The Home Birth of Jackson, in mom's words:
June 2016 I got in the car and handed my husband a positive pregnancy test. At the time we lived in a 4 bedroom/2 bath, 2,000 sq ft house in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
March 2017 we are giving birth to our son in an RV on a farm in Dripping Springs, TX.
How did we get here?
It all started in May of 2016. Actually earlier than that but we have to start somewhere and you don’t have all day. Nor do I with a newborn to feed. But before we get started theres one thing you need to know about me. I have adrenal fatigue. Google it. The list of symptoms is ridiculously long and I struggle with nearly all of them to some degree or another. So, back to the story.
Due to my father-in-law’s declining health we decided to take our family vacation to Florida in May instead of July like we had originally planned. Upon returning from that trip, my adrenal fatigued body just couldn’t recover. It had been a hard year in Stillwater battling adrenal fatigue among other things. I’d fill you in but that would turn this blog post into a book. Trust me. It was a hard year. Our pastor, who was also my husband’s boss at the time told us to take two weeks off to figure out how to make life sustainable for our family and if that meant leaving our home and job in Stillwater then we’d cross that bridge when we came to it. Week one we visited friends and family, and heading into week two we were planning to devote all our time to praying and seeking the Lord for answers.
Then we got a phone call. Jason’s dad was in the ICU and it didn’t look like he was going to make it. We jumped in the car and drove through the night with our 3 children in tow. Eighteen long, grueling hours later we pulled up to the hospital, not before rear-ending someone at a red light due to the hubs falling asleep at the wheel while waiting for the light to turn green. Oops. All is well. No damage done. On to see Papa Jim, as my children call him. He recovered from this episode and went on to rehab and after 10 days in Florida we headed back to Stillwater to process our lives.
We were home for one day before hopping back in the car and returning to Florida. This was our third trip to Florida in one month with one more on the horizon. Sadly, it was to say goodbye to Jason’s father who passed away. In the midst of these physically hard and emotionally draining trips to Florida we met with our pastor and it was decided it would be best if we stepped out of ministry for a time to focus on healing. Healing my physical body. Healing our marriage. Healing our family life.
As if a job change and possible relocation and a death in the family wasn't enough, we found out we were pregnant with our fourth. A happy moment amidst the chaos. We had also brainstormed about how to make life sustainable for our family. Live small. Live simply. Tiny house maybe? We weren’t sure how it would all work out but we knew we needed to move close to family and to move into something much smaller. Something manageable for my adrenal fatigued self.
On our way to Florida for what would be the last trip we got a phone call from a friend with a job offer. Live on his farm in an RV rent free, while receiving an income for helping him develop the farm into an event venue and running AirBnB cabins on the farm. My parents live an hour from this farm. Win, win. We accepted. We finished renovating our kitchen (that we tore out just before our family vacation to Florida in May…epic bad timing) and sold our house and moved to the farm in Texas. We bought an RV for ourselves and got settled in.
I was 20 weeks pregnant by the time we got to the Hill Country and had pretty much overseen my own prenatal care up to that point, labs done at 8 weeks and diagnostic ultrasound done at 20 weeks. That about sums it up. We prayed. Affordable hospital birth this go round or pay the midwives out of the savings from the sell of our house? I couldn’t see this birth happening any other way. It had to be in the RV. Midwives it is. At 27 weeks we hired a midwife. She was lovely but she didn’t work out.
Christmas and New years came and went and at 34 weeks we found ourselves with a new set of midwives. A God send. Oh, and a birth photographer. How many times in your life are you going to give birth to a baby in an RV on a farm? This should be documented. We had our team and it was a stellar team. We had already downsized from a 2,000 sq ft house to a 40 foot RV. When it comes to baby things we just had the basics. With a little KonMari action all the baby clothes fit in one dresser drawer. Baby bassinet in the bed. Changing pad on top of the dresser. Which really isn’t necessary but it sure is nice. My body provides the baby food. Food? Check. Clothing? Check. Shelter? Check. Baby can come now!
There’s nothing like a week and a half of prodromal labor to leave you wondering if and when this baby will actually come. But I knew when it was go time it would be quick because those prodromal contractions were no joke. They were doing something! Tuesday, the day before D-day, we headed to the chiropractor then to dinner then to the store. While my hubby ran in for some groceries I carefully cleaned up puke that came from our 2year old out of nowhere. I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I’ve birthed a baby on the heels of a stomach bug before and it’s no fun. But that’s another home birth story for another time. I went to bed that night thinking these contractions I was having meant nothing. I would wake up pregnant for another day like I had for the past week and a half.
Well, at 130 I woke up to what felt like a transition contraction and seconds later my water broke. Partially, that is. “Jason, my water broke. Can you get me a towel?” Then it was game on. I already felt like I was ready to push. At 2 we called the midwives. Midwife number one arrived at 230. Midwife number 2 and student midwife arrived sometime after. I stopped keeping track. I was breathing through what felt like one long contraction that waxed and waned between a cramp to a hardcore contraction. I had called the photographer 5 times around 2 with no answer and I’m glad I mentioned to my hubby between contractions that i still hadn’t gotten ahold of her. He called her. It was the only call that went through to her phone that night. She arrived precisely 8 minutes before baby boy made his grand entrance. Her text: ETA 345. Baby born: 353.
