Meeting Baby Brother: Fresh 48 Session at Swedish First Hill Hospital | Seattle Birth Photographer

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I don’t remember meeting my little brother. He’s just been there in my memory as far back as it goes. But the story in my family is that I was thrilled to greet him at the hospital and then announced as it was time to leave as a family, “Baby no go home. Baby stay here!” Apparently, my 18 month old self knew that as adorable as this infant was, it wouldn’t be a great idea to bring him home and mess up the good thing I had going.

Many families opt for a Fresh48 Session specifically to capture that precious first meeting of siblings. I always try to temper expectations. It’s a lot for a toddler to take in and is completely normal for them to not show a lot of interest in the baby at first. They need time to warm up and adjust. Some siblings, though, are READY to hold that baby. And these moments are so powerful! These photos offer a peek into the moment their bond first began - a bond they will share throughout their lives. I’m so fortunate to document these priceless memories for my clients.

Get a load of those adorable peely feet. Newborn toes get me every time!

I love documenting what life FEELS like for a family at the various stages of their life together. And soothing a little one while slightly bigger one crawls all over you with snacks - there’s not much that’s more “mother of 2 kids” than that.

If you’d like to schedule a Fresh48 session for your upcoming birth, send me a message and let’s make it happen!

In Her Own Words : Homebirth in Shoreline, WA with Rainy City Midwifery | Seattle Birth Photographer

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Note : This birth story contains uncensored birth imagery. If that’s not your cup of tea, then skip this story. For more information about why I’ve chosen to share the complete raw version of this story - see this excellent blog post by Kayla Grey on Imperative Nudity.

And now I turn the post over to Jessie - telling the story of Asher’s birth.

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Asher grew, and grew and soon we were approaching his due date. As my birthday came around (January 6) we arrived at a New Moon and Solar Eclipse. I spent the day receiving a prenatal massage, eating delicious food and vegan chocolate cake from PCC. I made a wish to bring balance into my life and to embrace Motherhood full-heartedly. I also created an intention to breathe deeper than ever before. I view this as the beginning of the birth portal. I continued serving tables at No Bones Beach Club for another week, and then shifted into an intense nesting urge to cleanse our home + space. The week before Ash arrived I sorted through every drawer and closet, organizing and clearing them. Releasing a lot and opening up space to receive.

As the week went on, I could feel the birth drawing closer but throughout my pregnancy really imagined Asher coming on or very close to his due date so I didn’t carry much anticipation of an “early” birth. As I grew more ripe, I continued to go to yoga classes, connecting with friends and keeping my body well nourished. I enjoyed my large collection of aromatherapy, especially favoring Lavender, Clary Sage, Ylang ylang and Frankincense. Once Saturday (January 19) arrived, I began to feel my stomach tightening. It was hard to tell if it was uterine toning or if I was just reaching my body’s capacity of space. The next day, on my due date, I awoke at 5 AM with a calm yet vibrant energy. I rolled out my yoga mat in front of the fireplace and initiated movement. Each stretch felt necessary and healing. I deepened my breath and filled myself with peace, contentment.

After the yoga session, I climbed back into bed and snuggled up next to Ava and Aro. I relaxed, awake, appreciating these moments on the brink of change. I imagined all three of my children meeting each other soon. Feeling blessed. Abundant.

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We all rolled out of bed at an easy hour, maybe 8 or 9 AM. I awoke (again) to my due date ready to initiate the waves of labor. I made a large smoothie filled with berries, greens, bananas, mint, probiotic juice and a tablespoon of castor oil. Then, I opened up my birth tincture: blue and black cohosh, dong quai and ginger root. Two dropper fulls every 2 hours. My belly was still hard and tight, but no waves of contractions. I could feel it preparing, but not actively ebbing and flowing. So, in true Pitta fashion- I sat in front of the fire on my yoga ball gently bouncing up and down, my feet in a shiatsu foot massager (that I got for Kelly for Christmas 😏) I breathed deeply and tapped in. I drank jar after jar of Nettle/Raspberry leaf tea and plenty of coconut water with a good serving of lactation cookies + chia pudding as well. Soon, I felt as though my body was shifting toward an active labor. I decided to go back into my room and lay down to rest, realizing that I may have a long evening ahead of me. I also reached out to my dear friend and doula, Amana, at this time to let her know that my intuition felt like this baby would arrive within the next 24 hours. After connecting, she booked a flight for that evening.

