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.
With my bags already packed in preparation for her due date, I got in my car within 5 minutes, and took the very short drive to her house in the wee morning hours. I'm so lucky I live in a very central location in Spokane...everything is convenient for me! I got to watch as the sun greeted the morning sky to create cotton candy colors all above me. Mama was just slipping into the warm pool water when I walked in, and she took a big sigh of relief as she found the bottom..relaxation. Her midwife, who just so happens to also be her dear friend [bonus points], came up beside her in-between surges to check her blood pressure, and baby's heart tones: All were perfect!
Her mother and sister were there to support her, switching in & out of active doula role, squeezing her hips and telling her how awesome she was doing. It was so sweet to watch them mother her so well! One by one...as the minutes ticked by...her kids woke up for the day, and came down to see what all the commotion was about. Just as her first child came down, it was then that she felt that urge take over her...she was pushing. Honestly, you would barely even know she was in labor up until this point, because she was so quiet, but you could watch her physically bear down. I'm telling you...this little guy came popping right out so fast into mom's hands! So beautiful to watch her bring this baby straight up to her chest, cover him up with a towel to stay warm, gently rubbed his back, and begin to talk to him ever-so softly. Although he came out with a slight lack of color [totally normal] and even a slight meconium stain, he pinked-up in less than 5 minutes, with great ease. He was incredibly alert, and just looking around at all the eyes in the room on him. I cannot even begin to express the excitement on all the older sibling's and cousin's faces when they all got to meet the newest addition in the family...all these little hands were reaching his way, and at one point they even started arguing on who got to hold him first! So entirely and purely loved already, at not even 5 minutes old. One of the greatest things to watch during home births is how the older children are incorporated into the birth story, and this birth was so special with all the little people in attendance.
Mama and her amazing midwife, Kayla [from Spokane River Midwives], even got to take a quick "birth selfie" right after he arrived, which made me crack up...why did I not think about doing this with any of my births...? Duh, Natalie! Genius idea!!!
Baby's cord was cut, and he was handed to daddy for some skin-to-skin goodness while mama delivered her placenta (with the help of Iron Man...of course). Then, baby was taken with mom to do their healing herbal bath, and the midwife checked out the placenta. Once done, baby 'K' got weighed/measured by dad right on the bed while mama got tucked in to bed. It was the perfect timing for me to leave this beautiful home birth, just in time to make it to the newborn session I had planned that morning at 10am...! This birth filled my bucket to the brim; Congratulations to this amazing family, so elated for you all.
There truly are not words I can muster up that can fully portray how epically hard this mama worked for this baby boy. We all thought this would be a quick & easy second-time home birth, since her first birth was fairly short, and a "breeze" in comparison to what this 2nd baby would bring. She had this amazing partner by her side the entire time, who not only supported her throughout labor physically, but cooked a full breakfast for the whole crew without even asking! I mean, talk about setting the bar high.
Mama armed herself with a badass birth team that included the two incredible women of HazelTree Midwifery, as well as their wonderful birth doula, Michelle. The support of this team was really awe-inspiring to watch over so many hours (I truly cannot wait to work with them again). She had to obviously focus through each contraction when I arrived, but in-between, we were enjoying conversation, good food, and lots of laughs. I followed them as they took a stroll through their neighborhood, which was an Autumn wonderland during this time of year in Northern Idaho!! Oh my goodness, I was so in love with watching them sway, walking hand-in-hand, over the river and through the woods together [literally].
On our way back over the bridge heading home, that shift happened; She was no longer laughing and chatting in between contractions. We knew it was time to get home, as the surges were coming harder, and closer together. After numerous stops to breathe and a few double hip squeezes, we finally made it home. Emotions overwhelmed mama, and tears started flowing. This was much harder, and much longer than her previous birth...it wasn't what she was expecting, and she wanted to meet her baby. She wanted to be done. As she cried into her husband's chest, her doula gently stepped in to let her know that she was safe, and surrounded by everyone that loves her, and supports her. Their doula encouraged mama to seek relief in the birth pool the midwives had setup while they were away, and so she did.