The building pressure from the partially broken water was about to do me in. I looked to my husband and said, “You need to pray.” He prayed. Prior actions during my labors and deliveries: sleeping and buying a car. Not even kidding. This labor and delivery? Errand boy, leaning tower, prayer warrior, back masseuse, encourager, cute daddy in all the pics. He redeemed himself this go round, I must say. After leaning on my hubby and gently pushing during one contraction the rest of the water broke and the pressure was relieved. Whew! I had to relocate. I shoved the blankets and pillows off the bed and directed where to put the chucks pads. I climbed on top of our little queen sized mattress in the RV master and with Jason behind me I knew it was time to push. For reals. I pushed and out came his head. I reached my hand down and cupped his sweet little head in my hand and in my excitement I quickly pushed again and in one fell swoop that baby was born and in my very own hands. Joy abounded! Jackson Elliot Arnold had arrived. Six pounds and 13 ounces of pure preciousness joined our family. Our family of 6 in our RV on the farm. The team of midwives, myself and my hubby plus the photographer on one end, my son and two daughters sleeping peacefully on the other. A happy little kitchen and living room in-between where healing herbal tea was brewing.
I met Nikki in an international baby wearing group at least three years ago. Realizing we lived in the same city, we connected and remained online friends, until early this year, when my daughters started school with her oldest son, Ben. When we finally met in person, our real life friendship was completely effortless. She was halfway through the pregnancy with her third child, and had hired my favorite midwife, GB Khalsa, to look after her prenatally and to help her welcome her third child at home. This would be my first time to work with GB since she cared for me throughout Nova's pregnancy, and I was downright giddy with anticipation!
In the last couple weeks of her pregnancy, I connected Nikki to my friend Jess, an amazing local doula, so that she could have some help with her kids during labor if she needed it. Nikki built the most perfect team of women to support her, and I couldn't wait to be a part of that. Her first two babies arrived on their due dates after spontaneous labors, and her second labor was very fast. She told me this baby would arrive on his due date too, and I was inclined to believe her—the mind is a very powerful thing, after all!
On Saturday, February 18, two days before she was due, I settled in for Torchy's and a movie in bed with my partner, Will. I thought of Nikki, and sent her a text message at 6:39 pm:
"Hey mama, how are you feeling?"
"Funny you should ask," she said, "consider yourself on red alert!" She told me that her water had broken 5 minutes before, but that she hadn't had any contractions yet. I was worried that once contractions started I may not have a lot of time, so I shoveled in the rest of my dinner and hopped in the shower at 7:10 pm, just to be safe.
By 7:25 pm, I got the message: "You should head this way." Accompanying the text was a screenshot of her contraction timer—2 minutes apart! I was out the door by 7:45 pm and arrived to her house a little after 8.
Inside, I was greeted by excited little faces, anxious to meet their new baby brother. A few minutes later, GB arrived, and we all chatted and laughed while waiting for the birth pool to fill. Jess wasn’t far behind us, and she helped keep the kids occupied as Nikki labored gracefully, though she’d step in at every opportunity to offer a perfectly timed drink of water to Nikki. Ulrike, the assisting midwife, arrived and by then it was clear that Nikki was in active labor… so things got a little quieter and we waited, though not for long. At 11:21 pm, a tiny new life joined us in the human world.
No really, I. Am. Obsessed. Take a look at this beautiful dashboard!
Dubsado easily qualifies as one of the wisest purchases I've made for my business. If you're not familiar with Dubsado, it's a Client Management and Accounting system that, for me, has suddenly made all the worst parts of running a business totally awesome. There are other systems like this, much more established, much more popular, and mostly, much more complicated. For months, I've been trialing them all—17Hats, Honeybook, Tàve, Sprout—and none seemed to fit the bill as perfectly as Dubsado does. Let me tell you some of what I can do with this...
Lead Capture—Embed a form directly onto my website that pulls client information into my dashboard.
Send Emails—Correspond with each client directly through the dashboard.
Automated Workflows—I'm still digging in to see how much this can do for me, but for now I have an email set to go out as soon as a Lead Capture is completed. The email includes pertinent links and information, with a promise to send a personalized reply within 24 hours.
Contracts—I can send clients contracts digitally and store them in their portal.
Questionnaires & Sub-Agreements—Same as you can do with contracts, any forms you may need completed can be created, sent, and stored in the portal. I have model releases under my sub-agreements, a birth questionnaire, documentary questionnaire, things of this nature.
Track Expenses and Payments—Pretty self explanatory, but track your expenses and your income through Dubsado. Categorize your expenses to simplify tax time.
Send Invoices—Invoice your clients and accept payments through Dubsado via Stripe. These payments are automatically pulled into your bookkeeping as Income. Dubsado does NOT charge a fee in addition to Stripe for processing, which I understand sets them apart from a few of the other systems!
Client Portals—Don't want to send multiple emails to your clients asking for a contract, each questionnaire, each invoice payment... send them a link directly to their client portal! They can view and complete all of their emails, forms, contracts, sub-agreements, invoices, etc. in one place.
To be honest, I'm still learning all the ways I can use Dubsado to streamline my business better. There are always tons of new features in the works, and the customer service is absolutely unbeatable. The interface is clean, simple, beautiful and easy to navigate. But do you want to know what my favorite feature of all is?
What is a proposal? For my business, it is a complete booking process. In a proposal, I can send all my package options as well as add-ons for sessions or products. Clients select the package and add-ons they would like, and it builds an invoice based on their selections. I've built my questionnaire into my proposal as well, so that I can have it completed and on file for easy reference. On the second page, they'll sign their contract, and the third page, they'll make the initial payment on their invoice. It's so amazing. Watch this quick video taking you through the client view of a proposal!
Yes. Yes, yes, yes! When I was originally turned on to Dubsado by Nicole Churchin, I truly didn't think her enthusiasm was sincere (sorry, Nicole!) I kinda figured oh, this is one of those things where you click the affiliate link and she makes money or something. Not far off base, but now I get it. She was enthusiastic because it's WORTH being enthusiastic about! I truly can't get enough of how awesome it is.
But how much does it cost?
