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Birth

The Sounds of a Rainbow

 

Casey and I went to high school together, although I don’t believe we ever officially “met” until I took her maternity photos in 2017. She and Micheal were pregnant with a beautiful baby girl named Madilynn. Casey reached out to me in the first months of the year to book maternity and birth photos. We met, and shot some beautiful photos in the water one evening during Spring.

A little over a month later, I got the devastating news that they lost their precious little girl, on Mothers Day weekend. Casey was 36 weeks pregnant. My heart ached for these two sweet parents, who so obviously adored their daughter from the moment they found out about her. I gave Casey the space I knew she would want, being that we’d only truly met once, but watched their journey from a distance, admiring their strength. The pain they experienced was clearly seen, but the faith they had in their God was even more evident. Only a few months later, they announced that they were pregnant again, with their sweet rainbow baby Tanner. I was so happy for them, and as soon as I knew they wanted this birth documented I reached out to Casey.

Here is the beautiful story of their birth:

We knew Casey was being induced, and we kept in touch the evening before to make sure everything was still on track. I got a text at 7am that her contractions were already 5 minutes apart, so I packed my back and loaded the kids in the car. Once they were dropped off, I headed to Greer Memorial. I arrived around 9:30am, and she was already at 4cm. In 2 hours short she would jump to 6cm. She had her epidural placed before I arrived, so around noon it started to fade a bit and you could tell she was feeling the surges. Her very sweet nurse showed Micheal ways to help her through each contraction, instructing him to help sway her hips back and forth. This helped her, so he continued to do this through out the rest of her labor.

A bit of comedic relief came when Micheal said that he wanted to do “skin to skin” right then because of how cold Casey had the room. We all got a laugh out of that.

1:30 rolled around, and the nurses decided to start setting up the birth space, and by 2pm Casey had dialed to 9cm. It was almost time to push! They decided to replace the epidural, bc it was very evident that it’s effects had completely worn off for Casey and she was really feeling it. I don’t think the second epidural worked as well as it could have, but she got some relief. Only about 10 minutes later, Casey voiced that she *needed* to push. I knew it was time then!

The doctor rushed in, and barely made it before Tanner was crowning! Casey only had to push a few times, before her sweet baby boy joined us.

It was very evident that *sound* played a big role during this birth. From the moment I walked in, Tanner’s heart rate monitor was pounding away, as loud as it could go, filling the room with sweet and strong little heartbeats. I knew this was because that sweet noise was not present during their last birth, and it played a very important role in keeping mama calm as she brought her baby earthside. When Tanner emerged, I knew another sound that would play such a huge role for these two parents. This moment was not Casey or Micheal’s first time experiencing the birth of a baby. Once Tanner was out, I could tell they were holding their breath, waiting for that glorious ringing of a newborn cry. And when it came, the room was overwhelmed  with cries and sobs of joy. My eyes filled with tears behind my camera as I watched these two incredible people embrace their new baby boy, and the wave of relief washed over them so powerfully as his cries echoed through the hospital room. Micheal looked at his son and said “you can cry as long as you want baby, I will never get tired of hearing that sound”

There aren’t a whole lot of words left to describe how precious the next moments were, so I’ll let the photos finish the story. I am overwhelmed with joy for these sweet parents, and I know their testimony, their entire journey from Madilynn to Tanner, speaks wonders to the community around them about their faith and their God. I’m blessed to be a witness to it.

 

Tanner’s Birth from HC Birth Stories on Vimeo.

Birth

A Gentle Repeat C-Section, the Birth of Calla

My very sweet friend, Alice, decided on a repeat C-Section with her second baby, after a very stressful first birth experience and many many months of trying to conceive again. She spent a lot of time making this decision, and it ended up being the very best one she could’ve made for herself and her baby. She voiced her desires for her birth, and got most everything she wanted by doing so. A clear drape, to allow her a full view of Calla being born. Having me there to document it, which isn’t always the easiest thing to make happen. Many hospitals simply don’t allow photographers in the OR at all. Alice was insistent on the things she wanted, in order to make the vert best of this birth, and I admire her for that very much!

