Just an update on my birth...
I did get an attended, unassisted birth in my opinion, though I had to restate my desires several times during the weeks leading up to the birth, and even when the midwives first arrived. One midwife understood; one did not. Having the second one there was a bit of a drag, but she stayed in another room for most of the two hours they were there, and I forgot she was even in the house most of the time. They didn't do any internals ever, and only checked my blood pressure when they first arrived, and an hour after birth. I didn't need help with anything at all during labor or birth--yeay!
They came at 7 and we chatted and I folded laundry and readied my other children for the day and so forth for an hour. At 8, I went to the bathroom and closed the door and started laboring by myself in the tub. They wordlessly checked dop-tones a few times over the next hour--I hardly noticed they were there during those two or three minutes--and then retreated to the other room immediately.
At the birth, they were in the room, but I was alone in the water and no one knew--not even DH--that baby was crowning, and then head-out for several contractions before she was born. Everyone was pretty quiet(except for a warning from unsupportive midwife about the tap being near my head in case I bumped it, and another quiet instruction from same not to push, which was really annoying, but soon forgotten), and I was mostly unaware of anyone being around at all. It was wonderfully empowering. I was able to feel the baby descend, to feel the bag bulging out of the cervix, to feel her head inch forward, then back, then forward again. I held my own perineum during crowning, knew to relax and not push, and completely avoided tearing (my biggest fear about this birth, after a bad episiotomy and subsequent tearing in previous births). It is remarkable how much more in-tune I was with my body and the baby this time, knowing that it was my own situation and only I really knew what was going on. I didn't know it was possible to be so deeply aware and so far from my regular self-conscious intellect at the same time. Now I think those two states necessarily go together in a physiological birth.
The only negative was the fear from the midwife who wasn't so supportive of my wishes at the moment the baby was born. She broke the bubble a little by urging me to pick up the baby right away. I think the baby would have been fine if I'd let her float just a few seconds, as was my impulse.
The baby was slow to start--that's another thread--so the midwives were helpful in deciding when to gently bulb-suction to stimulate breathing (DH's opinion is that baby needed a little nudge). They also cleaned up a little and checked the placenta, neither of which DH or I wanted to do. Something I never thought about was that it was also good to have another witness to the birth. I need to talk a lot about my births afterward, and DH is hopelessly uninterested and inattentive to the details. Rehashing everything with the supportive midwife afterward on several occasions was a big part of the birth for me.
All in all, it was a beautiful birth. I'm glad the supportive midwife was there, and glad about the level of autonomy I was able to achieve. In retrospect, I wish I'd been more honest and assertive with the unsupportive midwife about wanting to have an autonomous birth. I really think she just didn't understand what I was talking about. I have since learned that she is quitting the birth aspect of her midwifery practice. I think that's probably a good thing. But it wasn't a problem for me to be assertive AT the birth, and maybe even helped me take the birth back and be strong. I felt calm and good about it all and never wavered in my conviction that I could do it and do it well. And the supportive midwife was just that--supportive, protective, and non-interfering. A good witness, which is just what we were looking for. She afterward told me that after 600 births, this was a first experience for her to see someone birth on her own, and that she didn't know many women who could do what I did. She said, "You are one strong lady." Made me feel great.
For the record, I don't know whether the experience was healing for DH. I haven't really talked to him since #3 was born--we're too busy!
Thanks for your thoughts everyone.