Once home, I felt much better as I could stretch out and lie down in a warm bath. By now I was fairly certain the baby would come today, that what I was feeling was the real deal! I called my husband, who had just sat down to a mediation--he's an attorney--and told him what was going on. Conveniently, I already had my 39 week checkup that day anyway, so when Mike got home he helped me to the car and we timed some waves on the way over. I could still joke and laugh a bit, but definitely needed to concentrate on staying relaxed most of the time. The midwife at our birth center said things were "definitely starting" but to go home and relax for a while longer.
Again, the car ride was tough even as a passenger, but Mike did some impromptu Hypnobabies prompts which helped a lot. At home, I mostly stayed in the tub or in bed, while Mike and my sister took turns feeding/hydrating me and giving me prompts. I could tell things were picking up speed, and told Mike to call our doula and the midwife on call. We decided the doula would meet us at the birth center, and, after talking to me on the phone, the midwife concluded it was time for us to come in. We arrived at the birth center (after hitting every red light on the way!) around 9pm. Our midwife helped me out of the car and the waves were coming very quickly, so I would lean on Mike and then take a few steps; lean on him and take a few steps again. I relaxed once more in the quiet birth room while the midwife and nurse checked me. The midwife forgot I had asked not to be informed of my dilation and told me I was 8cm. (I could tell she was surprised and pleased.) Soon after, our doula, Erica arrived, and she did some lovely soothing cues while I laid on the bed. After awhile, she suggested a position change and I moved to sitting backward on the toilet, resting my head. It felt good and I started to have some urge to push, so the birth tub was filled. At this point I remember turning to Mike and saying, "I can do this!" I felt excited but also calm.
Getting into the tub was always a relief for me, from start to finish. Shortly after I got in, around 10:15, I felt a pop which must have been my water releasing. I found myself making loud vocalizations in time with the waves, and Mike would help me breathe in between. As the pushing progressed, I never felt pain during the waves, but the feeling in between was actually more intense. I relied on Mike and Erica to give me cues. The "pushing baby out" track was playing in the background but I wasn't really aware of it, I was just so focused on my own experience and the people beside me.
Harriet's head took a lot of pushing to be born. The nurse kept asking if I wanted to see my progress with a mirror, but I didn't want to be discouraged by how far I had left to go, so I just kept pushing and vocalizing (very loudly now!) until her head was out. Even during this process I was able to joke a bit, saying to Mike, "Okay, it's your turn now," at one point, which made everybody laugh. Once her head was out, it only took one or two more pushes and then the rest of her body rocketed out into the water at once. She was born at 11:17 pm. It was such an incredible feeling, and one I will never forget. I reached down to grab her as the midwife was untangling the umbilical cord from around her body. Together we lifted her out and put her on my chest before even checking if she was a boy or girl. It was so, so fun to be surprised. She just looked up at us with such big, curious eyes--so alert, so connected. I couldn't stop smiling, and I still smile when I think about it. Less than five minutes after she was born, I said, "Wow, that wasn't too hard at all!" Even though I had done all the preparation through Hypnobabies and fully trusted the process, part of me was still surprised that it worked so well.
I'm so grateful Harriet could enter the world the way she did. I'm grateful I can tell her this story and share a positive view of birth with her, that every year on her birthday I can revisit all the wonderful memories with her and with Mike and my sister. For me, it wasn't an experience to be gotten done with as quickly as possible, but something to treasure and an opportunity to feel close to people I love. It was also an experience which made me feel very empowered, something I didn't necessarily expect going into it. I don't know how many words I've typed here, but this picture probably says more than anything else. It was taken just minutes after Harriet was born, and I can honestly say it captures the most joy-filled moment of my life.