Photos of Me Photographing Births

Just an hour after this birth my own labor started...

Birth is one of the rare things in life that you can't schedule, you have no control over when it starts and how long it lasts. It's both exciting and anxiety-producing. That's why the life of being on call as a birth photographer can be so challenging! 

THIS is what I was doing just hours before my own labor started. These are my last photos of being pregnant.

Four of the women in this room were pregnant - talk about powerful female hormones! I think that was a big reason as to what triggered the start of my labor, because hormones are powerful and this second labor was a full month earlier than my labor with my first son.

Thanks to the doula Rochelle from WithLove.mn for capturing these!


Fast Forward Two Weeks Later...

Two weeks after my baby was born, another of my mama's labor started. Thankfully she was so gracious and willing to let me bring my new baby to her birth. I was thankful it was a home birth so that I would feel comfortable tending to his needs while I also tended to her needs and documented her journey through labor. 

When I arrived at the home my baby was making lots of grunting and cooing sounds and I worried that it would disrupt her concentration but between contractions she said how lovely it was to hear that little voice and have a reminder of the end result of all this hard work she was doing. 

The multitasking of motherhood: nursing while working. 

The multitasking of motherhood: nursing while working. 

For me this birth was something special...not only was it my first birth after delivering my own baby, but it was the birth of a dear friend, and a birth where I got to step in as doula many times, including the moment when the baby was born! When you hire me as your photographer I consider myself a part of your birth team, and while documenting your experience is my priority, I often find myself helping in many ways that go beyond using my camera. When this dad had to use the bathroom (as happens over the course of many hours!), the mama had an intense contraction and needed someone for grounding. I was nursing at the moment but quickly moved to the pool so that she could grab my available hand. It was clear that she needed another hand to grab onto so I offered the only appendage I had available - my knee. When the dad got out of the bathroom he grabbed this photo on his iphone. It's so fun for me to have pictures of myself in action at births! 

I'm so thankful to her husband for seeing these moments and documenting them for me on his iphone! 

I'm so thankful to her husband for seeing these moments and documenting them for me on his iphone! 

This birth was also unique because the mama needed an extra set of hands to press on her hips during the final contractions as she pushed her baby out. I've often stepped in for a moment or two at a birth to apply pressure or relieve a partner or doula, but never while the baby is being born! I tried to grab my camera to turn on the video function and have it running at the same time but she said "I don't even care about photos right now! I need you on my hips!" So that is where I stayed until baby came out and then I quickly grabbed my camera and photographed the first moments afterward. 

And here is my 2 week old, hanging out in the foreground while this family soaks in their first moments with their daughter. 

And here is my 2 week old, hanging out in the foreground while this family soaks in their first moments with their daughter. 

The birth of our second son, Skyler

In birth there are always things that you do to prepare for it as well as a good amount of letting go to the process of how things will go because it is so unpredictable. It's also so amazing how different births can be even for the same person. My first and second birth were so different and unexpected in so many ways and yet both were perfectly beautiful and couldn't have gone any better in my opinion.

For my first son's birth I had hoped for a beautiful water birth at a birth center and my fear was that I would have to go to a hospital but that it wouldn't be an emergency (obviously if it was an emergency I would want to go!) but I feared that I wouldn't get the unmedicated natural birth that I wanted at a hospital. I feared that an induction would lead to a lot of other steps and not allow labor to progress naturally and it would end in a c-section. It's funny how sometimes God makes us face our fears and then walks with us through the challenge and shows us that it's still ok and all is well on the other side. Well, I ended up being about 42.5 weeks pregnant and labor still didn't start on its own so I had to go to a hospital (for a non-emergency just like I feared) to have my water broken. And yet I still got to have the beautiful unmedicated water birth that I was hoping for. I had to face my fear, was walked through it and everything came out lovely on the other side. 

