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.
Ready for more information? Click here and fill out the contact form to receive the info about my birth packages!
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.
So you’ve had a cesarean and now you’re considering another baby (or maybe already expecting another)… Now you have to decide what route to go for your birth this time around. Do you plan another c-section or do you plan a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean)?
As I mentioned in my C-Section Recovery Tips post, April is Cesarean Awareness Month. Continuing with that theme, I’m addressing another concern that is unique to c-section moms. Often the choice whether to plan a VBAC or a repeat c-section is an emotional one. For moms who had a long labor leading up to their first c-section, the fear of attempting a vaginal birth only to end up in surgery again often weighs heavy in this decision. For others, avoiding major abdominal surgery is the primary concern.
I could write an entire post about the research that led me to choose a VBAC for my second birth. For example, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends VBAC as a safe option with very low risk for most women with one or two prior cesareans. Also, a c-section is major abdominal surgery, and as such, inherently carries risks - many of which increase in likelihood with multiple surgeries.
However, this post is primarily about my personal experience with these two deliveries. As someone who has experienced both a c-section and a successful VBAC, I can share first-hand experience with the pros and cons of both types of delivery. After all, statistics can only tell you so much.
Every family has to make the choice that’s best for them based on their own experience and needs, but for me, it came down to one major deciding factor.
I knew that recovering from a c-section was difficult and long when I only had to take care of myself and a newborn. With my second, I was going to have myself, a newborn, and a toddler. I didn’t want the then 3-year-old Bug to be upset that I suddenly couldn’t pick her up and take care of her the same way I usually did. I wanted to make our transition into a family of four as easy as possible.
Usually when people hear about Bubba’s VBAC birth story, they either tell me it scares them into not wanting to try for a VBAC or they ask if I regret not scheduling a repeat cesarean instead.
I can see why they would think that. From an outsider’s perspective, my c-section was complication free. As far as surgeries go, it was pretty textbook. I healed well and honestly, my scar is barely even visible now. My vaginal birth was long and exhausting. Medical interventions were needed. I pushed for 3 hours. There was tearing (I’ll spare you the gory details). However, even taking all of that into consideration, I would STILL choose the vaginal birth every time because the RECOVERY experience was like night and day.
With my complication-free c-section, I struggled to walk normally for the first week. Even beyond that first week, if I was ever on my feet for too long, the soreness would creep in and I would often find myself hunched over, shuffling like a little old lady. I continued to take pain medications for at least 6 weeks, and many of my earliest memories of motherhood are foggy as a result. I needed help getting in and out of bed and generally struggled to take care of myself and the baby the way I wanted. Now, over five years later, I still have areas around my incision that are completely numb and certain waistbands on clothing cause discomfort and irritation.
With my “scary” vaginal birth, I’ll admit that first day was rough. I was exhausted and sore and generally felt like I had been beaten with a stick. However, I quickly started feeling better. I was walking around within 24 hours after birth - slowly but upright. The only pain medication I needed was ibuprofen and after the first couple of days, I only took one dose at night before bed to help me sleep. I stopped taking pain relievers completely less than 2 weeks after birth. As a matter of fact, Bubba was only 2.5 weeks old when I first took both kids on a fun outing by myself. I’m not sure I can truly express in words how much better and more capable I felt after my vaginal birth. My VBAC was two years ago, and I have had no long-term effects from the tearing or any other part of my vaginal birth.
All births are different, and, as I said before, all women need to make the decision that’s best for themselves and their family. In some cases, that may be a repeat c-section. No matter what priorities and criteria a woman uses to make this choice, her concerns are valid and she needs the most accurate information available to support her decision-making.
No matter what kind of birth you choose, you’re going to want a birth photographer there to capture the story of meeting your new baby for the first time! You can see some examples of my birth photography here.
If you’re considering a VBAC for your next birth, check back later this week for my last Cesarean Awareness Month post: The #1 Thing You Need For a Successful VBAC.