She sunk down deep into the water, and you could really tell that baby was low by her sacral doming (rhomboid of michaelis), which is an indicator of the second stage of labor (cervix fully dilated, and delivery of baby happens during this stage). We really thought baby would come at any minute...but then contractions slowed down, a lot. Baby was loving it in the womb, heart tones were fantastic, but mama's body (and uterus) was tired. Midwives decided to get mom out of the birth pool, and get her into the miles circuit positions. They even massaged her belly to kick-start more contractions so that she could push baby out effectively (since she was fully dilated and fully effaced). This team tried literally all the positions to get baby underneath her pubic bone, and out to greet us, and they turned to the trusty birth stool. Mom was told to push with everything she had...
This woman dug deep down...further than I think she ever even imagined was possible...and she pushed with every ounce her body would allow her in that moment. His head came out!...his head was out!! The midwife unwrapped a cord from his neck, and with another less-mighty push, his body was out and up on mom's chest. Sweet, sweet surrender...
Well, NO WONDER her delivery was so hard: Baby boy was super malpositioned! Not only was he presenting Posterior (face-up), but asynclitic as well (head shifted slightly to one side, chin not tucked down). You can tell by the crowning area on his head in pictures shown. This little baby was just trying to come out in his own unique fashion...but oh man, poor mom. She crawled onto the floor in order to deliver the placenta, all while breathing in that sweet, amazing newborn smell. As she lie into bed for the first nursing session, she soaked in the afternoon sun that peeked through their bedroom window. The mood had shifted in this small house, from tense and tired, to calm and euphoric, in the blink of an eye. The birth of baby W was one of the hardest labors I have attended in the last 7 years, but one that will empower me as a birth worker, and one that I will remember, forever. This mother's strength and persistence, the team's tender support and caution during a stressful situation, the father's unwavering support throughout everything...absolute magic to witness. I hope you enjoy reliving this story moments with me:
Baby Avalanche, First-Time Mama and her Peaceful Home Water Birth - Spokane, Washington Birth Photographer and Doula
Cool, calm, and collected: this first-time mama listened to her body, she trusted her birth team (the amazing Spokane River Midwives) and released all the positive energy into her space to have this incredibly empowering first delivery. This couple worked effortlessly together through the day to bring their surprise gender baby into the world, and I could not be more proud in how strong this mother was.
As their Doula, I helped this mama change positions, make sure she (and dad) ate and drank properly during labor, showed her husband counter-pressure measures to help soothe her hips during contractions, and made sure everyone stayed focused in the moment. She walked, talked, laughed, ate, and enjoyed labor around her house, even spent some time outdoors. As labor picked up quickly, the birth pool was filled with warm water, the lights went low, diffuser went on, and all was calm.
Side Note: OMG how cute is their dog?? She was by mama's side whenever she had the opportunity, until she was eventually kicked out of the tiny bedroom when things picked up. She was melting my heart!! I could really tell that mama enjoyed having her there for comfort; she made her really feel at home, not physically, but emotionally. Perks of a home birth, eh?
Mom and dad labored so gracefully in the tub, like they had done this before. They swayed and they grunted, "uuuuuuuhh", and then this tiny little human rippled to the surface of the pool, right into dad's hands. Mom brought baby to her chest, then says aloud so peacefully "honey, it's a girl!". Big sister cried out for joy (as you can see), dad got a weak chin, and tears started flowing. Baby "Avalanche" was finally here; a gorgeous, healthy baby girl!!
Vitals were checked on baby in mom's arms, or at her feet. This new mother gave her hours-old baby her very first chiropractic adjustment, which was so beautiful to watch! Both mom and baby were tucked into bed with a nutritious meal, ready to start the day as a new family. This was a truly incredible birth to witness: physiological birth at its' finest.
Are you interested in having your birth story documented, or in having extra support during labor? Feel free to reach out to me anytime for your complimentary in-person consult! You can also browse my portfolio to see more of my work and what I offer.