For my second son's birth I had two birth clients who I was on call for to photograph their births and they were both due the week before me. So my fear was that I would be called to a labor, be there all night photographing and then go into labor myself without having sleep or energy to make it through my own labor. So what do you think happened... ;) 

I got called to a birth and was there all night. The funny thing was that in that birthing room there were 4 of us women who were pregnant (the nurse, the doula, the laboring mother, and me). I thought to myself, if all these pregnant hormones don't put me into labor then I really have no hope of getting an earlier labor this time. I got home and settled into bed around 3am and about an hour later my own contractions started...just what I had feared. But of course I feel like God walked me through labor, gave me everything and everyone that I needed as support and I still got to have another unmedicated natural water birth like I wanted. 

This time contractions started about 4:30am so I laid in bed for the next 2 hours just casually looking at the clock whenever one would start and breathed through them pretty easily, trying to rest as much as possible in between. They were about 7 minutes apart for 2 hours.

When my husband got up for work I let him know that I thought I was in labor but wasn't sure if this was the real thing because I was only 38.5 weeks and I fully expected to go at least to 41 since last time I went so late. I texted my doula to let her know that this might be labor but I wasn't sure since I had never experienced a labor starting on its own before, but contractions were consistent and hadn't faded or spaced out in the past 2 hours. She suggested I rest as much as possible and relax in the tub so I did. Contractions stayed consistent. I started to time them with an app instead of just glancing and guessing with the clock. After looking at the pattern of contractions on the app they were about 3-5 minutes apart lasting at least a minute. I texted that to the doula, still not knowing if things were intense enough to head to the birth center, yet not wanting to cut it close either since my first labor had been quick and I knew this one could be even quicker. She said let's head to the birth center with what seemed like urgency over text message. 

We gathered the remaining necessities, the 3 year old, some snacks, a few extra outfits in case it was a long labor and headed out the door around 7:45am. The birth center was 15 minutes away and I had 3 contractions in the car which weren't fun but things were still at a point of me being able to breathe through them and manage them without feeling totally out of control. 

We got to the birth center about 8:15am and my doula and birth photographer met us outside. It was such a feeling of joy to see them and know that everyone I wanted to be at my birth was able to make it and that this was actually happening! 

I got inside, had about 10 more contractions, which were manageable and pretty easy to breathe and move through, but slightly more intense. I didn't know you could have a "favorite" contraction but my favorite one was when my 3 year old son climbed up on the bed and held my hand during the contraction and looked into my eyes and smiled at me. I can't remember if he said anything to me but just looking at his sweet face and knowing that he was loving and supporting me and that he wasn't scared, but rather excited for baby brother, it made that contractions so easy to get through it almost dissapeared when I looked upon that sweet face.

Then suddenly the next contraction felt insanely different, like a rocket ship was barreling through my body, trying to make its exit. I felt a bit like I needed to throw up and I thought to myself, "could this be transition already?!" I've been to enough births to know the signs of transition: when things make a big shift, when you suddenly don't have a break in between contractions, when you throw up, and when you think "I can't do this". That's when you've turned a corner and you are close to the finish line; pushing is just ahead. 

I thought to myself, "this is too soon! I am not ready for this! It's happening too fast! I need time to transition!" They hadn't even checked my dilation yet! But there was no time to check, no time to process, my body was already pushing and I couldn't stop it. For the first time in a labor my body tried to resist what was happening and tried to fight everything that was happening instead of working with the labor and relaxing into it. Everything in me wanted to run away but I had no choice.

Suddenly my water bag ruptured with a force of a thousand sons and I knew it felt too intense to have this baby while standing in the air - I wanted to be in the water to help ease the intensity and to create a smoother transition for baby and for me. Thankfully the tub was barely full enough for me to get in so I climbed in, then with one more intense push that felt like my world was ripping in two, I felt a head be born, then a few moments later the shoulders, and the midwife guided my son into my arms! That glorious moment where he was free and I was done (with that part) and my baby was in my arms! 

