I'm not sure where to begin. At the beginning, yes, but where that is, I don't know.

On March 9, 2011 I had a vision of a water birth in our back room. The same room, in the same place where both of my grandparents passed from this world to the next. They were both on hospice, though a good ten years apart, and they both died at home, in a bed in the back room.

It was so clear, the vision, of a dark-haired baby, born in water, with Paloma at the edge of the tub, watching.

A year later, nearly to the day, that baby would be conceived and nine months later born, in that back room, in water, with Paloma at the edge of the tub.

You'd think, that I'm about to say, that it was exactly what I had expected.

It was nothing like I'd expected.

Sometime in February 2012 I took a pregnancy test. It was negative. Sometime in March 2012 I bought another box of tests and took another one. It was positive.

I say "sometime" because that's how everything went this time around. "Sometime" describes it all.

I had two ultrasounds done to establish a due date. Once she was born, it would be clear that due date was off, but that date put a mark on the calendar and once I looked at the month of November I knew I'd go into labor on the 13th. It was a new moon, a full solar eclipse in the southern hemisphere, and a Tuesday. I just knew.

The Saturday before my due date we went in for one last ultrasound to check on her weight. She was measuring small. Paloma measured small. I wasn't worried. Until I was.

She was small. But healthy.

Tuesday, 13 November came three days later and at dinner I had a couple contractions. While I did the dishes I had a couple contractions. They were annoying. They were different, somehow.

I stayed up later than I should have. I knew I was in labor. It was 13 November, after all.

Earlier that morning I'd had a "labor ready" massage. It was my first and only massage with this baby. I told the therapist that we weren't so sure it was really time, and she said that the massage wasn't going to push me into labor if I wasn't ready.

After the massage I stayed on the table a little longer than I would have. I held her in my belly and knew it was the last time we'd be alone like that.

I went to bed around 23:00. I woke up to stronger contractions at 3:30. I woke Will up. I timed. We got excited. I knew I'd be holding a baby by the end of the day.

We did everything you're not supposed to do. We stayed up. We didn't get more sleep.

By 5:00 I had called our midwife and then crashed back in bed.

Paloma woke me at 7:00 to nurse in bed. The contractions started back up strong.

Everyone warned me that there would be no early labor the second time around. Everyone said that there'd be no discernible pattern. Everyone would be wrong.

I stayed at 6 minutes apart for not quite a minute long for 24 hours.

Will stayed home from work.

My mom came as soon as she could.

Our midwife came, as scheduled, for a prenatal at 10:30. I refused an internal exam. We chatted about how to progress or how to make it stop.

She also revealed the news that had been withheld at the ultrasound appointment: My placenta was rated a 3 of 3, which means it was looking tired, and so if the baby didn't come today, then she was going to recommend non-stress tests.

That. That was terrifying. A barrage of tests and interventions and hospital scenes flashed before my eyes and I decided today was the day.

Our midwife left. I went for a walk. I went out to lunch with my dad. I went home. I put Paloma down for a nap. I napped with her for two hours. I fell asleep knowing it'd be the last time it'd be the two of us alone like that.

All day I had a voracious appetite. I was starving. I was terrified of eating, knowing that it would be vomit, later. But I ate and ate and ate. By now, after the nap, I had lost my appetite. Nothing sounded good.

We thought about dinner and what to have my parents bring over. I asked Paloma if she wanted to spend the night at grandma and grandpa's house because I had had enough. I couldn't keep on laboring and taking care of her. I had to move on with this birth, but she couldn't be in the room, clearly. This baby needed more space than she was getting.

And now I was beginning to worry. The news earlier about my placenta was beginning to gnaw at me, and I wanted this baby out, safe and sound. I called my therapist and left her a message, crying and telling her everything I was worried about, all my fears. She is the same therapist I worked with during Paloma's pregnancy, and I believe she is a large part of why I was able to birth Paloma at home with zero interventions. She returned my call and we set up a time to chat later that night, but, I never did answer her call - leaving that message was enough, apparently. My fear was gone.

Paloma was all too willing to go with grandma and grandpa. We watched something on Netflix with Paloma while we waited for grandma and grandpa to arrive with dinner. As I lay on my side on the couch a sudden and strong contraction came on and just after it subsided I felt a gush of warm - o so warm! - water. I reached around and held my dress to my body hoping to catch as much as I could and keep the sofa dry. Will quickly fetched a few towels and I worked my way off the sofa and onto the floor.