Cheaper than the system you're with now, I bet! I'm paying $15 monthly, but the yearly subscription is currently $175, and the lifetime purchase is $600. If you use any of the links to Dubsado (<--- like this one!) in this post, you can start a trial that will automatically give you a 20% discount code if you decide to subscribe. No pressure, none needed! I'm pretty confident you'll fall in love, and it will be one of the best investments you make in yourself and your business. What have you got to lose?!
What has been your best business investment recently?
Gift registries are all the rage in the photography community right now. I've seen them popping up all over the place, and while many people have already created them, lots more are also wondering "How?" Personally, I am a birth photographer, and birth photography is a luxury that many can not afford or forget to budget for. My registry is tailored to my birth clients, but this could easily be offered to any type of client – wedding, newborn, or even family.
Take a look at my gift registry here: https://austinbirthphotos.com/gift-registry/ (Link opens in new tab)
In this tutorial, I'm going to take you through the step-by-step process of creating a new registry from scratch in Squarespace! This can easily be done in Wordpress as well... you should be able to adapt it without much issue, the bulk of the process will be the same, but building each of the pages and adding buttons will be a little different. Let me know if you have any questions, I may be able to help since it hasn't been too long since I switched from Wordpress myself.
Anyway... let's get right into it!
creating a gift registry in squarespace 7
Step 1: Create a Landing Page for your Registry
In your Squarespace dashboard, click on "Pages":
Click to add your page, either in the navigation, if you want visitors to your website to be able to find it easily; or under "Not Linked", if you want to send the direct link to your clients at a specific point in your booking process:
Select the type of page you would like to create... there are two different ways to go about this, and each offers different features.
If you choose a regular "Page", your website navigation will be at the top of the page. You can add a photo, a welcome message, and a couple of button blocks for your content. An example of a registry created with a regular page can be found here: http://www.vanessamendezphotography.com/birth-registry/
If you choose a "Cover Page", the navigation bar will not be present, and you will be able to add a full screen photo or video background. A pop-up form will be included in the template, taking care of one of the steps for you. My registry was created with a "Cover Page" template.
Title your new page. I called mine "Gift Registry" but yours could be "Birth Registry", "Photography Registry" or even just "Registry" - up to you.
For the rest of the landing page tutorial, I will show you how to customize a "Cover Page" template. If you're using a regular page, you'll just select the blocks you need or want to add in order to include the same sort of content.
One you title your new page, you'll be able to select the "Cover Page" template you'd like to use. Here, I've selected the second option:
Once you choose a template, you'll work through each of the following tabs to customize the page:
In the "Branding & Text" tab, you'll fill in the information for the bulk of the pages content. Upload a logo or type in your business name in the first section, title your registry in the second section, and type out your welcome message in the last part, as seen here:
In the "Media" section, you will upload your background image(s). If you upload more than one image, they will transition in the background like a slideshow. If you want to use a video background, you will enter the YouTube or Vimeo link to the video you want to use in the "Video" tab. If you prefer a solid background, select "None". For the purpose of this tutorial, I have uploaded one static image to use for the background:
The "Action" tab requires some important changes. The built-in "Contact" button becomes my link to the example listing. I already had an example listing built, so I linked it here, but at this point in the process yours is probably not yet created. Change the title for this button to something like "See an Example Listing", or whatever you want it to read, and don't forget to come back with the link for the page you create. Under form, you will put "Request a Listing", then click on "Edit Form":
Once you hit "Edit Form" you'll see the following screen, where you can begin building the request form. What you enter into "Form Name" will become part of the title for the email that you receive when a form is submitted. Add fields using the "+" on the left side. The fileds that I included on my form are:
- Mother/Mom's Name
- Dad/Spouse/Partner's Name
- Due Date
- What services they would like to add to their registry, and the value of each
- Do you have photos you would like to include? (Along with a note including my email address to send the photos)
- Text area for them to write a "Welcome Message" to their friends and family, that will show on the listing page.
You can add more or less fields as needed for your vision.
Once you are done building your form and customizing the text for each field, don't forget to click on "Storage" so that you can ensure that you get notification when a form is completed. I entered my email address so that all the forms will be sent to my inbox. Then click "Connect" and click "Save":
The next tab is for "Social Icons", where you can turn on or off social links, and the last is for "Style" where you can make adjustments to the way the page looks, if you want.
Once you've made any changes you want to there, your landing page is complete and you're ready to move on to....
Step 2: create an example registry listing
Back in the pages view, click on the "+" next to "NOT LINKED", and this time you'll add just a regular blank page.
Create a title for your page – I like to use the client's name and registry type, since there may, in the future, be multiple active pages like this. Then select a template, I just started with a blank page but the "About 2" template is a good one to start with as well. Then click on "Start Editing":
Start building your page! I have labeled all of the blocks that I've added here. Drag and drop to rearrange them (as I did to put the image and text side by side). Enter your clients "Welcome Message", along with whatever else you'd like to include. I used the carousel block for the images that were provided by my client, but you could use a different gallery block as well.
I used a header to show the percentage of investment that has been covered, and manually update that for my clients as gifts are received. This is optional and requires additional work on your end in keeping up with it, but I do like the way that it looks and it keeps all sides well-informed.
Hover over the button to customize the title of your button and add your link.
I created a variable payment button in PayPal, so that my clients can enter any amount they wish to contribute, there are no pre-set values. I titled my button "Contribute Here!" and then added the link to the PayPal form in the URL.
TUTORIAL | CREATING A PAYPAL VARIABLE PAYMENT BUTTON IN SQUARESPACE
I have also seen people use the "Donation" block as well... you must have a Stripe account in order to set it up this way. See this Squarespace Help Topic if you're interested in using the donation block.
Once all of your content blocks have been added to your example listing, and you've set up a link of some kind where people can successfully send money, you'll want to complete...
