Posts tagged Birth Photographer
The Truth About Surrogacy | Quad Cities Wedding and Family Photographer

This is a story of surrogacy. A story of unconditional love, true sacrifice and selflessness. This is a birth story unlike many you'll come across and I am so truly humbled and honored to have been a part of it. This is William, Cameron, McKenzie and Mari's story and to say they've been on a journey is an understatement.

Have you ever had to really try to get pregnant? If not, consider yourself truly blessed. But if so, you know how infertility weighs on the heart. If you've ever needed Clomid, IVF or IUI, you know. If you've ever faced the fact that you may never get to have a baby of your own, you know. If you've ever gotten a phone call that stops you in your tracks and makes your heart absolutely sink, you know. If your heart has ever ached with love for a baby you can't have, you know. It's hard, arduous and taxing both physically and emotionally.

William and Cameron know. Surrogacy was their only option, but that doesn't mean their journey to baby was by any means easy. In fact, once they met McKenzie the three of them embarked on a 2+ year walk through all of the highs and lows you can imagine. Then it came. The day they had been waiting and hoping for. The day when McKenzie would give birth for a couple that couldn't. The day the world would gain two new dads, ready and eager to raise a good person. The day their baby would arrive and change the lives of so many people.

The day of McKenzie's scheduled c-section I walked into her hospital room and met a couple of soon-to-be dads who were full of that nervous excitement that you only get when you know your life is about to change. They were going to meet their baby in a matter of mere minutes! The energy in the room was magnetic! The three of them absolutely radiated love and excitement. Even the doctors and nurses coming and going were all smiles- a few happy tears here and there, too. There were a few minutes of placing last minute bets on boy or girl, selfies and feeling baby kick one last time before everyone gave final hugs and we all got into scrubs.

The nurses took McKenzie to the OR and said they'd be out to get us in a few minutes, which is when I got to talk with Bill and Cameron a little more. I got to hear some of their journey to get to here. I heard about the tests and procedures and failed embryos. I heard about their baby shower in Colorado where their families met for the first time in 8 years and how McKenzie flew out to be with them for it. I heard them say how everything had been worth it to get to this moment. And I heard them say how grateful they were for McKenzie. How they still couldn't believe she was willing to do this for them. How she had been a ray of hope in an otherwise dim, sometimes scary situation. How they couldn't believe it was actually happening. Something about being in scrubs outside an OR steadies you and at the same time brings the reality of what's about to happen crashing down on you to knock you off your feet. Remembering every twist and turn they had taken to get here and all the times when they didn't think a baby would be in the cards for them: it was hard to believe that this was in fact reality. There were tears of happiness, joy and deep, deep heartfelt gratitude.

We walked into the freezing OR and Cameron and Bill sat next to McKenzie's head. The nurses were awesome. They told me where I could stand and how I could move around the OR to get good shots without being in the way. The OB and anesthesiologist were so welcoming and were nothing but excited for Bill and Cameron and McKenzie to have the photos I was there to take.

Before I go any further, to all you c-section mommas out there, HOLY COW. A c-section is by no means an 'easy way out' when it comes to birth. I've always know that, but seeing a c-section drove that point home. I applaud that you were able to lay awake in an OR while you underwent a major abdominal surgery. I guess I always figured a c-section was a cut here, cut there, baby out, stitches. NOPE. I had no idea what was actually involved! It certainly wasn't pleasant for McKenzie! It took a little extra time, muscle and a vacuum, but finally, at 7:56am, the anesthesiologist dropped the blue curtain so Bill and Cameron could see first hand if their little was a Mr. or Mrs.

They were absolutely giddy when they laid eyes on their little girl for the first time! Immediately Cameron broke into tears and leaned his head next to McKenzie and said 'Thank you, thank you, thank you' over and over and over again. The nurse got the little Ms. cleaned up a bit and took her to her new parents. Cameron and Bill walked the baby over to McKenzie and said 'this is Mari Catherine'. The three of them held hands, laughed, cried, and stared at Mari together for what seemed like only a moment. Funny how staring at a newborn can do that to you. You fall into their innocence and before you know it you've stared the day away. I don't know how I was able to get images in focus because my eyes were full of big ol happy crocodile tears. At some point we were ushered out of the OR and eventually to a room where Cameron, William and Mari had their first moments as a family.

