Change is Good

Change is good. It can also be scary and overwhelming. Towards the end of 2018 I started toying with the idea of starting a photography career. Even just saying that felt so pretentious and fake because I had only ever photographed friends and I had only ever shot on auto mode on my mirrorless Fuji camera with inexpensive lenses that didn’t go past a 4.0 aperture. I knew I wasn’t getting the results I wanted from that camera, but the prospects of finding an affordable DSLR camera with good lenses was so overwhelming. The idea of learning how that complicated piece of machinery worked was even worse. I started obsessively watching Youtube videos about Canon cameras, newborn photography, and starting a photography business, as well listening to podcasts all about starting a photography business. I will say that really helped me feel better about the whole endeavor and gave me the support and encouragement that I needed to keep going and feel confident about what I was doing. So, my friend had her baby in February and she let me come and take photos of the whole birth process – sadly, I couldn’t go in the operating room when they decided to do a c-section, but I was there for everything else. And she let me do a fresh 48, two newborn sessions, and a 3 month session for free and that really taught me so much. 

It’s been 6 months since shooting my friend’s birth session and I can see an obvious improvement in my ability to use my camera, I have manual functions I love as well as aperture priority and I prefer to manually focus using an amazing tool that attaches to my LCD screen and helps me see the fine details I couldn’t see with the little viewfinder – one of the joys of having to wear glasses and not being comfortable in those awful thick contacts for astigmatism.

It has been on my mind lately to start up my etsy shop again with new handmade/designed things and so I used some money from a wedding I shot to buy a Cricut Maker and a bunch of stuff to experiment with that and it has been pretty fun, a little frustrating because I have made a bit of a mess in our kitchen with all of my stuff. In remaking my Etsy shop I changed the name to something meaningful and similar to what it had been, but just updated. It was originally 1319 Prints – 1319 was the address of the first house I can remember as a kid here in Indiana and it’s where I first started learning arts and crafts with my mom as my teacher. In line with that sentiment, I made my new Etsy shop name Pine & Meadow – 1319 Meadow Lane is the street name of that first house and Pine Hill Dr is the name of my very own first house where I’m learning how to use the arts and crafts I love to start a business. During this transition, and due to a few personal experiences over the summer, I began toying with the idea of starting a Youtube channel where I just record my weeks, record how to make things with the Cricut, any trips we may take, outtings with the pups, and other life things that come along. After sitting down and thinking for two weeks about what I want this Youtube channel to be I have decided to put everything in my life under the name Pine & Meadow. My Etsy shop, my Youtube Channel, and my photography business. So, I have decided to change my photography business to Pine & Meadow Photography. I hope you will watch and enjoy my Youtube channel, when I post the first video I will let you know and I would love constructive feedback on what you like and don’t like. But my philosophy with my channel is just to make things that I would enjoy watching and hope to find my people that way.

Thank you for reading!

Meeting Winter

“Have a good baby!” Brittany read aloud a handmade card from her young nephews. Among all the wonderful, adorable gifts that they had received at their baby shower, this card was one of the most meaningful. Simple words written with love. “Have a good baby” quickly became their birth tagline. That, and, “Winter is coming.”

I met Brittany in 2015 when we worked together at a pharmacy. She had just gotten engaged to her then girlfriend Alexa (“Lex”). After becoming friends I offered to do engagement photos for them and then the next year they asked me and my boyfriend Nick to photograph their wedding! One year later, after their second attempt at becoming pregnant, they saw two pink lines and the doctor confirmed a couple days later that they were indeed positive! Her due date was February 25, 2018. In December we did maternity photos and then it was a waiting game.

I got a call from a very distraught Brittany at 1:40 AM on Monday, February 11. It was exactly two weeks before her due date and her water had broken and her contractions were two minutes apart! From all that I had read and been told, the baby was coming soon! So I excitedly got up, changed clothes, and woke Nick up to tell him that I had to go to the hospital because Brittany was having her baby! I grabbed my photography “hospital bag” and drove 15 mins to Community North, a surprisingly inviting hospital that felt like a major airport, in a good way.

I realized I didn’t know where Brittany and Lex would go when they got there, so I first went into the ER and asked where I was supposed to go to meet someone who was on her way and in labor. They gave me directions to the main entrance. I walked in and was greeted by two nice security guards stationed at the front desk. They kindly showed me the elevators and I went upstairs. I wandered around and kept an eye out for Lex’s car to arrive. Shortly, I saw a car pull in so I went downstairs to see if I could help with bags and things. But when I got downstairs I couldn’t find them. The male security guard said that he just escorted a lady upstairs who was in labor, “She said she was ready so I got her a wheelchair and took her right up!”

