Bug's Birth Story
This post contains the story of my first child's c-section birth. The photos contained here are NOT examples of my professional work. They were taken by family members, doctors, and nurses who were present at the birth.
I became a mom five years ago today. It seems so strange to me that five whole years have passed since Bug was born. No, Bug is not her real name. It's just a pet name that slipped out one day when she was a tiny baby and it stuck. Her first birthday party was even bug themed (cute girly bugs - not the creepy, crawly kind).
If you read my first blog post about why I decided to become a birth photographer, you already know a little bit about my daughter's birth. It was my first pregnancy and I assumed I would have a natural birth. I wanted a natural birth. I read several books. I watched videos. I took a birth class. I thought I was prepared. The problem was I had prepared for a normal, healthy delivery. It never occurred to me to prepare for major complications or something to go wrong with my pregnancy. I wasn't nearly as ready as I thought.
Almost as soon as I entered my third trimester, my blood pressure started spiking. It didn't stay elevated, so my doctor advised me to stay off my feet as much as possible at work and rest whenever I could. I was an elementary school teacher at the time though, so options for resting were limited.
I also started to notice swelling that continued to get worse as the weeks went on. When I was about 35 weeks pregnant, I suddenly had a horrible headache with prisms in my vision and dizziness. I put in a call to my obstetrician, who advised me to take Tylenol and lay on my left side. I did as I was told and even managed to take a nap for about 2 hours. When I woke up, the prisms were gone, but the headache and dizziness were still present although lessened in severity. I decided to take my blood pressure and discovered it was the highest reading I had ever had even after medication and a nap. I called my OB again, and she told me she would meet me at the hospital. That was the first of what would ultimately be three hospital visits.
Over the next two weeks, I went through a battery of tests from blood and urine tests to NSTs (non-stress tests) and ultrasounds. It was determined that I was right on the borderline for a pre-eclampsia diagnosis. Overall, my daughter seemed to still be healthy in utero, but sometimes showed early signs of distress (hence the second hospital stay which lasted four days). I was on bed rest with regular doctor visits for NSTs and ultrasounds to check on my baby girl.
Once I was back on the ultrasound table, the tech and my husband pushed and poked my belly and talked to her, trying to coax her into moving. She still didn't budge. My OB came in and told me I was being sent to the hospital next door. If my baby didn't start moving in the time it took them to get the paperwork and send me over, I was being put under general anesthesia for a crash c-section.
I called my mom and told her to call everyone and tell them to PRAY AND PRAY HARD. I've never been so thankful to be part of a praying family because it worked! I got to the hospital and as they were hooking me up to the fetal monitors, my baby girl started dancing. She was wiggling and kicking so hard, the nurses couldn't keep the monitors on her. The doctor said the csection wasn't needed immediately, but my induction was starting that night. I hadn't eaten in several hours because we were waiting for the official call on whether or not I would be heading into surgery. I was finally allowed to eat dinner before a nurse came to insert Cervadil. I tried my best to sleep that night, but I was anxious. I woke up early in the morning and had a shower and breakfast before the pitocin started around 7 am. I was only about 1 cm dilated at this point.
Over the next several hours, I managed contractions with support and foot massages from my mom and my best friend, Ashley. My husband was there too and he was as supportive as he could be, but honestly, he was overwhelmed and anxious. He had already been nervous about the birth in general, and now that everything was out of control, he just didn't know what to do.
Around lunch time, the on-call OB came into my room to check me and found that I had progressed to 2 cm. My baby's head was still pretty high in my pelvis though. The doctor thought maybe breaking my water would encourage her to descend and put more pressure on my cervix. Having my water broken intensified the contractions significantly, but I continued on without pain medication. My ability to cope with contractions became more and more difficult as I was limited in my options for moving around. Each time I sat up, my blood pressure would start to rise and a nurse would inevitably come into my room telling me to lay on my left side to bring my pressure back down.
A few hours later, my contractions were coming strong and rapid. I was getting very little, if any, break in between. The doctor came in to check me again, and I remember thinking I can keep going if there's progress. I just need to hear I've made progress.
