turn the white snow red: finley joseph's birth story.

it was the perfect storm, really.  full term on christmas day.  philip planned on working until january, hoping that if our little one came early, he would at least wait until then.  we had lots of family in town for the holidays -- my dad, my mother-in-law, my brother, and philip's sister -- and people were staying until the 28th.  we should have known it would happen then.

[WARNING: THIS POST IS BASICALLY A NOVEL IT'S SO LONG, SO MAKE SURE YOU'RE IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL.]

just as it had the first time, it all started on a sunday night.  just two days after christmas.  our home had been filled with visitors and wrapping paper for the better part of the last month, and we were starting to look forward to some down time before the baby came.  my brother and sister-in-law [philip's sister, not my brother's wife, not that it matters] had gone to the airport with plenty of time for their flight, but with security lines wrapped around the first floor of the airport, we were waiting to hear if they would make their flight or not.  it was nearly midnight before we learned they made their flight back to boston, and i finally headed up to bed.

my body was so tired.  i tossed and turned all night.  i should have been exhausted -- and i was -- but irregular cramping kept me from falling into a good sleep.  we knew the baby was going to be early, but i didn't think about labor at all that night.  throughout the last trimester of my pregnancy, there were lots of hints that our new little boy wouldn't be waiting until the middle of january to join our family.  but i was hoping that wasn't true.  the next morning i got up with julian at 7, like usual.  my mother-in-law was still here, and before too long philip and his mom took julian into the basement to play in his playroom.  at 8:30am, i went to the bathroom for the millionth time of the day already, and saw i was bleeding.

i hadn't had a contraction, but i knew this was it.  this was exactly how it had started with julian.

so i went downstairs and told philip.  "i'm bleeding," i said.  "i think i'm starting labor."

"shit," he said.

and he wasn't totally wrong [though that didn't prevent me from getting upset].  everyone's clothes were dirty.  there was no food in the house.  sheets needed to be changed, the house needed to be cleaned, and there were a hundred errands to run today.  not to mention philip's last big day of work was the next day -- so he had things he had to finish up that day, and calls he was slated to be on the next day.  it was less than ideal timing, and though we were happy i made it to 37 weeks, 37+3 wasn't quite as far as we were hoping i'd make it.

he rushed upstairs to start sending emails and finishing up his work as best as he could, though he was still technically on christmas vacation.  my mother-in-law played with julian while i went to go shower and wash my hair -- necessities for me in the early throes of labor.  by the time i got out of the shower and headed back downstairs to make breakfast for julian, contractions had started.  they were very mild, but i knew this was it.

lots more -- and photos too -- after the jump.

"are you nervous?" my mother-in-law asked me.

i thought about it for a second.  "no," i replied truthfully.  "but i'm very anxious."  there was so much more i had wanted to do before this baby came, and i knew none of it was going to be done.  i was scheduled to go in for a check-up with my midwife the next day, so i called the birth center, told them the situation and asked if we could move my appointment to that day.  the asked me to come in right before lunch.  and the day progressed, despite my contractions.  i made eggs for my little boy.  philip took his mom to the airport.  julian and i got dressed and read stories.  i called my mom and asked her to come stay with julian so philip could go to the midwife with me, and she came over to help right away.

within two hours, we were driving south to our midwife's office, our overnight bags packed and thrown into the trunk just in case, newborn carseat installed in the back seat.  we walked right in to see vanessa, my midwife, and chatted about how the day had been.  throughout our conversation i had to stop to have a contraction -- at this point i couldn't talk through them anymore.  vanessa asked if i wanted to be checked, and i declined.  i knew i was in labor, and things were obviously progressing.  i didn't need to hear a number and didn't want to attach any hopes to what that number could possibly be.  i wasn't far along enough to be admitted to the birth center, and vanessa determined my water hadn't yet broken.  so she suggested that we go get some lunch and come back to the birth center a couple hours later.  i happily agreed -- the birth center was a good half hour from our house, and i was not eager to labor in the car for another half hour.

