Motherhood is Beautiful- Loving My Mom Body

When I first saw this family photo it was a small thumbnail in our gallery of birth photography images, and I loved it. It was a lovely real life moment of our family. Something I’ve never had captured before. Even though the moment is so beautiful I almost didn’t share it with anyone.

birth photography | Smithsquad.com | meeting baby number eight | all natural hospital birth
Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

When I made the image large the first thing I thought was “wow, I look fat! No makeup, messy hair, and I’m in my pajamas. I don’t think everyone needs to see me that way.” I even considered for a moment whether I could possibly liquefy myself a bit smaller in Photoshop. Then I stopped. “What on earth is wrong with me?!?! This is less than 24 hours after giving birth to my eighth child. I can’t believe that I am being so hard on myself! I’m Super Womb-an.”

I now believe that this image is even more beautiful because of my appearance. This is a body that has carried and fed eight little humans. This is a body that has given birth naturally eight times. This is a body that has been pregnant, nursing, or both for the last nine years. This is the body that allows me to read, play, and laugh with my children. This is the body that cooks, cleans, teaches, and so much more. This is the body that my husband loves. Most importantly my body is an amazing temple of God and I need to show it more respect.

I am beautiful. My body is amazing. I will share this image with pride knowing that it is a truly beautiful moment that my children and their children can treasure for generations.

motherhood is beautiful| smithsquad.com | love your mom body | Exist in photographs
Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

Mom’s please love yourselves. Love your bodies for the amazing things that they do. Don’t hide from the camera or hide away the photos because you are ashamed. There is no shame in motherhood. You are beautiful even with 20 extra pounds, no make-up and messy hair. Motherhood is beautiful in every shape and size. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate it. Show your children the beauty that created them. Give them something to treasure for the rest of their lives. Exist in photographs, it is the best gift you can give after giving them life.

I would love to document these moments for you. Whether it’s a birth, newborn, or family life session I promise you we will walk away with a treasured memory. Contact me for more information.

Have you ever had a photo of yourself that you judged too harshly? What amazing things has your mom body done? I’d love to see your favorite documentary images of yourself! Share links in the comments so I can check them out. 

Why I Hired a Birth Photographer

When I had my first child the idea of photographing the occasion never even entered my mind. I don’t think I had ever heard of a birth photographer at that point. I didn’t own a camera and this was before the days of decent quality cell phone cameras. I do not have one single picture of him in the hospital. By the time baby number two made her appearance 5 years later Cameron at least managed to get a few cell phone photos. They are tiny and bad quality, but at least I have a few images of her sweet little face.

Each subsequent child has been the same. I few photos taken in the hospital after birth by Daddy. Maybe 1-2 of me holding the baby looking awful. All of them poor quality. As much as dad tries he just isn’t a photographer. His composition often leaves much to be desired, and the auto setting on the camera can’t capture the moment in the way that I want to see it.

Then with baby #6, and my first homebirth, we didn’t get one single picture on the day of his birth. After almost two hours of start and stop labor when he decided to come it was fast, and neither one of us even thought about picking up a camera! The first pictures I have of Jack are the next day when we were visiting with Grandpa and Grandma. I am so angry at myself!

I was determined not to let that happen with the next baby. When I was in labor with Wally I got out my camera, set all the settings where I wanted them, and placed it on the counter. We were not going to forget again! Cameron snapped a few pictures of me in labor and after he delivered the baby he grabbed the camera and snapped a few more. I LOVE those pictures. Seeing myself in those precious moments is such an amazing gift, but like The Little Mermaid “I want more!”

With my most recent birth I determined that I was going to have a birth photographer. I was incredibly fortunate to find Elsa Shaw, a wonderful photographer and person. We met before hand and really clicked. When I was in labor I called her up and she rushed right on over. Unfortunately Miss Hannah decided that she was quite eager to enter the world and arrived just a few minutes before Elsa did. Elsa still got some amazing photos of those precious moments right after birth. Since she wasn’t there very long that night she offered to come back the next day when the siblings came to meet baby. I have NEVER had any pictures with the entire family in them meeting the baby. There has always been a parent or older child missing from them because someone has to hold the camera.

