Photographing a birth.

{So I wrote this last night and I feel the urge to post it today. Once I download and play with the pictures, I will be sure to post them privately here online at my blog with a required password. When I do post them, probably tonight or tomorrow, and you'd like to see, please make a request via email -- use the 'email me' button in my sidebar -- or via the comment section -- just leave your email. I would love to make the photos open to the public, but so many of them are very personal and would be an invasion of their privacy to show publicly. Already with them graciously welcoming me into their private world, I was blessed incredibly so I cannot overstep my boundaries. I can't wait to share them with you! Here's my story shooting my first birth.}

This evening I write from Word because I am trying very hard to not do anything blog-related this week. But I can't not write in words what I am feeling at this very moment, so I write here.

Tonight I was a part of an amazing life-fulfilling event. I had the honor of shooting a live birth, and the word 'amazing' just does not sum it up for me. I sit here in tears as I recall the hustle and bustle that I just left. I am crying because I've never ever been a part of something so spectacular. It was life-changing for me.

Life-changing because, how many women get to see what I saw, from my view? They are usually on the other end of it, right? And to be a part of this as a spectator, as a photographer just there to shoot pictures and nothing else, was not something many women get to do --- ever. And perhaps not many women want to see it? But I got to and I wanted to. Which is the second reason why it was so life-changing. This experience brought me peace.

With my two children, their births ended unlike any planned birth. They were anything but planned.

With Noah, immediately after the epidural was given, his heart rate dropped substantially. So abruptly and so low, that I was rushed to surgery, inti bated and the nurses had me cut open in 6 minutes, before my doctor even arrived. Noah came to us safely, but my experience was awful. I didn't see or feel anything of his birth but was in major pain for weeks after because of such invasive cutting. I didn't get to see him for over 2 hours after the birth. My husband wasn't even in the surgery room. Even though yes, "all that matters is that he was healthy", a big piece has been missing in my heart ever since. Something I couldn't pretend to be happy about. Birth the way it was meant to be was an experience I never had.

With Maia, I wanted so badly to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean). I was induced because of high blood pressure. They broke my water. I was in labor for 30 hours. Yes, thirty. I had an ultrasound at my 30th hour of labor which lead to us finding out that Maia's head wasn't engaging. Either her head was too large or my pelvis too small. (My doctor and doula think it were both.) Her heart rate began to slowly decline (she was tired and saying I was tired is an understatement) so off I went to surgery, after 30 hours of labor and no food or sleep in 2 days. My doula couldn't even be in surgery with us. I did get to see my baby this time after birth, but only while my arms were strapped down unable to actually hold her. All I could do was smile and cry. And then she was whisked away so that I could go to recovery. When I got back, I still did not get to hold her because they found her to have a heart problem. So she lived in the NICU for two days. I didn't get to hold my baby for two whole days. Can you imagine?

Another birth gone not the way as planned. And while of course I was elated and thanking God that she turned out to be completely healthy just with a strangely boot-shaped heart, I still was missing another piece in my heart. And guess what? Tonight I got those pieces back . . . and way more. What a blessing God granted me.

There's nothing more miraculous in life than life itself being born. And I got to witness it with my own two eyes and capture it forever. I saw a head full of hair poking it's head out, I saw a daddy literally catch his baby as it was being born, I saw the placenta being delivered, I even saw her being stitched up. I saw baby Jake take his first breath of life outside the womb screaming while the rest of his body was still in. It was a-maz-ing.

I saw blood, and lots of it, and didn't even want to throw up. It was different. I wasn't seeing it in a textbook or a movie. I saw it in real life. I saw life being born and nothing about that is sickening. I saw blood in a shade of red that was just absolutely beautiful. (Can blood be beautiful? Yes!) I've never seen such a pure beautiful red before. I can't wait to show you pictures.

I was so blessed to have had this opportunity. The nurses were so welcoming and interested in what I was doing. The delivering doctor was as well. She even asked for a business card and then went back to her office to look my site up online (!!). When the baby was being born she was fine with me coming in closer. There wasn't a single thing that she asked me not to shoot. Leann, my friend and the mother's doula, waved me in closer during the actual birth because she wanted me to get pictures. At first I was hesitant, but then I couldn't stop pushing the shutter. I still don't know what all I took. Tonight I will proof them all and see.

I am never ever going to forget this. It was so life-changing. And I can't wait for the next. A water birth in October. Wow, God is just so good to me. SO GOOD. And life is just so good. So beautiful. So pure. So truly amazing.

And I caught it all.


Anonymous said...

what an absolutely wonderful thing for you and jake's family -- the fact that you feel so much more peace on a personal level from being a part of that birth makes me extremely happy for you :) and that connection will be invaluable to the parents, because they'll be able to tell how much you felt (italics) during that experience through what they see in your photographs. i'm anxiously awaiting being able to see some of them. congratulations to you and jake's parents! kristin

Stacey said...

Beautifully written. I hope one day to see my grandchildren born, but only if I am asked. xo

Paulick Fam said...

