I had been experiencing increasingly frequent Braxton Hicks contractions for a week and a half before I went into labor. I often wondered if it was the real thing, but I relied on what my midwife had told me When it's the real thing, there will be no doubt about it. Even so, I would get excited every time I would go on a walk and the contractions would increase in frequency. When I lost the mucus plug on December 21st I was convinced it would be that day, until I read McCutcheon's book that said losing the mucus plug was the most uncertain signs of early labor.By the 26th, I was convinced I would never go into labor, even though my due date wasn't until the 28th. That day I visited Monticello with my family, and felt wonderful despite the hour and a half drive each way and all the walking. When we got home that night, I went into labor.My contractions started at 10:30 pm, just as my husband, Brian, turned off the light to go to sleep. I was fairly certain from the first one that this was the real thing, so I started timing them immediately. They felt different from Braxton-Hicks contractions, because they did actually hurt a little. They started out 5 minutes apart, which surprised me. I had expected them to start much farther apart than that. At 11 pm, I felt my water break just a little, and hurried to the bathroom. It was just coming out a little at a time, so if I leaned forward or to the side on the toilet more would come. I grabbed a towel, and went back to bed, remembering Bradley advice and advice from a friend that if contractions start at night to try to sleep. Over the next half hour, the contractions became a little more intense, like a stomach cramp, and more of the amniotic fluid leaked out. After going to the bathroom again at 11:30pm, and getting a rush of fluid, I decided I couldn't sleep and it was time to wake up my husband, Brian. He was very excited and called our midwife, Leslie, to warn her that I was in labor even though we weren't coming in for a while. When she talked to me, I told her my symptoms and she warned me that since my water had broken, the contractions were likely to become much more intense very quickly since that usually sends women into active labor. She said that was the most difficult stage for most women to get past without drugs. At the end of the conversation, she asked if I had had a contraction since being on the phone, and I said yes. They were still not strong enough for me to need to make noise, so she couldn't tell.After setting me up with water, ginger ale (at Leslie's instructions), and my mother-in-law, Brian went to pack up the car leaving me to walk around the pool table. My contractions were becoming much more intense, and I found that standing was my favorite way to take them. I spent about an hour walking around the pool table, then I went in to take a shower to try to relax more and to get cleaned up. I was able to blow dry my hair, but when we timed the contractions, they were less than two minutes apart! We didn't know what to do, because I was still at the excited emotional signpost but the contractions were awfully close. We decided we had better go to the hospital, even if that meant being there for too long. Brian told his parents to get to the hospital around 4:30 am. As we drove out of the driveway at 1:30 am, Brian had left the back door to the car open, and I bust a gut laughing. I felt like a bad Bradley student, but didn't know what else to do.As it turned out it was a good thing that we left when we did. By the time we got up to the maternity ward, I was very serious about having a baby and being on the external fetal monitor felt like torture. The nurse asked me questions and made me sign forms, even though we were pre-registered and I was in no condition to be signing anything. As soon as I was done on the monitor, Leslie came in and checked me. I was dilated 7 cm, was 100% effaced, and the baby was in a +1 station! I rolled out of bed and immediately went to the toilet. I had found on the car ride that I had an easy time relaxing my shoulders and back when I was sitting. Leslie advised that I sit backwards on the toilet, which I did, then she left us to it. She said we looked like we were doing fine and waited for us in the room for whenever we needed help. I really started to enter a fog at that point, and was just focusing on relaxing, making low noises, and resting. After a while I had had enough of the toilet, and decided I wanted to lie on my side on the bed. Even now, I'm a little surprised that I wanted to lie down, because it wasn't anything I had planned on doing, but it felt good in the moment.Early into my time on the bed, I entered transition. The contractions were very intense, and it was impossible to relax though I kept making low noises in my throat. I even gripped the rail of the bed in the middle of a contraction. Somehow, I did sleep in between almost every contraction. I thought about medication, but didn't dream of asking for it. During each contraction, I lived for the moment it would be over and I could rest. I also knew that the whole thing would be over soon. Instead of expressing transition feelings by asking for drugs, I was scared of pushing. I was absolutely terrified. I knew the moment I was dilated to 10 cm, because my body wanted to push. I felt too tired and too scared to, and I told Leslie that. She assured me that it would feel better to push, and she helped me into a sitting squat position. I think that was at around 4 am. It took a few contractions until I was finally in the position and starting to push, and she was right, it hurt less to push. I was not trying very hard because I was scared and didn't know exactly what to do. I could tell she was getting frustrated with how I was pushing. She had warned me that if she felt I needed to change positions during pushing that she would make me move, so when she told me we were getting on the birthing stool I didn't complain but I didn't help. She, Brian, and my mom, who had come in and sat in the room while I was in transition, dragged me off the bed and onto the birthing stool. I started out leaning forward and elevating myself onto my heels, but there was no way the baby was coming like that. She would not get past my pubic bone. Gradually, Leslie convinced me to lean back on the stool into Brian and push towards her (she was sitting on the floor in front of me). I could tell we were making progress then, because it didn't hurt hardly at all during contractions, but it hurt a lot in between. I would hold my breath and push then pant in between contractions. It made me really light headed, so they encouraged me to slow down my breathing in between. As the baby got closer, they brought a mirror but I didn't want to see. I had hardly opened my eyes at all since we had gotten to the hospital. Before one contraction, I opened my eyes and saw that they had brought the baby warmer and other equipment in, and I got really excited. I kept telling myself that I wanted the baby to come soon so I wouldn't be scared of pushing her out. From when she started crowning to when she came out was only 4 or 5 contractions and it hurt a lot. I got a second degree tear, which burned and hurt but the hot compresses Leslie was using helped a lot. Once the head was out, she made me stop pushing until the next one so they could suction the baby's mouth out and that was the worst pain of the whole thing - waiting with the baby's head out in between contractions. Finally, the next contraction came and she came out. She was covered in vernix and screaming. I couldn't believe how small she was, which shocked the nurses. She was eight and a half pounds! Up until the last few pushes I was wearing a night gown, more because I had forgotten to take it off than out of modesty. But when I realized the baby was coming soon, I took if off, since I wanted her on my chest. They put her on my chest and waited until the cord had stopped pulsing before they cut it. The placenta came out, it seemed, without any more contractions and it was huge! I couldn't believe that it and the baby had been inside of me! They took the baby pretty quickly, because I was bleeding a lot and Leslie wanted to stitch me up. That began the worst part. I had a strange tear - not too deep but gaping and I was bleeding from my uterus a lot so Leslie couldn't see what was coming from the tear. I had several shots of Lidocaine, which was very painful and the repair was hard because my knees were shaking so badly, it was cold, and I felt unprepared. Leslie worked on me for an hour, then another doctor came in later and worked on me for a few more minutes. I didn't get to see the baby much after they took her off my chest, but I was too tired and sick to care. I did get to nurse her a few times in the next three hours while she was still so alert, and I was glad for that, but I felt like I had been hit by a truck and was grateful for the time she was in the nursery. I began to feel a lot better by the end of the day and got to enjoy her more. I'm so glad I got to deliver without drugs. I felt very strong, in fact, that was the most encouraging thing my birth attendants kept telling me, You're very strong, you can do this. I think it also helped eliminate any kind of initial nursing problems. Reese seemed to know how to nurse all on her own, I just had to get her in the right position. Other than my tear, my recovery has been pretty easy and quick. Giving birth with a midwife was just wonderful too. The care she provided before, during, and after the birth was incomparable. I felt like her only patient. She respected my need to have Brian with me constantly, gave us space when we didn't need help, but she was forceful when I needed it. The birth was a great experience.