Ya know, I still can't get my head around it- how completely selfless and altruistic McKenzie was. And not just McKenzie- her husband, too! At one point Cameron said jokingly 'thanks for giving us your wife's body for the last 9 months' to which he smiled and laughed and said 'it was hers to give'. How true. To carry with her the ability to grow healthy babies and willingly sacrifice so much of herself to help someone else experience the joys of parenthood. Still when I think about it I get tongue-tied and don't think I am able to appropriately communicate how much respect and admiration I have for her. I'd like to think I'd be able to provide surrogacy for someone, but really, I don't know if I'm strong enough. What I can do is take photos so they remember the day forever. And I can share their story here to perhaps encourage one of you to find a way to do for others. Not everyone is meant to be a surrogate (or a photographer for that matter), but I do believe we are all meant to help our fellow humans in some way. More than anything, I think this story has taught me to be selfless. To reach deep and find the ways I can help others. I mean, if McKenzie can do something so immensely self-sacrificing, I have to be able to do something, too.

William, Cameron, McKenzie and Mari- thank you for asking me to be a part of such a special journey. Love and blessings to you all <3

The Truth About Charlie's Birth Story | Quad Cities Wedding and Family Photographer

Charlie is 6 months old today.

For a long time I didn't want to share Charlie's birth story. I think I was mad at it. Mad that his birth didn't go the way I had planned and therefor I wouldn't do it the honor of sharing it. Well, as I gain some perspective and his birth gets farther and farther away, I realize I owe it to Charlie and myself to say that we conquered birth. Birth is not easy and I have learned that every woman should shout from the rooftops the stories she has about birthing a baby. She and her birth(s) is/are worth it! Every birth is different and I now realize that everything they say about birth is true and false at the same time. There are certain things you can expect from birth. Like, the baby will, at some point, be out of your body. But the journey between conception and that moment is any one's guess. Well, here's Charlie's story. All the details. Buckle up cause it's a ride.

I knew exactly how my birth would happen. I knew I would labor at home in water with the support of my husband and doula until I reached transition. I would then labor at the hospital in a birth tub until my body knew it was time to push. I would have exactly 5 big pushes and then Charlie would be delivered into Daniel's arms and he would then place him on my chest. It would be a quiet, welcoming, intimate moment that Daniel and Charlie and I would share and would happen over the course of only 8 hours. Maybe 10.

Well, that maybe could have possibly happened if my water hadn't started leaking. Thursday night around 8pm I noticed I was indeed trickling some fluid. I called the midwife in the morning and they had me come it to be checked. It was confirmed that I was trickling and the midwife wanted me to go straight to the hospital since at this point I had been leaking for about 16 hours. She just wanted to make sure that our little boy was doing okay. Well, we weren't really in a hurry to get to the hospital. We went home and grabbed our bags then we went to our favorite taco place so I could eat my last meal before Charlie would be born. Three carnitas tacos from Los Primos to energize me for labor! Priorities, people.

We got to the hospital and it was determined that Charlie was doing fine, but it was necessary to get labor started. I was really anti pitocin so decided to start some gentle interventions. The midwife broke my water fully and started me on a foley catheter (which was inflated and placed at my cervix to apply pressure and hopefully get me contracting). I progressed with the foley to about 5cm in about 3 hours. I was on a roll! I decided then that I wanted to get into the birth tub and labor in there until I needed to push. My doula also arrived at this time and was amazing for the remainder of labor and delivery. It started off pretty smooth. The water helped to ease my contractions and it felt refreshing to be weightless in the tub. Char (my doula) and Daniel kept cool wash cloths cycling in and out the entire time I was in there. After about 2 1/2 hours in the birth tub, Charlie positioned himself directly on a nerve in my hip. More on this to come, but let me just say for now that this intensified contractions A LOT. Eventually, I felt an upset stomach start. Well, the upset stomach stayed. And stayed. And stayed a while more. More on that later, too. Fun so far.

