There are two defining features of my labor: it was 31 hours long, and I had my baby at home.

It makes sense I had a long labor. I have always liked to take my time with things. I explore and contemplate, and I don’t rush toward the finish - especially if the finish might be the most pain I have ever felt. But there is also only so much a woman in labor can control.

A woman in labor can’t control when and where her mucus plug comes out (for me, in a bank parking lot), or if the baby comes on its due date, or its sex, or how many contractions it will take. It wasn’t easy for me to realize I had to succumb.

Early labor washed over me. I was not one of those women who bakes a cake or knits a blanket in early labor. I was excited. I was overwhelmed. My doula came over, and I rolled on a yoga ball and sucked on raspberry red leaf tea ice cubes. The contractions were intense but far between.

We had set up a tub in the soon-to-be nursery, and I labored in the tub. In the shower. On the stairs. On a walk. On the toilet. In bed.

My husband took on a director of logistics role, making sure the midwives had parking, that the water in the tub was warm, and (as I still kid him about) that he would be well rested for when the baby arrived.

My mom joined my doula in coaching me through the labor. We had not planned on having her fill such a significant role, but she knows me and I trust her. We locked eyes with each contraction and together chanted “ooo-pen” in as deep a voice as we could muster. As I transitioned into active labor, the midwife and her assistant played a bigger role in coaching, reminding me not to back away from the pain.

Just like other medical practices, the home birth midwife practice had shifts, and my labor was long enough that I got to work with all three midwives on staff and their assistants. While I appreciated the gentleness of the night-shift midwife, when the morning brought a new midwife, it was time to get down to business.

I really enjoyed pushing. It felt productive. I was able to make strides and have control again. I felt the ring of fire and was aware its presence meant I was close. My baby was close. The midwife told me it had a lot of hair and asked if I wanted to feel. I didn’t. I had to stay focused. I was done exploring. The time had come.

The feeling of the baby being put on my chest remains to this day the best feeling of my life, even though it took twenty more minutes of pain for the placenta to come, even though the chord was so short he was actually more on my stomach, even though I was exhausted. I had long heard the parenting guideline, “Follow the child.” This means that you acknowledge children have their own patterns and, as parents, you should step back to give them space to determine their own paths. I think this concept can be applied to pregnancy and labor as well. Follow the labor, let it have its own patterns and remember: There is only so much you can control.

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