First off, we are so in love with our little peanut. Baby Ladyfingers was born at 8:27 a.m. on February 2, 1 day before his due date. He was 7 pounds and 20.5 inches at birth and is healthy as can be! Despite some initial frustration with breastfeeding, that seems to be going well (so the nurses tell me, even when I think I'm doing horribly) and we're just so amazed with the way that everything has gone in the past couple of days.

I had been having some false labor for about a week before he arrived. My mucus plug had fallen out at 35 weeks, and I'd been having lots of leaky discharge since, so I was paranoid that I wouldn't be able to tell when my water broke. I'd also been having cramps, so I was paranoid I wouldn't be able to tell a contraction from a cramp. At 39w3d (January 30th), I was having timeable, mild contractions 10 minutes apart for an hour while at work, then they went away. They came back later that evening -- not strong or really even very painful -- 10 minutes apart, then went away.

The next day, at my doctor's appointment, I mentioned the contractions and just how crappy I was feeling. We had a BPP ultrasound to check on the baby because of my gestational diabetes, and everything looked great as usual. The doctor I saw that day said he was hoping for me to give birth sooner rather than later because of the diabetes. I had an induction date scheduled for the day after I turned 41 weeks, but after he examined me said I was 2cm and almost completely effaced so he didn't expect me to go that far. He also stripped my membranes, which was so, so painful. I bled on a bit that day and had some strong cramps, but nothing regular.

While Friday was supposed to be my last day before maternity leave, my boss gave me an extra couple of days to rest -- and am I ever so glad she did. I stayed for lunch that they'd had brought in, and went home around 1. I wanted to clean, but was exhausted, so I napped in the afternoon, then for 5 hours that night before turning in for good.

The next day (Friday, Feb 1, 2 days before my due date), I was feeling discouraged because I'd had no timeable contractions or any other labor signs since the membrane sweep. I knew I was still 2 days away from my due date, but I was so consumed with the birth and so physically miserable I was psyching myself out -- and, I worried further, not relaxing enough for labor.

My husband and I went for a walk around the block that afternoon, and then I napped before we went out to dinner with his father, who'd come into town a few days earlier. I ordered the spiciest things on the menu in the hopes of jumpstarting something. I wanted to try all the tricks in the book. I'd also taken a warm bath earlier that day to relax.

When we got home, I complained some more about how much I wanted to go into labor. Then I went to take a hot shower. I took the longest shower ever, just letting the water run over my back, and meditated and concentrated on the things in my life I was grateful for and the hopes I had for our unborn son. I tried to let go as much as I could, and just enjoy the shower and our time together before the baby came.

After getting out of the shower, I put on underwear and a tank top and started to get into bed -- that's when I felt a pop and suddenly had what I thought was the strongest cramp known to man. I also let what I thought was a tremendous amount of discharge go into my underwear. I had to brace myself against the wall until the "cramp" passed. My husband popped up and asked, "What is it? A cramp?" I nodded, and then when it passed, I got on the toilet to check my underwear -- it looked like it had been soaked through with water, not discharge. And then I was leaking water into the toilet -- not peeing. I looked up at my husband and said, "I think my water just broke!" He got nervous, I started laughing uncontrollably, he said, "Are you sure??" and I stood up only to let a huge gush of clear liquid onto the floor with every laugh.

OK, so I think I know the difference between water and discharge.

I cleaned myself up, got on fresh underwear with a pad, and called the doctor's answering service like they'd told me, just to tell them I was headed to the hospital because I thought my water had broken. We crazily packed up the rest of our hospital bag, all nerves. He called his dad to come over and watch the dog, and then I sat on the couch and was treated to what I now know was my second true contraction of the night, 10 minutes after the first one. It was sickening, wrapped hard from my back to my front, and gripped tight for up to a minute. I walked, I leaned against a wall, I had my husband press against my back hips. I tried hands and knees and the yoga ball. Nothing got me through them except the breathing I learned in birthing class. Well, I now know the difference between a cramp and a contraction!