I arrived at the hospital a little less than an hour before her surgery. We sat and talked, laughed about the fact that my cat had ventured from my house to hers, and chose to live there for 6 months without us ever knowing 😛 they talked about how excited they were for Bo, their little boy, to meet Calla and be a big brother. Pretty soon, it was time to suit up and walk to the OR. Austin and I put on our “penguin suits” as he called them, and headed to the hallway to wait for our queue to join Alice and the doctors. Once we were allowed back, Alice was so calm and collected, ready to meet her baby girl. You could see the excitement in her eyes so vividly! I was so happy for her healing birth experience. I’ll let the photos tell the rest of her story:

 

Personal

She’s gone

I woke up Monday morning, got the kids breakfast, fed Finley, and put the TV on. Pretty normal routine for the first day of the week. That quickly changed when I received a text from my cousin, saying she had some news she needed to call me about. I instantly knew what it was. I don’t know why, I just knew. But I told her to go ahead and call. She said exactly what I thought she would, but for some reason it still shocked me.

“They found your mom this morning”

The phone call went silent for what felt like an eternity, I just had no idea what to say back to her.

To really explain how this news is effecting me, there is a lot of backstory to be told. I share a lot of my personal life online, and I wear my heart on my sleeve. I believe that the more open and honest I am, the more I am able to cope with what I experience, and I find that I start to better understand myself as well. So here is the story about the woman I called Mom.

The memories I have of her are so faint and foggy. My memory is already awful as it is, my dad says it’s genetics because so is his. But I think I suppressed quite a bit from my childhood. The strongest few memories I have of her, aren’t good ones, to put it simply. They’re painful to recall, and I don’t think I need to go into any sort of detail with them. I think it just needs to be understood that my relationship with her was almost always bad, and my sister and I experienced some things no children should ever have to go through. We watched as our mother slowly deteriorated in front of us, and one day she just disappeared. We came home from church (she didn’t join us that morning) and I found a note in the bathroom. She’d left. To England. For another man. There had been other attempts to leave, other instances of cheating, so this just didn’t surprise me. I was angry at her that morning, and I was 11-years-old, so I thought to myself “good” and wiped my hands of her. It took YEARS to realize how much that moment actually effected me. And even longer to stop and think about what it did to my father and my sister.

After a while, she started to reach out, and I would speak with her on occasion. Online, that is. I think I had one phone call with her, ever, after she left and that was it. It’s been almost 13 years since Ive seen this woman or even heard her voice. She never came back. Eventually I cut all communication with her bc the toxicity of the conversations were not good for me at all, and I had to take care of myself for the sake of my own family.

If you knew me from that point on, and thought I had a bad attitude, and a submission problem with any woman in the entire world, now you can understand a little bit why that was. I spent years before she left, and years after, depressed, and so confused. My life made little sense, and the older I got, the more jealous I grew of my friends and their mothers. I never had that kind of person in my life, and I didn’t know I wanted it until I was much older. Of course, even when I was approached and subtly offered this kind of relationship by different women I grew up around, many of whom were parents of my closest friends, I pushed them away quickly. And who could blame me really?

Anyways, I could truly go on and on about my years growing up without a mother, but that’s not the point of this blog. Why is the passing of a woman I barely know, someone I haven’t seen in over 12 years, someone I chose not to speak to for half of those years, effecting me so heavily? I wasn’t sure at first, and when I hung up the phone with my cousin, I just starred at my reflection in the bathroom wondering why. Why was my heart racing, why did I fee like I could cry over this person who truly was not apart of the majority of my life.

 

A few days have passed, I have had time to process (after confirming that this was actually true, unfortunately there have been a few instances before where attempts for attention were made, and we weren’t sure for a day or so if this was another example of that…try “processing” a death you aren’t sure actually happened) and there are quite a few reasons why I think this hit me as hard as it did.

