As a photographer, it was so important to me to document this time in our lives. Most of my clients know I was expecting our little bundle of joy this January, but he decided to come 3 weeks early, right on the last day of 2016!!! I thought it would be fun to post an update for those of you who have been following along. I will be on maternity leave loving on this snuggle bug through April, 2017. Until then, enjoy a bit of my personal life and our birth story! The story and images below could be considered “graphic”. You’ve been warned. 😉
The Back Story:
When Caleb and I found out we were pregnant, I immediately had a few things off hand that were important to me with labor/delivery. You could say I’d been excitedly waiting for this moment in my life! I talked to so many different people and friends and read and researched about so many different birth options and experiences, which really helped Caleb and I to confirm what we’d hope our birth experience would look like. It was super important to me to get a “natural” laboring experience. I was not against an epidural at all, however I really wanted to have the emotional/bonding moments with Caleb while I labored naturally (a birth ball, the shower/jacuzzi, walking the halls, etc). Let me start by saying I am not one to be super all organic/hollistic and new age-ish, though I do try to opt for the healthier options and have an appreciation for organics/natural lifestyles. After seeing and reviewing the differences in medicated births compared to more natural births, there was no question in Caleb or my mind what route we wanted to try for. I’ve never broken a bone and truly just had no idea what my real pain tolerance would be. The scariest thing I’ve ever done was get my nose pierced or my wisdom teeth out! I was super anxious just to see how far my body could take me and what my body could do. If the contractions were bearable, why get an epidural? I’d heard that at times that can slow labor down or even hault things, and cause a need for medical induction. Another main reason for me to put off an epidural for as long as possible was so that I wouldn’t be stuck in a bed. Once you get an epidural, you’re in that bed until you deliver your babe! The natural labor options + the baller photos I would walk away with totally motivated me in this decision and I’m not even ashamed of it, ha! I knew I had booked and paid for a great birth/support team so I wanted to take full advantage of them.
I really wanted to be able to either labor at home for as long as possible (in hopes that I could make it without the epidural for as long as possible + so that I could avoid being put on the 24 hour clock once admitted to the hospital). A lot of times, once you’re admitted, if you’re not progressing fast enough doctors will push to induce you with Pitocin or push you for a C section (sometimes it’s needed, and if my baby or my health were at risk, I planned to accept the need for medical intervention. But sometimes, there’s really no need for those interventions.) We went into this knowing full well that nothing goes as planned and we were willing to take things as they came and change our plan as needed. Being a photographer, there was no question about hiring a birth photographer to document this life story for us. I had a few friends who have used Elizabeth Parrett and had been anxiously waiting for my turn to ask her to cover my birth. I was so elated that she agreed to shooting our birth story! I also hired Liz’s sister, Meghan Hare as my doula! I can’t express enough how important of a role Meghan played in our birth experience. She filled me with so much knowledge and support. She allowed Caleb and I to plan how we wanted our birth to go without trying to change our minds on things, and made sure to have our backs during delivery when communicating with the doctors and nurses. When you’re laboring, you’re not really thinking clearly and taking time to understand what your options are so it was so helpful to have Meghan there not only as a birth coach helping me to stay calm and breathing and helping Caleb with techniques to use on me, but also because she took the time to explain things to us in terms we’d understand and helped us stick to our birth plan as much as possible. Sometimes the doctors may recommend things that really aren’t necessary and in my case Meghan helped me to not panic and to not just go with what I was told via the doctors. Another reason I hired a doula is so that Caleb would have someone to help him with things once I went into labor. Since I planned to labor at home, Meghan would be on call to help Caleb know what to do to help me while laboring + when we should head into the hospital.
We were originally told our due date would be December 23rd, 2016 but at what we thought was our 12 week ultrasound, our little man was measuring in at 8 weeks old. Our due date was changed to January 20th, 2017 and we began the countdown. God seriously blessed us with such a smooth pregnancy and such a great experience. My only main symptom was intense swelling. Towards the end, my feet, legs, ankles, hands, face, nose.. EVERYTHING was so, so swollen. But luckily everything remained super healthy! There were a few scares with a false mucus plug and high blood pressure that landed us in triage but it always turned out to be nothing. We also had a scare of not feeling a ton of fetal movement which turned out to be because I had an Anterior Placenta, which just means my placenta was placed in front of our baby, so it blocked me from feeling some of his movements. But he was as active as ever. In fact when they pulled him out and saw his umbilical cord my OB said he must have been super active because the cord was super spiraled!
Around Christmas, I began shedding my mucus plug. I could tell because every time I went to the bathroom some of it would come out. For me, this was just a thick, clear, jelly discharge. Some say that you’ll experience the “bloody show” within 2 weeks of shedding this, and go into labor within 24 hours after that, but I’d already lost some of it earlier on in the pregnancy and nothing came of it (it regenerated) so though I was hopeful this was a sign that this was the real deal and that I’d go into labor earlier then our due date, I wasn’t expecting anything too soon. Our OB had said she wouldn’t be surprised if we went 1-2 weeks earlier then our due date, so that’s what I was banking on. I was hopeful that my cervix may at least be dilated to 1cm at our next appt since you can walk around for a few weeks being dilated at 1cm. At my last OB appointment, Wednesday December 28th, my OB checked my cervix and though it was softened, I wasn’t dilated at all. I remember feeling kind of disappointed and worried that I might go to full term, or even worse, go past my due date. Don’t get me wrong I LOVED pregnancy. In fact, I find myself already missing it at times! However the bigger my bump grew, the more uncomfortable/stiff/swollen I felt. Sleeping was impossible so I began to feel pretty fed up and crumby. Especially at the end, I found myself questioning how I could possibly go “one more day like this”. Now I know that’s because I really was right at the end! My family kept saying that my bump had dropped a lot and that they didn’t think I’d make it to our due date, but I didn’t feel like our little guy had physically dropped because he loved to hang out in my rib cage and pushing out in weird oblong ways. I’m realizing now that it probably just felt this way because I literally have zero torso so there was just no where left for him to go. Just having a simple conversation with someone felt like such a challenge because I’d be having to catch my breath (through swollen lips) in between every 3 words. I must’ve been quite the sight.
