Noel is Born! | The Birth Story of Tobi

*** Photo Credits…. First two photos from Jax’s birth taken by our birth photographer Ann Marie Itschner. She was not available for Tobi’s birth. The birth of Tobi was photographed by Monica Barrientes. I edited them, with Monica’s permission. My sister Mercy Persyn took photos during the newborn exam, shown at the end of this post. Just wanted to give credit to our awesome photogs ***

*This is a birth story. There aren’t any “R” rated images, but it’s a birth story with birth photos and descriptions of body parts.*

When I wrote the birth story of my firstborn, I had a reader comment, “You had a traumatic birth.” Other readers said the intensity of my story was just how they remembered their own labor.

I was surprised by the first observation.

I wrote the story of Jax’s birth the only way I could find to do so – from the inside not the outside. From the intense and insane thoughts that rattled my brain and body as I labored and delivered a 10 lb 4 oz firstborn at home without medication.

Photo of Jax’s Birth by Ann Marie Itschner
Photo of Jax’s birth by Ann Marie Itschner

My overriding thought during Jax’s labor was the sensation that I was dying. It wasn’t that I believed I was dying; I just had no other way to name the intensity of pain. Yet somehow, at the moment my brain was saying, “I’m dying”, another part was saying “Open. Open your body, swing your hips, open to let this baby come through.”

I don’t feel traumatized by Jax’s birth. In fact, the intensity I experienced is rather normal for first-time un-medicated births I’ve seen. Horribly painful and I won’t lie about it.

Yet conversely, intensely rewarding. I am SO proud of myself for delivering a 10 lb 4 oz firstborn baby at Home, without medication. I am SO proud that my body can do this. That most women can too.  I was SO happy to be at home, in my own safe element, surrounded by people I know and love. No one to take my baby away from me except my family. No one to do things to me without my consent. No arguing for my birth experience to be preserved. My own room, my own bed, my own peace.  And my son, born into this safe, peaceful place.

I’m a birth photographer. I’ve observed births of all kinds. Difficult natural births, and easy natural births.  Traumatic hospital births and healing hospital births.

I’ve seen many natural births (home or birth center) that were easy.  These moms made birth look like a walk in the park. Or a comedy show.

I’ve seen laboring mothers hiking stairs at 9 cm, making everyone in the room crack up at 10 cm, and making not a single sound of pain while laboring or pushing. I’ve seen babies born naturally and quickly – from first contraction to delivery in less than an hour – without medication or intervention.

I’ve seen mamas who make natural labor a comedy show with a dramatic happy ending.

While my experience with my first born – that of intense pain and a sensation of dying – is an experience many women share; so too is the peace and ease I’ve observed in many of my clients.

During my pregnancy with Noel (our womb-name for our second child), I kept my mind open about the delivery. And I prayed for it to be quicker and easier.

To summarize my labor and delivery with Jax, from a medical event perspective…..

– 10 hours of total labor, 8 hours of that was active (very painful) labor, 1 hour of that was pushing.
– Third degree tear to my perineum (not from his head but from his elbow when he pushed his arm out after his head emerged), which required a lot of stitches and a lengthy healing time.
– Hemorrhage that required IV fluids, methergine, and pitocin to stop the bleeding.
– Postpartum fainting.

This time I wanted to experience a shorter labor, no tearing, no hemorrhaging, and no fainting. I also hoped for a water birth.


My labor story with Noel began Monday evening. I attended a church class that met in our home, and left early. During the meeting, I could not get comfortable in any sitting position, and was antsy and anxious. I slept fine that night (as well as one sleeps at 39 weeks pregnant), and woke Tuesday morning, still uncomfortable all over. I did not consider I could be in labor, but hoped I didn’t have many days of pregnancy left.

I took a walk outside with Jax about 9:30 in the morning.  He rode his tricycle. The tightening sensation of the Braxton Hicks was still painless but seemed rather regular. Just for grins, I decided to track them in an iPhone app, during our walk. They were regular (every 3-5 minutes, and around 1 minute long), but didn’t hurt.  That timing was the same way I began labor with Jax, but it hurt almost right away.