Step 3: Add the link to your example listing to the registry landing page
Go back to your new landing page, click on the "Action" tab, and under "Buttons" click next to "See An Example Listing" (the button you created earlier", and choose the example listing page you just finished creating under the "Content" tab. ("Content" shows all of the pages created for your site. These are basically all the internal links, so you don't have to copy paste links for your own site, just find the page you want to link to.)
Once your example listing page is linked, your gift registry is complete! Test all your links and fill out your form to make sure you receive a copy in your inbox. Now your clients can enjoy added flexibility in paying for your services. Congratulations!
Before I switched to SquareSpace at the end of 2016, I had a pretty streamlined booking process for my clients through Machforms on my Wordpress blogsite. I created a Client Lounge – similar to the one you see below – where clients could fill out the required forms and make payments all in one place. One of my favorite features about the Machform payment integration, is that my clients were able to enter their own custom payment amount, which made executing payment plans super simple and convenient for both of us.
When I switched to SquareSpace, my main concern was losing this functionality. In order to do something similar with SquareSpaces' PayPal integration, I would need to create a "Product" for every amount I wanted my clients to be able to pay. In addition to this, I would have to pay a commission on each sale to SquareSpace, on top of the PayPal fees already incurred.
Luckily, I figured out a way to create a variable payment button through PayPal, and link directly to it using the regular button block in SquareSpace. Not only is it saving me money and time (by not having to send individual invoices or create multiple product listings), but it keeps my site looking cohesive because the payment button doesn't differ in appearance next to my other buttons. Winning!
Clicking on "MAKE A PAYMENT" in the Client Lounge brings up this screen:
TUTORIAL: HOW TO CREATE A VARIABLE PAYMENT BUTTON
Login to your PayPal account. Navigate to "Tools" > "All Tools" > "PayPal Buttons"
You will see the following screen:
Click on "Create new button" and you'll be in the following screen:
Under "Choose a button type" select "Buy Now", and under "Item Name", describe what you're selling or the service that's being paid for. This will show up on the customers receipt. The one I use on my website is titled "Payment - Birth Photography".
For the "Price" field - LEAVE IT BLANK. This will allow your customers to input any amount they wish to pay. If you need to charge tax on your item, be sure to input your tax amount. I leave everything else the same, then click "Save Changes".
Once you save your button, you'll be taken to this screen:
On this screen, you'll want to grab the direct link under the "Email" tab. Copy that link, and then open your SquareSpace dashboard. Open (or create new) the page that you would like to add the PayPal button to, then add a Button Block:
Customize your button's appearance, including title and size, then paste the PayPal link you copied in the EXTERNAL URL as shown here:
Congratulations! You're all finished. Now, when your customer clicks on that button, it will open a screen that looks like this, where they will type in the exact amount they want or need to pay in the "Price per item" field.
Celebrating the Beauty of Birth
At the beginning of each year, the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers holds an image competition, pulling hundreds of entries from talented photographers all over the world into an epic display of the raw and powerful beauty that is childbirth. Incredible images from every type of birth, in every setting, and from many countries are displayed for global admiration – home birth, hospital birth, birth center, vaginal delivery, breech delivery, cesarean delivery, unmedicated and epidural births alike. This collection showcases the many facets of birth in the most stunning of ways; strength, weakness, support, vulnerability, pain, elation, relief. It is truly a sight to see all of the best images from the year together in a single gallery.
This year, there are four separate categories, and each member of IAPBP may submit one image into each: Labor, Delivery, Details, and Postpartum. A panel of judges evaluates the images based on technical integrity (focus, sharpness, detail, depth of field, color, brightness, contrast, saturation, usage of light, etc.), emotional value, and composition. Those judges, by the way? Nothing short of impressive and intimidating this year. So many big names in the birth community, including Ricky Lake & Abby Epstein, producers of the award-winning documentary The Business of Being Born, Catherine Pearson, senior reporter at The Huffington Post, Jan Tritten, founder of Midwifery Today, Peggy Vincent, a midwife, and author of Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife (an amazing read, by the way!), Kirsten Lewis, a Denver based family photojournalist, Dawn Thompson, founder of ImprovingBirth, and so many more.
It took all of the five days that submissions were open, but I finally narrowed it down to these four images for entry...
This beautiful mama was the epitome of strength and grace as she labored for almost two whole days to bring her first baby earthside. She started at Natural Beginning Birth Center, under the care of Jessica Good, CNM & Bridget Kenny, CNM, eventually transferring to St. David's Women's Center of Texas to deliver her sweet son.
Erinn's fantastic home birth is one I won't soon forget. After two sons, both born in the hospital, she had a quick and easy natural birth at home, attended by Genevieve Schaefer, CPM and Mandy Toavs, CPM. Her first daughter, May, was born just 3 minutes after I arrived! Read Erinn's account of May's birth.
This baby, born just 24 hours after little miss May arrived, was covered in the most impressive, thick vernix I have ever seen. So incredible!
This lovely image is one of my favorites from the year. Jaxon was Sam's second and final child, a little brother for Carly, their one-year-old daughter. Sam delivered at St. David's Women's Center of Texas as well, attended by the amazing Dr. Angela Meyer, D.O. See more images from The Birth of Jaxon here.