I closed my eyes and after about 20 minutes began to notice that the tightness in my belly had began to ebb and flow in contractions. I smiled with satisfaction and opened the contraction timing app on my phone. They were about 5 minutes apart, and very manageable. I stayed in bed for another half an hour or so, and then felt called to get up and move with them. It was about 5 PM at this time.

I got into the shower and I grabbed my Frankincense soap created by my doula/dear friend Amana and lathered it up in my hands praying for Love to cleanse and fill me. I rubbed the soap on my belly and heart, then turned to face the water and stood so that the water poured directly on the center of my chest. It felt calming, nurturing...Ma water vibes.

I then grabbed my toothbrush and scrubbed my mouth, praying that this cleansing would open the pathway of my breath and allow me to deliver vital oxygen to myself and Asher as we progressed. Simple hygiene rituals felt nourishing, through pregnancy and now in labor. Power in cleansing. Tapping into that.

After getting out of the shower, I lathered up with coconut oil and put on my labor garments: a nursing bra, Calvin Klein briefs and a flowy floor length kimono. The contractions were regular now, but still the pain was very light...I felt in the flow with them. At 6 PM I asked Kelly to call the midwives and let them know that I was in active labor as I reached out to Whitney, our birth photographer.


Whitney lives just a few blocks away so she arrived in what felt like 15 minutes, and I was still very talkative + excited so we were able to socialize about how sweet it was to be near the birthing portal during the Full Moon Eclipse. I set up some tea + snacks for the birth team, and continued to move with the flow of my contractions.

Just before 7 PM the midwives arrived and the birth started to feel tangible.

I lit a charcoal and set up my incense burner outside the back door. I chose to keep it outside to send the smoke all the way up the the sky, and to avoid filling the house with too much smoke for when Ash arrived to protect his precious lungs. I loaded the coal with Frankincense, Myrrh and Copal resin. I kept the back door cracked and the smoke would blow in with the breeze. Across the living room our fireplace was burning, and the temperature in the house was kept around 76-78 degrees. Through my contractions I was pacing from the fire to the cool breeze of incense. When the pressure would arrive, I would breath deeply + slowly + audibly. As I walked back and forth from the fire to the breeze, I intentionally drew my awareness to the soles of my feet and imagined drawing up strength from our wood floors. I could feel each step touching and connecting to the ground. Earth energy. Ma energy. Rootsy. Connecting to the breath, Spirit energy.

Just before 9 PM, Amana arrived. I was so happy to see her- even amidst my intense contractions, I beckoned her in for a hug as soon as she walked in. I spent a few more rounds on my yoga mat, now on hands and knees and pressing my yoni down onto the Earth with each contraction, grateful for my open hips. The pressure of the Earth on my perineum felt relieving. At about 9:30 I decided to go back to my bedroom and start bearing down/pushing.

I worked with a few contractions standing up in a squat (like Aro was born) but was not feeling progress. Then, I transitioned to the birthing throne (stool) and with Amana’s support behind me, I pushed for nearly 45 minutes there.

I reached down to feel the sack emerging with each push but could not feel his head and was beginning to feel tired. I looked up at my cozy bed, with a mountain of pillows and after pushing for nearly an hour said, “I think I’d like to move to the bed.” 😂 So, I climbed up and reclined back on a throne of pillows, grabbing behind each of my legs I continued to push with each contraction. Soon, I could feel his head draw nearer. I was so relieved. If I’m being honest, I was exhausted from pushing at this point and I wanted the intense final chapter of labor to be over so that I could meet our son.

When I pushed and saw his little crown come out I felt a wave a ecstatic joy wash over me. I started laughing. And in between that contraction and the next, I did not relaxed- I stayed engaged so that his head would not retreat. And then, with the next surge of pressure I pushed his head out, with my waters still intact. One more contraction and the rest of his body emerged, his left hand up by his face just as he had been in the 37 week ultrasound and as he continues to be as a newborn, hands up— breaking the waters as his shoulders passed through. It was 10:43 PM when he emerged.

We did it.

The midwife unwrapped the cord from his neck and peeled back the veil from his face, then handed him to me. I gazed lovingly at his face and we made solid eye contact. After his first cry, I immediately drew him to my breast to offer him milk- but he was not ready for it. So, I held him close and soaked in the glory of making it to this moment.

Editor’s note: to assist in the delivery of the placenta, Jessie moved back to the birth stool for a few minutes. I love the helping hands and the reverence of this moment as the birthing process is brought to a close. Also, how incredible was her second child - right THERE with the gloves - ready to midwife his little brother into the world!

