This session was a very special one. I was so happy to be there to photograph the new addition to this family. Brooke’s presence was certainly felt.
I am honored and super excited to share with you the birth story of Elodie, in pictures, and in the beautiful words of her mother. I am so grateful to Stephanie for writing the inspiring story of how her miracle baby came into this world, for inviting me to be there to help document her birth, and for allowing me to share the joy with all of you.
If you don’t have time to read the whole story now, I hope you will scroll down to see the pictures, and then come back when you have a chance to relax and read. Enjoy!
Where do I begin to write the story of our daughter’s birth? I suppose I should give some background first.
It was quite the journey for us to even get pregnant, and that particular journey started as early as the beginning of 2010. After many months of mistimed cycles due to my husband’s military work schedule, we opted to do an IUI during my husband’s ten month deployment. That very cycle it was discovered that I had thyroid cancer so conception was put on hold until they could remove my thyroid. Once he returned from deployment we relocated on military orders and then finally started to seek true fertility treatment in November 2012, after over a year of failed well timed cycles. I was diagnosed with Stage IV Endometriosis and Diminished Ovarian Reserve with a good chance of early menopause, putting our chances for a natural pregnancy around 1% according to our fertility specialist. It wasn’t something I’d ever dreamed of dealing with at age thirty. It was a very difficult time for us.
Several more failed cycles after the diagnosis and initial treatment had us looking at IVF as our best option to have a child. We decided to take a break from treatment for one cycle and get our proverbial ducks in a row. We’d opted to try a cycle of injectible fertility medications before moving onto IVF, to make sure I responded appropriately, so those were ordered for the next cycle.
During our break we still made sure to try the ‘old fashioned way’ at the appropriate time, cynical optimist that I am. I wasn’t willing to waste a cycle, though I had no real hopes of success. The injectible meds arrived mid cycle, so I had thousands of dollars worth of medication that I fully intended to use just sitting in my bathroom, waiting for my next period.
Near the end of that cycle I’d taken my basal temperature in the morning as usual and noticed it had gone up instead of down as it would to indicate an impending period. It was about five thirty, so I decided to just get up and take a pregnancy test so that I could go back to sleep without obsessing over the temperature spike. I knew it would be negative, I just needed to see that in order to go back to sleep. I took the test and actually took the strip back to bed with me, setting it on the night stand until it was ready. I was that convinced it would be negative. I was almost back to sleep when I remembered to look at the strip and saw something strange – a second line. I sat up and turned the dimmer on my bedside light as bright as it would go, not believing my eyes. It was a faint line, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t dreaming.
My husband was downstairs getting ready to leave for a four day business trip, so I took the strip down with me to get his opinion on the appearance of a second line or not. He was quite surprised to see me up that early! He took a look and agreed, there appeared to be a second line. I went up and took another test, only to see another two line result. Still in disbelief, I actually asked my husband to go to the 24 hour grocery a couple miles away and get a digital test. Despite his needing to leave for the airport, he did just that. After taking that test, we saw it in writing on that digital screen: Pregnant. Finally, miraculously, naturally pregnant. My husband picked me up and spun me around in the kitchen!
From there our journey to a natural home birth started. I was so tired of not trusting my body, feeling like a biological failure, and being poked and prodded by the medical community, I knew I wanted something different for my prenatal care and birth. I started with an OB who had a midwife on staff, only to discover that the midwife was on medical leave. I decided to stay with the OB initially, but I just wasn’t getting the warm fuzzies and didn’t want to have to fight to have a natural birth, so I opted to do some searching for a midwife. That was a challenge given the poor acceptance rate of our military insurance in the area, but I managed to find a fantastic midwife who was willing to work with us. I have never been so happy with a decision in my life. Her care, respect, and compassion was unparalleled and I cannot fathom ever going back to OB care for a low risk pregnancy again.
My pregnancy was relatively uneventful, even blissful after the ever-fun first trimester. I was very lucky and truly enjoyed most of it. I’d decided early on to prep for labor with Hypnobabies and the trust in my body that it instilled was priceless to me after all we’d been through. I did the home course and daily practice (though not as diligently as I could’ve), and I really enjoyed it. An added bonus was that I slept well due to the relaxation aspect of the scripts, even in the third trimester!
