When Stacey and I first spoke about photographing her VBAC birth at Pennsylvania Hospital, she admitted that she had one big hesitation. With her first pregnancy, she had an unplanned c-section after a very long, difficult labor. She was worried that if this birth ended in a repeat c-section she would be so upset that she wouldn’t want any photos of it. My heart went out to her, and I shared my own first birth story with her, how disappointed I was that it hadn’t gone as I’d hoped. It took me several years to process my first birth experience and I truly believe that if I’d had a photographer there, to capture what my birth looked like beyond my own perspective, who was in the room with me, what my husband’s face looked like when our daughter was finally born… I think that it would have helped me process and move on much sooner. I so wanted that for Stacey this time, and told her that no matter how her birth ended, whether in a VBAC or another surgery, that it was still her birth, still the culmination of her hard work. You can imagine how excited and honored I was that she and Brian decided that they did want me to be there to witness and record the beautiful story of their second son coming into the world.
Fast forward a few months, June 27th, the day before Stacey’s estimated due date. I get a text from her around 10pm that she’d been having regular, intense contractions. I checked in with her doula, Heather, who happens to be a mommy-friend of mine from when our first babies were little. Heather works with another doula, and this was her last night on call before her partner was going to take over, so it looked like we were going to get our wish of being at a birth together! I decided to rest (aka lying in bed awake too excited to sleep) until I got word from Heather that they were heading to the hospital, and met them there around 130am. Stacey was laboring like a champ, and stopped to have a contraction right outside the entrance while Brian parked the car. It turned out to be a really busy night on the labor and delivery floor, so we walked the halls for a while waiting for a room to open up. Stacey, Brian and Heather had a beautiful system worked out to get through each contraction.
Once we were in a room, Stacey got hooked up to monitors and kept laboring with her excellent support team. After they broke her water the contractions got really intense, and Stacey powered through them with constant support from Brian, Heather and her L&D nurse. Around 5am she got an epidural and she and Brian took a much needed nap. After that, we all hung out for a while talking about birth and food and music. Stacey had prepared the most amazing, eclectic playlist for her birth, and yes we had a little dance party when Beyonce’s “Run The World” came on!
Finally, right before 9am it was time to push. Stacey was calm and focused, and in between contractions she even sang along to the songs that were playing in the background. Her nurses were incredibly supportive as she slowly pushed her baby down. Stacey admitted to me later that she didn’t believe them when they said she was pushing well, because she had heard the same encouragements during her first labor and her pushing hadn’t been as successful. But Brian and I could see the head making its way down, and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed. The doctors came in to help baby travel his final inches into the world, and at 952am, Ian Everett was earth-side and on his mama’s chest. Heather, Brian and I were all crying, and Stacey was completely overjoyed that she had gotten her VBAC. Brian cut the umbilical cord, and he and Stacey marveled at their beautiful baby boy while the doctors stitched her up. Within the first hour, Ian had already made his first latch and was happily breastfeeding. I stuck around to see him weigh in at 9lbs 3ozs, got a few last photos of the blissful family, and then left them to rest and get some quiet.
It was such an honor to be a member of Stacey’s circle of encouragement and empowerment as she took this journey, and I’m so glad I was there to document her hard work and achievement in getting the birth she dreamed of. I don’t think witnessing the birth of a child will ever get less incredible, the work that a birthing mama does any less amazing, whether it be VBAC or c-section.
If you would like for me to create beautiful photographs of your birth story, please be in touch, I can’t wait to hear from you!