These photographs are completely priceless to me. They show me my own strength. They tell Hannah the story of her amazing birth. They remind me of the nobility in motherhood. They tell a story to others about the value of motherhood. They will exist long after I am gone to remind Hannah and her children that they are part of a family that loves them dearly.

Thank you Elsa! You have given me the most amazing gift that I have ever received by documenting these moments for me.

Birth Story #8-Fastest Labor Yet

My labors always tend to be pretty fast and intense, but this birth story takes the cake for fastest one yet!

Hannah's Birth story- All natural hospital birth with baby #8 | SmithSquad.com | My fastest labor yet!

On Saturday night we went to a friends house for dinner. These were the friends that had volunteered to take our kids when we went to the hospital. I had been having contractions for about two days, but they were only 2-3 in an hour and not very intense. While at their house they got a bit stronger, but not any more often. At about 9 o’clock we packed the kids up and headed home. Cameron had met me there after work, so we each had our own car.

Not quite sure why, but getting in the car triggered something. Contractions immediately were strong and frequent. I pulled up my contraction timer app on my phone and they were timing at every 2.5-3.5 minutes. I got home before Cameron, he had to stop to get gas, and told the kids to go get dressed in their Sunday clothes. (Check out my post in Calming the Sunday Morning Chaos if that sounds totally weird to you) when Cam walked in the door I asked him to call our friends and tell them we were coming back with kids. “Now?” “Yes, NOW!”

We loaded the kids back in the car and drove over to drop them off. By this time contractions were getting hard to breathe through, especially while sitting buckled in the car! As Cameron unloaded kids I stood up and leaned over the front seat to make them a bit more manageable. I also retrieved my Serenity and Clary Sage essential oils from my bag which for some reason I thought should be placed in the very back of the van.

We got back in the car to drive the additional 20 minutes to the hospital. It was really killing me to not be able to use my typical pain management techniques of walking, rocking on the birth ball, and hot water. I was NOT handling the pain well at all and was even having a hard time reminding myself to breathe. You would think that being my eighth baby I’d be a pro, but it’s new each time and for some reason I just could not get myself into a good headspace this time.

We arrived at the hospital shortly before 11 and went to the desk. They immediately got me a wheelchair and printed up my forms. At this point I was hitting transition, they had Cameron sign the forms and quickly got me into labor and delivery. The nurses told me later that as I was rolled past their desk I looked calm so they thought I had a few hours. “Then we heard you and came running!”

As I was wheeled into the room I stood up to the edge of the bed and loudly said “Cameron she’s coming NOW!” Thankfully one thing I AM a pro at is letting my body take over when it comes to the point of pushing. I managed to get myself onto the bed for hands and knees, my favorite pushing position, as the nurses ran into the room. She was already crowning and I was still dressed! Cameron took care of the clothes as the nurses caught the head. Two good pushes and Hannah arrived at 11:07 pm.

At that point I mentally checked out. Everything had happened so fast and I hadn’t really been in control the way I had in the past. My brain just had to shut down for a few minutes. Within a few minutes of baby arriving the birth photographer got there. unfortunately she missed the big show, but she got some beautiful shots of the moments right after birth.

Natural birth story, baby #8 | SmithSquad.com | natural hospital birth | Fast labor | Mother and father bond over new baby
Yep, we made that! Photo courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

The on call doctor came in at that point, because my midwife was in the middle of delivering another baby, to deliver the placenta and check us all out. I found out later that the baby my midwife was delivering was also born at exactly 11:07. She said that had never happened to her before! One thing I absolutely LOVED about Athens Regional Hospital was that they have a policy of immediate skin to skin for a minimum of one hour. We ended up snuggling for over two hours before being separated for just a few moments so that I could clean up and be moved to the mother baby unit. They respected my wish for no first bath and took us both to the new room together, no nursery visit needed. The nursery nurse came to our room to do her assessments and Hannah never had to leave my side.

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times I do this every story is completely different. Birth is such an amazing and powerful experience. It literally just took me over this time. I am incredibly grateful that my experience allowed me to just fully surrender my body to the process and let nature do its job. No tearing, no trauma, and a beautiful perfect baby as a reward. What could possibly be better?

