I worked with my MAP team to get pregnant (I was 44 at the time) and throughout my pregnancy. We planned a home birth, but my husband Alain was really worried about the "mess" (though our midwives assured us they would be in charge of all clean-up). So as the due date came close, I made a list for my team of my priorities for the birth. Because I was worried about Alain freaking out, "tidy, clean, with no mess" was at the top of my list, followed by "safe, quick, painless and joyful."

Tidy it was! My water broke at night, when I was awake to feel it and head off to the toilet, easy peasy (pardon the pun). What a neat birth. The midwives were impressed and had almost nothing to clean up. Even the placenta barely dripped. Safe, too: Baby Miranda and mom were both healthy and glowing.

As for quick — labor wound down within an hour of my water breaking, and it stopped for eight hours; when contractions started again, it was only four and a half hours till she was born. Only five minutes of pushing!

Now clean and tidy was what I was most worried about. I had given birth before and knew I could handle the pain. But at that birth, my water broke in the pushing stage, just before birth. Having a sac break during a late pushing contraction means fluid all over the floor, and perhaps all over anyone standing in the way! This was just what my husband had witnessed and was afraid of seeing in our bedroom.

What I didn't know was that having the amniotic sac intact during contractions creates a cushion of water, a "shock absorber" for the increasingly intense contractions.

So with my sac broken first now (although very tidy, for sure), I had a "non-buffered zone" for contractions. It was very intense, excruciating even, and harder than I thought I could handle. I called on my MAP team and the little girl being born through each painful, splitting contraction. As my midwife called for me to focus, to stay in my body and to stay with each moment, she praised me and praised my courage. I felt courageous, more than ever before in my life. Joyful was holding her perfect being in my arms. I am still joyous as I watch this smiling, sunny, lovely girl sit and crawl. Thank you, MAP team, and I will be careful how I prioritize in the future!

— M.C., Northampton, MA