On the morning of July 17th at around 6am, I started feeling what I thought were contractions. They were mild, like the cramps I get during my period.  I was so happy to feel them as I knew that we were going to meet our baby soon!!! My husband, Tuyen, was very excited but also a little worried as Maria had told us that he would be the main person during my labor.   I had no fear, however, and believed in my partner wholeheartedly.  The birth was the most amazing and memorable experience of my life.  The biggest role in my amazing delivery was played by my husband.  He was always by my side as I went through my tough labor and provided inspiration when I didn’t have the strength to go on.
After sharing the news that my labor had started with Tuyen, I went back to sleep because I wanted to conserve my energy. My sister-in-law had given birth three months prior and she told us that her biggest mistake was that she spent so much of her energy counting her contractions during the early parts of her labor that she was exhausted by the end. We took that advice to heart and I rested as much as I could early on, which ended up helping tremendously. I awoke from my nap at 10am. My contractions were getting a little stronger, but still very manageable like heavy period cramps.  My husband called Maria to let her know that my labor had begun.   He had set up the birth tub a couple of days before and cracked some coconuts for me so we were ready for our delivery. I wanted to go and get some food at a restaurant but my husband suggested that he go get some takeout instead. J 
By 6pm my contractions had started getting a little stronger and we started our dance. When the contractions started, I would run to my husband and put my arms around his neck. He would embrace me and we would sway slowly back and forth while breathing deeply and vocalizing loudly together as we exhaled. We did this until the contraction passed and the pain subsided. He used his iPhone to time the length and frequency of my contractions.  We were supposed to call Maria again when my contractions were less than four minutes apart, lasted at least a minute, and repeated for at least an hour. My contractions were never very consistent as it progressed however: sometimes they would be last for a minute-and-a-half but they would be five minutes apart and other times they would be 3 ½ minutes apart but last less than a minute. By 11pm, my contractions were long enough and getting close enough together that Tuyen decided to call Maria and let her know.  Maria asked our doula, Nova, to come join us. 
We repeated our dance during each contraction for the next few hours. I also got in the shower for several minutes to help with the pain.  Nova came around 2am and started observing our progress.  We continued our dance as my contractions got more painful and lengthy.  By 3am, my contractions were getting really strong and I was vocalizing very loudly. Nova timed the contractions and told Tuyen that she had called Maria and that Maria was on her way. Maria got to our place at around 4am. We went to our spare bedroom and Maria examined me. She told me I was doing great and that I was already 5cm dilated. Oh, this news was even more painful than my contractions!  At that point I could not believe that I went through 22 hours of labor and was only 5cm dilated! I thought I was getting close to being able to push. I went back to my dance with my husband, but mentally I was crushed.  I couldn’t believe that I was only halfway through the dilation process and that the harder half was still left to come!
Maria suggested that I take a break from pain by getting in the birth tub as hot water slows down the contractions and lessens the pain.  I did so and my pain eased a bit but I didn’t feel comfortable in the tub as I wanted to embrace my husband during the contractions.  I got out of the tub after about ten minutes and walked around the apartment naked and in pain like a wild animal. The pain was getting so strong that it forced me to get on all fours. I lost my husband at that point and continued to labor on my own on the bathroom floor.  I screamed that I couldn’t do this anymore.  My contractions started overlapping with each other and there was no break from the pain. In my head I was ready for anything that would kill the pain, even if it was a bullet to the head.  I started saying that I couldn’t do it. My husband and Nova kept telling me that I could do it and that I was doing it.

I was in the bathroom at this point and I decided I needed to get back into the birth tub to try to ease my pain. On the way to the tub, we passed through the kitchen. I stopped at the sink and threw up from the pain. This caused my water to break. When it rains, it pours…J.  My thought turned back to the birth tub.  I tried walking to it, but since my water broke it was slippery and I did not make it very far. I finally got to within a couple of feet of the birth tub but I was in too much pain to actually get into it. Nova told me to talk to my baby as it would take my mind off of the pain.  I started crying… “Baaaaabbby! Please come out! Why won’t you come out?!?” I kneeled on the ground and help myself just trying to get through the pain.

Soon after, at around 6am, Maria decided to check me again.  She needed to get me back into the spare bedroom for the examination but the room was all the way on the opposite side of our apartment. My husband picked me up from behind and dragged me to the bed as I was unable to walk anymore. Maria checked me and said that I was fully dilated! She said I could start pushing when my contractions came.  Maria and Nova prepared hot compresses for me and guided me through the pushing process.  When I was pushing, I bit my pillow very hard and pulled the sheets off my bed. I was so ready to see my baby that I pushed her out in about 15 minutes. Maria placed Alexa on me and I felt her gentle and warm body on my belly.  Our love was born!!!

Maria said it was amazing because, for first time moms, the pushing usually takes a couple of hours. It happened so quickly that our second midwife didn’t get to our place until after Alexa was born. Maria and Nova were amazing and super-supportive during the whole birth process. Although it was extremely painful, I couldn’t be happier with how the whole labor turned out.