Peace baby | SmithSquad | natural hospital birth | Athens Regional Hospital | newborn baby gives peace sign
She’s already a cool cat. Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography.

If you’d like to read my other birth stories they are all on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 6

Baby 7

Have you written out your birth stories? I’d love to read them. Drop a link in the comments!

Natural Birth- My Story and Favorite Resources

Why and How I Chose Natural Birth

If you’ve read any of my birth stories you know that I am a huge fan of drug free birth whenever possible. When I was pregnant with my first my mother told me a little about her birth experiences. She had an epidural with the first five kids and then was all natural for the 6th. She told me that if she could go back she would do them all without. Now this isn’t because she had super hero syndrome, as some people like to say those of us who choose natural birth do, it was because with the comparison of both ways behind her she could see the advantages of a medication free birth.

How and Why I chose Natural Birth and some of my favorite resources to prepare for and manage the pain | SmithSquad.com

When I had my first I hadn’t decided what I was going to do, but I had the discussion with my mother in the back of my mind. When they asked me if I wanted an epidural I thought about that giant needle in my back (shudder) and my mother’s words and said no thanks. I did, however accept their offer for IV narcotics. I had the IV meds with each of my first three babies. In all three they did nothing to relieve the pain, they just made me loopy and silly so that I didn’t care.

With baby #4 I was determined not to cave to those IV meds again, I didn’t like the way they separated me from the experience. It was almost as if I was watching someone else do the work of bringing a baby to earth. I also didn’t like the way they affected my second baby when they were administered too close to when she was born. They made her very sleepy and she refused to eat causing her to lose way too much weight in the first few days. This is also when I first started doing research in to how to have a pleasant natural birth and why anyone would want one to begin with. I learned about pain management techniques, different positions, and the reasons why in order to keep me committed.

Natural Birth Resources and Supplies |SmithSquad.com | Pain management in labor | Essential oils | Breathing | Study Methods
Me and my mommy

Here are a few of my favorite resources and techniques for achieving an enjoyable natural birth:

Natural Birth Books

There are tons of great books out there to help you prepare for a natural birth. My favorite is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Ina May is the most well-known home birth midwife in the United States and her insights are amazing. I love how she shares so many positive, yet completely different birth stories in the beginning of the book. Here is a list of the other books I’ve read and enjoyed or which have come highly recommended from other natural birth enthusiasts.


Natural Birth Pain Management

There are so many ways to manage pain from breathing to hypnosis, counter pressure to essential oils. I personally use mainly a birth ball, hot water, breathing, and oils. Believe it or not I had never even tried counter pressure until baby #7. Oh boy was it magical! You’d better believe I’ll be putting the hubs to work on that one with baby #8 due in 3.5 weeks! All of the books listed above will provide you with tips and techniques. Here are a few of my favorite products for pain management.

Natural Birth Study Courses

I personally never used a specific method, but many mothers find that studying and preparing for a specific technique really helps them. The main home study courses available are Hypnobabies and Hypnobirth. There are also several classroom options including Birth Boot Camp (also has online class options), Bradley Method, and Lamaze.

 

What helps you through a natural childbirth? What resources would you want to share with first time moms who are considering natural birth? If you are a first time mom what are your biggest fears and questions related to natural childbirth?

My New Baby Must Have Products

My new baby must have products| Smithsquad.com| With a small budget, large family, and tiny home I have to be rather minamilistic with new baby supplies

With only six weeks left until my due date I am thinking a lot about making sure I have everything that baby needs. Fitting a family of 8 in a 980 sq ft house is no easy task. I have to really focus on only bringing into the house things that will truly bless us and get used on a regular basis. I don’t have a baby nursery, or even much storage space for clothes and such. I definitely don’t have room for EVERY awesome baby furniture option out there. Here are a few of my baby must have products that are worth making room for.

Muslin Swaddle Blankets

New Baby Must Have Products- Muslin Swaddle Blankets | SmithSquad.com | What things are absolutely necessary on a tight budget or in a tiny space?

