Yesterday is going to be one of those days that I never forget for as long as I live. It was just an amazingly fun day. It started out with my usual morning coffee and discussing the day with my husband. My friend had purchased amazing tickets to see “The Little Mermaid” Live at the Murat Theater downtown. I spent the morning getting ready and, of course making sure all of my camera gear was ready. My first client’s due date had been the day before on Friday, February 10th and I didn’t want to be caught out and about without my gear. I charged the batteries on the camera, checked my lenses, and made sure I had an extra memory card. I was still worried that I only had one battery and, knowing the unpredictable length of a labor, I was hoping to have a second before I was heading into my first session.
The show was amazing. Absolutely adorable. The costumes were beautiful and the singers/actors were incredible. I’m really glad that I got to go with her to see the show. Afterward, we decided to go out to dinner so we left the car parked at the Murat and took an Uber across the city. Shockingly we got a table at the restaurant, sit down, order our food, and my phone goes off…. “She’s in early labor!!!” flashes across my phone screen from the doctor and I pretty much felt my heart hit the floor. I look up with a gasp at my friend and say “I have to go! Right now.” She starts laughing and I’m sitting there staring at my phone trying to calculate how long it will take me to get to the hospital (this includes calling another Uber to pick us up to go back to the car). Finally, my brain kicks back in gear and I call the doctor to ask if I need to leave right then and there. She laughed and said I had time because my client was still going through the check-in process. I hung up the phone and told my friend that we could enjoy dinner and we spent the next twenty minutes talking about life and how exciting that night was going to be.
I’ll be honest, I spent most of the time trying to calm my racing pulse and nerves. I kept thinking, “What if I mess up?” or “What if she changed her mind and she asks me to leave?” or even worse, “What is she hates the pictures all together?” I kept looking at my phone to check the time and I think I may have inhaled dinner so that I was ready to go quickly. We made our way back out onto the busy sidewalk and called for another Uber to return us to her car. I was so nervous in the car that I had to turn on meditation music to relax. It wasn’t that I was scared of what was going to happen. I have given birth to two children so I know what goes on in birthing environment (mostly). I was nervous that my pictures wouldn’t be good, my lens would malfunction in the darkened room, or that I would get in the way of someone with a much more important job. I knew as soon as I walked in the door to the hospital the nerves would evaporate and I’d go into work mode, I just had to get there first.
I am so glad I had my camera gear with me because I might literally have exploded with nerves had I left it at home. I arrived at the hospital at 8:15 p.m. Thankfully, the nursing staff was aware that I was on my way so they let me into my clients’ room right away. She had told me at our meeting that she was wanting to go through labor naturally and she was not happy with her choice at that moment. She was calm and quiet, but definitely ready to not deal with labor pains anymore. I snapped a few pictures of her and met her nurse and Damon, her birth partner. The nurse informed her that the anesthesiologist had arrived but it would be a little bit because he had to change into his scrubs. The nurse asked her to start getting in the position they request for moms to be in for an epidural and mom asked dad and me to leave. I knew she was in a lot of pain but that original fear started creeping back in that she was going to ask me to leave. I wouldn’t have blamed her because of how she felt. So Damon and I journeyed out of the room to wait for her epidural to go in.
At first, we were going to go sit in the waiting room but I remembered a spot where my family had sat when I had a baby so we went down to the end of the hall and sat facing the large floor to ceiling windows and watched the rain fall outside. It was at that time I had the pleasure of getting to know Damon. The sweet nervousness of a new daddy telling me how he and mommy met and what he did for a living (can you guess?). It was very touching to discuss how he felt about becoming a dad and how they came up with the name for their baby girl. They are my kind of people, the ones that try to come up with unique and interesting names. We waited what seemed like probably 20 minutes and figured she was probably done and ready for us to come back so we ventured back down to her door only to find that it was still shut. We stood outside talking about how bad he wanted to go home and shower so he could change and it made me laugh because he was too nervous to leave. As we waited, in walked Joanna’s sister and Damon’s mother. It was smiles all around as we introduced each other and caught up on what was going on. The nurse ushered us down to the waiting room and so we waited. The family was very excited to have a new baby coming and couldn’t wait to meet her. I instantly took a liking to Damon’s mother who told me that Joanna had needed a little convincing to have birth photography done. I appreciated that she saw the value in what I was offering and had explained it in a way that had her jumping on the bandwagon.