We had called my father-in-law to come watch the dog, and while we waited, contractions were 10 minutes apart. By the time he got there an hour later, they were 5 minutes apart. By the time we got to the hospital, 10 minutes away, they were 2 minutes apart. They just kept crashing over me; I felt like I couldn't breathe. It was 11 pm.

We checked in, and they did a cervical check in triage, and I thrashed around in the bed and begged her to finish quickly. "It hurts so bad!" I screamed. "That's because you're at 7 cm," she said. Holy cow! My goal was to hit 5 cm before getting an epidural - this made that decision much easier.

It's funny how your priorities change in labor. I had been so afraid of the epidural because I wouldn't be able to move around and I wanted freedom to labor in any position, lalala. As they got ready to wheel me to labor and delivery, though, they asked whether I wanted to walk or ride (in the bed) and my immediate answer was RIDE. I did not want to walk anywhere!

Over in L&D, I got my epidural finally at 1, and by 1:15, I was 8 cm but feeling very little pain - just basically pressure on my lower abdomen and lady parts when I had a contraction. At 1:45 I was feeling more constant pressure in my butt, and they checked me and I was at a 9, 90% effaced, with baby at a 0 station. He was just hanging out! Also, can I say that in addition to cutting the contractions down by 90%, the epidural made cervical checks the most bearable thing in the world? I had been thrashing down in triage, and now I made idle conversation during the checks.

The epidural did slow things down, though, to where my contractions were spacing out and not strong enough to push the baby down much, which made any pushing less than effective. By my next check at 4 a.m., I was at 10 cm and fully effaced, but baby was still a 0 to -1 station. I practice pushed a bit around 5, but the nurses said if I started pushing now, I'd be pushing for 2-3 hours and they - nor I - didn't want that. The nurses could see his head full of dark hair, though, which was incredible to hear.

Around 6, my midwife had them start me at Pitocin to help my contractions come stronger and closer together. They bumped that up a few times and I tried to relax and save my energy for pushing. Finally, at 7:30, my contractions were strong enough and close enough that I could push effectively. I believe the Pitocin was at a 12 at its max. My midwife pushed with me for a bit while my husband and nurse helped, then left for a while and came back around 8:15 as I started to crown. I pushed through a few more contractions and finally he crowned - at which point the burning and pressure was so intense that I decided I couldn't do it and said so. That, unfortunately, was not an option, and I pushed hard - and just when I thought I couldn't do it anymore, my husband exclaimed, "baby, look!" and I looked down to see our son coming out of me. He started crying almost immediately, I stopped pushing out of shock and started crying, the midwife reminded me to keep pushing, and I pushed him the rest of the way out of me. My midwife had had my husband delivery the shoulders, and then had him move our baby up to my stomach while they got him clean. He then cut the cord, and they moved him up to my chest for immediate skin-to-skin contact. I was so amazed and overwhelmed - I have no words. I had been so worried I wouldn't bond with him immediately, but reality could not have been further from my fears.

The first part of our hour of kangaroo care wasn't all rainbows, though. I had to push out my placenta (no big deal) and then I was bleeding too much so my midwife had to manually help my uterus clamp down (slightly bigger deal). They were messing with the IV in my hand and gave me a shot of something in my leg. I ended up with a 2nd degree tear, and the epidural helped only slightly with the stitch pain. But then the hub bub was over and I got to nurse for the first time. After about an hour, the nurse took him and weighed him, got his footprints, and helped my husband take some pictures. She helped me up to go to the bathroom (I'd had a catheter but needed to be able to pee on my own, which I did) and get cleaned up and put on the mesh hospital panties and a pad ( both of which I stocked up on when leaving the hospital - the mesh panties are amazing!). Then we were wheeled over to our mother/baby room and the grandpas got to visit their grandson for the first time, with my stepmom and friend Michelle coming later.

Altogether, I am so grateful to have had a relatively easy birth. The nurses and staff at our hospital and our midwife made everything as easy and wonderful as possible. All my fears throughout pregnancy - an emergency c-section, an epidural bringing an avalanche of dangerous interventions, problems with the baby, complications - all proved unfounded, showing that I probably could have stood to relax a bit during the previous 9 months. My body and my baby did exactly what nature intended, and now we have a beautiful, perfectly healthy son.