Step 1: Take approximately 38 weeks painstakingly gaining 30 pounds. Be sure to eat things that taste all right on the way back up, should that occasion occur (which it will 85% of the time). Don't let anyone say "gorgonzola" in your presence. Resist chopping your father-in-law in the face when he innocently uses the words "marinated" and "sardine" in the same sentence.
Step 2: Wake up early Thanksgiving morning with inconsistent back contractions. Go about your day as normal. Drive an hour to your family's Thanksgiving feast. Drive the hour back in the backseat on your hands and knees to ease the back labor.
Step 3: Scratch your head in puzzlement when your water trickles and you lose your mucus plug. Chuckle that the term mucus plug is pretty accurate (unlike the euphemism "birth canal"). Shrug it off since your contractions are still inconsistent, though intense, and you do not feel like you are dying, so you probably aren't in labor.
Step 4: Get in bed, breathing through each contraction as you nod off.
Step 5: Feel a powerful POP inside of you, and then the feeling of the devil himself clawing at your pelvis.
Step 6: Scream.
Step 7: Keep screaming. Vomit from the pain.
Step 8: Fall onto your husband when he runs into the bedroom with worry on his face. Tell him you are dying. Tell him that you need to go to the hospital now. Scream some more. Realize you haven't packed a hospital bag. Fall to the floor in pain as your husband throws toothbrushes and undies into a duffel bag and escorts you to the car, stopping to apply counter pressure on your hips with each contraction peak. Scream so hard that you're sure your apartment neighbors will call the cops.
Step 9: Lie across your husband's lap on the drive to the hospital. Pound the arm rest with your fist as you shriek your head off with each contraction, which have double peaks at this point and are right on top of each other. Say over and over that you are going to die, that they need to cut you open, that you can't do it. Your husband will say, "Yes, you can."
Step 10: At your next contraction, your body automatically pushes. Tell your husband, "OH MY GOSH. I'M POOPING MY PANTS." Love him for calmly saying, "That's okay."
Step 11: It's after hours at the birthing center, so you will need to be buzzed in. Be sure to pound on the intercom and say, "HELLO PLEASE LET ME IN BECAUSE I'M DYING AHHHHH" with desperation. Again, your husband will be pushing on your hips.
Step 12: The receptionists will smirk at each other as if you can't see them when they find out you're a first timer. They don't think you're in as much pain as you think you are. They will send you to the wrong room twice. Once you are in the correct room, you will run to the toilet to vomit again. The delivery nurse will greet you in all your sweaty labor glory. Be sure to kick off your shoes and your pants and poopy underwear right when she introduces herself. Scream while you do it, too.
Step 13: You'll hear the midwife in the other room speaking to the staff. She will say, "Oh, we don't need such and such right now. She's a FIRST TIMER wink wink chuckle chuckle. We are in the PRELIMINARY STAGES eye rolling with a smile." She will turn around as you enter the room and invite you to get on the bed so she can have a look-see.
Step 14: "Oh, my gosh. She's crowning!"
Step 15: Suddenly a swarm of people will encircle the bed, chanting PUSH PUSH PUSH, and you plead for them to set up the squat bar so you can hang off it and squat while your "birth canal" screams with you.
Step 16: The squat bar is up. On your next contraction, roll up off your back, grabbing onto the squat bar. Bite down on the squat bar and drop the f-bomb so loudly that the nurse shushes you. You will have only been pushing for five minutes, but the midwife is ready to be done with her shift and tells you that if you don't push harder, she will give you an episiotomy. Lean in and snarl in her face, "DON'T THREATEN ME."
Step 17: Moments later, everyone will cheer. The baby's head is out! Push for her shoulders! You'll feel your husband touch your arm as he says, "I can see her. You are so close! You're almost there!"
Step 18: Flop back onto your side to help the baby rotate out. Scream. Push. Feel the ring of fire and push harder. Scream some more.
Step 19: Suddenly, you will have lost 6 lbs 5 oz. It will only have been an hour since you went into hard (very hard) labor. It will be the most surreal weight loss experience you'll have. You will be breathing heavily, dripping in sweat, flat on your back in utter exhaustion. You will look down and realize you are completely naked. Your clothes are strewn all over the room, and you don't know at what point that happened, and you decide you don't care.
Step 20: As you turn your head, you will see your husband across the room cutting the umbilical cord. You'll see him drop the scissors to bring his hands to his mouth to choke out a sob as he peers down at the 6 lbs 5 oz--the baby, healthy and wonderful and so peaceful that the midwife and nurse say they don't see such quiet babies often. Moments later, your baby will be snuggled into you, her giant blue eyes fluttering open and her breathing steady and calm. All of this will be happening while the midwife stitches you up--sans anesthesia, because you figure nothing will hurt compared to what you just felt. (You will be correct.)
Step 21: Hold your baby. Tickle your nose against her scalp because she will smell amazing. You and your husband will give her soft kisses over and over. As you come out of the bathroom from brushing your teeth, you'll catch your husband looking at your sleeping baby, telling her in a low whisper how much he loves her. The nurses will tuck you all in and turn off the lights for you to sleep. You won't sleep a wink, though. You will be cuddled up to her, watching her chest rise and fall until the quiet sun beams streak through the shudders and light up the dust in the air. Outside, it is crisp and cool, and you can see cars and people from the window. And you and your new family will be squished onto one small bed--dazed, speechless, warm, and humbled.