i waddled back out to the car, had a contraction in the parking lot, and then we tried to figure out where to go.  neither of us had eaten yet, but i didn't feel comfortable having a contraction in a sit-down restaurant.  i had to stand up and move around for each one, and knew i would look sorely out of place.  so we decided to go to the mall, which was just 15 minutes away.  we could walk around inside [it was pretty freezing outside, since it was december], and i could stand up in the food court and not feel weird.  so off we went.

as soon as we got into the mall, i realized we had made a big mistake.  in all our focus with the baby, we'd forgotten it was the monday after christmas -- and the place was packed with people hitting the after-christmas sales, returning and exchanging gifts, and teenagers killing time while on holiday break.  i kept my mouth shut though, and we walked over to the food court to find something to eat.  we stood in line for half an hour for a chicken sandwich, and then were forced to hover over people finishing their lunch to find a table where we could sit.  all the while i kept breathing through contractions, squeezing philip's hand and burying my face in his chest to block out the hundreds of people around me.

we sat down and philip ate.  i picked at a few french fries.  finally, during one particularly intense contraction, i stood up from the table to breathe through it.  when it was over, my eyes filled with tears.  i looked at philip and said in a shaky voice, "i don't want to be here."  this was not the way i imagined my labor going, in public, at a shopping mall, people's eyes on the crazy woman moaning through pain.  i was not excited at all about driving the half hour plus home at this point, but i wasn't ready to go to the birth center and we were 

not 

staying at the mall for another minute.  philip pulled the car around while i went to the bathroom and called our midwife to tell her we were going home and would call her later.

and home we went.  julian was napping by the time we arrived, and my mom was waiting for us in the living room.  she and philip made a little bed for me on the couch and brought over a cup of red raspberry leaf tea.  we put an episode of 

frasier 

on tv and i tried to close my eyes.  the contractions on the car ride home had been very strong -- enough for me to start crying in frustration and worry.  

why was i doing this again, exactly?

 i had started to wonder. things were picking up so quickly we figured that by the time we get home we'd have about an hour before it would be go time and we were went back to the birth center.  i expected my water to break any second.

i tried to rest.  but before long julian was up.  my mom brought him downstairs and i immediately wanted to get up and play with him.  it felt weird to watch my mom get him his snack and sippy cup, and take him to the playroom to set up train tracks and go down the slide.  i wasn't in any shape to play around like i normally would, and i felt like i couldn't let julian see me in pain.  he wasn't old enough to understand and i didn't want to freak him out.  but once julian was up, none of that seemed to matter -- my labor drastically slowed.  contractions were 10 minutes apart or more, and i was once again able to talk through them.  it wasn't anything like it had been just an hour before in the car, or even before that in the mall.

philip had his laptop out and was furiously typing away on the couch, trying to tie up all his loose ends.  i wanted him to get it done as soon as he could, hopefully before we left for the birth center.  after an hour and a half or so of what felt like no progress, i told philip i thought it was time for my mom to take julian to her house.  i knew i wasn't going to progress with julian there.  so around 4pm, julian rolled his little suitcase out the door to grammy's house and we said goodbye to our little boy -- and snapped our last family photo as a family of three.  i stayed inside and cried as philip ran out to install the car seat in my mom's car.  i couldn't stop thinking about what my little one would be like as a big brother.

but i was right, and i didn't have long to be sad about julian growing up -- my contractions picked up within half an hour of my mom and julian leaving.  by 6pm, my contractions were only 3 minutes apart and were 

very 

intense.  it was time for us to go.  we called vanessa, who also lives half an hour from the birth center, and told her we were heading in.  it felt a little strange to pull the trigger and decide to head in without my water having broken -- that was the tell-tale sign with my labor with julian.  but if we waited much longer i didn't think i could labor in the car, and who knows how quickly things were progressing?

