I know what it feels like.
You see all of these beautiful birth photos on Facebook, but you struggle to find anything that represents your birth experience.
C-sections are often under represented in birth photography for a variety of reasons -
-Photographers can often be blocked from entering the operating room, especially if the c-section is unplanned or an emergency.
-You might think that a planned c-section means everything will be more organized and it will be easier to just have your husband take photos.
-Or maybe you don't even know that having a c-section birth photographed is an option because you've never seen it done!
Well, I'm here to tell you that having a photographer for your c-section is an option and you definitely want one!
First of all, if your husband is the only person with you in the OR and is in charge of the camera, who takes a picture of him seeing his baby for the first time? Or him kissing your forehead while you wait for that first cry?
Having a photographer present frees up your hubby to relax and be in the moment with you.
Also, I always tell moms that the day your baby is born will go by in a blur and you'll be surprised how many moments you miss. This is true for c-sections as well and maybe even moreso in some cases.
Most hospitals nowadays do skin to skin with mom in the OR, but there are still a lot of things you may miss behind the curtain - baby being weighed and measured, dad holding the baby, other family members seeing the baby, etc etc etc.
And finally, your birth story deserves to be told. Your baby's birth day will be one of the most memorable days of your life. No matter how it goes down, you'll revisit your memories of this day many times over the course of your life. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have photos to look back on too?
In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, I'm giving 2 moms-to-be the opportunity to have a birth photographer at their scheduled c-section for HALF PRICE!
My birth photography services for planned c-sections include:
*In person consultation in your third trimester
*Me being on call in the weeks leading up to your scheduled c-section just in case you go into labor earlier than planned
*Backup photographer just in case of some personal emergency
*Photo coverage from the time you arrive at the hospital through your delivery and for approximately 2 hours afterwards
*Slideshow video of your birth photos
*Full gallery download of high resolution photos from your birth
Normally, my birth photography packages start at $1200, but for 2 lucky mamas, I'll provide this service for only $600!
What do you have to do to receive this awesome discount? Glad you asked -
-You must be having a SCHEDULED c-section in May, June, or July 2019.
-You must agree to get permission from your OBGYN to have a photographer present during your birth - including permission to be in the OR.
-You must sign a model release allowing me to use your photos for marketing purposes (I will allow you to view the gallery and let you know what photos I plan to use before posting any publicly).
Ready to apply? Click here and fill out the short application!
Sitting in the hospital bed, staring at my new perfect baby boy, I really started to realize just how dramatic the last few hours had been…
“Well… that escalated quickly.”
When I woke up that morning, I just felt… off.
I don’t really know how else to explain it. Nothing in particular was wrong - I just felt run down and had no appetite.
I dropped my daughter (known here as Bug) off at school and decided to have a shamelessly lazy day with my toddler (a.k.a. Bubba). We stayed home all day and watched far more Daniel Tiger than I care to admit.
After school, I took advantage of the beautiful weather we were having that day and sat in my driveway while my kids played. My dad stopped by to see the kids for a little while and my husband came home from work shortly after. By that time, some of the other kids in our neighborhood were out playing too, so I left the men outside with the kids while I went in to try to rest.
As I was dozing on the couch wondering how I would possibly muster the energy to make dinner, I felt what I thought might be a contraction. It was definitely stronger than the Braxton Hicks I’d been having for weeks, but not exactly painful either. Another came several minutes later. Then a third…
During the third, I felt a painful pop in my pelvis. I don’t think I realized exactly what happened, but something in me started to think “GET OFF THE COUCH!”
As soon as I got up, my water gushed in true Hollywood fashion. I looked at the clock and it was about 5:30 PM.
I waddled to the front door and yelled out into the yard at my husband.
I told him I wasn’t in a hurry and that he could take a shower if he wanted.
Contractions started pretty much immediately and were 2-3 minutes apart right from the start.
I contacted my photographer to let her know what was happening and then put in a call to the after hours line at the OB’s office.
(And yes… I notified my photographer before the doctor because #priorities)
By the time my husband finished his quick shower, my contractions were already 1-2 minutes apart and I was groaning and really having to focus to breathe through them.
