I learned I was pregnant on September 1, 2010. After being out to lunch with a friend, I arrived home and scooted upstairs past my husband Matt to take (yet another) pregnancy test. At that point I had been disappointed a few months in a row and when I glanced at the test on the sink, I was initially let down: A single bright pink line. But then I looked more closely and my heart started racing. There was also a faint pink line.

I double-checked the instructions to confirm that any second line, no matter how light, was a positive result. I stood there smiling uncontrollably for a few minutes before I made my way downstairs to tell Matt. It took every muscle in my face to not smile and give it away. I wish I could say I had some clever and creative way that I told him the news, but I don’t. I just sat down next to him on the couch and said, “Hi. So…I’m pregnant.” Smiles, laughs, hugs, kisses. A lot of, “Wow. Like, wow. We’re going to have a baby.” Then I went to Barnes and Noble and bought What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Apparently pregnancy had made me a walking cliché.

My pregnancy was pretty great. A few weeks of morning sickness. A few weeks of headaches. One terrible virus in January when I lost every pound I had gained because I couldn’t keep food down. Oh, and the bursitis in my hip – ouch! But even with all that, I’m lucky and grateful that I didn’t have any real health problems. Everything seemed to go smoothly and Matt told me he had a good feeling my birth would go the same way.

Having a natural, un-medicated birth was important to me, and Matt and I took a Bradley course to help prepare us for that.  The message we took from the class was that birth is normal, birth is natural and I could do this! Leading up to Nolan’s birth, I comforted my nerves by focusing on the mantra, “It’s one day.” Whenever I worried I wouldn’t be able to get through labor and delivery, I concentrated on the fact that in all likelihood, from start to finish, labor would be over and the baby would be here in one day.

On Tuesday, April 27th I had my weekly appointment with my midwife Melanie. Although I wasn’t dilated at all, she said the baby was very low in my pelvis and she suspected that I would be the first of her May deliveries. The following day I had a lovely pre-natal massage at Nordstrom and garnered more than a few looks at my monstrous self, waddling around in a spa robe.  Later that day I had an unsettled stomach and thought, Hmm, this could mean something…

At 2a.m. on Thursday morning, I woke up with mild but sharp cramping. I got up to pee (no surprise there) and noticed that I had some light bleeding. About ten minutes later the cramping happened again and I knew, THIS IS IT! I woke up Matt and said, “I think you need to call for a sub.” (My husband and I are both teachers.) Over the next hour we both lay in bed trying to rest but too excited to fall back to sleep. I quietly kept track of my contractions and noted that they were consistently ten minutes apart. After a while we decided to just get up and head downstairs. Matt grabbed the birth ball for me to sit on when I had contractions and we relaxed in the living room.

My contractions were still mild and were coming anywhere from eight to thirty minutes apart. Even though I wanted Matt to take off work, I was nervous that this was a false alarm and that he would be taking a day off for nothing. By five or six we agreed that he needed to stay home, but throughout the morning I worried that he was calling in for nothing. Looking back I can’t believe that I was having contractions and rolling around on a birth ball, but Matt taking off of work is what I was anxious about. I’m a crazy person!

We each called our parents to give them the heads up that labor had started but was moving along slowly. When I had painful contractions, Matt would rub or push on my lower back as I sat on the birth ball or leaned over the arm of a chair. Throughout the day I sipped watered down lemon-lime Gatorade and tried to wrap my brain around what the next few hours would bring. We decided to watch a movie to help pass the time. All we had from Netflix was the new Robin Hood with Russel Crowe. Ugh. I don’t know if it really was terrible or I just think it was because I associate it with labor pains, but the thought of watching that movie again makes me feel sick. Seriously, I think I just gagged a little.

The afternoon moved along and at 5:30 my mom came by with dinner and ice cream.  During dinner my contractions really started to pick up. I managed a few bites and then I spent the next hour writhing around while she hung valances in Nolan’s room. (Doesn’t everyone finish decorating her nursery during labor?) Through gritted teeth I managed, “Yeah, that looks level” and “Wow! They’re really cute!”

The next few hours are really a blur. My mom headed home and Matt and I worked through my contractions. They were coming faster and a lot stronger than they had been all day. We kept track of them on an iPhone app I downloaded (Nerd Alert!) and before I knew it, they were five minutes apart. We called our midwife Melanie and she told us to call her back when they were three minutes apart since we were all within minutes of the hospital. I took a quick shower and by the time I got out, the contractions were three minutes apart.

