By Sarah Marshall
After a night of intermittent contractions, I awoke on June 12, 2008 and knew that my baby was coming. My husband Mike stayed home from work. We made arrangements for our children to be elsewhere and we labored at home much of the day. It was a beautiful day.
I called my doula regularly, telling her each time that I spoke with her that contractions were getting closer together, lasting longer but that we were doing okay and that I didn't need her to be with us quite yet. Around 5 p.m. I called her again as Mike and I were debating going to the hospital. I knew I did not want to be in the car during transition and rush hour would make for a long car ride.
My doula broke the news to me that she had another client in labor. I had chosen my doula because to be around her was to feel the sun's warm light enveloping my body. I wanted that at my birth. The back-up doula was also at another birth. My heart began beating faster and tears welled in my eyes.
This was not part of my plan. My doula—both my primary and my back up have been at literally hundreds of births and this situation had never before happened to them. Much of what happened next in the conversation is a blur but I remember trying to reassure myself with the mantra: “Whoever is supposed to be at your birth will be at your birth.”
We arrived at the hospital and found our newly-chosen doula waiting for us. My midwife checked my cervix at about 6:30 p.m. and I was not quite 4 cm dilated. There I was, a doula myself and mother of three children already, with contractions that had stopped and I wasn't even in active labor. I was frustrated, angry and … embarrassed.
My doula reassured me and encouraged me to settle in. Mike and I walked the halls, the stairs and contractions started up again, increasing in intensity and duration. By 9 p.m. my mood became much more serious. My doula and I talked about getting into the tub. The midwife wanted to check my cervix before doing so and I agreed.
I remember her saying that she thought I was in a good pattern and that she was pretty sure I was at least 5 cm. I told her I was 5 or 6 cm but definitely not a 7. Sure enough I was 5 cm at about 9:30 p.m. and I went directly into the tub.
In my memory, I can feel Mike's arms around me through each contraction, my doula's calm, reassuring face in front of me and my midwife standing across the room in a relaxed manner, watching me labor.
After being in the tub a short time, I began relaying to my team what was happening. "I feel pressure but I know it's not time to push yet".
“Pa, pa, pa, pa. . ."
"Oh the pressure!"
The nurse tried to put a warm towel on my belly, sometimes it felt good but, "No! No, no, nuh-no, nuh-no, n-n-no. . ." "My water just broke!"
"She's coming!" My baby's head emerged. Phoebe Clare was born at 10:32 p.m. on June 12, 2008. "I love you, I love you!" I exalted to Phoebe.
In the end, I have come to believe my mantra, “The doula who was supposed to be at my birth, was at my birth. She always suggested that Mike be with me, walk with me, and she positioned him next to me, nudging him a little closer to comfort me. It is such a gift to have my memory imprinted with such hands-on support and love from my husband at the birth of our fourth child.