I was 37 weeks' pregnant when my beautiful daughter arrived. There had been some minor complications the week before her birth (I was leaking small amounts of amniotic fluid), and my doctor thought we might have to induce labor. But after a nonstress test and an ultrasound, he decided it was best to wait.
The night my water broke I was awakened by cramps, but I wasn't sure whether these cramps were contractions. Looking back now, it seems kind of funny that a woman experiencing pains in her abdomen during her ninth month of pregnancy didn't realize she was in labor. Just like in the movies, my husband and I paged our doctor in the middle of the night and left for the hospital.
When we arrived, the nurse asked if I was in labor, and I told her I didn't know. Her reply: "If you don't think you're in labor, you probably aren't." We were both wrong.
Once in the birthing suite, my contractions and fetal movements were monitored. Because my contractions were erratic, the nurses thought I was having false labor and they wanted to send me home. We weren't sure that was a good idea, because it was a 45-minute drive from our house to the hospital. It was finally agreed that an internal examination would be the deciding factor. Everyone was surprised to find that I was already 6 centimeters dilated!
I panicked when the nurses confirmed I was really in labor. It was nothing like what I thought it was going to be. I thought I would be in more pain. I was frightened, but my husband helped me focus through my contractions. His calm support made labor a pleasant experience for us. I progressed quickly to 9 centimeters, but then hit a plateau. After a while, I was given oxytocin to get over that last centimeter.
Then I started pushing. The first half hour I was in a sitting position, trying to use the force of gravity, but it was exhausting and I needed to lie back and rest. I pushed for about 1½ hours — and then I was rewarded with the most unbelievable being I had ever seen. I couldn't believe the little person I was now looking at was inside of me only moments before.
All the mystery of pregnancy was over when I finally saw my baby: what she looked like, her hair color, her eye color, everything. As soon as they told me I had a girl, I shouted her name and started crying.
I was so grateful, not just because we had a healthy daughter, but for other reasons too: because having a baby wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, because I did it without medication, and because my husband was so loving and supportive through it all. Giving birth to my daughter was the greatest accomplishment of my life.