“Is he okay? Is he okay? Is he okay? Is he okay?” is the refrain you would have heard coming from me had you been in the birth room. I was absolutely terrified something would go wrong at the very end of the pregnancy, at the very beginning of his life. After so many things had gone wrong with our previous pregnancies I could never quite shake the fear that this joy, this love that had already formed for this child couldn’t possibly last in the here and now.My eyes had been closed for the better part of my five hour labor as an instinctual reflex. The sensations of an unmedicated birth (no epidural) were incredible. It took me absolute focus to allow my body to open, to be in darkness and to only feel. Seeing was superfluous, a hindrance even. It was the deepest, most intense pain I’ve ever felt. I now find it nearly impossible to explain what was happening in my body. I simply had to allow it to happen rather than resist. I had to summon the strength of my ancestors and do what they’ve done countless times before me.I barely had any early labor and instead went almost immediately to active labor and over minute long contractions every few minutes. Stephen and I couldn’t believe it was active labor, our midwives couldn’t believe it was active labor; I think our doula Claudia was maybe the only one that could have called it upon her arrival to our house. She arrived after I’d been laboring in the shower long enough for the water to run cold and had moved to the bed. I was vocalizing deep guttural sounds and roaring through the pain. I’d emptied the contents of my stomach as Stephen bravely tried to get me to stay hydrated and support me emotionally even in the midst of his fear and unknowing. I was in the bed moaning and contracting and desperately clutching at the moments of rest between the waves of opening. “Am I crazy for wanting to do this without an epidural???” I screamed. Claudia, very matter-of-fact and kind, informed me “You already are doing it. You’re ok. You’re safe.” And I believed her. Despite the most incredible pain, I was safe and I was somehow not suffering. I had my loving husband and my badass, former-nurse, birth doula. I was in good hands, the best hands. When Claudia saw where we were in the labor she immediately put pads down on the bed knowing what we didn’t, that there would probably be a lot of bloody and watery fluids very soon. And boy howdy were there. My water broke shortly after those famous words “I feel like I need to poop! I feel like I need to poop!” Even with my birth knowledge I couldn’t believe I was already nearing the pushing phase and my mind kept insisting I really must need to poop. Anyone who has been in labor or in the vicinity of labor will recognize that these words do not in fact mean that the laboring person just needs to poop, though there will likely be poop. It means that the baby is coming – and soon. It means it’s time to push. Claudia called the midwives and suddenly we all believed that, in fact, it was showtime.Stephen somehow pulled it together enough to pull the car out of the garage and I ran down the stairs between contractions fully nude in a barely tied bathrobe into the street waiting to hop into the car. Honestly wish I had a video of that part. I crawled into the front seat backwards, ass in the air, while Claudia jumped in the back seat, holding my hand and urging me not to push; though that was not an instruction that I could ultimately take for long. I didn’t care if the baby came out before we got to the midwives. The urge to push is like the need to vomit. You can maybe hold back for a few moments, maybe even a few minutes, but eventually that urge doesn’t take mind. Stephen drove the most intense ten minutes of his life across San Francisco at 10pm and got us safely to the midwives. They filled up a tub for me and I gratefully got in feeling such relief. I pushed for another hour. Still my eyes were closed except for when absolutely necessary. It felt like if I could shut out the sense of sight then the rest was manageable. I was starting to lose confidence, getting tired and feeling so much pain and fear as Quinn’s head was moving down toward my vaginal opening. I didn’t know how long the pushing would last but the midwife encouraged me to feel inside for his head so I could know he was getting closer. It was so magical to feel his head moving down inside me, knowing he was getting closer, and that I was almost done with the hardest labor of my life. There is a reason it is called labor. There is no other word for it. And finally he was right there, his head ready to emerge and I was experiencing what they call “the ring of fire.” It terrified me. I couldn’t imagine willfully pushing his head through and exacerbating the sensation of fire at the base of my body. And this, my friends, is when I asked for the nitrous aka laughing gas. I took a few deep inhales. Rather than getting me high, it basically relaxed my mind-body enough to release the fear I had of pushing his head out. And then suddenly he was halfway in this world and halfway in the womb world. And Stephen was getting ready to catch him once his body was out. I asked the midwife if she could just pull him out for me to which she replied there’s no handle and this is all me. A moment of humor that I deeply appreciated. Being the irreverent people that Stephen and I are we had always planned for some humor during this birth. At one point in the the tub, one of the midwives was using a small fish net bag to scoop up the pieces of poop I was also incidentally pushing out with the effort of birthing Quinn when she accidentally tickled my butthole. I jumped and informed her what had happened. She started apologizing but Stephen knew there was a laugh buried in my informing her and said “That’s okay. As long as we don’t have to pay extra for that.” The whole birth room laughing in that moment was priceless and something I’ll cherish for years to come.I had to muster up all the courage I had left to push his body out. And so I did. The intense relief I felt at being done with that delivery took so many moments to wash through me. Stephen had caught the baby and still with eyes closed I had instinctively reached out to take Quinn. Still with Quinn in my arms, on my chest, eyes closed, I couldn’t open them to look at him. The terror that maybe something was wrong held me down. “Is he ok? Is he ok? Please make sure he’s ok.” “He’s ok. He’s fine. He’s breathing and alert.” Eyes closed. Crying. “Are you sure? Are you sure he’s ok? He’s not crying. Why isn’t he crying??” “Because water babies are often calm. He’s totally alert. He’s ok. Look at your baby.” “I can’t. I can’t look. Is that bad? I can’t look. Is he ok?” “He’s ok. It’s not bad that you can’t look but it might help you to see he’s ok.” And finally I had to muster up my courage one more time to open my eyes finally, and look, and believe that my baby was ok, that we hadn’t lost once again. That I wouldn’t have to go through an unimaginable pain that no one should ever have to go through. I saw my baby for the first time and knew he was ok. I knew we would be ok.Despite so much pain, I would choose the same birth again. Despite so much pain, I never felt anything but safety with my birth team and I never felt suffering. Because I stayed in my body I truly believe I had the great opportunity of healing some deep traumas inside of me and met myself on a deeper level of strength and knowing than I ever could have otherwise. Because I was present for the entire physiological process, I believe breastfeeding came as the natural next step. I was deeply afraid that breastfeeding would trigger held sexual trauma in my body, that it would feel unnatural or bad. But it didn’t. It felt like simply the next step. Breastfeeding has proven challenging in terms of skills building but it has never felt harmful. And I ascribe that to feeling it all. It was the choice I needed to make for myself.Despite so much fear, I would choose to face the possibility of loss again. Because of the fear, I know the depths of my love. Pain and fear are uncomfortable. Some pain and fear come from experiences that no one should ever have to know and I think it’s bullshit to say bad things happen for a reason. Platitudes are not my thing. I’d rather not know the pain and fear of loss. But I do want to know love. And love is sometimes deeply painful and scary. Welcome to the world Quinn Loo and a hardy congratulations to Stephen and myself for opening ourselves to the transformative and terrifying depths of love that is parenthood.