My Free Birth

I’ve shared Finley’s birth story before, but never in this much detail. I wanted to have it written out completely, in a blog, to always be able to go back at read, and to share with any of you who might have missed reading it already. So here it is <3

My birth space had been ready for months. Birth affirmations, tinctures, everything we would need before during and after the birth was ready. I knew my baby would arrive earlier than my due date. It was just a matter of when.

We woke up Halloween morning with a stomach virus. It fiercely took over our entire day and ruined any plans we had for trick or treating with the kids. All of us were sick. I knew I was getting dehydrated by noon, and was trying my hardest to keep any type of liquid down to avoid going into labor while still so sick and weak. That did not work. I was 37 weeks pregnant, and it was baby time. We spent the entire day in bed, just trying to rest. The day was a blur, and finally the throwing up ceased, and everyone went to bed.

My labor began around 2am the following morning, November 1st. I had tossed and turned most of the night already, and began waking up every few minutes to painful contractions. Around 3am, I had to get out of bed. Nothing could keep me still, I needed to move. I paced around, stopping for contractions and grabbing on to the nearest hard surface to sway through the surges. I still wasn’t convinced this was true labor, because I’d been experiencing prodromal labor for over a month at this point. I assumed the dehydration from throwing up most of the day was causing my contractions to pick up, but that with some rest and water they would subside. I decided to shower, and see if that slowed anything down. I know I showered, because my hair was wet the rest of that morning, but I honestly barely even remember it. I think my time in the shower was for me to go away, to “labor land” and get ready for what was coming.

Once 4am came along, I started to realize the contractions were only getting stronger and closer together, so I went to the bed and nudged Jamie. “I don’t wanna do this alone anymore.” He knew before falling asleep I was having some more intense contractions, so he was aware that things were getting serious now. He shot right out of bed and followed me through our bedroom and bathroom as I dealt with each contraction. The stronger they got, the louder I got, and needed his support to stand through them. I remember being surprised with how loud I felt like I needed to be, roaring through every surge. I always imagined myself to be quiet and reserved during natural labor, but there was no way around it, I had to be vocal. I remember with my first two births, laboring to 10cm naturally both times, being somewhat vocal. But this time was different. I had so much back labor now. I found out later that was because Finley was sunny-side-up until I’m assuming crowning. I was also so weak and tired from the sickness the day before.

Jamie began pushing on my lower back at my request, which helped ease the pain for a short time as I neared transition. I’m not sure how much time passed by, but I remember feeling so weak from not eating most of the day, and really wanting to get in the bath. Jamie started it for me, steam pouring over the edges of our tub. Every now and then I was checking myself, searching for my baby’s head in hopes the end was near. This time, there was some bloody show. Oddly enough, that is when it hit me. This was real. I was meeting my baby today. I looked at the red on my fingers and realized how insanely amazing this was. I was in labor, about to have my baby. No one was making this happen. No one was telling me where to go or what to do. Just me and my body working to bring my child earthside. I didn’t need any help. I could do this.

Once I got in the water, things really picked up. They say water can boost labor sometimes, and that was very true in my case. I slowly started to feel small urges to push, which I held back as best as I could, knowing I would need to rest in the bath while I still had the chance. I think this was the point in labor where I felt like I was screaming through every contraction. Jamie later told me that I was not nearly as loud as I thought I was, but I felt like the entire neighborhood could hear me! I was leaning over the tub on my knees as another surge came. There was a very loud and shocking splash. My first thought was “Oh my god my baby just fell out” but of course that was the delusion of dehydration and exhaustion speaking lol. “Holy cow was that your water breaking?!” Jamie asked. And it was. I only knew then because of the intensity the end of that contraction had. I thought I might faint. I needed out of the tub right then and there, so I stood up and we laid out towels and Chux pads in the bedroom floor and shut off all the lights. My baby was coming!