within minutes, we had dredged through the snow to get the car loaded up, the front seat reclined and were racing down the highway.  my birth playlist played on the speakers, philip weaved in and out of traffic [narrowly avoiding a collision at one point], and we sped down south as i moaned and cried.  i was a basket case of emotions, having left julian.  i can't quite explain it -- but when we got out of the car at the birth center and vanessa met us in the parking lot, she reminded me that all these emotions i needed to get out were totally normal.  which was all i needed to hear to stop crying and focus on my labor.

and so i labored.  and labored.  and labored.  the room i was in was like a quiet, cozy bedroom where i felt completely safe.  lights were dim.  music was on.  oils were diffused to help with pain and nausea.  a hot tub with jets was heating up in the corner.  a big bed with soft sheets was ready for me if i wanted to lie down.  a harness was hung in the room where i could lean over, supported, and move around.  just like the first time around, i needed philip to never leave my side.  and he never did.  we breathed together, we held hands, and he reminded me of my strength and capability.  i swear to you that there is no way in the world that i could ever have gotten through this without him.  he was my rock.  he

is

my rock.

before too long, vanessa talked me into getting checked.  i agreed, and was somewhat surprised but not fazed to hear i was only 3cm but 100% effaced.  she pulled philip aside and told him she thought it was going to move quickly from there.  i moved around from bed to swing, from swing to tub, and then didn't get out of the tub for quite some time.  it was my safe place, where i felt the most comfortable.

before too long, my mom showed up.  she had put julian down to bed around 7pm and headed to the birth center shortly after.  around this time i started to tune everyone out as my labor intensified.  we hadn't been at the birth center for too long, but things really were picking up quickly.

i kept feeling the pain and nausea of what i logically thought was transition, but i also knew it couldn't be.  i was too

with it

.  i didn't feel foggy and cloudy like i did during my labor with julian.  i knew what i was saying and what was happening and who was around me.  i started to wonder aloud what was happening.  my contractions were getting very, very close together and intensifying quickly, but i didn't feel like it should be getting so intense so soon.

but that's how it went for the next three or so hours.  things picked up and up and up, getting more painful than i had ever remembered with julian.  one of the wonderful -- and kind of amazing -- things about my labor with julian was the breaks.  throughout my labor they were almost always 5 minutes apart, even at the end.  so these 30 second breaks i was getting now were a very unwelcome surprise to me.  and i had a hard time handling them.  i threw up a couple times and lost my cool, with philip talking me back down each and every time.  my hands kept falling asleep, as did my left leg -- thanks to the baby's position, vanessa told me.  it was uncomfortable to say the least, and i spent my breaks between contractions shaking my hands as much as i could and resting my eyes.

we had my birth playlist on, and i remember zeroing in on one song just like i had with julian's birth.  this time, it was a different one.  a cover of one of my favorite songs, which again, had a rhythm that matched my contractions.

after a couple hours of this, i reached my peak.  i felt like i was starting to lose it.  i was in the tub and said that i had started to feel 'pushy,' a sensation i had never experienced with julian.  vanessa encouraged me to let her check me to see how far i was.  every fiber of my being wanted to say no, but my mom and philip agreed it would be a good idea.  there was a nurse there then -- jenna -- which signaled that they thought the baby would be here soon.  they helped me over to the bed, where i laid down.  and it was there that i had the mother of all contractions.

i completely broke down and started to sob.  the contraction peaked, then peaked again.  i was already lying down, so there was no way i could move my way through it.  i laid on my side and reached out to whoever could hold my hands, and yelled at someone to lift up my leg for me.  i needed to hear good news.  when the never-ending contraction finally subsided, vanessa checked me.

"nine and a half," she said.  "you can start pushing whenever you're ready."

inside, i found it interesting that when i got checked during my labor with julian, i was also at nine and a half.  apparently that is my breaking point.  nine and a half centimeters.

and so they helped me back into the tub.  i just wanted to get in to ease the pain of getting my cervical check.  i thought i'd be in there until it was really time to push, and then get back into the bed.  i had delivered julian in 'the pushing position,' on my back, in the bed, gripping the backs of my thighs.  i just imagined i'd done the same.  i hadn't given any thought to a water birth.  and in our birth class, when the instructor reminded birth partners to '

pack a bathing suit!