My first labor was 7 hours total, 1.5 hrs of pushing. This one was 4.5hrs total, maybe 10 minutes of pushing, and baby was born 40 minutes after arriving. Since I never got checked during my labor I'll never know but I think it was a situation where I went from 5 or 6cm to 10cm in just a few moments. It's true when they say that short labors are all the intensity of a long labor packed into the shorter amount of time. I feel like my mind had to process the insanity of what just happened for many hours. 

Having these beautiful photos (and video!) of my birth have really helped me to process it. They also make me so incredibly happy and thankful to have such an artistic and well composed story of one of the most incredible experiences of my life! 

I felt so loved and supported by my birth team and will forever be grateful that I didn't have to do it alone. It was far from the birth and the timing than I expected, but it was just what we needed. 

Photographer: Kadi Tiede
Doula: Brook Holmberg
Midwife: Jessica DeFilippo
Birth assistant: Brittany Corwin
Birth center: Health Foundations

Do you have a lifetime photographer?

I've experienced this and I know that many of you have...once you find a photographer that your family is comfortable with, especially your children, you tend to stick with that person year after year. I think this is a great thing with many benefits. 

1) Kids are more comfortable around someone they know and when I photograph them every few months, or every year, they get to know me well and open up to me quickly so that I'm spending less time getting them to feel comfortable in front of the camera and more time capturing moments where their true selves shine through the photographs.

2) Another benefit is that you know what to expect from the photographer. You know how the session will progress, you know what kind of products are available, you know how the digital negatives will be delivered. All this knowing takes the stress and decision-making out of the equation. It also helps you trust the experience of the photoshoot, which can sometimes be intimidating, especially for people who don't love being in front of a camera. 

3) A third benefit if you stick with the same photographer is that your photos will show a consistent style year after year so that the years all go well together. Many of my clients order an album from each photoshoot or get a large framed picture for their home. Whether you're an album person or a wall art person, your books will have a natural flow to them or the artwork on your walls will all have consistency and look good together. 

Have you found that you stick with the same photographer time after time? Are you looking for a "lifetime" photographer? Shoot me a message! I LOVE getting to know my families and growing old with them. ;) 

5 Reasons to Hire a Doula for your Birth

If a doula were a drug it would be unethical not to use it. -John H Kennell, MD

The word doula is Greek for servant. A doula is someone who is trained in childbirth and will tend to your needs before, during and after your labor, whether they be physical, emotional, educational. A doula's purpose is to help a family have a safe and empowering birth experience. 

In celebration of World Doula Week, here are five reasons to hire a doula!

1. Women report to having a more positive birth experience when a doula is present. This is because a doula is your advocate during birth, helping you make educated decisions. You can rely on your doula to take care of your needs during labor, which is a great comfort and brings peace of mind to both partners.

2. The medical benefits are immense. Labors where a doula is present are more likely to have less interventions and less of them end in c-sections. Doulas are not medical professionals but they have a vast repertoire of knowledge about birth and can guide you through decisions that are right for you because they know your history and know your desires for your birth. Sometimes babies can get stuck or need help transitioning through the body so doulas will work with the mom to shift baby into the best position to navigate the birthing canal. Proper positioning can be essential in whether or not baby can be born vaginally vs a c-section.

3. Doulas act as a coach during the most physically intense experience of your life. If you were to participate in an Olympic event you would want a coach there with you who was educated in how to train, how to endure, how to be successful. You would want someone encouraging you when it felt impossible, when you didn't know what step to take next, when you needed comfort through the pain. This is what a doula does for you in birth. 

4. Doulas are a form of pain relief. They are trained in comfort measures to help you through contractions. They know where to apply pressure, when to give a cool cloth, how to use water for comfort, and the words to say to calm the mind. 

5. Having a doula can help shorten your labor time. And who doesn't want that?! Doulas can help shorten your labor due to their understanding of the body, helping baby get into a good position, and provide coaching through mental and physical hurdles which could otherwise stall labor.