The week after Christmas I began having pretty bad braxton hicks (which are practice contractions to get your body ready for labor). I’d had them since half way through the pregnancy, but they definitely began to intensify the last week of my pregnancy. My entire abdomen just felt super tight and uncomfortable. I remember having to kneel on my knees and lean over on the couch, letting my bump hang, rocking my hips back and forth while Caleb would rub my back for me at night (when they were the worst). I learned this technique in a birthing class we took at Womens + Babies Hopspital. All that week I felt this urge to get things in order that I planned to put off until the following week (taking down our christmas tree/decorations, getting my taxes in order, putting up a maternity leave auto email response for my clients, etc). I fully believe it was the Lord orchestrating it all because He knew our nugget was on his way into our world.
Thursday evening, December 30th, after visiting Caleb at work and having a totally normal day, the braxton hicks were happening again and I didn’t think much of it. We ate shepherds pie for dinner then went to bed after a few hours of watching netflix like normal. I woke up every hour to pee just like I had been having to do most of the third trimester. At 4:45am I went to the bathroom to pee and while going I felt/heard 3 little pops/cracks. I stopped and thought to myself “Hmm.. that’s odd. I don’t remember ever experiencing that before but it’s probably nothing”. As I started walking back to bed (with a very empty bladder) I felt a tiny gush come out and I stopped mid stride trying to decipher what it was and if I should wake up Caleb, and just then a tiny trickle ran down my leg. I stood there and woke up Caleb saying “Cale.. I think my water just broke!?”.. he shot straight up and said “REALLY!? How do you know??” So I explained what I’d experienced to him and we contemplated whether we should call into triage or go back to bed. FInally we decided we should call triage and talk to our OB just to see what she thought. I remember feeling a growing excitement mixed with terror mixed with complete shock while I climbed back into bed and called her. When I gave her the details, she said she thought it sounded like my water might have broke and that we should take our time, get a quick shower, gather our bags and head into triage. She told us that if it did break we would be admitted right away as there is a risk for infection once your water breaks. I hung up, told Caleb and started shaking with excitement and grinning ear to ear at the possibility. There were no contractions or labor at this point. I felt groggy yet super awake at the same time. I quickly called my mom to tell her what was happening and in between laughter and tears and shock, I stood up out of bed to do a little happy dance and all of a sudden it felt like Niagra Falls was gushing out of me. Caleb was sitting on the edge of the bed watching as water kept pouring out, smiling with excitment and I said “Well, MY WATER DEFINITELY BROKE!”. I remember thinking 1. how lucky I was that I had just stood up and only got it on our hard wood floor (heyo for easy clean up) and 2. how neat it was that it happened while Caleb was there with me and while I was on the phone with my mom. The rest of my mucus plug was laying smack dab in the middle of the puddle. For those who’ve asked, the water and plug were completely clear and scent free. I remember being told that it could be really messy and gross smelling, so I was super glad that wasn’t the case for me and my sweet husband who played the roll of Mr. Clean in this scenario.
Caleb and I immediately went into action, pacing back and forth our bed room getting our things together and stopping time to time to hug and talk about how we couldn’t believe this was happening! Luckily I had all the hospital bags packed for a few weeks, but Caleb finished getting all the last minute things packed (makeup, toiletries, pillows etc) while I got a quick shower. Caleb texted our doula + photographer, and I texted people that I had plans with for that day. Caleb packed me some snacks and gatorade/water, so that I could fuel up before I got admitted to the hospital. Normally, once you’re admitted you get put on a fluids only diet and are limited to only eating things like ice pops and jello. I was so worried my blood sugar would get too low and I’d pass out. The sur-realness and reality hit us all at once. The next time we came home, we’d be coming home with our baby boy. HEART EYES.
It was around 6am when we left the house and the contractions started. I could easily talk/laugh through them but I practiced breathing through them for the harder ones to come. I remembered Meghan telling me how crucial it is to keep your body calm and loose. I turned on worship music and Caleb + I sang together to the playlist, praying over this amazing opportunity we were about to experience. We stopped at my parents house on the way into the hospital to drop off our dog, Kemma. My mom, dad and sister were all awake, waiting for us with excitement waving out the door to grab Kemma so we could be on our way. A contraction hit while I was there and then I had to use the bathroom really bad. A few more gushes of water/amniotic fluid came out. I remember being so confused because I thought that when your water broke it was a once and done thing. I kept saying “it just keeps coming out! Is this normal??”. I was assured it was very normal. Thank goodness for those maxi pads I’d stocked up on for post birth. Around 6:30am we re-started our trek into the hospital. We got admitted to triage sometime around 7:00am, and one of our OB’s came to check me and make sure my water broke. I hadn’t had anymore water leak out yet once I’d arrived in triage, so they swabbed me to test if the fluids were in fact amniotic fluid. Right when she set the test aside to show it’s results (which takes bout 5 minutes), she checked to see if I was dilated and told me I was at 1cm. Immediately another huge gush came out. The OB and nurse began laughing and said “well, I guess we don’t need to wait for the test results anymore.. you’re in fact having this baby!”. I remember being nervous that I’d gross them out and I kept apologizing and they just laughed and said how sweet I was. Caleb and I couldn’t stop beaming from ear to ear. The OB then began to explain the process of how things were going to work over our stay. She explained that if I wouldn’t progress into active labor on my own, we would likely be induced with pitocin because there is a risk of infection once you’re opened up and there is nothing left to protect your baby (typically, you’d go into labor first and then your water would break or you’d have to get your water broken. I remember learning in our birth class of the rarity and odds that your water would break on it’s own, let alone break before you even start contractions/labor). We went over my birth plan, and I asked the OB if they could tell me when my “last call” would be for an epidural. She assured me that there’s really not a last call for it, and that as long as I’m not pushing then I could get one. This helped me feel some comfort about focusing on laboring natural until I just couldn’t handle it anymore, unless I could handle it and stay natural the whole way through. The nurse then took some blood and put an IV port in my arm which made me get faint (not a good sign, I know, haha). There’s just something about needles that get to me! Our doula arrived while we were in triage, and we were lucky enough that they let her come sit back in triage with us. Usually no one can be with you (other then the daddio or your one support person) until you’re admitted into the delivery unit.
