After a long night of breathing, rocking, and swaying my hips through contractions, by 5 a.m., I knew it was time to make the call.

“It’s showtime,” I said, and Amy was on her way to my house.

Translated from the ancient Greek, “doula” means “woman who serves.” I initially bristled at that description until I learned more about the women today who feel honored to assist an expectant mother during labor and birth. A mother of three with a passion for helping women through the birthing experience, Amy certainly fit the description.

We’d met at my house when I was about 35 weeks along, and she told me how she’d be right by my side as I went through one of the most powerful, yet vulnerable, experiences of my life. My husband and I hired her on the spot.

Two days past the 40 weeks mark, my contractions started. I called Amy that evening to put her on standby. When she arrived at my home the next morning, she was ready to work.

I lay in the bathtub like a beached whale — I’d always heard modesty would go out the window in the throes of labor, and I didn’t care how I looked. The contractions were getting more intense, and the water was the only way I could get some relief.

She helped me breathe through the contractions and told me I was doing great. It might not sound like much, but her demeanor was just what I needed at that time, confirming I’d made a great choice to have her as part of my team. This was my second pregnancy, so I knew what to expect during the birthing process, but I remembered how much I missed the presence of a person solely focused on my needs. My husband had been supportive as I labored with our first son, but he found himself handling more logistical matters than we expected, leaving me for long stretches without someone to lean on – literally.

With both pregnancies, I’d planned a natural, unmedicated birth in a hospital birthing center. I considered it the best of both worlds – I’d labor in a peaceful, quiet, homelike atmosphere with minimal interventions while having the security of knowing that the medical technology of the hospital was just steps away if needed.

And Amy let me know it was time to get there. The contractions were coming faster so she got me out of the tub, helped me get dressed, and put her arm around me as we navigated the stairs. My husband handed our two-year-old son to my mother, who was staying with us in preparation for this very moment, and rushed to pack the car. Amy helped me inside, and then got in her own car to meet us there.

I took that route to work every day, but I swear my husband sped through every red light because it felt like we arrived at the hospital in 10 minutes versus 20. Amy was at the door with the wheelchair, and attended to me while my husband parked the car. She texted him and told him we’d be in triage until a room was ready.

I just wanted to get to the birthing center and got annoyed by all of the procedural checks. I was ready to fling the monitor they put on my belly across the room and groaned when I had to wobble to a restroom to give a urine sample.

“Just a few more things,” Amy said, holding my hand and physically supporting me all the way. “You’re doing great.”

A nurse then checked my progress.

“You’re at nine centimeters,” she screeched. “Let’s go have this baby!”

As soon as Amy helped me from the table, my water broke, splashing amniotic fluid all over my legs and hers before hitting the floor.

“Well, now we’re definitely bonded for life,” Amy laughed.

Amy and the nurse helped me to a wheelchair and Amy rushed me down the hall to my now-available room. My husband caught up as they raced me there and looked confused when he noticed the wet spots on Amy’s pants.

“I’ll explain later,” Amy said, laughing. I would have laughed too, but the pain wouldn’t let me.

A darkened room with a lit birthing pool awaited, and the nurse, midwife and Amy helped me in. Sweet relief. Amy continued to hold my hand, encouraging me as I breathed through each contraction and keeping me calm during the occasional freak out. One particularly painful contraction had me reeling, and I tensed up and began panting heavily. I felt like I was losing control, but Amy’s reassuring voice helped re-center my focus.

Suddenly I had to push. The midwife must have seen something, because she leaned forward, gloved hands outstretched.

Nothing that time. I caught my breath, closed my eyes and pushed again when I felt the urge.

“Owwww!” I screamed. Amy smiled, and I didn’t quite know why. Ten seconds later, a tiny body shot to the top of the tub, and the midwife grabbed my baby. He arrived in two pushes, barely one hour after I arrived at the hospital.

“I knew the baby’s head was emerging,” Amy said. “The ‘ring of fire’ is usually the most painful part of birth, but I knew that sound meant your baby was coming right then.”

As far as workdays go, it was a short one for her – she arrived at my home around 6 A.M., Kyle was born at 8:55, and she was gone by 10. Not a bad way to make $450. My husband and I considered it money well spent, and I told her she deserved an easy day’s work after all of the longer births she’d attended for other local women.

We met again at my home a few days later, she with a hearty bowl of chicken soup in her hands to aid in my recovery. She held Kyle for the first time, cooing and smiling at his sweet, innocent face, and she told me to call any time if I had other concerns or questions.

I have called her a few times since then, but we’ve talked all things parenthood, from potty training to keeping toddler boys entertained to scouting the best rummage sales for secondhand kids items. Mother serving mother, from the start of life, and hopefully, for years to come. Like she said, we’re bonded – the pants proved that.