These beautiful birth stories I share are real, and sometimes they go so deep into the heart. Birth has so many outcomes, so many paths. I want to always honor these stories with the words and pictures I share. To authentically represent them, all of them in their beautiful differences. I always hope that my words will bring readers who's hearts will reach out and hold the spaces around these mamas and babies with me.
I try not to describe any one birth with a single word, because there are truly SO many moments in between the lines. Being human and having human experiences means feeling so many things at once, and containing multitudes in single frames. I also can only speak to my own experience of each birth, and try to honor the spaces I am not in. The spaces where the emotions and memories of the family lay, recognizing that my experience of a birth may be vastly different then theirs.
I am so grateful that there is happiness and joy at the end of this story, beauty within the moments, and I hope my telling treads authentically and kindly on its events.
This mother with a beautiful heart, came to me with the desire to capture the birth of her son, to capture his story. From the moment I met her on that coffee shop patio, I knew that she held something ethereal within her. She held not only this child within full of potential, but another child in her heart.
This family had lost their first child in late pregnancy, so there was risk and heaviness around the second, around this new pregnancy. An awareness that mamas should never have to bear. This family, so open and ready to love, but cautious and careful about how they planned out this birth. When she decided to invite me into her birth space, I took the job with honor. I was blessed to be able to connect her with a doula, and together, we had built a birth team ready to support her through anything.
Mama wanted to honer the child she lost, in addition to welcoming this new little one, and she prepared her heart and mind and body to be confronted with those memories upon delivering this child.
In birth, we are brought to our instincts, to our deepest heart of hearts, and its so common for past experiences to impact the birth space. Most are not prepared for this, and it surprises them when things they have been through resurface in their birth space. This family not only recognized that, but prepared for it beautifully. They were ready, and had done the heartwork.
I loved listening to mama's journey as she prepared for this babe in her heart, and in her life. She sent me progress photos over the weeks of the nursery space they were building for babe, a super creative batman themed room.
The day came and just at midnight, mama texted me that she had arrived at the hospital. By 8am, things were progressing. I arrived with her doula around 9, to a quiet but joyous birth space. Contractions were steady, mama opted for an epidural, and everyone was resting and chatting. Mama enjoyed some hot broth and had an almost mishap with an Italian ice push pop that brought laughter to the room. We all admired his name, the new baby clothes, and a bear that was gifted to mom. Grandma played with the letter board, and dressed the bear, giddy and so ready to meet her grandson. The day moved along, we took photos around the room of the bear in different places. Dad was cold, and made us laugh with how he budnled up in the corner between moments. He ate fresh fruit, and supported mama with smiles and love. Baby made his gradual decent and turns, closer and closer to making his debut earth side.
Around 6pm, mama started using more position changes to prepare her body and baby for pushing. It was neat to see different positions that can be used with an epidural, including one where you pull out the handlebars from the hospital bed and sit upright, and use gravity as an aide. Mama decided the best and most comfortable position for her way laying down, and grasping the handles to her sides.
Things transcended from light and steady, to a more serious tone. Baby's heart rate was concerning the nurses, and mamas temperature was rising, indicating a possible infection. With a few more pushes it became apparent that assistance would be needed, and Dr wanted baby born as soon as possible. We were told that one of baby's shoulders was stuck behind the pelvic bone, and the cord was wrapped in such a way that with every push, it would pull tighter around babies neck and pull him back up, making progress with pushing difficult and frightening. There were many complications, and no clear causes or explanations. It was a host of situations working against each other. In moments that happened so quickly, maneuvers were made to birth baby, who's heart had stopped.
There was this moment, just after he was born, where the whole room was holding their breath. The first two photos of baby earth side, are so raw, so emotional, it was a moment where he had been born, but hadn't yet taken a breath, he was in this space in between. It was so intense and still, but the photos still hold this ethereal beauty that takes my breath away every time I see them. Baby was taken over to the emergency team, who worked on him for what seemed like ages, but was really only a short moment.
I took so many moments up to this point during this birth, to breathe, and pause, to try to hold space, to try to determine what I could do to help. In this moment, everyone waited, and I sent up a desperate prayer over baby, and over his mama. I stopped photographing, stopped breathing. I laid my hand on moms shoulder. She was surrounded by her team, pouring love into her, holding her hands, and grasping their own hearts. Waiting.
And then baby cried.
Joy flooded the room, it was audible, tangible. It was on every tongue, and spilled from every eye. Dad and Grandma burst into tears and laughter at the same time. Mom closed her eyes and rested. I do not know what she was feeling in this moment. I could only guess, recalling a similar moment of separation from my own birth story. And with all my heart I sent her my love and my energy and offered what I could, knowing it wasn't enough. I took photos of baby. He was wide awake and doing wonderfully. I immediately brought my camera to her, so she could see his face while they continued to check him over across the room.
Her doula never left her side. Finally, baby was able to come to mama.
She held him against her chest, and closed her eyes and they just existed in that moment together. It was short, but long in my heart, an eternal moment frozen in time. So full. So healing. That moment was so strong. She rubbed his little fingers and kissed his little head. Whispered to him.
Soon, too soon, he had to continue his journey without us, on to the NICU. Dad and Grandma went with him. Mamas spirits were lifted. She spoke through what had happened with us, processing. Her Doula ordered her food, and made sure she was comfortable and settled. We offered what nourishment and support we could. Mama knew that this was going to take processing and time, she was ready for the journey ahead, happy that her little boy was okay. She responded in such a healthy way outwardly, my heart prayed that the journey would continue as such in her heart. These journeys are anything but simple. I decided to stay with them longer then I usually do in birth, to ensure they got all the support they needed, and with hopes of capturing a few NICU moments. Mama ate, Dad and Grandma returned with more food and donuts. We said goodbye to grandma and doula, and embraced a bit of quiet time and space between events.
I took a photo just as we left the room, of mama staring down an empty hallway, and it struck me as symbolic and memorable in such a strong way. Staring down the journey and path to and through the NICU, I know first hand how empty it can be. I prayed that this journey they were about to begin, would not be a long one.
I was able to accompany them back to the NICU, and capture precious moments of their reunion with their babe. It was a golden moment, and even I cherish these photos and moments in memory. He had such curly dark hair, just beautiful. Such a strong and present little boy. He was tired, I think everyone was. But mama holding his hand, and rubbing his little arm, made me tear up all over again. So much beauty here, in these moments of quiet reunion.
I left and took my own time to process this sweet emotional day, hoping and praying that our support helped this family even in the smallest ways on this day.
I was overjoyed to hear that their baby boy was able to come home with them within a day or two. He is such a JOY filled little soul. They had such a journey, and a journey that continued far past this birth space. I delivered their photos hoping they would bring healing and beauty to the memories, and show them their strength in every moment.
Birth is not always smooth, easy, or without pain. But there is always beauty to be found and a story to honor. Every birth is worthy of that honor. Thank you so much to this family for allowing me to be a part of this day and this story. I truly hope you can look back on this day from a place of healing, and that your present days are full of love and support.