Jamie got the birthing ball for me which I am so grateful for because at the time I didn’t think I wanted it at all. Apparently he knew better. I shifted from my hands and knees, to hanging my arms over the ball with my knees on the floor. The urge to push was impossible to fight now. I couldn’t stop my body from pushing, the urge was deep and primal. There was no stopping it now. I soon felt the burning that could only mean my baby was crowning! Contractions couldn’t have been more than 30 seconds apart at this point and I can remember only wanting a tiny break, just a moment to ground myself.  I kept saying “I just want to lay down for a minute” but it was too uncomfortable to lie flat. I tried lying on our bed and immediately stood back up with the next surge. As the burning got worse, I reached to feel for baby’s head again. I looked at jamie with a weak smile and said “I can feel his hair!” The smile faded as I started to believe there was no way I could get this baby out. But my body continued to push. I wanted to fight the pushing bc of the burning, but couldn’t stop. He was coming down so incredibly fast without me even trying to push. I told Jamie “he is NOT going to fit, get me a mirror!” and he did. I took my first look at what was going on down there and said quietly “okay maybe he is fitting” as I realized most of his head was out. I couldn’t believe this. I was doing it! My body was doing this all on its own.

My baby was close, and I knew with the next few pushes his head would be out! Two more surges and then pure relief as his head escaped. There is no relief in the world like that feeling. I felt like I could do anything in that moment. My body gave me a brief break, as Finley reseted between two worlds. I could feel him wiggling, turning himself and getting ready for his hasty exit.  I told jamie to get behind me and get ready to catch as another urge to push neared. Another two surges and I felt him fall out of me and into his daddy’s hands. “Oh! It’s a boy!” I heard him almost laugh. I turned around and sat down so I could hold this beautiful brand new creature, and I kept saying over and over “oh hello baby, hi sweet boy!” I couldn’t believe I’d done it. And I was holding my precious little boy in my arms, the very first time ever delivering and being able to immediately hold my child. There are no words to describe how fulfilling that moment was. I was beaming, in another world of pure magic.

It was 6:30am at this point. We quickly walked back to the bathroom and I got in the tub while we waited for the placenta to deliver, which came only a few short minutes later. I noticed shortly after that, that his cord had a true knot in it, which is supposed to be good luck. I felt his cord and stared at it and the placenta, amazed at the beauty of this life sustaining organ. Jamie looked at me and said “Happy anniversary” and I realized it was indeed our anniversary. What a special gift for us to share together after 4 years of marriage.

Once the cord stopped pulsing, Jamie went downstairs to boil the scissors and cord tie we had made with our oldest two children, and brought them back up to me. He also let Jayce into our bedroom, who had just woken up to the sounds of his baby brother crying. Jayce laid in our bed, waiting to meet his new brother, still quite tired from the day before. Jamie tied, and I cut the cord myself. We wrapped Finley up in a towel and I nursed him for the first time. I passed Finley to his daddy and took a quick shower to gather my whits and clean up a bit.

When I came back into the bedroom, I pointed to Finley and asked Jayce “Who is this?” He smiled and said “Poppy Seed!” which was this surprise gender baby’s nickname while he lived in me! We told Jayce it was a boy and he was over the moon. Lilly joined us soon after, met our newest addition, and soon she and Jayce both fell back asleep in the early morning light. The day quieted down. I took a dropper full of my shepards purse tincture, and put a piece of placenta in my cheek to help slow my bleeding a little, while I worked on getting Finley latched on again. The rest of this beautiful morning was a blur of warm joy. I drifted in and out of sleep with my baby in my arms, while the tv played quietly in the background and the kids ate their poptarts on the bedroom floor. We talked about baby names throughout the day (we hadn’t yet decided on one) and all 4 of us finally chose Finley William. William is my dad’s middle name, and we wanted to pass it down the same way we passed Jamie’s dad’s middle name down to Jayce. We let our family and friends know of the wonderful news, all of whom were so proud and excited for us. One of the best parts of this experience was the love and support I had in my choices to birth free.

Although this birth was a difficult one due to illness and exhaustion before even beginning, it was the most empowering and magical experience of my life. Delivering our child at home, alone, with only each other, was so perfect. Finley is the happiest and healthiest of babies, and I wouldn’t trade this memory for the world. My free birth was everything I wanted it to be and more, and the healing I got from it, the bond I have with Finley, is like nothing else in the entire world. Magic. Pure magic.