My bags were already packed and Matt set to loading up the car.  Fast forward two days and it turns out I didn’t use the majority of what I brought. iPod and iPod player? Nope. The thought of music in the delivery room made me want to vomit.  I wore about 20% of the clothes I brought and instead lived in one pair of sweatpants and one of Matt’s old button-down shirts (great for nursing but hideous in pictures).

Walking from the street to the labor and delivery wing was interesting. I had to stop a few times and hang on Matt while I dealt with contractions. Melanie met us in the lobby and walked us in. The young woman at the check-in desk was not suited to her job and mumbled, “Ok, why are you here?” Um, to have a baby? As I could barely form sentences, Matt handled checking in. While I got changed and ready for my initial examination, I prayed that Melanie wasn’t going to say I was only dilated two centimeters.

The examination was more painful than I expected and Melanie announced that I was five centimeters. I was definitely disappointed (don’t we all hope the doctor or midwife is going to say, “Wow, you’re already ten centimeters!”), but still hopeful that I would deliver in the next few hours. It was about 10:00 when I arrived at the hospital and she said I probably wouldn’t deliver before midnight, but she expected he would be here pretty soon after. So much for that estimate!

The contractions started coming back to back and I had virtually no break between them. Matt did what he could to comfort me but I’m sure I was pretty unbearable to be around. My mom came into the room briefly but I found talking or having company too distracting and I needed to focus. I found out later that my mom was so upset by it all that she nearly fainted and a nurse had to help her out in the hallway! Fortunately, working with a midwife afforded me a little more freedom in the delivery room. I was able (and encouraged) to drink and I didn’t need to be on constant fetal monitoring so I had much more mobility than some other people.

At some point Melanie decided it would be best to break my water. Holy flood waters! During my pregnancy so many people reassured me, “When your water breaks it’s no big deal! It’s like a trickle.” Uh no. If that had happened in my house I would have needed FEMA.

I progressed slower than expected and at around 4:00 I finally felt the urge to push. In my head I thought, “Best case scenario, a few pushes and he’s out. Worst case, I push for an hour.” I didn’t even consider that I would have to push for over two hours! As it turns out, Nolan’s left arm was draped up over his head. This made it difficult for him to make his way under my pubic bone.  After pushing for so long it was incredibly frustrating to hear Melanie say that his head still hadn’t dipped under the bone. It took so long that at one point Melanie went next door, delivered another baby, and then came back to me with plenty of time to spare.

Even with all the pain and pushing, getting an epidural never crossed my mind. It was as if it didn’t even exist. What did keep running through my mind was, “Now I know why people opt for c-sections!” I know that’s a totally illogical thought because a c-section is major surgery but at that moment I couldn’t imagine pushing for even another second. But push I did! Going into the birth I told myself I was not going to be one of those moaning, groaning, screamers you see on TV. Let’s just say that at one point Melanie told me, “Less screaming, more pushing,” and soon after that the nurse closed the door to the delivery room even though we were told on our hospital tour that doors were always kept open for safety reasons.

The obstetrician who practices with my midwife popped in at 6:30 and Melanie enlisted his help in pushing down on my abdomen to move things along.  Finally, after two and a half hours, Nolan’s head made its way out. Melanie called out, “Look down! His head is out!” At first I didn’t because I wanted to keep pushing and just get him out, but I took a peek and wow, there was my baby’s head! Another big push or two and he was out. Nolan arrived at 6:37 am weighing 6 lbs 15oz.

Relief. Awe. Exhaustion. Amazement. Holding Nolan on my chest just seconds after delivering him was otherworldly. He latched on to breastfeed quickly and I lay and marvel at my body’s capabilities. My brief hospital stay also included stitches (bummer), a catheter (nightmare), the nurse corralling my parents and in-laws into the delivery room moments after I delivered to my obvious horror (I needed a few minutes!), and what a friend described as, “a scene out of Dexter.” And it was!

I am so grateful for the 38 weeks I carried Nolan around and I know I’m lucky to have experienced pregnancy and childbirth. Months later, I’m sometimes paralyzed with wonder at birth’s ability to happen all on its own and be purely amazing.

From Jenny Post of The Reluctant Long Islander.

P.S. Here’s a birth story that happened at super speed.

Note from Design Mom: throughout my 6th pregnancy, I posted advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family. My baby is hardly a baby anymore — here’s her birth story and her newborn photos — but the series has been so popular that I’m continuing it indefinitely. You can find all the stories in this series by clicking here. Have a story you’d like to share? I’d love to read it. You can send it to me at gabrielle@designmom.com.