Defining Your Family Unit

"What your grandfather didn't understand is that strength comes in different disguises. It does not always ride a mighty horse or wield a shiny sword. Sometimes we have to be like a riverbank, twisting and turning along with the earth, withstanding swells and currents. Enduring."
-Orhan's Inheritance

These days I most often photograph births or families with young kids. But it is not just those who have kids who are a family. When two people come together and decide to get married, they are also creating a new family unit for themselves. A family unit that has not yet been, and in that new family there are difficult decisions that have to be made. Decisions that people outside the family unit don't always understand or agree with. 

It can be tough to tell your extended family and friends that you have decided to move your family unit to another country, far away from them. Or that you won't be joining them for a holiday event because it is more important for your family unit to create their own new tradition together. Or that you are choosing to marry a spouse or adopt a child from a culture that is not your own. Or that you are choosing to give birth to your biological child in the comfort of your home instead of the medical environment of a hospital. Or perhaps that you don't want to have kids at all even though your parents always saw themselves becoming grandparents some day.

Being an adult and making decisions that are right for you, even if they seem wrong to those you love, always hurts and feels isolating. But to choose otherwise would be a lie and a betrayal to yourself. 

These two have had to walk through so much heartache in their young lives. But they keep choosing what is right for them, and in the meantime a beautiful bond between them grows stronger and stronger. Together they founded The Sakina Mission to tell the heartbreaking and life-altering stories of people across the world. As a team they are photographer and videographer, and both are true storytellers and artists at their core. If you go to their website you will immediately understand how deep their hearts go. 

You can also see their individual work as photographer and film maker here:
Kadi Tiede
Laura Nickel

I would love to hear from you in the comments: what hard choices have you made in order to define your family unit?

Strong as a mother

The term “Mom” gets such a bad rap. Remember when the phrase “you hit like a girl” was an insult? What would it take for us to associate “mother” with strength? Because that’s what I’ve found in motherhood. Mothers are some of the strongest people I’ve EVER met!

Not only does it take incredible strength and resilience to carry a growing baby inside your body for 9 months, especially when you are faced with sickness every waking moment, aches and pains in all areas of your body, multiple hospital visits, and countless other physical challenges. As a woman prepares for birth she has to face some big fears and unknowns, whether it's the contractions of labor or the major surgery of a c-section (or both). And then every single day a mother has to contend with increasing her patience, her compassion, her understanding. She works tirelessly for no pay, no guaranteed sick days off, potential to work around the clock, and no possibility of quitting, and she would do anything to not give up this job, this position in life, this title of Mother. Mothers persevere, they are resilient, they embody strength and power like no other. 

May the word "mom" be associated with "strength". 

"It was all of us as mothers, fighting the daily battles while working all day and all night, longing for a hot cup of coffee, when a sick day is not an option, and the rewards of the job are love. We could all relate to this saying, STRONG AS A MOTHER. We were all in the bittersweet trenches of motherhood." -From www.strongasamother.club

Pregnant with first child

Since being pregnant, Matt and I have simplified our life and spent more time together on the weekends and in the evenings, resting, relaxing, going for walks. I just feel extremely grateful for the upcoming opportunity to be a mom and to be a family. It has given me additional appreciation for the beauty and fortune that I have been blessed with. -Marie

Our wedding was the best day of my life. All of our trips together have been amazing, but whenever we go to New York it is so amazing how we feel like we are in our own world amongst millions of people. There are so many memories I have of simple times along the way as well - just as recently as putting up our Christmas decorations this year. -Matt

We really enjoy having pictures on the wall to remind us of some of our most incredible memories. We may walk past a particular picture hundreds of times without really looking at it, but then at any given moment it will catch our eye again and it is so fun to be reminded of that experience and what it meant to our life.

A day in the life with two young boys

What is the story of your family? What are the stories you will tell your children as they grow up? What will their memories be made of? Will they remember that when they were 2 years old their favorite game was hide and seek under the blanket? Probably not. Will you? Possibly. With documentary photos you'll be able to relive these memories forever.

