When I became a doula, I instantly wanted to give birth at home. So when I discovered I was pregnant, it was the choice my husband, Sebastian, and I decided to pursue. We took great strides to prepare: we read countless books and took every class possible; I made a birth vision board with images of strong warrior women; we had a plan A,B and C and a list of hospitals to go to in the event that I needed to transfer; and we had several prenatal meetings to form a solid team of midwives and a doula whom we absolutely loved. Everyone around us honored and supported our goal to have a natural, intuitive birth. So I was ready, confident and really excited to become a mother.

I started to feel cramps on the night of my due date. Within a few hours, I was having full blown contractions. We called our midwife and she came by to get a sense of what was happening. After checking me, we found out that I was 1 centimeter dilated. I had been in labor close to 24 hours and barely making progress. Although discouraged, I was advised to rest, eat and hydrate as much as possible, which is difficult as contractions were coming every few minutes.

Around 3 am, I started having more intense and frequent contractions.The midwife came back only to discover that I was only 3 centimeters. My heart sunk. I was 50 percent effaced but still had a long way to go. Even though baby was fine, I was exhausted and emotional.

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We decided to have an acupuncture treatment in the hope of kicking my labor into a more active state. In the meantime, I kept reflecting, praying and meditating. I repeated the affirmations from hypnobirthing and visualized the baby being born. Yet despite all of this, I started to feel fear that my dream of a homebirth would disappear.

At this point, it was pretty clear that I had prodromal labor, a sense of “fake labor” that feels like real labor but doesn’t dilate the cervix.

Around midnight of the third day, my labor started intensifying. Our doula, Laura, quickly arrived and got right to work. She and Sebastian were a dream team of pain relief, seamlessly alternating between an array of comfort techniques. My hips were squeezed for counter pressure. My sacrum was pushed on and rubbed. Laura used a rebozo to sway my belly and hips. We lunged and squatted and rocked. I breathed and moaned, allowing guttural, primal sounds help dissipate the pain. I spent time in the pool which provided delicious moments of relief.

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Baby was constantly checked and thankfully never in distress. As the hours passed, I started dilating more quickly. As I approached 10, I thought I would be cracked open. The pain was so raw and intense, getting harder to manage. Every time I thought I was at my edge, this birth experience pushed me to dig deeper, rise up and press on.

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The urge to push coincided with my water finally breaking. That’s when I really started to feel the baby descend with an incredible amount of pressure. Although I wanted to deliver the baby in water, my exhaustion had won over, and I knew that I needed support, help and coaching. I moved to our bed where the midwife was able to talk me through the next phase.

It took me 3 hours to push baby out. Three hours of the most physically demanding, intense work of my entire life — which says a lot considering I spent years of my life as a boxer, personal trainer and yoga practitioner.

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After 70 hours of labor, Arya Rose was born. Sebastian was able to catch our daughter and place her directly on my chest. We indulged in uninterrupted skin to skin, falling in love with our new family. Though not nearly what I expected, I felt tremendous gratitude for a normal, safe, unmedicated homebirth and a beautiful, healthy baby girl.

Having a three-day labor was far from what I expected. It changed me to my core, and I learned a lot about myself from the experience. But most importantly, I really do feel that this birth prepared me for motherhood. If it happened the exact way I envisioned with everything going according to plan, I would have went into parenting more rigid and stiff. Instead, birthing Arya has given me profound trust in her – that she is an aware being with her own intelligence and rhythm. We are a team, each with equal parts. She taught me extreme patience and now that she is here, I find myself observing more and being present with who she is instead of who I think she should be.

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In addition, despite all my preparation, I couldn’t use my mind, my greatest tool, to think my way out of birth. I couldn’t rationalize the experience or even wrap my head around it. Having prodromal labor caught me off guard. It wasn’t on my radar of possible “what if” scenarios. But yet, my mind with its fierce determination and mental toughness was ultimately what got me through.

In essence, birth taught me expansion. There is always another level to embrace especially when surrendering into the spaciousness of life. It was a long journey to meet my girl but through birth I learned the importance of honoring Arya and her light without compromising myself in the process. We found a way to work together that aligned with both our spirits.

I was open to birth being the best, most epic and transformative moment of my life. And it was. But it was also the hardest. I was broken up open only to be reassembled into someone I am getting to know through this new lens of mother.

Photography by Laura Vladimirova, of www.Naturalbirthbebe.com; who also served as Amanda’s and Sebastian’s birth doula.

Amanda Rose Walsh is a mama, yoga instructor, personal trainer and doula. She used to be a champion boxer but traded in her gloves for some peace and love and now spends most of her time cuddling her brand new daughter. Amanda is passionate about pregnancy, birth and babies and with the help of her NYC backyard, cultivates community through mama and baby yoga and fitness classes, women’s wellness circles and new mom hangouts.