Family-centered home birth of Nova. A St. Louis birth film.

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After weeks of prodromal labor, this beautiful mama wasn’t super sure if it was time to call me to come photograph her birth, but things had gotten more intense and didn’t seem to be dying down. Since home birth midwives don’t tend to rely heavily on cervical checks to monitor labor progress, I’ve learned to trust my own instincts in addition to timing of contractions, vocalizations, and the mama’s own intuition as a basis for deciding when to come. In this case, mama wasn’t sure, but she was a solid half-hour away from me and it was nearly rush hour in St. Louis, so I decided to come check in.

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I arrived at a little before 5:00 pm to a full house — a mama handling labor like a champ, a dad being a source of support and strength, and three eager siblings wondering when they’d finally get to meet their baby sister, plus a midwife who had come to check on things, too. After spending a little time with mama, the midwife decided that she would stick around for about an hour, and if things didn’t change much in that time, she’d go find somewhere nearby to hang out (and invited me to do the same) so that mama wouldn’t feel “watched.” Sometimes labor can stall a bit if a laboring woman feels too much pressure for labor to progress — especially on a timeline. Stepping away to give her space to find her own rhythm can help things to move along naturally.

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But in this case, before that hour was up, mama’s labor had picked up a bit more. It was so beautiful to watch her move with her body in between doing all the normal things a mom does on a summer afternoon — cutting watermelon and pineapple, snuggling with her littles, and taking care of little things around the house. As labor progressed, she began pausing as each wave washed over her to lean on the kitchen counter and sway her hips in wide circles. Each of her children and her husband found their way to her to rub her back or arms. It was so sweet to watch how supportive and loving her family was as she worked with her body and her baby.

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The rushes began coming faster and faster, leaving mama with shorter and shorter breaks between. Even still, mama was remarkably quiet as she breathed through each one. So much so, that I was surprised to realize that she had made much progress in just a couple hours.

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It was time to get into the birth pool and the littlest of the big kids was adamant about getting in to “swim” with his mama. His big brother wasn’t going to let him be the only one, so he got in, too. This incredible mom calmly welcomed her boys into the pool with her, as her labor became even more intense.

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She began to vocalize more powerfully. Finally, the boys decided to get out of the pool, and within minutes mama was telling her midwife that she couldn’t do it anymore. The midwife assured her that what she was feeling was her baby and she was almost done.

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A couple intense pushes later, as her whole family stood by in support and awe at her strength, this mama met her baby girl.

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Birth is always intense and emotional, and this was no exception. The big kids were overwhelmed with emotion as they watched their mother roar out their newest sibling.

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But they quickly settled into amazement and delight at the baby sister they’d been waiting for.

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After settling in upstairs to watch the newborn exam from the comfort of mom and dad’s bed, the whole family began to relax into the new normal of life with a newborn.

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Watch this beautiful story unfold in sound and movement in this birth film:


Welcome, Hayes! An In-home Fresh 48 after a homebirth...

After doing one of my favorite documentary maternity sessions ever at Missouri Botanical Gardens with this super fun and cute family, I was SO excited to meet their newest little guy during his Fresh 48 session. Rachel texted to let me know that labor had started, so I looked ahead at my calendar for the next couple days and started thinking about what might work best for their Fresh 48 session. They had decided to have a homebirth, so there was a little extra flexibility in terms of timing, since we didn’t have to work around when they’d be discharged from a hospital or birth center.

Once I got the text that their sweet boy had arrived, we scheduled their session. Unfortunately, the night before I was supposed to arrive, I had to let Rachel know that I was dealing with the tail-end of a little cold. I had hoped it would be completely gone by their session, but it lingered just a bit. I felt almost 100% and, for a normal, outdoor family session, I wouldn’t have hesitated one bit. But for a session with a new baby - especially in their own home - it just wasn’t worth the risk of passing any germs on. So we rescheduled for a couple days later.

By the time I rang their doorbell, I couldn’t contain my excitement about seeing this wonderful family again - this time, with the addition of a snugly new baby. This family is so joyful and there were so many super sweet moments of connection for me to document. Big sister was full of laughter and love for her mom, dad, and brand-new baby brother. And I just loved spending some time with them as they transitioned from a family of three to a family of four. Take a look!

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Birth photography is not about babies.

“Childbirth is a time when a woman’s power and strength emerge full force, but it is also a vulnerable time.”
— Annemarie Van Oploo

 

Ask me if I love fresh, perfect, squishy, little, newborn babies. With their perfect innocence and their sparkling new eyes. With that first cry - the sweetest sound - that announces to the world their arrival. Oh, those tiny, little fingers and toes. Or even better - the littlest fingernails you'll ever see. Their warm, soft skin topped off by fuzzy hair that just makes you want to cuddle them right up against your body and hold them tight. Did I mention how sweet and squishy they are?

Oh yeah. I love brand new babies. And those first moments are just magical. They find themselves in this great big world, but they feel safe and warm in their mama's arms. They open their eyes to gaze at their family for the first time, and see mom and dad staring incredulously right back at them. They breathe in the air, and feel it on that perfect, soft skin. Seeking out comfort and nourishment, they find their way to their mother's milk. All is new. All is well. 

So, yes. Babies are precious and wonderful. And you might think that birth is all about babies. It seems to be the part that everyone puts all the emphasis on. And, obviously, the baby is pretty important. But there's so much more, too.

When I'm asked to document a birth for someone - well, first, I'm just so incredibly honored. It is truly a privilege that I will never take for granted. But, for me, as cute and cuddly as new babies are, what really lights my fire is getting to witness the raw, power and vulnerability of a laboring woman. 

Women are just so incredible, and I will never stop being in awe of how they find strength they don't yet know that they possess. Seeing that strength juxtaposed alongside their vulnerability to an unfolding journey is nothing short of magnificent. 

Watching as they find their own rhythm and rituals to accompany each new powerful surge, while simultaneously melting into the embrace of their partner or accepting the support of a caregiver - I see so much beauty.

Documenting the incredible power of women as they transform from woman to mother is my greatest privilege. But then, being able to turn around and show the images I've made to that same woman, and revealing to her just how much beauty and strength lie within her... that is my greatest joy. 

And when those women choose to share that openness, vulnerability, tenacity, and strength with the world, I'm so grateful to play a small part in normalizing birth. I know that when I was pregnant with my first baby, seeing and hearing the stories of women who've come before me gave me courage and understanding. To be able to share what birth can really look like - how much strength and vitality women possess, is exceptionally gratifying.

My hope is that all women will come to know just how powerful they really are - in labor, birth, motherhood, and life. 

Magic in the Mundane | A Family Film About a Trip to Costco in St. Louis, MO

If you ask my oldest daughter what one of her favorite things to do is, she'll unabashadly tell you, "Go to Costco!" It's mostly about the samples for her (I mean, isn't it for everyone?), but we also do the bulk of our grocery shopping there. (No pun intended.) Which means we end up at Costco almost once a week. And we usually go as a family. It's kind of a thing.

On this particular day, neither of my kids had allowed us to brush their hair (common!), and my big girl had chosen to wear pajamas all day. The only thing that was special about this day was that I chose to document it. And I'm so glad I did. This is a moment in our lives that I want to remember. It might seem mundane, but it's surprisingly special. And before too long, Amelie will just be too big to wrangle her long legs into the cart to sit next to her sister, and our life will look a little different. So I'm grateful that I didn't put it off until another day.

This isn't about perfectly matched clothes or cute little pigtails. It's about our real life. And taking the time to notice the magical moments that are hiding among the mundane.

Short films like this are really amazing for telling the story of a typical, routine part of life and making you feel just how important that ordinary stuff of life is. The squeaky little voices that fade into big kid speech, the sweet giggles and inside jokes... It all passes by so quickly. These videos are immediately fun and special - my kids want to watch them over and over again - but, oh my, as the weeks turn into months and years, how those sweet moments captured become the most precious of memories.

When you turn on that video that you haven't seen in a while and you get a glimpse into the version of your family's life from before a certain phase passed by, the intense feelings of nostalgia will remind you not only of how amazing your life was at the time the film was made, but how valuable your current simple moments are, too. Send me a message if you're interested in having me document a little slice of your real life before legs get too long or voices grow deeper. Your everyday moments are worth documenting.