The Birth of My Niece
Raleigh Birth Photography Travels to Kansas
It was a phone call I had been anxiously waiting for – It was early in the morning and I could hear my kiddos downstairs screeching. It all faded to silence when I heard my sister ask – “so whtcha doin’ in April?” I knew instantly that she was hinting that she was pregnant and I squealed and tears filled my eyes. She was due April 13th making it very easy to commit to taking the WHOLE month of April off. We didn’t work out many details – we figured we would get to that as we got closer.
It seemed like each time we talked I had to reign myself in from divulging everything I have learned about birth. It’s so easy for me to talk about birth – I live and breath it here in Raleigh. I knew nothing about the options in Kansas. I desperately wanted Ashley to have a great experience; find supportive providers who listened and worked WITH her rather than for their schedule, standard and paycheck. My husband would make fun of me – and I kept reminding Ashley that she could tell me to stop but I love her so hard and I know how easy it is to fall victim to the naïve of first time parenthood. We talked about maternity clothes, birth class, hospital procedures, doula, vaccines, coping techniques, cesarean, what you can say no to, afterbirth, breastfeeding, infant weight loss, bottle feeding, baby led weaning, etc… I am surprised she didn’t stop communication with me all together during her 9 months. But for the most part – I did wait for her to bring up the topic and then I would unload all that I knew or where to read (sorry Ashley)!
The pregnancy flew by – as it usually does. We had a relatively solid plan in place. I was going to drive out with my mom and Lucien on the 7th of April (two day trip). Then we would wait. Once we were in Kansas, there were no concrete plans. The only other thing we anticipated was if we made it to Michael’s trackout date – he would fly out and hang in Kansas until it was time to drive home. At 37 weeks – Ashley was checked and she was 2 cm. Yep… I was anxious. Even though – a cervical check tells you NOTHING as far as when or how long labor will be. I was worried. Part of me wanted to jump in the car and go out 2 weeks early. But I talked myself out of it. I tried to remind myself (with the help if some midwife friends of mine) that it means nothing and she could be dilated like that for a month. The next week she was checked again (38 weeks) – and she was 3 cm. This is when my internal alarms were going off (for no reason other than I really really didn’t want to miss her birth). Ashley and I talked a little about how she felt (physically and emotionally) and what she wanted us to do. She still felt that she was a week or two away – but she too was starting to get a bit nervous. I also sensed that she was feeling kind of worried – having us so far away. We downplayed it to my mom and told her she was 2.5 cm – but I did move up our travel date by 2 days. We were set to leave Wednesday April 5th in the afternoon.
Lucien was a rockstar rider and we made it to Kansas before the weekend. *I also want to point out that we had potty trained him just 1 month prior to the trip and he was accident free* We had a great weekend with Ashley and Keenan – we saw the Easter Bunny, ate tons of ice cream and bulked up Ashley’s Toy shelf. Monday came and both Ashley and Keenan went to work. We spent the week visiting for lunch, cleaning, collecting items for the nursery, watching movies, and even took a few last minute maternity photos. One of the biggest tasks I took on while we waited was I put together 19 freezer meals one afternoon/evening. I had asked them to get a large chest freezer, I was trying to fill it to help make their transition to new parenthood a bit easier.
Ashley’s due date came and I went with her to the Doctor appointment. They stripped her membranes (at her request). We thought for sure we would have an Easter baby; so much so that we didn’t have much planned for Easter dinner! Well, Easter came and went… still no Addalyn. As we got ready for bed that night Ash was bummed she had another week of work ahead of her. I don’t blame her – the end of pregnancy is hard and working full time on top of that is even more challenging.
I found myself up at 4:30am with Lucien Monday morning. Not sure why he had a hard night but I was definitely dragging. My mood instantly shifted when I head a tiny voice yell from upstairs – “Amanda, are you awake? Cause, my water just broke all over the floor!” Yes Ma’am! I was up and ready – amazing what your body does when hit with adrenaline. Mom called my dad and he went straight to the airport to find the first flight to Kansas City. Keenan called his parents to tell them to get on the road. Ashley wasn’t having contractions – so we both thought it was a good idea for her to shower, eat and maybe go for a walk. Naturally, I started documenting right away. After breakfast, Ash reminded Keenan and I that the car seat needed to be installed. So we went out to do that. Ashley was feeling nervous and opted to head in to the hospital around 8am. Mom and I stayed behind. We had a friend come to pick up Lucien and hang with him until Dad got into town.
Mom and I made it over to the hospital by about 11:30pm. I predicted that we were in for a long day – and I was not wrong. Ash was still only at 3cm when she arrived, she progressed to 5cm right around the time we got there but then it moved at a much slower pace. The day was amazing though! She wore a beautiful birthing gown from Sweetbotoms. We unpacked and decorated her room with the My Birthing Box contents. They watched the food network all afternoon. She facetimed with Brittany (our youngest sister) during her work breaks. Dad and Lucien arrived and we visited with them for a little. Things were slow but Ashley wasn’t in a lot of pain so she was able to enjoy most of the afternoon – we laughed a lot and it was just so fun to experience birth in this way.
There were many times that I would set my camera down and just be present. I wanted to be there for Ashley not only as a photographer but most importantly as her sister. I did, though, find that tears would fill my eyes because I was just so immensely proud of her. I was watching my baby sister labor to bring her daughter into this world. I was a mess inside – I would quickly lift my camera and hide the tear falling. I wanted to stay focused.
After Dad left with Lucien to take him to dinner she started pitocin. She progressed a little with that and the intensity kicked up a lot. She went without an epidural for quite a while. In fact, I would have guessed she was in transition – she was shaky, nauseous and had pressure. But when they checked her she was only at a 6.5 cm. It was 2:30am and she opted for the pain relief so she could rest. She needed it. Once she was comfortable (3:45am) they told her to rest. At 5:45am she woke up and asked me if she should be feeling pressure in her butt. Yes, yes you should!
They came in to find she was at 10cm but they figured it was best she ‘labor down’ a bit longer. We called the troops back. Mom and Dad came back with Lucien. Keenan’s parents were not far behind. Lucien had slept longer than all 6 adults combined so naturally he was ready for the day and the rest of us were frequenting the coffee station. Ashley started pushing at 7:40 am. I noted the time in my head – not sure why. She pushed for so long and she pushed so hard. I was blow away with all the stamina she had. Ashley didn’t utter one complaint either – absolutely incredible! I have very few pushing pictures because I was playing a more active role in her birth. This is a great example of why, I personally, could never and would never try and do both a Doula and Photographer role other than family or a special friend. After 3 hours and 8 minutes, Addalyn came screaming into the world. Whoa! The feeling of excitement was escalated as I watched my sister, one of my very best friends, reach for her baby and in that very instant became a mama. I kept shooting, trying keep my composure. I put my camera down for 5 seconds and I lost it. I was crying tears of joy as they welcomed their daughter. I was an Auntie – a title I have been waiting to hold for many many years. Mom asked if she could take a picture of me. I snapped back declining her request – but looking back I wish I had let her (sorry mom). Ashley deserved to have that photo for her memory.
The rest of the day was truly astounding. Addy met all her family who came to be there for her birth, Lucien was enthralled and loved his baby cousin so much. I stayed with Ashley and Keenan longer than everyone so that I could capture a few more moments – and they let me hold my niece *BONUS*. She latched right away and looked absolutely adorable in the hat I made her. She is hands down my favorite little girl in this world.
Here is the video that I put together of Addalyn’s Birth. I hope you enjoy, kick back and grab a couple tissues… it’s a long (but great) one!
Below, you will find a collection of my favorite images from my sister’s birth…
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