Even though I hadn’t heard back from the on-call OB yet, I decided we probably needed to go ahead and make our way to the hospital. Thankfully, my dad was still there, so we could leave the kids with him and my mom met us at the hospital.
We arrived at the hospital just a little before 7 pm, which is when shift change happens for the nurses. The current nurse hooked me up to the monitors to wait until they finished shift change. When the OB came in to check me, it was about 7:30 and I was 3 cm and 80% effaced.
I was moved to my delivery room. At this point, contractions were still 1-2 minutes apart and painful, but I was managing pretty well. Over the next hour, the contractions intensified and I was feeling more pressure in my pelvis. My husband suggested that I should ask to be checked again, but I really didn’t want that. If you’ve read either of my other children’s birth stories (here and here), you’ll know that my cervix has a history of not really cooperating in labor. I had a lot of anxiety about cervical checks. I was terrified of hearing that there was no change.
My husband kept reassuring me and I finally agreed. I was checked again just before 9:00 - 4 cm.
Not major progress, but progress nonetheless.
The photographer arrived around that time and things were really starting to ramp up.
I was struggling during contractions now. I was crying and when contractions peaked, I often said I couldn’t do it anymore. My husband just kept holding my hand and my mom wiped my face with a wet rag while they talked me through each one.
Between contractions, I was able to take a couple of deep breaths and calm myself. During contractions, I couldn’t think clearly through the pain, but in the short breaks between, I could recognize the signs of progress -
-The nurses kept having to move the monitors lower and lower on my belly to find baby’s heart rate because he was moving down.
-I was starting to feel nauseated at the peak of each contraction, which is a sign of approaching the transition stage of labor.
It had been less than an hour, but the OB asked if she could check me again. I declined at first because, again, I was scared. I was really struggling mentally with these contractions and I was afraid that if I heard there was no progress, I would completely lose it.
At this point my husband stepped in and told me he really wanted me to get checked. With my previous births, he was so anxious and seemed so unsure of everything. This time he was so calm and reassuring. He reminded me that he has seen me give birth before and he could tell that this time was different. He knew I was scared from my previous experiences and needed to hear that this wasn’t the same.
The OB checked me again a little before 10:00 and I was 7 cm and 90% effaced.
I was THRILLED! This was happening! I could do this!
My excitement didn’t last long. My labor pattern changed very suddenly. I was no longer getting any break at all between contractions. I wasn’t able to get that little break to catch my breath and calm myself anymore. I started to panic, which made my heart race.
At the same time, the baby’s heart rate started dropping really low during contractions. The nurses were struggling to differentiate between baby’s heart rate and mine on the monitors.
I ended up in a full-fledged panic attack then. I started screaming when contractions would peak and may or may not have told my husband that I was dying multiple times.
One nurse had me flip onto my side and put an oxygen mask on me while another was still frantically trying to find baby on the monitor. Although I was panicking, I still remember looking at my husband and realizing he was far too calm - smiling even. It’s the only thing that kept me sane.
I asked him later why he was so chill during that chaos, and he said there was another nurse in the room. The two nurses with me were so focused on their job - one finding baby’s heart and the other trying to get me to calm down and take deep breaths in the oxygen mask - that they weren’t taking in the whole picture. The third nurse was standing back watching everything and she apparently called the OB team back in. She told them that although they had just checked me, she was sure the baby was actually coming now.
Right about that time, my body started pushing. It’s called Fetal Ejection Reflex. I’ve heard about it. I’ve seen it happen to my birth clients. But absolutely nothing prepares you for the moment it happens to you. The pressure was unbelievable, and my body completely took over with no help whatsoever from me.
The nurse holding my oxygen mask was caught off guard by how abruptly I stopped screaming and realized I was bearing down instead. She quickly pushed my leg aside to look and said, “Well, mama… is this the position you want to push in? Because it looks like we’re there.”
It had only been about 15 minutes since I was checked at 7 cm and honestly, my brain couldn’t even process what was happening. The nurse asked me to take a few breaths and try to stop pushing so they could break down the bed, but I couldn’t. My body was pushing so hard, I couldn’t even catch my breath.