My mom introduced these muslin swaddle blankets to me a few babies ago. She runs the Show Care at Tuacahn Center for the Arts and uses them all the time. They are perfect for swaddling because they are larger than most receiving blankets and thin which makes it easier to get them tight. The are super easy to layer when you need a bit of warmth and make a great light blanket when it is warm. They are also great as a breastfeeding cover or spit-up cloth.

Breastfeeding Essentials

As a stay at home mom I usually can just feed at the breast. It is nice, however, to have the ability to leave daddy or the sitter with a bottle of milk so that I can get some much-needed mommy time off. My favorite Bottles are the Breastflow bottles by “The First Years”. They mimic the way that baby gets milk from the breast so that there aren’t as many issues with nipple rejection or confusion. For the last few babies I have only had a simple Madela Harmony hand pump. It is inexpensive and works beautifully, but can be quite tiring on the hand that’s pumping. It’s great for moms who only pump a few times a week. If you are pumping daily, especially if returning to work, then a double electric is the best choice. Most insurance companies will cover a great one now days, so make sure you check with them before buying one out-of-pocket! In the past I have used the Madela Pump in Style and loved it. This time around my insurance sent me a Hygeia pump. I’ve heard great things about it, and am excited to try it out. I have also heard great things about the Spectra S2. You will also need storage bags and breast pads as a breastfeeding mom. My favorite for both is Lansinoh (bags, pads). Last, but certainly not least it is important to have at least two comfortable supporting bras. My absolute favorite brand is Bravado. Bravado bras are super comfortable and very supportive without having underwire. I love that they have a little bit of stretch to them to accommodate for changing cup sizes between full and empty breasts.

Baby Carrier

New Baby Must Have Products- Baby carrier | SmithSquad.com
This is a kangaroo carry in a woven wrap, perfect for teeny newborns.

I am a huge fan of babywearing! I detest carrying around a car seat, and find strollers that are suitable for newborns bulky and inconvenient. My three favorites for the newborn stage are stretchy wraps (Moby, Boba), woven wraps (Dolcino, Ellaroo, Didymos, Storchenweige, and more), and ring slings (Maya, Becco). You can read my full post about babywearing benefits and carriers here.

Car Seat

It kind of goes without saying that a good car seat is necessary for any baby. Even if you don’t have your own car chances are your baby will be in a friend’s car or taxi and will need a suitable seat. Me personally I prefer to get a good convertible seat and skip the baby bucket seat altogether. They can go from rear facing as low as 5 lbs in infancy to belt positioning booster for your 100 lb child, so you won’t have to buy anything other than a simple no-back booster if needed when your child is older.  It just makes more sense from a financial perspective, and as stated above I don’t take the seat out of the car, so portability isn’t a concern. Many moms prefer to get a travel system that includes a stroller, car seat base and a detachable seat. If you don’t have the same negative feelings towards strollers and carrying seats that I do it is a great option.

Clothing

New Baby Must Have Products- Clothing |SmithSquad.com| bodysuits and footed jammies are all you really need
Babies spend 90% of their time in footed jammies or bodysuits.

I am very blessed to have been gifted plenty of adorable hand-me-downs from friends and family. Really though babies don’t need much at all in the way of clothing. If you are buying your own on a budget stick to the basics. Bodysuits and footed jammies are what my babies wear 90% of the time. Unless the girls are picking the outfit, then they end up in the most frilly and sparkly outfit that can be found! How many to buy depends on how much storage space you have and how often you want to wash. Most babies go through 1-2 outfits a day thanks to diaper leaks and spit-up. If you have a major spitter though, you may need a few more.

That’s it Folks!

Seriously, that is the end of my list. Everything else is just fluff. There are tons of nice to haves and adorable things that are fun to have, but if you’re really working with a minimum budget or tiny space I think you will do just fine with only the things on this list.

Do you think I forgot anything? What are your new baby must have products?

