Nadema Bell’s Natural Birth Story: A Journey of Empowerment and Love


February 3, 2023

Anyone that tells you, “oh this is your (fill in the blank) baby? Then it will definitely go just like this…” is a snake oil salesman ???? send them packing.

Because this was my 4th baby, everyone and their mother told me to pack blankets in the car because baby would certainly come so fast that I’d barely make it to the birth center on time. They. Were. Wrong.

This is baby Nadema Bell’s birth story…

Nadema Bell’s Birth Story

Let’s start with this – I already defy the odds when it comes to labor. My waters have broken every single time to kick things off, and that supposedly only happens in about 10% of labors. 

For my first two, my waters broke and contractions didn’t immediately start, which meant I had to fight with my OBs to “let me” stay home and labor (a battle I lost the 1st time, because I didn’t know how to advocate for myself well enough, yet). 

With my 3rd baby, though, my waters broke in a blizzard and polar vortex (no joke, it was negative 57 with windchill), and my contractions started right away. We were driving to the hospital in said blizzard in the middle of the night on roads that had not yet been plowed, as our truck pushed the snow out of the way and I was deep into labor. So I assumed this time would mirror the last!

But as my mother always says, “man proposes, and God disposes.” In other words, my assumptions and plans meant bupkis. 

We stayed home for New Years Eve with the kiddos, as I was starting to feel “different” that day. I was feeling more crampy, tired, and a little on edge. We had a great day of board games by the fire until I felt the need to retreat into the bath around the kid’s bedtime. 

My due date was 1/9, so as of 12/31 I was a little over a week early. 

Low and behold, after hitting the hay early, I rang in the New Year at 12:30 am with my waters breaking! I laid in bed debating whether or not to wake up Michael, as contractions were starting, but not too intense. A little voice told me to stay in bed and let him sleep, and I’m glad I did. We were going to need all the sleep for what was ahead!

My contractions slowed, and ultimately stopped as I drifted back to sleep. Around 5am I rolled over to tell Michael that my waters had broken during the night, and despite this being his 4th rodeo, he still responded (nearly out of a dead sleep) with an excited (and quite hysterical) “stop ittttt! No wayyyy! Stop ittttt!” ???? Gets him every time, I guess!

We both woke up and I texted my mother-in-law to let her know that baby would likely come that day, January 1st, and she started to pull together her things to head our way.

When I got up I could feel contractions, but they were spaced out and intermittent enough to know things weren’t urgent. I started my day as I normally would, spending time with the kids, making breakfast, doing some last minute nesting things around the house to satisfy my urge to prepare, and taking breaks back in our room when things would feel more intense.

Michael called the midwife around 7:30 am to let her know that my waters had broken during the night and that contractions weren’t fully revving up yet. She very calmly told us to keep her posted, and that if things picked up we should give her a call. 

Since we were a full hour away from the birth center, I remained very cognizant of what my body was doing so we would have ample time to get to where we needed to be (and not deliver a baby on the side of the highway). 

It was such a pleasure working with our midwife versus our past experiences because her calm and confidence was so uplifting, not to mention the zero pressure attitude she had around my contractions not really kicking into gear yet. In times past, they made me feel like a ticking time bomb once my waters had broken, but this time I was given the permission to let my body and baby do what they were made to do.

Speaking of pressure, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling any pressure yet. If you’ve birthed a baby before, you might know what I mean. Once things picked up with my 3rd baby, I started to feel pressure pretty quickly and that was my indicator to get my preggo butt to the hospital! 

But this time I was just feeling the discomfort of the contractions without pressure, so that told me that baby was likely not fully engaged yet or not down enough to put pressure on my cervix to dilate considerably.

Giving Birth at a Birth Center vs. Hospital

Around lunch, we called my midwife again to get her thoughts, and she gave me some ideas to help get things going. The biggest difference between this birth experience and my past three was how comforting and calming my birth team was. Still kind of programmed from my previous labors, I was waiting for them to tell me that my labor was “stalled out”, or that I had to head to the hospital to be induced. But instead I was met with the reassurance that this was exactly how my body needed it to be, and if I was getting breaks in my labor, I should use them to rest.

It shouldn’t be a novel concept that women’s bodies are designed to do this, but it felt like one to me since I was carrying with me my prior experiences. 

(This is where I’ll insert the disclaimer that I feel should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: I’m grateful for modern medicine that can be leveraged in the times we need it when it comes to labor and childbirth. Every circumstance is different. But it should be the exception, not the rule. A laboring mom (at least in America) is often treated as a patient with an urgent problem to be solved by a doctor, versus a laboring mother whose body is designed to birth her baby – a miracle to be honored and celebrated. I’m eternally grateful for the healthy pregnancy and all-things-go labors I’ve had that should have – in all of my personal cases – been treated as such.)

