I know this is late, but I’ve thought a lot about whether or not I want to write about the birth photography that I do, and I’ve decided that it’s better to do it.
If you’ve followed me for long, you’ve probably read my own birth stories on here and you know that birth is something very important to me. I believe that the birth of a baby is also the birth of a mother, a father, a family. (This holds true whether it’s the first baby or 10th.) It is an event that changes you, to your very core, forever. Because it’s so intimate, seeing it happen from the outside can be so healing for the soul. I’ve experienced this myself, and I’m grateful to be able to not only witness these blessings, but to be able to provide something amazing to the families that have put their trust in me. So, while reading this, please remember that these blog entries are my account of someone else’s journey.
This is about Stephanie, and the birth of Ellajoy. Stephanie had been coming to me for her monthly Pregnancy Progression maternity photography. We got together every Tuesday for a short session, which sometimes got a bit too long due to our chitter chatter. 😉 We’re both talkers, what can I say? We got to know each other and she decided she not only wanted me to photograph her birth, but that she really wanted me there, for things to feel right. I was honored. (And, if you’re interested, you can see all of her Archbold maternity photos here.)
Stephanie was planning for a homebirth, which she decided rather last minute to be a water birth! I was really excited for her, having labored in the water myself and knowing how wonderful it really is! I also had seen the same homebirth midwife, so I knew this was going to be a very intimate time.
During her maternity sessions, Stephanie always kept me updated on what was going on, and we both had a feeling like her “40 week” session would really her last, this baby was coming soon. She had also told me that she usually goes into labor in the early hours of the morning, so be prepared for a call while I was sleeping. I’m NOT a morning person, so I wasn’t thrilled about that part, but also reminded us both that every baby is different and who knows what would happen! But, sure enough, I got a call from her on November 26th, before the sun had come up. Soon I headed over there and arrived shortly after 7am, and met the midwives only a few minutes later. It was a fun reunion and I loved seeing another mommy actually enjoying her labor. I know she had fears that she dealt with- it’s a normal part of having a baby- but at the time, she was laughing between contractions and in awe of them during.
We worked together to get the birth pool filled and before long, Heather (her friend and doula), showed up. By the way, if you need a doula, I highly recommend Heather. She was very near her due date with her own pregnancy and yet she still did everything she could to make Stephanie feel comfortable.
Stephanie really loved the water, although she did wonder if it would stall things a bit. She had a lot of hip pain, which required someone to apply counter pressure during each contraction. For the most part, this responsibility went to her husband, who sat behind her in the birth pool and tried his hardest to squeeze just right, even though he didn’t seem to understand how this would bring her relief. 😉 I know his arms were probably getting tired, and I always think this is one of the coolest parts of labor- when a loved one takes on pain of their own to ease some of the mother’s. The same goes for Heather, who spent quite a while leaning over the side of the birth pool, squeezing Stephanie’s hips, all at full term pregnancy herself. For a while, Stephanie stood in the pool and Heather stood behind her and swayed with her while squeezing her hips. Stephanie’s husband, Miah, came and provided a support for her to lean into, and they swayed together. There’s an awesome moment in the video where you see Stephanie start to squat down and Heather looks at me and mouths “That’s good!” and we both had a good smile, knowing baby was making her way down.
All of that work made the three tired, and Stephanie decided to get all the way in the birth tub again. They all rested so much, that I actually thought they were all asleep. It was very peaceful and I was a bit surprised, given how we seemed to be progressing. But, I think her body just needed that time to welcome a transition. After some rest, the midwife encouraged her to go to the bathroom, because sitting on the toilet seemed to encourage her contractions. She really wasn’t thrilled about the idea, and didn’t really want to embrace “making things harder”, and I think this is where she struggled the most- that inner battle of knowing that she had to go through the really hard stuff to get to the really good stuff. It was a far cry from the laughing version of Stephanie, who only a few hours earlier, had said, “Does it have to get harder? Can it just stay this way the whole time?” She knew she needed to move forward, so she went ahead and tried sitting backwards on the toilet, where sure enough, things got much more intense. She didn’t stay there for long, but while she was out, she got chills and if I remember correctly, she got a bit of the shakes. I remember quite well thinking she was in transition. She sat on the ball, leaned up against the birth tub, and battled a bit of nausea for the second time. While taking out some cold water and refilling the pool with hot water, she made a brief trip to the toilet, thank goodness, because in the short time she was there, her waters broke! It was very convenient, to say the least!
