My mom came from Israel four days before my due date. We didn’t want her to miss the birth, but since she was only able to stay for a month and we knew that first babies often arrive pass their due dates, we decided that four days are a safe bet. On Sunday morning, Feb. 12th, Graham, my mom and I went out to brunch. We had plans to have dinner with Graham’s family and do seven hundred loads of laundry at his parents’ house and we thought that brunch at one of our favorite cafes would be a nice way to start the day. I splurged and had pancakes for desert, even though I don’t have sugar and was avoiding having it throughout my pregnancy. Thinking back, it must have been my way of doing something celebratory for my sweet Lili’s arrival.

Around 8pm we returned from dinner (we had very spicy Thai food) to Graham’s parents house. I didn’t have spicy food to try to speed things up; I was relatively patient and claim and didn’t feel like Lili has to meet the deadline of her due date, I knew she would come when she feels like it. We were at Graham’s parents’ house, finishing up our laundry and watching television (enjoying everything that we didn’t have at home!). I did some pelvic tilts to make sure that our little baby is in the right position (I wanted to make sure everything is fine; she surprised us and turned breech at week 37 and luckily we had a successful external version at week 38, when I felt some kind of pressure in my pelvis. I thought I pulled a muscle and didn’t mention it to anyone.

We drove home and I continued have this strange pressure from time to time. Since I didn’t think it was related to labor I kept it to myself. I was expecting contractions to be painful and was waiting for something in my belly to contract, whereas all I was experiencing was pressure on my lower abdomen. When we got home the pressure grew stronger and appeared more frequently. I noticed that I had to bend down when it appeared and that it was difficult to have anything touching my lower abdomen while it was in session. My mom went to sleep and we sat in bed with the Birth Center binder, reading again and again about the different stages of labor in an attempt to try to decide if what I was experiencing was contractions. We felt a little under prepared – which breathing techniques ought we do if this is “the real thing”? What else needs to go into the bag? – but I persuaded myself and Graham that labor hasn’t really started yet and that we have more time. My mom als o said that I was probably not in labor when I described my sensations to her. She suggested that I worked too hard on the laundry.

Graham started timing the occurrences of these pressure-waves; they appeared every five or four minutes. We understood that it must be it and called the birth center around midnight. Dorinda was on call and she asked that we wait until the contractions last a minute or a minute and a half. That never really happened. They became more frequent, every four or three minutes, but only some lasted more than a minute. Graham got a little worried – we live in Philly and had a long ride to the Birth Center – and called Dorinda again at two or three in the morning. She said that we could come to the Birth Center.

Graham, my mom and I got into the car. The pain was very bearable; in fact, I would not even describe the sensation as painful. It was more like an uncomfortable pressure. Because of this, I was sure that we are making the trip in vain and that we’ll be sent home. I was especially impatient and a little irritable with my mom (my poor mother! Will one day Lili be as impatient with me?) I sat at the back on the floor with one leg up on the seat and groaned with each pressure wave. I had both windows open and occasionally stuck my face out like a dog. I also barked like a dog at my mom, when she asked if I could close the windows (she and Graham were freezing, but I could care less). When we got to the Birth Center at 4am I was already 4 cm dilated and was happy to hear from Dorinda that I am in active labor and we can stay.

We went into the water-birth room and I changed positions and walked around as the contractions became more intense. I got into the tub when they were reaching their peek and the relief was immense. At that point I asked my mom to leave the room. Graham and I stayed there alone and I felt so much love for him and was so happy that he is with me, so gentle and loving. I immersed my belly in the water each time a contraction came and was able to relax in between contractions.

My water didn’t break yet and I was starting to feel the urge to push. Dorinda asked me not to push until I am completely dilated. It was VERY difficult to hold back, the pressure was really intense. Dorinda broke my water and that made the pressure much more bearable. I was also completely dilated by then, so I could start pushing. Things were moving quickly and I was sure that by 7am, when Dorinda’s shift is over and Lindsey arrives, I will be out with my baby. Dorinda and Peggy were with us, appearing just when they were needed, and Graham and I managed things on our own, enjoying the playlist that we’ve made and feeling very connected. I was very focused on pushing and because of that I was not very worried when Dorinda said that the baby turned posterior. I was encouraged to get out of the water and push outside.

When Lindsey arrived at 7am I was still pushing. I tried pushing in the bathroom, standing up, on a chair, lying on my side (both of them), standing on all fours. It was not painful, but it was very exhausting. At a certain point I stopped feeling the contractions and started pushing randomly, after I felt that I had sufficient time to recover from the last round of pushes.

When Lindsey said that she is considering transferring me to a hospital, I thought she was trying to motivate me to push harder. I was very determined to birth Lili naturally and a hospital birth was just out of the question for me. However, I was very tired and I didn’t know what else I could do to get the baby out. I asked Tyler to bring my mom into the room. We were quite a team there – Graham, my mom, Lindsey and Tyler (and occasionally Justine). Lindsey called Sarah in at some point for a second opinion. Although the baby’s heart rate was steady, she was worried, for it has almost been four hours since I started pushing and the baby wouldn’t come out. Everyone guided me as I pushed- Graham held my hand and my mom told me to imagine I am pushing out the biggest poop of my life. While I was pushing they all cheered me up and said how wonderful I was doing. I remember that they all got on my nerves. I thought that they were pretending, since I could not feel that I have made any progress. But quite surprisingly I didn’t tell them anything; I was just so focused on pushing. Lindsey said – “push Lior, push this baby out, she is a little peanut.” She put her fingers in my cervix and told me to push them out. I could feel her head with the tip of my fingers, but I still couldn’t get her out.

The second time Lindsey brought up the possibility of transferring me to the hospital I became more worried. I knew Lili had to come out and asked for something to eat so I can gather the energy to push her out. Sarah came in again. Lili’s heartbeat hardly dropped between contractions. Sarah and Lindsey decided that to let me go on, if I wanted. For me, there was no other option; I didn’t even want to entertain the hospital scenario. The problem, it was decided, was that I was pushing too frequently and the pushes were too shallow, so Lili’s head would just sink back in every time I was done pushing. I was encouraged to push longer and deeper. I pushed till I turned blue (quite literally, I was pushing until I was out of breath). I also had tons of mucus, a runny nose, and I ended each push with a cough (I had a nasty flu for a week). I put a wet towel on my head and pushed so hard I thought my body is going to tear open. Pain was not the problem (expect for when I need ed to change positions), but the fatigue and the cold symptoms made me kind of miserable.

I started believing that I was making progress when I saw Tyler and Lindsey reaching for the bottle of olive oil and I felt them massaging my perineum. Lili was on her way! Everyone in the room became very excited; they said the baby’s head is almost out. I pushed and felt that famous burn and then was asked to hold-off with the pushing. The next thing I remember is Lindsey telling me to open my eyes. “Your baby is here,” she said, “Lior, hold your baby, she is out.” I opened my eyes and sweet Lili was there, so small and very, very beautiful. Often when I look at her now I am reminded of her big, bright eyes staring at me at that moment. I cherish the memory of her birth as a most precious memory. I am so happy that I could welcome her into the world with so much love, excitement and happiness.

I became Lili’s mother on February 13th, 2012, at 10.27 am.