I'll never forget the first time I talked to Hannah on the phone in May of 2020. She was funny with a southern accent and said, "I've heard you're probably full, but you're what I want, so I figured it was worth a shot." and then she laughed. She was the matriarch of her military family and was in North Carolina with a plan to follow her husband, Isaiah, to Connecticut shortly.
She had communicated that her first labor didn't go quite as planned, but that one of her biggest take aways was that her mother and sister were able to be present for her daughters birth and with COVID restrictions felt as though bringing in a supportive female that would be allowed in the space and hold her to her goals, just felt like the right thing to do.
On that phone call my original plan was to direct her to another Birth Tribe doula, but I felt instantly connected to her. She felt like an old friend and there was an unexplainable pull to be her doula.
We met originally the first time in July, when she arrived to Connecticut, but we texted regularly. She was everything I thought she'd be. She kept me laughing and I loved how she immediately opened up about her concerns, anxieties, and all of the humorous stuff that sometimes comes along with pregnancy too.
Hannah wasn't "due" until the end of September, but starting at the end of August she had a little bit of labor symptom spotting. It cracked me up because she would tell me about the list of things I had mentioned that could mean impending labor in a childbirth education class she took and then after she mentioned it, would always send a series of laughing emojis.
Hannah had early labor signs for quite some time. She even brought her family up from North Carolina just in case the baby came. I was worried that with everyone having up-ended their lives and schedule that she was putting a lot of pressure on herself to go into labor. She was trying all of the things to get herself to go, but then eventually said, "I am relaxed. I want him to come when he's ready. If everyone is waiting, oh well." I hoped that her shift in mindset might help a bit with allowing labor to actually begin.
Hannah all along had also wanted what she was calling the "dream team" to be present for her birth. She was seeing the midwives at With Women's Wellness and she felt bonded to Michelle in a similar way that she felt bonded to me. She wanted us both to be there and she asked me when Michelle was on-call for births and when hospital turn over happened.
When everything lined up, she went back to helping her body start the labor process and it was working. First she had some contractions, she lost her mucous plug, and then began to have some bloody show. She was doing all of the things (Isaiah too lol) to get labor started and then it finally happened.
My phone rang, on Thursday September 24th, at 4:18pm, she called to tell me her water had broken. Michelle and I had both warned Hannah that when labor started things could move quickly, but water breaking isn't always a sign of that. Sometimes it can take quite some time to get things started. Hannah wasn't contracting yet and we both suggested waiting to see what happened.
At 6:24pm Hannah called and said she was contracting every 5 minutes or so and was going to head to the hospital. This was a very DIFFERENT sounding Hannah. She was concentrating on her breath. She wasn't bubbly or laughing. She was in labor.
I decided to head right to the hospital even though I wasn't properly dressed. I didn't think she had very long to wait. When I arrived, she wasn't there yet so I called her. It was 7:03pm. She said they were 45 minutes away. I had a moment of panic. Based on our conversation and her pauses, she was contracting now every 3 minutes. Hannah at a cervical check just two days before was 4cm dilated with a low baby and while dilation means nothing about when labor will start, being almost half way through prior to active labor, does point to maybe something more speedy than her 20hr long labor like last time.
We spoke for a bit and I had a feeling of even more nervousness. "Do I start driving toward them?!?!?!" I wondered. However, then Hannah communicated that her mother, sister, daughter and Isaiah were all in the car. I felt a bit better about a car birth situation, knowing that her and Isaiah were not alone.
I stood in the parking lot watching the time tick by and saw a car pass by the lot. I called them and Isaiah got on the phone. It was them! I directed him where to go and they finally pulled in at 7:52pm. I walked over to the car and Hannah wrapped her arms around my neck. I hugged her for quite awhile and she said, "I'm so glad to see you."
As everyone was hugging her goodbye in the parking lot, I wondered if we would make it upstairs and inside the labor and birth unit. Hannah and I both knew she was close, but I don't think her other family members were quite as aware.
At 8:05pm Michelle met us at the desk and then walked us down to room 11. It was 8:08pm when we walked in after a few stops for breath and a little swaying.
We helped Hannah change, and Isaiah held Hannah while Michelle stepped out to start the birth tub. Before she left she said, "when I got here and you weren't here I felt a little nervous!"
