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.


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



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!

3rd Trimester Reflections

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T h i n k i n g 

  • { Meeting Baby } I have long wrapped my mind around being pregnant. I believe I’ve also wrapped my mind around the idea of a baby residing within me. But I cannot even begin to imagine meeting this sweet, sweet soul! That is one of the reasons I am glad we did not learn the baby’s gender during pregnancy – there are so many mysteries wrapped around this precious life! We are absolutely thrilled to watch and help him/her grow into the person they were created to be in the days and years to come!

F e e l i n g

  • { Thankful } As the day of our Dear One’s arrival approaches (yet another mystery), I am thankful for time spent with Stephen, family, friends, and just the extra hours to get things done. The wait can be hard, and the anticipation great, but this journey has been filled to the brim with blessings that are providing me with a glimpse of motherhood.
  • { Motivated } While some days are better than others, I still have quite a bit of drive. I planned to work as long as I could, and made it working past my due date! But my maternity leave officially begins this week (week 41) and I am glad for the flexibility this will bring as the frequency of my appointments increases. (Also, I would love to get our Christmas tree up and prepare for Advent – things I have given myself to look forward to as we continue to wait for our little Cannoli.)

C h a n g i n g

  • { New Limitations } I began to notice some very sudden changes and limitations around week 36, part of which I’m sure can be attributed to really slacking on physical activity. Braxton Hicks made exercise a bit of a pain (literally) and I noticed even with yoga, what I can do one day I cannot necessarily do the next. I’ve been trying to spend more time on my exercise ball, alleviating some sciatic nerve pain that surfaced in the ninth month.
  • { Major Growth Spurt } While my own weight seems to have plateaued, starting week 38, my belly began feeling very tight and itchy from all the stretching of a growing babe. Any attempts to scratch it are left unsatisfied, as it is numb and I cannot feel anything – it is quite a bizarre sensation! I’ve had to tell myself on a somewhat daily basis that my belly is not actually going to burst, as it feels it may (just take a look at the following picture – that is a BIG belly!).

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P l a n n i n g

  • { Ready (or Not) } We have completed our various childbirth classes, including a general hospital class, a natural childbirth class, and a postpartum recovery/infant care class. Our hospital bags have been meticulously planned for and packed. Small gifts for our labor and delivery staff have been assembled. The baby’s room is organized (though not totally decorated – I figure baby will forgive me for this). Freezer meals have been prepared. The house has been cleaned from top to bottom (perhaps the last time for while). Thank you notes are written and in the mail. Now, we wait…
  • { Birth Team } I am incredibly thankful that joining Stephen and I, my sister, Allyson, will be also attending the birth. She has had six natural births, and is simply amazing. We’ve met together to talk about our hopes and plans, all scenarios considered. I know I could not ask for better support – mental, emotional, physical, spiritual – than from these two! They really are my dream team.

P r a y i n g

  • { Birth Without Fear } When you announce you are pregnant, it is as if overnight you become a walking billboard inviting others to share their birth horror stories. While I know most of these retellings come from the best of intentions – to remind the mama-to-be that all will be well regardless of how many things go “wrong” – they are often anything but helpful. As I write these words at 41 weeks, I remain grateful that anxiety has not seeped into my mind and heart as it so easily could (and so often does). Some of this may be attributed to a form of denial about all that is to come, but I truly believe this has been God’s way of protecting me from fear. For the spirit He gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

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The next time I post, our sweet little Cannoli will be here!!

When One Month Remains

one month remians - pursuing pearls blog

Yesterday was a big milestone for our little Trio – we are just 4 short weeks from our due date. Knowing that our sweet Cannoli will be here in the next month or so is indescribable!

Honestly, I have absolutely loved pregnancy – the growing, the changing, the learning, even some of the not-so-pleasant parts have brought me joy as Stephen so faithfully reminds me, “this change just means progress – and that’s what we want!” What a treasure, that man.

But yesterday. Yesterday was HARD. Actually, probably one of the most difficult days in pregnancy so far. Between lack of sleep, shortness of breath even just in conversation, my hips and back cracking every time I stood from my desk, and constant Braxton Hicks, my emotional stability felt as if it was hanging by a lone thread. I was a bit of a wreck.

While I physically feel better today, I realize there is no guarantee of ease in the days ahead. Yet, my heart feels restored as I ponder how each of yesterday’s complaints truly have blessings tucked within:

{ Lack of Sleep }

Cannoli is moving all the time, even at night when I am attempting to snag a few consecutive hours of coveted sleep. As disruptive and uncomfortable as this can be, I am going to miss our time together in this special way. My heart could burst when I imagine holding our baby in my arms, locking eyes for the first time, and falling in love in yet a whole new way! But this time as our Dear One’s physical home? We will never share this again, which leads me to firmly grasp every last second that remains…even at 3:00am when the party in my belly is still going strong.