The OB then said she wasn’t worried about breaking down the bed and to just let my body do what it needed to do.
Just when I thought I would pass out from the pain and not being able to breathe, I finally got a break from the contractions. It only lasted a minute or so, but it was enough for me to take a few breaths and for the medical team to break down the bed.
After a short break, I started pushing again. Despite the fact that I could very clearly feel what was happening, my brain was still in panic mode. I was convinced this wasn’t really happening and that I wouldn’t be able to push the baby out. I kept saying I couldn’t do it and I needed someone to help me.
A nurse told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head crowning.
I finally managed to muster the strength and courage to push my baby the rest of the way out - only about 10 minutes of pushing altogether.
The baby was covered with a towel and placed on my chest. While I admired my precious new love, my mom ran out to the waiting room where my daughter was waiting. We had decided to let her be the first to peek and announce the sex of the baby.
We had a baby BOY!
A little while later, it was time to cut the cord, and I said I wanted to do it myself.
He was weighed at 8 lbs 11.4 oz - my biggest baby by almost a pound - and I had done it completely naturally!
My dad came in with the kids to meet our new little guy and they were totally smitten right from the start.
Once my parents left with the big kids, the chaos was over and I asked the nurse the official time of birth. I was shocked to hear 10:21 PM - just under 5 hours from when my water broke!
I looked down at my little Baby Bear, and said, “Well… that escalated quickly!”
A special thank you to Krista with Seed & Stem Photography for these beautiful birth photos!
Everyone seems to have an opinion...
Don't over pack...
But you'll regret it if you need something you didn't pack! Bring EVERYTHING and leave some in the car just in case!
You do you boo...
Here's the thing-
There are a million different blogs all over the internet with comprehensive hospital bag packing lists of everything you could ever possibly need.
This is not one of those blogs.
Honestly, how much you will need or want to pack entirely depends on a few different factors:
*The type of birth you are having - c-sections tend to have longer hospital stays than uncomplicated vaginal deliveries.
*How close you live to the hospital where you are choosing to deliver - Sending your husband on a 15 minute drive home to grab something you forgot is a totally different story than those of you traveling over an hour to get to your birth location of choice.
*Do you have help nearby? - My husband and I are very lucky to have plenty of local friends and family who are more than happy to stop by our house or a store to grab something we need.
This blog I've written for you today is not a complete list of what you'll need to pack.
Instead, I have compiled a few small hacks that I learned with my first two births to make packing a little easier and so you don't make the same mistakes I did!
1) Bring One Really Big Bag
Having separate bags packed for everyone is chaos. I know it might feel more organized to have everyone's things organized into their own bag, but postpartum rooms are TINY.
You know those beautiful, spacious labor and delivery rooms they show you on the hospital website and during your tour?
Yeah... you only get to stay in those for a few hours after delivery at most. They will eventually move you down to the postpartum rooms, which are about the size of my closet. And this seems to be a universal phenomenon because as a birth photographer, I've been in L&D rooms in pretty much all of the local hospitals as well as the postpartum rooms for Fresh 48 sessions.
Suddenly, all of those separate bags take up a ton of space and you're tripping over them every time you get up.
I pack one giant bag for everyone. It's not pretty. It's an old duffel bag my husband had before he met me, but it works. I can pack everything we need for myself, my husband, and the baby AND still have a little room left over to cram in the goodies I bring home from the hospital with me (diapers, wipes, mesh panties, ice packs, etc).
2) Get Samples or Go Travel Size with Toiletries
This is one I learned the hard way with my first birth. I packed everything we didn't need on a daily basis and then put a list on top of the bag of items we needed to remember when it was time to go to the hospital: toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, makeup, phone chargers, etc. etc. etc.
Well, guess what?
When I started having dangerous blood pressure spikes and was sent to the hospital in a hurry, all of those extra things we were supposed to grab were completely left behind.
With my second baby and now with this third, I knew not to make that mistake again.
I have toothbrushes and sample size tubes of toothpaste from our most recent dentist visits.
