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!!
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.