This birth story was written and shared by Hannah Juul-Borre.
“I’m coming Momma I’ll see you soon; I know just how, I’ll follow the moon, and the stars will be my guide tonight, as I find my way to you.”
During the last few weeks I was pregnant, I thought you would be coming with the full moon, because in the “Follow the Moon” book about the turtle hatching and walking down the beach to find his Mom in the ocean by the light of the full moon was in part my inspiration for your birth. Well the full moon would be Feb. 10th, two weeks before you came, so I was way off. Hannah, the midwife’s assistant mentioned, “Maybe it will be the new moon.” When your due date, February 22nd rolled around, I got a little discouraged and took the day off to walk, relax, and listen to Indie Birth podcasts. Tanya, the midwife, assured me that you would come when you were ready and to just relax and enjoy these last few days of being pregnant. I really took this to heart.
Your Dad and I both took the 24th off (because the night of the 23rd I was up every hour with contractions, (this happened a couple of times but they always went away the next morning). Anyway, your Dad didn’t want to be far from me so we took Noella to school and went to a delicious breakfast (Andrea’s Place). We had an andouille Panini and a breakfast burrito. Your Dad got hot salsa and I ate some to coax you out! We walked around, held hands, and took pictures of me with my big pregnant belly. We rested the remainder of the day with Noella. I lost my mucous plug the next day Saturday, mid-morning, and Tanya said usually within a few days of losing the plug we get labor happening!
I stayed in and rested all day Saturday so I had to get out of the house on Sunday! I really wanted to do a beach walk so we decided to take Noella to the playground in Avila on Sunday. She played and then we had lunch and an acai peanut butter bowl. We went back to the playground and around two I started feeling some contractions so I said, “Let’s go”. Your Dad got nervous and we put jackets under me in the car incase my water broke. 😉 We face-timed your cousin Michaela on the way home to wish her a happy birthday because we couldn’t make it to her birthday dinner at Shalaman in SLO (I didn’t want my last big meal to be Indian). When we got home we ate a light meal for dinner and watched “Hook” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. We had popcorn and had a fun night with Noella and then went to bed. Well, your Dad slept. I was up with painful contractions every 30 minutes apart, ramping up to 10 minutes apart in the middle of the night and 7 minutes apart by the morning. Ouch! Your Dad was of course snoring and off and on he would wake up to check my contractions on an app he downloaded. I couldn’t sleep in the bed anyway so I went out to the living room and put 3 logs on the fire to keep it going. I rested a little on the couch then came back to bed to track contractions with your Dad again. They were about 7 minutes apart and 50 seconds long at around 5 am.
Noella came charging in the bedroom at 6 and I needed it to not be night anymore which I proclaimed to everyone so your Dad decided to make breakfast. He made waffles with blueberries and I didn’t want that so Dad made me eat some banana and blueberries. I laid on the couch and Noella came and loved on me, hugging me, giving me dogga, and singing the Elsa song for me. I called Tanya to tell her my status at 7:00 am and she said to call her if I need support or once the contractions became a minute long. I sort of rested there on the couch and Tanya texted at 9:09 “How are things going?” By then things were really ramping up so I called her to come over. I labored around the living room while Tanya set up and watched me, timing my contractions. She fork fed me banana and gave me yogurt, water with a straw, and marked down everything I ate.
I was comfortable on the couch but she suggested I move, walk and use gravity. Your Dad had suggested earlier that I walk with him in the sunshine so I took their advice and went outside with your Dad. We walked in the back yard and the air was crisp and sun was shining. I pet Bear our cat for a while and joked to your Dad, “Petting Bear is helping me produce oxytocin to get the contractions stronger!” Your Dad then joked, “More than being with me?” We did kiss and embrace and he held me through some hard contractions; this helped. I wanted to hike up the driveway so we walked out front and your Dad supported my slow walk down the hill. We marveled at the plastic sea horse (our white elephant gift from Christmas), and laughed at that. I wanted to finish one more contraction before venturing up the steep driveway. Once we did, we took it slow, and of course Bear laid down right in our path midway up. When we went back inside Tanya joked that she couldn’t find us and thought, “Oh they took off!” After that hill the pressure was so low in my pelvis and contractions started to get more intense. I leaned on the kitchen counter to move my hips through some pains. Tanya and your Dad offered me trail mix and water. I took everything they gave me because I had made a decision to do this beforehand as I knew I needed food to keep my energy up (even if I didn’t feel like eating or drinking).
