Emelyn at Home | Newborn

They are teeny tiny and squishy. For like five minutes! Five minutes! A few weeks after Emelyn was born and they were all settled in their new home (oh yeah, they had a baby and moved like in the same week like total rockstars) I got to stop by and see the new digs and take some sweet family photos in their new space. It was so sweet seeing them in their element, and when your clients are also photographers they make sure to set up the best light for “baby in a basket” photos. Emelyn totally nailed it, and slept like the beautiful floral baby burrito she is.

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Emmeline’s Birth Story | Part 1

I have written and rewritten Emmeline’s birth story at least five times now. It has been so hard for me to authentically describe the experience, and reconcile wanting to savor and remember every single detail of the day, and not “overshare” and write a novel. All in all, the experience was so spiritual. It was just incredible. It was so much more than I thought it would or could be. 

My friend posted this on Mother’s Day this year, and it resonated with me so much. Breathing was my lifeline during labor. This probably sounds weird, but breathing has always been hard for me. I grew up with asthma, and even during this pregnancy I really struggled with feeling short of breath and that will spiral into a panic attack of sorts. In my labor with Lincoln I had been recovering from the flu at 38 weeks and I still had a cough and some congestion and I remember the position they had me in to push I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and it really freaked me out. I was most nervous about that happening again during labor and asked several different midwives on several occasions if I’d have access to oxygen if I needed it (I would have). Once I got ahold of my breathing around the time my water broke, contractions were a breeze. I’d feel it coming, breathe deeply, force one extra deep breathe at the peak and then exhale it out– sometimes I’d whistle it out. Enjoy the break with easy breaths and do it again. As long as I was in an upright position to control the breath it was no thing. So when I saw this quote from Ann Voskamp, it resonated with me so much. So, so much. 

“… so, yeah, parenting is hard & beautiful,
and very, very hard & very, very beautiful, 
and sometimes you just get down on the floor & weep 
& there’s no shame in it — tears just saying we’re loving deep.
Parenting is hard, not because we’re getting it wrong, but because we’re getting to do holy work — holy work *is* hard work.
That’s the miracle of parenting:
labor never stops & we never stop having to remember to breathe.
And even the sound of our breathing is saying His name – YHWH.
And all the parents exhaled… and our every breath calls for You to come, Lord, please come — Come help us to labor over these beloved children, that they’d deliver into the wide expanse of Your fulfilling grace — 
& never forget their name: Beloved.” 

Wow, right? I was about five days postpartum reading those words, ugly crying my guts out. I remember with Lincoln feeling so exhausted in those early days, wondering when I’d get a chance to actually rest my heart, mind and body after the whirlwind of labor. Never. I am still running that marathon, but with another little baby in tow. I did get some good nights of sleep in the meantime though. 

But this quote, and the blog post I linked above, which I’ll link again because it’s worth opening in a new tab and reading right now perfectly sums up how I feel. Additionally, this post does as well. I remember breezing, no really, breezing through the end of my labor, not noticing transition, just listening to my body and feeling myself begin to push her out and thinking how easy it had been. Until the time came to actually push her out into this world and then I heard myself saying over and over: I can’t do it. And somehow, I did. I reached deep within my heart, soul, lungs, self and here she is and has been for a month now. The perfect metaphor for how God delivered ME from so many things. Those postpartum days with Lincoln, those seemingly endless days of painful eczema all over me, the early postpartum days this time where looking forward at our life seemed IMPOSSIBLE, how am I ever going to recover/heal/thrive/keep everyone alive? And somehow I am doing it. Despite telling Marshall and anyone who can listen over and over that I can’t. I’m totally doing it. Not on my own, but with God in me and breathing through me every step of the way. 

And that is how my labor went. 

I’m nearly a week out, starting this, (almost 3 weeks out finishing it, and a month out rewriting most of it again) and the memory of it all is already starting to be fuzzy. Her whole birth was so spiritual. Even the last weeks leading up to it I felt God just pulling my focus away from everything and onto him, refining me to prepare me for the transition from mama to one, to two.

As it was happening and immediately after, the pain was so real and I was so glad it was over and I’d never have to do it again. But now, looking back, God was so present in that room! In our car as we drove to and from the birth center (twice). In our bedroom and bathroom as I labored with Lincoln sleeping in the next room. He was undeniably with us in every single moment, and I don’t think there was ever a time I’ve felt him so near. I’m already finding myself longing to feel another contraction, to feel his peace and strength breathing with me. It was so supernatural, all of it, but I think there’s nothing really normal about bringing a baby earthside. The whole experience was just so worshipful. In my head I kind of (admittedly) dramatically equate it with being present to the burning bush in Exodus. God was there. It was terrifying, comforting and miraculous– all at the same time. So, here’s how it all went down…

 Monday the eighth was business as usual. We had an ultrasound at Wake Med since we were 41 weeks, after that Marshall went to work and Lincoln and I spent the day wandering around downtown. I had become an expert at ignoring contractions so I’m honestly not sure if I had any during the day or not. I remember having some in the evening that were a bit more noticeable at 7 minutes apart but like they had been, they fizzled out as soon as I sat and rested or changed positions. That evening we had a photo team meeting at the church office that I really had been wanting to go to, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to being in labor or having a newborn, so I was really excited to go. My wonderful friend Amber who had been rearranging her life for weeks to photograph our birth was there and as we left she was like “ok! Last chance! Do I go with you guys to the birth center?” and I was like “nooooooo, nothing’s happening tonight. Go home and sleep!”