"My babies are turning into boys faster than I ever thought imaginable so we decided to do a documentary photo session to document an average Saturday. We didn't go anywhere or do anything special but it was just exactly perfect and I know our family will cherish the photos for years and years to come. These are just a few photos from the beautiful collection she created for us." -Amber

The days are long but the years are short.

Carla's Water Birth Story

I had been feeling kind of crampy the whole week leading up to labor, so on 40 weeks, 5 days pregnant, I was used to the feeling. My two dogs were extra cuddly that night (they must have known!), and my husband and I decided to take them for a walk. The whole walk, I was more crampy/sore but I also thought maybe I was being dramatic, like it probably wasn’t anything. We got home, ate and I got a more painful cramp after lying down around 11pm.

I got another cramp (contraction) 15 minutes later so my husband began timing them. The next was 12 minutes later, then 8, etc. Pretty quickly, some contractions lasted 1-2 minutes. They got more intense each time, but I still didn’t believe they were contractions because they were different than what I was expecting. I just couldn’t believe it was happening! Every time I got a contraction, my teeth chattered and my knees shook the entire labor and delivery.

I did a few more positions- bounced on the exercise ball, which felt better because I felt like I was actively helping the pain. After that, I knelt over the bed (my favorite position). Time went by so fast. After contractions got to 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute for a while, my husband called the on call midwife. I told him to say it was just cramps (which sounds so silly now!) The midwife on call told me to take a bath and see if contractions subsided. They did. I got out of the bath, and contractions came back fast and more intense. Sometime after that, I got back in the bath for some relief and this time the contractions didn’t subside. My husband called the midwife back and she said to come in.

When we got there at 5am, my cervix was checked and I was dilated to 5cm. The contractions were real and working! First, I got into the bath but that didn’t help the pain anymore. Then, I bounced on an exercise ball, that didn’t help. Kneeling over the couch didn’t help. No position felt good, and every time I got a contraction, I quickly tried to change positions to be more comfortable. I think I spent the most time laboring in the shower. I didn’t notice anyone else in the room, it was just my husband and me breathing through it. I couldn’t help becoming loud with high pitched moaning. They kept telling me to save my energy and make low groaning sounds, which really helped.

Between each contraction, I was pleading to leave, that I couldn’t do it, it was too painful, my contractions were one after another and I wasn’t getting a break. No one would reply to my pleading. Several times I got super serious with my husband and said NO, I HAD to go! And I would’ve if they let me, it didn’t matter anymore. I knew it would’ve taken probably a half hour to get to a hospital and I’d still be in pain. So even though I knew that, and knew I didn’t want to go to a hospital, I couldn’t help asking to leave.

At one point, I laid down and fell asleep for a couple minutes, I was so exhausted. But I quickly woke up from a contraction and had to get right out of bed. Soon after, my husband and I were swaying and I got a contraction and to try and make it better, I dropped into a squat which forcefully made my water break on our feet. Seeing it and feeling it happen at the same time was so shocking! For a split second, I had no idea what happened.

Eventually, I felt like I had to push, and started to while squatting and using the birth stool. Then, I got back into the tub. I didn’t want to push, it hurt. Contractions while pushing lasted super long and there were long breaks in between where I was falling asleep. I was able to push many times during each contraction, but it didn’t feel like I could push hard enough, and I was exhausted. I think I pushed in the tub for an hour.

Finally, January Jade was born into the water at 11:15am, after about 12 hours of labor. I grabbed her out of the water and repeated “oh my god” while staring at my crying husband. I was in shock. It was and is the most surreal and amazing moment of my life! I did it! I was and will always be so proud of myself. I’m so glad I got photos and video of it, because the details are kind of hazy now.

Tasha's Water Birth Story

[Tasha's Birth Story]

Saturday, April 2nd was the day our baby boy was predicted to enter this world; that day came and went just like any other day. My mom texted me and asked me how I was feeling. I told her that I didn't feel any different than I did on any other day. We went on our weekly grocery shopping trip and went about our day as usual.

