This is the 2nd birth I have documented for this incredible family, and what an honor it was to be invited back into this space again (you can check out her previous birth story here); Noelle is so near and dear to my heart, as are all her sweet babes!! Snag a tissue and watch her full birth film while you're here (you will not want to miss this one...I promise).
This incredible woman is the face of Caring Coconut, and makes some seriously incredible natural skincare products from healing salve to soaps, serums to lotions...she makes it all by hand (and heart). Check out her website and support a Spokane small business: www.caringcoconut.com
Take your business to a whole new level with a custom logo and product design, handmade labels, jazzed-up WEBSITE, and headshots with personality! Now offering 'Brand REVITALIZING sessions' for all those small businesses in the Spokane area.
Feel free to contact me for more info.
"My birth didn’t go as planned, obviously...
It didn’t go as planned from the very beginning though. Colin and I went back and forth for two years if we wanted to add a third baby to our family, and we finally decided our hearts were calling us for one more little one to add to our family.
When we found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted a home birth and that I wanted Natalie to photograph it. I messaged her immediately because I know she books out sometimes before people are even pregnant! I was only about 5 or 5.5 weeks along.
Then BAM. We were told it was twins around 6.5 weeks. And we were scared and shocked and excited all at the same time. I knew it would be harder to have the birth I envisioned, even in a twin pregnancy with no complications.
This pregnancy was supposed to be my last and it was the one I had hoped would “heal” my previous two that had their own set of emotional complications.
But it was anything but healing. It was the opposite actually.
I had my subchorionic hematomas that scared me away from my home birth plan. I prayed for weeks that my babies would survive and I wouldn’t lose them. I felt guilt because I thought maybe the hematomas were my fault for not being over the moon about twins at first.
We had scares about Sutton and the brain cysts and kidney issues they found that could be completely normal, or trisomy 18.
We had worries about Grayson’s velamentous cord insertion and whether or not I’d be able to have the delivery I wanted due to his variation of normal, cord insertion.
I struggled with so much physical pain and emotional trauma from all of that. And then we added the pandemic to the mix and it was just more than I could handle.
I prayed from 32 weeks that I’d carry to 36 weeks and I could birth MY babies MY way with a supportive birth team in the comfort of my own home with who ever I wanted.
But my water broke at 35+2 and I will never forget that feeling of disappointment in myself. That I couldn’t do it. I didn’t make it those few extra days and I failed my babies and myself. But I had no choice in the matter and I had to accept it for what it was and we loaded our stuff in the car not knowing it would only get worse.
The labor was actually pleasant, up until I was ready to push. And I was wheeled down the hall to the OR, and had LITERALLY 20+ strangers in a tiny room with me. Bright lights, and people frantically running in and out, equipment flying in while in the middle of trying to birth my babies.
Sutton came fast and furious. She was beautiful, and her birth was like my other two, pretty uneventful.
Grayson was breech.
Because we were in a hospital I was lucky they even let me deliver him breech, but it was not with out risk. I was given a split second choice of emergency c-section or breech extraction when he flipped after his sister was born. I opted for the extraction. He came footling breech, pulled out, with his arm stuck up behind his head. I’ll never forget how he looked. It’s permanently engraved in my memory of the most horrifying experience and longest 5 minutes of my my life before he was finally breathing again.
And before I knew it, it was all over and my babies and husband were gone and I was in a room alone, not even knowing when I’d see them or hold them.
They did 13 long days in the NICU that broke me. There were a few times early on I refused to go to the feedings because I didn’t want to see them because when it was time to leave it felt like I was going to die. Literally. It was a pain I will never forget. Imagine the worst heartbreak you’ve ever felt and then multiply that by infinity and you might get semi close.
I questioned if they knew who I was. If we would ever bond. If I would have with them what I have with my older two. I still question those things. And I probably always will.