I have makeup samples I got in some random swag bag.
I have travel size deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, makeup remover wipes, etc.
The only thing we will actually have to remember to grab on our way out the door is the bag itself and my purse.
3) Pack an Extra Sports Bra or Sleep Bra
Soooo funny story...
I had a long labor with my second baby. People will tell you all the time that modesty goes out the window once you're in "labor land," but you never know just how true it is until it happens to you.
Apparently, at some point during the long pushing phase with my son, I started to get really hot. I have no memory of this whatsoever, but I've been told that I just started ripping clothes off and demanding that everyone help me get the gown off because I was so hot.
It wasn't until about 20-30 minutes after he was born and snuggling on my chest that I glanced down and asked, "So... uh... how long have I been completely naked?"
The nurse assured me it was no big deal and it happens all the time.
I wasn't exactly embarrassed, but here's the problem...
I have lots of photos that no one will ever see from my son's birth. I love and treasure them... but will not share them because, as I said, I was COMPLETELY naked.
This time I packed an extra sports bra in the bag and made my husband SWEAR to me that he will make me AT LEAST keep a bra on during birth this time.
I've hired a photographer, and I want to be able to share the beautiful photos I know she'll capture of that day.
As a birth photographer, I always tell my clients that it's not my job to tell you what to do or not to do during labor. If it's important to you to have photos you can share that don't contain full nudity, always designate someone - your spouse, a doula, a friend, someone - to remind you to leave your clothes on just in case!
4) Bring Towels From Home
Another lesson learned the hard way.
Not sure if you know this, but hospital towels are approximately the size of a postage stamp. Also, because they're regularly washed in a really harsh cycle (for obvious reasons), they feel like sandpaper.
Now I know some people who say they prefer to just wait until they get home to shower after birth, but I can't do that. Pretty much as soon as I'm up and walking around, I'm ready to wash off and get into some clean clothes.
If you know you're going to want a shower at the hospital, bring your own towel. You'll thank me later.
5) Bring a Folder
This doesn't have to be anything elaborate. Any basic pocket folder that you can get for less than a dollar at Target is fine.
When packing my hospital bag, I use the folder to hold a copy of my birth preferences to give to the nurses at the hospital as well as any notes and reminders for my husband (like our birth photographer's phone number and when and how often to contact her).
However, this folder is also really handy after birth as well. You will be given so many random pieces of paper after your baby is born - information on newborn procedures that you choose to have done at the hospital, paperwork for the baby's birth certificate and social security card, and any discharge instructions.
Having a place to put all of those papers will make it much easier to find them again when you get home.
I hope you find these little hacks helpful! To my other experienced mamas: did you feel like you over packed, under packed, or was it just right? Was there anything you didn't pack but wish you had? Leave a comment and let me know!
Do you like getting occasional, helpful mom hacks and tools? Do you want information about local family-friendly events? Do you want first dibs on any sales or special events from Brianne Sanders Photography? Then click here to join my VIP list!
I first met this couple just after the new year when mama was already 39 weeks pregnant.
They were first time parents, excited to meet their new baby girl any day.
They had been looking for a birth photographer for a while and ended up finding me at the last minute.
They knew they wanted to capture the memories of this incredible day and didn't want to leave it to chance. Plus, if dad was the one taking all of the pictures, who would take pictures of him?
So I went on call for this couple immediately and we waited.
Late at night on January 12 - 2 days after mom's due date - I got a text that she was having a lot of cramping. She was going to try to rest and see if they went away, but would let me know if anything changed.
A little after 3:30 in the morning, I got the call that they were heading to the hospital with contractions 4-5 minutes apart. When she arrived she was only 1 cm dilated, so I told her to keep me updated, but I was going to get some sleep and I hoped she would be able to do the same.
I checked in with mom throughout the day. Progress continued slowly. Later in the morning, she was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced. She hadn't been able to rest because the consistent contractions were still keeping her awake.
As of 1 PM, there had still been no change, so her OBGYN decided to start pitocin to see if they could get things to progress.
A little while later mama got an epidural and the doctor broke her water. She was 4-5 cm dilated that evening.