The midwives and photographer stayed around for an hour or so, delighting in the mystical experience we had all just shared and taking in Asher in all of his beauty. They measured and weighed him, checked his vitals and mine. After all was checked, they congratulated me and headed home. It was now the middle of the night and I was buzzing with adrenaline. I relaxed in bed, which now held a precious memory, and gazed at Asher wholeheartedly. My dear Amana stayed in bed with us that night, and like school girls we stayed up for hours chatting about it all.

At one point, I said, “Alright, we should get some rest...good night.” And then almost instantly began reminiscing with her again...unable to control my excitement. We finally dozed off, only to awaken in the morning still filled with birth energy.

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Thank you to Jessie and her entire family for sharing this incredibly beautiful birth with us. It truly was a magical experience. My first time witnessing an en caul birth (when the baby emerges still enclosed in the amniotic sac) and my first birth during a lunar eclipse. Every family should birth in the manner that feels right for them. And when you hire me to document your birth story - it should look like YOUR STORY. For this family that looked like yoga and essential oils and very active participation by the older siblings. In your birth, it may look a lot different. There is no “right way” to birth. As long as you are birthing in your power - whatever that looks like - it is all beautiful.

Much love and blessings,

Whitney

Tessa Turns 1 | Seattle Family Photographer

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There is so much to say about this session. So many thoughts about my best friend’s youngest turning a year old. Katie and I have been mothers together since the early days when we were hauling strollers up subway stairs and sitting in exhausted silence while the babies did NOTHING on the floor and we wondered if we’d ever be mentally alive again. And now we are older, softer, living on a different coast and marveling at how time can crawl and be a thief all at once.

When my friend told me that she wanted to book a session to capture this particular moment in time, my heart leapt. THIS. This is motherhood frozen. Kissing the fingers, squeezing the thighs and really breathing them in. Teaching them to clap and point and know what it is to be loved.

This is the relief of realizing that newborn exhaustion does not last forever, and the crushing heartache of understanding that actually, nothing does.

Here’s hoping that every mother has at least one other mother she can call and sob to. Someone she can text late at night with just the words - “I CANNOT!”

A friend who loves your children and totally agrees with you that they are monsters. Pass down the clothing, pass the french fries. Make another pass around the lake and around the sun. Together we mark the milestones and swear under our breath.

We sit in exhausted silence and watch the babies grow.

Happy Birthday, Tessa. And happy transition to you, Katie.

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Oakley's Birth Story | Seattle Birth Photographer

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I’m always excited for my clients who are expecting babies. But when they’ve struggled with infertility - well, it feels like an especially great honor to be invited to capture their story. Samantha and Brandon had been hoping and praying and waiting for their little girl and now it was finally time to meet her!

Though there was a scheduled C-Section date, Oakley decided she didn’t want to wait that long and we were all surprised when Sam’s water broke. Brandon was called home from work, I was called and we met up at the hospital for the completely surreal experience of waiting to welcome earth’s newest little human.

There was time for a phone call with grandma-to-be to share laughter and tears - all the anticipation of the great moments just head. And then it was off to the operating room!

This is four generations of women in one image - thanks to modern technology. I may have cried just teensy bit. And look at that little squish face! I just can’t handle it.

Welcome, sweet Oakley. You are absolutely the best gift your parents could have ever received. xoxo


**NOTE**

You’ll notice I took no images of the actual C-section this time around. This hospital had a policy of absolutely no photographers in the OR (not for Sam’s lack of trying or advocacy), but I was there to capture every moment before and after and to coach Brandon on what he should photograph in the OR.

Clients who book me realize that birth is a STORY and that I am artful storyteller. However your child arrives and whatever policies and practices are in place at your hospital, it’s important to remember that birth is so much more than the moment a baby emerges. It’s really the birth of a family. The birth of parents. The hours leading up to welcoming your child and the ones spent getting acquainted. However your birth unfolds - your story is worth documenting.

Message me with your questions - check my availability, and let’s have a conversation about capturing this priceless moment for your family.


Tessa's Home Birth | Seattle Birth Photographer

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So many things to say about the beautiful home birth of Miss Tessa. Her mama, Katie is a Seattle doula and her papa is a pastor at a local church. I arrived in the early morning hours to a home filled with warmth, the soothing sounds of worship music, and the gentle buzz of excitement as we all prepared to welcome this sweet soul to earth.

