Noli Ann: A Natural Birth Story {Part 2}

Thursday, November 30th 2017.

….When I awoke at 5:30am, I slipped into bed with Stephen before he had to get up for work. However, at 6:15am I shot up in bed with my first “real” contraction. Let’s get this party started! (In case you missed it, check out Noli Ann: A Natural Birth Story {Part 1})

One of the things I had earnestly prayed over leading up to delivery was my proneness to anxiety. I desired to be as present as I could during each part of labor, and did not want fear to rob me of those precious moments. 2 Timothy 1:7 played on repeat in my heart: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

I planned to labor at home as long as possible, so when it became obvious that things were progressing, I reclined in the bathtub for quite some time. As the contractions increased in intensity and in frequency, that no longer felt comfortable, and I stood in the shower, swaying, with a stream of hot water running down my back. I may or may not have used up all of our hot water, so I moved to the living room, rocking and bouncing gently on my birth ball, and stretching on the floor. I quickly learned to just do what worked as long as it worked, experimenting with many difference positions I had practiced in the previous months. Stephen toasted up an English muffin, but I couldn’t think about eating. I knew food would be important for providing strength, but every time he tried to feed me I would decline (though truly I did not notice the sensation of hunger the entire day).

At around 10:30am, we followed the 3-1-1 rule as my contractions were 3 minutes apart, strong, and lasting over a minute. Stephen called the hospital (which was an hour away!) and the midwife on duty told to us leave immediately. We had kept in touch with Allyson (my sister/doula) all morning, but then had her meet us at our house to caravan to the hospital. As I said, the hospital was an hour away, but when your wife is in labor you throw on your hazard lights and just get there!

When we arrived to triage, we were greeted by an amazing nurse, Julie, who would support me until our sweet babe was in our arms. The examination showed that I was at least 6cm dilated. (Tip: have your spouse or a member of your birth team fill out your paperwork – I could not for the life of me remember my home address!) Before leaving the triage room, Julie encouraged me saying, “I hope you are going unmedicated because you have come so far already!” Those words truly empowered me. We moved to a spacious room where I would remain for the duration of my hospital stay and where Stephen and Allyson had unpacked our bags, hung my affirmation banner, and “lit” our battery operated tea lights. (I also had an oil diffuser with lavender, but we didn’t actually use that until after delivery.) The view from our large window was beautiful and calming, displaying glorious fall foliage. Stephen had loaded a few albums of Hidden In My Heart onto his phone, scripture sung to calm melodies. That room truly was a peace-filled place.

I first labored sitting down on the bench/daybed. It was tolerable, but I knew standing up would be more effective (i.e. more painful). Stephen and Allyson took turns swaying side to side with me through my contractions, which had greatly increased in intensity and frequency once on my feet. The slow, constant movement helped me stay focused in on each moment. This went on for several hours, though I can’t say I had any concept of time passing. My next cervical exam revealed that I was dilated about 9 centimeters, and I had just begun feeling incredible pressure and a slight urge to push. I wanted to wait until I was fully at 10 to begin pushing. I lingered in the bed for a few minutes after the exam, but when I did this the contractions began to slow down. Though it felt good – a nice little “break” – Allyson gently reminded me standing would bring about the progress I ultimately wanted. It took some time (and some courage) to scoot myself to the edge of the bed; before my feet even hit the floor, the intense contractions returned, more powerful and more productive than ever. On my feet again, I needed both Stephen and Allyson to support me now, as my legs were incredibly weak from hours of laboring standing up. They kept pace for my breathing, and made low humming sounds with me to remind me to maintain steady control of my exhales. At this point, contractions were long, and the peak of each brought a painful urge to push. When I felt the urge coming, I would say a simple “help” to let them know I needed extra support (physically and with breathing guidance). During the urge, I pushed a little – almost involuntarily – and my legs became like jello as pain shot down my thighs. With the help of my dream team, I was able to start and end each contraction in complete control of my breath – I cannot begin to tell you the difference this made. (Also, I must give a shout out to months of prenatal yoga, which truly helped me train for this!)

At the next cervical exam, I was finally at 10cm with a steadily increasing urge to push, I had the midwife break my water as a final step! After she broke it, I began to labor in bed (because, jello legs) and began pushing with intention. I started to feel like I was getting the hang of it, but when midwife came a while later, I just hadn’t made the progress we’d hoped to see. During the next contraction she performed another exam that determined our babe was posterior, meaning the largest part of her head was coming first, and hence the lack of any significant progress. At this point I had been pushing for about an hour.

