I have known Nikki since our sophomore year of high school and we have shared so many memories in the 10+ years since. Nikki and I went to Fresno, California together on an exchange program (NSE) in college. We shared hundreds if not thousands of hour together in marching band competitions, football games, band camp, trips to Disney. We were roommates for 3 days during Hurricane Sandy when she was the only person I knew with power. I photographed her father’s wedding, her proposal, her engagement session, and her wedding. So when I found out she was pregnant, I floated the idea of photographing her first child’s birth!
I told her told her that this was actually a thing, there are photographers who specialize in birth photography. While I never intended to add it to my list of services, I’d always though it would be an incredible experience to have and of course share those images with the parents. My prior knowledge of birth up until that point was limited to what births are like on TV and in movies, but you never really know what it’s actually like until you’re there and you’re experiencing it first-hand. To capture a moment like that is truly incredible.
Once Nikki and her husband were in, I prepared myself for weeks leading up to her son’s birth. As her due date got closer, I researched the crap out of birth photography. I had no idea what to expect – I even went up to page 3 on Google to be sure I read every article and blog I could find on the subject. Who actually goes past page 1 on a Google search? I most importantly wanted to be sure everyone was comfortable and did not see me as an intrusion at all.
Nikki’s due date was Sunday, July 8 and of course, I had a wedding booked on that day. I went it it knowing I might not be able to photograph her birth, but I’d do everything I could to make it. About a week and a half before her due date, Nikki saw her doctor for a check up and they were monitoring her stats to decide if they would induce her the next day.
The following day, I was on high alert. I had my cameras with me at all times, knowing that I may have to up and leave at any moments notice. That Friday afternoon, I sent Nikki a text to see how things were going, knowing she had gone to the see her doctor earlier that day. She responded saying her water broke right there in the office! I guess he was ready to make his appearance!
Nikki had plans to give birth as naturally as possible and wanted to labor at home as long as she could. After hours laboring at home, they headed to the hospital as per doctors orders late that night. I went home expecting that she still wouldn’t be ready until the morning. Lucky, I live just about 15 minutes from the hospital she was delivering at, and I kept my phone ringer the loudest possible setting, anxiously awaiting ‘the call.’
I told Matt to call me when she reached 6 centimeters dilated. According to the 435 blogs about birth photography I read, this would give me enough time to leave my house, get to the hospital, and be prepared for the big moment! To my surprise, I woke up and looked at my phone around 2:00 a.m. and notice a text from Matt that she was at 5 centimeters. At this point, it was nearly 3 a.m.!
This was one of those moments when you discover just how fast you really can get ready! I have never flown out of bed, gotten myself dressed, and arrived at the hospital in such a short amount of time. All I can say is thank god there weren’t any cops on 206 at 3am. Running through the hospital hallways, barely knowing where I was even going, I finally arrived in the labor and delivery ward in a panic. I frantically asked the nurse, “Did she have the baby yet?!” The nurse told me there was still time and that Nikki was sleeping and had not delivered yet. And also to calm the heck down.
When she woke up, the nurses let me into her room and we all had a good chuckle when I told them the story. Nikki was listening to a hypnosis program to help her through the labor and was taking all of the right steps to put her mind at peace.
9:21 am… still in labor… this woman is a trooper! She’s about to round the corner of 24 hours.
But after hours, and more hours of waiting, the baby just wasn’t ready for his big appearance.
The thing that surprised me the most was how the mood in the room was so calm! I was impressed at how she was handling labor so well. With her husband at her side, they truly made a great team as new parents-to-be. At no point during my time there did she ever complain or express any level of frustration or anything! Either she’s truly exceptional or the movies are really twisting reality. It’s probably a little bit of both.
As time went on, I could tell it was getting more difficult for Nikki.
Then, after nearly 24 hours of labor, Nikki very calmly and matter of factly said, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” Matt and I knew how much she wanted to go natural but this poor woman was really losing steam and was fearful that pushing through it could cause other complications. It was time for the epidural.
After receiving the epidural, Nikki was finally able to rest and regain some strength.
Her labor was progressing nicely and it was finally time to start pushing! This is when I thought it was going to start getting intense and the screaming was going to start. Wrong again. Nikki’s strength prevailed and when she wasn’t focusing on pushing, she was her normal goof ball bouncy self. She claims it was the epidural, but I’m pretty sure it was all her. We put on a Disney movie, Inside Out, and she was, as expected, quoting every scene.
After about 45 minutes of pushing. He arrived!!
Baby William was welcomed to the world.
It was so emotional to watch the very moment a human enters the world. I was trying to be the strong one to support Nikki and Matt but I couldn’t hold it in any longer.
And finally, a sigh of relief. A family of three.
It’s so incredible, this little tiny human just moments before was inside her body!! Mind. Blown.
Later that day, the new grandparents, who were anxiously waiting outside, came to meet their grandson for the first time. It was such an amazing experience for me to be able to shoot so many important moments in this family’s lives.
To put it simply, this is an experience I will never forget.
While I admire the photographers who offer these sessions this as a regular part of their business, the demanding on call schedule is not something I could incorporate into my offerings. If you, or someone you know, is looking for an amazing birth photographer, please check out Christine Wright Photography.