My mucus plug was out and my waters had broken. Both of these things never happened in my first labor. I called our midwife right then and there.

Luckily, Diana had stayed close and hadn't driven all the way back over the hill, so she arrived shortly after my parents showed up with dinner. Diana buzzed around prepping her tools while the sound of dinner went on in the kitchen. I stayed put on the pile of towels. Waiting.

I kissed Paloma goodbye, all wrapped up in a bathrobe. The chills and shaking had set in and I turned on the radiator in the back room. I had given up on Paloma being present for the birth, but Will pushed for her to return, so we checked in with her. Yes, she wanted to come back to see the baby be pushed out. Ok, we said.

They left. I sat down in my towel nest. And waited. Will started a new show on Netflix and I figured I'd lay down and maybe sleep if nothing else. Almost as soon as I lay down, I had to sit back up and start rocking on all fours to make it through the contractions.

I tried to get up every third contraction and empty my bladder. I was hydrating with water and chlorophyll and it was working to keep nausea away, but that meant a full bladder, and no baby likes that thing in the way. I peed all of three times, I believe, before I got in the tub. So 3 times 3 is nine: I think I had about a dozen contractions during active labor before I got in the tub to push.

This baby was coming fast.

The last two contractions I did on the sofa felt very different. My noises changed. And it hurt. I knew it and so did Diana: I was in transition.

I reluctantly made my way to the tub. I couldn't believe it was happening so fast.

The tub was perfectly hot. I floated on my back and rode out a few more contractions before Hope arrived. She came right over, said the most perfect, encouraging words in my ear and I rolled over to my belly to push that baby out.

Diana checked me for the first time that day just before I got in the tub and she checked once more just after. I was fully dilated, cervix was gone, it was time to push.

I pushed with all my might. I heard someone say it was time to call Paloma back. I pushed. I heard someone say they were here. I pushed harder. I heard someone say they could come in the room. I pushed and reached down. I looked down to see Diana's hand on the baby's head, her hand covered in a latex glove. When she traded places with me, and I reached down to catch my baby, I was shocked to feel what felt like a latex glove over my baby's head. And in an instant I knew: She was in the caul.

With my hands on the baby's head, Paloma appeared in front of me and for a split second I came out of the mild fog and said hello to my first-born, and in an instant I went back into laborland and continued on. I pushed. The ring of fire came. I pushed. And there was her head. I paused. And then I pushed again, and there she was.

We quickly moved her from under water to my chest and I held her so close. As Hope moved towards us to help make the transition from water to air, Paloma screamed out, "NO! THAT'S MY BABY!" And I could not have been more proud of her instant bond.

I held Arden close to my skin and she was still and silent. She remained that way as we blew into her face, rubbed her feet, and poked and prodded to get a cry. Then all at once Hope and Diana rushed to Arden, pulled her off me, flipped her on her side, and only then was there a strong cry. I still don't know what exactly happened, but it was over as soon as it started and she was breathing, turning pink, and just fine.

This baby had been quiet inside me. She was calm inside me. It didn't surprise me in the least that she came out silently and curled up on my chest, eyes closed, probably still asleep. It didn't surprise me in the least.

We moved us from the tub, attached by a cord, back to the sofa. We waited for a placenta that was not coming. We started herbs. Arden latched on. I pushed and we waited. Paloma brought Arden a toy and showed her how it worked. Paloma said hello and goodbye to her sister and then went back with grandma and grandpa to sleep.

We waited for the afterbirth. I moved onto the birth stool to let gravity help, and we waited. Hope reminded me that this one had no bones, and I pushed harder than I did to get the baby out. Finally, the placenta arrived, and I was done.

We then did all the usual things. My body was completely intact with no blood loss. Arden was happily latched and nursing. The midwives buzzed. They cleaned. They took measurements and vitals and wrote down stats.

Arden was born at 22:38, just two hours, or so, after Paloma left the house. It was quick and painless, really. Once the placenta was out we could see that my bag had torn up top releasing only the smallest bit of waters and keeping my labor relatively pain-free and allowing for a birth in the caul.

Around 1 in the morning the three of us climbed into bed and finally went to sleep. It had been one very long, and very awesome, birthday.

Arden nursed on and off that first night and we all slept quite soundly until late the next morning. At some point that night, I pulled her onto my chest to sleep, the two of us so close, one more time.