We got back from the walk, and I continued pacing around the house.  Standing still was uncomfortable, even though I wasn’t in pain.  My mom kept telling me I was in labor. I kept saying I was antsy and uncomfortable, but couldn’t be in labor since it didn’t hurt.

At some point I called Benjamin to come home, because I was too agitated to take care of Jax.  I managed to bring all the birth supplies from storage in the closet, out into the birth room, and get Benjamin started on setting up the birth pool.  He and I took another walk, knowing by now, that today was indeed the day.

We called our midwife, Robin around 1:30 in the afternoon (oddly enough, we called her about 1:30 in the middle of the night last time!).  I had several dreams during my pregnancy that I had an easy birth with my baby, and it was so quick and easy that Robin missed it. I didn’t want that part of the dream to come true!

Robin and her assistant ShaeLynn arrived by 3:00 in the afternoon. She checked and I was already 6cm dilated! I couldn’t believe it. I was in pain at that point, but it was bearable. And I had my full presence of mind. I could talk between contractions. I could even talk during them, saying things like, “This sucks. Why does labor have to hurt so much?!”

As a photographer, I know we’re not at the end, until the mama stops talking, and has to fully concentrate. She zones out from the world, and enters a mental labor land. I knew I wasn’t there yet, and had time left. But I was relieved it was already SO much easier than last time. Last time I thought I was dying by 2cm, and this time, I was merely convinced “labor sucks” at 6cm.

By 4:00 pm I was in the birth pool. My mom coached me during contractions. She also read me amazing Scripture verses she had prepared for this moment.

Benjamin was in the water behind me, holding me up, just like last time. My sister Mercy arrived, and would intermittently coach me, or give me water or juice to drink.  They put a fan on my face because I was too hot in the water tub (just like last time).  At some point, I vomited (which I also did with Jax, but early in labor compared to late in labor this time). Eventually the second midwife, Julie, arrived, who I had not met before.

“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” Isaiah 41:10

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby, that He may remain with you forever.” John 14:16

“Don’t be afraid, he said, for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong! As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger.” Daniel 10:19

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

“The Lord said to him, Peace be to you, do not fear. You shall not die.” Judges 6:23

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.” Isaiah 43:1-2

When she read that one, I immediately knew it had to do with my perineum, and crowning, and being able to pass through that “fire” without “burning” (tearing / damage to my perineum). I asked her to read to me a few more times and felt so much strength.

“There is nothing to fear, for I am with you. Do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes I will help you, yes I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand!” Isaiah 41:10

About 4:30pm, there was an unexpected knock on the door. It was my friend Elisha, who hopes to one day have kids and have natural births. She was picking up a bag of gluten-free flour she needed for a recipe.

She had tried to pick it up the day before, Monday. She called Monday afternoon, checking to be sure she could stop by to get it. I was napping, and had my phone turned off. I didn’t get her message until late that evening, and called to apologize. She laughed, “I figured you were in labor.” I laughed too. “No, no, not in labor; just napping. I’ll put it on the porch for you. Pick it tomorrow when you leave work.”

Now, here she was, arriving to pick it up, knocking on the door. And like she joked, I was in labor! In labor, in the main living area of the house. She opened the front door and unknowingly stepped into a delivery room!  I heard someone say she had come in, and laughed to myself.  During my pregnancy, I considered inviting her to the birth, but wasn’t sure if she would want to come.

Now she was here. And at 9cm, I still had the presence of mind to say to her, “Hey! I’m 9 centimeters! Wanna stay and watch a baby be born?!” She stayed.

Around that time, I began having a certain pressure behind my pubic bone. My midwife thought the pressure was the water bag, and the sensation was the baby rocking his head trying to break it. She said, “You can keep doing what you’re doing, and eventually it will break. Or I can break it, and this will be over pretty quickly.”  I waited a couple more contractions, then asked her to break it.

She says it broke with the slightest pressure of her finger. Then she grabbed the crown of Noel’s head,  gently pulling and tilting his head into proper position.

