Welcome to The Delivery Room Dish—a place for new moms to spill on the highs, lows, and nitty gritty of giving birth. What you'll learn: there's no one 'right' way to have a baby, the delivery room is full of choices (even when labor doesn't go as planned), and every mom's got a birth story worth sharing. Up first: Monica + Andy Editorial Director Kristen Dold, who gave birth to her son Peter in May.

I knew it was ‘go time’ when: my water broke. I woke up around 3 am to one super mild, was-it-or-wasn’t-it contraction and then boom—a gush of liquid. I actually heard and felt a pop. They tell you water breaking can feel like a dribble but this was a cinema-style drench.

The drive to the hospital was: hilarious, in retrospect. I was convinced I was going to have a highway baby because the contractions started coming fast. I even forced my husband to blow through three red lights. (The baby came 12 hours later...)

The first thing that happened was: I had barely sat down on the hospital bed when the nurse asked if I wanted an epidural. I always planned to see how I felt in the moment but the answer was a resounding ‘yes please’—those early contractions were no joke.

Then I: turned off the lights and stared at the wall with anxiety (and excitement). My husband—who had been up working until around 15 minutes before my water broke at 3 am—took a luxurious two-hour nap on the room cot and had a sandwich. I uneventfully dilated to 10 cm over the course of a couple hours.

I was surprised that: I still felt every contraction—enough to grit my teeth and say owwww—even with the epidural. (I’m 5’8 and was warned by the doc that sometimes taller women don’t numb as well.) You can ask for a higher dosage but I liked still being able to feel the action.

Pushing is like: running a marathon. It was less painful than I expected but required more effort and endurance—it was go-go-go for ten seconds, catch your breath. Push like crazy again, breathe.

The most bizarre part of delivery is: the small talk. In between pushes (which are intense—the nurse was yelling motivational phrases and I was making noises I didn't know I had in me) I had a full blown conversation about books and sports with the doctor and resident holding up my right leg. We could have been out for coffee.

The best tip I got from a nurse was: 'Get off your back.' After two hours of pushing and not a ton of progress, she asked me to squat on top of the bed facing the rear of the room. Minutes later they were yelling for the doctor to come catch the baby.

The most painful part for me was: having the placenta removed after birth. They’ve got to reach pretty deep. Luckily the world’s best distraction was in my arms.

I’m so glad I: said yes to the mirror. (Ask if they don’t offer!) Catching a glimpse of my little guy’s hairy head was a huge incentive to keep pushing when I was exhausted.

The best question I asked was: 'Can that lactation nurse come back?' They pop in once to check on you but I had her by my side at least four or five more times at all hours—they actually don't mind being pinged at 4 am.

I was so happy I brought: a Boppy! It felt big to shove in my go-bag but made breastfeeding so much easier. My husband liked to wrap it around his waist while holding the baby, too.

What I wish I had packed in my bag is: cozy slippers. I figured I’d be mostly in bed and socks would cut it, but my baby loved to be walked and rocked. The hospital floors and hallways are cold!