Back into the warm water, this very calm laboring woman started to sound almost angry at times. It was really was a very quiet labor, so I knew she must be feeling some very intense things. She still wasn’t loud or aggressive, but her labor song showed her strength through groans and growls. Every woman’s labor song is different and absolutely like music. It’s really the first song she sings to her child, if you ask me. In between contractions, she seemed a little bit like she wasn’t sure what she wanted and was getting frustrated with not being able to get a good grip against the side of the birth pool. She pushed with her head against the pool, and I think that was a lot of the reason of why she sounded frustrated, but I think things were moving too quickly for anyone to change her position. A few quick contractions and soon I heard the midwife ask, slowly, “Stephanie….. is the head out? How long has the head been out?” A few more contractions, a few more pushes, some encouragement from Barb, “Reach down and grab your baby!” Still struggling with her position, Stephanie said something like “hold on” and then reaches down and pulls her baby out between her legs and up onto her chest, as she leaned back against her husband.
You could see the shear exhaustion, all the work she had just done. She had remained so strong, and I think she was still a little bit in shock that she had worked so hard, yet so calmly and quietly. (I know if you ask her, she’ll tell you she was anything but quiet.) Baby Ellajoy had entered the world, just as quietly. For a brief moment, everything was quiet. Stephanie and Miah looked at each other, looked at her, and just held her. It seemed to last forever, and yet it was very quick. Ellajoy was above the water and they couldn’t find a way to get her under the water and be comfortable and safe for all, so they decided to get out of the water right away and head to the bed, but not before the newborn let out her first cry!
The placenta was delivered right away and all was well. Stephanie marveled at her new daughter and breastfed her for the first time. Calls were made to excited family members and soon their three children came in to meet their baby sister. It was so adorable to watch them come in, one by one, with huge excited eyes. They had seen their mama in labor for a bit and had been waiting anxiously all day to meet Ellajoy. They got to be there for the entire newborn exam, and even be part of it, which is just another benefit of having a home birth. (The family is always included!)
I do have to say that my favorite part of this birth wasn’t the birth, but the herbal bath I prepared for the mother and baby afterwards. It’s such a relaxing experience, and we were all in complete awe of how the baby seemed to act like she was still in the womb. Ellajoy just floated around and Stephanie barely needed to touch her. Then, as soon as she lifted her ears out from the water, she’d cry again, but stop immediately after being put back under the water! It was so cute and it really gave some insight into the transition between the worlds this baby has been in. I also really enjoyed helping to prepare for the placenta encapsulation. So many amazing things to witness in one day!
Little Ellajoy Rylee was born at 2:40pm on Novemeber 26, 2013. She weighed in at 7 lbs 2 oz, and 20.5 inches long. If you’d like to see the whole video fusion slide show, please check out the link and leave some love! You can find it here: Ellajoy’s Home Water Birth by Ashley Short Photography, Ohio Birth Photographer
© Ashley Short Photography, www.ashleyshortphotography.com
Birth Photographer, Maternity Photographer, Fresh 48, Breastfeeding Photographer, Babywearing Photographer, Newborn Photographer, Wedding Photographer.
Toledo Ohio, Toledo area, Northwest Ohio, Archbold Ohio, Wauseon Ohio, Bryan Ohio, Fulton County, Lima Ohio, Bowling Green Ohio.