So we went home, gave Lincoln half a melatonin (he is normally asleep by 7:30 and we didn’t get home until 9 and he was literally running laps around the kitchen…). Marshall and I both were hungry so we sat in the kitchen and talked for a while, I texted with some of the members of our photo team the usual “is this real life? I love you guys so much” stuff and I felt this sense of peace. Like, just being at that meeting brought me back to where I was postpartum with Lincoln and I was able to see so clearly and vividly how much God has changed me and my life in the past two years. It was almost like exactly what I needed to see and feel emotionally to realize that I really was ready to do it again– and if I wasn’t, I knew that God was there with me in the middle of it all.

Marshall went to bed and I had trouble winding down so I took my 41 week belly mirror picture (#priorities) and played on my phone and tried to lay down and relax. I realized after about 10 minutes I wasn’t getting comfortable because I was having contractions laying down! That had not happened yet with my prodromal labor, so I ignored them for a bit and then started timing them. I’d doze off in between and then after a few it wasn’t comfortable laying down anymore so I got up and got the birth ball and bounced some. Turns out I was not a fan of contracting on the ball so I didn’t do that a single time more. I timed them for about an hour then told Marshall that they were five minutes apart, different feeling than the others I’d had. We were supposed to call the midwife at 611 (6 minutes apart, 1 minute long for 1 hour). I got in the shower and washed my hair and shaved my legs, pausing every 5 minutes to breathe through a contraction.  I have no concept of time, but I kept having some doozies and they felt really back to back, so I asked him to call to let them know we’d be along at some point soon.

There were two midwives I hadn’t met yet, and everyone that I knew that went to Baby & Company raved about Jualeah and Mandesa. I actually cried (read: ugly cry sobbed) a few nights earlier to Marshall about how I was so disappointed I didn’t even get to meet these amazing midwives that everyone else had loved.

He called and low and behold Jualeah answered! I talked to her for a bit, and my contractions seemed to stop while I was on the phone and she said to text her when it looked like we were going to come in. So I hopped back in the shower and resumed contracting and enjoyed the hot water.

After a while, I got out of the shower and got dressed and was hit back to back with two pretty big contractions and Marshall and I agreed we should probably go to the birth center as they were coming consistently and getting stronger. We got the car loaded up and got Lincoln in the car, fleece firetruck jammies and all. Contractions spaced out a little bit in the car, but the drive was dreadful. I was not coping well in the car at all. Like, I was definitely saying some four letter words quite loudly. We called my sister to let her know we were en route with Lincoln and after weeks of sleeping with her phone on high volume being “on call” for us, she didn’t wake up to our calls or texts, which is kind of hilarious. In the end it totally worked out perfectly the way it was supposed to, but it was so funny that she didn’t hear us!

When we got to the birth center I was greeted by a new midwife to the practice, Alexa, and she triaged me. While she examined me, in between contractions I told her how excited I was to be in active labor because I never really went into consistent really active active labor with Lincoln withou pitocin (so, pro tip: you’re really not in active active labor if you’re telling people how excited you are about it… no matter how far apart or strong your contractions are). I was still 3 centimeters and not all the way effaced, same as my 40 week appointment more than a week earlier. She recommended we go back home. Since we had Lincoln with us we agreed, although I was dreading the car ride home and back already. Jualeah was there resting and I asked if I could meet her (sorry, I woke you up, girl…) so she came out right as I had another contraction, and talked me through it and held my hand. She asked me where it hurt and I told her all the way around my back and pelvis and she grabbed a bed sheet and rebozo-ed my belly pretty tight with a bed sheet. Instantly the back pain was gone and the next few contractions were intense but way more tolerable since my back was spared. Looking back I think she shimmied Emmeline into prime position because things got intense pretty quickly once we got home.

Marshall loaded up the car and I contracted a few times in the parking lot and we headed back home. I felt a little discouraged for sure, but I knew these contractions were different than my prodromal labor ones and it was happening! A promise fulfilled in itself. A clear start to labor. I figured maybe by that night she’d be here or we’d at least be laboring at the birth center. I did not anticipate how quickly things would progress once we got back home.

Part 2 coming soon!

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Lyla Kate | newborn

Earlier this winter I got to take maternity photos for my friend Jessica, and a few weeks ago she asked me to come over and take some newborn photos of sweet Lyla Kate. We were both thinking we’d swaddle her up tight and she’d sleep through them, but this little girl had other plans! She was way too excited and played with us the whole time! These baby girls. Such firecrackers. (Currently referring also to the one in my belly that has been swimming sideways for a few weeks and refuses to stay head down. Cartwheels. All. Day. Long.) 
Seriously though, this baby girl got me so excited for my own newborn days to come. So sweet and sleepy and exhausting, full of countless surprises, the cutest baby rolls and all the pink. Also, can we talk about LK’s amazing hair? And the belly button? The toes? The rolls? I’m dying a little. So sweet. 
Congrats to Jessica and Kevin on becoming parents– they are totally nailing it, in all the newborn sleepy stupor glory and all. 

Charlotte | newborn

This girl. She is already number one in line of those that I’d like to be my daughter in law (in the way future, like, I’m not ready to send Lincoln to pre-school, much less marry him off…). She was just the perfect subject for newborn photos. She snoozed through them like a champ, and even gave us the thumbs up a few times. After staring at her beautiful face (and the toes! The baby toes!) for hours on my computer screen I have officially forgotten  what it feels like to be 9 months pregnant and to have a contraction. Contractions are just like a sneeze right? And then the baby just hops right out? Right? While you eat ice cream and watch a movie? Right? 
Upon seeing this little one, she definitely reminded me of her daddy, but the more we got to know each other I saw her mama shining through. She’s got her awesome face shape and chin, for starters, but she’s also got a cute little grin and impeccable comedic timing which was revealed in a timely poopy diaper. She’s a hoot already. I can tell. Enjoy baby Charlotte, but don’t get too attached– she’s already spoken for by a little boy in Raleigh.