The first moment I had some clarity about it, I was holding Finley. Looking into his eyes and laughing at him being so sweet and silly like he always is. Suddenly I just thought to myself “my mom had moments like this with me, when I was Finley’s age…she loved me this much…she had a normal life at one point, full of family and love…and she died alone…in a country where none of her family lived”. Her husband (the man she left us for) died last year. She was truly alone. And it hurts to know that. Although she caused a lot of pain and destruction for so many people, it still hurts to know that she paid the consequences of that for the rest of her life. She passed away, alone in her apartment, with no children and no husband in her life.

I am and will continue to remind myself that I cannot live with any guilt over this. Guilt is one of the reasons I had to stop talking to her in the first place. It’s unhealthy, and where she ended up, the fact that she never came back, is not my fault. But I can’t help the gut wrenching feeling that she had to feel so alone in the last moments of her life. And that maybe I could’ve changed that for her, even just for a moment.

Another reason I am feeling the way that I do (which I’m not even really sure how to explain) is because in my mind, I always thought some day I would go visit her. Make her real again. Confirm that she really does exist, and isn’t just some character from a dream I had as a child. My sister and I both feel like any memory we have of her doesn’t seem real. It’s been so long, and it was such a dark time when she did live with us, that it seems imaginary. I always thought she would meet my children one day. That maybe, she would get her life together, and be able to be a part of our lives again. That’s not a possibility anymore, and it’s honestly heartbreaking.

The one reason, however, that overwhelms me and brings me to tears, the reason that any time I even think about her I have panic attacks, is my crippling fear that I will end up just like her one day. This fear has burrowed its way deep into my heart, and has been there for many many years. I noticed it first when I became pregnant with Jayce. And it has only grown stronger with each child I have. I struggle severely with anxiety and depression, as did my mother. Most of what I deal with I believe to be passed on from her genetically, so therefore it makes sense for me to be afraid of taking the same path she did. I am always reminded by people that love me very much, that I’m not like her, that I have already done so much for myself and my mental health, and that there is no way I will self destruct the way she did when I was 11 years old. But it still scares me. I don’t have an 11-year-old yet. I haven’t experienced the life events that she had at the time it all fell apart. And I’m not saying I would ever, EVER leave my beautiful family. They are everything to me. I just get scared that my bad habits, that my poor judgement, that my selfishness, and all the other  qualities I seem to share with my mother, will put me in a place where I do end up alone. And facing the fact that she never came back from her mistakes, that her life ended and her children won’t be at her funeral, that she’ll never meet her grandchildren, that she had chance after chance to be grateful for the life she had here and keep it, but chose to walk away and lived with regret the rest of her life, makes my stomach turn. I look in the mirror and I see her. I see the patterns in my life, and I see her. When I get angry with my children, I see her. And when I pictured her, alone in her apartment, I pictured myself too. It’s a dark place to go…and I’m trying to move past this fear and shake myself, show myself that I am not anyone but myself, there is no doomed destiny set in stone for my life, I will pave the path and live the life I choose to live. But it’s difficult to see clearly sometimes, it’s easier to believe the worst of things for me.

My heart hurts this week. I don’t know how to cope. I didn’t have a funeral to plan or attend. I don’t really have anyone to miss or cry over. But a part of me is gone. The woman who gave me life, has left this earth forever. She’ll never meet my children, she’ll never see me in adulthood, she will never experience the love of our family again. And I will never truly have a mother. Someone to call when my kids are being crazy. Someone to laugh with about how sassy of a kid I was, and how I really had it coming with Lilly and her attitude. Someone to advise me on how to deal with Jayce, because she’s experienced the same exact things with me. Someone to talk with about breastfeeding Finley, and how on earth she did it for a whole year with me. Someone to beg to watch my children, who wants to babysit all the time because she loves her grandbabies. Someone to go get dinner with on a regular basis and just talk. Someone to be best friends with, the way so many of my friends are best friends with their mothers. That chance has been long gone for years, but I don’t think I really accepted that until now. And it truly does hurt.