I arrived at the hospital around 8:45 PM. I ran into dad in the waiting room. He looked exhausted and was hoping they could both get a nap now that mom had an epidural. I told him to get some rest and I would be hanging out in the waiting room until they were ready for me.
Dad was able to get some sleep, but this poor mama never did get a nap. Because of some concerns with baby's heart rate and meconium in her water, the nurses were coming in periodically to check on baby and help mom change positions.
Around 1:30 AM, mama called me back to the room. She was completely dilated but they were trying to let her labor down some before pushing.
When I got in the room, mom was touching up her makeup and everyone was joking about how hard it had been to wake dad up. It seems he was having full conversations with people without ever actually waking up.
A little after 2 AM, the nurse said they should be ready to start pushing soon and this sweet mama had a tiny moment of panic realizing she was going to meet her daughter soon. She said she was excited but scared too.
Dad was right there by her side reassuring her that everything was going to be great and he was so excited to meet their baby girl.
Just before 3 AM, mama was finally able to start pushing.
She pushed in a variety of positions and eventually was given a little oxygen between pushes to help baby's heart rate. I kept expecting her to get tired and run out of energy, but from what I could see, you'd never know she'd been up for over 24 hours at this point!
The soon-to-be grandfather (mom's dad) was there in a chair by her head. He sat between pushes, but every time a new contraction came, he stood up to support and encourage his little girl.
At 4:25 AM, after about an hour and a half of pushing, baby Samantha was born with a head full of dark hair!
After snuggling with mom for a little while, Samantha was weighed and clung to the side of the scale the whole time.
Samantha went back to mom's chest and dad called some other family members to meet the baby over video.
After taking some time to work on that first latch, baby Samantha was taken to the warmer for her remaining measurements and was swaddled in a precious new wrap and headband.
I left this family to settle in and hopefully get some sleep just as the sun was coming up on this baby's birth day.
Congratulations to this new family of three and thank you for trusting me to capture your first baby's entrance into this world!
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!
Just like your wedding day, you plan and prepare for the day you meet your baby.
And just like your wedding day, it's over in a flash.
How will you remember the emotions and details of such an important day?
Normally, my basic birth photography package is $1200.
-Consultation during your 3rd trimester to discuss your birth plan and photo preferences
-Photographer (that's me!) on call 24/7 - day and night - starting at 38 weeks until the birth of your baby
-Photographer (me again!) present for an unlimited amount of time during active labor and delivery and up to 2-3 hours after birth
-Full gallery of edited images to download
-Slideshow video set to music
-Discounts on maternity sessions, lifestyle newborn sessions, and album purchases
However, I am choosing THREE expecting mamas to receive my birth photography services at HALF PRICE in exchange for a model release!
That means my basic birth package now starts at $600!
Requirements to apply:
1) Must be currently expecting with a due date between October 15 and December 15, 2018.
2) Must be willing to sign a model release allowing me to use photos for promotions and advertising.
(Disclaimer: Even though you sign a model release, I do not ever share photos that contain nudity, and I will let you know what photos I intend to use before publishing any.)
3) All types of birth are accepted! Planned c-section, hospital birth, home birth, birth center birth... it's all beautiful and worthy of photographing!
4) Must be willing to pay a 25% non-refundable retainer to reserve your place if you are chosen for this discount and the final balance is due by your 38th week of pregnancy.
Ready to apply? Click below!
Even before your baby is born, you can't help but worry.
I think it's part of the mom code or something.
You worry about whether your baby is healthy or your bump is too big or too small.
You worry about what kind of mother you'll be and what kind of personality your little one will have.
You worry about the birth.
What if something happens?
Women having been having babies forever, but everyone has at least one friend with some terrifying birth story (unfortunately, I think I'm sometimes that friend for some people).
What would a birth photographer do in those cases? Would you even want a birth photographer there?
These are all legitimate concerns. Birth is incredible and miraculous and in a lot of cases, completely normal.
But birth is also unpredictable and sometimes unexpected events can happen, even for the most prepared mother.
In those times, moms often feel a wide range of emotions.
Lack of control.
