During this phase of labor, all I wanted was for Wayne to keep pushing his forehead against mine through each contraction. I don't know why, but that really seemed to make a difference when the contractions got tough. I didn't want to be touched anywhere else at all, just the forehead thing. The other thing I remember about this phase is that Wayne was sitting facing me in the tub (so he could do the head-pressing thing), and between contractions he reminded me of when we were first dating and we made a wish on a falling star to get married and have a family - he told me that the second part of that wish was about to come true and I kept thinking of that image through the rest of the labor -- I remember crying at that point, looking at Wayne and thinking that I loved him more now that any time before in our relationship -- it was an incredible moment.
After about an hour, it was time to start pushing which was the absolute worst part of the whole thing for me. I was pushing for all I was worth, it didn't seem like the baby was moving at all and I kept asking if the baby was dropping with the pushes. Wayne, Andrea, and Felice all reassured me that the pushes were actually doing something, but I found it hard to believe. The pushing seemed endless and we tried a couple different positions - it seemed like he was stuck behind my pelvis and not going anywhere. After about an hour, Felice had me stand up for a couple contractions which was very difficult - I didn't want to move at that point - but really helped bring the baby down and after that they told me I could feel the baby's head if I wanted to which was so wonderful - I knew we were close. A few pushes later and the baby's head was born, they were a little concerned about the baby's shoulders being large and getting stuck, but he was out in the next contraction or two. Felice brought him up through the water and put him on my stomach, and Wayne - who was sitting behind me in the tub - reached around and said "It's a boy". Quite a surprise, since Wayne had been pretty sure it was a girl. I was surprised too, but I think I would've been surprised either way - just that it was an actual baby. He was born at 4:14 in the afternoon, and was 9 lb 2 oz - a pretty good-sized little guy. His cord was very short so they cut it immediately in the tub, he started breathing on his own almost immediately and turned pink. We fell in love the second I looked into his big wondering baby eyes.
At that point we got out of the tub and onto the bed and Andrea helped me get him started breastfeeding while Wayne looked on and appeared as if he could jump up and run a marathon he was so excited. Breastfeeding helped the placenta to come out easily, and I didn't need any stitches. About 2 hours later we walked out to the car with our incredible little miracle and headed home on the 2nd longest drive of my life (the longest being the one to the birth center). We must've looked over into the backseat a dozen times to make sure he was OK in his little car seat, but he was fine. My body felt a little tired, but I was on an endorphin high and way too excited to sleep. Mostly we just lay in our bed and kept looking at him in wonder. At about 4:00 in the morning, Wayne got up and baked him a birthday cake.
Having a natural, midwife-assisted water birth in a small birth center was such a wonderful experience. I can't explain how powerful, joyful, incredible, & miraculous it was, and we will definitely do the same for our next child. The only difference is we hope to have the next baby at home - the worst part of the whole thing was having to drive to the birth center and back.
In preparing for this birth, I exercised physically, mentally, and spiritually. I continued my regular workouts (swimming, running, and weights) & added specific exercises for labor. I read everything I could get my hands on, educating myself about the natural birth process and modern interventions, and this helped us make the decision to avoid a hospital birth situation. I prayed, meditated, and used positive visualization to help prepare my body and mind for the positive birth experience I knew was possible. Of course, there will never be any way to truly know how much this preparation influenced the way our birth went, but I believe in my heart that it had a great impact. I believe that preparing and trusting my body to birth our child the way it was meant to allowed the birth to go as easily as it possibly could. I am also grateful for the peace and joyfulness that birthing in a quiet, loving environment gave us, and for the incredible loving support of my husband, my family, and our birth team.