Custom Painted Portraits

I believe that photographs are the art that preserves our memories for generations to come. As such I put all of my creative efforts into creating the finest art I can for my clients. Usually this means capturing the raw reality of the day in a truly documentary style. These are your memories. These images represent you. I don’t direct. I creatively capture the intimate reality of your special moments.

custom painted portrait|digital painting|canvas portrait

Every now and then, however an image just screams at me that it wants more. I don’t just see your hum drum every day life. I see an amazing beauty in the moments. When the soul of the subject speaks to me I owe it to them to create something amazing.

girl window pastel

This drive to create one of a kind art from every day moments is what led me into learning to use Corel Painter and Photoshop to create custom portraits from my photographs. I create so you can feel the amazing intimate beauty that I see in your relationships. I create so that your future generations will know how amazing that moment in time truly was. I create because I can’t silence the voice in me that cries out for you to understand just how awe inspiring your life is.Aly and Eli

7 Tips for Taking Better Photos of Your Baby

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could just have a professional photographer following you around all day documenting every little precious moment as your baby grows?

While I can help you freeze one special day in time forever I can’t be with you 24/7. With that in mind here are seven tips for taking better photos of your baby that will be treasured for generations.  If I am shooting a session for you please feel free to ask me to demonstrate any of these techniques and pick my brain for more tips. I want you to have the best photos possible of your family!

 

1- Catchlights

tips for tkaing better photographs of your baby, catchlights|EmilyJPhoto.com|Newborn photographer in Atlanta Georgia|Athens Birth Photography|In Home Family Photographer
I turned on the bathroom light behind me to get a nice catchlight without the harsh shadows that would have come if I turned on the overhead light in the room

Catchlights are the little sparkle you see in a person’s eyes. They can really bring a photo to life! When photographing your baby try to get a light reflection of some sort in their eyes. You can do this by turning on a light, moving baby into the light, or making sure that you are not standing in between your baby and the light source.

 

2- Move Back

tips for photographing baby, get back|Emilyjphoto.com|Atlanta Newborn Photographer|Athens, GA birth photography
I moved back in this image to show the baby’s name on his nursery wall.

It is our natural tendency to want to fill the frame when taking a photo. Often, however, there are important details of the story that can be captured by moving back. The special blanket grandma crocheted or the artwork from Aunt Sue on the wall. Don’t forget to include these details that will tell your child the story of their infancy.

 

3- Get Close

tips for photographing baby, get close|Emilyjphoto.com|Atlanta Newborn Photographer|Athens, GA birth photography|In home family photography|On Location family photographer
For this image I chose to get in close to capture his chubby little baby feet that were filthy after the first time he experienced mud between his toes.

Sometimes the background details aren’t important and simply introduce clutter. Sometimes there is one special feature you want to focus on. Get in close and grab shots of their tiny toes, little hands, delicate lips and other features that change all to quickly as they grow.

 

4- Focus on Relationships 

tips for photographing baby, focus on relationships|Emilyjphoto.com|Atlanta Newborn Photographer|Athens, GA birth photography|In home family photography|On Location family photographer
When Wally was fussy his Daddy would sing and he would instantly calm. That moment was far more important than baby sleeping peacefully alone after Dad was done.

Often the most precious images are the real life unscripted moments that show the relationships between baby and others in their life. Get images of mom, grandma, siblings, etc. interacting with baby. Focus in on what makes their relationship special. Maybe it’s a special sway when they walk or a silly game. Make sure you capture those little moments that will make the best stories.

 

5- Use Different Angles

Documentary family photography|emilyjphoto.com|Bath time photography|Intimate family portraits|Daily life family photographer|In-Home Professional photography session
I moved around to shoot this scene from many angels and get a variety of fun images.

Get up high to show how small baby is. Get down low to show the world from their perspective. Move to the side to capture a profile image. Don’t take all your pictures of a scene from the same spot. Move your feet and try to capture the entire story from a variety of angles.

 

6- Shoot Through the Moment

tips for photographing baby, shoot through the moment|Emilyjphoto.com|Atlanta Newborn Photographer|Athens, GA birth photography|In home family photography|On Location family photographer
The original “perfect moment” that I captured and thought I could put my camera down.
tips for photographing baby, shoot through the moment|Emilyjphoto.com|Atlanta Newborn Photographer|Athens, GA birth photography|In home family photography|On Location family photographer
The even more perfect moment I caught next.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve put my camera down only to have baby do something adorable 10 seconds later. Yes this is my baby cat, but human babies do it too! If you are capturing a specific moment or interaction wait a few seconds after you think you have the shot and be prepared to take a few more images. Often my favorite shots are the ones I get AFTER I think I have the perfect image of the moment.