Some of the other photographers whose work can be seen among these entries are:
Vanessa Mendez Birth Photography | Monet Nicole – Birthing Stories | The Art of Unscripted | Ker-Fox Photography | Katie Mathis Photography | Rachel Utain-Evans Photography | Elliana Gilbert Photography | Birth is Beautiful – Captured by Ina | Coastal Lifestyles Photography | Esther Edith, Photographer & Doula | Sacred Moments | Positive Birthing For You – Doula & Birth Photography | Twin Cities Birth Photographers | Savoring Moments Birth Photography | Fox Valley Birth & Baby | Jennifer Mason Photography | jessiephotodoula.com | Elizabeth Farnsworth Photography | Tree of Life Doula Photography | KE Documentary | All Things Baby Photography | Birth Blessings Photography & Doula Services | Laura Swift Photography | ...and so many more
How Midwives Are Changing Maternity Care
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I saw an OB/GYN like most women. Every month at my appointment, I’d have to wait half an hour past schedule to even be called back. The nurse would check my vitals, and then I was back to waiting again - 20 more minutes. Finally the doctor would come in and hurry me through the visit, seemingly annoyed by my questions and clearly short on time. At 24 weeks, I asked, very innocently, about water birth. My doctor’s response was brash and condescending, telling me that water birth was unsafe and that waterborne babies could drown during delivery. This seemed - unlikely. Illogical even. But I scheduled my 28 week appointment for my glucose test and left, irritated.
Over the next four weeks, I would absorb as much information as I could about natural birth and midwifery care, reading articles, studies, and watching "The Business of Being Born". I began to consider that I might be a good candidate for home birth. I struggled to get my reluctant husband on board, but succeeded. We hired a midwife, and I never showed up to my 28-week doctor’s appointment. I haven’t seen an OB/GYN since.
When I saw my midwife, Vicki, for the first time, I had a completely different experience. Our visit took place in a window-lit room adjacent to her home. As we sat on couches and chatted, lavender essential oils filled the air creating a calm and peaceful state. We chatted for a solid hour at every visit. My questions were not only welcomed, they were encouraged! Midwives believe that women should make informed, empowered choices about their care during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. “Standard procedures” became simple decisions we could make without fear of judgment. She was a partner and a guide, bearing witness to our journey into parenthood, but never attempting to control or manipulate it.
Around 3 pm on September 1, 2009, six days before my due date, regular contractions started. I labored quietly in a large garden tub in my master bathroom, then by candle light in the bedroom. Vicki checked on me periodically, but mostly left me alone to do what we both trusted my body could do. From the living room, I could occasionally hear the soft voices of my best friend, Katherine, Vicki, and her assistant, Scottie – a student midwife, as they made casual conversation and patiently awaited my baby. At 11:43 pm, my daughter was born, in the very spot where we subsequently slept together night after night. We were surrounded by people who supported, trusted, and respected me. I have since had three additional pregnancies, cared for by two more amazing midwives, and can honestly say I would never go back to obstetrical care without a medical emergency that warranted it.
Woman Centered Care: A Glimpse Inside
My fourth pregnancy, in 2016, was supported by Austin midwife GB Khalsa. Though it ended in a non-emergent hospital transfer when labor began spontaneously at 34 weeks, GB was with me every step of the way. She was a kind and maternal presence unlike any I've ever known. My friend and fellow photographer, Nikki, is now visiting with her every two weeks in preparation for her second home birth in February. This morning, I had the honor of documenting her family as they visited with GB in her quiet and relaxed home office in south Austin.
Placentas are incredible organs. I always try to capture at least one image of the placenta at the birth of each of my clients. I find them to be beautiful and fascinating (I even have a couple of my own placenta prints from my last daughter's birth!), but even for those who may not find them appetizing, there are many reasons to respect and admire them. Here are 7 interesting facts you may not know about your baby's lifeline!
1. The placenta functions as a gland, secreting important hormones during pregnancy...
...including Human Chorionic Gonadatropin (hCG), which stimulates the production of estrogen and progesterone, is associated with morning sickness, and is the hormone detected by pregnancy tests to produce a positive result. Estrogen, which is responsible for increasing blood flow and stimulating uterine growth, as well as the growth of breast tissue. Progesterone, which maintains the uterine lining for successful implantation and the support of a pregnancy. Human Placental Lactogen, responsible for speeding up the mother's metabolism to keep up with the energy requirements for growing a baby. The placenta also secretes Insulin Growth Factor (IGF-1) responsible for the development of Gestational Diabetes in some women.
2. The placenta is a multifunctional organ...
...acting as baby's lungs to supply oxygen, kidneys to filter out waste, and as gastrointestinal and immune systems by delivering nutrients and antibodies.
3. The placenta is the only disposable organ.
Although there are other organs that we can function fine without, the placenta is the only organ that naturally expels itself when it's purpose is fulfilled. Each pregnancy grows a new placenta to support that baby perfectly.
4. The blood of both mother and baby pass through the placenta, but never mix.
Every minute, one pint of blood is pumped to the uterus, exchanging oxygen and nutrients via the placenta. The mother's blood and baby's never mix, however, if they did, the mother's immune system would create antibodies for the baby's blood in an attempt to get rid of it. Instead, the baby's blood and mother's blood pass through separate arteries in the placenta.
5. Identical twins may or may not share a placenta.
Depending on when the fertilized egg splits, there may be one shared placenta, or one placenta for each fetus! If the egg separates before the formation of the placenta, there will be two, if it splits after, only one.
6. Fetal cells can transfer to the mother through the placenta.
Fetal cells have been found in the skin, liver, kidney, and bone marrow of pregnant women. They may target and help heal injured areas, and there is evidence that they exist in higher quantities in diseased tissue.
7. Many women consume their placentas after birth.
Anecdotal evidence shows that mothers who eat their placentas after birth reap numerous benefits, including more balanced hormones, increased energy and milk supply, a reduction in postpartum bleeding, and replenished iron stores. Read more about placentophagy and placenta encapsulation in Austin.
Did you get to see your baby's placenta after giving birth? Would you (or did you) have it encapsulated? Share your experiences in the comments!