But today, Natalie came over and so did my midwives who would have been the ones to catch them. And they gave me the “birth” myself and Sutton & Grayson deserved. And quite honestly that Colin and Summer and Tayvin deserved.
They helped me set up my birth pool, and they brewed an herbal bath, and we did everything in the order our birth would have happened.
Me in the pool, me and Sutton, me Sutton and Grayson. We got beautiful pictures of me and them. And we got to include my big kids who missed out on so much with their babies. And then we did the weight and the length and their little footprints and all those moments that count.
And it may not have captured the very moment they were born, but it captured what it SHOULD have been. And it showed me how beautiful my birth would have been if it had gone to plan, and it showed me how beautiful this re-birth was.
I cried and I smiled and I felt all the feels. I had the support of two incredible midwives, a phenomenal photographer, and my three favorite people, Summer, Tayvin, and Colin.
I think we are on our way to healing and really feeling the grief and being able to start focusing on the good, and less of the bad.
These babies and this experience has lit a fire in me for birth and giving birthing mothers the rights and experience we all deserve. I always knew I had that desire, but it’s in a full blaze now.
Welcome to the world, Sutton and Grayson. There’s not a thing in this world that I wouldn’t do for you two."
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers-so many caring people in this world.” ― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember
It has taken me some time to find the right words for THIS uncertain and emotional time iN all of our lives right now. many OF US are struggling in this moment; emotionally, FINANCIALLY physically. we have to come together as a community now more than ever before, and help. with hospital policies rapidly changing in the birth community, it creates an unease, specifically for pregnant individuals. that is why I am here now, as an educated and experienced birth doula and mother of four, to help in any way I possible can for my community: digital doula, virtual birth support.
I am providing digital doula services for anyone who feels they need the extra support during this time; This includes 24/7 phone support via call, text, and FACETIAE availability throughout labor and postpartum. even if I cannot be there for you physically, I am still able to provide education for you (and your partner), an amazing referral list for other support businesses during this time, as well as a custom phone app to obtain key knowledge on labor and birthing positions, POSTPARTUM tips, and so much more!
please do not hesitate to reach out to me for anything I can help with:
You asked, I ANSWERED...the referral program is back in action, and better than ever!
HOW TO WORKS:
"I want the moon to swoon
and raise the tides
when he looks for the sun,
it’s my beauty that he finds."
tURPENTINE - Jerrey
I followed the moaning after arriving to their house in the wee morning hours, and found mama laboring in the bathtub with her husband applying that oh-so-nice lower back counter-pressure; she was obviously very close to delivering, as I have been blessed to attend her previous home birth 3 years ago.
Her knees started hurting in the pool, and she really needed to get into a different position. To the bed, we went! As soon as her hands hit that bed, another wave came crashing over her. This time, it one of the amazing midwives, Eva Sample, who was there to comfort her through it. When it washed through her, they moved her into a comfortable position on the bed to check for fetal heart tones, and ran to wake up their eldest child so she could be present for the delivery. Mama started pushing, and the tip of baby's hair could all of the sudden be seen! Her midwife, Margaret Lipton, says in the sweetest voice, "would you like to feel your baby's head...?", and she helped mama reach down to feel the squishy, silky-soft head emerging. In such an incredibly controlled moment, this amazing woman panted, and pushed, and out came the baby's entire head.
They waited for another contraction, and as the next one started climbing, she pushed one final time to greet her baby GIRL with a joyous smile and a loving "hi baby!!".
Amazement and pure awe were the looks on daddy's and big sister's face; Needless to say, big sister was OVER THE MOON to have a baby sister after 2 baby brothers. You couldn't have wiped that smile off her face if you tried, she was just so happy to witness her strong mom birth this perfect baby sister. Not long after she was born, the sun started rising over the mountains casting a soft pink/orange glow throughout the Spokane Valley, and it just seemed so fitting in that moment. Mama was lying on the bed in silence, nursing her baby girl for the first time, flush in bright pink morning light.
