Finnian's Birth: A Photo Essay

In 2015, I was invited to attend 14 births, all of which were filled with beautiful and awe-inspiring moments.  For most births, I am asked to capture some of those beautiful, intimate moments with my camera.  I love photographing births in any setting, but home births are especially fun for me.  The natural setting and lighting provides the perfect backdrop for capturing such a sweet, special day for the family, and little nuances and things a couple have done to make their house a home make the photographs even more special.

I was able to serve Jenn and Stephen at the birth of their first son, Seeley, back in 2013, and loved capturing the moments that made up her beautiful labor.  A couple of years later, I was asked again to help with the birth of their second son, Finnian.

Jenn is a labor goddess.  She is relaxed, calm, and in control.  It's amazing to watch.

Thanks, Jenn and Stephen, for inviting me into your space to help you bring Finnian in to the world.  It was a joy and a blessing to be there with you!

Auggie's Birth

Celebrating Auggie's birthday today, I cannot believe he's three!!  I have spent the last many months working on a drawing of a photograph captured by my doula the moment he was born, and reminiscing on his birth.  My memories of the whole experience are so vivid to me.  Here's a glimpse into what my 2-hour labor home birth felt like:

6pm - Watching Cars and eating English muffin pizza’s with Lucy (my oldest, who was almost 4 at the time) and Greg.  Having really strong Braxton Hicks and not wanting Lucy to crawl on/cuddle me during the movie.

8:30pm - Getting a killer massage from Greg after he put Lucy to bed.

9:30pm - Having a super weird sensation in my abdomen and heading up to bed. 

10pm - Lying down, contractions getting stronger.  Realizing this is it.

Calling Greg on my cell phone (he was downstairs playing poker on the internet) telling him he needs to call the midwife.  Greg comes up, asks me if I’m sure it’s labor, and I agree to wait for a few more contractions to confirm it’s the real deal.  Contraction hits.  “CALL STEPH” (our midwife).

Flurry of Greg getting the pool ready downstairs, coming up to check on me, and making calls, while I labor on the toilet and then on the glider in the nursery.  Oh my glory, these contractions are stronger than any contraction I ever had with Lucy.  Doula arrives; I am so grateful for her presence.  Water breaks while on the glider.  Time to head downstairs.

Practically running down the stairs to try to make it to the couch before another contraction hits, and barely making it.  It is so dark and peaceful.  The birth team quietly arriving, and I need to hold hands.  Holding Karen’s hand.  Then my mom’s.  I remember a contraction that I could barely stay on top of, it almost swept me away, and afterwards my mom commenting that she didn’t even realize I was having a one.  My doula sitting on the couch-turned-bed (futon) with me, and the gentleness of her knee touching my thigh literally making my contraction less painful.

Starting to feel lots of pressure.  Birth team suggests I head to the pool but I don’t want to move. Asking if it will hurt less in the pool, Karen laughs and mentions something about an “aqua-dural.”  Sitting up and have to hold my tush off the bed with my arms during a contraction because I am practically sitting on this boy’s head.  Steph is here, her presence unannounced. I say “hi” on my way to the pool.

Stepping into the pool, instant relief.  Greg getting in behind me.  Trying not to push because I hate the sensation of baby moving down.  My body does it anyway, and slightly panicked, I announce, “I’m pushing!” to which my midwife calmly answers, “okay, great!”  My sister arrives and I barely register she’s here because I am in such a zone. 

Feeling the burning ring of fire and realizing he’s almost out, and thinking “how could this be happening already!”  Greg reaching down, instructed by the midwife, and guides his head out as I feel a tremendous release.  Baby’s head is out.  Midwife tells me I need to push him all the way out.  More pushing and instinctively saying, “Where’s my Auggie? Where’s my Auggie?” as I reach down to pull his tiny, slippery little body up out of the water.

12:03am - Taking a moment to hold my baby close as I catch my breath after that whirlwind of a labor.  Then holding him out so I can get a look of his face, and thinking that he looks familiar.  Like I already know him.

Seeley's Birth ~ A Photo Essay

I got a call from Stephen at 5am on February 12th, saying that today was the day!  Jenn's contractions were definitely the real deal.  Thankful for an (almost) full-night's sleep, I got up and got ready to go.  I arrived at their house at 6:30, and Jenn was doing so well, chatting and watching Ice Age 3.  As soon as a contraction hit, though, I could tell this was active labor.  She leaned up against a wall, relaxed, and moaned through it.  It was dark and candles were lit; the perfect environment for labor.