Related: My go-to products that prepared me for labor

After laboring for a bit in the shower and having things slow down again, our midwife tossed us some ideas to get things going (none of this is a recommendation, but just sharing my own personal experience and guidance from my birth team).

I started with a labor day tea, which consisted of an intensely strong brew of red raspberry leaf tea (25 brewed bags). That’s a tea that I drank consistently throughout my pregnancy, but the ultra strong brew can help ready the body for labor. I did start to feel contractions as I sipped my tea!

She also suggested that since I wasn’t feeling much pressure, that maybe baby’s head wasn’t fully engaged yet. So she sent me some laboring positions to help baby move down and lock in (I used the Miles Circuit to do that). 

It wasn’t long before I started to feel more regular and more intense contractions, but still no pressure. Having slept very little, I felt myself starting to get tired. One big difference between working with the midwives was their regular reminders to eat, which proved to be a gamechanger!

“You need sustenance! You don’t run a marathon without the nourishment to carry you through. EAT!”

So I ate (you never have to tell me twice to enjoy some healthy food)!

And finally in the 3pm hour, I pulled out my breast pump. This was another trick in my midwife’s back pocket to get things going, and boy did it!

After about an hour of pumping I was telling Michael to grab our bags and get ready to go. Because we had an hour drive to the birth center, I wasn’t taking any chances once labor picked up.

Pretty quickly within that hour, my contractions intensified and went from 8, to 7, to 6, to 5, to 2 minutes apart ????.

We smooched our kiddos, and hit the road. 

But about 30 minutes into our drive, I noticed that my contractions had started to get further apart. Again. 

We arrived and were met by our two wonderful midwives, Katie and Antoinette. The birth center was so calming and cozy, and we would be the only ones delivering there that day, so it was nice and quiet. 

Since things had slowed again, we had time to unpack, get settled, and there was already a bath drawn for me in case that was my spot of choice.

Michael had prepped a nice big shepherd’s pie, and Katie suggested we toss it in the oven and enjoy a hearty dinner to rebuild my strength. So between somewhat spread out contractions, we sat on our queen sized bed and enjoyed the meal he had prepared. 

I tried the bath, but found that nearly every time I went in the tub or the shower (two very calming and comforting things) my labor would stop almost completely. And seeing that I was going on one sleepless night and that this little one was rebelling against a January 1st appearance, I knew that I wanted to try and get things going before I ran out of steam.

After a few more rounds of pumping around 8pm, everything kick-started full-boar again. I was relying on Michael to hold me up as I leaned on him during contractions. Trying to get baby to move down, I stayed standing as much as my tired legs would allow. 

Come 10pm, I felt a wave of exhaustion hit me. I’d been laboring on and off for about a full day, and I needed to rest.

Katie suggested we take a nap, which struck me funny at first. 

“A nap?! I’m in labor!” 

But we laid down and I remember drifting off, so tired that when the contractions would hit, I nearly dreamed my way through them. I felt their intensity, but it was as though my mind and body took a break from one another, allowing me to sleep for just over an hour.

Towards the end of the nap, I felt three significant and intense contractions that started to wake me up.

Rounding the corner to midnight, everything started to intensify. Contractions stayed closer (but not quite close enough yet), and I was finding myself retreating inward like I have each time at this stage of labor. 

I don’t remember too much between midnight and 3 am aside from trying to breathe through each wave, and leaning on Michael for support.
I do remember that I had different things I’d say to myself or think that carried me through the pain and intensity…

I’d talk to baby, reminding them that we were in this together.

I’d talk to myself, reminding myself that with each contraction I was one moment closer to holding our child.

I’d talk to God, offering up the pain for different people in my life who I knew were suffering in their own lives.

That helped.

Related: Books I Love to Help My Mindset

We hadn’t done any checks to see how far along I was yet, so at 3:30am Katie suggested we see how things were progressing, and during that check we found that although my waters had broken during the previous night, it hadn’t broken fully. And that was creating a cushioning that was keeping baby’s head from fully engaging.

Well, during that check my waters completely broke, and from that moment on, all bets were off! ???? We were cooking with gas!

I stood up from the bed and felt baby literally *kerplunk* down into my pelvis. 

It was go-time…

And it really was ????

Celebrating the Miracle of Life: A “Charming” Birth Story

Instantly, I felt pressure and contractions kick into the highest of gears. If you had asked me prior to that what my pain and intensity level had been through contractions, I would have said a 10. If you asked me again at this new point in labor, I would have said, “I think we need to add a zero to the scale!”

As it has happened each time in the past, I get to a point in the transition of labor where I don’t really get breaks any longer in between surges. 

Michael usually identifies this shift in labor before I do because I start shaking, saying I’m cold, asking if I can push yet, I start weeping, and soon after start asking anyone in the room to billy-club me and wake me when it’s over.

Well, I was there…

…For another 4 hours!