I had been in the tub for about 5 hours and I noticed my contractions were slowing. I asked Char and Daniel if it seemed like they were slowing down and we all agreed they were. It was time to get out of the tub so labor could progress. Well, turns out the entire time I was in the tub I only got to 6cm. Yeah, talk about defeating. To feel like I must be getting so close to at least an 8 or 9 and then finding out I'm only at a 6?! 

I continued to labor through contractions until about 2am when my hip pain got incredibly intense. If you are familiar with back labor, when baby is sunny side up instead of facing down like he should be, imagine that, only in your hip. I guess this is where I should mention that Charlie was occiput transverse- sideways in the birth canal.  Contractions would come and stay for 10-15 sometimes 20 minutes. No reprieve between contractions because of my hip pain. Unlike back labor where pressure can be applied to the lower back to ease contraction pain, there's not much that can be done for this situation. The pain was so intense that with each contraction I was throwing up. I had been doing this for about 5 1/2 hours at this point. This is where I get to introduce a leading player in the story. We'll call her 'Nurse'. At one point Nurse (who shall remain nameless lest I try to troll her on the internet) told me to stop over reacting- "the pain is just contractions, Jessica." I assure you, it was not just contractions. I finally had to have some anti nausea medicine to prevent me from getting dehydrated. They ended up giving me two doses of Zofran and I was still throwing up from the pain, to which Nurse said "I've never seen anyone throw up after two doses of Zofran". They gave me a third dose and that finally started to ease the need to throw up.

I labored for another hour and a half in this intense lasting pain until I started to feel like I was going to pass out from the pain. I was still only at a 6 after 12 hours of labor so it was decided that an epidural was necessary so I could try to get some rest and make it through the rest of labor. I did not want an epidural. I wanted to do labor. To feel it. To power through it with all the strength I had. But when I came close to passing out, I knew it was no longer safe for me to 'power through'. I got the epidural at 3:30am and began to be able to catch my breath. The anesthesiologist had to give extra medicine to ease the pain in my hip which made me completely unable to move anything below my naval. And again, I felt defeated. My birth plan was a mere memory at this point.

Of course since my contractions were still slowed down to only coming every 10-15 minutes, they wanted to start me on pitocin. They did this at about 4:30am while I was asleep and unaware. I woke up around 7am and was delighted to find out I was at an 8- finally! But was pretty upset when I found out it was because of the pitocin they had started while I was sleeping. Well after another hour or so, the infamous hip pain started to creep back in. Soon I was experiencing the same intense pain as before to which Nurse Lovely again remarked "Jessica, you can't feel this, the epidural has you numb there. It's just contraction pain coming through." I wanted to hit her. Hard. But didn't because I'm a lover not a hater.

They checked me and I was at a 10. Time to start pushing. But the nerve pain was so bad that as I was trying to push with contractions, I was just throwing up. I couldn't push because I was throwing up. I should mention here that I am also hypoglycemic and had been without food since about noon the day before so was shaky and nauseous from that in addition to the pain. They had the idea to get me some sugars real fast- grape jelly. Let's mix some honey in to up the sugar content. Bad idea. Actually, the worst idea. Please, do not ever add honey to grape jelly and try to feed it to someone who is already nauseous. It will make them throw it up. Another dose of Zofran.

After another hour of this hip pain our good friend Nurse Know-It-All looked at the epidural machine and realized it was broken. Broken. Not pumping medicine. Her comment? "I keep telling them this machine is broken but they never listen to me." They replaced the epidural machine and got my pain under control so that I could start pushing for real. I started pushing at noon. I felt great at this point! No more nausea, pain was controlled, I had a couple hours of sleep to power me and I had been siping on Sprite for some sugar. When it was time to push with contractions I could feel all my muscles working- hard- and it felt great! To feel like I was back in control of being able to deliver Charlie! Well, that went away soon because Charlie wasn't descending. He was still at a -2 station after 2 hours of pushing. He just wasn't moving. Another hour of pushing went by before my midwife and doula started to worry about how long my water had been broken. It was at this time that I was given three options: C-section to hurry and get him out, try to keep pushing and see what happens (but probably end up with a C-section), or the OB on the floor could try to use forceps. 