I speak from experience here (remember how I said I'm often that friend?). If you've never read the birth story of my first born (lovingly called Bug), you can find it here.
I felt so out of control... like my body had failed me and my baby.
I remember laying on the OR table thinking, "How did I get here?"
It wasn't until a day or two later that I saw my own strength through the eyes of my own mom. She had been with me throughout the entire process and even in the OR when my daughter was born.
She made a post on Facebook talking about how brave I was and how I was the calmest one in the OR. She praised how I set aside all of the hopes I had for my birth and laid myself out on that table for the sake of my baby girl.
I won't say I magically felt better about everything after that because it's just not true.
But it was a start.
I needed to get out of my own head and see my birth from an outsider's perspective.
I needed to see my birth from another angle.
That's what birth photography does. It shows you the depth of your own strength.
You can see the look of determination on your own face as you work to bring your baby into the world.
You get to see the joy in your eyes when you meet your baby for the first time.
You can see the love and support of the people who surrounded you that day.
Even more important, birth photography can give you moments that you may have missed.
That's actually one of the biggest reasons I decided to become a birth photographer.
After my daughter was born, my husband went to the nursery with her and I was left behind in the OR.
He held our daughter - the first baby he had ever held in his life - in the nursery, and I missed it.
It's a moment I'll never get back. It's the reason why my favorite pictures during my clients' births are usually dad meeting or holding baby for the first time. I feel like I get the chance to give other moms something that I wasn't able to have.
Birth photography can be healing and empowering. My goal as a birth photographer is to show you the beauty in your baby's birth day - no matter what else happens.
I see you there.
Lurking through my birth photos and reading my blog posts.
You know you want photos of the day your newest little addition is born, but maybe you're still on the fence about hiring a birth photographer.
You already read my last blog post, and you know hiring a pro is totally worth the investment. (Okay, okay... if you actually haven't read that blog post yet, you can find it here)
There's a part of you still wondering though...
Will it be weird to have a stranger in the room taking photos?
If this is your first baby, let me be the one to tell you: there are likely going to be strangers present at your birth whether you hire a birth photographer or not. You might have an OB present that isn't your normal doctor because you go into labor during on-call hours. You'll have at least one nurse for yourself and one nurse for the baby. There could also be a number of other people there for various reasons depending on how your birth progresses.
No one ever bats an eye at having any of those "strangers" present at their birth though because they are professionals - there to do a job.
Well, guess what? It's the same thing when you hire a professional birth photographer! I'm there to do my job. You are not the first woman I have ever watched in labor and yours is not the first birth I've witnessed through the lens of my camera.
Plus, all of my birth clients have a consultation with me prior to the birth, and we'll keep in touch some throughout your pregnancy. I promise we won't feel like strangers by the time your baby is born!
Ok... but can't my husband/mom/friend/doula/insert-whatever-person-you-plan-to-have-present-at-your-birth-here just take photos?
Valid question and one I understand very well because I thought the same thing! I thought I could have my support people take photos, and I would just use my photo editing magic to make them into what I wanted.
Although I absolutely cherish the photos that I have, this plan just didn't work out for a few different reasons:
1) Even if one of your support people is a skilled photographer, births are a whole different bear with unpredictable lighting and circumstances. Having someone who has knowledge and experience with birth itself and knows their way around a birth space will help you get more of the photos you really want.
2) Your support people will be emotionally invested in you and your baby. More than likely, they will get caught up in the moment and forget to take photos. Trust me when I tell you that you don't want to be reminding people to take photos (if you're even in the mental or emotional state to remember yourself). When my son was born, I was constantly blurting out, "Oh! Someone take a picture of that!"
It wasn't fun for me and honestly, it was probably annoying to everyone else.
3)This last point is an important one - If one of your support people is in charge of taking pictures, who will get pictures of them supporting you? If your husband has the camera, who takes a picture of him when he sees his baby for the first time? If your mom is in charge of taking pictures, who will take a photo of her comforting you through your contractions?
I think this is one of those circumstances where a photo really is worth a thousand words.
I'm going to show you some examples of the photos my support team took during my births and compare them to photos that my clients have received from me.