Michelle came back into the room and checked Hannah's cervix. "Whoo girl you're a stretchy 8." It was 8:13pm. Hannah was excited to be that far along and mentioned that in the car her self talk included that she was being a "wuss" and that she was "probably only 5cm". However, Hannah in the car, in the goodbyes to her family, on the walk through labor and birth, and now was in one of the hardest stages of labor and she was handling it all with such power and grace.
We were staring at each other over the bed and she made a little grunting noise. I said, "Hannah, you may not make it to the tub. A baby may come right here." I didn't want her to feel shocked by the speed of things and the way they were moving. She later told me that statement was exactly what she needed to hear. One of her goals was to have an epidural free birth and her self talk once again had her wondering how long the rest of this could take.
She looked up at me and said, "Come over here please!". I walked over and she buried her head in my chest and began to sway. She wrapped her arms around my back and grabbed the top of my shoulders. I could tell when she was contracting, because she was letting her body go loose and allowing for me to carry the weight.
The very talented and skilled nurse, Jess, came over and used this time to place a very quick IV, while allowing for Hannah to stay in the exact position she wanted.
At 8:22pm, Hannah's water released a giant gush onto my flip flops and the floor and Hannah let out a loud noise. I looked over at Isaiah and said, "It's just water". He nodded, like he knew that, but the look of panic on his face made it seem like he thought a baby had fallen out. Isaiah was a marvelous support to Hannah and also has a great sense of humor. I don't want anyone to think he wasn't a massive support or that he was a bumbling idiot of any sort. In the next minutes to come, he would be clutch for her.
Hannah entered the tub at 8:31pm. She took a few deep breaths and relaxed. She told me she had a lot of pressure in her bottom, but remained very calm. She called Isaiah over who would continue to keep his head next to hers and whisper words of encouragement.
At 8:36pm her body began to push while she contracted, "I'm pushing. Are we sure it's time?" Michelle and I both reminded her that she had listened to her body this whole time and to trust it. At 8:41 pm, Hannah came up to her knees and bared down with her next contraction.
At 8:43pm she rolled over and placed her feet on the edge of the tub. She pushed again and then took a small break for breath.
At 8:44pm she reached down and felt the top of her sons head as it began to crown.
She continued to let her body lead and her second son, her beautiful baby Ezekiel, was born in the water at 8:45pm. Michelle placed him on her chest. I looked at a welled up Isaiah and put my hand on his shoulder. He leaned down and kissed Hannah repeatedly.
Hannah picked up Ezekiel to look at his face and he let out his first cry.
By 8:53pm she was back in the room and full of smiles. She couldn't believe all that had happened. She was so immensely proud of herself and certainly should have been.
Isaiah then cut the cord and the placenta was born by 9pm.
Hannah began to get him latched and I reminded her to slow down a bit. He had only been earth side for 20 minutes and she laughed, "I can't believe that!"
Hannah mentioned how seamlessly everyone moved, how supported she felt, and that even though things happened so fast, that we were able to facilitate the birth that she had hoped and prayed to have, throughout this pregnancy.
However, at 9:40pm there was another bit of panic. All Hannah wanted was a burger and a milkshake. We did a bit of hunting around and found one place that was open still, but would close shortly. Isaiah didn't miss a beat. He swiftly moved out of the room and brought everyone back milkshakes. A first for me and the nurse, but delightfully appreciated.
Throughout this pregnancy Hannah doubted herself. During those moments of doubt, she would turn to others and feed off of their words of encouragement; until the moment of Ezekiel's birth. While Hannah wanted our physical presence, she eventually blocked out her self talk. She trusted herself, her mind and her body that it could birth her son the exact way that she wanted.
She is the epitome of strength, without a doubt, but even more so she gained confidence that I believe she will get to carry throughout the rest of her life.
Isaiah, Sophia Kathleen, baby Ezekiel, and family, thank you so much for allowing me to support Hannah through this amazing miracle. I could feel how important she is to all of you and I appreciate your trust.
Hannah, you are not only a client and a true badass, but a dear friend. I will cherish the honor of being allowed to witness your love and strength in the years to come. I love and adore you. Congratulations to you.