Note: We planned to have a waterbirth at a small free-standing birth center with a midwife and our doula attending.
At about 10:00 am on Wednesday, August 28 (over a week before our due date), I was having breakfast with my mom and sister and I wasn't feeling real well so I went off to run a nice hot bath. After taking a bath, I still felt a bit like I was having period cramps, and my mom said that sounded like it might be the beginnings of labor - wow! At that point I began to suspect that this might be "the day", but I still wasn't sure. I called my husband Wayne, who was at work, and put him on "red alert", and also called Andrea (our doula) who said she would be over in a while. After about half an hour, it became apparent that I was actually having contractions, so I called Wayne back and asked him if he was on the way home, which he was. He got home at around 11:30 by which time the contractions had gotten strong enough that I was leaning over the couch and my mom and sister were rubbing my back during the contractions. When Wayne arrived, he sat in front of me, my mom started timing the contractions and my sister kept on rubbing my back. Around 12:00, Andrea arrived and we called the Birth Center and spoke to our midwife who listened to me through a contraction and said "Yep, sounds like early labor!". I think up until this point I really hadn't realized that this might be labor -- I remember asking Andrea several times -- "Do you think this might be it?" and she'd smile and say serenely "Yes, I think we're going to have a baby today."
At about 1:00, Andrea said that we might want to think about going to the Birth Center. I still felt like this must be early labor, but Andrea was watching out for the emotional signposts and she suspected I was farther along than I thought. It turned out to be a good thing that Andrea suggested this! So we got everything together and got in the car - Wayne was driving and Andrea was in the backseat with me - I had to lean over the back seat during contractions, and every bump that the car made was so uncomfortable. My sister had left to go to the store (thinking it would be hours before we were ready to go to the birth center), and when she got back, we were gone already - so she and my mom drove in together. We arrived at the birth center about 2:00 in the afternoon. This happened to be a Wednesday, so it was one of the days that the birth center was open for normal appointments. I walked past a couple of pregnant women in the waiting room, and had a contraction strong enough that I had to lean against the receptionist's counter for a minute until it was over - wondering what those women in the waiting room were thinking!
After getting into the birth room, the apprenticing midwife checked me out and she said she thought I was at 8 or 9 centimeters (I was thinking that would be just too good to be true, since labor didn't seem that bad up to this point), so our midwife came over and checked me herself - it was quite a surprise to hear that I really was 9 centimeters already! She said "You can have the baby whenever you are ready" and at that point reality really set in. They didn't have the tub set up yet, so I hung out on the bed, and after about 20 minutes the tub was ready and we got in - the water felt great and I relaxed, thinking what a great idea it was to have a waterbirth! It actually took about an hour to get from 9 to 10 cm so I couldn't start pushing immediately. During this time I had to explain to Andrea how to operate my camera (we were supposed to go over that in our next prenatal doula meeting). Labor picked up in intensity, but not so bad that I couldn't explain F-stops and shutter speeds between contractions. Our midwife eventually tried to help clear the last bit of cervix so I could start pushing, and that really hurt so I asked her to stop.