This was photographed and written when my business was called LemonAde Artworks. I made the switch to Adrianne Rodrigues Photography at the end of 2016.
Birth photographers usually tell me that you will never forget your very first birth. They couldn’t be more correct! This birth was so special to me. It was the first I’d attended as an observer. My client was the sweetest, and everything about this birth was special to her. Her last baby, who she planned to name after her late grandmother, Dorothy, her second VBAC (vaginal birth after a cesarian), and hopefully her first pain-meds free birth. I also happened to be 8 weeks pregnant at the time of her birth, which of course makes me emotional just thinking about the beginning and end of pregnancy while also watching a mama go through the trials and joys of labor from the outside for the first time. Another amazing thing I got to experience was seeing a doula work during a labor first hand. I didn’t officially have one during my labor, and I’d never seen one in action. Seeing Kathryn coach Britni through the contractions was such a great experience.
I met Britni through a local Facebook group for babywearing moms in the Ellis County area. Through our online interactions, I’ve seen her share joys and fears as she experienced a miscarriage, and then a full term pregnancy to our group. She had two daughters already, and this baby was her third girl and last ever baby, who she called “Dottie.” She experienced lots of prodromal labor. Waiting for baby is hard enough when you’re not constantly experiencing contractions with no end in sight or very noticeable progress! It’s so rough on a mama.
She had a false alarm on September 7, when she thought her water broke. We all drove up to the hospital, only to find that it hadn’t broken. After walking around the hospital for a bit to get things going, Britni went home to wait for the real show to start.
On September 12, Britni texted me around 3 am to tell me she thought things were really picking up again and that she’d let me know if they decided to head to the hospital. I got another text an hour later saying they were going to leave soon if I wanted to stop by the house to grab a few shots of them leaving. We all finally left around 5 am.
Upon arriving at the hospital, Britni’s body was well on the way towards delivery, but things still felt slow. After weeks of prodromal labor, she wanted to be at the end. Unfortunately, her OB couldn’t be there to deliver, as he’d had a major event he’d been helping organize for the past year.
Much of Britni and Josh’s family visited while she was in labor. They offered what support they could, and were great at helping distract her through her contractions. Of course, once things started getting serious, everyone left to give Britni the privacy she needed to get through her contractions. At one point, a chiropractor was called in to help relieve some of the pain she was experiencing. Brianne Katz of Uprise Chiropractic did some magic and completely eliminated the painful back labor through adjustments to move baby into more optimal positioning.
To get things going a bit faster, Britni chose to use pitocin. A few hours later, when not much had changed, she asked to have her water broken. This usually speeds things up quickly when a mama is already in good active labor.
About thirty minutes later, Kathryn (Britni’s doula) and I noticed Britni going through all the of classic signs of transition. Transition is a point in labor when delivery is near. It is usually incredibly difficult for moms. Britni stopped talking, felt nauseous, got very hot, took her gown off, told us she didn’t think she could make it through. Even with excellent support, transition is still incredibly hard. Birth professionals who are truly observing a mom know that these symptoms are a more reliable indicator that delivery is imminent than most measurements.
Unfortunately for Britni, no nurses were in the room to see all of these symptoms. So when she got her cervix checked, even though baby was in the perfect position, and she was fully effaced, Britni was “still a 6.” These are the exact words the doctor used, and if you know anything about birth, hearing a phrase like that after the difficulty of working through transition is the most defeating thing to hear. Especially when those numbers can be completely meaningless for predicting when baby will actually be delivered.
Because the general timeline doctors use to predict delivery by dilation is 1 cm per hour, all Britni could think was that she still had four hours to go. Feeling defeated about getting her med-free birth, she asked for an epidural. The anesthesiologist arrived within ten minutes and started getting everything ready. When he asked Britni to scoot back on the bed, she tried, but couldn’t. She was feeling lots of pressure from below. She yelled that something was coming out. The anesthesiologist pushed his cart over, looked at me, and said “Let me know what happens,” as he walked out the door. The nurse checked Britni, felt Dottie’s head and yelled for a resident (the doctor assigned to Britni was on another floor, thinking Britni wouldn’t deliver for a while). Suddenly the room was flooded with people. It was very difficult to photograph around everyone, but I got some of the most important delivery shots, thankfully.
Britni had to deliver half standing, half laying on the bed because she had been getting ready to receive her epidural. It was not a great position to deliver in, and resulted in baby getting very slightly stuck on the way out. It was very quick, but the doctors wanted to check the baby out away from Britni. Britni was completely overwhelmed. She couldn’t hold Dottie, and was so concerned for her. Josh stood by his new daughter, and Kathryn held Britni to comfort her. After all of the immediate afterbirth work, about 11 minutes after delivery, Britni finally got to hold her baby. About ten minutes after that, much of the family arrived to meet Dottie, including Britni’s other two daughters and her grandfather, whose late wife Dottie was named for, and Britni started breastfeeding her new baby. This was another experience Britni hoped with all her heart would be successful. It was so beautiful documenting the first moment of Dottie latching and Britni feeding her daughter right after birth.
I don’t think I will normally post such long blog posts about births in the future, but being pregnant has made me so emotional and I’m just so amazed at the way this birth happened. I absolutely believe God meets us in our time of need to give us what’s necessary to make it through. Britni had given up on her dream, but God met her in the moment and delivered Dottie, literally.