When I tell people I am a birth photographer, about 95% of the time, I am met with a look of either sheer horror or pure confusion - usually a mix of both held together with a desperate attempt at a polite smile. And I get it. We live in a culture that has shaped and informed these reactions. We celebrate babies' arrivals, but rarely do we celebrate the rawness, sacredness, beauty, and power of the women who give birth to them. We know giving birth is physically painful (they make good drugs for that), but rarely do we acknowledge the emotional support that is required to nurture a woman's journey to motherhood.
This is why I am forever humbled and grateful to the women who give me the honor of capturing their sacred birth stories. It is my hope that seeing birth through my lens will help contribute to a shift in the way we view birth and how we support mothers. Birth is raw, terrifying, and beautiful. Birth sometimes doesn't go as planned. We must embrace the humanness, the rawness, the uncertainty of it all. Hold her up when she is at her breaking point - when she feels so fragile and fearful and certain she can't go on, when she feels as though she is failing the whole world. And celebrate her - in all of her being, help her discover the power and strength she didn't know she had.
I got the call around 3:30am. Emilie left me a voicemail letting me know that her water broke, but I was surprised by how calm she sounded in the message. I texted her, "How far apart are contractions?" and she replied, "No contractions yet. But when my water broke with my son, contractions were 2 minutes apart within about 2 hours." Knowing this was her third baby and the fact that I live one hour away, I quickly saddled up, and sure enough, I got a text within minutes saying that contractions were 2.5 minutes apart. No Dunkin pitstops for me.
When I arrived at Emilie's home, her birth team was scrambling to get ready for baby's arrival in a second floor bedroom while her husband, Hans, handed me a cup of coffee. I couldn't believe that through this quick transitional labor, they somehow managed to maintain sweetest-host-status. Me, being the sap that I am and knowing all too well the chaos of birth, had to hold back tears as he handed me the hot, fresh cup of coffee through sleepy eyes and in his pajamas.
Emilie labored standing for a while, hovering over a birth ball while her mom and husband held her close and rubbed her back. I wasn't there for too long before she got in the birth tub. She struggled to get the baby to crown, and a sense of urgency was building in the room as Jen, the midwife, monitored the baby's heart rate. As E's team lifted her out of the tub, she was finally able to push the baby's head out. The umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's head twice, but Jen was able to catch the baby and give him a boost to help him let out a good cry.
When a baby is born, the world stands still, and it feels like an eternity waiting to hear that precious cry, but eventually, after a few minutes, he did, and the whole room let out a sigh of relief. Odon was born at 6:30am - just a few hours after E's water broke. Way to go, mama!
I was able to stay for a short time after the birth to capture baby O meeting his big sister. Then I quickly drove from her home in Easton to my studio in Stroudsburg to do loads of Valentine mini sessions - whew! Worlds of thanks again to Emilie and her team for allowing me to capture and share this beautiful birth story.
Midwife: Jennifer Timbs, Mountain Valley Home Birth: https://mountainvalleyhomebirth.com/
Birth Assistant: Nicole Laudenslager, Hilltop Doula and Birth Care: https://www.hilltopbirthandherbals.com/
Check out Emilie's awesome carseat ponchos here: https://www.OttoandOdette.com
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