This birth story was submitted by Kelley Birrell:
Several months before I got pregnant with my last child, a little girl, my then 4-year-old son asked me where babies come from. I wasn't prepared with a pat answer, so I just shot from the hip and told it to him straight. I didn't explain the nitty-gritty details of how the babies got in there, but I did tell him how they start as special seeds from the daddy, grow inside the mommy's belly, and that they eventually come out through a special hole in her bottom. I also told him that he'd be welcome to be there at the birth of our next baby.
This really got him excited, and for the next several months I kept getting questions about when I was going to get another baby in my belly so he could watch it be born. Finally, the long-awaited day came and I announced to my husband and sons, through happy tears, that I was pregnant. My son immediately asked if he could still be there when the baby came. I told him "absolutely."
This pregnancy, with what turned out to be my first and only daughter, was not a pleasant one. I was miserably sick at the beginning (for the first time in 4 pregnancies!), and in excruciating pain at the end. I was planning a homebirth, but it took me several months to find a midwife who could practice in my state, and then I found that I really didn't like her style of care. I was worried that I'd have to have my baby in the hospital, and that it wouldn't work for my son to be there for the birth.
Around my 6th month, we moved to a different state and I quickly found another midwife. I adored this one from the moment I set eyes on her, and we bonded immediately. She helped me cope through the last 3 very difficult months of my pregnancy, for which I was deeply grateful.
The best thing about finding her is that I realized that my dreams of a homebirth were very likely going to come true. By this time, the invitation to my one son to be at the birth had grown to include all three of my sons (now aged 3 1/2, nearly 6, and 8). They were excited, but I don't think they really had any idea of what was going to happen.
As I neared the end of my pregnancy, I began to worry about how I was going to handle having three little, sometimes rambunctious boys around me while I was in labor. Previously I had had only adults around me, and my kids were not there. Also, I was getting some really strange looks when I'd tell friends that my sons were going to watch the birth. It was like everyone around me thought it was extremely inappropriate for my sons to see that. On top of all this, my mom kept telling me that I should have a back-up plan for the kids in case I had to go to the hospital suddenly. The problem was that I wasn't about to tell them they couldn't come when I'd been telling them they could for over a year. I decided to brush off everybody else's opinions, and just focus on what I knew was right - that my boys needed to be there.
Finally the day we'd all been waiting for came. I started having contractions at about 3:00 in the morning, but managed to sleep through them off and on. They weren't too terribly frequent or intense by morning when everyone got up, so I took the kids to a birthday party at a local park. Lots of people were there, and the kids played while I talked to several of the moms, stopping every five minutes or so to breathe through contractions that were starting to become more consuming. I was very glad when the party was over, and we could go home (I hated to make my boys leave before all their friends did).
Next came the part I had been mildly dreading - at home, taking care of my three kids by myself for a few hours while I was in labor. However, the afternoon went much better than I could have anticipated. My boys took great naps, and then played quietly (totally out of character for them, I should add) while I labored on a birth ball in our living room. My husband came home, and all 4 of them took very good care of me. My now nearly 6-year-old son brought me water, and my boys took turns with each other and my husband rubbing my back for me. They were gentle and kind, and I was truly surprised at how sweet the experience was turning out to be.
Fast forward a few hours... the time had come for the birth. My boys were starting to get very excited, and my midwife showed up at the house about the time my husband was planning to take them to a nearby restaurant with a playland so they could burn off some energy. We all thought there were still several more hours to go. My midwife and I got comfortable, I made myself a peanut butter smoothie, and we talked for a few minutes.
After I finished, we went into the bedroom so she could check me to get an idea of where things were. What happened next was a total surprise to both of us. My cervix was positioned far enough back that she could barely reach it, however, she managed to ascertain that I was about 4 centimeters and VERY stretchy. As an experiment, she lightly tugged on the edge during a contraction (they ARE inevitable when you're getting checked) to see what would happen. What happened is that I immediately opened up to about a 10 and my baby's head came down right to her hand!
She jumped up, and started getting things ready for the birth VERY quickly! I had her call my husband and tell him to get home IMMEDIATELY while I knelt on my hands and knees and vocalized through a few more contractions. By the time they all arrived a couple minutes later, I was positioned on a birth ball at the side of my bed, and pushing with all my might. My husband and our sons stood at the door of our room getting a full view of the action, but I didn't mind a bit. At one point, I remember my youngest son (the 3 1/2-year-old) telling his brother that the baby was going to come out Mommy's special hole in her bottom. Even though I was working hard, I just had to smile at that dear little voice saying such an innocent and funny thing. A few minutes later, my beautiful daughter was born, and my husband (of course) and boys saw every bit of it.
Looking back on the experience, I will be eternally grateful that I trusted myself and my boys enough to have them at the birth. My almost 6-year-old said some every special things about the birth later, even though he did admit thinking it was just a little gross (boys WILL be boys!). All of them adore their sister, and did immediately. It was like she was every bit as much their baby as she was my baby. I was pleasantly surprised at how delightful and sweet it was having my children there, and being able to hear their thoughtful comments and charming voices in the background. It is an experience I will always cherish, a moment when we truly became a family all together at last.