On the morning Tessa was born I witnessed the confluence of laughter, focus, power and surrender. Birth calls us to deep places within ourselves. It shows us our strength and our vulnerability like nothing else can. Katie and Tessa labored with the gentle support and confidence of all those present in their home - and they truly experienced a sacred birthing day.

The sweet voices of her little boys calling to check in. “You can do it, Mama. We love you.”

Then it was time to push. A mighty endeavor for this mama who was pregnant two whole weeks longer than she had been with her previous children. She fell into a rhythm of push and rest, push and rest. Giving her all and then floating in the support of the water and the loving hands around her. She’s almost there.

A hushed reverence descended in the room as Katie and Tessa entered the last leg of their birthing journey together. The stillness broken only by the roar of a mother who finally reached down to deliver her long awaited daughter.

I love this moment. When you look down in awe, amazed that you made something so perfect - something so miraculous. As a birth photographer in Seattle, it brings me such joy to create art that bottles this feeling for a birthing person. YOU did this! YOU are incredible. Congratulations my dear friend - and thank you for allowing me the great honor to be there.

Follow Katie @mothervoyage for all things pregnancy, birth, fertility, postpartum and mothering.

Midwives : Sprout Birth Center

Doula: Selah Birth Support

Hudson's Birth Story | Seattle Birth Photographer

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As I sat across from Chamari and Colt in a Starbucks somewhere between our two homes I noted immediately the deep affection they have for one another. Smiling glances across the table and easy laughter as we talked about their blended family and their excitement for the new baby that would be joining them. Colt expressed his admiration for his wife and his absolute faith that she would be equal to the task of an unmedicated birth if that’s what she wanted. (unwavering spousal support: check). Chamari talked about being excited to give birth - eagerly anticipating this event and doing her research on the physiological birth process. She had envisioned the way she’d like her birth to go and was willing to be flexible with whatever needed to happen on the day their son would be born. (positive birth associations, informed mother, willingness to go where birth would take her: check. check. check.)

These were all excellent signs that this birth would be a beautiful experience for everyone involved.

After being sent home from Labor and Delivery once with “false labor” and hardly getting any rest, we texted back and forth about the possibility that Chamari was experiencing prodomal labor and I encouraged her to keep resting, and to feel confident that her body was doing exactly what it needed to do to bring her baby here.

It wasn’t many hours later that I received a text that they were headed back to L&D. “Hopefully there’s some progress because I don’t know how much more of this I can handle.”

When I arrived to the hospital I found a woman laboring with focus, determination, and grace. It was clear that these contractions were asking the very most of her, and she gave herself to the process completely.

I’ll let the photos take it from here.

That love and support. Unwavering. He was present with her in the most challenging parts of this process. And in the moments of rest she cracked jokes and we all laughed. Birth is a wondrous unfolding.

I could not be more proud of this beautiful family. For loving each other so fiercely, for birthing so fearlessly, and for inviting me along to witness the miracle. If you’re interested in having your birth documented - let’s have a chat in a random coffee shop. It just could be the start of something beautiful.

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Precipitous Birth - it happens | Seattle Birth Photographer

Sometimes babies come quickly. I know, we all think of labor as hours (even days) long. And often it is a gradual, slow process - especially for a first time mom. But birth is unpredictable. And sometimes those babies come FAST!

So what happens if the baby is born before I arrive?

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A precipitous birth is one in which delivery happens within 3 hours of the start of contractions. I’ve had one myself and it is INTENSE.

If your birth is precipitous, then that is the story I tell for you. It often involves me walking into the room mere minutes after a baby is delivered — still damp and snuggled on the chest of a somewhat bewildered mother.

I photograph the relieved smiles, the looks of disbelief, the beautiful initiation of breastfeeding. While it's super disappointing to miss a delivery for a family that has hired me to document the entire labor story, sometimes we just have the story that we have. And a shockingly fast birth will never be forgotten!

Clients who have a precipitous delivery receive the same amount of photos as usual plus a hand-designed album documenting that incredible birthing day.

Little Ezekiel was born exactly three hours after his mama was induced. No one expected it to go that fast, but a nice warm bath certainly can do a number on your labor pattern. I arrived 7 minutes after his birth, and this is the story that unfolded from there:

Grandpa is a NICU nurse, so he had to give the newest grandson a once-over. I love it! Then there were prayers of gratitude and blessings for the new family before everyone settled in to sleep. The next day Ezekiel had A LOT of family excited to welcome him.

This child is so cherished. It warmed my heart to see him handled with such love and care by his many adoring aunts, cousins and grandparents. Beautiful. Welcome to earth, sweet Ezekiel. We’re all so glad you’re here.