I’m angry. I’m angry that I can’t mourn properly. I’m angry that the situation is so complicated, and I had to spend days making international phone calls to find out if she really was gone and this wasn’t another hoax. I’m angry that I can’t just tell my friends “my mother passed away” and cry, that I have to say things like “I think my mom died, I don’t even know how to feel”. I’m angry that this is so weird and unconventional. I’m angry that this will probably take me months to truly process, and that I’ll never really know how to feel about it.

But I’m grateful. The moment I told my husband, he came home and he took most of the week off of work to give me time to really think things through without being solely responsible for 3 small children (one of whom had a birthday during all of this). I’m grateful for a sister, who is truly the only person on the planet who can fathom what I’m feeling right now, and who has checked in on me every day since I called her and told her the news. I’m grateful for a father, who wants only to comfort me and my sister, and make sure we are handling this well, someone who has every reason to say “who cares” but has graciously helped “investigate” and get as much information as possible about my mother’s passing. I’m grateful for a step mom who has stepped in every way humanly possible, to be a mother to us the very best way that she can, and who has tried her best to make this easier on us. I’m grateful for my medication. I have been more fortunate than my mother was, to have found an antidepressant that works for me and has turned my life around. I am grateful for the circle of friends and family that I have, who will never let me make the mistakes she made, and who will constantly remind me that I am in control, not my mental illnesses. I am grateful for my 3 beautiful children. If anything makes me crazy but keeps me sane, it’s them. Becoming a mother has grounded me in a way I just can’t explain. There is NOTHING that could uproot me from my kids, just nothing. I don’t understand how anyone could walk away from their babies.

Life is weird. Nothing really makes sense. Especially this whole situation. It’s been a painful, and confusing week. I’ve cried, I’ve gotten angry, but mostly I’ve just floated through the days, watching the passing thoughts of my mom come and go. I wish I had a happy memory with her, that I could hold on to from here forward, and maybe one will come back to me one day. I have photos, and that’s what I’ll focus on for now. The way I chose to cope, the day I found out, was to take photos with my own babies. I want to be in hundreds of photos with them. I want them to have countless happy memories with their mommy, and to never ever doubt the love that I have for them. So I’ll take this experience, and let it motivate me to be a better mom, and to document myself with them as often as I can.

Personal

Our Easter Weekend

 

Our Easter weekend this year was one to remember. We spent most of our time outside. The kids have been requesting (aka begging everyday for a week) to plant a garden. So we went to Walmart and let them each pick out a few packets of seeds, dug a questionable garden hole in the backyard, and let them plant their vegetables. Jayce has asked us multiple times why the “smush” hasn’t grown yet, and soon we realized he meant squash. Lilly simply wanted to dig holes in the mud with no intended purpose other than to get herself filthy. Of course, I did not get photos of this sweet little family project because, as you can imagine, I was quite busy and had my hands a little too full for my camera. I did capture a few other moments this weekend though. We (and by we I mean I) made some all-natural egg dyes with beets, cabbage, and onion skins. We colored eggs and made them floral wreaths. We had multiple Easter Egg hunts with friends and family. And we spent our days and nights outside, together, making precious memories. I love days like these.

 

Birth

The Homebirth of Riley David

I have a feeling I’m going to cry, writing this, but here we go anyways!
Stephanie and I have known each other since childhood, I believe we were 5 when we met. Here’s a miserably embarrassing picture to prove it:

Because we have been in each other’s lives for so long, I wanted this blog of her birth to be very personal. Stephanie got me through some of the hardest times during my last pregnancy, and fully supported my choice to go unassisted. She believed in me when I needed her most. She was the first person I texted when I found out I was pregnant, and I was the first person she told as well.