 

7- A Good Camera

tips for photographing baby, shoot through the moment|Emilyjphoto.com|Atlanta Newborn Photographer|Athens, GA birth photography|In home family photography|On Location family photographer
Yep, even us professionals take a million shots with our phones!

While a high quality DSLR camera is going to get you the most creative control and beautiful shots it doesn’t do any good if you never pull it out because it’s bulky and packed away in a bag to keep it safe. It is often said “the best camera is the one you have with you”. Don’t shy away from using your phone if that’s the camera that’s handy. There are tons of apps out there that allow you to have more control over your phone’s camera and get great images. I great compromise option is to get a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. I personally am using the Sony A6000 (affiliate link). It’s a great compact size that is easy to throw in my purse or leave out on a shelf for quick shots at home, and gives me all the same control as a more bulky DSLR. I have also heard great reviews on the Fuji and Olympus mirrorless cameras.

I firmly believe that it is in the every day moments that the most important adventures of life happen. It is these daily interactions that create the memories that will be treasured for a lifetime. Don’t forget to document them for your children and their generations to follow. If you would like to hire me to capture a day in your life please read my details page to learn more about what I offer and then contact me to schedule your birth, newborn, or family life session.

Birth Story #7|Cross Country Move at 37 Weeks

In July of 2014 I was VERY pregnant and planning a home birth with CPM Tiffanie Gonzales. I was super excited, comfortable, and ready to go. Then life went a little crazy.

My husband, Cameron, was once again out of work. He had to opportunity to make a trip to Georgia to check out the house we had been renting that the tenants had moved out of and do some handyman work for a friend. While there the pieces started falling into place and the idea was hatched that we should move back. Work was available, a rental home was found, and it just felt right. Only one problem, I was due August 17th!

I told my husband either we’re leaving within the week or we’re not going until a month after bubs arrives. Given he fact that he had no imminent job prospects there in Las Vegas we made the decision to leave ASAP. We packed our stuff into two trailers to be towed by our two vans and hit the road for a 2000 mile trip cross-country. We arrived in GA on July 28th and I don’t think I got off the couch for the next 5 days! Who knew sitting in a car all day could be so incredibly exhausting.

Cross country move at 37 weeks pregnant|emilyjphoto.com|iphone photography|birth photographer
Driving through the middle of somewhere USA

Now I had a problem. No home birth midwife would take me on at 37 weeks pregnant, neither would any doctor for that matter. My only options were unassisted home birth or Emergency room and doctor on call. After the beautiful experience of my home birth with #6 I was not anxious to head to the hospital. At the same time without a midwife on call I was VERY hesitant to give birth at home. I couldn’t make up my mind. Finally I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t make a decision. However I felt when labor started and as it progressed was what I would do.

40 weeks came and went with not even the slightest sign of labor being imminent. 41 weeks cam end went and I was getting a bit impatient. At 41 weeks and 2 days after a day at church and relaxing with the family contractions finally begun late in the evening. We put the kids to bed and once again discussed the possibility of going to the hospital. We prayed together to be guided in our birth decisions. I told Cameron that I felt very peaceful and just wanted to labor at home for now. I told him that I was just in the early stages so he should get some sleep. He went downstairs to the couch so that I could roam freely through the bedroom and master bath as I felt the need. I dozed for a while until the contractions got too intense and then hopped in the bathtub around 3am. I called Cameron shortly after that to let him know it was time to come upstairs.

I honestly don’t remember much of the details at that point. I just remember an overwhelming sense of peace and calm that told me everything was ok. Around 5 am baby boy was delivered by his dad with only a few pushes. We weighed and measured him ourselves and daddy tied off the cord.

Birth Photography Atlanta|Winder|Georgia
Look at all that birthday frosting!

