This is a time of year I find myself reflecting on the past year as planning for the new one begins. In these times of reflection, I realize just how blessed I am. I have been in business now for almost 9 years, most of them as a studio newborn photographer. As I focused on rebranding into the genre of birth photography over the past year and a half, there have been so many moments of fear and doubt. Would I be able to make it in this genre? It is a different direction, and I knew that I would lose some clients in the transition and rebrand, which was so scary.
This is one of those birth stories that helped confirm that my role as a Las Vegas birth photographer and storyteller is exactly where I am made to be.
I met this beautiful family when they were pregnant with their oldest daughter as they were searching for a maternity and newborn photographer. I fell in love with them right away and truly enjoyed working with them. Courtney grew up here in Las Vegas and has deep roots within our community; she is so well-connected. You are instantly drawn into their love for each other, beautiful sense of humor, and family’s importance.
When they were pregnant with their second child, I had already filled my calendar, so I could not take them on for their newborn session. I was ecstatic, to say the least, when Courtney contacted me early this summer about documenting the birth of their third baby! They had not documented their last two births, so this would be something new for them. It was something that she wish she had after the fact with her other two, which I have found so many families say. I think is through the birth of our children that we see less of the fears and more of the importance of capturing every bit of it, the desire to hold every little detail. It is such a momentous moment in life and one that can’t be repeated.
We talked about their wishes and hopes in documenting their birth through their questionnaire, email communications, and our in-person meeting, so I really had a good feel for the moments that were most important to them. Of course, I truly believe that seeing your birth story in video captures even more than still, images can, and we captured so much of both!
It is always so hard to narrow down which images to show, and it was so hard with theirs; I have so many favorites.
Courtney had gone a week over with her first and close to her due date with their second, so we figured it would be right around there. Her due date came and went, and as she approached her 41st week, she started experiencing a lot of prodromal labor, something she really hadn’t had with the other two. She spent the entire weekend before her birth contracting off and on, especially at night, so by the end of the weekend was pretty exhausted. I was on high alert the whole time, often communicating with her, keeping my gear charged, packed, and by the door ready for that phone call. I finally got the call just after midnight Monday morning; she was going in to be checked as her contractions were progressively becoming stronger. Since her hospital was half an hour away, I quickly got ready and headed over, which was perfect because she was 6 cms when they checked her. By the time I arrived, she was ready to move from triage to their room.
Courtney had planned on laboring as much as she could without Pitocin and planned to hold off on getting an epidural until closer to delivery, as she had done with the other two. Luckily, St. Rose San Martin hospital here in Las Vegas has wireless monitoring available, so she was able to move freely throughout the room, change positions frequently, and continue to stand, which is the most comfortable position for her.
They had only been in the room for about an hour when things started progressing, and Courtney was ready for her epidural, so anesthesia was called. As she waited for the anesthesiologist to arrive, things changed very quickly, and her water broke after a string of intense contractions. It was soon clear that the baby was coming without an epidural, and her doctor was there.
A delivery table was quickly made for her as staff rushed about the room, and the hospital laborist was called when it was clear her OB would not make it in time. Things changed in mere minutes. Within one contraction of the laborist arriving at the bedside, their baby was here!
Things happened so quickly that it took everyone some time to process them. Aaron literally had to sit down and gather for a minute, and he saw some things (they are both morticians). He gathered himself and then got right back up there and encouraged and loved on Courtney and their new baby; it was such a tender and beautiful moment.
By the time they had delivered and spent that important first hour of skin-to-skin with their new baby, it was the early morning hours. In just a few hours, the siblings would be up and headed for school, so we decided to have me run home and freshen up and then come back and document them meeting little Alessandra before school started. This was something that was really important to Courtney and Aaron and we had really hoped that the timing would work out with the timing of their delivery, so it was perfect!
The siblings meeting their new baby sister was one of my favorite parts of it all; it was so tender and adorable! Both were totally smitten with their new baby sister and fascinated at every little detail they could take in.
And we weren’t done! Because they had documented newborn sessions with the older siblings, they wanted to come up with a good middle ground. Because I no longer photograph studio-posed newborn, we scheduled an in-home newborn session once they got home and settled. We captured a few posed images they could hang on their walls to remain cohesive and then continued with a more lifestyle session. It turned out so adorable. Big brother and sister were still just as smitten with their new baby, and it was so nice to see them all together in their home, where most of their memories are made!
Monday, November 11th, 2019
August has been my busiest birth month to date. I took on more birth clients this month than I ever had because each was so unique and special ( I still have one more to go at this point).
I limit the number of births I take a month to ensure that I am available when you go into labor, no matter the time of day. I don’t book much of anything else while on call for birth for the same reason.
Sarah Beth is a local photographer and dear friend. She is an extremely talented newborn and birth photographer (in fact, we are each other’s birth backups!); you need to check out her work! Sarah Beth Chamberlain Photography.
I was so honored when she reached out to me early in her pregnancy to book me! She knew early on what type of birth she wanted and where to deliver, and she worked hard to make it all come true. They are a military family and had delivered in two different states with their two older children and two different types of facilities with two entirely different experiences. Their oldest son was born in a hospital setting, and their second child was in a birth center. She found her second birth more in line with her wishes and really felt that if things were progressing normally in her pregnancy, and if she was not high risk then a home birth is what she really longed for. We spent time talking about her hopes and dreams for this birth, and she decorated her birth space just as she wanted.