In hopes of turning the baby, I began to push while propped on my side. Stephen, Allyson and Julie were an incredible help, holding my legs in place, encouraging me through every contraction, and literally cheering me on during each push. I honestly remember feeling incredibly calm, even cracking jokes here and there. Once we began to see progress, I let go of any remaining hesitancy I felt toward pushing, and that’s when things finally began to move. Pushing on my side and with baby’s feet pressing against my ribs, it was difficult to take deep enough breaths to make the most of each contraction. I had previously been pushing twice per contraction, but then began three times and things really began moving.

Once babe’s head became visible, I felt so empowered!!! Julie said she would need to call in the midwife soon, but with my next contraction I pushed four times and I heard Allyson exclaim, “I see the baby’s face!!” Followed by Julie, “stop pushing Katelynn!” as she sprinted out of the room. (How does one stop pushing when a baby is already in its exit route?) Thankfully, 40 minutes after beginning to push while lying on my side, baby had indeed turned naturally! The next thing I knew, the midwife was there, accompanied by who knows how many others scurrying about the room – this was it! The following contraction, I pushed with everything I had.

6:36pm.

November 30th, at 6:36pm, our lives were forever changes. There was nothing like the moment when our baby was out from head to toe, crying, and Stephen doing a double-take before announcing, “IT’S A GIRL!?!!!!” We were absolutely shocked and immediately began weeping uncontrollable tears of joy. Julie placed her on my belly while we waited for the birth of the placenta (you better believe we got pictures of that amazing life-giving thing). I just kept repeating, “She’s HERE! She’s OURS!”

Now, to be real for a minute, I am a major wimp when it comes to pain – even the mere idea of it. But labor was like nothing else I have ever experienced. This heart of mine that too often wrestles with anxiety and self-doubt was not present in labor and delivery that day. Yet, I realize it had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Jesus. He crushed all my fears, sweeping away any hint of anxiety and replacing it with his indescribable peace. Focusing on God’s promises kept me in the present moment; I honestly cannot remember a time I got ahead of myself. I never worried “I can’t do this”, because I knew He could.  

Every birth is unique and holds its own set of challenges – physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually. I am so thankful to have had the support of the most incredible labor & delivery and postpartum nurses. Along with the encouragement from Stephen and Allyson, they truly made Noli’s birth the experience I dreamed it would be.

Naming our darling girl:

While Cannoli was simply a nickname we used during pregnancy, we learned that Noli comes from Greek roots meaning “New City”. We are praying over her new life, that it be continually built up – brick by brick – as a strong fortress, protecting the name of Jesus and promoting God’s love. As for Ann, it is my middle name, as well as my mother’s. We believe in the power of legacy, remembering that our lives are so deeply connected through the blood of Jesus.

Noli Ann DiCarlo
November 30th 2017
8lbs 6oz / 21.5in

SMD_7807

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Noli Ann: A Natural Birth Story {Part 1}

One piece of advice I determined to grasp early in pregnancy was not fixating on our due date. Of course I wanted to be “ready” early (baby items washed, meals prepped, time with just Stephen), but I also wanted to be prepared emotionally to go late. It helped that my best friend had given birth a few hours shy of 42 weeks, just months before. I had no expectation of delivering on that actual date. When November 20th came, it was just like any other day. I visited my midwife, and she ran a non-stress test – other than the Braxton Hicks I had been having for over a month, baby was just fine and displaying no signs that s/he was ready to greet the world. Despite my increasing discomfort (your belly can’t truly burst…can it?), I was not disappointed by this news and happily treated myself to a prenatal massage for making it all the way to 40 weeks.

Week 40 came and went. We celebrated Thanksgiving with our families, I ate my favorite foods, we hosted friends, walked laps in the mall, and just enjoyed the day to day. Week 41 began with another non-stress test, which brought the same conclusion as did the first – baby was cozy and thriving, and happy right where they were. But at this appointment, induction entered the conversation. Not that baby or I needed it for medical reasons, just that we needed to discuss it being a possibility.  At this particular appointment I saw a doctor rather than one of my midwives. To secure our room in the hospital, she scheduled an induction, tentatively, for the following week – December 4th, which was the 42 week mark and the day before my own birthday. At first, I was discouraged by meeting yet another new doctor instead of one of the midwives I had built a relationship with over the previous nine months. But, I advocated for myself (and baby) our hopes and plans. She was very receptive, and we talked about possibly doing a membrane sweep to help things along in a more natural progression. At this point, I had tried all the tricks in the book to get labor moving except the membrane sweep. I decided to passeSz it at that appointment, allowing time to do a little more research and talk to some friends who’d had the procedure done. When in doubt, it’s usually a good idea to wait.

