Several months ago, I was driving home from a session and got a call from a fellow photographer in town asking if I was available to cover the birth story of one of her friends. She was unfortunately PSCing (Permanent Change of Station) and would no longer be available, Army life at it's finest. I asked her to refer me over and not long after, I met Caitlin.
Caitlin called me that afternoon and we must have been on the phone for over a half hour. This badass mama of 2 ( at the time ), and Army vet would be giving birth in November with her husband, Jason, deployed. She explained that she hadn't done photos for her two previous births but was hoping to have this birth documented. She briefly mentioned that her first two births didn't go as planned and she wasn't sure how this delivery would play out. Nonetheless, I couldn't have been more excited to capture this moment for her family!
When we met up for lunch she further explained that her first two births were rather traumatic. She went into labor with both children weeks early. Though both vaginal deliveries, Caitlin bled badly after each, her first, Ryan, was quickly intubated after birth. She was unable to hear her babies cry or hold them immediately. We were uncertain if this birth would follow the outcome of the others, which was a bit more nerve wracking since Jason would be away but we remained optimistic and positive! By her side would be her two amazing friends, Trina ( who knows her ish about L&D *insert finger snap*) and Joseline. The vibes were set and first goal was to make it to 35 weeks so she could deliver at her hospital of choice.
Weeks later Caitlin contacts me to let me know that things are not looking as we'd hoped, a c-section may be her only option and she would be going home to deliver so she has someone to care for Ryan and Haiden. My heart broke for this mama as she prepared for yet another traumatic birth.
Then, Midwife Regina Vadney stepped in. No one was going in for a c-section if she could help it.
Fast forward to Sunday, November 18th, 2018. At 2pm I get a text from Caitlin that her water had broken. She was at 38 weeks and thanks to Regina and all was go for a vaginal birth attempt! I had a session that evening at 4pm (hello anxiety) and was at the hospital right after. When I arrived, a laboring Caitlin was smiles and laughs with Trina and Joseline as this amazing energy saturated the room, Jason just a video call away. She was 3.5 cm dilated and things were looking so far so good! Joseline played DJ, Trina lounged, Caitlin labored standing, then sitting, aaannd standing again. Her contractions weren't picking up on their own too much, so we gave the hospital halls a few laps and at 8pm the nurses started Pitocin to get labor to hopefully pick up. BOY, did labor pick up. Contractions were consistent and intense. Her incredible birth team did everything they could to get her through each one. Keeping her breathing focused, her hips moving, and the best aroma of essential oils! Caitlin was set on going natural, she had done so with her two previous births and we were on board with getting her through this med free. It was discouraging when after 2 hours of hard labor her cervix had not dilated as we hoped. The pain was keeping her body too tense to allow effective contractions and she made the decision to get an epidural at 10:30pm (Thank you to the best
anesthesiologist Mimi!) A decision I am confident saved her vaginal birth. When she was checked again at midnight her cervix was 9cm and baby was at 0 station!!! Just 1.5 hours after getting her epidural placed we were so close to meeting this sweet girl. We were still prepared for anything, delayed cord clamping was off the table due to the expected bleeding Caitlin would have, and skin to skin may not be an option at all, but babies heart looked strong.
It was time to push.
A prayer was spoken with Joseline as Midwife Noelle (one of the best midwives I have ever had the pleasure to work alongside) and a full nurse staff prepared the room. Jason on video message reassuring Caitlin that everything would be okay. "I'm scared", she admitted and he so confidently reminded her "Thats okay, it's okay to be scared". You could hear the tremble in his voice at the same time as he was reminding himself of that very fact. She began to bare down. It wasn't even two full 10 counts before she was here. Lungs ROARING, pink and full of vernix (and a bit of meconium), the most amazing cry you've ever heard. There aren't words that could describe the emotion in the room. (My camera concealed all the ugly crying face that was going on behind the viewfinder)
"She's Crying!" Caitlin shouted to Jason, they sobbed tears of relief and joy.
She did it. After 2 traumatic birth experiences, got her healthy, full term, screaming baby girl. Midwife Noelle let her know that all the blood transferred from placenta to baby on it's own, there was no bleeding from Caitlin at all. Immediate skin to skin that lasted over an hour. With help from Trina she even got her first latch!
I couldn't have been more proud of Caitlin, her strength far surpasses admirable!
A special thank you to the staff at William Beaumont Army Medical Center for being so supportive and attentive!
P.s. I may have cried a tad writing this.
Signed, your no shame emotional birth photographer <3