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Goyal Family | Seattle Family Photographer

I’ve known Ena since we were freshmen in high school.

Shout out to all the cool kids on Speech and Debate Team!

I first photographed her sweet family when their oldest was just a bump in the tummy. And now look at them - two spunky girls and a houseful of laughter. I have a weakness for those cheesy grins and a refusal to look at the camera. Little kids keep me on my toes and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My friend, your family is so beautiful. Thank you for inviting me to document this moment in time.

Canalichio Family | Seattle Maternity Photographer

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It’s such a pleasure to photograph families on the precipice of welcoming a new child. There’s joy and excitement, and frankly, naiveté on the part of the older sibling to be. An oldest child myself, my heart goes out to all the young ones about to be displaced as the center of their parents’ world.

Just kidding, friends. It’s true, adding another child does rock the family dynamics — but in all the best ways. Siblings are a gift to one another. A built in friend and confidant, a reliable sidekick for all the misadventures of childhood. No one challenges you and prompts your own growth quite like a brother or sister. I can’t wait to catch up with this delightful family again after baby is born and see what looks different, and what is still the same when three become four.

Fast Fact: Maternity sessions work best when you are around 32 weeks pregnant. If you’d like to schedule a session, send me a message and let’s chat about what you’d like to capture about the weeks of waiting for baby.

Tessa's Birth Story | Seattle Birth Photographer

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Baby Tessa kept everyone on their toes. Contractions started at 32 weeks gestation — the same time her older sister was born. So into the hospital went Katie for steroid shots, magnesium and a few days of monitoring. No one thought she’d stay in until her induction date. But she did! And the surprises did not end there.

Katie labored like an absolute champ. Contractions aren’t known for being pleasant, and pitocin contractions even less so. The sensations of labor are very intense, and every woman needs a solid birth partner. Someone to squeeze your hips, remind you to center your breath, and whisper words of encouragement. Katie worked hard and knew it was time to get an epidural going to help with pain management. A couple hours of rest (watching video messages from the kids back home) and then it was time to push.

After months of waiting, wondering what she will be like, the uncertainty of pregnancy, this baby is only moments away. Katie pushed their baby closer and closer to this world. A couple contractions after crowning it became apparent that Tessa was not moving any closer to delivery. The doctor called shoulder dystocia and an entire team flooded the room, prepped to help a baby in distress.

Katie cried out in fear. “No!” We all had so many fears and questions racing through our minds. How long will she be stuck? Will she be OK? The medical team was calm, professional, and knowledgeable — everything you need in a moment of crisis. The doctor attempted multiple maneuvers and Cam and I coached Katie to push with everything she had in her. She was so brave and strong and 90 seconds later, their baby was born.

Tessa. 10 lb 7.5 oz.

There was only time for a moment’s connection. Mama’s hands on that warm, damp head. She was whisked away to the warmer for the NICU team to assess. After this intense delivery, Tessa was a bit limp and there was palpable tension in the room as we waited to hear that reassuring cry.

The rate of shoulder dystocia is around 1 in every 100 births, but nearly 10% of all newborns require some form of neonatal resuscitation during that transition from womb to world. It is not terribly uncommon for a new baby to be administered positive pressure ventilation. Warming beds, drying and stimulating the infant, clearing the airway — these are all steps care providers take to ensure a baby begins to use those lungs to breathe outside of their once watery home.

“Good, strong heart rate,” they noted. “This is good news,” I told Katie. She replied, “I heard a pop. I heard a pop when she was born!” Her nurse and OB calmly reassured Katie that everyone was doing what they could, but for a few agonizing moments, there were no answers.

Finally, a cry from across the room.

The best sound in the entire world.

Our collective relief. But none so relieved as the mother who heard her baby’s first wail — a signal that she was here to stay.

When they finally brought that smushy babe over, Katie’s worries melted into tears of relieved joy. Anyone who has birthed a baby knows that nothing compares to the reassuring weight of your child against your chest. They had their first hellos, minutes of snuggling and whispering and admiring this newest miracle. Then it was off to the NICU for Tessa for some X rays and observation.

As a side note, did you see the size of that placenta?! One of the most impressive I’ve laid eyes on. Baby Tessa fractured her humerus at birth, but she has recovered splendidly with just a little splinting. Our bodies are so incredible, and Tessa’s birth reminded me once again why I count myself lucky to be invited to document the birth stories of Seattle families. Birth is sometimes peaceful, sometimes dramatic. But always miraculous.