The Birth of Silas James

I know I have said it before, but by the time I document these beautiful birth stories I have become so invested in the story that is so unique to each birth. After being a labor and delivery nurse here for the past 19 years (I retired this past March), I have first hand knowledge to the fact that each is so different and unique, even within the same families. Right up until the end of my career there were so many births that moved me deeply, and often brought tears to my eyes.

As a birth photographer, I feel this even more intently. I think it is because of the totally different role in seeing birth through the eyes of a storyteller. I do my best to see the story in each birth, even in the smallest of moments, because that is often where they live. Although I do miss patient care, I feel deep in my soul that documenting them is exactly where I am supposed to be in this season of my life. It is a privilege I don’t take lightly!

I literally cried every single time I worked on their birth film, because I had some first hand knowledge to how hard they worked to hold this little man in their arms, and the emotions that led up to this moment.

Here is the birth story of Silas James

This beautiful family found me while searching for a birth photographer here in Las Vegas. Sarah requested a phone consultation early on, and through our conversation about their vision and wishes, I just knew that it was going to be an incredible story. She is a nurse, so right away we had that connection, and she shared with me early on that Ben is a photojournalist. Of course, I looked him up right away and was blown away by his work, and terrified at the same time! (I always feel an additional amount of pressure when another photographer or filmmaker hires me).It is a big deal for another artist will turn over their moments to someone else, trusting that they don’t have to worry about what I am doing, and can truly live in the moment. Ben did it so graciously and truly did live in their space.

capturing the details of the birth space while documenting birth stories

We talked in the weeks leading up to their birth, as I do with all my birth clients. I check in often to see how things are going and how they are feeling, especially once I start the ‘call’ period for births at 37-38 weeks. Sarah and Ben had a birth plan and a vision for what they wanted in their care and birth; a low intervention and unmedicated birth was their preference, but they were also flexible in knowing that things don’t always unfold as planned.

As her due date came and went, those fears that it wasn’t going to unfold as they had planned began to creep in, but she continued to advocate for the birth she wanted and followed her OB and high risk to be sure everything was looking perfect. Once she was over a week past their due date, talk of induction began, and as her fluid levels dropped and her baby experienced a period of decreased fetal movement, the moment had come to go in and begin the induction period. We agreed to have me capture some of the early moments and return when active labor began.

Hospital induction at Henderson hospital with wireless monitoring
what to expect when checking into the hospital for an induction of labor
using the birthing ball during an induction of labor at Henderson hospital in Las Vegas

First of all, let’s just talk about how beautiful Sarah is. She is truly a stunning woman, I was really excited about photographing her. They both really are. I mean how could they not make an adorable baby?

Because we knew the induction would be long, I captured some of those first moments they would want to remember as they checked in and got settled. Sarah was able to wear her own comfortable clothing, which was great, and the wireless monitoring available at Henderson Hospital really gave her freedom to move about and stay somewhat comfortable.

Right after I had packed up and was ready to head out for a few hours of sleep and to give Sarah and Ben some space and rest before active labor began, little Silas had his first episode of distress. Her nurses were so great and were right on top of caring for her and her baby and worked hard to keep everyone comfortable while performing interventions.

oxygen used in labor for fetal distress in the hospital setting

They also knew that they wanted both of their parents present for their birth. Ben’s mom was able to spend time with them in the week before delivery waiting for Silas to arrive, and Sarah’s mom hopped on a plane as soon as she knew that the time had come. Their presence and love in their birth space really was so beautiful to observe. You could just feel the anticipation and excitement throughout.

support during labor by touch from support team
the importance of touch in labor

Within a few hours of starting the induction process, Sarah’s contractions had come on both intensely and frequently, with little break between. I got the call in the early morning hours that she had progressed quickly to 7 cms, so jumped in the car and headed back, while Sarah waited for her epidural.

preparing for an epidural
positioning for an epidural in labor
grandparents waiting for new baby in hospital
mother resting after epidural in the hospital before her baby arrives
a mother comforting her daughter during labor in the hospital after an epidural
a mother seeking support from her partner during labor in the hospital
positioning in labor when the baby will not descend

Sarah received and epidural, and never got comfortable enough to really settle into some rest. Her husband and the mothers both took turns being at her side and comforting her, and I stepped out of the room for a couple of hours with the grandmas to really give them time alone to rest. The lack of sleep and pain were beginning to wear on both.

grandparents waiting in the waiting room at Henderson hospital
grandma waiting in waiting room as her daughter labors in the hospital
capturing the small but important details in birth
resting during labor with an oxygen face mask on
the emotions of not progressing as planned in labor
involving the grandparents in labor in the hospital setting

In the morning, Sarah’s doctor came in to evaluate their progress and discuss their plan of care. Sarah had made no cervical change in hours, and still had not rested, or become comfortable. Her baby continued to have periods of distress but were quickly resolving at this point. They talked about options and he then stepped away to give Sarah and Ben time alone to make some decisions.

dr evaluating labor progression in Henderson hospital
husband holding wife while in labor las vegas
the warmer in a labor room at Henderson hospital

After really talking and making some tough decisions, they both decided it was time to allow for a cesarean section. They were both exhausted, Sarah was still in pain, and Silas still had periods of distress. Again, I stepped away to give them the space to really work through all those emotions.

mothers being present to support their daughters in labor
preparing for the operating room after failed induction hospital
dad walking down the hallway in the hospital on the way to a cesarean section

Photographers are not always allowed in the operating room for cesarean sections, with permission granted by anesthesia and the primary surgeon, and guided by hospital policies. I do my best to be allowed into the operating room for births, but am always understanding and ready for permission to not be granted. Luckily, Sarah’s nurse and OB had advocated for me, and I was granted permission by anesthesia.

documenting births in the operating room with permission from anesthesia
cesarean section in the operating room at Henderson hospital
father with baby at the warmer after a cesarean section at Henderson hospital

What I really love is focusing on capturing the details that mom might not be seeing during labor and delivery, so that she can really see those moments she might not otherwise. Those moments between Ben and Silas at the warmer were just so moving.

dads hands with newborn baby in the warmer after delivery
dad spending some time alone with the new baby at the warmer after delivery
weighing the baby in the operating room after a c-section Henderson hospital
newborn recognizing his dads voice after delivery in the operating room
mom spending time with her newborn in the operating room after a cesarean section

Of course, back in the room family was waiting and anxious to meet little Silas.

grandparents meeting the new baby after delivery in the hospital
grandparents meeting the baby after a c-section
creative ways to document the story of birth
first time grandparents after birth Henderson hospital
baby footprints after birth Henderson hospital

Everyone then stepped out to give Sarah and Ben time alone with their baby and each other. These are always the most tender moments to observe.

mom holding baby skin to skin for the first time after delivery
mom and dad bonding with baby after delivery in the hospital
the golden hour after birth and breastfeeding
the golden hour after birth Henderson hospital

I came back the next day to document a Fresh 48 session and little Sila’s first bath by mom and dad. There still had been zero sleep going on days now, but Sarah still looked so great and had already been up out of bed and was moving around well, and was anxious to get home.

delayed bath after birth at Henderson hospital
parents bathing baby in the hospital
mom breastfeeding baby during a fresh 48 session Henderson hospital
dad dressing baby in the hospital
newborn baby 24 hours old in the hospital
documenting dad with baby during hospital fresh 48
documenting newborns beautifully in the hospital las vegas
dad with baby during hospital newborn session
grandma and baby during hospital newborn session
parents with newborn in the hospital during fresh session
grandma visiting baby in the hospital after delivery

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