With my water broken, the full pressure of Noel’s head was against my cervix. The pain escalated, pushing me over the edge. I felt the sharp knife-stabbing my insides that I remembered making me scream with Jax, and I flopped around in the tub, trying to escape it.  I hit the intensity of the “I’m dying” wall.  At the same time, I knew I was SO close. It wouldn’t be very long like this.  Ten to twenty minutes passed, then I could feel my body instinctively begin pushing.

It’s one of the lovely things about natural labor, and out-of-hospital labor. You don’t have to wait for the doctor to show up in order to deliver the baby, and they don’t have to “verify” you are fully dilated before “allowing” you to push.  The midwife is always there. And she can tell by a mama’s labor progress and physical/vocal expressions, whether or not she is ready.  I had only two vaginal exams in Noel’s labor, and the last one had been less than an hour ago. When my body was ready, I didn’t need anyone’s permission, and I didn’t have to wait. I followed my body’s cues, pulled my knees up, and pushed.

To my midwife’s records, I pushed less than ten minutes.  To my memory, I pushed four contractions total.

I’m a highly sensitive person when it comes to my body, touch, smell, taste, and physical sensation / experience.  With each of my son’s births, there is a “defining moment” physically, that I can repeat in my memory. It is rich, beautiful, and raw.  I can recall that moment at any time, and enter it again in my mind. It is a sensation of my primal self if you will.


With Jax, that moment was when his body slipped out of me. I couldn’t actually tell when he was crowning, or when his head emerged. I’ve heard crowning described as “the ring of fire”, and I didn’t experience it with Jax at all. His entire hour-long passage down my birth canal felt like tearing and burning, and it was not distinguishable from being inside, to being outside. I did however, feel a great sense of relief of pressure when his head emerged.  I paused, asking if he was okay, touching his head, waiting for another contraction to be able to push him out.  When it came, and his huge 10 lb 4 oz body slipped out, that was my most visceral sensation.  I felt as if I could feel every part of his little body – every shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, bony and bumpy and poking me, and yet slithering, slipping out of me.  I grabbed him under his armpits and tried to bring him up to me, but Robin stopped me. His cord was only long enough to lay him across my hip.


With Tobi, pushing out his head was the most visceral sensation.  I felt the pressure as if needing to poop, and remembered that I needed to push “down”, just as if trying to poop.  His head quickly progressed under my pubic bone and into my birth canal, and it was such an intense pressure. I was thinking to myself in shock, it feels like I’m pooping a grapefruit. That is SO. MUCH. PRESSURE. Pooping grapefruit SUCKS.  I knew it was his head, but it was such a different sensation that Jax.  I REALLY wanted his head to get out fast, because I was not liking the feeling of his head pressing my bones and body apart.  It was maybe only one or two pushes with that intense grapefruit-in-my-bowels sensation, before he was crowning, and Robin told me to stop and blow, to avoid tearing.

She had been worried my whole pregnancy about me tearing again, especially since the old tear had formed some white scar tissue that wasn’t stretchy.  Benjamin worked on rubbing the scar tissue with some oil, in the weeks preceding the birth, and I’m sure that helped. Plus prayer. Always prayer.

I was glad for her alerting me that it was time to pause my powerful pushes, and wait…. I submissively blew short panting breaths, waiting, holding back, allowing my perinium to stretch slowly and gently over his head.  At the next contraction, I pushed again, and his head emerged.  Relief!

And again, the three minutes of eternity. Waiting.  Joyfully rubbing my sweet baby’s head, hoping he was okay under the water, even though I knew logically he was still getting oxygen from his cord inside me.  I knew how close I was.  I caressed and massaged his little soft head under the water, tickling his little ears and feeling his wispy hair under my finger tips. I felt happy and elated.

Then another contraction, and his body.  Robin was holding onto him, and it felt like she was twisting and yanking his body around to get him out. She tells me it was just the baby, moving and turning to emerge.

Then, he was out of the water. I grabbed onto him and pulled him up to my chest. I threw my head back in joyous relief, and held my baby.  One arm around his back, the other under his bum.

With my hand tucked under his bum, I touched his skin and felt that he was boy.

With a laugh, I yelled loudly, “IT HAS BALLS!!!!!”