Once I neared full term, I ordered their ‘Come Out Baby’ CD and listened to it a total of twice. The night of my due date, I turned it on and laid down to sleep, never dreaming I’d wake up in labor.
At about one in the morning Friday the 31st of January, I woke up with ‘different’ contractions. I’d had braxton hicks contractions for weeks, along with some episodes of prodromal labor, but these were definitely different. I tried to go back to sleep knowing that I’d need the rest if it was labor, but I had another within five minutes and they were fairly strong. I decided to time them for a few minutes and realized they were coming pretty regularly. I couldn’t stop grinning, all I could think was that it was finally time to meet our baby.
I decided to go downstairs, only to find my mom awake in the living room watching TV. She’d flown in to stay with us for a few weeks to help after the baby was born. I told her she was going to regret staying awake all night because I was in labor and it was going to be a long night! She replied that she actually knew that I was in labor based on how I’d felt the day before and she was too excited to sleep.
I continued to time the contractions for about an hour, talking to my mom, listening to my Pandora labor station and walking around the kitchen, stopping to lean on the island counter as needed. They were somewhat erratic at three to six minutes apart and were varying in length from thirty to ninety seconds. It was about 2am when I sent a heads up text to our birth photographer, Maegan, to let her know.
Then I called my midwife, Jessica, and let her know I was in labor. She said early labor contractions could be erratic like this and I should try to rest. She instructed me to let her know when they got more consistent. Unfortunately rest wasn’t happening, I already needed to be up and moving through them.
Over the next hour the contractions got more regular and were consistently a minute long and 2-4 minutes apart, requiring my attention/relaxation and hip movement, but they still weren’t painful to me. I went upstairs to let my husband Charlie know I was in labor but told him to go back to sleep. I figured I had hours and hours yet.
At 3:51am, I called Jessica back to let her know they had gotten regular in a hurry and had been that way for about an hour. She asked if I minded if she went ahead and came over and I told her I’d feel better if she were here, even if it was early. I hung up from that call and texted Maegan and let her know the midwife was on the way – she headed our way too given that she was an hour away.
I went upstairs and woke Charlie, though he said he hadn’t been able to go back to sleep. I asked him to set up the birth tub, get the bedroom cleared out and supplies set up. It was then that I started to get an inkling that things may be moving faster than I’d anticipated. The contractions required my full focus so it was hard to help him get set up and tell him where things were. I could only get a few brusque words out, though I didn’t mean to be short with him. My mom was helping as best she could, though she didn’t know where most of the needed items were either!
Jessica arrived at about 4:30 and started getting her supplies set up. The birth tub was still being filled with air and the vacuum was being run; she asked how I was dealing with the noise. I was entirely in my own headspace during contractions, somehow it didn’t bother me at all. She helped me get through a few contractions with some wonderful sacral counter pressure while everything was being finished. My mom hung out during these and Charlie learned how to do the sacral pressure.
I spent most of the contractions kneeling on the floor and leaning over the bed, swaying my hips and relaxing through them so my body could do its work and I wasn’t fighting the sensations. I tried to switch totally off per the hypnosis training, but that was difficult to do. The center switch was more effective for me, even though I hadn’t practiced that nearly as much.
Sometime around five the assistant midwife Dahlyt arrived, as did Maegan, but by then time had no real meaning for me. I was officially in ‘labor land.’ I barely registered Dahlyt’s arrival at all!
Shortly thereafter, I asked to get into the water. Jessica wanted to check me and see if I was far enough along that my labor wouldn’t stall if I got into the tub, as water can sometimes slow things down in early labor. She started the check during a break, and two uncomfortable contractions later she finally told me I was at 9.5cm. It was only about four and a half hours after labor had started. I was completely shocked – I think I might’ve asked her if she was really serious!
In hindsight, I did have a period of nausea in the kitchen around 3:30am which may have been transition. The contractions were very manageable, I couldn’t fathom that I was as far along as I apparently was. I kept waiting for them to get more intense but they never did!
Between the next few contractions I texted some close friends and family and let them know our baby would be here that day.
