Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Emilia, A Birth Story:

The making of a human has always been a miraculous mystery to me. Okay, not the actual "making" but the development inside a woman's body. This teeny tiny seed inside you grows and grows until she/he is ready to make their entrance into the world. A mystery indeed. I hold a huge passion in my heart for pregnancy, birthing and children. I've watched hundreds of birth videos, read several birthing books and whenever an article comes out on natural birthing, I am the first to read. I come from a lineage of women who are strong. My grandmother had 10 children (1 set of twins, one twin breeched) all at home with the help of a midwife. My other grandmother had 16 children all naturally as well. My own mother had 9 children (twin angel babies) all naturally and drug free as well. My older sister's had my nieces and nephew drug free and naturally as well. I have known, that I wanted the same for myself. But how could I really know if I never experienced a birth with my own eyes? Things were about to change. I met a young woman by the name of Claire. Well, I didn't actually meet her, we texted (that's 2014 for you). Through a mutual friend we connected and I offered my photography services in exchange to be present at her birth. She agreed with open arms and welcomed me into this sacred moment in her life.

I received a text message from Claire at 5:57AM, she mentioned she was having contractions for a few hours and would head to the birthing center in a few. I jumped out of bed and got in the shower. I kept chanting to myself "today is the day, you get to see an actual birth!" over and over. I really couldn't believe it myself. I shrugged Richard "Guess what I'm going to do today?" Richard replied with one eye open, "What?" My eyes opened wide as I said, "I am photographing a BIRTH!!". Richard was not excited. He just rolled over and said, "oh cool". My eyebrows and forehead scrunched into an angry face. I went to get my equipment ready. Camera, check, batteries, check, memory cards, check, flash, check, water, check, snacks, check.....and then I thought, should I take a pillow? a blanket? you never know this could take all day! I went back into the bedroom to say goodbye to Richard. "Well, wish me luck! this is my first birth experience!" Richard replied, "wait what? I thought you meant you were going to photograph a newborn, not go to a birth.." ( Patience Yessenia, patience). I replied, "I told you I was going to a birth!". Richard was now fully awake, "Wow, good luck!".

I arrived at the birthing center at 7:25AM. I drove up and saw a young woman with a striped shirt and a belly. I knew it was her. I gathered my things and got out of my car. The young woman smiled at me. "Yessenia right?" she said. We gave each other a hug. Here I was entering the journey of birth with this woman that I just met a few seconds ago. Claire told me she went in to get checked and was only 4cm's dilated so her and her husband, Daniel, were going to have breakfast at Blackbird. They invited me to tag along and I mean, how could I have said no? I wanted to witness it all! Once we were at Blackbird we sat down and ordered our breakfast. If you were an outsider looking in you would have never known Claire was in labor. She was so calm and composed. Daniel, was also so relaxed. It was the perfect atmosphere. In between conversation, Claire would apologize and stand up, "I am sorry, give me a sec". She did this repeatedly every 10-12 minutes. Contraction after contraction, she would apologize and get into her own zone. When her contraction was over, she would join back into the conversation.

After we were done with breakfast we went to the park for a walk. I let Daniel and Claire walk together so they could have some time alone. I stayed behind and texted Richard, " I can't believe this is happening, I am going to witness a birth!" and he replied back to me, "This is all you've wanted besides having one of your own!". 

At 9:00AM we went back into the birthing center. Claire was a little nervous about getting checked. "I don't want them to strip my membranes, what if I haven't dilated anymore?". Daniel reassured Claire, "Don't you want to know?". As we waited for Claire to be seen by the midwife, Claire put on her Hypnobirthing. She was in her own zone again, breathing deeply and staying completely calm. 

At 9:00AM Claire got called into the exam room. I was nervous myself since Claire was so collected it did not seem like the contractions were too heavy. I was afraid the midwife would send Daniel and Claire back outside to walk. To our surprise the midwife said, "you are about 6-7cm". I took the high number! YES, 7cm, we are so close. Claire asked the midwife if she could now get into the tub and the midwife said yes. Daniel rushed out to the car to get Claire her bag. I was left with Claire in the room. As Daniel and the Midwife left the room, Claire got a contraction. I stepped in and applied pressure on her lower back. I could not imagine how Daniel might feel in this situation. He was seeing his wife in pain but could not do much to stop the pain from happening. 