Later, watching the video, I nearly crawled into a hole when I watched that part.  It’s not like me to yell. Or be crude. Or refer to body parts by slang instead of correct terminology.

But labor removes your inhibitions, sort of like being drunk, and there I was, yelling to the room, “It has balls!”

With Jax, I tried to keep an open mind about our baby’s gender, but this time, I couldn’t help hoping for a boy.  Jax has been such a delight, and we both felt he would love having a brother to play in the dirt, and drive toy cars, and tractors and bulldozers. Not that a girl can’t do those things.  I was so happy he was a boy, just like I was happy with Jax.

Tobi Mitchell was his name. We announced it.  Tobi with an “I.”

I yelled, someone get Jax back in here!  My dad had been watching Jax. They had come in the room minutes before when I was pushing, and Jax asked to go back out of the room. I was making too much noise and it frightened him (he was almost three years old).  My dad and Jax came back in, and I breathlessly told him a baby brother was born, Tobi. Noel was his name before, but now that he was born, and he was a boy, his name would be Tobi.

Tobi was born at 5:51 pm.

If I count from my walk that morning with Jax, I was in labor eight hours.  But if I count active labor from when Robin arrived, I was in active labor around three hours. And pushed for less than ten minutes.

The news got better. I had a day time labor. I had water birth! I didn’t hemmorhage. I didn’t tear!!!!!

My mom said it was the most peaceful labor she had ever seen. I was thrilled with how easy it was compared to Jax.  It had only been intense for around thirty minutes or so.

I was also thrilled that Tobi came at 39 weeks (Jax was 40 weeks), and was born in November.  We had called him Noel since his due date was early December but I really wanted a November birthday for my baby.  And here he was.  Two days before Thanskgiving.

We had two birth photographers on-call for us, friends who were willing to shoot for me at a reduced rate.  We called both of them earlier in the day, and it was a toss up for a while, who would come.  Finally Monica was the one. And oddly enough, her family was celebrating Thanksgiving on that day! Even though Thanksgiving wasn’t until Thursday, they were celebrating on Tuesday. She put the turkey in the oven, and drove to my house. What a special friend.

Just the right day at just the right time. He was born on November 25, the same day of the month as Christmas, just one month earlier!

Oh to hold my sweet son after just a few short hours of intensity!
Oh to have two boys!

To not be pregnant any longer when I had been so uncomfortable the past few days and weeks. To have a November baby!

To deliver him in the water in front of the Christmas tree.

To have my family and friends surrounding me!

It was everything I wished and prayed for. I clung to this tiny little one, rubbing his back to help the oxygen flow into his lungs, caressing his body still smooth and slippery from vernix (which Jax hysterically calls vinegar).

And oh to have childREN not only a child.  In that moment, the world was perfect and I would not change a thing. 

My sister Mercy, who is in nursing school, cut the cord and got to hold Tobi.  Benjamin held Tobi, and Jax got to check him out.  Our friend Tina arrived, just minutes late. Maybe we will remember to call her in time to see the birth of baby #3!

In the meantime, I delivered the placenta, and got out of the tub feeling like a million dollars.  I requested a bag of IV fluids, to prevent dehydration and fainting – just in case.  After the IV bag was finished, I felt even better.  Robin checked me to be sure I didn’t need stitches, and I didn’t!  Our friend Tina showed up.  Benjamin called his mom and insisted I say hello on Facetime. I love my mother in law so much, but was not up for talking right then ha!

Then, I WALKED back to my room. After Jax was born, I was hemmorhaging and fainting, and Benjamin carried me to my bed. This time I walked all the way across the house on my own two feet. I was sore, but I felt amazing.

One of the things I love about having a birth photographer, is they capture things 1) that I would have otherwise forgotten and 2) that I didn’t even see happening – like Mercy, Jax, and Tobi hanging out in the other room with new toys my parents bought for Jax.

Tobi weighed in at 9 lb 8 oz, and 21 inches long.  Just shy of Jax’s 10 lb 4 oz and 22 inches, but also a week shy of Jax’s gestational age.