Contractions woke me up at 3am on Sunday, April 3rd; the day that Chris predicted our baby boy to come, months earlier. I began timing my contractions quietly in bed, while Chris slept next to me; I didn't want to make a big deal of them until I knew they were not Braxton Hicks. I woke him up at 5:30am, and told him that I was having consistent, painful contractions. We called our Midwife and texted our Doula to let them know that I was in early labor. I got out of bed, made breakfast, and worked through my contractions.

Late morning, we went for a walk, while my son rode his bike. We walked for about an hour, then went home to eat and lay down to rest. Later that afternoon, my midwife called to check on me. My contractions had been steady for most of the day, not really making any progress; she suggested that I take a triple dose of my calcium magnesium to take the edge off the contractions, so I could rest. About an hour after I took my calcium magnesium, before I could rest, my contractions took off. They became more and more painful and only a few minutes apart.

At 8:30pm, we spoke to my midwife and let her know where I was at; she told me to call her and let her know whenever I was ready to go to the Birth Center. An hour later, I had Chris call our Midwife to let her know that I was ready to go. Although we only had to drive a couple miles, contractions in the car were torturous!

We arrived at the Birth Center the same time as our Midwife; another midwife was there waiting, as well as our Doula. Soon after my arrival, I got into the tub with Chris, and my Doula contacted Danica. I started getting the urge to push, right away. It was such a relief to have the freedom and support to listen to my body, and do what felt natural. The pain was overwhelmingly powerful. I am so fortunate that I had the encouraging words of my Doula and Midwives. They helped me to stay in the moment and refocus my mind when I was starting to become consumed by the pain.

My eyes were closed about 95% of the time...trying to stay in the moment. I remember hearing everyone around me, but all I could focus on were my contractions and pushing. I have always heard stories and read stories about how painful childbirth is, but I still wasn't prepared. I don't know if anything could have prepared me for that type of pain. My body wanted to run from the pain, but it's not something you can run from; you have to sit with it...wait it out.

I don't recall how long I was pushing for, but I knew it was a while, so I asked my midwife to finally check me for the first time. She said that I was dilated to '10,' but his head was not moving past the anterior cervical lip. My midwife asked me if I wanted to try to not push through 3 contractions, while lying on each of my sides, or if I wanted her to hold the "lip" up and push his head past it. Since I was trying to avoid invasive interventions as much as possible, I opted to try to not push through contractions, while lying on my sides. Wrong! Haha. I could not stop myself from pushing through the contractions, and lying on my side was so painful. So, I allowed my midwife to hold the "lip" while I pushed his head past it; this was only a little less painful than the alternative.

Once his head had made it past the lip, he began to come out more quickly. I remember reaching down and feeling his head full of hair. I was pushing with all my might, then I felt him drop out, and along with that came a tremendous relief. I heard my midwife tell me to reach down and grab my baby. Chris handed him to me and I pulled him up out of the water and leaned back on Chris.

As we sat there holding our baby, with my son nearby and surrounded by the most beautiful souls, I had never felt more blessed than I did in that moment; the joy, the love, the gratitude. The support and encouragement that I received from everyone was overwhelmingly beautiful. If I bring another life into this world, I hope the experience will be just like this one.

Homeschooling five children

I find it fascinating, and an honor, to be invited into families' homes to photograph a glimpse of what life looks like to them. To document their stories that are so personal and unique. This mom of 5 children homeschools them all. It was my first peek into the day to day activities of homeschoolers and it was really cool.

She has a set of twins who are obviously the same age, and two adopted children who are close in age, so that makes it easy for her to pair them up for partnered learning. The kids help each other with tasks/games/projects while mom goes around to check on how the projects are going and assists or explains when necessary. It seemed like they struck a great balance of structure and exploratory learning.

They even sung some songs about topics that I had never even heard of and ancient geographical locations that I would not be able to place on a map. Being around classrooms and kids who are learning sure reminds you how much you don't know. ;)