We listened to the babies heartbeat and it was a beautiful and strong sound. The midwife said the baby was doing great. Claire got into her birthing room. The birth room was welcoming and homey. There was a big bed, a dresser and a bathroom with a toilet, sink and huge tub. As soon as the water started pouring into the tub, Claire got in. I think Claire really enjoyed the tub because she looked even more concentrated than she did before. At 9:17AM Claire got a heavy contraction and her water broke. It wouldn't be long until baby girl was here to meet the world. My stomach started to get a little twisty. I was nervous for Claire because I knew the pain was just going to get more intense from this point on. I did not know what to expect. I had just met this woman 2 hours ago and she seemed VERY sweet and calm. I wondered if the painful contractions would change her attitude a bit. Claire never changed throughout her entire labor. She spoke calmly to Daniel before a contraction, "Darling please hurry". Daniel did a phenomenal job at applying pressure and being completely there for Claire. It was a beautiful site to witness. At 9:40AM my eyes began to swell. Claire was just getting over a heavy contraction when her 4 year old daughter, Ariana, walked into the room. Ariana said, "Mama!" and the hug they shared broke my heart into a million pieces.

Ariana knew everything that was going on. I never saw her become alerted or scared. When Claire would announce that another contraction was coming, Ariana quickly got to work by pouring water over her mother's back. Ariana was always gentle and the most sweetest little thing. After a heavy contraction, Ariana grabbed her mother's head and kissed her on the forehead. I stood back and observed everything that was happening. Daniel was calmly sitting near the tub and Ariana was folding wet towels. I was able to witness a family who was working as a team, naturally. It did not come as rehearsed it seemed as if they knew what to do inside. This family worked so beautifully together. 

At 10:07AM the contractions were coming very quickly after one another. The midwives gave Claire affirmations, "You can do this, you are strong". Claire became more verbal by moaning lightly. She never screamed, she never reacted in an aggressive matter (which would have been totally acceptable) but she never did. She was calm and collected throughout the entire labor. Daniel asked the midwife when she could start pushing and the midwife said, "Claire will know, she won't be able to stop it". The midwife was right because just a few moments after that Claire felt the urge to push. I learned that if you control the heavy pushing you are less likely to need stitches. I also learned that this is a very hard skill since your body is urging you to push and you have to go against it. 

that's daniel smiling after ariana was laughing at her mama's moaning.

The contractions began to intensify. You could tell by Claire's face that it was almost time to start pushing. After just a few minutes the midwife checked Claire and felt the babies head. Daniel reached down and also felt the babies head. His eyes lit up! It was time, the time was finally here. All I could think was "shouldn't she be screaming by now?" but no, Claire was in her own world. She was so brave through it all. She only pushed for a few minutes until Claire reached down and brought up her baby girl. 

There she was 10 toes, 10 fingers and the most perfect little lips! Emilia Kate. Oxytocin filled the entire room because it seemed as if heaven had just dropped down on us. Claire glowed of happiness and she kissed her new baby girl over and over. Ariana was there the entire time and was anxious to hold her baby sister. Claire had to explain that the umbilical cord was still attached to mom and baby. Ariana had the honor of cutting the umbilical cord. She was so excited to do that. You could tell. She was a proud new big sister! Once the umbilical cord was cut Dad got some baby skin to skin bonding time.

As you can tell from the photos Ariana and Daniel were both ecstatic. Things changed a bit once it was time to deliver the placenta. I always thought that a birth was a huge bloody mess. However, that was not the case. The bloody show does not come until after the baby is out. I guess it all depends on the woman and her body. Even then Ariana was present and was not scared one bit! The placenta delivery happened a few minutes after Emilia began nibbling to nurse. Yes, there was blood. But I was not surprised or alarmed one bit. I had seen several videos online of placenta delivery so I knew what to expect. Once the placenta was out, Emilia nursed like a champ and the family got together on the bed for a nap. 

I could not have asked for a better FIRST birth experience. I went in with an open mind knowing it would not be what I see in the movies. It reassured my beliefs in more ways than I can explain. Everything happened naturally and in the mother's body's terms. No interventions. No scary doctors to say you need to be induced or the baby is in danger. I could never thank this family enough for allowing me to witness such a beautiful birth. Being there in a room of midwives I felt an overwhelming amount of joy. There was a mother in control of her own body and her natural instincts of protection for her own off spring. There was tears, smiles and a lot of laughing. This birth reassured me that I do want to pursue more documentation of births. This is only my first and I cannot wait for the many to come, including mine! 

Congratulations to the Perez family on the beautiful birth of their baby girl, Emilia Kate! 


  1. SO GREAT! I'm so glad this could all come together; you did an amazing job!! I don't know if you'll ever meet people as great as the Perez family though... they were definitely a treat even for their maternity photos!


  2. Sweetest thing I have ever read, it made me cry! Pictures and story are absolutely beautiful.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed it, it was a magical day!

  3. This is so wonderful that you posted this. My mom had a home birth with three of my siblings, and I (being the oldest) was present for them all as well. It was such a wonderful experience to witness my lovely little sister and brothers come into the world - I only wish she'd had a home-birth with me and my other two brothers! Thank you so much for sharing this. I greatly enjoyed reading this. :)

    ~ Grace