While I was waiting on the tub to be ready and managing some more contractions, I realized my body was starting to push. I let Jessica know and asked that they switch to the Hypnobabies pushing track on the laptop. Sometimes it was a little odd how perfectly in sync it was with my labor, it was great having the tracks playing.
I got into the water and labored there for a while, pushing gently when the contractions came and resting in between, all with the support of my amazing husband. He was there beside me the whole time, I couldn’t have done it without him. They told me later he wouldn’t take a stool or anything to sit on, he was kneeling or sitting beside the tub and helping me relax the entire time.
I rested well between contractions and pushing just felt like *really* intense pressure, not pain. It felt good to vocalize in low tones while pushing, so I went with it. My mom later told me she could hardly bear to see me in that much pain, I think she thought the vocalizing equaled pain when to me it truly was just very intense pressure that required my full concentration to stay relaxed and direct the pushing where it needed to be. She had to step out and cry in the nursery, it was hard for her to watch that part!
At one point I realized that it was no longer dark out and that meant it was the morning that we were finally going to meet our baby. I asked that someone open the curtains to let in the daylight. It was an overcast winter day, but it was beautiful to me – it was the day I’d been waiting years for.
At the midwives’ suggestion, I got out of the tub to see if some other positions would bring her down more effectively. I tried pushing on the toilet for a bit, which works well for some women since you’re used to relaxing and pushing with those particular muscles. I was going to try some stairs when the pushing contractions started to come closer together, so we moved to the bed instead. Jessica checked our vitals again and helped show me where to direct a push during an exam. Then she suggested the birth stool, which I thought might work well. I pushed there for a bit, leaning back on my husband for support, and could just feel it wasn’t very effective for me. Jessica told me I was trying to pull up away from the push instead of sinking into it. I finally asked to get back into the tub, I just had a feeling it would allow me to really relax the way I needed to now that she was a bit lower.
Kneeling in the water and leaning back over my heels to push felt the best and really let me sink into the push instead of pulling up. I’d lean forward over the edge of the tub in between the pushing contractions, drinking water, my support team replacing cool wet cloths for my neck, and resting for the next push. At one point I even fell asleep between pushes, it was really that peaceful.
I finally felt her move down even further and the urge to push got really intense. I went with it and I heard Dahlyt tell me to push through what I was feeling; when I did, I felt her crowning.
This was really the only time I felt anything that registered as pain instead of intensity, which I later learned was because I tore. One more push immediately after that and her body was out. She was here.
Jessica told me to reach down and pick up my baby. I think I was a little in shock, she was right there between my knees on the cushioned tub floor, it was so surreal. I picked her up out of the water and pulled her to me. With the help of Dahlyt and Jessica, I slowly sat back against the wall of the tub with Elodie cradled on my chest in the warm water.
Dahlyt wrapped her in a towel to keep her warm and helped stimulate her a bit. She started to take her first breaths and the midwives were checking her out right there in my arms, making sure she was doing well. She let out a few little cries but mostly just snuggled against me with wide eyes, taking it all in as we admired this perfect little being.
Looking at her and finally holding her was so completely overwhelming. I could scarcely believe she was here, that she was ours, and that I’d had exactly the peaceful birth I wanted to have for both of us. I was crying and smiling, my husband was crying and grinning like the proud father he was, and we couldn’t stop staring at her. I remember looking down at her and telling her “We’ve waited so long for you.” She just blinked her eyes and looked at us for the longest time, totally content where she was, if a little stunned at the drastic change of scenery.
Shortly after birth she let out this high pitched “aiiii” and I swear, it sounded like she’d said “hi.” I said hi right back and everyone started to laugh, it sounded that close. She still does these squeaks and squeals at five weeks old, it’s one of my favorite things to hear her do.
We eventually got out of the tub and into bed for some nursing, skin to skin time, placenta delivery, and later her newborn exam. Being able to get into my own bed was absolutely wonderful. My husband and I were able to both settle in and really enjoy our daughter and the beauty of what we’d just gone through while the midwives cleaned everything up.
I can’t imagine a better birth experience and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was truly one of the most incredible days of my life.
I’m happy to announce a special mini session event at Bump to Bump in Wyckoff! I love pregnancy and breastfeeding, both personally and as subjects of my photography. I think it’s wonderful for moms to have beautiful pictures of ourselves with our babies, whether in the belly or at the breast, during such exciting times in our lives. I hope these mini sessions will give more moms the opportunity.