She had gone early with her previous two deliveries and experienced preterm contractions for months leading up to her birth. She just wanted to make it to the 37-week mark to feel confident delivering at home. She went right at the 37-week mark! Sarah had an appointment with her midwife April Clyde of Serenity Birth Center on the day she went into labor things were looking great, but she just really had the intuition that it was going to happen soon. Her adorable son was especially eager to meet his baby brother and told the midwife that it would happen that night.
There is no better way to share their birth story than in Sarah Beth’s own words!
Everett aired his wishes for his little brother to be born all day on Tuesday. A number of times, including at our 37-week prenatal appointment that morning, he brought up the fact that it was a full moon and a lunar eclipse. He’d heard that lots of mommas go into labor under a full moon, and he was eager to get the party started.
That night we did our usual evening stretches, walking, and spinning babies exercises to try and encourage Waylon to turn out of his posterior position. At around 9:30PM I started having frequent but light contractions. After having rounds of prodromal labor since week 32 of this pregnancy, and that being the norm for all of my pregnancies, I didn’t really put too much hope into this being the start of labor. However, I phoned the midwives and our birth photographer anyway just to give them a heads up. Josh and I went to bed. Either way, we needed rest.
At 1:50 AM, Evangeline came into our room. It had been months since she woke up in the middle of the night, but she was at my bedside, wanting some cuddles. I told her to wait just a moment so I could go potty, and then we could snuggle. After emptying my bladder, it became obvious that my water had broken. I woke Josh and returned to the bathroom. When he rose and came to check on me a few minutes later, I needed a whole stack of towels for clean up. Somehow, I think Evangeline awoke because she sensed something stirring. I probably would have slept for another hour at least.
After calling our birth team to let them know things were happening, contractions began to pick up pretty rapidly. Evangeline was eager to wake up Everett, but we managed to keep her from doing so for about an hour. I had woken up quite hungry from the contractions doing work while I slept, so Josh brought me snacks. Strawberries, blueberries, and corn chips. I’d regret the corn chips later, but I needed the energy. I sat on the birth ball, leaned on the wall with Josh applying back pressure, and couldn’t decide whether the tub or the toilet felt like a better place to hang out. Sarah, one of our midwives, arrived and checked for dilation. I was just 3 cms, so we had some work to do. I tried to stay out of the tub as much as I could, although it offered some relief to those powerful contractions that come after the cushion of a bag of waters has been emptied. I walked the hallway, rocked some more, and did whatever I needed to do to tell my body to get things moving. Sure enough, gravity and good labor positions eventfully led to some signs of transition. We sent for Sarah and April.
This stage felt nothing like either of our first two babies because this baby was not quite in the same position. He’d been posterior for weeks, and although he’d started to turn, it felt like he wasn’t nestled in quite the same. Nevertheless, I felt hot and nauseous, and I knew this meant that the tide was shifting toward delivery. I got in the tub and had Josh apply back pressure. A few contractions in, the nausea took over and up came those tortilla chips. With that heave however, I felt Waylon shove firmly down into my pelvis. That was the nudge we needed. Josh continued to squeeze into my back while I labored in the tub, waiting for the urge to push. Sarah wafted peppermint at me to ease the nausea. I was exhausted, and dozing off for a second or two between contractions. It seemed like it took so long, and when I felt that first pushing wave begin I cried out “yes”. I was so ready get this done and hold my baby.
With each wave of pushing contractions, I tried to squeeze in two to three pushes. Josh squeezed hard on my back to offer relief. After the first three waves, I was thinking okay, where’s my baby. Two to three pushes was all it took for big brother and sister. Waylon seemed so much harder to squeeze through, and he was descending slower. I needed to feel progress, so I reached down after each surge to feel for him, measuring his position in knuckles. At one point we made backwards progress, but it only made me fight harder. With the next wave I began to roar with each push. I heard Josh chuckle from behind me. This “beast mode” was new to him too, and amusing. I had to admit to myself it kind of was. Finally, Waylon was crowning. I reached down to feel his little head and was surprised to feel fingers. He had surfaced with a forward presenting arm. As I played with his fingers, waiting for one final wave of pushes, he grasped my finger. Sarah unwrapped his cord from around his neck. One final push, and he was out. I brought him up to my chest and snuggled him up. He had a perfectly round little face and was completely peaceful. As we rubbed his little back and stimulated him to get him to use his lungs, he finally let out a little cry. I could see he had a complete tongue tie like his brother. We also discovered that he had a knot in his cord, which was neat to see.
After some snuggles in the tub, Everett cut the cord, and we got out to warm up in our cozy bed. Waylon had his newborn exam, weighing in at 7lbs, 12 ounces, and 21 inches. He had his tongue tie clipped, and he latched right away when he was brought back to me. Such a relief to have him nursing easily. He’s been a pretty awesome feeder since. Everyone in the family is just smitten with him.
This was the most tender home birth I have seen; Sarah Beth was surrounded by and loved on by her family her entire labor. You could just feel the anticipation and excitement from big brother and sister and their awe of the whole process.
As soon as I documented those first tender moments with their baby and the newborn exam, I stepped out to give mama her much-needed time with her baby. I generally stay 1-2 hours post-delivery to capture those first moments and skin-to-skin.
I returned the next day for a Fresh 48, which is always fun because I get to continue documenting those first days with your baby. There is nothing like it; everything is so fresh and new and you are just soaking in what you have done and just how much you love this little human that you have created and finally get to hold in your arms. It truly is life’s greatest love story, in my opinion.
Monday, August 19th, 2019
It’s an honor that you let me capture yours.