My sister Mercy is studying to become a nurse. She’s also been married a bit over a year, and is eagerly anticipating the day when she and her husband can start their own family. Between those two things, she wanted to help out with Tobi and snatch him up any chance she could.  She was a huge help.

By this point, it was nearing Jax’s bedtime. Someone gave him a bath. He started getting cranky. But he did so well. He was sweet as could be with his new brother. He gave him lots of kisses, and checked out Tobi’s latch.  Jax was still nursing about three times a day when Tobi was born, so they were going to have to learn to share. We had talked about it while I was pregnant. I was so proud of Jax, watching him transition to a big brother.

I love this sequence of the four of us.  It reminds me of so much of what I love about home birth.  Peace. Family. Rest. Cuddles. Security. Safety. Usually at this point in the hospital, the baby is taken away to the nursery for several hours.

There’s also something special about the relationship with a midwife.  By the end of one pregnancy, you feel close to them.  By the end of the second, she feels sort of like a second mom.  Robin’s expertise makes me comfortable to do this huge life work at home.  She is wise, educated, calm, and knows which calculated risks are safe, and which ones not to take.  She knows what to watch for to signal a crisis, and can act promptly and calmly in any scenario. She handled the complications after Jax’s birth with great skill.  I can trust her to take care of me and my babies, and that is such a peaceful feeling.

Our lovely birth photographer Monica went home to eat some cold Thanksgiving dinner!  My sister Mercy took the rest of these photos with my camera.

I am special. I was born at home!

Jax’s birth was not traumatic for me, but it was physically painful and mentally difficult.  It never occurred to me during his labor to ask for drugs, or to ask to go to the hospital.  It wasn’t an option on my radar, and it somehow never crossed my mind.  I do recall wishing there was a labor “light switch” so I could just switch off the pain for a while. I just wanted a break, for a few minutes, or hours, then I would be ready to finish up again later.

Tobi’s birth was everything I could ask for. All the people I wanted to be there were there, except my sisters who live out of town.  He was born in the water, in front of the Christmas tree. I didn’t hemmorhage, or tear, or faint. His labor was so easy and so much less painful.

I look back on his labor and delivery with great joy. I can almost laugh inside with the exuberance of how perfect it was. I can recall that it was horribly painful, but it was such a short time, less than thirty minutes, and by that point in my labor, I knew exactly where I was, recognized the sensations, and knew the crazy pain would be over soon.

I got the boy number two I had been hoping for. I held him in my arms, on my chest, and never wanted that moment to end. So much relief. So much joy.

The hormones that create labor also flush the mother’s body with ecstasy when she meets her baby – it is an emotional experience of freedom and delight comparable to none other.

I feel blessed. So blessed, to have this kind of amazing birth.

There were so many prayers for all of this. When Tobi was 36 weeks and still feet first (not a safe position for vaginal birth), I was nearly in a panic. I wrote this post, where I had to surrender my hopes and dreams for his birth.

I had laid my hands on my belly, and spoken to him in a rather firm voice, “Noel, this is your Mommy talking to you. We love you. The world is a safe place. It’s okay for you to come when you’re ready. The Bible says children are to honor their parents. This is your Mommy talking to you, and I’m telling you to turn around. Put your head down where it belongs, and stay there.”  Days later, at a 37-week sonogram, he was head down, and stayed there, and delivered that way.

After this emotional journey of surrender, I was given the greatest gift – to have the birth I dreamed about, the son I dreamed about…..  What joy. Thank you Jesus.

Dear Noel… Time to Surrender



Dear Noel,

At thirty six weeks along, you are still my squirmy one.  So squirmy in fact, that we have to get a sonogram this week, to see if there’s anything in particular that is preventing you from getting positioned properly.  We have been praying every day, and have people praying for us, and I’ve been talking to you and doing little exercises, in efforts to get you either head-down or butt-down into my pelvis.  You seem to enjoy flipping and swimming a bit too much at this stage where we are nearing the time of delivery.  I’m praying you will cooperate soon!  We really want to be able to birth you safely in our home, and we need you to be properly positioned in order to do so.

