The Laura Ingalls moment came early.
"We need more hot water," my husband called down the stairs to his mom, who filled three more soup pots and set them on the stove to boil.
I was upstairs, squatting naked in a giant blue inflatable tub in our bedroom, deep in labour. Our second child was on his way.
Home birth conjures up images of steaming water, cotton nightgowns and candle-lit cabins. I was not in a little house on the prairie, however, but holed up at home in the city. My husband, Mario, and midwife, Marlene, were crouched near me, supporting me through the contractions. A second midwife, Mary, sat on our bed taking notes, charting my progress.
When my labour had started on this cold January day, we hadn't been sure there would be time to use the mammoth birthing tub, and had run the bath first. When the baby decided this wasn't a rush job, Mario filled the borrowed tub in our room. By the time I climbed in, we realized we had run out of hot water. Being submerged in hot water, it is said, helps ease the intensity of labour.
I wanted to welcome this momentous event as a natural and empowering experience on home ground, not at an unfamiliar hospital among strangers.
It's not on everyone's to-do list - empty the dishwasher, bake muffins, dilate 10 centimetres. But I believed that if everything went well, a few things could be avoided - electronic baby ID, superbugs and the white-knuckle commute to the hospital. I could still recall the speed bumps and contractions en route to the hospital for my daughter's birth. Can't escape the Toronto commute even while in labour.
My faith in birthing the old-fashioned way was boosted by my first delivery. With the help of midwives, Pepina had arrived safely after a 10-hour natural labour. By the time she was a few hours old we were already home, calling our parents and eating fresh nectarines.
This pregnancy I was again practising hypnobirthing, which teaches confidence in the body's natural know-how. And as I had reassured our mothers, siblings, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and the mailman, yes, the midwives carried emergency equipment and, yes, the amazing and sometimes essential interventions of a hospital were a 15-minute drive away.
I wasn't planning on burrowing near the furnace and hoping for the best. My biggest fear was whether my two-year-old would be insisting I pick her up when push came to ... push. Marlene had assured us the baby would probably arrive when Pepina was sleeping. "Your body will know the best timing," she said. It didn't work out quite like that.
Right on his due date, as a near-full moon hung in the sky, the baby decided it was time. By 3:30 a.m., my husband was pressing his hands into my sacrum and whispering mantras - "I breathe in relaxation, I exhale tension" - as the contractions surfaced.
By 5:30 a.m., our neonatal houseguests, my little sister MJ, who had flown in from Victoria, and my mother-in-law, Gianna, from Ottawa, were awake. When Pepina woke up, she burst into the bathroom where I was floating in the tub to say, "Hi Mom!" before cheerfully heading downstairs in her purple-footed pyjamas for Cheerios.
She was occupied for the next few hours with music and noisy toys. Her role in labour was limited to helping fill the birthing tub as my husband tried to unkink the plastic hose snaking up two flights of stairs from the basement. She turned to him - water flowing freely onto the hardwood floor - and asked, "Like this, Papa?"
Our son, Andrea Luciano (think Bocelli/Pavarotti - are we asking too much?), was born at 8:03 a.m. in the lukewarm water, weighing 8 pounds, 13 ounces. For the squeamish, the "mess" was contained to the tub, although there is a plastic bag lurking in our freezer with a placenta in it. "Here, plant this," our midwife said, referring to the ritual practised by some cultures.
My sister heard his first cries as she climbed the stairs. After I got a few stitches and put the baby to my breast, Pepina joined us. "He's naked," she observed as she climbed on the bed. Then she politely requested that he be removed from my lap. Even with the emergence of sibling rivalry, I finally felt that weepy, anticipated moment seeing the two of them together.
An hour or so after Andrea arrived, MJ carried up a tray of sourdough pancakes and black tea to sup in bed and told my husband and me that she and Gianna were taking Pepina to the library.
The three of us were then left to rest and wonder at this new life - his wrinkled brow, his blond hair, his beauty - sleeping between us in our home, sweet, home.
Karan Smith is the editor of Globe Travel and lives in Toronto.