This is where I lost it. I was feeling so beyond defeated. My entire birth plan had gone straight out the window about 35 hours ago and I was on a wild ride that I never intended to board. Everyone left the room and Daniel and I cried together. I didn't want surgery. I wanted to deliver vaginally the way I planned. Most of all, we wanted what was best for Charlie. So, I cried tears of exhaustion, defeat, sadness and anger. Then Daniel gave me my Charlie ring. Unbeknownst to me, he asked the midwife and OB to give us a couple more minutes in the room alone. He went to his bag, grabbed something small, then came and kneeled down beside my bed. I was a little confused at first. I was thinking 'Wait, we're already like, engaged...forever. But it feels like he's proposing?' And in a sense, I guess he was. He was down on one knee, ring in hand and asked me to keep working to bring Charlie home. He told me how much he loved me and how much he believed in and that he knew I could do it- whatever 'it' ended up being. He gave me a hand-stamped ring that said 'charlie'. I now wear it above my solitaire and wedding band. He has always supported me, encouraged me and pushed me to push myself and this was no different. He was right by my side the entire time. With cool rags, puke trays, a hand to squeeze and lots of 'I love you's and 'You can do it, babe'. He is an amazing partner in life and birth and I am so grateful to have him by my side. His support empowered me and gave me that extra confidence boost to get through the next 10 minutes.

I got myself together to talk to the OB who said "You want to deliver vaginally? I think we can do that. But you're going to have to work really hard." Charlie was turned just enough that she could see his spine on the ultrasound machine so she knew forceps were an option. She said I had 3 contractions to try to push him out while she pulled with the forceps. I gathered all my strength and said okay. I'm going to do this. Because of the use of forceps, extra nurses and the NICU team were called into the room. They stood in the corner and waited to make sure baby was going to be okay. My peaceful 4 person birth team and ballooned past 10. The NICU team was amazing, I should say. They stood quietly in the corner, eyes to the floor, and patiently waited to assist if necessary.

Daniel was by my left leg, Char was by my right. Char said in a gentle voice "Okay Jess, here comes a contraction. PUSH!" The entire room started to cheer for me, "Push Jess, push! You can do it!" With each push the OB pulled with the forceps. The first contraction produced no baby. The OB looked at my midwife and said under her breath, 'I don't know if this is going to work.' (Daniel told me this later) Another contraction came, "PUSH JESS!" and the OB pulled on the forceps. Now, when I say she pulled on the forceps, I should let you know she PULLED with the forceps. Daniel and Char had to help hold me on the bed because the OB was pulling so hard she was lifting me off the table. She had a foot at the edge of the bed and was pulling with her entire body. It was with that contraction that Daniel saw Charlie's head. He said "You can do this Jess, he's almost here!" So one more contraction came and I pushed with everything I had while the OB pulled with everything she had. The last push of the last contraction, out came Charlie with his cord around his neck twice. The OB unwrapped his cord and handed him to Daniel who placed him on my chest. I was absolutely in shock that he actually came out! We were all almost certain I was headed to an emergency C-section, but there he was!

The NICU team was able to leave and Charlie stayed on my chest for the next 3 1/2 hours. He had a strong latch right away and nursed for almost 45 minutes! Finally, he was weighed- 8lbs 11oz and 21" of baby. No wonder I was so huge! 

So why share my birth story? Because it didn't go according to my plan. Because there were times when things were really scary and seemed really out of control. Because I had meditated on what I thought were 'positive' birth stories. Then Charlie was born and I found out that every birth is positive, regardless of how it happens. Birth is birth is birth. It can be scary and there might be times when you're certain this whole birth thing just isn't going to work out for you, but it all works out. Maybe not according to plan, but baby will come. I learned a lot this time around. There were way more tears than I envisioned, a lot more throwing up and I learned to accept medical intervention. Birth is messy, gritty, intense and absolutely the most beautifully amazing thing I have ever done. The really crazy part is that I already can't wait to do it again.

The black and white photos were taken by our doula when she could grab the camera. They are images that Daniel and I will treasure forever. The color images are Charlie's newborn photos that I took when he was 10 days fresh. They will likewise be treasured forever <3