I awoke at 4am experiencing contractions every 15-20 minutes. Just often enough to not be able to really get back to sleep. I tried though, and told myself this might not be the real thing. For the last week and a half, contractions started and stopped, leaving me unsure about knowing when labor was really there. But something told me this might be it. After eating breakfast I found a ride out to the hospital to see my DR for the regular weekly checkup. We were staying at a guesthouse about 10 minutes from the hospital. The DR does rounds in the mornings and then begins seeing patients who are waiting outside his office. I arrived at the hospital around 8:30AM so I went over to see if the dentist had any openings. (The dentist is my DR's wife, and she had just repaired my root canal that had been chipping away. And now I had lost part of another filling in a different tooth.) She said she did not have any immediate openings, but would call me if she had a cancelation. So I went back to the DR's and waited for him. He showed up at 10AM and saw me right away. I was 3 1/2 cm and he said he could stretch it to 4cm. He predicted things would be happening today. I wanted to go back to the guesthouse right away, but I didn't have a ride. The person I came with would be there till 11AM. I decided to wait for her instead of calling a taxi. I walked across the street and bought a drink and some bananas from a vendor. I experienced a few harder contractions after my visit with the DR. On the way home we stopped at the towns biggest 'grocery' store. It is basically the size of a a gas station snack shop. So I bought a few things we needed for the next couple days. Then we went home and I had lunch with the family. They all went swimming after lunch, I thought about joining them, but thought I should try and rest. My contractions were still 20 or so minutes apart, but when they came they were strong. I laid down and read a bit, and sometime between 1-2pm my water broke. It was then I was convinced that this was really happening. The kids and Jeff had blown up my birthing pool for me to labor in and Jeff was in the process of filling it up. We were on the second floor of the guesthouse, so we were a little concerned about it getting too heavy for the floor. We only filled it halfway. I got in when my contractions were closer to five minutes apart and it really relieved the pressure I felt in my back. My contraction coping techniques were to be on my knees and lean over something, to take slow deep breaths in and out, and when they were more intense, to breath out with horse lips. I read about this in a book and it really seemed to help me. Jeff also poured water on my back. At around 3:30 we started timing contractions. For the next hour they averaged 3 minutes apart. I said we really needed to head to the hospital. We did not have our own car, but Jeff had talked to some people about borrowing one. He really didn't want to leave me to go take care of packing a car. He asked Drew to go get the keys for us. By the time Drew brought the keys back it was about 4:45 and the contractions were really intense. It became clear to both of us that we were not going anywhere at this point.
Side note: We had really wanted a home birth for this delivery, but we were not able to find a DR or midwife who would come and do that with us. I had no intention of delivering without a medical person in the room. Our plan had been to labor for as long as possible in the comfort of the guesthouse, and then head to the hospital. You have to understand the hospital here. The hospital in this town is run by western missionaries and it is the best one by far. But it is still a hospital in Mali. Their delivery room has three delivery beds in it. There are small cloth dividers that separate you from the next woman. Men are never, ever a part of the delivery process here. If Jeff was in that room with me and other women were also having their babies, it would make them very uncomfortable. So we wanted to stay in a place where we could be together comfortably for as long as possible.
Jeff was helping me stay focused and reminding me to breath and relax through my contractions. This is the point where they became so intense that I wanted to quit. I told Jeff when he told me to relax that he had no idea what I was going through, and I think I even told him to shut up once. (Sorry Jeff...) He was doing a great job of helping me... Then I had a contraction that felt different. Oh it was powerful and I felt pressure in my bottom. (Is this really happening here and now I wondered?) As I tried to keep breathing and coping with these monster contractions I felt intense burning. Then with a third and final forceful contraction my body flung itself over and I sat down as my baby was pushed down and out of my body. I didn't know she was coming out until she was out in the water. Jeff quickly scooped her up and handed her to me saying, 'and it's a girl!' And then I sat there in shock. 5:05 pm and our little girl was laying in my arms. We called the DR right away to see what we should do, and he was in surgery. (So even if we had made it to the hospital, he wouldn't have been there for her birth.) We talked to our moms, and we invited the kids in to meet their new sister. Drew was excited to post something to my facebook page about having a new sister.
There was a Swiss nurse, Marlene, who was staying at the guesthouse. She arrived home from the hospital at 5:45pm and came up to see us. It was good to have her there to check me. Jeff clamped and cut the cord. He and Harley dried Katherine off and dressed her. I climbed out of the pool and delivered the placenta. Marlene helped Jeff clean up while I rested. And just like that we were done. Katherine Elizabeth had safely arrived into this world, and was now a part of our family.
I had really struggled with this birth in the months leading up to it. And I want to thank God for really giving me peace when the time came. There are many things in the life that are hard, and that is not bad. But it can be scary to wait for something hard that you know is going to happen. I know many people were praying for me to have peace and strength when the time came, and He blessed me with both of those. Praise God!