At 3:37am on a Thursday morning, I woke up with the chills.
As my body was overtaken by gentle shaking and I lay on my side, I knew today would be the day. "We're going to have a baby today," I whispered to Tim across the bed as my contractions began in short order. He knew.
After unsuccessfully trying to go back to sleep, we both woke up. On my way to the kitchen, our oldest daughter stirred, "What are you doing?" "I'm in labor," I replied.
Tim brewed coffee while I bounced on the blue exercise ball - praying and taking bites of cantaloupe (not due to hunger, but because I knew I would need strength for the hours ahead).
I picked up the song lyrics that I had previously printed and stood up to sing whenever a contraction began anew. "Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee..."
Tim called his parents at 4:45am and they arrived by 6. Even though I suspected it might be a bit too soon to go in, I told Tim that I would rather head over to the birth center than labor in the car.
At 6:30am, we pulled up at the birth center. Contractions were still super manageable at this point and they even stopped for a bit while the midwife took my vitals. "Now what?" Tim asked.
We stepped out into the August early morning sunshine. The parking lot and entire complex was quiet, except for a couple of landscapers, blowing leaves + debris with vacuums. We walked at least ten circles and I hung loosely over a tree trunk for contractions (which had begun again).
As the contractions magnified, we went back inside and I leaned against the bureau to sing/hum/groan as they peaked. It was like dejavu from two of my three previous two births.
I never watch the clock during labor, but it was around 8:15am when I dipped into the warm tub. The water felt good, but I quickly became too hot so Tim placed a cold washcloth on the back of my neck.
When the time for pushing arrived, I was frightened (as I always am) by the intensity of the pain. The overwhelming urge consumed my body and my words were few, "I'm scared." "Lord, help me." "Baby!" "I love you, H." Also: "I can't do this."
But then I did. I was on my hands and knees, leaning forward and pushing because my body compelled me. With a roar, the head emerged and I heard him cry. 8:40am.
The relief was immediate; the joy palpable. I stood up, stepped over the cord, and brought my baby to my chest. He was crying and perfect.
I walked over to the bed, dripping blood and staring at the miracle of his little body.
Happiness ran through my veins, pumping through an invisible IV.
Five hours later, we were home. The girls had made a sign to celebrate the baby's arrival and it was fluttering in the wind.
"That's the strange thing about birth," I reminisced to my girls a few days later. "Each of your births were some of the hardest, scariest days of my life - but they were also the very best." They nodded their heads solemnly as they looked adoringly at the face of their new brother. I'm pretty sure they understood.