I had set the settings on my camera and placed it on the bathroom counter determined to prevent a repeat of my last birth, no pictures within the first 24 hours. My husband did not disappoint and snapped some pictures for me right before and in the few moments after delivery. These are the most treasured images I have of me as a mother. It was while I was looking at these images that the little spark in my mind grew to a full flame of desire. I HAD to be a birth photographer! Every mother needs to own these images so that they can own their birth stories. Having run the gamut from cell phone photos to no photos I knew just how priceless these images of me and my baby were. I can guarantee you I will never make the mistake of not having them ever again!

Birth Photography|emilyjphoto.com|Newborn baby photographer|Winder, Georgia|Atlanta Lifestyle and documentary Photographer

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 6

Baby 8

My First Home Birth|Birth Story Baby #6

When we moved to Las Vegas I met an amazing group of ladies at a place called Pink Peas.  It was a wonderful non-profit organization for moms. I am so sad they had to shut down last year due to lack of funds. Pink Peas was the home of 2 midwives who did home births. I decided to finally have the home birth I really wanted when pregnant with #6 in 2012/13.

Unfortunately a little over halfway through the pregnancy my husband lost his job and we no longer had the funds to pay for the midwifery services. Our insurance covered nearly 100% of the cost of a hospital birth, and I was very depressed thinking that I wasn’t going to have the home birth that I wanted. I was commiserating with my best friend at church, and tossing around the idea of an unassisted home birth, when she informed me that another woman at our church was a midwife.

I spoke to Tiffani about my thoughts on unassisted home birth the next Sunday and asked for her input. She was so incredibly supportive. She talked to me about the risks as well as about my previous births and told me she thought I was the perfect candidate for an unassisted home birth. She also told me, however, that if I needed her for any reason to please call as she only lived a 5 minute walk around the corner from me.

Jack final belly

A few days before baby arrived my other kids all went to my moms house in St. George, UT. It was so peaceful with just me, my husband, and my youngest daughter at home.

On April 3rd at about 9pm I felt a little pop and had a small gush of water. It was just a trickle, so I was a little confused, but still pretty positive it was my water breaking. I went to bed just knowing that I would be holding a baby in a few hours. But baby and my body had other plans.

For the next two days my labor would start and stop several times. I would be having contractions every 3 minutes then they would suddenly just stop. I walked, I slept, I sat on my birth ball, I read, I did stairs. I was emotionally completely drained. I called Tiffani at about 4:30 pm on April 4th and expressed my frustration. My previous labors were all fast and furious. This was a completely new experience and I didn’t know what to do! She verified that I didn’t have a fever, I was feeling healthy, and baby was moving as normal. She reassured me that baby and I were both perfectly fine at home with just a small leak. She explained to me about the two layers in the amniotic sac and about how you can have a leak from the outer bag rupturing while the inner bag is in tact. She told me that she was at her daughters softball game and that she would swing by on the way home to check on me. In the mean time she advised me to try out some different positions, including hands and knees, to try to get baby in a better position for birth.

After I got off the phone I jumped on the Spinning Babies website and did some reading about labors that start and stop. One thing it suggested was that baby may have gotten engaged in the pelvis with a less than optimal head position. One thing they suggested was to be on your knees with your chest to the floor through a few contractions to get baby to disengage, then sit on the birth ball and rotate hips to get them to re-engage in a better position.

Well it worked. After a few contractions on my knees I once again sat on my birth ball and felt as his head dropped into my hips. Contractions immediately started increasing again and I chose to move to the bathtub. I told my husband he could stay in the living room with our daughter watching Wreck it Ralph and I would cal for him if/when I needed anything. He told me I wouldn’t need to call. He could always tell when I needed him because I would say “OWIE OWIE OWIE!” like a three-year old every time I was about ready to push. I had never noticed that about myself before!

I had the lights off and just a few candles. As I sat there alone in the dim room in a tub of warm water I was so incredibly at peace. It was beautiful. I was able tot make time to truly breathe through each contraction and connect with my body and my baby. As my husband had predicted about an hour later, around 7pm, I hollered out “OWIE!” and he came in. He helped me move into a squatting position in the tub and delivered our perfect baby boy in 2 good pushes. Rachel, still watching Wreck it Ralph, was a prefect little angel and barely even noticed what was going on. When she came in the room a few minutes later she looked genuinely confused as to where on earth this yelling little creature had come from.