Nothing. My cervix hadn't budged past 2 cm and my daughter's head was still high in my pelvis. The doctor and nurses tried to joke that I had a "cervix of steel," but I was heartbroken. The doctor told me there were a couple more things she might be able to try to get things moving, but she was limited in her options because of my blood pressure. She said we could keep going and I might still have a vaginal birth or I might end up in an emergency situation ending in a crash csection where my husband and I would both miss the birth of our daughter. My other option was to go ahead and move forward with the csection now. Of course, I was continuing to have back to back contractions while she explained all of this to me. The thought of being under general anesthesia for my daughter's birth terrified me, so I chose to go ahead with the surgery.
This was the one moment when my husband knew exactly what to do. He knew I didn't want surgery. He wrapped his arms around me and let me sob on his shoulder.
Once I had a good cry, I took a deep breath and got ready to meet my baby. I told the hospital staff that I wanted my mom and my husband to be with me in the OR. I wanted someone to be able to stay with me in case they had to take the baby out for some reason and my husband needed to go with her. The nurses brought scrubs for both of them and then wheeled me off to surgery.
I struggled to keep my anxiety in check as I waited to hear that cry. Finally, the doctor said, "Anyone who wants to see her come out, stand up."
Only moments later, I heard the most miraculously beautiful sound. My baby bug announced her presence LOUDLY right from the start. My tears of joy quickly turned to laughter when my husband announced, "She just peed all over you!"
Then the doctor said, "Correction: she peed IN you. We haven't sewn you up yet. Don't worry - it's sterile."
A nurse gave me a brief peek of my daughter past the curtain before they took her to the warmer to clean her up and check her out.
They swaddled her up, brought her over to me for a quick kiss...
Then the nurse announced, "We're taking the baby to the nursery. Anyone not necessary to finish the surgery has to come with me."
We were all stunned. I told them before the surgery that the reason I wanted my mom present was so I had someone who could stay with me. Bug was perfectly healthy and my surgery was moving along normally. There was no reason for the sudden change of plan. My husband and mom hesitantly followed the nurse out of the room, and I was left alone surrounded by strangers talking about a Halloween party during what should have been some of the most beautiful moments of my life.
After my surgery was complete, I was moved to recovery where I was attended by a nurse who seemed annoyed that I constantly asked where my baby was and when I could see her again. After what felt like hours (but was most likely about an hour), my husband walked through the door wheeling my new precious girl in a hospital bassinet. I finally got to properly meet my girl.
In the years since, I've struggled to explain my disappointment in Bug's birth to friends and family. It's not the c-section that really bothers me. Don't get me wrong, recovering from major abdominal surgery when you have a newborn is tough, but I would lay myself out on that table over and over and over again if I thought it was best for one of my babies.
However, I will never be okay with the fact that I wasn't the first person to hold my own daughter. I will never be okay with the fact that I wasn't there to see my husband hold her for the first time. I will never be okay with the fact that my very first moments as a mother were lonely. And you know what? That's okay. I'm allowed to feel both overjoyed with this perfect, healthy little human I created and also disappointed with the events surrounding her arrival.
If I knew then what I know now, I never would have let them take her from the OR. I would have demanded that they put her on my chest for skin to skin time while they finished the surgery. If for some reason I was unable to hold her myself, I would have had my husband hold her until I was moved to recovery. I acted like a prisoner doing as she was told instead of a patient with rights to her own body and her own baby.
For a while after Bug was born, I hated my scar. I hated my body for failing her - not just in birth but before that with my blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. Breastfeeding helped heal some of that. I nursed her for two solid years and it gave me an opportunity to forgive myself.
Bug and I have an incredibly close bond despite my feelings about her birth. She's my quirky, little fairy with a heart of gold, and I thank God every day that I get to be her mommy.
Happy Birthday Bug.
Baby Blake's Newborn Session
I adore this sweet family! I first met Erin when we were both teaching at the same elementary school. She was engaged to Billy at the time. It's amazing to think they are married and have TWO beautiful little girls now! I had the pleasure of photographing their second baby girl's newborn session.