' so they could get in the tub too, philip and i rolled our eyes.  that was

so

not something we would be doing.  when we had packed our bags that morning i had even joked to philip to get his bathing suit, and we both had a good laugh.

well, babies don't really care where you are.  when they are ready to come, they will come.  and within a few contractions of being checked, i found myself pushing without being told to or even really intending to.  it was just happening.  i sat in the corner of the tub and pushed my legs up against the sides of the tub, which was a perfect triangle shape for this exact reason, i'm sure.  i grabbed the bars above my shoulders and lifted my body up with each contraction.

i started giving it my all, and that was when my water finally broke.  i was shocked it hadn't happened sooner, but with the intensity of the next contraction i was immediately grateful.

and then, my arms were shaking.  i couldn't lift myself up anymore, after just a few pushes.

'i need help,' i said in a shaky voice.

and within moments, philip had jumped into the tub.

'hand me your phone!' my mom said to him.  he quickly threw his phone, wallet and keys to her before sitting down behind me and lifting my giant pregnant body up to help me.

and six minutes later, there he was.

six minutes of pushing.  it all happened so quickly.  

but don't say that to me

, because unless you experienced it i might slap you for saying it.  i can still hear philip's laugh and the intensity of his smile in those first moments.

it took me a couple seconds to realize it, but he was blue.  and not moving.  and not making any sounds.  besides my hands, there were two other sets of hands on him -- rubbing him, saying softly,' 

come on little baby, come on...'  

and i started to panic.

'why isn't he crying?' i said, my voice breaking.  'why isn't he crying?'

it felt like an eternity, but within 20 seconds he was wailing and his skin was rapidly turning pink.  he had a little mucous in his lungs and it took him a second to get going, but there he was.  the moment vanessa handed him to me i knew he was smaller than julian, but wasn't quite sure just how much smaller.  maybe it was just the fact that i hadn't held a newborn in 21 months?  lugging around a toddler all day is heavy work.  my guess was 6lbs 7oz -- my exact birth weight -- but i was off.

5 lbs, 14 oz and 19 inches long.  almost exactly one pound smaller than his big brother, but just half an inch shorter.  we all agreed that had he stayed in just one more week like julian did, they would have been almost exactly the same size.

after it was over, vanessa helped me out of the tub.  my mom grabbed philip's spare change of clothes [he had brought one just in case, but had never planned on getting in the tub].  we laid in the bed, enjoying our new baby, as vanessa examined me and jenna cleaned us up.

they brought us crackers and cheese and sliced apple, which i will swear to you was the best thing i've ever tasted in my life.  we cuddled and kissed and loved on our new little baby for almost two hours before they did his newborn exam.  jenna ran me a hot bath with essential oils to relax my body and slow my bleeding.  it was the best bath i've ever taken in my life.

and i got to sit there, watching the love of my life and our new little boy get to know one another, as i soaked in the tub and ate an apple.  i was exhausted, physically and mentally, but was on such a birth high i'll never forget.  i've never felt more full.

natural birth is my favorite.  it's intense, it's painful, it's transformative, and it gives you such a high.  i told philip shortly after seeing these photos for the first time that

this, this

is what love looks like.  it doesn't look like the posed photos we took for our wedding or to celebrate our engagement.  it looks like this.  it looks like work, hard, difficult work sometimes.  it's overwhelming sometimes.  it can be so intense it's scary.  but what i went through for our baby, and what philip went through supporting me -- that is what love is to me.

welcome to the world, little finley.  we are so happy you've joined our family.

