The date had been circled on our calendar for nine months: July 15, 2011.

When that long-awaited Friday morning sun broke the horizon, I went for a walk on a most stunning day. The sky was the most vivid blue, the air was crisp and light, the corn was deep green, and the hay waited in golden piles for the bailer. I thought, “What a brilliant day for our son to be born!” and walked with a smile on my face. Shortly into my walk, I began having contractions that I knew were finally the real thing. When I returned home, I still felt pleasant and excited. We began writing the times on an index card and I called my mom to let her know she should probably get on the road.

By the time Ryan’s parents arrived to take the girls for the day, the contractions were 4 minutes apart, but only painful enough to make me, ahem, a little bit snippy.

(This is us… just before Ryan and I left for the hospital.)

When we arrived at the hospital, the construction workers told us we could park in a far lot and ride a golf cart back to the emergency room entrance. A golf cart. Right. But, I can’t complain, because it could have been the bumping along that got me to a whopping 6 cm. by the time I arrived at Labor and Delivery.

I was shocked that I was 6 cm. with virtually no chaos or debilitating pain. This was so extraordinary for me and a true blessing from God since I had been praying about having a med-free delivery. Just look how happy this woman is… even though she is approaching transition! Wow.

I tried out the hot tub (hot tubs? golf carts? You’d think natural childbirth is like staying at a five-star resort!), tried out some contraction-alleviating holds with Ryan, and basically had a cake-walk to 8 cm.

Happy, happy mother-to-be.

And then the doc broke my water.

I have no more photos to show you of that happy, happy woman. Let’s just say, she no longer looked like that. In fact, for one hour, she transformed into a roaring, writhing, yelling, spitting, insulting, desperate creature. All I remember is being in so much pain that I really truly thought my only plausible escape would be for the doctor to cut my head off. In retrospect, I’m very glad that I didn’t have the energy to suggest that solution verbally, but I day-dreamed about it with each contraction. I was lost in an excruciating haze of fervent prayers, desperation, and survival.

At any rate, the whole shebang ended with a primal scream. I thought “primal screaming” was a myth, but as it turns out, it’s very much a reality. At the last most painful moment, a scream rose up from the depths of my being and went on and on… for a good 15- 20 seconds. (Which ends up being a fantastic experience because I’ve been wanting to work on my old habit of internalizing pain. Primal screams are great for forcing a girl to express how she really feels.)

And then, as the chaos of pain suddenly subsided, the room grew strangely peaceful, I looked down, and met our son, Malachi Joseph.

He was warm, and heavy, and here.

Beautiful, precious, and delicious, yes. But also, present, and earthy, and whole.

And we had that feeling they call love at first sight.

We had those thoughts that call forth psalms and hymns… When the heart cries, Bless the Lord, Oh my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name!

Weighing in at 8 lbs. 14 ounces and stretching out 23 inches, he is a mighty son. Our prayer is that he may be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.

Welcome, Malachi Joseph.