The birth of Rubie Karen is a birth story I am so excited to share. After struggling through years of infertility, this family welcomed their sweet baby into their arms at Summerlin Hospital here in Las Vegas.
This beautiful mama sought me out as soon as she reached her second trimester and was able to take a breath after months of infertility treatments. After so many months and years of hoping and praying for a baby, they finally could plan and dream of that day of holding their baby in their arms. After so much planning and anticipation, she knew she wanted it documented. I love when parents see the value in documenting their birth, particularly with their first. I often have parents decide on birth photography and birth story films after they regretted not doing it with their first. I really get those trepidations and fears in allowing someone into such a private time in your life; nothing is more vulnerable and intimate than birth!
We talked off and on in the months and weeks leading up to their due date, and finally, in their last trimester, we set up our face-to-face meeting. I offer this at any point during your pregnancy, but often waiting until closer to your due date gives time for more questions to come up, and parents have a better idea of what their birth plans will look like. Ashlie had planned a homebirth with one of our beautiful local midwives Sherry Hopkins of Well Rounded Mama, so we planned to meet in her home to talk about the areas she planned on using, her birth plan and hopes and expectations. I loved meeting her in person; her home was beautifully decorated. You could feel her excitement above everything, and as we talked through scenarios, I discussed options if she were to be transferred to the hospital during her care as COVID precautions here in Las Vegas were still in place, with most places allowing only one support person and just a small number of hospitals allowing doula support outside the one support persons. At the time, I was actively working on my doula certificate, and having solid connections at Summerlin (I retired after 19 years as a labor nurse there in 2019) would be the only place that her backup doctor went that I would be allowed into. Of course, this scenario would not be ideal, but I like to discuss scenarios to help prepare clients in case things change.
Wouldn’t you know it, less than a week later, I got a call from her midwife and Ashlie informing me that her water had broken prematurely at 35 weeks, and she was headed to Summerlin Hospital because of her preterm gestation. She had chosen to go to Summerlin Hospital to give birth because documenting her birth was so important to her, and luckily my being present as her doulaTog (yes, that is a real thing) was approved. Because she was early, it would be a long process, and so we talked on the phone, and the decision was to call me when things started progressing, and I would head up.
Just after midnight, I heard that things were moving and changing and had begun to do so quickly. She had gotten an epidural and was ready for me to come. When I arrived, she was resting quietly with dimmed lights and her husband Greg at her side. They were exhausted from their long day of excitement, rapid changes, and discomfort before the epidural. Ashlie told me that she had almost wavered on calling me because she was so uncomfortable and wasn’t sure there would be much to capture now that she had the epidural. I have had more than one client share these feelings with me, and let me tell you, there is always SO much story to each birth, no matter how quick, long, medicated, unmedicated, surgical, or any of a million ways it can go. I promise you that!
Another pearl I’ve learned while working with birthing families is that reading the room is vital. Not every moment is meant to be documented, and often stepping back and allowing that space for rest and quiet is so important. Because of COVID, I couldn’t come in and out of the room as I tend to do to give that physical space, so I tucked myself in a corner and patiently waited until they were ready. After some rest, Ashlie’s body began to experience labor signs, even with the epidural. She began to feel nauseous and discomforted, so the nurse was called.
Things were moving pretty quickly by this point, with cervical change happening. The nurse called the on-call physical when Ashlie was complete, and pushing was initiated.
Ashlie pushed so well with the support of her husband but had some pushing to do before her doctor arrived, so she got to work trusting the process and her body.
Because her baby was early, she was quickly taken to the radiant warmer for assessment. Mama had worked so hard to bring her baby earthside finally, and there was so much emotion in the room waiting to hear everything was alright.
This is a period of time I try to capture as much as I can because moms often are busy with repairs and assessments and would otherwise have missed these precious moments between dads and their babies.
Finally, Ashlie could hold her baby in her arms, skin-to-skin. You could feel that release and love.
Because she was early, she needed to be transferred to the newborn nursery for further observation. It was an emotional goodbye for Mama and the baby.
Greg was able to stay with Rubie in her transfer to the nursery, and so after hanging back a bit with Mama, it was time for me to go since I wasn’t allowed in the nursery. We stayed in touch over the next few days and with their transfer to the NICU unit. Because our time was cut short with the nursery transfer (I typically stay 1-2 hours after birth to capture those first moments of skin-to-skin and breastfeeding), I told her that we would bump that time back to whenever we could, even if that were after they got home. Their time in the NICU ended much longer than anticipated, so I was happy I had offered this.
So, once they were home and settled, we planned a date for me to come to their home and capture more details of their sweet baby girl and them together as a family.
I love that each item they incorporated into their session held sentimental meaning, from homemade quilts to items from her namesake.
And of course, their beautiful birth story film. The most beautiful way to tell birth stories well.
Thank you so much, Cowper family, for trusting me with such a life-changing moment from your family and for sharing your beautiful birth story with me.
Saturday, August 7th, 2021
It’s an honor that you let me capture yours.