Newborns at the Breast
New mothers breastfeeding their tiny newborns is easily one of my favorite things to document. Here are nine of my favorite photos of baby's first latch in every birth setting - home, hospital, and birth center!
Cut your own Christmas tree?
This year, that we did! Last year, we had a real tree for the first time since I was a child, and I will never go back! Watching my girls run amok through the rows of trees under that tent warmed my heart, and the 'welcome home' smell of a fresh tree is second to none. So for this Christmas, we made the trek out to Elgin to visit the Elgin Christmas Tree Farm where you choose and cut YOUR OWN TREE. It was so much fun, even in the cold and the rain. I am sure we have a Christmas tradition for years to come!
Real Trees are Good for the Environment
As an added bonus, real Christmas trees are significantly better for the earth than their artificial counterparts. Why?
- Artificial trees are made using materials such as PVC and metal, often imported from China, producing a large carbon footprint
- Because artificial trees can not be recycled, they end up in landfills at the end of their life
- Artificial trees degrade over time, causing potential for dangerous lead exposure around year 9
- Real Christmas trees improve the air quality, emitting oxygen as they grow
- Real Christmas trees are renewable - farmers plant 1-3 new seedlings for every tree that is harvested
- Real Christmas trees are recyclable, and biodegradable, they can be repurposed into mulch, erosion barriers, fish feeders, and more.
Does your family buy a real tree at Christmas time?
Every year I scour the internet for the best deals on Black Friday. Inevitably, I always forget about a dozen things I've been waiting to buy, because I'm hoping to get them on sale, and I miss out on the best prices of the year! This season, I've collected as many of the best deals as I could find, from my very favorite vendors, and I'm putting them all together here for your convenience. Enjoy!
Camera Bags & Gear
Kelly Moore Bag | Up to $100 off | Valid 11/25-11/29
ONA Bags | Up to 25% off | Valid 11/25-11/29
Holdfast Gear | 10% off with Code: BlackFriday2016 | Valid 11/25-11/29
Editing Tools & Templates
Mastin Labs | 25% off Preset Packs | Valid 11/25-11/28
Birth Becomes Her - Presets, Contracts, E-Learning | $30 off with Code BABYTURKEY | Valid 11/25-11/28
An Infinite Moment Photography | 15% off Lightroom Presets with Code: FRIYAY | Valid 11/25-11/29
Grum - Post to Instagram from your computer! | $25 for LIFETIME ACCESS! | Valid Nov. 25 Only
Imagenomic Plugins (Portraiture, Noiseware, Realgrain) | Up to $120 off with Code: BF2016 | Valid 11/25-11/28
Flothemes | 40% off all themes with Code: LuckyFriday | Valid 11/25-11/28
SmartAlbums | Save $100 with Code: 100SALE | Valid 11/25-11/28
Fundy Designer | Save 35% | Valid 11/24-11/28
StompSoftware | 40% Off | Valid 11/25-11/28
Shootproof | 40% off upgrades & yearly plans | Valid 11-25-11/28
Click & Co. Store - Gifts & E-Learning | $50 off $100+ Purchase with Code: BLACKFRIDAY16 | Valid 11/21-11/27
Birth Becomes Her - Spring Workshop | Up to $200 off registration | 11/25-11/29
CreativeLive | Up to 50% all courses | Valid Nov. 25 Only
Clickin Moms | 40% off Lifetime, Annual, & Monthly Memberships with Code: 2016SOCIAL40
Happy shopping!! XO
On Wednesday, September 28, Erinn had a visit scheduled with her midwife at 11 am. At 10 days past her guess date, they were ready to get labor started, and had made plans to strip her membranes in hopes that it would help do just that. At 12 pm that same day, my October client, who wasn't due for almost two more weeks with her first baby, called to tell me that her labor had begun. I knew that Erinn had a history of relatively quick labors, so I was very concerned that I would be with the other mama when Erinn's labor started, and still be there when it ended! I informed her of what was going on, and contacted my friend and backup photographer, Angela, so that she could be on standby in case I had to miss one of the births. I kept in touch with both of my mamas throughout the day. At around 3:30 pm, Erinn told me that contractions were 8-10 minutes apart but not really consistent. My October mom had been sent away after checking in at the birth center, so she was laboring peacefully at home. At 8:30 pm, she was admitted to Natural Beginning Birth Center at 4 cm. Since she had been in early labor for 16 hours already, I was hoping that things would continue to move slowly and I would be able to make it to both births. Angela was no longer available to back me up, and wouldn't be able to until early morning, so I contacted my friend Vanessa, who would have to drive in from San Antonio if I needed her.
At 9:31 pm, a text came in from Erinn: "Labor is progressing. Might want to head over."
Time to go! I had just had a baby three weeks ago myself, so I told her that I was feeding Nova real fast and we'd be on our way -- and we were, within 20 minutes.
When I arrived, the door was unlocked, so I let myself in. Erinn's mother met me at the entrance, letting me know she was in the master bathroom and that she thought the baby was coming. I grabbed my camera and ran in, she was pushing and the bathroom was well-lit, so I abandoned my flash for the time being, not sure if I even had enough time to mount it to my camera. The timestamp on my first frame was 10:18 pm, and baby was born at 10:21 -- just three minutes later!
Here, the entire story from Erinn's perspective:
Preface: About 4 years ago I started seriously considering a natural home or birth center delivery for our next child. I was feeling more comfortable with how my body births (fast!), and that I could have a less invasive birth experience. While my two previous births were great, I love epidurals, I wanted something simpler. I started reading lots of books - HypnoBirthing, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth & Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way were among my favorites and eventually became my guide books for May's birth. Andrew & I talked about home birth, discussed risks verse benefits, and eventually agreed home birth would be a good fit for us. Thankfully my pregnancies are low risk, my labor and deliveries relatively easy, and my babies healthy. The ideal candidate for a home birth.