Your Daddy had a dream about you not too long ago… in the dream you were born easily and quickly.  He didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl.

I had a dream a few weeks ago as well, after his dream, about your birth.  In my dream your Daddy was with me, and your Grandmama, and I was laboring peacefully.  Your big brother Jax needed to go potty, and for some reason it was our midwife Robin who took him to the bathroom.  While they were gone, you slipped out of me in an easy delivery.  You were a boy – I remember looking between your legs to see, first thing.  You were smaller than your brother was when he was born, but still chubby.  I looked in your face, and you looked like him too, but yet different at the same time.  Robin and Jax came back into the room, and I was apologizing to them for delivering you so quickly while they were gone.  I was trying to get Jax to come over to see that you were a boy!

Then just a couple days ago, I dreamed that I was holding two boys in my arms – you and Jax.  He was a baby, like I was re-seeing him as a baby, and you as a baby at the same time, but he was still older than you.

The funny thing is, while I was pregnant with Jax, your Daddy and I both had dreams of having a girl baby!  So despite these dreams, I’m not convinced of your gender!

I AM convinced that the Lord wants to encourage me in this season, to trust Him to bring you safely and easily into the world.

I’ve been kind of drowning in fears… in the what-ifs…. what if you will not turn properly and we have to go the hospital and have a cesarean birth.  What if the placenta is in the way and you can’t get in a good position, or they can’t even do the cesarean properly, and have to do some crazy incision that will prevent me from having more children born naturally in the future.  What if I go into labor and you aren’t in position, and we are in a hurry, and something scary happens to you.

I’ve been praying and asking the Lord for your safety, and for a safe home birth, trying to trust him and not allow these scary stories and images to flood my mind.  One thing I realized, is that after the birth of Jax, I felt a bit invincible.  My body had grown a healthy 10 lb 4 oz baby, and my body had delivered him safely at home, without medication or intervention.  If I could do that, I could do anything!

Natural birth, and even home birth, has been such a goal for me, and something I’m passionate about.  Perhaps it had even become something like an idol.  That there’s no way you would find me delivering my babies in the hospital, or by any means other than God’s created means of my body.  As I talked with God, I realized I needed to surrender that too.

I need to surrender my hopes and dreams and my passionate soapbox, and be ready to surrender this birth to whatever it needs to be.  To say, Yes God, I will serve You and believe You even if I don’t get to deliver this baby at home.  I can still love and follow You, and trust You, even if I have a cesarean.  Even if something happens and this has to be my last biological child.

Even if I were to lose this child.

I will be able to find a way through the grief and devastation, to keep believing You are God and You are good, to keep giving up my life for You and Your cause.

I don’t say any of this tritely, because it’s one of the hardest prayers I’ve prayed; one of the toughest journeys I’ve walked through in my mind.

The amazingly beautiful privilege of delivering you in our home, in front of the Christmas tree, surrounded by peace and family and friends and tears and laughter… is one I still pray and hope to have.  But I have to be willing to surrender that image for a sterile, lonely, medicalized one, and still know that God loves me, loves You, and is taking care of us.  My heart has to be tender before Him, and this is what a tender heart looks like – full surrender to Him.  Yes, faith and belief that He can do anything, that He listens and responds to our prayers, that I won’t give up asking for what I believe is His perfect plan, but that I will also be ready to love and serve Him if it ends up differently than what I prayed for.

So this dream I’ve had, I’m allowing it to die.  The dream of dim lights and soft music and warm water around us.  The dream of pushing you out into my arms, and everyone discovering your gender together with a gasp of surprise.  The dream of my family surrounding me, and photographs capturing twinkling lights around us, while our eyes well with tears and our throats with laughter, as you enter this world in the coziness of our own space.  The dream of your big brother being there to watch you arrive, to see you coming out Mommy’s bottom, like we’ve been explaining and talking about.  The dream of uninterrupted time with you that doesn’t involve a host of sterilized strangers and you being taken away from me for even a split second of time.  The dream of you coming into this world without a drop of medication in your tiny system.