Up first, labor and c-section prep
My personal photos:
Just a sample of my clients' photos:
*I have almost no pictures of my mom, husband, or doula from either of my births because they were always the ones taking photos! Pretty much all of my birth photos are just me and don't tell the whole story of the day.
Mom and Dad Meeting Baby
*Another note - I do not have any photos of my husband meeting our first baby because I was still in the OR while he was in the nursery with the baby. Just another reason to hire a pro! Make sure you don't miss anything!
My little ones:
So there you have it - the difference between just having a friend taking photos and hiring a professional. I have never met anyone who regrets hiring a photographer for their birth, but I know there are others like me who regret not hiring one.
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The first time I met this mama, I knew she was the type of person who was well loved. Kelly has the kind of personality that just makes you feel like you're friends instantly.
It was no surprise, then, that Kelly was a total VIP during her birth, and her delivery room was like a revolving door of friends and family coming to check in and visit.
Kelly had been having contractions on and off for weeks, so I was constantly checking my phone and jumping every time it made a sound. We were all surprised when she actually made it all the way to her induction date!
When my birth clients are induced, I normally wait for the call that things are progressing and mom is 4-6 cm dilated. However, Kelly had told me that her first birth progressed very quickly once things started moving. I knew it might take a little while to get things going, but I didn't want to risk missing the birth if she progressed as quickly as she had the first time.
I dropped my daughter off at preschool and headed straight to the hospital. When I arrived at about 9:30 am, Kelly and her husband, Jackson, were all settled in and waiting for the nurse to come start pitocin.
Shortly after I arrived, the first member of Kelly's hand-selected birth team arrived. She is a baby nurse at the hospital where she delivered, so she asked two of her friends to be a part of her delivery team: one as her delivery nurse and one as the baby nurse.
There were other nurses and family members who stopped by throughout the morning to chat for a minute and add their votes for gender and birth stats on the white board in the delivery room.
The first few hours were pretty relaxed. Dad was fielding all phone calls and incoming texts and updating the voting board with outside guesses. Mostly we were just waiting... Waiting for the pitocin to kick in. Waiting for contractions to pick up.
At one point, Mama even said, "I don't know what this baby is waiting on."
"Baby's waiting on the rain," Dad said.
They then proceeded to tell me about how it had rained on every significant event in their life together: their wedding day, the day their first child was born, every bridal and baby shower and on and on.
I quickly checked the forecast and saw that there was no rain that day. I said, "Well, if we're waiting on rain, we might be here a while."
"Just wait. The rain's coming," he said.
Around noon, Jackson stepped out for lunch. I stayed in the room chatting with Kelly and suddenly a huge storm cloud rolled in and it started to POUR.
A few minutes later, Jackson returned, soaking wet, with a big grin on his face.
"I told you the rain was coming."
It was about this time that contractions were becoming more intense and closer together. When the OBGYN stopped by to check, Kelly was still 3 cm dilated, but I still had a feeling that things would move suddenly (especially now that the rain had come).
Kelly was ready for her epidural, and I ducked out to grab lunch while the anesthesiologist did his thing.
Kelly tried to take this opportunity to get some rest, but as it turns out, we didn't have much longer to wait.
Just before 3:00 pm, Kelly was dilated to 9 cm. She called her personally chosen baby nurse and told her it was time to head to the hospital.
Kelly said she was starting to feel different and knew things were changing. Less than an hour later, she was complete and ready to push. The doctor came in and the room was quickly changed for delivery.
Kelly pushed for less than 10 minutes before her new baby arrived and everyone scrambled around the bed to get a peek.
Jackson was the one who officially announced, "It's a girl!"
A little while later, once mom and baby were settled, I followed Jackson out into the waiting room where the rest of the family was waiting to hear the news.
He picked up his first born...
... and said, "Come on. Let's go meet your baby sister."
And. The. Crowd. Went. WILD.
Big brother was the first to meet Baby Penny.
He was so sweet and timid at first, but quickly shifted into a proud big brother.
He announced to everyone who came into the room, "THAT MY BABY PENNY!"