Val, I can honestly say that you have brought me to complete tears. I have 4 beautiful children and I myself have never witnessed one birth either. I didn't even get to see the birth movies in lamaze class because I has pre-term labor with 3 and a 7 week premie c-section with the other. I think there are so many women that would be beyond moved to see that kind of experience. However, after seeing your photography, I think that is what would make it even more beautiful. You have a talent that goes beyond words, you have a "God blessed talent", Nancy

oh amanda said...

Val! I've got tears in my eyes and haven't even seen the pics. I'd love to see them!

Jen said...

I was jsut thinking about you yesterday and wondering this had happened yet

Im so sori you had a terrible experience with your babies births

Bless Leann for sharing this life-changing time with you

Praise the Lord for giving you this opportunity

it's me, Val said...

Thank you. I never knew if any of you knew how hard this was for me to have not experienced it. I'm sure you had a feeling but it was never anything I really wanted to talk about because I wasn't sure anyone would understand. So thank you for taking the time to read this, thank you for being happy for me and thank you for the congrats to myself and to the mommy and daddy, even though they deserve it more. Man, did she work!
xo, KDL. :)

Thank you. I hope we all get that experience with our grandchildren.

I already emailed you, but I want to thank you again for your understanding and for also telling me your story! Like I told you in email, it's unreal how many people have experiences similar to your own but you never really think about it. I'm so happy to know that this may be helping you, also :) Hugs!!!

a, thank you for wanting to see!

Jen, thank you, too, for your blessings and praises. I can feel them!

Love to all,

LiLi said...

Val, you know what I went through with my birth experience with Maegan, and then I had Wils by choice c/s, since 1% risk of rupture was even too much for me at that point... and with this pregnancy, I am forced into another c/s because it is so close after my last one... BUT, I know what you mean about that something being missing. I am so glad that you were able to experience the live birth and that it went just as planned! How amazing, and you know, without a doubt, I'd love to see those miraculous pictures! Congrats to you on a job well done, and congrats to those parents! :)

Missy said...

I can only imagine.. actually no I can't. I've never even seen a birthing room, let alone had a life changing event in one. Some day I will.. and I can't wait! I would love to see a few of the pictures you are willing to share with us. I can only imagine... :)

CHEERS! to everyone whom has ever impacted anothers life.. a birth is definitely an occasion for multiple celebrations!

Erin said...

Oh, Val! What an amazing experience. You've brought me to tears. It must have been a whole different experience for you. What a blessing. You actually made me want to have another baby. Wow. I'm so excited for you.

Anonymous said...

What a great day to have read this. It was a horribly busy, understaffed day on the unit. I attended 7 vag deliveries and two csections including one for twins. I spend the majority of the day bitter and frustrated about the amount of work expected of me combined with the awesome liability on my shoulders. Some days it is so easy to get caught up in the "tasks" of deliveries and forget
that I am in the presence of a miracle...several miracles daily. Reading your blog really drove that home.
I think of the momentous occasion the birth of my children was to me and my family. At work I attend these deliveries and it's all in a days work. I do try and step outside of my task oriented focus and realize that this a life changing event for this family. I tell you what, watching a big ol' tattooed macho Dad brought to tears is a pretty obvious reminder. Ten years later I still get choked up if the daddy cries.
Thanks for posting this blog. I am happy that you got the experience and I gained some insight for myself at the same time. Love and Hugs Amy

it's me, Val said...

lisa, thanks, darlin'. Yes, I do know what you went through with Maegan. Thank you for the kind words and for being excited for me. xo

missy, Thanks for posting! One day you'll experience it. And I can't wait because that will mean I'll kinda sorta be an auntie again ;)

erin, I made you want to have another baby?! Guess what? It made me want to have another baby, too. But I can't and I won't, but I can't believe that while I was there I told Leann how I'd love for her to doula me through another birth. At least I got to experience it with her this way. And in the next birth also. Just wait till you see these pictures. I'm only 1/2 way done proofing. I can't believe how amazing some of them are. I hadn't looked at them till last night. Will be in touch with you soon! :)

How exciting to get a comment from my favorite Arizonian friend! :) I knew this would be something you'd be interested in just because you see this every day day-in and day-out with your work. But I'm thankful that you are able to see what a miracle it is while in the mist of that hustle and bustle. What a miracle it really truly is. thank you so much for posting! Miss ya and love ya.

it's me, Val said...


lil ole' me..... said...

Val, I have been waiting to hear about this experience!
I love that you had this chance and that you embraced it in the amazing way you did! Before even seeing the pictures, I know that the mom and dad are going to be so thankful that you used your talents to capture their son's birth!!!
I never would have thought to have you shoot pictures of a live birth, but what a cool idea! Who knows, maybe we will be live birth #2 for you?! :) Guess we have to be pregnant first, huh? :)

BTW- glad to have you back in blog world! I missed you and your posts!!!

Jo said...

Val, I am so glad that it went well and that it was such an amazing experience for you. I don't think I could do that, but absolutely know that your pictures were amazing! I can't wait to hear more!