Birth Becomes Her

By now, I’m pretty sure that most, if not all of you know just how much I love photographing all things baby! I have recently added birth photography to my specialty services and I am absolutely loving it! For those of you who didn’t know that birth photography was a thing; you’re not alone! A couple of years ago, when a client mentioned it to me as something I should check into, I almost gasped. Not only had I never experienced birth myself, I had never even thought that someone would want to have photos of such an intimate and vulnerable time. Boy was I wrong! There’s some amazing mothers out there who know exactly what a sacred experience birth is, and they want every moment of it captured.

Forrest Birth-8

My first birth was about 2 years ago-and then a few months after that I photographed my first home birth. These two very different experiences helped me to see that not only would I not faint while capturing a new life brought into this world; but that I would soon come to absolutely love being a part of the process! I recently partnered with a local birthing center and was so blessed to be able to be a part of this most recent birth. Mom has quite a beautiful story about her first birth experience and why she chose to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) in the most natural way. I’ll share my experience of that day, but first I want to share mom’s experience in her own words…

“When I pictured birth for the first time, I envisioned a quiet space with just Mitch and I as we brought a new soul into this world. He would be my only support, and I would use all of the breathing exercises, meditations, and positions that I had read about. Of course, this romantic vision of birth didn’t happen. My son had flipped head down, and the hospital we were at, like most hospitals, gasped at the idea of a breech birth. A cesarean became our only option for a safe and healthy baby and mama. While I was absolutely in love with this beautiful new human, I was heartbroken at the loss of my process.

As I began my journey with my second son, I still had an attachment to this natural birth. I longed for the process, for the ability to try, and to show that I, and my body, could do it. The vision changed quite a bit along the way. VBAC’s tend to come with a few more precautions, and contingencies. My main goal was to stay out of the hospital, but instead I managed to find so much more than I ever could have expected.

I found this collective of women supporting women, this village of women who truly love and care for others. I felt so supported, nurtured, and connected. I have been searching for the words to describe the feelings of this magical day, and they are still floating around me most days, but for now I can say that I am overflowing with gratitude and love for all of these women!”

Erika was an absolute rock star in the birthing room, as I’m sure she is in life as well! At one point, she threw her hand up in acknowledgment of being just that! Her 2-year old would come in to comfort and encourage her every so often, and dad was there with her the entire time. But the connection that I was enamored with was that between mom and her doula; Jasmine. I was able to capture a few of those intense moments-but if any of you are wondering why you would want a doula for your birth, you need to experience it for yourself. She was absolutely 100% there for mom-who took full advantage of that. I can’t even begin to fathom the pain that a mother experiences during natural child birth, but that pain seemed to be minimized by the concentrated efforts of this birth crew.

I was impressed by the entire birth experience that was provided during the 5 hours that I was included in. When I arrived, mom was in great hands and went from using the ball, the bed, the ground, the bathtub, then eventually back to the bed where she remained the rest of the process. And though she was at a birthing center in the care of a licensed midwife and several other qualified technicians, she seemed to have every comfort of home. The room was dark, and music was playing in the background. Shoes were removed before entering the room, and voices were muffled to give her the most calm experience she could have and concentrate on her main task: bringing life into the world. Complete and utter joy was seen on the faces of mom and dad when they welcomed their brand new baby boy into the world!

Words can’t describe the beauty experienced in witnessing the entire process from labor pains to the actual moment you hear that first cry; but my hope is that photos will help to better express that. When I delivered the photos of the birth to mom, she said that it brought her back to that day-and the emotions and tears welled up all over again. That is why I love what I do so much. I get to meet amazing people who allow me in to their personal moments in life in order to preserve those memories forever. It may not have been in God’s plan to give me children of my own, but I am so blessed to be able to be a part of so many new little lives in so many different ways! Thank you to each and every one of you who welcome me into your birthing rooms, homes, families, special events, and lives. You make my heart full.

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Rainbow Baby JJ

Although all of my clients are special, some are extra special because I have a connection with them. Baby JJ is one of these special people because I have known his dad for well over 12 years! We used to work together-this was before either of us met our spouses and before he had his two boys. Recently, I was fortunate enough to photograph his newest son Jameson Joseph, and it was surreal to see him as a dad! Although he’s been a dad now for 6 years, I really only get to see that on social media. This time, they were up close and personal in my home studio!

JJ

During the session, JJ’s mom shared with me that he is actually a Rainbow Baby 3 times over. For those of you who have never heard the term before, a “rainbow baby” is a baby that is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss.  JJ’s parents Casey & David miscarried 3 precious babies prior to his arrival. This was obviously very hard on the couple, but they did not give up on a miracle. And big brother Wyatt (who just turned 6 the week after these photos) was super excited to meet his new best buddy!