Meanwhile, Aunty Nikki had been playing with Noella all morning but needed to get ready for her grad school skype interview at 12! Eek! So your Dad relieved Nikki by taking Noella for a drive to the park to try to get her to nap. Once your Dad left, I went into the bed and got on my hands and knees for some contractions. This made them really intense. Tanya brought me my birth ball and suggested I put my arms on that for support and do some hip circles like that in the bed. She also brought me the trail mix and water with a straw☺. She left me alone to go back to her notes in the living room. I decided to lay on my side in the bed to try and rest in between contractions. I drooled a little, so I know I got some sleep. I had a deeper, more intense contraction that made me feel whoozy. I told Tanya this so she brought me a bowl in case I needed to throw up. She also told me that your Dad had just pulled into the garage so I was relieved because in my rest I had visions of things accelerating really fast and your Dad not being there to witness your birth! Tanya said if I was tired I could stay and rest but to also consider that gravity is my friend and I may not want to put off the action for too long. Getting up and moving would essentially bring you to me sooner. I wanted this, so I decided to brave the pain and make it happen; bring on the intense contractions I thought, I don’t want to drag this process out, so I walked back out into the living room and tried sitting on the ball. I also did some leaning against the counter etc. I had classical music playing and it was a very relaxing atmosphere with the sunlight shining through the windows. Your Dad walked by my side at this point while Noella was napping in the car. Aunty Nikki was done with her interview, which she did in her room! They made her sing on the spot and everything! I told her, “I’d almost rather be doing this than what you just had to do, that’s nerve racking!” Next I tried doing a deep squat with your Dad supporting me but that just was too intense at once and I got back to my feet. I had a goal I stated aloud to “Perfect a laboring squat”! Next I went into the bathroom by myself where it was dark. Your Dad called it my bear cave, (which is funny because right now I’m reading a book called ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’). I sat on the toilet in there and really got some good contractions going in that position. I also laid my head on some towels on the counter and circled my hips through some intense ones.
Tanya came in and checked your heart beat (by the way, she had been checking your heart beat every so often and always said how wonderful it sounded. Her checks went unnoticed by me, I could just keep moving the way I wanted. She never once checked my cervix for dilation, she just let me progress uninhibited and naturally! No mind games for this Momma, just a driving force of nature!) Nikki came in and gave me a sparkling cold water and a cold wash cloth for my forehead. I accepted these things and continued alone in my ‘bear cave’. I moved in the dark, prayed to God, talked to you Daniel, and even perfected some deep squats; which worked well holding onto the counter. Your Dad brought me bone broth in my work coffee mug but I complained and demanded it the way I was used to having it; in a little white cup with a spoon ;), and with salt! (Your poor Dad). He brought that of course and I drank it all.
When I finally emerged from the bear cave they got me to have one more cup of the bone broth. I had some super intense contractions then and dug deep for strength. I sat on the ball next to the tub and threw up all of the bone broth! I just missed the tub and Tanya appeared with a bowl. Just then, Noella and Nikki started to come out of her room where they were playing and Tanya ran to them to let Nikki know to keep Noella there. She didn’t want her to see me at this transitioning/intense/sick stage! Then she ran back and wiped it up like nothing happened- she was amazing! At that same point, we saw Hannah, Tanya’s assistant pull up (she had a prior engagement till 2:00 so that’s how I knew what time it was). I waved to Hannah when she came in and Tanya and your Dad remarked to her that she had impeccable timing; as things were just starting to really pick up! There was talk about filling up the tub… oooooh, and Tanya said it would take about 40 minutes to fill up. I did some more laboring and I overheard Tanya tell your Dad that once Mommas get in the tub, its usually go time. I was anxious to know if I’d made it past transition!
With 20 minutes worth of water left to fill, they said I could get in or occupy myself with something else sooo, I went back to the bear cave! I labored in there and really felt strong contractions. Through the most painful contractions my slow inhale and out breath on the word “yesssssssssssss” worked the best. Just saying the word yes and breathing out on the sssssss at the hardest part helped me to surrender to it rather than fight it. so I took off my pants and walked back out there. Hannah said it was at the fill line and I could get in if I wanted. I said, “I went ahead and took off my pants” and Hannah said, “That’s cool. I was mostly naked during my whole labor!” We laughed. As soon as I got in I told them it was too hot so they added some ice packs and your Dad added cold water. I squatted down and with my next contraction my body pushed involuntarily while I made an intense grunt saying after, “Oh owe- feeling pushy!” Tanya saw this and said, “Oh we’re here already!” “You might try and breath through a couple of these because sometimes you get the urge before your body is really ready, but listen to your body, its ok if you really feel like pushing.” Next, they kept giving me water. Your Dad started spoon feeding me coconut yogurt. The next couple of contractions I again couldn’t help but push, despite my efforts to breathe long breaths.