Breastfeeding Mini Session Fundraiser for Spokane's La Leche League Chapter - Spokane, Washington Birth Photographer and Doula
I am thrilled to be joining the local La Leche League chapter to help raise funds for their amazing organization that helps so many women, and we hope that you can make it on April 27th!
10 minute session | 3 digital images | bonus LLL membership - only $45
(please click the image below for the event link and booking details)
An IVF/Rainbow Baby + Home Birth into Transfer Journey - Spokane, Washington Birth Photographer and Doula
As a birth worker, I think one of the more fascinating things to me is the unique journey everyone experiences when becoming a parent. The process of getting pregnant plays a HUGE role in an individual/family's story, and this family in particular has an incredible story of loss, endurance, strength, and an epic kind of love...
This mama contacted me about documenting her home birth early on, but wanted to be honest & open about her great anxiety about everything leading up to the big day. They had suffered a previous loss, and then tried so hard to get pregnant on their own, without success; they decided to go down the emotional path that is IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) in order to conceive this very special surprise-gender Rainbow Baby, and this mama wanted their incredibly special story to be remembered forever through imagery and film, as well as shared with others who may have experienced [and will experience in the future] something similar. The images she showed me proves what an emotional rollercoaster it is for these families to deal with infertility, and brought so many tears to my eyes the moment I set eyes on them...and this was only a mere blip of what they went through:
At the very end of Summer, during the crazy smoke season we have in the Inland Northwest, we all drove to the top of Mt. Spokane to photograph their stunning maternity session. I feel in my bones that this was the perfect session for them, and I'm happy that our vision was able to come to life with incorporating the rainbow flare.
Mama went nearly 2 weeks past her due date with her two previous babies, so when I got the "Today is baby day" text, I made myself ready and available for any moment that she needed me...but this surprise gender Baby had other plans, and really just wanted to stay warm inside mama for a little longer. It was hard being patient, but at least they had a sense of humor about it all (obviously, by the texts she was sending me):
When the next series of texts came in, they weren't quite as elaborate, and didn't have the spunky sense of humor behind it like before...just a simple "I'm ready" at 1:30am. Thankfully I lived only a couple minutes away, but it truly felt like mere seconds and I was at her doorstep and letting myself in; I entered their beautiful bedroom, and noticed the meticulousness of her birth space: candles burning, essential oils diffusing, a beautiful metal tub covered in christmas lights with birth affirmation cards hanging above it, and all the new baby's outfits/diapers/wipes set out on their bedside co-sleeper. So much love was put into this entire journey, even in the last moments of pregnancy.
Mama & baby were getting checked out by her midwife, the lovely Margaret Lipton, when I arrived. As each surge came and went, she breathed through them, and focused so well on each contraction. Her husband was by her side holding her hand, telling her what an great job she was doing, and making sure she felt safe. Not long after I arrived, their doula [Miri] came to support them as well. Both mom and dad wanted to finally get in their birth pool, so the doula fetched the pots of boiling water from downstairs, and gently whisked the hot water into the cooler water of the pool until it was just perfect for them to relax and enjoy this final stage of labor...
They hadn't spent much time in the birth pool, before she realized how much the water was slowing down the timing in between contractions, and just felt like she needed to get out and move around again. The instant she stepped outside of the tub, another contraction started. Just a few steps to the bathroom: another one. Things were picking up when she was upright, and using gravity to benefit the process. She spent a few contractions on the toilet, not sure whether to get up and move around, or settle in there for awhile. Once she got a small break, she came back into the bedroom to lay down on her bed again. The midwives checked baby's heart tones, and her blood pressure: signs were showing how hard they were both working for this, but all was still great!
