I got the call early one morning that my birth client was in labor and was 5 cm dilated at her last cervical check.
I made sure my husband was good to go with our kids before I threw my equipment in the car and headed to the birth center.
I arrived at about the same time as a few family members who were coming to welcome the new baby. Dad met us all at the door and said that mom was going to try to rest. She had been laboring all night and wanted to try to get some sleep before the big finale, and she didn't want anyone to come in to the birth center just yet.
The others debated going out to get breakfast or coffee or maybe stopping by a store. Someone looked over at me and said, "What about you? What are you going to do while she sleeps?"
I said, "Oh, I'm fully prepared for this. It happens to me all the time."
Have you ever wondered how I could possibly prepare to be with a birthing client when I have no idea how long I will need to be there or what I do if mom needs to rest or nap?
Well, I'm giving you a sneak peek behind the scenes and showing you what I pack in my birth bag!
This is a bag I pack in addition to my camera bag with all of my actual photography equipment.
I'm currently on call for a birth now, so I grabbed my birth bag and took a picture of the contents to share with you.
This little toddler sized pillow has saved my neck on quite a few occasions. I have napped in my car while a laboring mom is trying to rest. I have taken quick naps on waiting room couches when I have been at hospital births in the middle of the night. I usually leave it in my car unless I actually need it, but I always have it with me just in case.
2. Manual Breast Pump
My youngest is over a year old and does not take bottles, but he still nurses when I'm home with him. I keep a small manual pump with me just in case I'm at a birth for a long time and need to pump to relieve some discomfort.
3. Change of Clothes
There's no way to know where I will be when I get the call to go to a birth. I might be at the gym or at the pool with my kids. This birth bag goes in the car with me every time I leave my house when I'm on call, so I also keep clothes in case I need to change. This is my typical uniform that I wear for births: my favorite #birthphotographer tee, a comfy pair of leggings (or jeggings in this case), a sweater in case I get chilly (most often happens in hospital births), and my Bobs shoes with the memory foam insoles (so comfortable when I'm at a birth).
A big part of being a birth photographer is just waiting. I'm not going to be taking photos every second of birth and sometimes mom wants to rest and I'll go find a seat and keep myself busy. I crochet, so I often keep a project with me to work on during these times. I also have a Kindle with several books loaded. I normally prefer real books, but a Kindle comes in really handy for keeping multiple books with me at a birth.
5. Phone Accessories
Gotta keep that phone charged and I keep earbuds with me too. Sometimes I listen to podcasts or music while I'm waiting at a birth.
6. Hair Tie and Lip Balm
Pretty self-explanatory. Sometimes we women just need these things!
This is a really important one. When I'm at a birth for a long time, I have to eat to keep my energy up. I'll usually step out of the room for a second and shove a snack in my face and step right back in. Sometimes I have the opportunity to run out and grab food when I need it, but I always keep snacks on hand.
Tell me in the comments, what is your favorite book? I might need some new recommendations to download on my Kindle!
All birth is beautiful.
I know a lot of people say that, but as someone who has required 2 medically managed births and has photographed everything from a natural water birth to a scheduled c-section, I truly find birth miraculous every single time.
BUT - I have to admit there's something fascinating about watching a birth that's been uninterrupted by modern medicine.
The way a mother's body just knows when to work and when to rest.
How her body shifts and adjusts to make room for her baby to come earthside.
This was the case with the birth of baby Weston.
First time mom Katelyn knew she wanted a natural birth, so she chose to make the drive to deliver at Charleston Birth Place. She did everything within her power throughout her pregnancy to make sure she stayed healthy and low risk in order to deliver there.
After she reached 41 weeks, she and the midwives started discussing some natural methods to get labor to start. If Katelyn was still pregnant at 42 weeks, she would have to deliver at the hospital instead. There were a few times she was able to get some mild contractions going, but they would eventually fizzle out.
Finally, just under the wire at 41 weeks and 5 days, I heard from Katelyn early in the morning. She had been having contractions all night long and was heading into the birth center.
When she arrived, I got a text that she was 5 centimeters dilated with a "paper thin" cervix and the baby was really low. I arrived at the birth center not long after that at around 9 am.
Several of Katelyn and her husband Tyler's family members arrived at about the same time. We all found out that the midwife was giving Katelyn something to hopefully help her sleep for a little while since she had been awake all night.
Most of the family went to get breakfast and kill some time. I was fully prepared with a pillow, crochet project, book, and some snacks to just hang out in my car until I was needed.
About 2 hours later, Tyler came out to let us know that Katelyn was awake and everyone was welcome to come wait inside the birth center.
The family gathered for a moment to pray over the birth of baby Weston.
And then I tip-toed back to the birth suite where Katelyn was 8-9 centimeters dilated and laboring in the bathroom while she waited for the tub to fill.
Once mama was in the tub, the two soon-to-be grandmas joined us in the birth suite and we all watched quietly along with the midwife and nurse as Katelyn calmly labored on.
Tyler was quiet for the most part. At one point he told his mom that he was a little nervous but mostly okay. Other than that he didn't say much except when Katelyn would begin to have a contraction. He whispered encouragement to her each time until the contraction passed.
You're doing so great.
He'll be here soon.
You can do this.
Katelyn's mom turned on some quiet music and we waited.
Around 1:00 in the afternoon, the midwife checked and Katelyn was almost completely dilated with the exception of a tiny bit of cervix. Mom was given a few options, and ultimately she chose to change positions to see if that helped move the rest of the cervix out of the way.
We all watched and listened as Katelyn's contractions grew closer together.
I'm still in awe of how well she handled all of this as a first time mom. She seemed so calm and peaceful throughout labor. She seemed lost in "labor land" for the most part, but she occasionally opened her eyes and said something sarcastic or funny to the rest of us in the room.
Eventually Katelyn started to feel pressure. The midwife told her that she could bear down during contractions if it felt right, so at about 2:30, Katelyn began gently pushing during contractions.
It wasn't long before we started to see the baby's head.
Katelyn would have a few contractions back to back during this phase, and then her body would take a break for several minutes. She would just float quietly in the water until the next round of contractions began.
Eventually, the amniotic sac broke during one of her pushes and we could see that baby Weston had dark hair!
Then at 3:34, Weston was born into the water. The midwife unwrapped his very long umbilical cord from around his neck and handed him to Katelyn.
New dad Tyler, who had been so quiet throughout the whole labor process, surprised me with his enthusiastic reaction to seeing his son for the first time.
They stayed in the tub together for a while before cutting the cord.
The nurses measured Weston and recorded his stats while the new mom and dad got out of the tub.
8 lbs 2 oz
Dad held Weston for skin to skin time while the midwife took care of Katelyn and got her settled in the bed.
After the first feeding, the new family of three was sitting together in the bed. I left them to bond with and get to know their new family member.
Thank you Katelyn and Tyler for trusting me to be with you on this amazing day! Congratulations on your new baby boy!