Back upstairs, I talked to the registration nurse who directed me to another nurse who told me that Brittany and Lex were in triage and with the flu restriction only one person was allowed in with Brittany, her wife, naturally. So I waited a couple hours in the lobby.

Around 4:45am I saw a familiar face walk in, Lex’s mom, Karen! As we started to greet each other Karen got a text from Lex with the code to go into the room and Lex came out into the waiting area to get me.

I went to the maternity suite while Lex and Karen went to get things from the car. Brittany looked calm, having just been set up with an epidural. She was sleepy mixed with terrified and elated. Their first nurse on duty came in to have Brittany sign paperwork, which she did half asleep and in a daze. She had started getting contractions around midnight and then her water broke, her contractions became very abnormal causing her debilitating pain and making her physically ill. When they arrived they still had to wait in triage without an epidural while the nurses tested a fluid sample to determine if the discharge was really amniotic fluid. Finally they got the results confirming it was her water that broke and they admitted her and gave her an epidural.

Lex and Karen came in shortly with pillows and bags. Lex got Brittany situated and then they tried to get some rest on the couch in the back of the room. I curled up on a chair to try to rest as well from about 5am to 7am — sadly, hospital chairs don’t make great beds!

I remember while I was resting my eyes, Alexa’s mom got a phone call from somebody — probably her sister Sherry — and she kept saying “I’m so excited I’m so excited!” She didn’t sleep but she had slept more than we had before she woke up to find all of Alexa’s text messages.

Around 7am the doctors and nurses came in to check Brittany and said that she went from 1 cm dilated at 2:30am to 3 cm dilated at 7:30am. So they decided to give her some Pitocin and then wait.

In the early morning Karen’s sister Sherry came to visit and they talked about their experiences with childbirth while waiting to see if Brittany had made any progress. Sherry had to go to work but it worked out because the nurse and her interns were coming in.

They checked her and saw she had not gotten along much farther to they decided to try giving Brittany a ball (although it actually looked like a giant peanut) to put between her legs to help her relax and help her hips expand for baby to go through. They determined the baby was turned the wrong direction based on Brittany’s pain being in her back. She rested with the peanut between her legs and on her side for an hour or so and at 11am they checked her progress. To everyone’s surprise she was fully dilated and at 11:30 AM they decided to start pushing! The doctor tried to turn the baby more into position and then she had to go check on her other patients. The nursing interns wheeled in the infant warming bed and all the accessories that you need to deliver a baby which made Brittany giddy with excitement! Like a little girl at Christmas! She was so ready to meet her baby and see what she looks like!

For the first hour and a half of pushing she was really excited and every time she had a contraction and got to push she excitedly sighed “Okay!” as if marking complete one of the many labor pushes that she needed to do in order to see her baby!

And then after two hours of pushing the main doctor came in and said that it doesn’t seem like the baby’s head is going into the space between the pelvic bone which is what she needs to do in order to come out. The doctor said that Brittany could keep pushing but if nothing changed in the next hour or so she’s going to start considering a C-section as the next option.

Brittany kept pushing, she was pushing perfectly and so hard. Everyone was rooting for that baby to come out naturally and Brittany was doing a phenomenal job but that baby just did not want to go through the pelvic area. She just kept getting smashed up into the bone and her little head was turned slightly so it just wouldn’t come through. After three hours of amazing effort and perfect pushes the doctor said that a C-section is probably the best choice.

At this point Brittany was so exhausted from all the work she did and her contractions were not consistent and were getting farther apart. With tears in her eyes she told the doctor that she trusted her judgment and they decided to do a C-section.

Brittany was devastated to not be able to birth vaginally. But Lex was so sweet and she just encouraged her the whole time that no matter what happens, however the baby is born, they’re going to be moms and they’re going to meet their daughter today. Throughout the whole day Lex was upbeat, encouraging, funny and lighthearted. She was such a good support. Despite Brittany being scared about the whole surgery part, she was really excited to meet their baby.

The doctor said that the procedure would take 45 minutes to an hour — getting the baby out wouldn’t take very long, but getting Brittany all put back together and then cleaning up would take a while. I wasn’t allowed in the operating room, sadly, so I stayed with the family in the waiting area. Brittany‘s mom had arrived — she went to the wrong hospital an hour out of the way — and Lex’s mom, stepdad, and aunt were there along with Brittany’s youngest sister, Ashley.