Just then, her kids could be heard waking up for the morning, and coming down the hallway into the bedroom to greet us. They both peeked their littles faces in, and giggled, as all eyes were on them. They came in, and threw their arms around mom's neck; you could see mom instantly relax after being able to hug them so tight. She is hoping this is the motivation she needs to get beyond this point, and push her baby out. At this point, she had been laboring basically all night long, and was around 7-8cm dilated for a few hours.
"This is so hard, you guys, I just can't do this anymore...I'm so tired, and feel like I'm not pushing effectively."
The midwives ran her a warm bath, and told her to go relax as much as possible for as long as possible, alone. We all stepped away, gave her the space she very much needed, allowing the process to unfold naturally. When she got out of the bath about an hour later, she was rested, and ready to start pushing once again.
With the help from her birth team, she got into practically every position possible to push her baby out with all her might. Her Doula even wrapped a rebozo around her hips for counter-support, got her to squat down low, side-lying on the bed: you name it, they tried it!! Another hour went by, and mama was squatting next to the bed, her head lay gently in her husband's lap, exhausted and frustrated. The midwives checked on progress just then: baby's head was not coming down like the midwife had hoped it would have by now, and baby's heart tones were dipping lower than she felt comfortable with. She suspected a cord wrapped around the neck, or more likely a mal-positioned baby, or both? We would know soon, because it was time to talk about her plan B: Hospital transfer.
She was worn out, had endured so much pain up until this point, and was very ready to meet her baby, but she truly did not want to transfer to the hospital. However, this mama also knew she couldn't go on like this much longer, and that baby's safety was her number one priority above all...so, her midwife gave her another couple contractions while checking heart tones just to give her another chance to just push this babe out; they dipped once again. It was then that everyone went into GO-MODE and packed up all the family's bags, and quietly went downstairs to head out. Mama gave her midwife a tear-filled hug that felt like it lasted for 5 minutes. I could tell she felt defeated, and scared. She didn't realize in that moment, of course, what a huge accomplishment she already had made so far, and how absolutely hard she fought for what she wanted. This woman was a true warrior, in every single sense of the word!!
We arrived to Deaconess hospital: they were waiting for us with a wheelchair since the midwife had called ahead to let them know we were coming in. They took her up while I frantically found a parking spot, which felt like it took forever and a day! Meanwhile...her I.V. and epidural were placed, and things were just settling in when I walked into the L&D room. Once the hospital staff left to chart, her tears started flowing. I could feel her pain in my bones...
Once she was fully numb from the epidural, they prepared her to start pushing again while baby continued to be monitored. Sure enough, as soon as baby started coming down, we knew why this baby wasn't coming out: Baby was Posterior AND Asynclitic, meaning it was presenting face-up, with it's head tilted to one side. Baby was stuck in her pelvis, and the doctor had to manually tuck baby's chin down. With a loud "pop!", like a soda being opened, the doctor was able to get the baby unstuck out of it's sideways positioning, and into a better posterior spot for delivery. With one more huge mighty push, out came the face! She did it, mama pushed this complete OP baby out vaginally!! If you have birthed a mal-positioned baby, you understand and most likely empathize with what this mama went through to finally meet HIM. Yes, a beautiful baby boy...!!
He needed a little assistance on the warmer away from mama as soon as he was born, to clear his airways, but daddy was there every step of the way. Baby boy held onto daddy's finger while getting checked over, and he made sure baby knew everything was going to be okay, and how beautiful he was! It was the first father/son bonding moment in this little human's life, at not even 2 minutes old, and it was incredible to witness. He was soon brought to mama for some skin-to-skin, and she immediately clung to him, wept, then kissed her husband with so much joy on both their faces. The emotion that washed over everyone, there are truly no words to describe how it felt...but it felt heavy and light at the same time. I guess it just doesn't make sense until you're in that moment, you know? Pictures never even do it justice.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to capture video at Deaconess due to hospital policy, but I asked mama if she wanted me to come back to get some video and images of her and baby boy in her birth tub, at home, like they had originally planned...and she thought that might help heal her heart a bit after this whole home-birth-turned-hospital-transfer experience. I came back just a couple days after baby boy arrived Earthside, and was able to capture them all snuggling together, newborn nursing, and them enjoying a warm bath together. It was so lovely watching them connect as a new family unit, and love on this tiny human so much. What a beautiful, BRIGHT Rainbow he has been for this amazing family.
