I first met Kristyn and Joshua when they were looking for a photographer for their wedding. They were so warm and kind, and I just knew I wanted to have them as clients, so I was thrilled when they booked me.
About a month and a half ago, Kristyn contacted me letting me know that she was expecting and wanted me to do newborn photos of their baby when he arrived. I talked her into letting me document his birth as well. Though I did find some creative ways to take pictures of my daughter’s birth (hello timer and birth high hormones), I hadn’t ever photographed a birth before. To say I was stoked would be an understatement. I packed my photographer’s version of a hospital bag (cameras and lenses I thought I would need) and had it waiting in the car. I swear, I was more organized for photographing a birth than I was for delivering either of my babies.
The baby’s due date came and went, but Kristyn stayed in contact with me and let me know that she was being induced on Friday afternoon. They started the induction with a foley bulb. She was delivering at a hospital about an hour from where I live, so I spent the afternoon and evening with family. After no news, I headed home Friday night. Her labor was picking up on Saturday morning, so I drove towards the hospital, planning to sit in my car and knit until I got word to go ahead in. So, knit I did, and after two rows of knitting (just before 3:00 p.m.) I got a text from Joshua saying to come on up.
When I arrived everyone was in good spirits. Kristyn was handling each contraction like a champ. I even asked Kristyn’s doula (her sister, Katie) if Kristyn had practiced hypnobirthing techniques (she hadn’t). She was smiling and joking between contractions, and she didn’t even seem to have broken a sweat.
But even though the contractions kept coming every few minutes or so, and even though they lasted about a minute each time, the labor wasn’t progressing. After palpating Kristyn’s belly, the midwife indicated that the baby’s head was off to the side, causing Kristyn some intense pain in the front of her belly. Kristyn had wanted to birth her baby as naturally as possible, but of course wanted a healthy baby even more. Clearly exhausted and frustrated, she decided to have an epidural in hopes of letting her body and baby do what they needed to do if she could get some much-needed rest. At around 9:00 that night, while Kristyn was waiting for the anesthesiologist, I headed home.
I headed back up the next morning as early as I could after getting my own two kids up and ready. While I was on the road, Joshua texted me that they had determined that a C-section would be best. I got to the hospital just after 8:00 a.m. When I got to the birthing room, Joshua was shirtless, which I assumed was so that he could do skin-to-skin with the baby. But then I saw that both he and Katie had tears in their eyes, and that they weren’t happy tears. Katie informed me that she and Joshua were all garbed up but then quickly ushered out when the spinal didn’t take; Kristyn was to be fully sedated for the birth and that no one was allowed in the operating room with her. After hugging Katie, and asking Joshua if it was OK if I stayed and documented the morning, I continued on. There was lots of hand-wringing as we all waited for news of how Kristyn and the baby were doing. The doctor came out and told Joshua and Katie that both Kristyn and the baby were doing fine, and both let out a huge sigh of relief and happy tears.
Joshua waited just outside the pair of doors where his son – Henry – would come through. He walked alongside the entourage of doctors and nurses down the hall to the nursery, where Henry would spend his next couple of hours. Only Joshua was allowed in the nursery. I stood outside, catching snippets of words exchanged behind the closed doors. Joshua cheered Henry on while the medical team performed tests on him (standard tests, since he was born via C-section). “Good job, Henry! Look at you lift your head, such a strong neck you’ve got. You’ve got this. You’ve worked so hard this whole time.”
Katie wandered the halls, wanting to be near Kristyn but not yet having any news about her. The doctor finally came to update Katie, saying, “I know… you’re ready to stop being a doula and just be an aunt.” She told Katie that once Kristyn was more lucid she would head back to the birthing room, which she promptly did as soon as she was able. I was about to head to the birthing room too, when Joshua came out and grabbed me to take some photos. “Kristyn would kill me if we didn’t get any.” I was able to be there while Joshua cut the cord, and soon after that I headed to the birthing room to show Kristyn photos of her precious boy, which she was happy to see but I imagine (after having two children of my own) that those pictures made her ache for her baby even more than she already was.
One of the nurses suggested that Kristyn and Joshua could do FaceTime, so I ran down the hall to give Joshua the word. Joshua got to do skin-to-skin during FaceTime, and Henry showed how ready he was to nurse by practice nursing on his daddy’s shoulder. Katie asked if it would be possible for Kristyn to be wheeled to the nursery to see Henry. Instead, they suggested that if the pediatrician cleared it, Henry could come to her to meet his mama and nurse for a bit.
Henry was finally wheeled to the birthing room, united with the woman who had carried him all those months and labored with him all those hours. He took to nursing immediately, and Kristyn and Joshua were finally able to bask in all that sweet, newborn love. Katie faded back, allowing Kristyn and Joshua to savor the moment. And after Henry was brought back to the nursery for more vital sign observation, I bowed out to let everyone get some rest and spend time together as a family.