These dreams don’t need to die because they won’t ever happen.  We are praying with gusto they still will indeed happen.  They need to die because they can’t be my idol.  They can’t be more important to me than trusting God with my life and yours.  They can’t prevent me from loving and seeking Him if they don’t come true.

So I love you, dear, dear, dear Noel.  I love you as much as it is possible for me to love you while only being able to feel you squirming inside me, and caress from the outside of my body what might be your foot or your forehead.  And I surrender You to Jesus. I surrender Your birth to Jesus.  I surrender my body to Jesus.  I surrender all our hopes and plans and dreams, to His glorious and amazing power.  I trust that He can get us through anything.

I trust that in anything, we will make it because He Is and He Was and He Always Will Be… God.  I trust that HE is the best gift.  Indeed, you are not the best gift.  A beautiful natural birth is not the best gift.  HE is the best gift.  Knowing Him, being loved by Him, being close to Him.  So we draw near.  I draw near, your Daddy and Jax and I, we draw near to Him and His love, to have HIM.

He is all we need.  He loves you more than we do.  He can be trusted.

Dear Noel…. my squirmy beloved one, not too far away

** All photos credit to our lovely photographer Melanie Swan.

Dear Noel,

We had some lovely photos taken recently to document your growing life…. but you are as present with me as it’s possible to be at this stage.  You are squirmy and wiggly and flippy, I’m pretty sure even more than your older brother was.  One difference I note is that you do indeed have distinct active cycles and sleep/rest cycles.  I remember with him, feeling like he never let up on his movement.

You feel smaller so far than he did, so even at thirty four weeks, you have plenty of space to move all around.  You’ve spent many days in a breech position, your head pressing hard up against my ribs and your feet kicking around in my pelvic area.  You also seem to prefer a posterior position thus far, which means my belly is constantly full of your knees, elbows, hands, and feet, all over the place, unpredictable, strong, and wild.  Not always so comfortable for me!  But you finally relocated a week or so ago, to at least a semi-diagonal-head-down position, which is moving in the right direction.  I am praying for you to position yourself in good birthing position (and stay put!) within the next few weeks.

Some things about carrying you that I want to remember….

I’ve craved salty and spicy foods.

My life is busier, as in, less time sitting down and thinking.  It means that sometimes I almost forget that you are within me, until you start bouncing around and I think, “Well hello, Noel!” with a little smile.  Then I remember again, how we are anticipating you.

With having children, there’s things I think I thought it would “fix” in my life, and of course things I knew it would “break” (in a good way).  Being a Mommy for the last two years has made me a different person than I was before.

But I have a similar anticipation to you – being YOU.  Your big brother was an open-ended idea… we didn’t even know his gender, let alone his personality, preferences, opinions, quirks.  Some of the things we hoped for him, that he would be full of life and joy and creativity, have all been true.  Other things were just a clean, white slate, ready for him to write his own story.

So it is the same with you.  You will be different than he.  Your gender, personality, preferences, quirks… and I try to hold in my heart, not the expectation of another Jax, but the expectation of Noel.  A clean, white slate, ready for you to write your own story.

It’s harder to do the second time around, but it’s something always on my mind.  To discover you day by day, the same way I did with him.  Expectation-free.  Heart wide-open.  An open-ended journey of who are you, who are you becoming, and what is my part to play in getting acquainted with you and acquainting you to the world around you.

We are even planning your birth to be in a different room of the house.  Most of the people invited to your birth day will be the same, unless perhaps your Aunt Mercy or Priscilla will be able to come, who were too far away last time to make it.

Your big brother is so enthusiastic about you.  I know that you are still living primarily in his imagination, and the reality of you will be so different for him.  But he needs you too, he just doesn’t know it yet.  You will help him grow up and become less selfish, just like he did for your Daddy and I.   You will eventually play with him and the two of you can enjoy some of the best friendships available on earth – that of connected siblings.

He frequently wants to talk to you.  If I change clothes and he sees my belly, he comes over to talk to you.  Or sometimes he will pull my shirt up, lean his head against my skin, and talk to you.  It usually goes something like this, “Hello baby Noel…” (giggles and smiles)… “This is Jax Reilly. I’m your big brother.”