Karen got there shortly after I did, and got her computer and paperwork all set up on the kitchen table.

Don't you think she looks like an angel?

Well, she is. A birth angel. ;)

Jenn had group prenatal meetings/childbirth education with her midwives and a group of women due around the same time she was.  They all wore these bracelets to remind eachother of their bond through each of their births.

So peaceful.  Resting between contractions.  All that relaxation practice was paying off.

Muffins Jenn had prepared in advance for the birth team.  Labor was in full swing at 9:05am.

Swaying with Stephen ~ he was her rock.

Doula at work!  Thanks, Karen, for this shot! 

As labor progressed, Jenn moved to the tub to help her relax more fully.

Jenn's mom arrived toward the end of her labor.  Her presence and hand-holding was such a comfort to Jenn.

Midwife Christina, checking baby's heart tones.

The final push...

Seeley Michael Carter was born at 2:01pm on February 12.  6 lbs 11 oz. 19 inches.

Jenn's labor was about 12 hours long, with only 30 minutes of pushing.

I am continually amazed at the intensity and amazing challenge of labor and birth.  During Jenn's most difficult contractions, Karen would pray, "Thank you, Jesus, for these powerful contractions.  Thank you that her body is doing what you made it to do.  Thank you!"  It was with much gratitude and leaning on God that Jenn birthed her baby into the world.  What a holy and joyful experience!

Augustine's Birth. 9.2.2012

31 Weeks!

Throughout the last half of my pregnancy, I had been having lots of braxton-hicks contractions. On Friday, August 31st, they started to hurt--and become regular! I thought that this could be the beginning of labor, so that evening I called our midwife, Steph, and told her what was going on. She asked if I had been drinking water, and I realized that I hadn't been, so I got some water and started hydrating myself, and my contractions began to slow down. Even still, they continued even when I got into bed, and I began timing them and relaxing through them.

At around midnight I got up and went into to Auggie's room to sit in the glider. After about an hour of sitting there, I was getting tired and bored--contractions were not becoming stronger or closer together--so I went back to bed. I woke up the next morning feeling a little discouraged and moody, but not too bad.

Saturday we just had a laid-back family day. I was kind of irritable and despite staying super hydrated, was still getting regular, semi-painful contractions throughout the day. In the afternoon, we went to the grocery story for a few items, and then to blockbuster for "pizza and a movie night" (ie. "mommy's-having-contractions-and-doesn't-want-to-cook-or-do-anything-else" night). Lucy picked out Cars, but got bored half-way through and started climbing on us and being goofy, and I did NOT want to be touched... ugh! Finally, Greg put her to bed and gave me a great massage.

I headed up to bed early, because I was super exhausted from staying up until 2am the night before. I laid down shortly after nine, and at around 9:30 my contractions started to intensify. I began to time them, and called Greg up at around 10, after a particularly strong one. I said, "I think we need to call Steph" (our midwife). He said, "Well, let's work through a few more contractions, just to make sure this is the real thing." I agreed, but at the peak of my next contraction, I said, "Actually, we need to call her now." It was getting intense so, so fast.

So Greg got to work, calling midwife, doula, mom and sister, telling them it was time! He also got the futon downstairs pulled out into a bed and put sheets on it, brought the pool in from the garage and started filling it up, and made several trips upstairs to check on me and make sure I was okay.

I stayed lying in bed for awhile, trying my hardest to relax and get into a groove with my sudden and powerful contractions. Then I felt a little trickle of fluid and headed into the bathroom to check on it. Greg came up and I told him I thought my water had broken--he was talking to Steph on the phone, who told him to make sure it was clear (that the baby hadn't pooped). I labored on the toilet for a little bit, and then headed to sit in the glider in Auggie's room (pretty much the same thing I did while I was in labor with Lucy!). The cushioned seat was really comfortable, but my contractions were intensifying at a speedy pace.

At some point while I was sitting there, our awesome doula, Katie, got here, and I remember she and Greg sitting in there with me. Greg said that everything downstairs was ready, so I could head on down if I wanted to. I didn't want to move, but I was moaning through the contractions and didn't want to wake Lucy, so after one contraction, I stood up and walked/ran downstairs, trying to make it to the futon before my next rush. I crashed on the bed and immediately got another contraction, which I tried my best to relax through. Greg and Katie sat with me, moaning with me and helping me to keep my rhythm.