Then the rest of the family took turns meeting the newest addition.
Eventually, it was time to get Penny's first measurements.
Shortly before I left, I heard Jackson say as he held his new baby girl, "I think I'm a big fan of the rain now."
Thank you Jackson and Kelly for letting me be a part of this amazing day!
You've recovered from your c-section and you're ready to welcome your next baby into your family. You've been researching your birth options, and you have decided you want to go for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). Maybe your c-section birth was traumatic or maybe you just don't want to go through another abdominal surgery unless absolutely necessary - it doesn't really matter WHY you chose a VBAC; the question you're facing now is, "What do I do next?"
Well, I'll tell you, and you should listen carefully. This could be the decision that makes or breaks your VBAC. A quick Google search would produce tons of recommendations for activities, birth classes, diets, supplements, chiropractic care and pretty much anything else you could imagine to help you along in your VBAC journey.
As a successful VBAC mom myself, however, I think there is one vital piece of the puzzle that will make all the difference in your VBAC plans -
A Supportive Birth Team.
You can do everything "right" and have the healthiest pregnancy ever, but if you don't have a birth team that supports your VBAC plans, you will have a much harder time following through with those plans.
First on my list were my mom and husband.
Of course, they both said they wanted to support me in whatever I decided, but it was also important to me that they know the research and the reasons behind why I chose to have a VBAC. I knew that when the exhaustion and hard work of labor took over, I would need them to know my wishes and be able to speak for me if I couldn't.
Next, I needed a new OBGYN.
In the state of South Carolina, there are limitations on VBAC moms. It is against the law in this state for a midwife to attend a VBAC birth outside of a hospital. That rules out homebirths or birth center births for moms like me who are uncomfortable with an unassisted birth. Here in Charleston and throughout the lowcountry though, we are fortunate that the majority of our hospitals do allow VBACs. Only a small number of OBGYN practices ban them altogether.
Unfortunately, I discovered that the obstetrician who delivered Bug via c-section was a part of one of the few practices with a VBAC ban. I knew I would have to break up with my doctor if I wanted to move forward with the birth I was planning. I'm not going to pretend it was an easy "Bye Felicia" to leave that practice. Most of the doctors I had experience with there were kind, wonderful people. My decision to leave was solely based on the fact that their practice did not align with my beliefs about my birth and my care. We women sometimes need to be reminded that we are the decision makers in our own births and health care. We have a right to ask questions or seek other opinions or break up with doctors who may not line up with our preferred standard of care.
If you aren't sure what to look for in a VBAC care provider, VBACFacts.com is a great resource and they have a list of questions to ask your care provider.
When I met with the doctor who would eventually care for me throughout my pregnancy with Bubba, I talked to her in depth about her feelings about VBAC and the success rate at the hospital where I would be delivering. She assured me that as long as baby and I were healthy, we would be treated like any other perfectly healthy mom and baby in the practice. She also told me that even if some special circumstance were to arise, they would not automatically push another c-section before exploring other options first.
Finally, I hired a doula.
A doula is someone who is trained to assist a woman and her family in labor. I knew that the hospital where I would be delivering is a large teaching hospital, and I would most likely end up with whatever on-call doctor was available when I happened to go into labor. I wanted to make sure I had someone with me who understands the labor process and would help me advocate for myself in the hospital.
People often tell me they are surprised that my doctor or hospital "allowed" me to labor as long as I did with my VBAC baby. I always tell them that's the value of a supportive care team. Even though I strongly disliked the resident who ended up delivering Bubba, I will say one thing in her favor - she never once tried to bully me into another c-section. By surrounding myself with a strong, supportive birth team, I was able to have a successful VBAC despite my long, exhausting labor.
There's one person I wish I had on my team though...
A birth photographer. I'm not saying that just because I'm a birth photographer either. We saved up in order to hire a doula, and I wish I had found a way to save more - sold stuff I didn't need - whatever I needed to do - in order to hire a birth photographer. I would give anything to have photos of the look on my face when they put that beautiful baby on my chest.
If you need a birth photographer for your "I did it" moment, click here to learn about my birth photography services.