Sometime around 8:00am we were admitted to the delivery unit and introduced to our room. I wasn’t put on a liquids diet at first, so my nurse and doula and family encouraged me to eat as much as possible while I still could. I made sure to order things that I knew would be easy on my stomach. Caleb laughs that as my “final meal” I chose bacon. I also got a yogurt parfait and blueberry muffin. Mmm. Our nurse was super nice and went over ground rules with us about the room/where everything was/what everything was, etc. She hooked me up to monitors to get the babies heart rate and monitor my contractions. They hook you up to these monitors intermittently to see how things are progressing (unless you have an epidural then you will be on these monitors the entire time). My contractions were coming sporadically, anywhere from 6-2 minutes apart, and about lasted about 30 seconds to 3 minutes long. Because of the time frame we were put on to get these contractions kicked into high gear (so that things would progress naturally and to avoid induction) I had to get up and moving. Anytime I would lay down in the bed the contractions would kind of fade and not be as strong. I remember feeling so sluggish and tired from being up so early and just wanting to sleep. My dad, mom and sister arrived and sat with us in our room talking and praying and learning about what to expect during our stay. Meghan suggested we start walking to get the contractions moving. Meghan, Caleb and I went for a walk around the hospital halls. Meghan set a goal of 4-5 laps around the delivery unit. We’d make it about half way down a hall and then I would have to stop and lean against the wall to breathe through a contraction. They were definitely getting stronger and more uncomfortable. Caleb + Meghan were so great at soothing and calming me. Caleb would rub my back through the contractions and give me uplifting encouragement while Meghan would keep me focused on breathing by reminding me to relax my eyebrows, then my shoulders, then my butt, then my legs, and work her way down a list, each time adding in a new/different body part or muscle to relax. This was SO HELPFUL. As she’d say a body part I’d literally feel myself let that muscle go loose and continue to breathe “1-2-3-4” in and out. It kept me so calm and s focused. Once I’d feel the contraction lessen, we’d continue on our walk. My photographer Liz arrived when we were on our last lap around the unit, and walked with us back to our room.
The OB who would be with us through deliver came in to check me for the first time since I’d been admitted. Since I’d had to lay down in the bed to get hooked up to the monitors, the contractions seemed to fade out slightly again. My OB said she was concerned that I wasn’t looking uncomfortable enough, so I had yet to hit active labor. Introducing anything into the vagina once your water breaks can cause a risk of infection so they try not to check your cervix too often to keep the risk of infection low. This is why she judged where I was at in labor based off of my comfort level and how I was carrying myself. She was worried that things weren’t progressing and began to “push” the option of pitocin on us. She wanted to get things moving. But we wanted to let it happen naturally as long as things were still looking healthy. My doula ensured me that we were okay to remain on course of our original birth plan, and definitely not at risk for infection yet. She encouraged us to let it go for a few more hours and try some of the techniques I’d wanted to try to see if that got me into active labor. The OB agreed and said she’d be back in about 4 hours to check my progress. We went for a few more laps around the unit, and the contractions began to feel more consistent. When we got back to the room, I used the bathroom (which was the last time I went to the bathroom comfortably). Then I used the birth ball for the first time. Meghan had me bounce up and down on the ball, which helps the babies head to push down on your cervix and continue to loosen it, which should help you dilate. I did this off and on all afternoon until it got too uncomfortable to sit. My family left sometime around lunch soon after I started the birth ball. Shortly after they left, we walked the halls again. After some more birth ball, my contractions began to feel consistent. The OB came back, and she again pushed her desire to start pitocin. She said she could tell I was more uncomfortable but not where she wanted me to be. We had two choices: have the OB check my cervix to see if I’d progressed any further, and if I’d reached 3-4cm then I’d keep going natural for a few more hours and see if I progressed any further, or option two: don’t get checked to limit the risk of infection + start pitocin. Meghan could see my frustration and confusion on what to do. Caleb and I weren’t sure if we should just do what the doctor was encouraging or if we were okay to keep going with our guts. The OB was strongly recommending that I don’t get checked and start pitocin. Meghan recommended that we have the doctors step out of the room so that we could consult on our options and discuss our plan. Reason number 1,000 why I am so happy in my decision to hire a doula. Meghan broke everything down in plain english for me, and told me that since my cervix had only been checked once and since it was only 11am there was no reason to worry about getting checked at this point and recommended I have them check my cervix to see where things are at and if what we’ve been doing has been working. This made me feel so much peace. Thank the Lord for Doula’s. I completely trusted Meghan and knew she wouldn’t recommend anything that wasn’t healthy or smart for my baby and I. We had the nurse and OB come back in and told them we’d like to get checked to see where things were at and then decide if we’d start pitocin or not. Our OB was super understanding and nice and proceeded to check me. I had maybe two contractions while she got ready to check me and I remember her saying something like “Okay.. well I can see things are progressing a bit..”. I remember thinking *YES!*. She checked my cervix which is seriously probably one of the most uncomfortable feelings ever. But considering what I’d be going through with the rest of labor and delivery I sucked it up. The OB was elated to tell me that I’d progressed to somewhere between 2/3cm and that she thought I would be okay to stick to my plan of laboring naturally for another 4 hours and see where that got us. Not even kidding you guys, the minute she was done checking me another gush of water came out and I could feel a tiny shift of things. I’m guessing it was our sweet babies head moving down further. As soon as the OB walked out of the room I had the most intense contraction I’d experienced yet. It was longer and hard. And then another one came, and then another. They kept coming consistently. It got hard fast. After a few hours of this, I decided that I definitely wanted an epidural but that I wasn’t ready for one yet. The nurse explained to me that if I were to get one then, it would halt my labor and would likely end with me having to be induced. I really wanted to steer clear of pitocin because of the side effect’s I’d heard it can have and because I wanted to keep things as natural as my body could do. So onward we went into active labor. I would crunch over any high, stable surface I could find and let my bump hang down. Caleb and Meghan continued to coach me through. At times they took turns, and at times they’d both be helping me. Meghan taught Caleb to squeeze in my hips through a contraction which helped tremendously with back labor. They also took turns using a rolling pin on my back which felt so great. Through every single contraction they would be encouraging me, coaching me and soothing me. Meghan had worship music playing and her essential oil diffuser running which set such a fantastic, calm atmosphere. Caleb kept telling me how great I was doing and how proud of me he was. I picked a winner you guys!