Week 41 day 1 came and displayed no signs of progress, so I scheduled a membrane sweep the following afternoon. If my body was ready to receive it, I would likely go into labor before induction was strongly advised. That night, Stephen and I had dinner at our favorite local restaurant and went to the movies. It was so special thinking that could be our last night out before our little one arrived! (Spoiler: it WAS!)

Stephen came with me to the appointment the next day. The doctor who performed the procedure was so pleasant (though the procedure was anything but, haha). He took time carefully listening to my desire for a natural birth and hopes to avoid any form of induction, but told me that he did not believe I would even make it to the weekend. Music to my ears!!! I went home feeling encouraged, empowered, and readier than ever.

That night, I slept in our spare room, hoping to rest up in preparation for labor. In and out of sleep, I was feeling rather crampy through the night. While this is common following the sweeping, I was hopeful it was a sign of progress. At 5:30am, I got in bed with Stephen to snuggle until he got up for work, but before his alarm even sounded (and by some miracle) my incredibly pregnant self shot up in bed – that was NOT a Braxton Hicks contraction! It was 6:15am and that is when it all began.

{Part 2} coming soon!

1st Trimester Reflections

first trimester reflections - pursuing pearls blog

T h i n k i n g

  • { Pregnancy After Loss } The first trimester was truly blissful, but not always free of fear. I have been wrestling a lot with pregnancy after loss, and will share more on my experiences as the months go by. God’s presence has been so evident through it all and I am thankful that my struggles can be free of guilt and shame. We are absolutely over the moon in love with this sweet babe who He has entrusted to us!

F e e l i n g 

  • { Nauseous } The best way I can describe it is the feeling many get when stepping off of a twirly carnival ride. Not terrible, but constant dizziness, rumbley belly, and a disinterest in food. Current aversions include marina sauce, salsa, and Old Bay seasoning.
  • { Tired } One of this biggest challenges I faced first trimester was purchasing and moving into our new home. We made our offer on the house within a week or so of finding out we were expecting, just as the fatigue was settling in. The day before we were to move, I hardly had a box packed. I am so thankful for the family and friends who stepped in and made that move possible! My mom and I were the last ones to leave the apartment, after some deep cleaning, and when we arrived at the house everyone else was there: they had dinner waiting for me and had put together my bedroom so I could take a nap while they continued to unpack and install a brand new back splash in the kitchen. We really had the dream team!!

C h a n g i n g

  • { Growing Belly } I have absolutely loved seeing my baby bump grow, though it was mostly just the “baby bloat” the first three months. I’ve definitely noticed my pants getting a little snug, but still get away with non-maternity items – thank goodness for hair ties as pants fasteners!
  • { Growing Baby } There was nothing like seeing that sweet little babe for the first time via ultrasound. And the heartbeat – it made my own skip!!! Baby is now the size of a lime and their tiny fingerprints are beginning to form. So small, but so unique, so loved, so priceless.

P l a n n i n g

  • { Sharing the News } We waited a while share our news, because my siblings were all coming to visit from out of town, and I really wanted to tell them in person. It was so worth it! I made cards for my nieces and nephews with sonogram pictures and the words “Cousin DiCarlo – coming November 2017!” We got videos of their reactions, which was incredibly special.
  • { Gender Reveal? } While there are still several weeks before our anatomy scan, Stephen and I are teetering with the idea of not learning the baby’s gender. The planner side of me is a little nervous about that, but we keep going back to the thought that there are only so many good surprises in life!

P r a y i n g

  • { Fearlessness } After our miscarriage last year, I have found myself fearful of the endless what if’s looming over my head and heart. While the first trimester has come to an end, and we have shared our exciting news, I still find myself fearful as I realize my lack of control over this sweet life within. My first pregnancy was filled with unadulterated joy (despite my lack of control then as well), and I so long to experience that again. I have been asking God to lead me through fearless motherhood as pregnancy is just a small part of an even bigger journey.