Harper’s Arrival

April was being induced, and we all thought we had plenty of time before her baby girl would arrive earthside. Of course we were wrong, and I quite literally missed her birth by SECONDS! When I arrived and knocked on her hospital door, I heard baby Harper crying on the other side. My heart sank a little, but that didn’t stop me from capture some beautiful memories of her and her family in the first moments of her new life!

The beautiful birth of Ella

When I arrived at the hospital and walked into Amanda’s birth space, I could feel the joy and excitement in the air. Although she was working through contractions regularly, she was smiling and laughing between each of them. I loved her and Jeremiah’s spirit. They were silly and excited, making goofy jokes with each other throughout the afternoon. Amanda breathed through her contractions so gracefully, and spent a lot of time on the birth ball and her labor progressed. She was planning a drug free birth, with the understanding and acceptance that her plan may change and she was okay with that. She was so strong, working through the surges like the goddess she is! Eventually the sun began to set, and she decided to take a shower to help deal with the pain. It seemed her labor took a turn after that, and she couldn’t quite relax anymore. She stayed at 6cm for a long time, and eventually decided on an epidural. It was getting late, and I had been there for a while, so I told her the next time they checked her if she hadn’t progressed, I would head home to rest a bit and give them some time to themselves. I thought surely her labor had quite a few more hours. But sure enough, the next check she was almost at a 10! The epidural had helped her relax so much, and now her body was ready to delivery their sweet baby girl. The room slowly changed, the mood more urgent and ready, yet still peaceful. Amanda began to push, and soon enough her girl entered the world. Tears and laughter filled the room, as Ella was placed on Amanda’s chest and she finally greeted her daughter face to face for the very first time.

Hayes Super Speedy Arrival, A Successful VBAC

Little Hayes came into this world as quickly as he could! His awesome mama texted me around 1am that she was admitted to the hospital at 2cm, and he was born a few hours later at 6:08am! I manage to arrive right before the pushing began, at about 5:30. I noticed the full moon as I walked into the hospital, and the speedy labor made a little more sense lol. The room was busy and full of excitement when I walked in. This was my first time shooting at GHS Patewood, and I really loved the staff there. Mackenzie’s nurse was so kind to everyone, you could really tell she loved her job. Things went quickly from there, Mackenzie only had to push a handful of times before her baby boy was born! This is her second child, and a planned vbac. For daddy though, this was his first, and you can see that clearly through his expressions in these photos. There was so much love in this birth. I love the look on Mackenzie’s face as she looks up and John, with an “I’m actually doing this” face! A vbac can feel like the most incredible moment of your life! I remembered my first vbac then, and smiled because I knew how powerful she felt. Hayes was welcomed calmly into this birth space, and placed onto his mama’s chest right away (something she really wanted out of this birth because she didn’t receive that with her first). So many sweet moments played out during this early morning. As the sun rose, the room filtered out and soon it was just the two parents and their new little baby. Mackenzie asked for her first born to come by before school, to meet his new baby brother. And how sweet he was, so curious in little Hayes. They snuggled and talked before he left to continue his daily routine at school. As the adrenaline drained away, the exhaustion was setting in. Soon enough both parents were yawning and drifting in and out of sleep. I captured a few more moments, and left them to their bliss. Another beautiful birth I was so privileged to witness and capture, and remember forever.

Holden’s Birth Story

Marissa’s birth is close to my heart. There were similarities to my very first birth, that I couldn’t help but remembering through out the day as I was with her. First baby, a sweet little boy. A hard attempt at a natural labor, that ended in a belly birth. It all took me back, and I felt close to her in those moments. With that being said, here is her story:

I got a text around 11am that it was baby day! Marissa was admitted to the hospital, and 3cm dilated. Her contractions were 5 minutes apart, but it was still early so I gave her and her husband Nate space as I planned for childcare that day. Around 3:15pm she let me know her water was broken, and asked me to join them in their birth space. I dropped the kids off and headed to the hospital. When I arrived, it was quiet. The lights were off, and soft sunlight was pouring in through the window. Marissa was bouncing on her birth ball, breathing through contractions. She labored in the tub for a while before I arrived, and for most of her active labor she was on that ball, laboring like a goddess! A few hours passed before she decided to climb into the bed and rest. I watched her drift in and out of sleep between each surge, allowing her mind to go to that “other place” we all seem to go when labor gets this intense. As the pain got more intense, she moved to her hands and knees on the bed, rocking with each wave, listening to her body as she worked through this process. Around 6pm I remember hearing her say “I can’t do this” and it took me back to my first birth again. I remember that moment. The moment when you feel like you’ve lost control and you can’t keep going. It’s truly the hardest part of labor, and sometimes (but not always) means you’re transitioning. For Marissa, it wasn’t the case. She seemed to stall around 6cm, so I gave them some more space and sat in the waiting room to edit. She got some pain relief through her IV shortly after, and it allowed her to rest some. But quickly her contractions picked back up in intensity, with still very little progress. The sun left us, and 10pm arrived, when Marissa, Nate, and her birth team decided on a C-Section. I requested to join them, and after some debate I was allowed into the OR.  It was 11pm by the time we walked in, and Marissa was in much better spirits. She received her spinal, and was being prepped for surgery. I could see the anticipation in her and her husbands eyes, as the realization that their baby would be here any moment set it. At 11:14pm, baby Holden entered the world. He was quickly cleaned up and handed to his daddy, where he stayed until it was mama’s turn to hold him. The joy in her face when that boy was placed in her arms, that is the moment this all led up to. That is the moment that makes it all worth it. The night quieted down as they were taken back to recovery. Marissa nursed Holden, and her and Nate reconnected and laughed with each other as the calmness took them over. It had been a very long day for them, and they finally had their baby in their arms. I stayed to capture a few more moments with them, and quietly left them to rest. I think this birth will always be special to me, because I remember being in that story 5 years ago. Having an c-section after trying so hard for a natural labor can make you feel a lot of things. To this day I can still feel regrets. But it’s my story, and it’s what made me a mama. And that is the case for Marissa as well. Her story is beautiful, and it’s only just begun.

The Birth of Baby Georgia

I received a text on that Tuesday morning around 7am that Deborah was starting Pitocin. This was a planned induction, and she had informed me that her previous 3 births were rather quick. So I stayed close to my phone and made sure everything was ready for me to jump up and leave. She was progressing quickly, so I headed to Spartanburg Regional and arrived around 9:30. She as already dilated to a 6!

Deborah had her husband and 3 children in the hospital with her (8, 7, and 3 year olds), and the environment was so lovely. The kids were watching TV and playing on their tablets, dad was setting up the laptop so that could have grandma on Skype during the delivery, and Deborah was relaxing in the bed, breathing through some of the contractions she could feel and awaiting her last baby’s arrival.

Pretty soon transition started, as Deborah started to feel nauseous. She decided to take a nap before it was time to have her baby. At 11:15am she was checked, and she had jumped from 7cm all the way to 10cm in about 20  minutes. It was pushing time. Her oldest daughter lit up, so excited to be a part of this process and to meet her new baby sister. She stayed by her mommy’s side the entire time, holding her hand, singing to baby Georgia, and asking any and all questions she could think of about the birth process. I LOVED hearing her curiosity and watching her witness something so beautiful at such a young age, all the while being calm and comforting for her mother.

Deborah’s youngest son, on the other hand, was a little more taken off guard. His reactions had the whole room laughing. He took a quick peek at everything that was going on, and yelled “that’s a dirty baby!”. He didn’t want much to do with the birth anymore lol.

Pushing was a breeze for Deborah, it didn’t take much for sweet Georgia to join us all earthside! At 11:32am she arrived, beautiful and chunky as ever. The doctor put her straight on mom’s chest, allowed the cord to stop pulsing, and then dad cut the cord. Deborah’s reaction was so heartwarming as she heard her daughter’s cry for the first time. Even after having 3 babies already, that moment was still so precious to her. Her eyes filled with tears and joy. A mama’s heart truly grows with each child she has.

Once everything calmed down, the kids settled in and everyone winded down for some quiet time and naps. This is Deborah’s very last child, and what a sweet birth to call her last.

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.

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:

 

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.