We got to be pregnant together, and we both got to experience beautiful and empowering home births not too far apart as well. I love this lady with all my heart, I don’t deserve a friend as compassionate and patient as her. I hope that I captured just how beautiful she was during her labor, in a way that makes her feel strong and powerful. Here is her story:

Stephanie texted me around 7am on Tuesday, letting me know her contractions had gotten consistent and strong. She was 41 weeks and 2 days at this point, and so ready to meet her baby boy. We stayed in touch all day, and around 10:30pm she called me saying that her midwives were on the way, and that active labor was close! I packed up my car and headed straight over. It was a quiet night, I could hear some sort of tree frogs singing outside her house (listen for it at the beginning of the video), and the air was humid from a long, rainy day. Walking in, Stephanie was in high spirits, excited to meet Riley after waiting so long. Her contractions were strong, but so was she. She moved through each of them, breathing deeply. This was the first home birth I had attended outside of my own, and the peace and comfort that being in her home brought her was noticeable. Her first birth was in a hospital, and the difference was drastic. She swayed through her contractions like a goddess, free to move around as much as she liked.

Her midwives arrived shortly after I did, and quickly began to help set up the birth space. After some trouble hooking up the hose to fill the birth tub, Stephanie’s husband Brandon finally got it situated, and they began filling it up. I helped carry pots of cold water and pour them in, while the hose filled the rest up with hot water, creating a warm and relaxing place for Stephanie to continue laboring. Once about halfway full, she got in and at this point her contractions were very close together. I could see myself in her at this moment, desperately wanting a short break from the pain, only to be met with contraction after contraction. I knew Riley’s emergence wasn’t far away now, and I could tell Brandon knew that too. Stephanie powered through transition, and Riley’s sweet little heartbeat stayed right where it needed to. Her midwives gave her all the space she needed to work through the surges, only listening to Riley’s heart when necessary.

Stephanie labored beautifully, roaring so powerfully and swaying her hips the way her body told her to. Just when she started to say “I just want him here” her water broke! I only knew because Brandon said out loud “that was your water!”. Things moved quickly from here. There’s a deep, groaning sound a woman makes, moments before her baby arrives, and I could hear those groans deep in Stephanie’s chest at this point. Her body, and no one else, began to tell her to push, and she did, without anyone’s guidance. Two pushes later, Riley made his way earth side at 1:45am. It was so fast. Brandon reached down and caught his baby boy, and the cries of joy from Riley’s parents would bring a grown man to tears. There was only pure bliss to follow. The room filled with happiness. Even one of the midwives said “Oh Stephanie you’re going to make *me* cry”. There are no words to describe the love and joy that poured out onto this new baby. Once the cord was cut and placenta delivered, the new family made their way to the bedroom where Stephanie first nursed her little bub. They took his weight, 8lbs 2oz, and snuggled up as the night calmed down. I left shortly after that, smiling ear to ear. I could not be happier for Stephanie. I’m so glad she got her beautiful home birth, and has two healthy baby boys to watch grow up together.  And I can’t wait to watch all our children grow together too.

Riley’s Birth Story from HC Birth Stories on Vimeo.

Lifestyle

A Stormy Maternity Session

We knew Stephanie didn’t have much longer until her second little bub would be joining us earth side, and we had rescheduled this shoot a handful of times. We decided last minute, that because the rain had ceased momentarily, that we would run out and grab these pictures while we could! It ended up being the best decision ever because that stormy weather made for a hell of a backdrop. The wind, the clouds, everything was perfect. We got there, shot the photos in probably 10 minutes or less, and jumped back in our cars right as the rain started to fall again. A fun memory, one they’ll be able to look back on forever.

Personal

What does 2018 hold for me?

I am so excited for this new year. I am using 2018 as a stepping stool into the world of birth photography. Although I have filmed my share of births, I want to focus wholly on that, and gain as much experience as I possibly can. I hope that by next year, I’ll feel grounded and confident in myself as a birth worker, and really be able to build a thriving business. For now, I have booked 11 births for a very low price. In offering such low pricing, I have been able to fill my calendar and will be building the best portfolio I possibly can, in hopes that the year of experience and lots of work to share with future clients will help me sell my work for a price that I believe I’m worth! I am so excited to be working with so many new faces, and learning the ropes of birth photography even more, while meeting other birth workers along the way. I hope to make a small name for myself in this year of “testing the waters” and that my business will take off stronger than ever in 2019!