When I arrived at their house, the newest addition was just settling to sleep. Big sister, Ireland, had just woken up from her nap and she very proudly introduced me to her new baby. While she got a snack and got dressed, I started setting up to photograph new baby Blake.
Side note: I make a lot of my own hats and headbands. I'm always happy to use any hats or special props a client wants to use, but I never want a client to feel like they have to purchase special items for their session. I have plenty of options, and I'm always looking for new patterns to add to my collection.
Blake slept like a champ throughout the entire first portion of the session. I changed her headpieces, her position, and her blanket multiple times and she barely stirred. She was a true sleeping beauty.
By this time, the big sister was dressed and ready to snuggle her new sister... well... almost ready.
Personally, I think her skirt looked pretty cute like that, but we straightened her outfit. Now that we could see the words on her shirt, I snuggled the sisters up on my favorite fuzzy blanket. I think it's pretty clear that Ireland is completely smitten with her new baby sister.
Toddlers always seem to be snacking and Ireland is no exception. Once she was done taking pictures, she was ready for a treat.
Next up were photos with mom and dad individually. I love all the faces newborns make, and Blake was full of them! It seems she was very interested in her daddy's story.
She saved the sweetest smile for mommy though...
I am over the moon for this family and can't wait to see these girls grow up together.
What To Expect: Portrait Sessions
The What to Expect series on my blog is an overview of the different types of sessions I offer and what you can expect from the experience. Other posts in this series include:
Fresh 48 Sessions
Although I chose to specialize in birth and fresh 48 photography, I really enjoy portrait photography as well. My favorite portraits are those that come from ongoing relationships with my clients - taking maternity portraits and then being present when the baby growing in that sweet bump is born or seeing a baby from a fresh 48 session grow throughout their first year. I love capturing families as they grow and change over the months and years.
I have two options for portrait sessions: the Mini and the Full. They are both great options for all types of portraits; the difference really boils down to the length of your session and the variety of options presented in the gallery at the end.
A mini session is 30-minutes on location. These sessions are ideal for seasonal/holiday photos, baby milestones, children's birthdays, pregnancy announcements and gender reveals. Minis are also available for family or maternity portraits, but photo options are more limited by the time available.
Full sessions are one hour on location. These sessions are perfect for any client looking for more variety from their portraits. Because we have more time, we are able to include an outfit change if desired and possibly a change in location if another option is close.
I sometimes have clients ask which type of session is best for families with young children, and my answer honestly depends on the family. Some children are excited to take photos and are very cooperative at the beginning, but by the end of the session they're tired and ready to be done. In those cases, I think a mini session would be appropriate. On the other hand, some children take time to warm up to me and a longer session gives them time to get comfortable and pose well for photos. You know your family best, and I am happy to talk it through with you to decide which option might be best.
Once a client has chosen the type of session they want and paid the retainer fee to secure their date/time, I send an email with an overview of what time to arrive and some suggestions for choosing outfit(s). Sometime in the week before the session, I will consult with clients by email, phone, or text - whichever is easiest for them - to go over any final details and answer any questions. I am also available if they need help choosing what to wear! It's not uncommon for clients to text a photo of some options and ask for my help and opinions. I want them to love their photos, so I am always willing to help choose a location and clothing that will make the portraits look their absolute best.
The day of the session has arrived. Everyone is dressed and ready. Now what?
I usually plan to arrive early to walk around, even if it's a location I have used before, just to make sure there are no surprises waiting. I also prefer to be unpacked and set up, so clients don't have to wait on me when they arrive. If children are involved in the session, I usually take a few minutes to introduce myself and talk to them to help them feel more comfortable with me.
The flow of the session depends on each client and their family dynamics and what they want from their portraits. However, I usually include the same four prompts within each session.
Posed Group Portraits
These are what most people think of when they hear the word "portraits." Everyone placed in a specific spot, looking at the camera, and smiling.