At this point, we were about 30+ hours into this ballgame and I had nothing left in the reserves. Or at least that’s how it felt. It’s pretty miraculous what the body can do when there are no other options!

I tried every which position during this stage. Standing by the bed, holding onto Michael, in the bath, in the shower, hands and knees, on my back, on my side, with that weird peanut ball thing between my knees… I just kept moving in an attempt to keep baby moving down.

I had finally tapped into the part of labor where I go completely primal. I have zero say in the matter, really. Any hope of remaining some level of dignified-human-status goes out the window as I start to scream like a banshee on fire! I know this to be true because after each baby, I lose my voice ????

Also, let me say this…

I choose natural birth. I wanted the birth center. I read all the books about hypnobirthing and I practiced my meditations going into this event…

Related: Books I Love to Help My Mindset

I dream of being one of those women who talks about how they transcend the pain and experience this euphoric moment of breathing their baby into this world. I’m charmed by the premise of a peaceful experience, and then…

…I try and rip my husband’s arm off as I rupture the eardrums of everyone in a half mile radius (I legit heard him say “LIZ, no biting!! ????) and I beg everyone in the room to just get the baby out of me by any means necessary. Chainsaws included. There’s zero charm. 

That ish just ain’t in the cards for me, okay?! 

So as we quickly approached that moment, my midwife Katie suggested that I was almost there (to which I shouted, “YOU’VE BEEN TELLING ME THAT FOR LIKE, A WHOLE DAY!”) and she told me that sitting on the toilet would put me in prime position to let baby make their final descent.

She was right! Within minutes I knew that it was time to push, and within minutes after that my body was already starting the process. 

“I can’t deliver a baby on the toilet!!” I said… (if you know me, you know that I’m queen germaphobe, and the first thing I do when I get to a hotel is clean every door knob, remote, phone, and toilet! The irony isn’t lost on me.)

Assured that everything was perfectly disinfected, Katie replied with, “Sure you can, because baby is coming!”

But as I pushed, baby started to come quickly and Katie said pretty abruptly, “you need to stand up.”

“NO CHANCE.” I was toast. I was delivering a baby. Standing wasn’t on the docket for me.

“If you don’t stand up, your baby will go into the toilet.”

“Then we’re getting our water birth, because I can’t stand up.” (#motheroftheyear)

And then like a Superman would come and scoop up a damsel in distress, Michael threw my arm around his shoulders and hoisted me up, like it or not, and I was standing!

This was the stark contrast from my previous births in a bed, on my back, following the rules. Standing in a bathroom was a new level of crazy!

My determination to extract this little one from my body was at an all time high, so in a few pushes she was earthside and placed right onto my chest. It was wild!

And like I mentioned about finding out she was a “she”, it was a few minutes of holding her and getting my bearings before Michael finally asked… “well, what is it?!” and I angled her in his direction where he proudly announced, “it’s a GIRL!”

Like most post birth experiences, the next hour or so was a time warp. The adrenaline, the shaking, the joy, the pain, the placenta… the dang placenta ???? like, really? I have to deliver something else? 

But I digress…

Katie and Michael helped me and baby get to the bed, where I marveled for the 4th time at the amazing instincts that led her to start nursing right after she was born. Mind blowing!

Bonding with a New Sibling: A Heartwarming Story of Big Brother and Sisters Loving Their Baby Sister

The real magic for us was when, just 2 hours after we welcomed our fourth baby into our lives, her siblings were there to meet her!

It was so magical and so different from times past, because this time our kids were at ages to really soak up her arrival. They were enchanted by her little fingers and toes. They noticed her soft skin and delicate features. They couldn’t stop smiling and quietly repeating how precious she was.

And since the moment we got her home 24 hours after Nadema Bell was born, they have been our most incredible helpers! They are patient, and loving, and gentle, and attentive. 

I could share so much more, and I will on the Luminary Leadership podcast.

But thank you for the unbelievable outpouring of love and prayers from all of you as we shared more about our latest addition. We’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude!

It’s been extra special just sharing it with you all (people on Instagram must think I’m coming up on 11 months pregnant ????).

Love + prayers,


Curious to see my go-to baby products! Head here!

*Note links in this post are affiliate links. I only share products I use and adore in hopes that you too can find products that work in your home and with your family!

Want to stay in touch with what’s happening in our family!! I share all everything we are up to in our No Ordinary Leader newsletter every Sunday! It’s legit like a note I write to my best buds each week! Want to be one of them? Subscribe here and never miss out on what the Hartke’s are up to!

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  1. Kate vachon says:

    Hi Liz! God bless you, your family and your beautiful and honest sharing of Nadema’s birth story.

    I had a very similar experience with the toilet being the go-time spot with our precious Kateri. That was it! Almost a water north as well!

    Love and blessings,

    Kate and family



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