Each April the International Cesarean Awareness Network sponsors Cesarean Awareness Month. According to their website, ICAN is "a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by reducing preventable cesareans through education, supporting cesarean recovery, and advocating for vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)."
As a birth photographer and a rockstar c-section mama myself, I know that cesarean births are just as beautiful and powerful and miraculous as any other birth. I also know that c-section moms have a unique struggle in the early postpartum weeks as they try to recover from major abdominal surgery while also adjusting to life with a newborn baby.
I was very fortunate to have a smooth c-section recovery after Bug's birth, and I attribute some of that to a few pieces of great advice from other mothers who had endured this surgery before me. I have compiled the top 3 recovery tips I found most helpful, and whether your c-section is scheduled or unplanned, I hope you find them useful as well.
1. Schedule Your Pain Meds
I am the queen of not taking medicine. I generally hate taking medicine of any kind but especially pain relievers. However, I learned very quickly after my c-section that all of my friends who told me to stay ahead of the pain knew what they were talking about. I still vividly remember one night when Bug was about 5 days old. I woke up in the middle of the night to feed and change her and realized it was time for another dose of my pain relievers. I had left my pill bottle in the kitchen and was feeling okay at the moment, so I decided to go back to sleep instead and take my dose later. It was only a few short hours later that I woke up screaming for my husband to bring me the medicine.
After an informal poll of my fellow c-section mom friends, the general consensus is to set an alarm and take your pain medication on a schedule for at least the first week. After that, you can slowly start stretching out some of the doses and start weaning yourself away from the meds. In my case, it took a full six weeks after Bug's birth before I was able to go a full day without any medication at all.
2. Embrace The Granny Panties
I know. I know. You are a young, amazing, sexy new mama. Granny panties are not your thing. Well, guess what? They're going to be your new best friend. Make sure they're soft and the waist band comes well above your incision site (you don't want to risk them rolling down onto your incision). For the first several days post c-section, I wore the mesh panties you get from the hospital. However, it eventually becomes unreasonable to wear those, but your incision will be tender for quite a while. I honestly can't tell you how long it was before I felt comfortable wearing panties with a lower cut waistband, but it was months. Honestly, even 5 years later, I sometimes find certain types of elastics irritating on my scar after wearing them for a long time. The good news is that high-waisted bikinis are totally in fashion right now, so at least bathing suit season will be one less thing you have to worry about!
3. Give Yourself Grace
Honestly, this one piece of advice could be applied to ALL new moms, but it's particularly important for c-section moms. You are recovering from MAJOR. ABDOMINAL. SURGERY.
You might see Jane NaturalBirth down the street taking her six-day-old baby out for a short walk, but you still can't even stand up straight and need help getting out of bed. That's okay though because...
MAJOR. ABDOMINAL. SURGERY.
It's so important to remember what your body has been through and not try to push yourself to do what you "think" you should be able to do at any point. So you actually have to take people up on those offers to help or clean or cook? That's great! After Bug was born, we had so many friends and family members bring us food that I swear I did not touch my kitchen for a solid month. That meant even more time for me to rest and recuperate and snuggle my perfect new baby girl. My mom usually helped out by cleaning up a little when she came over, and I had friends and cousins who folded loads of laundry while I sat nursing the baby. I give you full permission to pull the "I had major abdominal surgery" card whenever needed - diaper changes, dishes, anything. Honestly, I think we c-section moms should be able to use that card for the full first year - but maybe that's just me.
Now I know you may be struggling with a wide variety of feelings about having a c-section - I know I did - and that's okay! You are allowed to feel however you feel about your birth. I just want to remind you that no matter what happened in the events leading up to your cesarean, you are an amazing mom! You literally laid yourself out on an OR table and allowed yourself to be cut open for the sake of your baby. There's a special kind of beauty and strength in that.
I hope these tips are as helpful in your recovery as they were in mine! If you're a veteran cesarean mama too, share your best recovery tips in the comments!
Are you located in the Lowcountry and currently expecting?
Is your due date in either May or June 2018?
Are you interested in having the birth of your new baby artfully photographed to capture the story of this very important day?
If you answered yes to the questions above, I have an amazing, limited-time offer for you! I am in the process of creating some new promotional material, and I'm looking for 2 or 3 Charleston-area moms who would be willing to sign a model release in exchange for a 50% discount on ANY of my birth photography packages.
It does not matter what type of delivery you are planning: hospital birth, planned csection, home birth, birth center, etc. I think birth is beautiful in all of its forms, and want to represent all moms in my work.
I will not offer a discount like this again in the future, so now is your chance! Keep in mind, I'm only choosing a limited number of moms, so contact me now to make sure you don't miss out on this opportunity!
To apply, click here to go to my Contact form. Please enter your name, email, due date, and where you plan to deliver. I will then email you more information about my packages and planning your consultation.
If you have any questions, you can also email me at email@example.com
This is the story of my son's VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) birth. Photos shared in this post are not examples of my professional work. They were taken by family and friends present at the birth.
At the end of Part 1 of this birth story, my support team was packing up and heading to the hospital.
I continued to have contractions all the way to the hospital and during the long walk up to labor and delivery. I was hooked up to a monitor and relieved to find that my baby boy was handling all the chaos perfectly.
Because it was a Saturday, I was assigned to whatever resident was on call that weekend. A medical student was sent in to question me and check my cervix - almost fully effaced, but only 1 cm dilated. It felt like a punch in the gut to hear that after all I had been through in the last day and a half, but then I remembered what my doctor had told me. I mentioned my concerns about cervical scarring to my nurse. She quickly browsed my medical history and said, “You know what. I think you might be right.”
We sat in a small room for a while waiting for the on-call resident to arrive. During that time, Bubba was moving and dancing in my belly. At one point, he rolled so drastically that everyone in the room saw my belly shift and the monitor dropped his heartbeat for a moment. He was back on the monitor pretty quickly and we continued to wait.
The resident arrived and almost immediately launched into her plans to admit me and start a pitocin drip. I stopped her and told her I wasn’t sure I wanted to be admitted yet. I simply wanted to discuss my options if I were to choose to stay.
I expressed my concerns from my first birth where pitocin was unable to make the necessary changes to my cervix. The nurse relayed my thoughts about cervical scarring in relation to my medical history. The resident simply waved away our concerns and continued to push pitocin. I finally had to tell her that I would not consent to jumping straight to pitocin because I didn’t believe it would address the actual problem. I told her I would rather go home. This turn of events did not sit well with her. It was clear she was used to women who came in and blindly did as they were told. She didn’t know how to handle someone who actually expected her to answer questions and explain her reasons for the choices she made.
She resorted to scare tactics at this point. She pointed out that my blood pressure had been slightly elevated when I arrived and tried to tell me I might be in the early stages of pre-eclampsia. It took all my strength not to laugh at her. She had clearly not looked at my chart at all or she would have known that I had experience with that particular condition. I simply smiled and told her that I had no swelling, no headaches, no dizziness, no prisms in my vision, and my blood pressure had been perfect throughout my entire pregnancy. I believed my blood pressure was more likely due to the fact that I had been awake for almost 36 hours laboring, and I was anxious about being in the hospital. I also reminded her that I had already given a urine sample when I arrived, and she was welcome to test it for protein. Of course, my urine sample was perfectly healthy.
I had gotten under her skin and she went for the low blow. She looked at the heart rate strip coming from the monitor. She said, “The good news is it looks like your baby is handling all of this well… except there’s one reading back here that concerns me. He could be showing signs of distress.”
The nurse in the room turned and looked at her like she had three heads. She said, “The baby rolled over. We all watched her belly shift. The monitor just dropped him for a second. The whole rest of the strip is perfect.”
The resident replied, “Maybe. But what if it’s not? What if he’s in distress and you go home and something happens to him? You’ll never forgive yourself and we don’t want that to happen.”
I just stared, incredulous. I imagine my mouth was probably hanging open. I had heard stories of doctors preying on the most vulnerable part of a woman’s spirit - implying that she was endangering the life of her baby in order to coerce her to follow orders, but I thought these stories were rare. I never imagined it would happen to me, yet there I sat. I wondered what would happen if I had been a frightened first time mom who automatically trusted anyone with a medical background. To what would I have consented? What would I have allowed that resident to do to me had she convinced me that I was putting my baby's life on the line? However, this was not my first rodeo, and I was furious.
At this point, the resident stepped out to speak with her attending. I talked with my husband, mom, and doula about everything that had just transpired. I probably should have fired that resident on the spot and demanded another doctor, but I didn’t. I stood up to her instead.
When she returned, I informed her I would only consider staying and being admitted if I were given an opportunity to eat and if we used a foley bulb instead of pitocin. A foley is a catheter with a balloon at the end. It’s inserted into the cervix and the balloon is filled with a saline solution. The balloon puts pressure on the cervix, forcing it to open. I was hoping it would break up any scar tissue present.
The resident, of course, tried to argue, but I held my ground. I also informed her I wanted to speak to her attending myself. The attending was wonderful. She thought the foley was a great solution, but she just wanted to make sure I knew we might have to revisit the pitocin discussion if my contractions didn’t progress after the bulb was out. I was fine with that.
My husband ran downstairs to find some food; I was admitted, and the foley bulb was placed. My doula went home to rest, and my best friend came in to be an extra support person. Thankfully, another resident took over after that. She was younger and seemed a little anxious, but she was, at least, kind. The nurses absolutely saved my birth experience. They were all lovely and supportive. I felt like I had my own personal cheering squad.
I was not anticipating the blinding pain the foley added to my contractions. Ripping through scar tissue is every bit as painful as it sounds. I think I could have handled it if I hadn't been so exhausted, but I was starting to lose control. My sweet husband did a great job talking me through contractions. He was trying to talk me out of an epidural because he knew how much I wanted to do this naturally even though it was killing him to see me like that.
In a calm moment between contractions, I told him I appreciated what he was trying to do, but it wasn't even about the pain anymore. I needed sleep. There was no way I was going to make it through this birth without some sleep. The anesthesiologist had just gone into surgery though, so I had about 2 hours of coping with the foley contractions before he came in. After a total of 38 hours of natural labor, I got an epidural and was able to take a nap.
An hour after the epi was placed, the foley bulb came out and I was dilated to 5 cm! The epidural had slowed my contractions though, so I consented to a low dose of pitocin to get them moving again.
I stalled a little at 5 cm, but the baby continued to descend. My doula came back, and I let my epidural wear off some. I could still move my legs; they were just heavy. With the help of my support team, I was able to get into some more upright positions to help labor along and then the doctor nicked my bag of waters to get it started trickling. After trying some different positions, I told everyone to get some sleep. I pushed the button to give my epidural a boost, and I went to sleep a little after midnight. My mom and doula later told me they don't think the epidural did much because I continued to groan through contractions in my sleep, but apparently exhaustion just took over.
The second resident woke me up at 3 am to tell me that I was at 10 cm and +3 station. It took a few seconds to register what they had said and when it hit, I began to cry. I was actually going to get to push!
Little did I know, I still had a ways to go. The horrible resident returned for the pushing phase much to my chagrin. The first hour of pushing was mostly trying to get me into different positions to move the baby down. The epidural was wearing off again, but at first, I couldn’t feel enough to push effectively.
The second hour of pushing, I was delirious. I was so tired I kept drifting off between contractions. God only knows what kind of weird stuff I said. I vaguely remember something about a horse and a bikini. I’m hoping I didn’t say anything out loud. If I did, no one told me.
In hour three, I could finally see his head and that gave me renewed energy to keep going. It was about this time that I was informed I was developing a low grade fever. I knew I needed to get my little guy out so I pushed with all the energy I could muster.
Fifty hours after those contractions woke me up at 4 am, three of those hours spent pushing, my sweet baby boy was born on January 17th. Despite reminding the resident that I didn’t want to cut his cord right away, the first thing she did once he was out was grab a clamp for his cord. My doula and I were both yelling at her not to clamp it. She rolled her eyes before putting the clamp down.
I immediately started yelling, "GIVE HIM TO ME! LET ME HOLD HIM!"
My mom and husband both later told me that was the moment when they realized just how much anxiety and brokenness I had been holding onto from Bug’s birth. It wasn't the joyful cry of a new mother wanting to see her baby, but one of desperation. I needed to hold him first. I needed to have him placed on my chest still slimy and fresh. I needed to be the first to welcome him to the world.
A nurse grabbed him from the resident and plopped him onto my chest. I was the first to see his beautiful face and announce to the room that he looked just like his big sister. I could never put into words the emotions running through my body in that moment. I felt victorious. I had conquered my own anxiety, my damaged body, and that terrible bully of a resident. I stood up to someone trying to abuse their power. I stood my ground and refused to allow my voice to be drowned out. I kept going when I wanted to give up.
My precious, perfect Bubba was worth every single second of that 50 hours. Despite all of the struggles, I think back on his birth with a sense of accomplishment.
He has been a whirlwind in our lives from the moment he was born. He is wild, stubborn, loud, smart, funny, and sweet. He tears through our house at full speed, only occasionally braking to climb in my lap and steal my food.
Happy birthday to my beautiful, blonde-haired, blue eyed boy, who adds grey to my hair and joy to my soul.
This is the story of my son's VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) birth. Photos shared in this post are not examples of my professional work. They were taken by family and friends present at the birth.
Our culture has compressed birth into those few moments when the baby is actually delivered into this world. We’re led to believe that as long as the baby is fine, then the rest of it doesn’t matter. As a birth photographer, I’m working to change this view - at least here in Charleston, SC.
I work to show that the journey in birth MATTERS. The delivery itself, while the pinnacle, is but one part in an entire story of a woman’s transition into motherhood. The births of my two children were beautiful moments, but they are made even more incredible by understanding what brought me to those moments.
Today, I will begin sharing the birth story of my second child, lovingly known as Bubba. I’ll admit it’s a long story, so I’m breaking it up into two separate blog posts. Before we begin, I’d encourage you to go back and read Bug’s birth story if you haven’t already. There will be some context there that will help you better understand my mindset going into this second birth.
When I was still in the recovery room after Bug’s c-section birth, my doctor came in and said, “Well, the silver lining is that you’ll get to choose your next baby’s birthday because you’ll just schedule another cesarean.”
I looked at her wide-eyed and simply stated, “No. I won’t.”
The anesthesia hadn’t even worn off yet, but I knew I didn’t want to experience that again unless it was absolutely necessary. I knew nothing about Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), but it didn’t take long before I started searching.
Before we even began trying to conceive a second child, I was searching for and reading as many VBAC stories as I could get my hands on. After confirming that VBAC is a safe option for most women, I was confident that I wanted to attempt a vaginal birth when we decided to have another child.
A few years later, after some struggles with infertility, I was finally pregnant with a baby who seemed to be sticking around for the full pregnancy.
I continued to read books and blogs about birth in general and VBACs specifically throughout the time we were trying to conceive and my pregnancy. I realized I would need a great team around me to support me in my desire for a vaginal birth. The doctor who delivered my daughter, while a wonderful person, was obviously not going to fit with my wishes for this birth. I started asking in some local mom groups and was pleased to find many mothers who had successful VBACs in Charleston and even more who were on the same research journey with me. There are many doctors here who support VBACs and ALL of the hospitals in the area allow them. The trick for me was finding the doctor with the least amount of restrictions on my labor.
I found an absolutely wonderful doctor pretty quickly. She is well-respected in the birth community, and she was fully supportive of my VBAC plan. She even told me that as long as baby and I were healthy, I would be treated just like any other perfectly healthy expectant mother. Even if complications did arise later on, surgery would not automatically be the first line of response either. My scar did not make me a ticking time bomb.
I also hired a doula to be with me in labor and delivery. I knew I wanted someone with a more objective view to help balance the anxiety coming from my husband and mom (and myself if I’m being completely honest).