These are more active photos. I encourage clients to walk together, tickle, dance, or move in some way. These portraits usually show more geniune smiles and the relationships between family members.
These are similar to traditional posed portraits, but instead of the whole family/group being included, these are individual photos of each person or smaller combinations of family members.
No matter what form a portrait session takes, I always end my sessions the same way: PLAY!
These are often my favorite photos from a session. This is when personalities really shine. I take whatever time is left at the end of a session, and I encourage clients to just let loose! If we are at the beach, go splash in the water. At a park, clients will chase each other or pick flowers or whatever comes most naturally to them.
Once the session is over, I try to post a couple of sneak peeks on my Facebook and Instagram accounts as I edit over the next few days, and the gallery is delivered within 2 weeks.
Contact me today to plan your next portrait session. I would love to work with you!
Have you ever had a portrait session? What were your favorite photos? Posed or Playful? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Introducing My Nephew: Newborn Session
I think it's always exciting when a new life enters this world. It's part of what I love so much about being a birth photographer. Having a new little one in my own family, however, is extra exciting! Let's be honest, my own kids get tired of my camera sometimes and aren't always the most willing models. Having a new baby in the family with parents who are perfectly happy to let me take as many pictures as I want? A baby photographer's dream!
Enter: my adorable new nephew. He was actually born over the summer but between the move and not having internet for 6 weeks, I've been hanging on to these photos for a while.
He was a hairy little thing when he was born and had (still has!) very long toes. His mama jokingly called him "Wolverine."
He was such a perfect little model for me! He was happy and content most of the time I was there taking photos. He did get a little "hangry" at one point, but a bottle and some snuggles from mom took care of that pretty quickly.
We are all so very thankful for this new little guy. Be prepared to see plenty of pictures of him in the future because he is just the cutest little chunky monkey!
I got into birth photography because I love birth. The act of bringing a new life into this world, no matter how it happens, is always breathtaking for me. Capturing someone's birth story leaves me floating on a cloud for days. It is always an honor to be invited into one of the most sacred moments someone will ever experience.
There are some births, however, that are extra special. This is one of those times. This beautiful mama, Charity, is a friend from my very first teaching job almost 10 years ago. We attended each other's weddings and saw each other almost daily for two years. When I got married and moved, we kept in touch here and there through social media. My heart broke for her as she shared some of her journey through infertility and ultimately, IVF (in-vitro fertilization). I prayed for her and her husband many times, and I was thrilled (I may have squealed) when they announced their IVF cycle was successful. You can only imagine my excitement when they invited me to photograph the birth of this long awaited little girl.
I texted with Charity the night she checked into the hospital to prepare for induction. I had my mom on call to watch my kids when I needed to head to the hospital, and we waited. And waited some more. It seemed induction wasn't working right away. They stayed a second night in the hospital and early the following morning, the doctors were finally able to get things moving.
I sent my kids to grandma's house for the day and planned to run a couple of errands while I waited for "the call" letting me know it was time to head to the hospital. I had just walked through the doors of my very first stop when I got a call that things were moving pretty fast. I was a little nervous because I live and hour and a half (without traffic) to the hospital where she was delivering. Thankfully, I made it at the perfect time!
When I arrived shortly after 11 A.M., Charity had opted to get an epidural and was trying to get some rest before the main event. She had been checked recently and was dilated 9 centimeters.
I chatted with her husband, Mark, and caught up on life since we had last seen each other. Mark's mom was also there. She sat with Charity most of the time holding her hand and watching the monitor.
About an hour after I arrived, a nurse came in to perform a cervical check and declared it was time to push!
After about 45 minutes of pushing, the beautiful Arabella was welcomed earthside at 1:01 P.M. I was struggling to hold back my own tears, so I was just praying my photography skills were enough to work through blurred vision.
Being a birth photographer has its challenges: on call life, never knowing how long you'll be present at a birth, marketing in a culture that doesn't always view birth with the same reverence I feel... It's all hard, but being a witness and capturing the miraculous never ceases to overflow my cup with joy.