During Jameson’s pregnancy, pretty much anything that could go wrong went wrong. Mom remembers experiencing morning sickness all the way through her second trimester. She was diagnosed with Antiphospholipid Syndrome (a blood clotting disorder, that likely contributed to the previous miscarriages). She also had increased amniotic fluid for most of the pregnancy which can cause so many problems for baby and mom (including pre-term labor, which mom was already at risk of). She had to have weekly hormone shots to help keep the pregnancy viable, as well as regular glucose tests. Mom developed preeclampsia and also had to have regular stress tests because it was considered a high risk pregnancy. Jameson was a very big boy (which they don’t have a reason for) but they couldn’t get him into position even after 3 tries to turn him-he eventually ended up breech. They had to perform a c-section in order to deliver Jameson safely. He was born a healthy and happy boy on Thursday, November 16th (at 37.5 weeks) weighing in at 9 lbs 6 oz, and 20.5 inches long!

On top of the scary things during pregnancy, dad started having chest pains and not feeling himself the week after this photo session. He was hospitalized and they found out that at only age 36, he has acute coronary disease and had to have 2 stents put in. The Dr opted not to do open heart surgery because of how young he is, and instead recommended a vegan diet in order to clear out his arteries and live a healthy life. David and Casey are such troopers and have gone head-on into this new healthy lifestyle because they know how important it is to stick around to watch their kids grow up. This is just a reminder of how precious life is and how we all need to take care of ourselves-we’ve only got one life!

So why do they call babies like JJ a rainbow baby? In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better. What a beautiful analogy to a traumatic yet hope-filled time in this family’s life! And although this little guy didn’t sleep for most of his session, there wasn’t even one peep out of him during the entire 3 hours! He finally fell asleep at the end of the session, but he was such a joy to work with. I’m so excited to photograph JJ and throughout this next year as mom has signed up for the “Watch me Grow” plan. Keep your eyes peeled in the coming year for more of this handsome boy-can’t wait to see what’s in store for him and his family!

There with you from the start…

I’ve always loved when I’m able to see something all the way through. You know what I mean, right? Like when I was working with troubled youth years ago, and I wonder how they’re doing now when they pop up on Facebook happily married with a beautiful family! Or when you start a project at a former job, and you still see the fruit of it growing in the community today. Or when you pray for something/someone and that prayer is finally answered. Maybe that’s just me…but I love to see the follow through.

It’s kind of how I feel about some of my clients who have come full circle with me. I met Nick and Erika in October of 2014. Erika’s mom used to work with me on the State Campaign while I worked at United Way. We had a blast talking about Dancing with the Stars, and kept in touch through Facebook. I was very excited when she contacted me about her daughter’s engagement! I took their engagement photos at Ford Park in Redlands and that’s where it all began!

After our session, I mentioned to Erika that I would love to work with them again…I was very fortunate to do so in Spring of 2015 for their beautiful wedding held at Edward’s Mansion in Redlands. It was my honor to be a part of their special day and I still think of their group portraits as some of my favorite wedding memories ever!

You can probably imagine what comes next, right? Yes, they adopted an adorable dog named Irwin! 🙂 Well, then I was over the moon excited to hear the news in 2016 that they were expecting a baby girl! Erika booked me for her maternity session for this past January and she had the brilliant idea to go back to where it all began…Ford Park! I can already see future family sessions in the plans…with Irwin too! Of course we had to capture some images of them on the same bench where the ring shot was taken. I think we all got a bit emotional over that (ok, maybe just Erika and I).

Little Ava sure took her sweet time gracing us with her presence, but when she finally arrived, I couldn’t wait to get her in my studio in all of her cuteness! She was such a sweetie-giving us smile after smile, and even Grandma joined in on the fun during her session-giving us 3 generations of women.

I’m so blessed by being able to capture the special memories of this wonderful family and I look forward to doing so for many more years (and maybe even many more babies) to come! Thank you for bringing me along for the ride! Welcome to the family Ava!

From the beginning…

I absolutely love babies! Of course that’s the reason why I now specialize in newborn photography. I was recently asked if I was interested in specializing in pet photography. I’m sure there’s a lot of work in this genre, as so many people love their pets (especially their dogs). But babies don’t bark, they don’t shed, and they don’t usually bite (but even if they do-their gums wouldn’t hurt as much). However, they do cry. pee and poop at the most inopportune moments. That being said, I still enjoy photographing babies much more than I do dogs!