After about an hour we saw Brittany getting pushed back into her room. Then I was allowed to go back in and take some photos of their first moments as a family of three. Brittany had Winter on her chest and she was deliriously happy, now crying tears of joy and disbelief. The nurses got everything set up and had a breast-feeding coach come in to get the new mommy started on her way to breast feeding her new baby. Brittany did awesome and spent a good 30 mins with the coach and would not give up on trying to get Winter to latch. After breast-feeding, Winter got her shots and her eye drops. Then it was Lex’s turn to get some skin-on-skin time with her daughter. I took a few photos and then excused myself to let the new parents have some quiet alone time together. I went out and told the family the bad news that they had to wait another 15 minutes before they could go in and meet their granddaughter/niece, but they were so excited they didn’t really mind.

When it was finally time to go in they were eager to say the least! They were all so impressed at how beautiful she was, and she truly was a beautiful little girl! The ladies took turns holding her and looking for similarities between her and the moms. She had Brittany’s dimples and Lex’s strawberry blonde hair! Needless to say, they most definitely had a good baby!

I got to come back the next day and take a few more photos of the new family! Winter looked even more beautiful the next day! The mommies got to have a little bit of sleep and got cleaned up. Brittany, Lex, Winter, and I all took a little walk around the maternity ward so Brittany could keep her blood flowing after surgery. Then I set up to take Winter’s Fresh 48 photos.

A week later I took newborn photos.

A couple weeks later we did a lifestyle shoot.

Why hire a Labor & Delivery Photographer?

Yesterday I was listening to the Birth Photographer Podcast by Lacey Barrett, an Australian birth photographer and doula, she was interviewing Em Winch, Australian photographer and website designer. They were discussing why Birth Photography is something that all women should be having because they are not going to remember all the little details that happened throughout the day! Em said,

You’re going to forget this experience, I don’t want you to forget this, I can help you and document this whole thing and give you this incredible experience that you can look back on when you’re having a crappy day, or you’re exhausted because baby’s not sleeping, or you’re at the end of your tether and you don’t know what you’re doing. You can look back at this and have this incredible transformation and you can realize that you’re a freaking super woman and what you’ve done, you brought a human into the world! You can refer back to that and reclaim your super power each and every time you look at this.”

Em Winch, Birth Photographer Podcast

This podcast episode, along with my experience during a recent birth photography session, led me down a Google rabbit hole trying to find out what actually happens to your brain when you begin laboring. I noticed that the mommy I was photographing had trouble all day long trying to think of words she was wanted to say and had some memory issues, even repeating things that she had said earlier in the day! It seemed very strange! I wondered if it was just the stress and excitement of the day or if there was something chemically going on. I read two articles and both say that your brain does a lot of changing when you go into labor. It actually shrinks! And when it shrinks you lose some “grey matter” and it stays gone! Which sounds scary, but it’s a good thing, the articles say, because it makes you a better mother by fine-tuning the connectors in that pinkish-grey tissue containing cell bodies and nerve synapses. They said it might help new mothers “decode” different coos and cries to know what their baby needs! How amazing is that?!

So here is the moral of the story. Your body is creating a human and it is changing forever for the purpose of caring for this tiny human for the rest of your life. You are amazing! Between all of the science that goes on in your brain when you go into labor and all the focus on the job at hand, this day will be a blur! During the long days ahead you might forget your husband/wife/partner holding your hand, encouraging you and cheering you on. You might forget your amazing will and determination to meet the new love of your life. 

Labor and delivery photography, or birth photography, is one of those things that is not all over social media, and people generally worry that having their labor and delivery photographed is too taboo. Women feel nervous about telling their husbands/wives/partners that they want this, they worry about what their family will think, and they tell themselves it isn’t worth the money to document this day. But I am here to empower you and tell you you can speak to your husband/wife/partner and you can express what you want and why you want it! You can tell your family this is my birth journey and this is my choice. You are worth the money of documenting this experience! This is once in a lifetime!

Just like your birth plan, birth photography will be whatever mom wants it to be. You are in control. If you want photos from the waist up, that is your choice. That might be a good compromise for the other parent if he/she is against birth photography, it doesn’t have to be graphic! But capturing the emotion on your faces when you meet that baby and see his/her face for the first time is priceless. And you can relive that moment forever through photo albums, digital albums, and prints! Life moves so fast. If we don’t document these moments they’re just gone! Imagine having these images to look at and remember for the rest of your life. To have them to share with your children as they grow, and then to share with their children and so on. What an amazing legacy to give your family!

If you’re interested in the articles I read here they are:
http://www.brainfacts.org/brain-anatomy-and-function/body-systems/2018/how-pregnancy-changes-the-brain-022818
https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/how-your-brain-changes-after-baby-ncna807611
And the podcast I listened to was here, episode 8: 
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/birth-photographer/id1439735910?mt=2