(Side note: having a doula was AMAZING. We didn't have a doula through my labor with Lucy, so this was a new experience for me. It was so cool to be on the receiving end of doula care! Just having her presence there with me was helpful in a way I can't really put into words. I remember thinking to myself that just her close proximity and quiet attentiveness made my contractions literally hurt less. Knowing that there was someone there who was 100% focused on supporting me and helping me was a huge burden lifted.)

Midwife Steph holding my hand, nurse Karen behind me

At some point my mom got there, and I called her over to hold my hand. It was dark, and there were candles lit--a perfectly peaceful atmosphere for labor. (While she was holding my hand I got a really strong rush, and moaned through it.  Afterwards she told me she didn't realize I was having a contraction, and was shocked that I didn't squeeze her hand. She thought I was sleeping!)

Next our nurse, Karen, arrived, and I wanted to hold her hand, too. (During my labor with Lucy, I did NOT want any type of physical touch... for some reason this time holding hands was extremely helpful). I love Karen. She sort of has a motherly personality, and she LOVES everything about mamas and labor and babies--I have never met anyone as passionate as she is about what she does! Her presence in our house was also extremely reassuring.

Comforted by my sister

At some point our midwife, Steph, arrived, although I have no recollection of when that happened! It was clear that my labor was nearing the end, and people were suggesting that I move to the tub (again, I didn't want to move!). I asked if it would make my labor hurt less, and Karen laughed and said, "Absolutely!" So I sat up on the bed and got another rush. The baby was so low that I had to use my arms to hold my bottom off of the bed--it felt like I was sitting on him! I somehow made it into the water and felt huge relief .All that incredible pressure was immediately relieved. Being weightless was amazing.

I had no idea where Greg was, and asked him if he was in the water with me, and he said, "Yep!" I was on my knees, leaning over the edge of the pool.

He's coming out!

My sister got here just in time (she was driving in from Chicago), and I only half-way remember her arrival. I did sense her presence, though--she was rubbing my arm and reassuring me through the most intense contractions of my entire labor. It was such a blessing to have her here.

Shortly after I got in the water I got the urge to push. This is my least favorite part about labor. (During Lucy's labor, I remember breathing through these pushing contractions--I had gotten into such a good groove with my labor that I didn't want to change things up!) This time I did the same thing, but Auggie was on his way out with or without my help. I think I sort of just grunted through a few contractions, felt the burning "ring of fire" and in my semi-conscious state realized he was almost out. Greg's hand was on my perineum, to help guide baby out, and once his head was out I felt such relief!I in stinctively reached down as I pushed the rest of his tiny body out, and said, "Where's my Auggie? Where's my Auggie?" I pulled him up out of the water and he immediately began to cry. When I first saw his face, I remember thinking that he looked familiar. That somehow I had already known what he looked like--that this was my son.

Catching my baby.

Greg and I reclined in the pool, and my sister brought Lucy down to meet Auggie. She was amazing, and marveled at meeting her new baby brother. Shortly after that, they had us move to the bed to deliver the placenta. I carried my newborn son over, still attached to me with the umbilical cord, and cuddled with him while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing, and Greg and Lucy cut it together. Then Greg got some male-bonding time with his new baby while Stephanie stitched up my small tear.

Steph, Karen, and doula Katie wrapped things up, and my mom took Lucy back upstairs to bed. Suddenly, everyone was gone, and it was just Greg, Auggie, and me. We were told to try and get some sleep, but it was nearly impossible after having birthed my baby boy! There was so much love it was keeping me awake. I cuddled with Aug while Greg emptied the pool, then we settled in together. Lying there, Greg commented on how normal this all seemed, and I agreed.

What a blessing to have had such a beautiful and peaceful birth, meeting my baby in our home surrounded by the love and support of some amazing people.

Our team! Karen, Steph, doula Katie, Me and Auggie, Greg, Lucy, and sister Katie

Labor Stats: Total time from first contraction to birth: 2.5 hours! Augustine Grant Wheaton was born at 12:02am on Sunday, 9/2/12. He was 4lbs 15oz and 17 inches long.