When I learned that I was pregnant for the second time I was elated. Our first son, Drake, was 2 years old. For my first pregnancy, we prepared thoroughly, and we had a wonderful pregnancy and delivery. My husband Bill and I took a fabulous Bradley class where we learned about childbirth and so much more. During the exciting and busy time of pregnancy, the classes were a great way for Bill and me to spend quality time together working on a goal. Drake's delivery was wonderful, but the hospital stay was a series of frustrations. By the time we were allowed to go home, I had decided that our next pregnancy was going to be a home birth.

At first my husband wasn't as passionate about home birth as I was but he was willing to learn more about it so that we could make a decision together. After talking with our doctor and interviewing a few midwives, we found Ginny. Ginny had a comforting yet empowering personality, and her credentials were amazing. Not only were we comfortable with her, but so was Drake. After meeting Ginny and leaning more about home births, Bill agreed that childbirth and welcoming our next child should be a real family experience - home birth! Bill, Drake and I went to see Ginny for the prenatal check-ups and learned what we needed to do to prepare for a home birth.

Because we had taken the Bradley classes for Drake's pregnancy, we just needed to review the relaxation and visualization -- two things that really helped me hang in there for Drake's delivery. As we approached the final trimester, Ginny loaned us some books to help prepare Drake for the birth of his sibling. Drake loves books and would spend every waking moment having someone read to him. So we read the borrowed children's books about birth again and again and again. All of that reading helped me visualize the labor I hoped to achieve. Books written for children keep things simple - the umbilical cord is the food cord; mommy may be making sounds and faces you've never seen before, but she is working harder than she's ever worked before; there may be some blood but mommy and the baby are not hurt, delivering babies is thirsty work.

One slightly drizzly morning in April, I woke at 3:00am with contractions. I was 38 weeks into my pregnancy. I recalled that almost 3 years earlier, my labor for Drake's birth began the same way. For Drakes birth, I had labored at home until dinnertime, and then we headed to the hospital. Because this was my second pregnancy, I expected things would progress more quickly and that we would meet our baby by lunch. I woke up Bill and let him know that labor was starting and that I was going to try to sleep for awhile because I wanted to be sure that I was well rested for the work ahead. Bill called Ginny around 4:30am to tell her our situation. When he realized that labor was more intense than we originally thought, he called her back at 5:00am. Ginny lived an hour away, but we had time.

One of the great things about a home birth is that we didn't have to pack a bag for me and drive to the hospital. I just relaxed, ate some oatmeal and kept walking around. With Drake, labor started at 3:00am, and he was born at 11:57pm. While we knew that second deliveries tend to go a bit faster, we weren't worried.

As dawn was breaking I was up walking around, but getting really uncomfortable. I would walk around a bit and then rest my upper body on something when a contraction came. While I may have been somewhat oblivious to the activities of my family, I do know that Bill was trying to assemble the birthing pool. I busied myself by gathering our supplies that were boxed and ready for this day. Soon the contractions were intense, close enough together that Bill was spending more time helping me relax than setting up the pool. He called our friends down the road to let them know that we needed some help.

While the birthing pool was an integral component of our birthing plan, it was not something we could assemble ahead of time. With a toddler and a family kitten, we knew that an empty birthing pool would have been hazardous for both the pool and the family. During an average length labor, there is plenty of time to set-up and fill the pool. Our 40-gallon hot water heater is not big enough to fill the 150-gallon birthing pool in one fill-but we factored that into our plan. We figured that once labor began, we'd fill the pool, cover it while the water heater reheated, and then continue to fill the pool two more times. Once the pool was full, it had heaters to keep the water at a wonderful 100 degrees.

Our friend Kevin arrived within minutes, and Bill got him started with the pool. Every time I had a contraction, Kevin's pace picked up a bit more. Together, Bill and Kevin completed the set-up of the pool, and the water was turned on. Once that had been accomplished Kevin went home to stay with their daughter, Isabel, while his wife Amy, Drake's birth-buddy, came to our house to be with Drake. Amy has always been Drake's buddy so we knew he would have a good day with her while Bill and I concentrated on the birth.

Our primary reason for choosing a home birth for our second child was to reinforce for Drake the importance of family and so he would feel involved in the arrival of his sibling. Our plan was that when the time came to push the baby, Drake could come in and see the baby's birth.

Ginny, our midwife, arrived at our home around 6:30am and quickly was ready to go. Deb, her assistant, arrived by 8:00am. With a sigh of relief, I realized that everyone was now assembled and ready to welcome our baby. The contractions were intense and coming quickly. The back rubs Ginny provided and words of support from Bill while he held my hands really helped me relax. Bill and Ginny tried changing places so Bill could rub my back but that only lasted for one contraction. Ginny, who had done this many times before, knew exactly where to rub to provide comfort and Bill knew what I needed to hear to relax. Ginny continuously gave me words of support and explained how the labor was progressing.

