I figured I'd better post this soon, the details are starting to get fuzzy already.
So here goes.
I'd been to visit Alisa, my midwife, on Tuesday and she gave me an herbal preparation to help stimulate labor called black cohosh. On Wednesday I started taking it, and by afternoon was feeling some mild contractions. Lala came straight over after work and was here by about 5. By about 6pm I knew that labor had started in earnest as the contractions got fairly regular. At about 7pm I went to take a nap and Lala started to put the girls to bed. I woke up just before 8pm and heard violent wind outside the guest room window where I was napping. Then I heard Zofia yell from the bathroom, "I can't see anything!" The power had just gone out. I came out of the guest room just after the girls were tucked in. It was not yet dark outside so Lala and I continued working on a puzzle I had started a few days earlier. Around that time I called Alisa and told her labor had started. She said she was going to dinner and would plan to head over afterwards. Once it got too dark to see well, we lit some candles around the house and I went out onto the back porch with Roger. The electrical storm was still raging and the lightning was amazing. I sat in the rocking chair and watched the show and ate blueberries for about an hour. Throughout this time my contractions were steady, but not very painful. I was walking around and talking through the contractions with no problem.
A few minutes after 10pm my friend Lisa called and I told her I was in labor. She offered to come over and I happily agreed. Right after that I called Alisa and told her that she should probably start heading our way. Lisa arrived a few minutes later. By this time my contractions had intensified to the point that I decided to try sitting on the birthing ball. I sat on the ball next to the coffee table and rocked back and forth through each contraction I was no longer chatty during each one, but in between we sat around talking and laughing. During this time Alisa arrived and checked my vital signs and started charting everything. Roger sat behind me in a chair and rubbed my back through each contraction. Dana, the apprentice midwife arrived not long after and began assisting Alisa with her work.
As the night wore on the contractions got increasingly strong, to the point that I needed to concentrate on breathing and keeping my body relaxed during each one. I really felt like by body was doing the work of bringing the baby down. Since the power was still out the atmosphere was very calm, with only candle light and the midwives' flashlights breaking the darkness.
Sometime after midnight Alisa and Dana decided to go set up the bedroom for the birth. Of course, with no power there would be no water birth, but I was past the point of caring. For some reason I followed them into the bedroom and stationed myself by my bed. At this point I was in transition. The contractions were so intense that I was mostly unaware of what was going on around me. I think a herd of elephants could have stampeded through the bedroom and I would not have noticed. Lala snapped this photo of me during that time. It was pretty dark in the room, but I didn't even notice the flash and have no recollection of the photo being taken.
For the next few contractions I leaned over the bed with Roger still rubbing my back. Just before 1am my water broke. I remember saying, "water broke!" and people rushing over to help. Someone got towels and someone else helped me over to the other side of the bed. After another contraction or two my legs felt as if they were about to give out, and I started to feel the urge to push. Alisa got the birthing stool for me, but even trying to sit down on it felt so uncomfortable that I shot right back up. I asked for the ball again and positioned myself on my knees with my upper body leaning on the ball. In this position I was able to continue rocking back and forth through the contractions. Roger kept rubbing my back and Lala was keeping me cool with a cold, wet towel. During the next contraction I pushed and heard Alisa say, "here comes the head!" I felt/heard a pop and Alisa told Roger to come see the head. Roger told me later that he expected to see the crown of the baby's head, but was shocked and amazed to see the baby's face looking up at him.
With the next contraction I pushed again with everything in me and let out a primal yell as the rest of the baby came sliding out right into Rogers hands at 1:16am. It was completely not what I had expected to have the baby born behind me and it was a strange feeling not to be able to see what was happening, but I immediately felt such a wave of relief. I sat back on my heels and somehow Alisa got the baby through my legs and handed her to me. Alisa has a policy that only the mom gets to announce the gender of the baby, so everyone waited until I looked down and announced, "It's a girl!"
The midwives handed me a towel to keep the baby warm and helped me sit back against the birthing ball. Lala ran and picked up both girls to come and meet their sister. They arrived not quite awake and Maggie stood next to me while Zofia hopped onto the bed.
At some point my friend and neighbor Lemira had arrived, just in time to see the birth. My friend Kamylle arrived a few minutes later, missing the birth by minutes. After a few minutes Alisa asked if I'd like to get on the bed to be more comfortable. I said yes, but forgot that the baby was still attached to me and was trying to figure out who to hand her to. Alisa reminded me that the cord was not long enough and we all laughed while they helped me onto the bed, still holding the baby. A bit later I delivered the placenta (which totally grossed out Zofia, who was at the foot of the bed) and after that I really did feel marvelous.
Baby Karen Irene nursed and we all checked her out. Lala took the girls back to bed and made a bunch of phone calls to tell everyone the news. I went to the bathroom. Alisa checked me and discovered a tiny tear, "not more than a paper-cut", which we decided not to stitch since I hadn't even felt any stinging when I peed. Lisa and Kamylle left and Alisa gave us post-partum instructions. Roger brought me some peanut butter and a banana, which has since become my go-to snack. Everyone else left around 4:30 and we all fell asleep. At 5:30 I was awakened by an awful honking noise. I woke up Roger and we figured out that it was the alarm telling us that it's backup battery was low. Roger climbed up into the attic where the noise was coming from and pulled the cord out to stop the noise and we went back to sleep. Then at around 7am the power came back on and I walked around the house turning off lights and TVs. Later that morning Lala arrived and then Alisa came by to check on us.
The whole experience was completely unlike anything I had imagined, but I could not have imagined a better experience. I felt and continue to feel so powerful and strong.