Earlier this year I decided to try out something new: birth photography. This entire aspect was foreign to me because not only have I never photographed a live birth, I’ve never even given birth myself. Once I hired my first birth, my friend joked that I was going to faint in the hospital room. Sure, I was nervous to witness my first birth; I’ve never been great around blood & other bodily fluids. But I knew that once I got behind the lens, my game face would be on! I also learned so much from veteran birth photographers in local groups that I had joined. I was so ready for this birth!

The way birth photography works is that the photographer is basically on call for 2 weeks before the due date until 2 weeks after the due date. Mom needs to let me know when she has any symptoms of labor and then I head to the hospital/birth center once they are dilated to a 6. Of course, other circumstances could change this-but that’s the general idea. Once at the hospital, we could be waiting for hours for the baby to be born. Being prepared with water, snacks, extra batteries & even a blanket is vital. For this reason, birth photography is much more expensive than a traditional newborn session. But it is well worth it for those who want to document this amazing experience.

This first mom was past due, but she kept in contact with me the entire time. She checked in to the hospital on Saturday morning so I cancelled my plans for the weekend & stayed close to home with my gear ready. By 10 pm Sunday night she still wasn’t at 6 cm so it looked like another long night. However, the nurse didn’t check her for a while. Around 1 am I got a text from the dad saying she was at 10 cm! Holy cow-I got dressed faster than ever & was on my way to Redlands Community Hospital-praying no cops were around! Unfortunately, I arrived as she was giving birth and the nurses would not let me in. It was such a bummer to miss my first birth, but thankfully I was able to do a Fresh 48 which is a photo session within the baby’s first 48 hours of life. This session can be planned for or it can be in lieu of a birth session for any reason such as complications during child birth (which Dr’s won’t allow to be photographed).

Fast forward a few months and I find out that my closest friend’s little sister is pregnant with her third child (yes-that made me feel old). I’ve known this young mom since she was a little girl! She planned on doing a home birth this time, and since she lived 5 minutes from me, I figured this would be an ideal scenario for my first actual live birth session. Her two daughters came early and fairly quick so she expected her son to do the same. Isn’t it just like a guy to come in his own timing! She had a few contractions one night, but then nothing for a week! Mom was so ready for her son to be born, and I was on call-checking in with her daily. The morning after her due date she texted me and said she thinks she’s in labor but not to hurry-that she would keep in touch. I got up and got dressed then she texted that I should come soon as it was getting close. I rushed over to her house to find family there and the midwife coaching mom in the bathtub.

This brave mom was not only giving birth in her bathtub at home, but she was doing it without any pain meds. Like I said, I’ve never given birth, but after a recent gallbladder attack that ended up with emergency surgery-I’m told that what I was feeling is similar to the pains of childbirth. I never want to go through that again-well, not without an epidural!

I sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for baby James to enter this world. I thought we had a long day ahead of us, but after a few minutes, I could tell that something was about to happen. So I took my camera in the dark bathroom and was amazed at how quickly this miracle progressed. I was able to capture baby James entering this world and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced! Such a beautiful, yet physically painful time for mother and child (and dad too- as mom crushed his hand-oops).

I knew immediately that this would be something that I would offer to future clients. Going into this experience, I didn’t really know if I wanted to be on call for so long. It’s very stressful and can cause issues with scheduling newborn clients (in fact this particular birth caused a reschedule with another client-but everything worked out). But it was absolutely worth it to be able to capture these precious moments for this family to cherish for a lifetime.

This birth was so quick, and the midwife handled everything so well (being that she was not the scheduled midwife-they had several births going on at the same time-can you imagine?). I loved working with the midwife and her crew. Giving birth in your home is such a warm experience-where the mom is comfortable and safe. Right after the birth, mom and baby walked right over to their own bed.

After the umbilical chord was cut, mom was sewn up, and everyone was settled, they weighed & measured baby James. Such sweet moments when his big sisters got to watch everything. The midwife even gave us all a tour of the placenta, which was extremely educational. Things like this are not part of the hospital birth experience. If you’re reading this and considering doing a home birth, this family and I both highly recommend it. Some people think it’s unsafe, but these are highly trained professionals who know what to do and handled everything brilliantly.

I was truly blessed to be a part of this amazing experience-and for it to be my very first live birth was like a dream come true! If you are interested in documenting your child’s birth story, whether it’s your first or fourth child, whether it’s in a hospital or at home, I would love to chat with you! Let’s create a unique photographic experience with you and baby in mind.