At this point my yoga breaths went out the window and so did my control over the contractions. Boy that pain was intense! I made a statement, “Sweet Jesus!” asked him to help with the pain, saying, “God, please if Daniel’s still a ways off, please help me manage the pain.” I heard Hannah say in the background, “I don’t think he’s a ways off!” Tanya told me to reach down and feel for his head. All I could feel was smoothness, and maybe an opening the size of a quarter revealing a smooth membrane. She said I would feel something hard and I didn’t so I got discouraged and said, “Can you check?” So Tanya checked. She said your head was like four centimeters away, showing it on her fingers. Also, that there was a bulging bag of waters right in front of your head. I said, “Is it going to pop?” And Hannah said, “Either that or your baby could be born inside his bag of waters!” Then I said, “No, that won’t happen to me, I’m not peaceful enough for that!” Everyone laughed and then in the midst of my next pushing contraction I said something along the lines of “Fuck those hypnobirthers!” In between contractions, Noella came over to me with a flower. I was able to look at her and warn, “Mommy is going to make some loud screams but I’m ok.” During the next few pushes I voiced such statements as, “My body is breaking in half”, “A c-section is so much easier”, and “I can’t do this!” All these negative statements were countered by my birth team saying, “Your body is not breaking and is stretching”, and “It’s made to do this”, “This will be a way easier recovery than the c-section was”, and, “You are doing this! I got a little discouraged when I would finally feel you coming out in a big push and then you would slide back in when the contraction ended, I felt like I had forever to go but Tanya re-assured me that this is what happens so my body can stretch.
So, right after I connected with Noella, I felt a big push and thought this is it, then you went back in and I said, “No, he’s not ready yet, he’s scared, this isn’t it.” Then I think on the next contraction the next thing I knew you were out, down below me in the water. It must have been a reflex to pick you up because the next thing I knew, you were in my arms. You were very white and in a bubble, (the caul)! Hannah grabbed it off your face to get water out and encourage your breath. Tanya brought an apparatus to your nose and mouth to suction out water to help you take a clear first breath. I knew you were fine but Dad was scared. They rubbed your back and I held you close. You started breathing soon enough and got color right away. I exclaimed, “Is this even real?” I looked at your Dad, there were tear in his eyes too and said, “We did it.” I felt absolutely amazing, almost in a dream state. The water was red and your Dad mentioned, “Is Hannah losing a lot of blood?” Hannah said, “No, this is normal.” When I was ready, they supported me to get out of the tub and helped me to the prepared (towels and chux pads) couch to lie down with you.
I laid with you there, cord intact for two hours just marveling at you, and talking about what just happened with everybody. Noella came over to you, me and your Dad and Noella and I sang your song, “I’m coming mamma I’ll see you soon, I know just how, I’ll follow the moon, and the stars will be my guide tonight, as I find my way to you.” There was a buzz in the air while naan bread and snacks were being brought out and Hannah was spoon feeding me yogurt with honey. I was just encouraging to you latch and you didn’t really in those couple hours, you were just so calm. I also didn’t birth the placenta yet and Tanya said she usually likes to see it out within two hours. She gave me a bitter drink of Chinese herbs which I drank down, to stimulate a contraction to birth the placenta. Tanya thought I should move into the bad so she asked us if we wanted to cut the cord to make it easier to walk there since the placenta was still in me. We all agreed that was fine and Noella and your Dad would do the honors. They did this with silver scissors and under Tanya’s instruction. Then everyone carefully got me up to sitting.
I never had to give you to anyone else. I kept holding you as they helped me to standing and walked me into my bedroom. Tanya and Hannah had made the bed with plastic protectors and my linens I had set aside for them-two layers one to “birth” on and then one to sleep in with baby. I felt like a princess. Once on the bed, Tanya asked if she could check me and try to encourage the placenta to come out. She asked me to give a couple of pushing grunts and when I did this it came out as she pulled on the cord a little. Coincidentally, Noella ran in the room and jumped up on the bed just in time to see me birth the placenta! I continued to encourage a latch from you, which you did finally. You just wrestled with the nipple a lot beforehand. Tanya gave me some support in this but mainly she assured me you would get it in your own time; which you totally did. Your Dad came in then and we just laid down and marveled at you. Tanya asked if she could check me for tears which I said yes to. She gently inspected me and saw some slight superficial abrasions and one small surface tear. She offered a clip which would pierce the skin but help keep it together to heal and be removed later. She also said I could just be extra careful and let it heal naturally. I was so nervous to have any more pain down there; I asked if she would do it she said, no. I said Maryn wouldn’t do it (Indiebirth) as I had just listened to podcasts on it and so, I said no. I’ve had no medical interventions thus far, why start now. Next, Tanya presented us with the placenta on a tray. She showed us all the parts, and ways she could tell it was healthy. She flipped it over and we saw the ‘tree of life’ formation, so cool! She would be bringing it to Marisa (our neighbor coincidentally, and her best friend), to be encapsulated for me to take to balance me post-partum. Next, we watched Tanya do your newborn exam. She checked you out and measured and weighed you- 20.5 inches, and 6 lbs. 5 ounces- you were so strong and healthy! Small and mighty, as Doctor Macias later called you.
Soon after the newborn exam, everyone finished cleaning up and left, after giving us instructions and letting us know they’d be back the next day to check on us. Noella continued to play with Nikki and eventually Dad tried putting her to bed. It was so late and she didn’t stay in her bed long before coming in and whimpering, “I miss Mommy” (I usually put her to bed). Needless to say we had her come sleep next to me, then you in the middle and Dad. All four of us so in love, “slept” in the bed that night, the night you followed the moon.