After some time, Meghan recommended that I use the shower. Nipple stimulation helps to progress labor. The showers at Womens and Babies have really good water pressure so running the water over my bump + back through contractions felt really awesome. Caleb stood outside the open shower and ran the water over me while I would breathe through contractions. He was so amazing at coaching me and encouraging me. I literally could not have done it or lasted as long without him. He made me feel so beautiful and empowered. I would hear Meghan encouraging me through the bathroom door, and reminding me to loosen certain muscles. The contractions got so intense that at times nothing felt comfortable. I would try standing up, leaning forward, anything. I’d focus on the water pressure on my back/belly and breathing in and out to the count of four. I stayed sitting for most of the time in the shower, leaning forward on the rest bar. At times I’d moan or say “it hurts, it hurts, it hurts” and cry it out. Caleb, Meghan and Liz kept saying they couldn’t even believe I was in labor because of how calm I was. And bless Meghan + Liz, they sure know how to make a girl feel pretty. I don’t know how often they would compliment me and uplift me. Caleb said I was so much quieter then he expected labor to be. I just remember digging deep and feeling like I turned within myself to focus and conquer. I finally got to the point where I felt like I had enough. I remember telling Caleb I wanted the epidural, and he’d ask me if he should get the nurse to tell her, and then the minute the contraction would end I’d tell him not to get her yet. I remember having to go to the bathroom but not wanting to because I knew a contraction would come and it was so uncomfortable to be sitting through one. I also started feeling a tiny bit of pressure with things progressing down there and was nervous about the babies head being there, haha. At some point I had gotten switched to a liquids only diet, and my birth team did a fantastic job at making sure I stayed hydrated and fueled up. They ordered me some Jello but I only ate about half of the Jello cup. Eating was just the last thing on my mind while laboring.
One of my favorite positions to labor in was called the “slow dance”. I would lean into Caleb’s chest with my arms over his shoulders, allowing my bump to hang down, and swing slowly back and forth. Caleb would whisper encouragement in my ear and rub my back while he held me and rocked with me. This was one of the most special moments in laboring for me. The exact reasons laboring naturally was so important to me. I loved getting to depend on my husband, and have him coach and help me. It was such a neat way to have him involved while providing a crazy-amazing bonding experience. I used this technique all through out the day. And towards the end of my natural labor, this was the only position I used. At times it felt like my body was giving out and I was collapsing into him. I could hear conversations and comments being said around me but everything felt and sounded hazy, like I was in my own world.
I always thought it must feel like an eternity that you’re in labor, especially when you her of those stories of labor going beyond 24 hours. But time literally was lost on me. It felt like each time the nurse would come back in to check on me and the babies heart/contractions, hour’s had past by and I was amazed at how fast the day was going. I had two nurses, the first nurse ended her shift at 3:30pm, and then the second nurse was with me through delivery. They both were so, so sweet. It felt like they were long time family friends. They’d refer to me as “mama” and sit with me or talk with me and encourage me and answer any questions I had and were super respectful of our doula. My first nurse even called in towards the end of the night to check in on how I was doing. I have only great things to say about the facility + employees at Womens and Babies Hospital!
At 3:30pm, I told Caleb I was done with the shower and ready for an epidural. Those contractions were legit! I had asked about using the jacuzzi earlier in the day but the nurse was was worried it would halt my progress, so she wanted me to hold off and stick with the shower. I just thought I wouldn’t get to experience the jacuzzi. I remember feeling so worried that I wouldn’t be able to get the epidural yet either, because earlier in the day they said it would halt my progress as well. I didn’t want to let all my hard work go for nothing! You guys, it was like music to my ears when I heard the nurse and Meghan through the bathroom door asking Caleb if I’d like to try the jacuzzi. I had made it far enough along that I could use this option! YAAAS! Through horrible contractions I remember thinking, “I can do this”. I remember telling myself that before I succumb to the epidural I should use all of the other sources available to me to help subside the pain and get me further along naturally. As soon as Caleb told them that I wanted to try the jacuzzi we heard Meghan + Liz shout out “YESSS! GO MEAGAN!!! WOHOOO!!! WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU!!!!”. It actually made me smile in the midst of a contraction which I did not think would be possible. These girls are so awesome. It was like I had my own cheerleading squad! I couldn’t have done this without their uplifting conversation and encouragement.
