A very real concern when hiring a birth photographer is, what happens if the photographer doesn't make it in time for the birth? No matter how diligent you are at keeping us updated, how well prepared we are or how many fail safes we have in place, the risk of not making it can't be completely eliminated. Auden's birth at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, FL is an excellent example of what happens when everything goes as far from 'expected' as possible.
Lauren called me about 7:30 PM to let me know her water had broken and they were on their way to the hospital. I readied myself to go to, but the first check revealed she was only 3cm dilated. At that point, we all figured we'd have a while yet. I packed my gear in the car and went to bed in my scrubs to get as much sleep as I could.
The next update came at 11:23 PM. Only 4-5cm dilated. A meager 1(ish) cm in 3 hours is slow progress, and we all settled back in to continue resting up.
Now here is where things get crazy.
A little after 1 AM, the nurse was in to check on Lauren. As she was comfortable, and progress had been slow, the nurse was going to leave without checking for further dilation. Having an epidural can make it really hard to gauge the progression of labor without checking the cervix, so Lauren (very wisely) stopped her and asked to be checked, just so she could give me another update. To everyone's shock, Lauren was COMPLETE and ready to have a baby! David called me immediately and I jumped up and FLEW out the door.
Even so close to delivery, there are lots of things to be done before the pushing starts. The doctor has to be called in, the nurse breaks down the bed for delivery, and pushing usually takes some time. David told me that the nurse was pretty confident that I would still make it in time to capture delivery. But literally FIVE minutes later, while en route to the hospital, I got a text from David saying that the baby was out!
There was no breaking down the bed, no time for the doctor, no pushing. Baby Auden just slipped into the world without warning. The nurse barely had time to catch her.
Ok. That's disappointing but fine. My clients are prepared for the reality that, despite everyone doing everything right, coverage the actual birth could still be missed. In normal circumstances, there is still SO MUCH great stuff to capture in the hours after delivery that you really don't miss not having 'that shot' (that you probably aren't going to share with anyone anyway). Plus, you get a newborn session to make up for it.
Under normal circumstances.
Unfortunately, sometimes babies that come out quick don't get the time in the pressure of the birth canal that they need to help prepare their lungs to breathe air. Remember, they have spent the last 40ish weeks in an aqueous environment. Passing thru the birth canal is what helps to force that liquid out of their lungs so they are ready to breathe.
For this reason, Auden needed special attention from the respiratory therapist and neonatal intensive care team. The team spent a good half hour beating on her chest and suctioning her out, but couldn't get her numbers to come up to where they needed them to be. Lauren only had a few minutes to snuggle her before she had to say goodbye and watch her baby be wheeled away to the NICU.
David and I followed Auden to the NICU where I was able to capture some vitals. From there, we hung out in Lauren's delivery suite waiting for Lauren to get the OK to go and visit her baby in the NICU. My heart absolutely broke for her when it was decided she wasn't in any shape to be out of bed and couldn't go see her baby yet. As painful as I know it was to be without her baby, Lauren handled it with such grace. While she settled into her recovery room, David and I went back to the NICU for more pictures.
Because I have been in a similar situation to Lauren's, I know that a birth experience like this leaves an emptiness in you. Four years later I still have a sense of loss over not getting to spend every moment of those first hours with my son. I know that part of the beauty of birth photography is that it gives you back the pieces of the day that you've missed and helps to heal the hole left by a less than ideal birth or postpartum experience. I love that I got to be Lauren's eyes and give her back some of the precious time she lost. The important thing is that this is Auden's authentic birth story. A wonderful story that, despite its imperfections, was 100% worth capturing.
Did you think that was it? NOT HARDLY! Even with my obligation fulfilled, I couldn't stand that Lauren had gotten such a raw deal. I didn't feel like a newborn session was going to be enough to make up for a birth experience nobody would be happy about. I told Lauren I'd be back for a Fresh 48 as soon as Auden was released from the NICU. That's up next, so stay tuned!