Labor: I was 10 days late, and headed to my next weekly check up. Genevieve & I had planned on stripping my membranes, attempting to naturally induce my labor. I was 3-4 centimeters dilated, and 80% effaced at 11am. I was instructed to pump 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off for a few hours that afternoon, as well as take an herbal tincture, cotton root bark, every hour. I started having light contractions all afternoon. A little uncomfortable but I kept up my usual routine. Pick up from school, walks around the neighborhood, and bedtime for the boys. Around 8PM, the contractions picked up. They were coming 3-4 minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds and more uncomfortable. I wasn't sure if it was false labor or real, and kept timing them to see if they increased. I found myself restless, and pacing around the house. Andrew was working in the garage and I in the bedroom putting things away. At 8:30 I texted my midwife a screenshot of my contraction timer. I told her not to come but just letting her know. We kept texting back and forth for about an hour. The contractions became stronger and required me to stop to work through them. I would lean over the counter, while Andrew rubbed my back. I was feeling overheated and sweaty, I had Andrew bring in a small fan to blow directly onto me. Such a life saver! At 9:30PM, she asked if she should come over. I was reluctant to have her come, fearing this wasn't real labor and wasting her time. I texted back yes, and immediately began shaking uncontrollably. A sign that you've entered transition, 7 cm. The most difficult part of laboring.
Transition: Right after texting Genevieve I got a huge contraction. It surprised me how strong it was. My technique of leaning over the counter while Andrew rubbed my back no longer calmed me but actually made it feel worse. I started to panic a little not knowing how to calm or center myself. I immediately took off my pants and shirt - modesty went right out the window (another sign that you've entered the hardest part of labor). I kept needing to use the bathroom, and found lots of relief on the toilet. I had not expected to labor so much on/near the toilet but I did. During my research I had heard many people describe contractions as intense. Now that it was my turn - intense is the only word to describe the feeling. Each contraction took me over completely. I felt like I was out of body, only aware of each contraction as it came. I found that putting one leg up on the toilet seat (opening the pelvis), while wrapping my arms around Andrew for support, and breathing deeply and heavily let me relax the most. When a contraction ended I would be breathless from the work. It was hard work! At one point, I even told Andrew how tired I was. Each contraction would come, and Andrew would tell me to breath, compliment me on how strong I was, that our baby was near and to focus on each contraction. I relied upon those words so much. Your natural instinct is to hold your breath and grit through the contractions but focusing on allowing my uterus do it's job helped keep me focused. My midwife arrived around 10PM, and immediately started setting up. During one contraction my water broke, just missing the toilet bowl by inches, oh so close!
"My water just broke!" It was at this point I finally realized I was in real labor. This was it! My midwife came in the see how I was doing. She told me that when the baby was crowning I would have the urge to go to the bathroom. I still thought delivery was hours away, and assured her I just needed to sit down and go to the bathroom. The instant I did, it was full rectal pressure. I've never experienced anything like it in my life. Honestly, and probably too much information for most of you but it felt like my bottom was going to explode. Not from pain but intense pressure. I moaned so loudly, or at least it felt like I was loud. Genevieve & Andrew insisted that I stand up between contractions and move into a bigger place. At that point I was laboring in the tiniest corner of my bathroom. She checked me briefly and told me the baby was crowning. "The baby is coming out?!" I was in complete shock. How could I be delivering already, we literally just got started. My birth photographer hadn't arrived yet, and I knew she was going to miss it. My heart sank knowing I wouldn't get the first photographs that I had wanted. I walked over to the bathtub, desperately asking to get into the warm water.
Delivery: The warm water was a great relief, a perfect spot for delivery. I was able to squat near the edge of the tub, holding Andrew's hand for support. The only thing I could say was, "oh my gosh, oh my gosh!", over and over. I gave one large push, reached down and felt her head nearly coming out. It was burning a little, and immediately backed off. Just then, Kayla, our birth photographer walked in! Perfect timing. I was so grateful to have her here. Considering she had only a few minutes or seconds really before delivery, she captured beautiful photographs. Genevieve and Andrew told me it was time to push hard and deliver our baby. I pushed again, then waited for one last contraction and gave a final push. Genevieve caught the baby and handed her to me while she was still under water. I grabbed her tiny body and brought her to my chest. I vividly remember feeling her tiny legs in my hands. So small, but completely tangible. She was here! A moment to never forget. 10:20PM, only 50 minutes of active labor.
I leaned back and snuggled our sweet baby. She was crying and absolutely perfect. Andrew was near me the whole time, he gave us both love and kisses. Some of my all time favorite moments. I easily delivered the placenta and handed the baby to Andrew, so I could move to the bed for skin to skin.
Skin to Skin: Andrew, Baby May & I snuggled in the bed for over an hour. No new born checks, no one in our space taking the baby away, just us. May screamed the entire time. She was unconsolable. It was funny then sad, sweet girl was overwhelmed by such a quick birth. After about an hour, she relaxed and began nursing. She has been calm and relaxed ever since. At one hour and fifteen minutes old, we finally cut her umbilical cord. The midwives checked and weighed her, 6 pounds 8 ounces, 20 inches long. Perfect in every way. I unfortunately came away with a 2nd degree tear and required stitches. Never imagined I'd be getting my lady parts sewed up on my bed but birth can be unpredictable like that.
As midwives were packing up to leave for the night, Andrew woke up the boys to meet their new sister. They amazingly slept through labor, delivery and a screaming baby. Eliot said he was too tired to come down, but Benny happily came to visit. He was shy, silly and quickly asked to go back to bed.