The nurse started getting the jacuzzi ready for me with warm water, and Meghan moved her worship music into the bathroom and also dropped some lavender essential oil into the jacuzzi. Laying out in the tub felt a little uncomfortable at first, but then when I tried moving into different positions (kneeling, sitting, squatting) I realized every position felt uncomfortable and it was just because I’d hit the point in labor where nothing was going to feel comfortable. Laying down definitely felt the most relaxing, so I laid, breathing through contractions and focusing on the music and warmth of the water. Caleb ran a soaked wash cloth over my bump with fresh water while Meghan gave my hand a massage through each contraction. Focusing on the pressure of the hand massage and the water running over me really helped to keep me focused and got me through another hour of labor. I remember thinking, I just need to last long enough for my sister to get back so she can get some of this in her film. My sister Breanna dabbles in videography and had been filming parts of our birth story. Since she had left with my parents and missed the shower and most of the afternoon labor, I really wanted to have some of the natural laboring in her film before I got an epidural. I remember feeling such a relief when I heard my mom, dad and sister back in our room. My mom and sister immediately came into the bathroom and helped me through another few minutes of contractions. I was right at the tail end of what I could endure so it was perfect timing when they arrived to help me through those last few minutes. It got to the point where I couldn’t hold myself up through contractions. I literally felt like I couldn’t move or breathe. I felt like I was losing my focus and breathing technique and was beginning to feel like I couldn’t make it through one more contraction. We told the nurse to order the epidural. Caleb, Meghan and my mom helped me out of the jacuzzi and back into my hospital gown. Both the nurse and OB and Meghan were saying I was definitely progressed far. We all thought I was for sure at least at 6cm. The OB was super happy with my progression into active labor and checked my cervix (which would have been the third time total) and said I was at 4cm. When your water breaks first, it can make your contractions a lot more intense, so my nurse explained to me that the contractions I was experiencing were comparable to the contractions a women would feel at 6cm. My OB was very pleased with my progress and said I no longer needed pitocin because of how consistent and close together my contractions were coming.
The only way I can think to explain the contractions is that my entire torso got so tight and hard, mixed with intense cramping in a ring around the base of my torso. Everything felt so tight, like it knocked the wind out of you. Eventually the pain just wore me out and all I wanted was to be able to lay down and rest. Around 6:30pm I got my epidural. I was so pleased with myself that I labored naturally for just about 12 hours. And I was so relieved that I lasted long enough that getting an epidural would not effect things negatively or halt my progress. Everyone had to clear the room but Caleb. Caleb sat in front of me and held my hands. The anesthesiologist put the bed up super high and had me sitting on the edge of the bed, crunched over with my legs dangling down, feet resting in Caleb’s lap. All I wanted was to set my arms down along side my waist and stretch out my torso through a contraction because that’s what felt most comfortable, but I wasn’t allowed because anything behind me was considered a sterile environment. He made sure not to do a thing unless I was crunched over, hands in front of me. The first shot was to numb the area, which felt like a stinging sensation. It hurt, but it didn’t last long. Then I could feel pressure which just felt super uncomfortable and weird which I said felt painful at the time. I think it was just because it was a sensation I’d never experienced before. I squeezed Caleb’s hands hella tight, and later he said he thought I broke them, haha. It was the only time in labor that I let out a few choice words. The epidural was painful, but I got to the point in loabor were the thought of going countless more hours with the contractions I was having made the pain of an epidural SO worth it. Within 10-15 minutes after the epidural, all the pain was gone and I felt like the queen of the world.
The nurse helped me lay back into a comfortable position and hooked me up to the monitors. A few family members came back to visit and say hi (my nana, aunt Kim and cousin Danielle, as well as my parents and sister), and then around 7pm everyone went out to the waiting room so Caleb and I could catch some shut eye. Around 9pm, the OB came in to check my cervix and said I was 7-8cm dilated. Within two hours I’d progressed from 4cm to 8cm. WHAT. They said my body had been working so hard that when I gave it some rest it helped it progress. The nurse would tell me when I was having a contraction from the monitor and it was so strange because I couldn’t feel a thing. It felt marvelous. Epidurals are such a gift. I felt so talkative and excited. Everyone gave us another 2 hour break and we napped some more. It felt so great to rest. But at the same time I felt restless knowing we were so close to meeting our son. The nurse thought I might be minutes away from pushing, so I couldn’t get over the shock of everything happening, and that this was real life. Things had moved along so smoothly and quickly that everyone thought we might have this baby on December 30th!
Around 10pm, the epidural began to wear off and I started feeling more of my contractions. The nurse told me that I was having about 5-6 contractions per minute. She said they were super intense contractions and I wasn’t even feeling the half of them; but it was still more than I wanted to be feeling. They gave me a boost in my epidural, and about 10 minutes later I felt good again. My legs got suuuper tingly, and I couldn’t move them myself anymore. That sensation lasted through until I was in recovery (after delivery). About 20 minutes later my blood pressure dropped from it and I began to feel super nauseas and light headed. Caleb got the nurse just in time for her to bring me a doggie bag and I vomited a few times. That felt so terrible. It was something I’d been scared of all day, haha. I don’t know why but throwing up is one of my worst fears. Don’t judge me. But once I was done the nurse gave me something through my IV to bring my blood pressure back up and I felt so much better. The nurse told me that she thought we were super close to pushing so she began to ask me if I was feeling any pressure from my babies head making his way down. I started feeling some pressure before she’d even asked but I was scared to admit it because for some reason I was feeling super anxious about pushing and kept second guessing myself on what I was feeling. Around 11:30pm the OB came back in to check my cervix and told us I was at 10cm!! FINALLY! I actually couldn’t believe how fast it had gone. I had been preparing myself for a two day event. The pressure I felt was growing stronger and stronger and I felt a tiny urge to push. While getting me prepped to push, the nurse told me that for first time moms it usually takes about 3-3.5 hours of pushing. She also informed me that in my previous ultrasound our babies head measured in the 90th percentile. WHAT. I know. This would mean he’d have a huge head. Hello Stewy from Family Guy! She sweetly told me not to panic or feel alarmed if a ton of nurses ran into the room to help me get him out and flip me on my side. Noooot the best thing to tell an already nervous pregnant women about to push. It took the nurse, my mom, Caleb, Meghan and Liz a good 5 or so minutes to convince me to start pushing in between fits of laughter. I was terrified! I’m not even sure why because I had an epidural so it’s not like I felt any pain, I just felt a ton of pressure. But I think I was just nervous for the unknown and what it would feel like. The big moment! The one we’d been waiting for.
The nurse called our OB and had someone come in to set up the delivery table. It was such a surreal feeling knowing that we were so close to meeting our baby boy. The epidural started wearing off a tiny bit again and I started feeling some of the contractions which helped me know when to push. I asked the nurse about getting another boost, but didn’t want it to make me sick again. She told me it was good that I was feeling thing again because she wanted my body to feel involved in the delivery. I wasn’t feeling pain, just pressure which was really great so that I could still be physically/emotionally involved in the process. The nurse had me start out practice pushing, laying flat on my back, with my mom and Meghan holding up my feet while I grabbed onto my legs and leaned forward to push. I pushed by taking in a deep breath, then pushing while Caleb counted up to 10. At 10 I would relax, take another deep breath and do it again. We pushed in intervals of three I switched back and forth between holding my breath in and letting it out while I pushed. After only a few practice pushes everyone started exclaiming that they could see his head and saw hair! This really motivated me. And with each push that was pain free, I was able to relax and push harder and longer. Caleb switched with Meghan and held my leg while I continued pushing. Meghan made sure to diffuse more oils which helped keep the room smelling good and also set a great calming presence mixed with the worship music playing. Everyone kept making sure I had enough chapstick and water and offered to help me with putting my hair up. I later realized this was my mom/sisters nice way of saying “girl, your hair looks wack, put it up in a bun”.. HA! The nurse offered me a mirror so that I could witness my progress but I was worried that seeing things but freak me out so I opted out of the mirror. Thinking back, it would have been neat to watch but I just knew for my personality since I was doing so well, I should just stick with what was working. The nurse had me try a new position laying on my side, while my mom helped support my leg in the air. We only did this for one or two pushed before the nurse had me lay on my back again and use the birth bar. I rested my feet against the bar while tugging/pulling against a sheet wrapped around the bar. Caleb and my mom still held my legs as support. This position provided great friction and immediately gave me all the strength I needed. It was like some inner strength I didn’t know that I had kicked in and I was determined to push out my little man. The contractions kept coming on closer together, so I began pushing for 4 – 5 times in a row instead of 3 and I held my push’s past 10 seconds at times. The closer I got to having his head out the louder and more excited everyone got with encouragement. Our OB came in to check my progress and was surprised/impressed at how good of a “pusher” I was. I think she planned to pop in and then go check on other patients until we were at the point were our baby was crowning because when she saw how good we were doing and how close we were already, she immediately got gowned up and stayed to cheer me on. Before I knew it, I heard the nurse inform me that they were going to start using the mineral oil (they load you up with mineral oil and then rub their hands around the sides of your opening/the babies head to help with tearing). It was really happening! All of a sudden, I heard my OB tell me to give her a really big push, then everyone said “HIS HEAD!!!”. I remember asking something like “he’s here!? Is he out?!?!” and they told me his head was out! I felt the pressure of it coming out, but no pain at all. I kept pushing really hard to get the rest of him out because I thought she wanted me to keep going but the OB quickly told me to stop pushing. I got so worried something was wrong and started asking her why, and they told me they had to get the cord off from around his neck but that everything was okay. My OB told me to start pushing again and I felt the release of my babies tiny body come out. This all happened within seconds. It all was such a whirlwind, and then I heard my baby boy cry for the first time as they raised him up and placed him on my belly/chest. Immediately tears flooded my eyes and I couldn’t stop saying “my baby!” .. “baby baby baby”.. and other random, sappy things that probably made no sense but I was on such a high and had no sense of the world around me. His perfect, tiny face and wide open, alert eyes were looking right at us.
On December 31st, 2016 at 1:22am, after just over an hour of pushing, our son Owen Davis Keller was born. He was exactly at 37 weeks to the day. He weighed in at 5lbs and 12oz, 19 inches long and so perfect in every way. He scored a 9.5 out of 10 on his Apgar test and I remember thinking how perfect his soft, tan coloring was. I couldn’t stop rubbing his soft skin and kissing the top of his head. I looked over to see Caleb smiling bigger then he’s ever smiled before and crying along with me. Our first few minutes as a new family of three were beyond beautiful. Kisses, hugs, skin to skin, smiles, tears, photos, I love you’s. I find myself reminiscing those sweet memories multiple times a day. My heart grew to depths I never knew it could. Hearing everyone in the room cry and say how cute he was and how tiny he was made my heart burst. I seriously had the best birth team on planet earth. After a few minutes of keeping the umbilical cord clamped, Caleb cut it. He said it felt like cutting through a lawn hose.
Though we had such a smooth birthing process, we did have one hiccup. My placenta got stuck! Like, whose placenta gets stuck!? Isn’t that supposed to be like, the easiest part?? Oye. My umbilical cord was one of the longest my OB had ever seen, so she thinks that may have contributed to it. For an hour, I had to lay there and wait as she tried to get this placenta out while the nurses poked and prodded at me. I tried my best to just focus on my baby boy and ignore what was going on, but it gets to a point when you just cant ignore the pain and discomfort you’re feeling. My OB told me we had about 10 minutes left and one more option to try and get it out before she would take me to the OR to get it surgically removed. I was so ready to get this thing out of me and enjoy my sweet newborn baby so I told her to do what she had to do to get it out now. I was not going to go through surgery for a placenta after getting through everything else naturally. So, she stuck her arm elbow deep inside of me and pulled out the placenta! It was pretty painful, but the relief I felt as soon as it plopped out of me was immediate. Getting to see the sac + placenta that my little man was living in and getting life through for the last 9 months was CRAZY! I’m so glad we got it captured on film. The nurses had to keep pushing on my stomach through out the placenta ordeal and through out the first day post delivery to make sure my bleeding was okay + to monitor my uterus. I remember getting to annoyed because I was so over being poked and messed with but the nurses were super sweet and kind about it. Because the nurse propped me towards whatever side I was feeling more contractions on right before delivery (which happened to be my left side) for about 2 days after my left leg would fall asleep super easily. That was my only symptom of getting an epidural. I walked away with a second degree tear but added it to my list of things to be thankful for because somehow the placement of my tear and stitches wound up being at just the right spot that I barely had pain. I had a few days of recovery and adjustment to minimal pain, but I definitely think it was one of the luckier recovery stories.