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As I sat back in the tub I was amazed by what we had just accomplished. The feeling of peace and intimacy between me and my husband was beautiful. Together we had brought this life that we had created into this world on our terms, in our home. It was truly the most empowering and amazing experience of my life at that point. After a few minutes of snuggling I told Cameron “Well better text Tiffani and let her know he’s here!” She said that if it was ok she still wanted to stop by and check us out. She did the weighing and measuring for us and checked me out for tearing. Everything was perfect and she left us alone to enjoy our time together.

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I can not even begin to describe the emotions I felt. 46 hours of labor. Frustration, sadness, anxiety, were all so completely washed away when I gazed into that little face and into the eyes of my husband. This is what it means to be a woman. There is absolutely no other way for a new life to enter this world except through the sacrifice of a mother. Being a part of this process is something truly miraculous. I was amazed to discover a whole new level and depth of my womanhood as I went through this labor in a peaceful, natural setting rather than a sterile hospital. I felt so intimately connected to the generations of mothers who had done this before me. The connection to my baby without all the nurses and doctors poking and prodding the two of us was beautiful. I can’t say I will never have another hospital birth, I believe in making that decision with each individual pregnancy base don my needs and wants at the time, but I know there are certain things that I will do differently if I am ever giving birth in their world again.

Jackie Boy low

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 7

Baby 8

Birth Story- Baby #5

For baby #5 I was once again a patient of Dr. Joseph Pohl at Gwinnett Medical Center. She was due January 2nd, but I sure was crossing my fingers for a tax break baby! When labor started on December 29th I was very excited!

I don’t remember exactly what time contractions started, but we headed to the hospital around 4 pm. they hooked me up to the machines and confirmed 3-5 min strong contractions, but when they checked I was only dilated to a 3. they told me to go walk around for an hour and come back. I realized that with where I was feeling movement as well as the back pain accompanying my contractions that baby was probably face up. I got on spinning babies on my phone and started the abdominal lift technique with each contraction.

37 weeks pregnant|emilyjphoto.com|maternity|birth story|natural hospital birth
37 week belly!

When we headed back to labor and delivery they checked again and said I was only a 4. They said they would call my doctor and ask him what to do. He told them that with my labor history he didn’t feel good sending me home and he would come in and check me out himself. This is why I love Dr. Pohl! He knows his clients, understands their history, and truly cares about each woman’s needs. While waiting for Dr. Pohl to arrive my amazing husband went out and got us a footlong turkey sub loaded with veggies to eat. I got a few weird looks form nurses, but luckily none of them tried to tell em I couldn’t have it lol.

When Dr. Pohl arrived he confirmed that baby was sunny side up, which was causing a much longer labor than I was used to. He said baby was low enough it was safe to break my water and that hopefully it would aid in dilation. The nurses moved me to a labor room and started prepping an IV. I told them I didn’t want it, but I agreed to a hep-lock just in case of emergencies. Dr. Pohl came in and broke my water sometime around 9 or 10 pm. Before he left the room he told the nurses that if I showed the slightest inclination to push they’d better run for him because there wouldn’t be much time. When I told the nurse “I’m ready to push” she did just that, but wasn’t quite fast enough.

I tried to relax and not push, but my body knew what it was doing and wasn’t going to be stopped! Rachel flew out onto the bed right as Dr. Pohl walked into the room shortly after 3am on December 30th. He just calmly put his gloves on and strolled over to pick her up and place her on my chest then deliver the placenta. I just loved his calm non-emergency demeanor. He truly is amazing!

Birth Story|emilyjphoto.com|birthday frosting|newborn|hospital|natural birth

Rachel turned out to be my smallest baby at only 6 lbs. 12 oz. That’s why even though she was still sunny side up the pushing phase was so simple. She is still my little teeny weeny. She barely moved into 3T clothes in time for her 4th birthday!

playing in the mud|emilyjphoto.com|birth story|small child|newborn photography

Even though the length of labor was very frustrating for a mom used to 5 hours or less it was still a pleasurable experience. Because I had armed myself with knowledge I felt calm and in control. I was also so blessed to have such an amazing doctor who helped keep the calm atmosphere that I needed.

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 6

Baby 7 

Baby 8