Around 1AM, everyone left and it was just us. Andrew made me a heavenly grilled cheese sandwich. My mom made me a cranberry/apple juice cocktail that has never tasted so good. I didn't get much sleep that night, running on pure adrenaline. Holding my baby girl, cozy in my own bed with Andrew right next to me. Life couldn't be better.
Looking back on my experience, it's amazing how perfectly it all fit together. Every thing went, strangely, exactly how I wanted it. A sweet gift from God. All my mental and physical preparations for a home birth, paid off. Grateful for such a beautiful, healthy birth experience. I wish all women could feel so loved, appreciated, and strong during one of the greatest moments of their lives. I come away feeling the need to help share my experience with others. I'm not sure how I will, whether it be by becoming a doula or possibly a midwife myself, or maybe just by sharing and encouraging more women to find their path to their own birth and delivery.
Welcome to the world, May Maxwell. We love you.
Cara has always been a very special client. Early in her pregnancy, she hired me to document the birth of her second child. We connected instantly, finding that our lives paralleled in many ways and rapidly forging a friendship over the next several months. She was due with her second daughter on July 31, and informed me that her doctor had scheduled her for induction at 6 am on the Friday before. Great, I told her, and advised her to let me know once they were settled in their room and the induction process was starting. I knew from experience that it could sometimes take hours for them to get a Pitocin drip going, so we planned to play it by ear, but I wanted to leave as soon as they set up, as her first daughter came unusually fast and I expected this one to be the same, if not much faster. Thursday night she texted me to say the hospital had called and placed her on standby until lunchtime the following day. They said they would call her when they were ready for her to come in, but every bed was full and they would let her know when patients were discharged so she could head in. Anxious and a little heavy hearted, she waited for them to call the next morning. She waited and waited... and finally around 3 pm, she called and was able to speak directly to her doctor. I'm sorry, he told her, but some of the staff has called off and I won't be able to get you in for induction until late next week. I can't imagine the disappointment she must have felt, thinking that by then, she would have already had her sweet baby in her arms, only to find out it would be almost a week instead! She tried for days to bring on spontaneous labor, with no success... her due date came and went, like most mamas, and her induction was rescheduled for the following Thursday at 6 am.
At 7:50 am on Thursday, I woke up in a panic. Did I sleep through the call?! I picked up my phone and saw that all was quiet. I texted Cara immediately to check in. Quickly she responded, what a relief!
"Hi! I'm finally all settled. So weird I just grabbed my phone to text you. They JUST started pitocin drip...."
She also told me that they had just checked her, and that she was at 3 cm dilated and 70% effaced. I told her I would get my kiddos squared away and head that direction and she said that was fine. A little more than an hour later, I texted to check in. When she didn't reply immediately, I got nervous and called. I hadn't eaten yet and was hoping to grab something on the way in, but when I called, I got no answer. I decided it was probably best to head straight to the hospital, just to be safe, but my navigation took me to a very confusing area so I called again. This time, her husband, Vince, answered, and I could hear her laboring in the background. Good news! Contractions were coming, but she was still at 3 cm, he told me. I asked if it was okay to stop for breakfast and he said he thought there was plenty of time, so I grabbed a bagel and some coffee and made the rest of the trip to the hospital. It was 45 minutes from the time I hung up the phone to the moment I reached the L&D section of the hospital. I was just outside her door and asking a nurse to confirm it was the right room, when another nurse walked by and said "I think they're delivering in there." I bolted inside (so glad nobody stopped me!) to find the baby already crowning and the doctor in position to catch! What a terrifying moment for a birth photographer! I quickly wove my way through the nurses and the doctor attending her, just in time to fire off one labor image as she roared her baby out, followed by the very first shot of baby, at the very moment of birth.
WHOA! That was close, my heart was pounding, Mama looked terrified, Dad had a look of shock and concern. How this incredible birthing mama had gone from 3 cm to baby in her arms in such a short time is just beyond comprehension! We were all so lucky I made it with just seconds to spare, but what an amazing, inspiring story it is... I am so honored to have been present to document both the birth of a baby, and the birth of a warrior.
Some of Cara's own words about sweet Willa's arrival:
"After my first birth, I was told i was a rapid laborer. I had my daughter from the start of the induction to holding her in three hours. So I knew I would go fast this time, but I had no idea just how fast. Literally in twenty-seven minutes, I had gone from three cm to holding my new baby... When you give birth that fast, there is absolutely no way your mind can wrap around what is going on. I didn't get to savor any moments... In fact, the pain was so intense, continual contractions with no room to breathe... It's really amazing how your mind takes you to a different dimension when you're feeling immense pain and agony. I have no real recollection of even giving birth. All I really remember is my daughter was blue, her eyes blood stained from the hemorrhages due to the severe pressure of me pushing her out so quickly, her not crying right away... I couldn't even look at her for a good ten minutes because I was so scared. I do remember when I came to, my husband was right there beside me telling me it was ok. I am so grateful he was there as he was my voice of reasoning when I had none. Kayla was there snapping away and I'm so grateful she was, because looking at these birth photos, I can see that my husband was really there, involved, and solidifies the fact that this man is the one that I love more than life. He was my rock that day. This beautiful creature that was just born has changed our life for the better in so many ways and she truly is a miracle. It was almost like she knew she was special and that we needed her in our life. I will cherish these pictures forever as they mean so much to me for so many different reasons. They say a picture speaks a thousand words... These pictures speak so much more than that."
It feels like it's been a lifetime since I last picked up my camera for personal use. Life just gets in the way sometimes, you know? Today was beautiful though -- a sunny 70 degrees in mid-January -- and I felt inspired to pull out my camera for once. We even took it to the playground -- GASP! Seriously, this is a worthy achievement. Here are my favorites from the day! All images created with my Nikon D750 & Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART