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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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