These will take place in the store after closing time. Each session is for one mom and any babies in her belly or who are currently breastfed. Please contact me (with the link above or on Facebook) with any questions, to talk about the details, or to book. At this price point and with only four sessions available, they may go fast, so I hope to hear from you soon! And if you’re interested in a pregnancy session including your partner and other children, birth photography, or a newborn session, I would love to talk with you about those, too!
Now for the giveaways! I hope you enjoyed my post the other day about Bump to Bump and the prenatal yoga classes there with Cecilia Rivera. I’m so excited that we have two very cool prizes from them for two lucky winners: a $50 Bump to Bump gift card and 3 Prenatal Yoga Classes with Cecilia (good for one year, pre-registration required). To enter, please comment on this blog post to let us know what you think you would use this gift card for (great for a baby shower or new baby gift, by the way!) Record your entry in the box below. You can earn additional entries by doing some tweeting and liking and following. :) Also, while Facebook doesn’t allow us to give you additional entries for sharing a post, we will be so appreciative if you support our businesses by doing so. Thank you!!!
The other day I watched this video posted by Upworthy in honor of World Down Syndrome Day (March 21st). It brought instant tears, and I felt inspired as I watched the beautiful faces and listened to (and read) the touching words. I shared the video on Facebook, along with an announcement of a giveaway. Although my post was shared multiple times, because of the way Facebook works, my words weren’t included with the link. So today I’m blogging my announcement to broaden my reach. I hope a few more families blessed with a child who has Down Syndrome will have the opportunity to enter this giveaway.
My Facebook post:
“I was in tears before I even clicked on the play button. In honor of World Down Syndrome Day tomorrow, March 21st, I feel moved to offer the gift of a family photo shoot (30 minutes + 20 pictures, including the digital files) to one Northern NJ family with a child who has Down Syndrome. Please share this post with anyone you know who meets this criteria. A very simple Facebook message to me is all it takes to apply. I will select a winner at random tomorrow night.”
I have extended this and will select a winner Friday, March 28th. So if you have a child who has Down Syndrome and you live in Northern NJ, please contact me (click on the “contact” link above, of message me on Facebook) with a short message about your family, and you will be entered for a chance to win the family photo shoot. I look forward to hearing from you!
As a birth and family photographer in Bergen County, and a mom of two little guys, I’ve learned about lots of awesome resources in Northern NJ for new parents and for those who are expecting a baby. I hear all the time from moms, “I wish I had known about that!” and I feel the same way. Despite all the Googling I did when I was pregnant with Xander and when he was first born, there were so many classes and support groups and services that I didn’t find out about until later.
So in an effort to spread the word about some of these awesome resources, I’ve decided to publish a special blog series. Each week I will feature a local (Bergen County, Essex County and surrounding areas) business that caters to new moms and dads. And I’ll be sharing in the way I enjoy most – through pictures. I’m really excited about this and hope you will enjoy the pictures of the businesses I feature. I would love for you to share posts with friends who are expecting babies or have little ones, and to join me in supporting these local businesses.
This week I am happy to share with you some pictures from a prenatal yoga class, taught by Cecilia Rivera and hosted by Bump to Bump. The day I photographed the class was one of those “just after a snow storm and the roads might be icy” days we had so many of this winter, so there were only three pregnant mamas in the class. They looked beautiful and comfortable, and Cecilia took good care of them. Cecilia is a friend of mine and also has two little boys, and she is one of those people it feels good to be around.
The prenatal yoga classes are currently held three times per week. Click here for more information and to register. And if you do go, it would be totally cool if you would come back here and leave a comment to let me know!
Bump to Bump is a maternity and nursing consignment shop in Wyckoff, owned and run by a local mom. This was my first time there and I was so impressed. It’s a beautiful store full of great buys and fun treasures. They have clothes and books and slings and breast pump parts and gift items. If you are pregnant or are looking for nursing tops or other nursing accessories or baby gear, this is a definite must-check-out place for you.
If you’re not in the Wyckoff area, you can shop online as well!
And stay tuned for an announcement about pregnancy and breastfeeding portrait sessions at Bump to Bump!