Katy before it happened. Again, Kathi was wonderful when I called her; she knew exactly what to say in a situation when there is so little you can say.

Finally, I got pregnant again, and this time, it stuck. Every appointment with Kathi, Katy, and Nicole was leisurely and thorough. They had answers to all my questions, and even my mom – who was more than a little nervous about my decision to give birth at home – felt better after she came with me to an appointment. My pregnancy continued without complications, though in the last few weeks I had so many regular, strong Braxton-Hicks contractions that I kept thinking I was going to go into labor early.

On the day before my due date, I told Stu I had to get out the house – I was going to drive myself (and probably him) crazy if I didn’t keep busy and get my mind off wondering when our son would decide it was time to enter the world. Our daughter was born a week after her due date, so I knew I might have awhile to wait, still, anyway. We went to our friends’ house; their second daughter had just been born two weeks earlier, and they generously offered to have us over for dinner!

Throughout the five or so hours we were there, I started having the same strong, regular Braxton-Hicks that I’d been having for weeks already. I didn’t think too much of them, though, even when they started coming close enough together that it felt like there was no break. I was also starving – I ate three helpings of pasta and meatballs and my weight in chips and a spicy habanero salsa that my friend swore had helped her go into labor. In hindsight, my hunger should have been a sign that things were happening – this was August, and for several weeks I’d had almost no appetite because of the heat.

As Stu backed the car out of the driveway around 7:00 PM, I had what felt like a real contraction – not horribly painful, but enough to take my breath away. Without saying anything to Stu, I took out my phone and opened the contraction timing app I’d downloaded. I had several more contractions on the way home, again very manageable, though strong enough that Stu noticed something was going on. They were sporadic, although they were lasting a minute each, and despite the fact that I felt fairly positive this was the beginning of labor, I kept telling Stu I wasn’t sure. When we got home, I managed to put our daughter to bed as usual, pausing halfway through a lullaby to breathe through a contraction.

Stu went to bed at 8:00, worried about being in top form when I really needed him, and I labored on my own for about three hours. I bounced on my birth ball while watching something mindless on Netflix, ate half a pint of double-chocolate gelato (I was still starving!), and paused to lean over the ball and breathe through contractions. They were coming every three to twenty minutes, too sporadic for me to be sure anything was going to happen soon, but they were strong enough and lasting long enough that I wondered. Around 10:00 I decided to try to lie down and see if the contractions slowed down. Instead, they intensified; suddenly, breathing through them wasn’t enough, and purely by instinct I started moaning, deep and low, to get through them.

Sometime after 11:00 I called Kathi; I was worried about her getting to our house on time, since she was 40 minutes away at her family reunion. But because my contractions were still very sporadic she told me to call back when they had been 3-5 minutes apart for an hour. The intensity of them made me think things were happening faster than she realized, and in hindsight, I know I should have told her that. But instead I agreed. Half an hour or so later, I realized I was making so much noise during a contraction that I should wake Stu; I told him to call my parents to come pick up our daughter. I gathered the last of the things our daughter needed to bring with her, trying to explain to her, in her half-asleep state, what was happening, and having to stop every couple of minutes to drop to my hands and knees on the floor and moan through a contraction while she looked on, thoroughly bemused. I remember wondering where on earth Stu was and why he wasn’t helping me get stuff together (it turns out he had started filling the birth pool). When my parents arrived, I frantically said to Stu, “I’m not coming out, I don’t want to see them!” I was between contractions, sitting on our bed and rocking rhythmically back and forth; I’d begun doing a deep, slow breathing pattern between each contraction. I don’t exactly know why; again, it was automatic, as though my body had taken over from my brain and knew what to do on its own. Those slow, deep breaths, when I was just waiting for a contraction to start, helped me feel present and in control, and I didn’t feel like I could handle anyone seeing me just then. Really, I think that’s what made this birth so much better for me than our daughter’s – I didn’t have people watching me and intruding at all until the midwives arrived, and by then I was so far gone it would hardly have mattered who was in the room. )And they managed to be as un-intrusive as it is possible to be under the circumstances!).

I’d been timing the contractions with my phone’s app, but all of a sudden – only minutes after my parents left – they started coming so fast that I couldn’t time them anymore. I’d left my phone on the counter in the bathroom when I peed between contractions; the bathroom is about five steps away from where I was in our bedroom, but suddenly there wasn’t time between the contractions to get there. I vaguely remember finding myself halfway to the bathroom on my hands and knees, managing to shout at Stu, “Call Kathi!” between gritted teeth.