This brain-child of mine has been a long time coming, but the details just needed to fall into place, and it seems like 2019 will be that year...! I am thrilled to announce a new Doula option for clients: Digital Doula. This is non-physical support both during and after delivery, as well as a birth educator to help guide you through this new journey without being present in the birth space, with 24/7 phone support via text/calls/FaceTime. I am now accepting 2019 Birth clients, and would love to sit down to talk with you more about this option for your family.
Are you ready for Winter Wonderland photos for your maternity or family session...? Then you better be ready to get really excited, because the season of snow is finally upon us!!
Winter Sessions are available in the beautiful PNW outdoors during one of our many gorgeous snow falls, or feel free to keep your buns warm inside my little cozy Spokane Valley studio. I have fairly limited availability for the Winter months, and would love to schedule something with you soon...! You are welcome to click the image below for a special little Maternity discount:
It was such a pleasure attending this home birth of fellow newborn photographer, Noelle Joy. The support she had was incredible between her partner and her midwives [Spokane River Midwives], her birth space was seriously so gorgeous (I'm super pea-green with envy), and her fifth baby, her first BOY, was born peacefully at home.
I have been doing birth videography now for a year or so, but really just now starting to get clients that are comfortable with me sharing their full story. So, a huge thank you to this family for allowing me to share this beautiful moment in your lives...!
*This is a beautiful birth video, & includes adult words. Viewer discretion advised.*
Strong, courageous, and level-headed: This woman was every sense of the meaning, "birth warrior". The waves crashed over her for hours, and she rode them with so much grace. With her husband on one hand, her birth doula on the other, her team of midwives all around, and all of her loved ones watching, waiting...she gave birth at home, in water.
I had the extreme honor of photographing her previous labor & delivery, which was an incredible surrogate birth at Kootenai County Medical Center. In this all-video film you will see how amazingly she listened to and trusted her body, and amazingly roared her baby Earthside. I see so many women get into this primal state as they deliver their babies, and this mom was no different. She growled, grit her teeth, and let her body take over to push her baby girl out. This process is always so awe-inspiring, and simply never gets old! A huge shout out to this mom's partner and husband, who was there by her side through every single second of this labor...to Julie Denlinger as the most amazing space-holder and hip squeezer I have ever seen...and to the amazing team at Spokane River Midwives for the most calm, collected presence you bring to each and every birth.
I was called to this home by mom's doula on May 22nd, at 12:26pm. I happened to be at the new Birth Center in Post Falls taking pictures for them when we got the text, and so we finished up and headed out all together. I had my own 3 month old baby with me, so I dropped him back off at home with daddy, and made my way to this mom's house. This woman was obviously very focused during contractions, but still laughing in between contractions, which was such an uplifting environment to walk into and begin documenting.
With BirthTube recording in the background for over 1,000 viewers across the world, she gave birth to the most beautiful, calm little girl. She was so quiet even, that the midwives seemed a little concerned for a bit...but nothing to worry about! She was simply born into a calm environment, and needed a tiny bit of assistance to give us a good cry. The midwives did an AMAZING job at staying calm in what could have been a scary situation to others who don't know what all the variations of normal birth look like. Baby's color turned pink so quick, she gripped on tight to the midwives' finger as she laid skin-to-skin on mom's chest, and looked around at everyone watching her, in total awe of her new journey. All the newborn checks were done while the baby was still with mom, and her cord not cut until mom was resting in her fresh clean bed. This mama's doula brought her a plate of food, a big drink of electrolyte water, and was left to nurse and bond with baby. After the placenta was safely delivered, baby was weighed and measured on their bed, all while their birth team cleaned up the delivery area...then one-by-one, everyone left the house with a full heart for this family.
Welcome to the World, baby E! Your family is truly amazing, and I can't wait to watch you grow up big, strong, and brave...just like your badass mama. ;)
This is one mini series that I am elated to put on every year, and this year is even MORE exciting: I am adding video to each session! This video will not only include all the still portraits from our session together, but short video clips to fully capture and document the relationship between you and your little ones. Sessions will be scheduled on a one-on-one basis and include:
Natalie Bee is a Birth Photographer and Doula, a mother of four wildlings, and coffee junkie. She captures the beauty of motherhood and birth through a passionate photojournalist approach.