<3

side note: with julian we had my good friend take

maternity and newborn photos

for us, but i wasn't interested in doing that again.  since this is most likely the last time i was ever going to give birth, i wanted something to mark that occasion.  so, after a lot of back and forth, we decided to go with a birth photographer.  her name is 

monet

, a birth photographer in our area, and she did the most phenomenal job, as you can see!  if you are in the denver area and having a baby -- no matter how you are going to birth that baby -- i really, truly recommend monet.  she is quiet, talented, and very soothing.  these photos are such a huge gift in my opinion, and i am so happy we went this route with finley.  your memories of labor can be fuzzy sometimes, but with the help of these photos i can remember everything like it was last night.

float in space + drift in time: julian andel's birth story.

it all started on a quiet sunday night.  my sister-in-law came over to spend the day hanging out.  we had brunch at home and just hung around.  the whole weekend had been kind of quiet.  saturday philip and i had reservations to go out to dinner for a last date night before baby - we spent the day running errands, gathering up the last few things we needed to have at the hospital with us.  at the last minute i told PI i wasn't up for dinner and we had our date at shake shack instead.  my blah-ness continued on sunday with alysia here and we spent the day watching the mindy project.

after alysia left we went upstairs.  i wasn't feeling right.  i didn't know what it was exactly, but something felt off.  PI told me to grab the exercise ball and lay on it on the bed, and he rubbed my back while we watched the west wing.  we both felt as if we had reached our limit of two-ness and all the weekend had done was show us how ready we were to be three.  there was nothing left to do.  no last hurrahs, nothing left we wish we had done before baby would come.  we were officially just waiting.

and so it was sometime between 4-5am on monday that i woke up to pee, per usual.  only i had cramps.  i assumed they were braxton hicks and went back to bed.  they continued as i tried to sleep, and i felt annoyed that they weren't fading.  i fell asleep between contractions, and it wasn't until 6:30am that i realized they weren't going away no matter how much water i drank or how many times i shifted positions.  philip was already up and in the shower.  i got up to pee again and noticed some blood.

'philip?' i said, my voice small.  'i think i'm having contractions.'

calm as always, he told me to go to bed and time them.  i laid down, and once philip was out of the shower we figured my contractions were about 7 minutes apart or so.  we phoned our midwife and she told us to come in around 11 so they could check me out.  we continued our day as normal - philip called his boss to say he'd be working from home that day -  i put in a few loads of laundry, showered, straightened my hair and got dressed.  we sat in bed, philip working and me goofing off on pinterest and twitter for a few hours.

we headed in to our midwife's office around 10am so they could hook me up to a non-stress test a half hour before my appointment.  things were pretty much the same, contractions were consistent but not too painful.  the drive in was uncomfortable during contractions, but it wasn't until we got to the elevator at our midwife's practice that i had my first strong contraction.  i buried my head in phiilp's chest and breathed through it, wondering how things were picking up.  once upstairs and hooked up to the monitor, i breathed through more intense contractions.  it was ten times harder getting through contractions while hooked up to the monitor and having to lay down.  i struggled to listen to what our midwife was saying, which was: this is definitely labor.  but is it going to result in having a baby?  she wasn't sure.  i was only half a centimeter dilated and 50% effaced.  with a first timer, there was a good chance this could slowly fade out and i could end the week still pregnant and waiting.

and so we were sent home to wait and measure contractions.  because they were steadily coming every five minutes but varied greatly in intensity, it was decided that the measuring point for my contractions would be more aggressive - 3-4 minutes apart and unable to speak through the pain would be hospital time for us, unless my water broke.  philip and i were eager, so when we went home we took a walk to try and progress my labor.  it was freezing outside, but we walked the winding paths around our apartment through the tall trees and snow on the ground.  i'd bury my face in his chest during contractions, but the cold weather made the pain worse.  they were getting less intense now, and i could tell from philip's face he was concerned that my labor would stall and we would be left still pregnant at the end of hours of hard work.

back to the apartment we went to pace inside where it was warmer.  it was mid-afternoon, and though my contractions had gotten stronger we were still unsure if it would stall or not.  i kept trading texts with my mom.  she wanted to be at the birth and we were hoping she would make it in time - luckily, she was in DC for a conference, and could be in boston within two hours.  i couldn't make a definitive statement to her,

yes, mom, come here please, i need you, i'm having a baby. 