Everything that happened after that is something of a blur. I didn’t move from that spot on the floor – I couldn’t. It felt like transition hit me, bam, and all I could do was hold on as my legs started shaking and I began to feel nauseated (though by some miracle, I never threw up). I can’t remember what the contractions felt like anymore, but I do remember that as each one peaked I started screaming, and nothing could have stopped me. Once, in the brief space between contractions I tried to remind myself to breathe through it – almost everything I’d read and watched about natural birth talked about how screaming wasn’t productive, low tones or breathing were better, etc, etc. So with the next contraction I deliberately tried to stick with my steady breathing… until it began to peak, and then I thought, Forget that, and began to scream. While screaming didn’t precisely help the pain, it seemed to release something within me. I’d had no idea I would be so loud during labor, since I forced myself to be mostly silent during my first birth, and briefly wondered what our poor neighbors must be thinking, but the next contraction drove those concerns away.

Stu appeared beside me and told me the tub was ready. I remember the warmth of the water and the brief – too brief – sensation of absolute bliss when I entered it. It didn’t last, but being in the tub definitely was better than being out of it.

Kathi arrived just after I’d gotten into the tub. I remember Stu’s voice in my ear telling me Kathi was here, and then I remember glancing over my shoulder at her when I heard her enter the room, trying to smile, saying hi, and then turning away again. At some point soon after, her midwife-in-training, Ireland, arrived, and I vaguely remember being introduced to her but not really registering her face or anything else.

I remember telling Kathi when she first arrived that I didn’t think I was handling things well, and then announcing that I felt a lot of pressure. She told me I could push if I wanted, and I asked if she needed to check how dilated I was first. She said no, to go ahead and push if it felt right. (She later told me she knew from the way I was acting, and from where I felt the pressure and the pain in my back, that I was almost certainly fully dilated. I never had to be checked, which was SO different from being in the hospital, where they checked me constantly. I have a condition called Vulvodynia, which makes inserting or removing anything from my vagina extremely painful, so being checked multiple times while in labor was not a pleasant experience).

Kathi and Ireland were also incredible at anticipating what I needed before I even knew it, myself. I remember at one point Kathi put a cold wash cloth against my forehead, and it was the best feeling – I hadn’t even realized how incredibly hot I was.

At some point I began pushing without meaning to. My water hadn’t broken yet, and a small part of me worried that all the pressure I was feeling was just the water bag and that Ciaran wasn’t actually as close to being born as I thought. And then there was pain unlike anything I’d ever felt – I screeched, and Kathi said, “It’s just your body stretching,” and I didn’t believe her at all. Tearing was one of my bigger fears, since I tore fairly badly with Jane and recovery was so very slow as a result, and this felt like my perineum was being sliced by a knife. (I hadn’t really allowed myself to worry too much about how the Vulvodynia would affect me during birth, and while I was actually giving birth this time, I wasn’t in a state of mind of think rationally that, perhaps, the condition might be the cause of the excruciating pain). Kathi seemed a little surprised by the strength of my reaction as I stretched, but she was calm and told me when to stop pushing and just blow, and she put her hands against me to support my muscles as the baby began to crown. She told me he was crowning, and then seconds later said the head was out. I don’t remember how his body came out – whether I pushed or if it just emerged on its own – only that there was an odd sensation of something being flipped very quickly. I learned later that was the cord, which had been around Ciaran’s neck. He was still under the water, and somehow I found myself off my knees and sitting on the low bench inside the pool, and then suddenly he was in my arms, pale and not crying.

It was less than thirty seconds before he pinked up and cried, but those seconds felt very long. But oh, then he was so perfect. I remember looking around in amazement at everyone in the room – Katy had apparently arrived at some point while I was pushing without my being at all aware of it; she was still dressed for the wedding she’d been attending when Kathi called her as backup, just in case she herself wasn’t able to make the drive in time!

There were pieces of something brown in the pool, and for a horrified moment I thought it was my poop, that they hadn’t bothered with the little fish net that came in our birth box and that Ciaran had been born into poop-filled water – one of my mother’s biggest worries about my having a water birth – but Kathi laughed and reassured me that it was just bits of my mucus plug, which had come out just before he was born. My water had apparently broken just minutes before he was born, as well. Both of these were things that I’d been looking for for weeks as signs that labor was starting, and the fact that neither happened until birth was imminent is just more proof that labor absolutely does not progress the same way for all women, not the way they seemed to assume it did at the hospital where I had my daughter, where they were trained to see labor at formulaic.

After the placenta was out and had been declared healthy and intact, Kathi showed me the Tree of Life pattern in the branching veins along its backside. Then the midwives helped me get settled in bed, brought me some toast with honey and some orange juice, and left Stu, Ciaran, and me to bond for an hour or so while they cleaned up in the living room.

They weighed Ciaran, checked my blood pressure, and made sure he was nursing well, and then left us to snuggle and get to know each other, Kathi saying she’d be back the next day to see how we were doing. The whole experience was wonderful.