I labored for 12 hours naturally and around 6 hours on the epidural and I got to stick to my birth plan which is such a blessing and wouldn’t have been possible without my amazing Doula, Meghan. 24 hours from the time my water broke, we were placed in our recovery/visiting room and spent our first night with our new love bug. There were doctors coming in and out all through out our first night/morning checking on me and on Owen. I requested to have the epidural IV removed asap, so the anesthesiologist came to remove it early that morning, about 2-3 hours after delivery. Normally they wait until the next day. The most painful part really is getting that tape pulled off! haha! I spent hours doing skin to skin with my freshly bathed peanut, and soaking in everything that had just happened. Life knocked me off my feet and blew me away in the best of ways.
I am so, so thankful for a good + faithful Lord who held us in His hands through out our entire process and provided us with such a positive experience. And I am so thankful for my simply amazing husband Caleb who stood by my side and supported me however I needed, our Doula Meghan who helped us have such a calm, peaceful labor experience, our photographer Liz who documented it better then I could have ever imagined, my sister for capturing it on a video that makes me cry happy tears every time I watch it, and my parents for encouraging me through the entire day and filling our room and hearts with so much love.
Caleb and I are LOVING our son, Owen. I can’t believe how quickly everything happened. Our birth experience was here and gone before we even knew it. But we couldn’t be happier with how things went and life with our baby. We are daily amazed at how good God is and how much this little babe changed our whole world in the best of ways.
We are so excited to announce our 2017 Second Shooter Intern “Morgan Fatjo”! She is as sweet as they come and we just can’t wait to spend every wedding weekend with her, getting creative and helping her grow in her photography knowledge/experience! When we first started taking applications, Morgan was one of the fist to apply. After meeting and getting to know her more and more, Morgan was a seamless fit. At our most recent team meeting she surprised us with home made macroons. I mean, if that doesn’t give you an idea of how awesome she is..
You can look forward to seeing a lot more of Morgan around here! She’ll be starting in April and second shooting every wedding with us for the 2017 wedding season. She’s a newly wed, eager, smiley, and loves her dear little kitten Julep. To get to know her some more, stalk her social media accounts and give her a follow!
Give her a sweet welcome to our team in the comments below!
xoxo | Meagan + Julia
Aubree has been one of my dearest friends for about five years now, and let me tell you, this lady is a blessing. She truly has one of the deepest hearts for others and is such a light to those around her. Aubree just finished up massage therapy school and asked for a little photo session to kick start her new career, and I’m so pleased she did! We had a great time catching up and chasing light. Lastly, if you’re ever in need of a massage therapist, trust me, Aubs is your girl. She is CRAZY GOOD at what she does and will make you feel like a million bucks. I hope you enjoy her photos as much as we enjoyed taking them!
Let us just begin by saying that if you don’t know Danielle, you need to know Danielle. A few months back, we started dreaming up a whimsical shoot along the Susquehanna and were pumped to have Danielle on board. With our vision in mind and our cameras in tow, we made the journey to our photo destination and had a ball. Let us also tell you that this little lady is a genius in front of a camera. We’re talking like beyond genius actually. She even face-plants it gracefully. We know this because it’s probable we witnessed this. Sorry, Danielle, we love you. We finished our shoot with a muted golden hour and candle goodness, hellllllooooo (insert praise hands.) Danielle also agreed to go in the water which was colder than we don’t even know what because it was just that cold. We were so thankful for our night together and can’t wait to share our images with you!
Tori and Julia
If you’re a Lancaster native, you’ve most likely heard of the awesome new cafe that’s gone in downtown called “Passenger Coffee“. We held our team meeting there yesterday and couldn’t get enough of the amazing atmosphere, delicious coffee + super friendly staff! White on white on white made our photography lovin’ souls go all heart eyed. We rate this new beautiful place with 5 stars!
Here are some quick iPhone snaps we grabbed from our time together!
Meagan, Tori and Julia
With 2015 coming to an end tonight, we thought it would be the perfect time to share a glance at our year in review. I can’t believe this is our fourth behind the scenes post! It’s so fun to do this each year and look back at what was going on behind the shot, our different second shooters and all of our awesome clients. 2015 wedding season was on for the books! We met so many amazing clients this year, and even got to photograph some previous ones. Tori moved back home this Summer from Orlando, FL which was super exciting for the team. It was our first wedding season to all be in the same location, meeting weekly and second shooting with one another a bunch. Julia shot her first official wedding season as a lead photographer with us this year, all while planning/having a wedding of her own!! Julia tied the knot to her beau Nate on July 11th, 2015. Hats off to her, she conquered it like a champ! I love the shots Rebekah and I grabbed form her day featured below. Our amazing team stylist Kelsey just had her gorgeous little baby girl, Pearl Lee Mae two weeks ago. Kelsey is such a trooper! She was super pregnant through out this Summer and Fall but that didn’t keep her from getting her adventure on, climbing over rocks, gathering sweet props and crafting together floral crowns for our seniors. I love seeing that growing baby bump in some of the images below. As for me, the traveling bug bit me quite hard this year and it did not disappoint! I got to visit Maine, Las Vegas, California, West Virginia, and NYC. WOO! This year we also welcomed on two team editors Jordan and Brittney! They’ve been so great with helping out and keeping us on track with all of our deadlines and editing.