{ Shortness of Breath }

Two tiny feet and knobby knees are exploring the space below (and in) my ribs, space that is steadily decreasing as baby packs on those wonderful rolls of chub. Cannoli has been head-down for several weeks now, which is right where we want him/her to be! As my organs continue to shift, causing a variety of uneasiness, I am comforted knowing our baby’s organs are mostly developed now. It is just a matter of growing bigger and stronger, and readying to face this new world! It is so exciting!

{ Creaking Hips and Back }

Thanks to the release of the hormone relaxin, my ligaments are loosening as my body prepares for baby’s entrance into the world. I am sure I will be especially thankful for this once labor comes!

{ Braxton Hicks }

These “practice contractions” really are a blessing, because I need all the practice I can get! But in all seriousness, they have been directing my mind toward labor. What an incredible, unknown, and beautiful experience that stands before us. We have practiced breathing through and timing contractions, in addition to pain management and mindfulness as the anticipation builds. I know I could never imagine what labor will be like, but am confident knowing that my body was made for this, and that even in the darkest of moments I will never be alone.

{ Wavering Emotions }

Learning to take captive every thought is such a challenging discipline, yet one I will lean on all of my life. I have been turning to Philippians 4:8 for guidance whenever I need to be redirected:

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

It is easy to become overwhelmed with worry, comparison, discontentment, or fear when I am placing my focus on things other than those above. When I feel my emotions beginning to get away from me, I remember to practice taking captive those runaway thoughts.

Regardless of what the next few weeks may hold, I am determining to remain thankful for it all with the knowledge that each hurdle is just a thread in the tapestry. These days are so precious, and they are numbered.


2nd Trimester Reflections

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T h i n k i n g

  • { Time is Flying } I can’t believe how fast pregnancy is progressing! Only about three months remain – though, I’m sure the days will feel longer as the Big Day approaches.  I am determining to not dwell on our due date or any sort of countdown, knowing that baby will come at just the right time. I keep telling myself, our Dear One will be here for Christmas! What a beautiful time to be making an entrance into this world.

F e e l i n g 

  • { Hungry Again } My interest in food returned, which makes me oh-so-happy! I have not had many particular cravings or aversions, and my appetite feels rather normal at this point…which may in fact be dangerous because the “normal” me can throw back a pint of ice cream…
  • { Tired!! } Naps are my favorite pastime, as sleeping at night has been fairly challenging and unfulfilling the last several weeks. I have learned to use peak times of energy and motivation to the absolutely fullest, and to have guiltless-rest when needed. Listening to my changing body is an ongoing lesson in humility and grace.

C h a n g i n g

  • { Growing Pains } It is surreal that the little person inside of me is already over a foot long and two pounds! I am beginning to feel the aches and pains from the recent acceleration in growth, which makes me all the more thankful to have had my prenatal yoga classes throughout this whole trimester! It has been helping me cope with symptoms, learn useful breathing and relaxation techniques, and meet other lovely expectant mamas! Such a blessing, and I highly recommend it. I supplement yoga with long morning walks (before it is too hot!) and short pregnancy workouts on YouTube, wanting to remain strong every step of this journey.
  • { On the Move } Our little Cannoli is busy each morning and night with lots of wonderful kicks, jumps, spins, twirls, and front handsprings (or so it seems!), as well little thumps that seem to say “I’m still in here!” all throughout the day. I cherish our family time in bed each night, as baby is active as ever, and Stephen reads our favorite stories.

P l a n n i n g

  • { Boy or Girl? } We opted out of learning the baby’s gender, something I wasn’t sure I could do but now am so glad we did! This hasn’t affected our planning, and if anything, has saved me money by not buying an exuberant amount of baby clothing. (; So far, the guesses rolling in consist of dozens for boy, and only one guess for girl. I do enjoy hearing everyone’s predictions!
  • { Nursery } The last few months I have worked on my vision for the nursery, though there is not much to show for it yet. I have a rocking chair that will eventually have cushions and that is almost it! But I’m trying not to stress about it because let’s be honest – how much “stuff” does an infant need anyway? (Not much.) Is little Cannoli really going to care how their room looks? (No.)
  • { Appointments } Just one more 4-week routine visit before we start seeing the midwives every other week. This milestone is making things more real than ever. I have had such a positive experience with the medical staff so far, and leave each appointment feeling more reassured that I am at the right place for us!

P r a y i n g

  • { Smooth Transitions } Right now my prayer is for a smooth transition back to school and wedding season. Our fall is booked with photography and events, with only one free weekend before baby is here. ONE. Honestly, that does intimidate me some. Asking for wisdom to know when I need to rest and for opportunities to do so. Also thanking God for my ever-supportive husband who often meets my needs before I even realize I have them – he is living out fatherhood and husbandhood so wonderfully.


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.