two more calls to the midwife [one of which was the midwife on call at the hospital, which made it feel much more real], a few contractions that resulted in tears from me and positions that were no longer effective, some more blood and many texts from my mom.  time was moving so quickly to me, despite being measured in 5 minute increments, and somehow it was already time for dinner.  things were progressing, but still nothing to signal this wasn't going to stall somehow.  philip had instructions to feed me dinner, so he went into the kitchen to warm up a bowl of soup.

i laid down on the couch on my left side.  i was starting to worry.  it had been 10 hours of labor and we still weren't even sure that i was going to have the baby.  my energy was already waning and i felt like if this was truly labor, i was definitely going to be one of those 48-hour marathon labors at the rate i was headed.  i closed my eyes and tried to breathe, remembering what i had told myself all throughout the beginning of the pregnancy.  it is not up to me, it is up to the universe, and i would be ready to go through whatever it was to get my baby.  and then something happened.  it was a sharp sensation - not a painful one, but like someone had popped a water balloon inside my belly.  i jumped off the couch and rushed onto the tile in our entryway.

'philip! something happened!' he ran into the entryway and stood in front of me, grabbing my arms to steady me.  'i think my water broke!' i screamed, as i felt the fluid gush out of me.  a wave of relief echoed through my body, immediately followed by sheer panic and fear.  i started hysterically crying to philip and grasped at him frantically as i realized that it was go time, that this was really happening, i would really have to push this baby out and now it would only be a matter of hours [though hopefully not many].  philip was the calmest i've ever seen him in my life.  he walked me upstairs to clean up and put on whatever i wanted to wear through labor and grab the last few items for my hospital bag.  he grabbed everything and put me in the car.

and this is where my memory starts to go fuzzy.  my contractions were incredibly more intense, my breathing no longer a low moan but an uneven, shaky exhale at a strange pitch.  i don't remember being in the car.  i could hear philip's voice:

eight more minutes.  five more minutes.  three more minutes.  we are almost there.  you are doing great. 

later he told me he was lying to me about how long the drive was taking because i was so frantic. once we were in the hospital i calmed down.  the sweetest old woman i've ever seen - probably 90 years old - pushed me in a wheelchair from the emergency room where i walked in, laboring very publicly, to the maternity ward.  she put her hand on my shoulder and i gripped it during contractions. 

up in labor and delivery, my contractions were measured and they checked the baby's position on an ultrasound to make sure he was head down.  the midwife on call came in and asked if i wanted to be checked and i said no.  i was terrified of learning i was only 2 centimeters and asking for an epidural, so i had decided i wanted to wait to be checked until i just couldn't stand it any more.  she showed us into our labor and delivery room, which was by far the biggest one i'd been in, and was equipped with a tub.  our birth plan was handed to lisa, my nurse, and we decided i'd get into the tub once i couldn't stand it any more. 

you'll know when it's time

, she told me.

and so i labored.  philip called and texted various family to let them know this was the real thing, and my mom had already booked her flight out.  the only way i could deal with the contractions was to forward bend over something, whether it was the bed or a table or someone to support me.  i had to stand up.  i had to walk between contractions.  i had to have music on. the lights were off.  i felt so calm and so comfortable i could hardly believe it.  most labors stall when you arrive at the hospital, but i finally knew it was happening and that i was in the right place for it to happen.  i was perpetually cold, so lisa and philip kept bringing me blankets from a warmer they would drape over me. 

occasionally i would eat bites of a kind bar or sip on some water or drink whatever other liquids philip was feeding me.  i couldn't even tell you what they were.  between contractions i had the hiccups, making it impossible for me to rest.  philip fed me ginger ale through a straw.

i needed all the warm blankets - and philip to never leave my side.

i have no idea how long this went on for.  i remember little except the warm blankets, hearing my own absurd breathing, and my husband's touch.  my sister-in-law arrived and came in to see me.  my brother and dad came in to the room briefly, i think, but i don't remember for sure.  i know before long they were all gone and suddenly my mom was there.  she just was there for one contraction when she hadn't been before, rubbing my back.  i kept debating whether or not to be checked, and kept delaying.  i was so scared of getting bad news i knew i'd rather keep laboring with high hopes until i couldn't handle it any more.