Our wedding season began in February and wrapped up in November. It’s been a full year! This year we had our fair share of wedding cake, crazy dancing, carrying dress trains, chasing the light, witnessing some of the most magical heartfelt vows, first looks and interactions, egged on a few cake smashes, traveled collectively to Maryland, Baltimore and Colorado, and ended the year by hosting our annual Holiday Mini Sessions. We are all so excited to see where 2016 takes us individually and as a team. Thank you so much for following us along on our journey, for hiring us as your photographers/stylists, and for the amazing year that you gave us!
ps- As always, we’ve got tons of new goals and dreams that we are anxiously waiting to check off the list for this year. If you’d like to make sure you’re getting all of our updates and weekly behind the scenes, click and follow our social media links below!
YOU GUYS. Julia, Tori and I have some big new’s we’ve been waiting anxiously to share. We are beyond excited to announce our new super exciting collaboration and team member. Kelsey Courtney of Style By Rae is officially the Meagan Nicole Photography team stylist!!! WHUUUUT. Shut the front door. No really, it’s true! Kelsey is an extremely talented stylist in all facets and we are so excited to mesh our love for capturing authentic moments with beautiful style crafted to fit your personality.
I’ve known Kelsey ever since 10th grade in high school. We both quickly bonded over the fact that we were the only girls in school who admittedly used a tanning bed. Ever since I’ve loved watching Kelsey evolve in her style; she’s always been one of my go to’s for social media style stalking (just to be honest). Even more exciting then her amazing style joining our team is the fact that she’s an expecting mama for the first time!! Follow her along on IG with her #ourbabycourtney updates, you won’t regret it. Although you might come down with a heavy case of baby fever and jealousy that this girl can rock just about anything with that bump.
We’ve been scheming up way’s to make the MNP experience even better for all of our clients, so when Kelsey contacted us with the idea we instantly knew this is what we were looking for to take MNP to the next step. This will now provide clients with the option of outfit styling, makeup/hair styling AND location styling. Whose ready to jump aboard the awesome train!? We’ve perfected a ton of new options and packages for you to choose from and we can’t wait to get started. Style By Rae is officially available to book, but dates are filling up fast (and I’m not just saying that). We want to get everyone in so please make sure to email us asap to get your date on the calendar! Side note, another awesome side fact: Kelsey’s husband is a can’t-keep-your-butt-in-your-seat rocking DJ and owns The Electric Gentlemen who we highly, highly recommend for any of you engaged love birds out there. Is this just the dream team or what..
Meagan Nicole Photography + Style By Rae
“ Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved clothes! I would change my outfit three times a day and I would turn my room into a make believe consignment shop! This passion continued as I began working in retail when I was 16 years old. My first retail job was at Bakers Shoes were I was trained in selling and styling. My love for styling grew as I moved onto working at the LOFT, where I was elected style captain of our store’s team! I was responsible for creating fashion inspiration for the LOFT employees and helping them style our clients!
Several years ago, I began an Etsy shop called, That Cat Dress, where I friend and I thrifted vintage, eclectic, and high-end clothing. It was so much fun searching for unique styles to sell in our shop! To this day, one of my favorite things to do is thrift vintage items and mix them in with my modern wardrobe!
I’ve been following style bloggers for years and I’ve gained so much inspiration from many of them that I decided to start my own style blog! I finally took the leap and launched my blog, Style By Rae, in May of 2015. My main goal with my blog is to show trendy styles at an affordable price! – Kelsey “
Favorite Make-Up Choice: My go-to make up product is my Urban Decay Naked Flushed palate! It’s a trio compact that includes a bronzer, blush, and highlight! It’s so easy to throw in my bag and it looks beautiful on your skin during every season!
Fill out the contact form on our website for more information and details!
I had always heard about this sweet Kayce Shoffner, and what a talented photographer she was, but had never had the chance to meet her. The Shoffner’s had planned their annual trip to disney and we decided it would probably be a pretty cool idea to capture their family in the sunshine state and how glad I am that we did! Kayce and Brett are just about the sweetest people and not to mention, the coolest parents to their two cuties. We ventured all around downtown Winter Garden, collected rocks, picked oranges from a bitty tree and collected just about every stick in town, or at least Avery did. How fun to have a job that brings such fun moments and nights into our lives.
Mitch and Brittany were such a fun couple to spend an evening with! Perfect weather + adorable couple= engagement session success! We spent our time exploring Overlook Park, trying to manage a few balloons in the breeze, and talking about our mutual love of Coldplay. I’m so excited for their November wedding! It’s a blessing to see how they honor God in their engagement and it will be a joy to watch them wed in a few months!
I am all about young, up and coming businesses and entreprenauers so when I saw MOTHCO and what it was all about I was so excited. A lot of people lose sight of WHY they started something. It becomes about the fame, the glory, being cool, having so many followers on instragram and we tend to forget what our original purpose and passion was. The reason WHY we want to reach that many followers. Not to be cool, but to reach the nations with the good word and love of God. There is something so amazing about a fresh vision and pure heart. Samuel Bernhardt and Kaylynn Bert began More Than Conquerors which started as a fundraiser for local families who were impacted by cancer. This purpose has continued in their mission to partner with people and meaningful organizations by providing them with funds that come from their profit. They believe in taking responsibility for the social needs around them and using what God has given them to bless others.
“We believe in purpose more than profits. Currently, we are partnered with Urban Hope, a Christian organization dedicated to the mission of providing believers with cross-cultural training and experience in urban ministry. We’re More Than Conquerors Clothing, and we make great clothes to support great organizations.”
How awesome is that!? What they’re doing is truly amazing and touching so many. I wanted to help them grow their business and be a part of this reach in some way or another. I firmly believe in supporting ministries; though you may not be the one going and doing what they’re doing, if you’re pouring into their ministry you’re planting oats into their harvest. So good. I also love putting together things during my less busy seasons to keep the creative juices flowing. It feels so great just to get creative and have fun! So this Winter we teamed up and put together a styled shoot for their 2014 Winter Look book! I am so excited to share my favorite images from this session with you. Make sure to check out the full look book over on the MOTHCO website!
xoxo, Meagan Nicole