I continued reading and researching and discussing my birth preferences with my doctor. At one point, I came across several birth stories of women who were discovered to have cervical scar tissue. Their stories sounded so similar to what happened in Bug’s birth: regular, intense contractions that would normally be indicative of a progressing labor, but little to no cervical dilation. After reading more, I found that I have one of the primary risk factors for cervical scarring (without going into too much personal information). I brought up my concerns to my doctor and she said it was definitely a possibility. If this were an issue for me, I would find that my cervix was effacing (thinning out) in labor but not dilating (opening). *Keep this little bit of information in mind because it comes back later.*
My pregnancy continued to progress normally, and I found myself creeping up on my due date. In the last week of my pregnancy, I often had contractions that were regular, but they always fizzled out after a few hours. I was getting frustrated and tired because these contractions often disrupted my sleep.
I woke up at about 4 am on Friday, January 15th, with what I thought were gas pains. It didn't take long for me to realize that gas pains generally don't come exactly 6-7 minutes apart lasting 45-50 seconds. I didn't get my hopes up though because this wasn’t the first time I had experienced regular contractions. It reached a point where I was having trouble sleeping through them, so I got up and got moving for the day. After a few hours, they still weren't going away, and they were getting more intense. They were still 6-7 minutes apart, but I was often having to stop and breathe through them. My husband stayed home from work, and my mom came over to help with the then 3-year-old Bug. After several hours, I decided to watch a movie and doze off for a while. When I did that my contractions spaced out to every 10 minutes. After resting for a bit, I got up and my husband and I walked for about a mile and a half. Eventually, my contractions returned to 6-7 minutes apart.
Late that night, my contractions were STILL 6-7 minutes apart but pretty intense. I was getting frustrated that they weren't progressing, so I told my husband I was going to eat something and try to sleep for a while. I hoped that sleeping would make the contractions space back out like they had before so I could get some rest. Well, of course, that’s not what happened. Shortly after I climbed into bed, the contractions got closer together. By about 3 am, my husband was begging me to call my doula because my contractions were 4 minutes apart and I was on my hands and knees in bed, groaning through each contraction. I called my doula and told my husband to get some sleep while he could. When I went to unlock the front door for the doula, I found my parents (who had decided to spend the night) sitting awake on the couch. My mom could hear me back in the room and had been timing my contractions based on my cries and groans. She rubbed my back and kept me calm until the doula arrived and then everyone rallied around me to help me through.
The hours dragged on and morning came and went. My dad had taken over Bug’s care. She struggled with seeing me in pain, so he kept her away and entertained as much as he could. My contractions stayed 3-5 minutes apart and intense, but nothing we tried would bring them closer together and progress my labor. Exhaustion was setting in and I was starting to fall asleep between contractions. When I fell asleep, the contractions would only come every 10 minutes, but they were significantly worse than the contractions I had been experiencing. It was as though I had 2 or 3 contractions rolled into one. The contractions would peak 2 or 3 times before coming back down and I quickly realized the little nap I was getting was not worth that pain. I made myself stay awake and keep moving. Around lunch time, we had passed 30 hours of labor and everyone was exhausted. Doubt and defeat were beginning to creep in.
My husband and my mom sat with me and said, "I think it's time to go to the hospital. You don't have to be admitted if you don't want to, but I think we should at least check and make sure the baby is okay.”
On one hand, I did want to check on the baby, but mostly I was frustrated and scared. Frustrated that, yet again, my body couldn't just do what it was supposed to do. Scared that I would be pushed into another surgery. I made everyone leave me alone in my bedroom, and I curled up on the floor and sobbed. I often find that I need to have a big, ugly cry before I can move forward.
Once I had my moment, I talked with my doula about the possible scenarios we might face at the hospital. We talked about what I would do in each situation and what I most wanted to avoid. I am so thankful I hired a doula for many reasons, but in retrospect, that conversation alone was worth every single penny I paid.
Once I made sure that my husband and mom knew my wishes and would support me in whatever I decided, we grabbed our bags, and headed to the hospital.
Read Part 2 here