Finally, after almost an hour people were getting antsy and nervous because it was taking so long for the epidural. Damon decided that he was going to go check on her and then head home to shower. His parting words out the door were, “Although, my luck will be I’ll get to the stop light and get a text saying it was all over and I missed it.” with a grin he departed. We sat together in comfortable silence for another 5 to 10 minutes and the doctor stuck her head in to say hello. I immediately gathered my things and followed her down the hall. She smiled and said, “You know she’s ready, right?” I started laughing saying, “No. Are you serious?” In we went to room 301 and she was indeed ready to push and thankfully Daddy was there still dressed in uniform a stark contrast to the feminine area we were all working in. Grabbing a nurse I asked if I had enough time to run back down the hall and tell the family that the baby was on her way and she smiled with a yes. Off I went, poking my head in and saying, “Wanted to let you know… the baby is on her way.” The shocked expressions I will never forget as I said, “See you on the flip side, gotta go.” and dashed back to the delivery room.
Joanna was a rockstar once she got into the swing of pushing. You think you’d know what to do, but I swear every time the doctor or nurse has to go over it at least two times. She was so sweet in between pushes we could get her to laugh every now and then, but the best part was the things that she said. She was too worried it would scar dad for life if he looked because it was gross. She told us she thought her breath was horrible and that the second the baby was born she wanted to brush her teeth, and my all time favorite was when she said she was hungry. We offered to tell the family out in the waiting room to go get her something so it would be there by the time she was done and then she said, “No, I’m not hungry I don’t know what I want never mind.” Everyone laughed, even her.
It took 40 minutes from the start of pushing to finish. Joanna and Damon, along with the Doctor and nurses were an amazing team. I was humbled and honored to be allowed into their sacred space to document her journey into motherhood. She was incredibly powerful and what I like to call, a warrior woman. Having a baby naturally is a lot of hard work and she really did take on the task at hand like a true pro. It was cute when she said in between contractions that she would never have more children, only adoption. However, I am sure that will not be the case for this momma. One look at her new baby and she pretty much forgot about all the pain and work she’d just done and only wanted to hold her baby. Daddy got to cut the cord, which he was very excited about. A fond memory he will have some day that he can share with his daughter when she is older.
I have to admit, I held it together right up until the above picture. When mommy had her baby skin-to-skin and was able to just take a moment to bask in newborn heaven I got a little teary-eyed. As the Doctor and Nurses went about cleaning up and checking baby vitals, daddy asked the sweetest question about doing skin-to-skin too. It was such a precious and intimate moment they shared.
That picture right there is why I wanted to become a birth photographer. On the night Willow was born there was no one but Nurses, the Doctor, and the two of them. I was the fly on the wall and I wanted to capture these special moments for new parents. Willow is less than five minutes old in this picture. It was a beautiful moment to witness.
My favorite picture of the night was proceeded by baby Willow doing the newborn nuzzle in her hunt for some yummy in her tummy. She wound up finding her thumb and going to town on it in a way I’ve never seen in a newborn. She was ready to eat. This moment below is when she not only found what she was looking for, for her mouth but she also discovered the face that went with the voice she knew so well. It was the sweetest most special moment of the night, as mommy looked down and Willow looked up and it was almost like she was saying “Oh, hi there. I know you.”
After a moment of relaxation and almost like a refreshing breather it was time to weigh and measure Ms. Willow and she was no happy to be taken away from her warm nest with mommy. She did, however, seem to enjoy being able to stretch out her little legs. She had such cute long feet and a pretty little rosebud mouth. Her skin was so pink and her cheeks were just perfect. Mommy commented that she had the cutest little booty which made me laugh because she totally did.
After all the hustle and bustle and of course, the rude removal of mommy it was time for daddy to hold not only his daughter for the first time, but hold a baby in general for the first time according to mommy. She was wrapped up tight in a swaddle and handed off to daddy by a happy Doctor who showed him what to do and then turned him to face mommy so she could see the whole moment. Daddy was a quick learner and before he knew it, he was even doing the baby bounce dance so she wouldn’t cry. They were natural parents, I could tell. And of course, we got the first family photo of them all together.
At last, and with much anticipation, it was time to meet the rest of the family that was waiting as patiently as they possibly could outside the door. Joanna’s two sisters and Damon’s mom walked into the room and the happy looks on their faces were absolutely priceless. Everyone took turns holding baby Willow and talking about how they could hear everything but then it had gone quiet for a bit and finally, they had heard the baby cry. There was much passing around and cooing towards Willow and it was a joy to stand in that moment and photograph everyone holding her for the first time.
In my final moments of being there, I was able to capture a very happy mommy content to hold her precious bundle of joy who wound up certainly being in a hurry to meet everyone. Baby Willow was born on February 11, 2017, at 10:17 p.m. She weighed 8 lbs 2.3 oz and was 21 inches long. She had a full head of luscious dark hair and perfect pouty lips. She is a perfect way to end a perfect day.
Congratulations to Joanna and Damon on the birth of a perfect little Willow! Thank you for letting me be there with you. You both are very sweet and wonderful people. I think you are going to be awesome parents and Willow is lucky to have you.