and lisa was right - quite suddenly i knew it was time to get in the tub.  it was a three person team to help me into the tub, where philip brought the music in from my labor and delivery playlist.  we had been listening to it since we got into our room, when a song came on that matched the rhythm of my contractions.  i made philip put it on repeat, and i breathed the words while swaying in the hot bathtub.  funnily enough, it's the song from

my favorite scene in my favorite movie

.  and the words, the words were exactly what i was experiencing at the moment.  it wasn't the birth song i had chosen for our baby, but it became my labor mantra [you can listen to it

here

]. 

all i want in life's a little bit of love

to take the pain away

getting strong today

  a giant step each day...

all i want in life's a little bit of love

to take the pain away

getting strong today

  a giant step each day...

i will love you till I die

and i will love you all the time

so please put your sweet hand in mine

and float in space and drift in time

all the time until i die

we'll float in space, just you and i...

and i will love you till i die

and i will love you all the time

so please put your sweet hand in mine

and float in space and drift in time

all the time until i die

we'll float in space, just you and i...

this tub was a godsend.

i don't know how long i was in the tub.  all i know was that at some point i felt a pressure, a tremendous pressure, and i had to get out.  the next thing i remember is being in the hospital bed, laboring once more, bent over.  and then my midwife came in and said it was time for me to be checked.  i was scared - it had hurt like hell to be checked in our midwife's office earlier in the day - and i remember faintly being aware that there was a chance i wasn't very dilated.  when her face appeared from between my knees, i remember whispering through tears,

it's bad news, isn't it? 

she smiled.  i was completely dilated, with just a small lip of cervix.  she told me to push whenever i felt the urge.  it was almost over.

my last few contractions before i got in the pushing position

and then it was all happening so quickly, but so slowly.  it felt like i was pushing for hours.  there was screaming - lots and lots of screaming.  there was crying.  there was a moment where i told them i couldn't do it anymore, i was exhausted, i had no more energy.  to me, just as hard as pushing was lifting the upper part of my body to grab the backs of my thighs.  people were saying things, telling me to push, telling me to pant, telling me to touch things, to internalize my screaming for more power.  i could hear them all as a big jumble.  but throughout it all the only voice i could

understand

was philip.  he kept telling me how close he was, he could see the baby's head, i was almost there, to keep going.  and his voice was the only way i could do it.  his voice - and also know that the harder i pushed the sooner it would all be over.

and then it happened.  i felt his head come out.  i kept pushing even though i no longer had the urge, and what felt like seconds later it was all over.  half an hour after i started pushing, there as a squirmy, beautiful baby writhing around on my chest.  he had hair, so much hair!  i ran my hands over his perfect skin.  it was love at first touch.  he hardly cried.  after his initial birth cry, he squirmed around a little as he made his way up my body to breastfeed for the first time.  in the video, you can hear it all in my voice - the mix of emotions i felt was completely indescribable.  joy, pride, love, relief.  i hope this doesn't sound awful - but it was the most proud moment of my life.

our natural birth was everything i had ever hoped it would be.  the hospital was so respectful of our wishes, the work was every bit as hard as i thought it would be, but it was absolutely perfect.  throughout my pregnancy i felt like there were a lot of people who second-guessed me, who didn't think we could do it, who scoffed a little when we mentioned our midwife.  but even when i was scared about natural labor, i was scared because deep down i

knew

i could do it.  i knew i had the capability and it scared me to know that i would go through it all, that i would feel every rush, every tear of my skin, every ounce of blood.  and i knew i could do it because i would have philip by my side - he truly was my motivation for everything.  his hands, his touch, his voice, the way that he believed in me... it was the only way i got through it.  that man is truly my everything.  just when i thought i couldn't love him more, he helped me through the most difficult transition of my life, and seeing him hold our baby, well, it just doesn't get sweeter than that.  my heart melts.  

so, natural labor, in the end?  i'd do it all again in a second.  and i think i'd actually look

forward

to it.