Welcome to this World, sweet baby K!!
I had an absolutely beautiful, crisp Autumn drive to Coeur d'Alene, blasting my pre-birth music, and walked into their home first thing that morning. One of her adorable daughters let me know they were upstairs in the bedroom, and so I crept upstair to find mama laboring so perfectly in her bed (like she promised in her text lol). It seemed like only a few moments after that the midwives walked in to check on her and the baby: everyone was perfect! Mama knew she would be meeting her baby soon, but this labor felt...different.
Their bedroom was setup in these warm earth-tones, a macrame bassinet hanging from the ceiling with a perfectly picked "staying home" outfit with baby's name. There were ultrasound images of their baby resting on their bedside, candles lit, and birth affirmations surrounding her; an absolutely stunning birth space to labor in, swoon-worthy even.
I remember how peaceful and quiet everything was for most of her labor. Even during a contraction, she was so focused and barely made a sound...but what I remember even more vividly, is the moment she finally spoke and said, "I don't remember it being this hard, it shouldn't be taking this long. He should have been here by now...". Just then, one of her [four] daughters walked in to check on mommy. I could tell that she needed her girls, and welcomed her daughter with a big hug. The midwife asked her if she wanted to help check for baby's heart tones, and that little girl's face LIT UP like fireworks on 4th of July! Grinning from ear-to-ear, she listened to the "thump thump thump thump" of the baby's perfect heart rate. She gave mom one last big hug, and went back into her bedroom where grandma was reading stories to all her sisters.
The mood shifted the moment that door closed, as mom focused back in, and felt her body overcome with the feeling to PUUUUUUUUUSH! Her water broke. She instantly became uncomfortable in the water, and was carefully helped out of the pool by her partner and the midwives, down to the bedroom floor where she lay across a gorgeous sheepskin rug.
She felt sick.
She wanted to give up.
She so desperately wanted to meet her baby...
Fetal ejection reflex took over, and everyone jumped into position: baby was starting to crown! With a deep but gentle push, his head slid out. We waited for mom to have another contraction for his body to be born, and he gave us a little blink before one more mighty push, and he was out into dad's hands, and up on mom's chest. He gave us a really good lung-clearing scream, and the look on both of the parent's faces were priceless: PURE JOY!
Daddy was able to cut the cord right after the placenta was delivered, and the midwives poured a warm herbal bath into the steel tub she had labored in. Mom crawled in to enjoy the soothing herbs, and the hot water against her tired body. Dad snuggled on baby while mama relaxed for a few moments as the water cooled down, and then baby joined her in the herbs. What a beautiful moment we were all able to witness as they both looked him over, admiring their brand new human they had created so beautifully together. Once done with their herbal bath, mom and baby got comfy in bed, nursed for awhile, and ate a hearty postpartum meal prepared by her very own mama; What a glorious Golden Hour.
This just so happened to be Kayla's [from Spokane River Midwives] final catch to be fully certified as a Washington state-licensed midwife; it was an incredible honor being able to witness that monumental occasion, and capture it!! Congratulations, Kayla...you're one badass baby catcher. I cannot wait to share more birth space with you in the near future!!
Worth mentioning: baby J had a True Knot in his umbilical cord. He had amazing color right after birth, as well as a great APGAR score, with no issues with breathing after delivery. These are stereotypically shown as a huge issue, even deadly, but definitely not in all cases, here is a great video for you to check out on how well it slid up and down.
Natalie Bee is a Spokane, Washington-based Birth Doula and Photographer, a mother of four willings, and a PNW native.