When he and I lay down in bed together to cuddle, or read books, or nurse, he is often close enough to feel you bumping and kicking around.  Sometimes he exclaims in surprise, “Baby Noel is kicking me!” followed by his sweet laugh.

One day when I was cleaning the house and couldn’t play with him, he told me he wanted you to be here NOW so he could play with you.

When other tiny babies come to visit us, he wants to look deeply into their eyes, often holding their shoulders or cheeks in both his hands, to establish connection with them.  Recently he showed one of his favorite hot wheels trucks to a tiny baby – tried putting it in the baby’s hand, and when the baby couldn’t grab it, he set it gently on the baby’s chest for the baby to see.  I know he will be the same way with you.

I’m looking forward to cuddling you, nursing you, wearing you, smelling your sweet-scented hair, and discovering you.

Your brother has brought us more joy, laughter, and life, than we could have imagined, and I know you will magnify that experience in our home.

Besides praying for your health, safety, growth, and smooth delivery, I’m also praying for your heart and character and soul.  That you would be filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit from a young age.  That you would be passionate for His cause.  That those who know you would be drawn to you, and thus to Jesus.

I had an experience early in my pregnancy with you, where I was in a group of people listening to a recorded sermon.  In the message, the man was talking about how the power of God can be invited and poured out when we shout to Him.  It’s in the Bible, many, many times, but not something we practice too often these days.  On the CD, he was prepping his audience, a crowd of hundreds, to shout all together, to God, on his cue.  I was debating in my mind…. here I am with five other people, all passionate people who are crazy for God, but still, here we are sitting in a quiet room, listening to a pre-recorded sermon.  What will happen?  What will we do?  Will we listen or will we participate?  Will the moment of shouting pass by with us sitting quietly, or will someone jump up and yell out to God praise and adoration and celebration of His name?

I decided I wasn’t going to wait to find out.  Breaking out of my hesitant, indecisive self, when the preacher finished his countdown, I yelled, loudly, “Praise You God! We worship You!  You are mighty!  Thank you Jesus!”  I lifted my hands toward heaven as I shouted, and felt almost what seemed like electricity shoot through my fingertips, down my arms and body, and directly into my womb.  I continued shouting, and the others in the room quickly joined in, but I almost sat there stunned.  I knew in that moment, you would live, you would exist, and you had already been filled with the power of God, for a life that has impact in the world.

I’m looking forward to getting to know you.  Looking forward to seeing you discover God’s beautiful world, even in its brokenness, and fighting for His cause of bringing it peace and healing and love.  Be full of His power and passion little one; the world needs it.


Dear Noel

Dear Noel,

You are growing inside me, at twelve weeks already about the size of a fig or guava fruit.  Your big brother Jax likes to pretend that you are growing inside his tummy too.

We named you “Noel”, while you are still hidden away, because we hope to meet you in early December, just a few weeks before Christmas.  In the Hispanic culture, “Noel” is often a name for a boy baby; but in the Caucasian culture, it is usually a girl’s name.  We figured between the two, it could be a neutral name for you until you arrive, and we know your gender and give you a forever name.  We did the same with your brother, and his womb name was “Beta.”  The meaning of “Noel” is simply, “the Christmas season.”

We have a lot of fun with you already (see below photos), but it will be a great deal more fun once you arrive earth side!

Your Daddy is excited about you too. Sometimes I catch him on his iPhone glancing through photos, and they are photos and videos about you, or at least, what we estimate to know about you right now.

We also pray for you every night, Jax and I, as we go to sleep.  And usually when I’m in the shower is another time that I think about you and talk to you.

This week we met with our wonderful midwife, Robin, for the first time.  She was also our midwife with your big brother, and we are grateful to have her watching out for you too.  We listened to your heartbeat with the Doppler, which is something we didn’t do with your big brother.  But I was curious, and we wanted to take a quick listen.  Jax found it very interesting, and as soon as Robin was through, he said, “Do it again!”

You are growing strong already (your heartbeat was 156 and easy to find).  I am excited to experience your growth and meet you in a few months.

We love you so much already.

Mommy, Daddy, and Jax

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