My visualization exercise for delivery was to imagine a flower's petals opening as my cervix was widening. During contractions, I was moaning “oooopen, oooopen” and trying to keep my mouth in the shape of an “O”. That also helped to keep me relaxed so that I would not clench my jaw or grind my teeth. I had read that if your mouth is relaxed, your bottom will also be relaxed; tense mouth, tense bottom. When I was resting between contractions I could hear Drake playing with his trucks in play dough. It was so heartwarming to hear him “moaning” vroommm, vroooom in the same rhythm I was using for my “open” visualization. It was if every one in the house were working on delivering the baby. The energy was so positive and so calming.

At 8:00am, Bill began working on the pool's third fill. It was just about that time that he realized there was no way I was moving off of the bed and that we weren't going to need the pool. I was in a comfortable position, and it was almost time to push. After one of my contractions, Bill quickly ran downstairs to turn the water off, but the next contraction came before he returned. He heard me calling his name in a low moan as he was quickly running back to our room. For Drake's hospital birth, we had a birth plan that outlined our wishes for a quiet non-invasive delivery, and it was Bill's job to make sure that our wishes were met. Bill was a great support person and guardian. His role for the home birth was much less complicated -- he was completely there for my comfort. He was wonderful -- his calming personality and regular reminders of visualization and relaxation techniques kept me focused.

I kept reminding myself that our baby was working just as hard as I was and that we were experiencing every contraction together. Ginny said rather than think about the baby being squeezed hard by the contraction that I should try to picture him getting massaged by my uterine muscles. When I suddenly had an amazingly painful sensation in my lower back, Ginny calmly explained that it was the baby getting into position. To soothe the sensation, I continued with “ooopen, ooopen” visualization and felt the comfort of warm compresses on my bottom. Even though the contractions were intense very close together, I never found the birth experience to be negative or unbearable. Even though the skies were weeping - as often is the case on spring days in Wisconsin, I was in one of my favorite rooms in our home, and I knew that with every contraction, we were one step closer to meeting our baby.

Soon the big moment had arrived --it was time to push! During Drake's birth, I had difficulty figuring out just how to push effectively. I had the same difficulty this time. I wasn't bearing down long enough for the push to progress. At one point while pushing, I was looking up rather than having my chin down towards my chest. I noticed that Deb, Ginny's assistant, was waving her fingers up in the air. I focused on that and followed her hand as she pulled it down in front of her. It was a great visual for me to recognize where my eyes and head should be for more effective pushing. With my chin down and more determination the pushes were getting better.

Ginny quickly got Drake and Amy to come to the room as the moment of birth was rapidly approaching. As the baby crowned, I experienced a burning sensation but knew to stay relaxed so that the baby could stay as comfortable as possible. I kept telling myself that I'd meet our child soon, and that really helped me to relax. While Deb was holding the mirror for me to see the baby's head, I was confused because it looked white and gooey. When Drake was born, the first thing I saw was hair, and what I was seeing was definitely not hair. To my surprise, what I was seeing was the bag of waters. Our son Kaden entered the world in a nice gentle gush of water. As our son was put on my belly I couldn't believe what we had accomplished -- our baby was on my tummy, in our bed, in our home. We were truly together as a family to welcome our new child. As we admired Kaden, who was so covered in vernix it was as if he was covered in cream cheese, we just rubbed all of that good stuff into his delicate skin as he nursed and looked at me.

Bill, Drake and I lovingly shared some quiet time to welcome Kaden into our family. He nursed and looked at us as if he'd known us and met us before. After all, he was familiar with our voices as he had been hearing them for many months. It seems obvious to us that he knew he was at home and surrounded my love. We watched as Ginny took Kaden, wrapped him in a stork blanket and weighed him on a milk scale. It was a scale she had been using for years, it was accurate and it didn't giver her any problems. Deb chronicled the birth for us by taking plenty of pictures although I don't think any of us will ever forget any part of the wonderful birth experience. Our best pictures of the day are permanently etched in our hearts.

After Kaden and I were given a clean bill of health Ginny asked Bill to say a few words. We gathered the whole team -- Drake, Amy, Deb, Ginny, Bill and myself -- together around Kaden and welcomed him. I don't recall exactly what Bill said, but I remember being so impressed that he was so eloquent on a moment's notice!

Looking back, I had expected that we'd meet our baby by lunch-time. Much to my surprise we had a breakfast baby - he was born at 9:21am. After calling family to let them know we had a son, Bill finished filling the pool. Later that day Drake played in it - can't let a great pool of warm water go to waste! But I think the one who enjoyed it the most was Bill. After everyone left at the end of the day, Bill soaked in it. After all, it was now his turn to relax.

Our families were a bit surprised to learn about Kaden being born at home. We had decided to keep it to ourselves so that we could focus on the positives of birth and not all of the negatives that so many people see and hear in the media. For us it was an absolutely beautiful, natural way to have a baby. When my mom asked my dad what he thought about us having the baby at home he reminded her that they too were born at home!

Juli Ziemer-Hacker is married to her best friend Bill and they have two wonderful sons Drake (4) and Kaden (1). They live in Lisbon, Wisconsin.

Contact info -Juli Ziemer-Hacker
W250 N8945 Hillside Road
Lisbon, WI 53089