Rainbow Baby Hospital Birth in Destin, FL

Amanda contacted me when she first found out she was pregnant! She knew that she wanted to this birth photographed. Earlier in the year she lost a baby boy. She told me his story and it broke my heart. I wanted this for her. I prayed over her pregnancy and when she was 16 weeks and everything was perfect, she decided it was time to book! We got to know each other at her maternity session and kept in contact via text at the end of her pregnancy. Y'all, Claire wanted to make an entrance. Poor Amanda was in labor for what seemed like a week. She was such a trooper though! Her water finally broke and she rushed to the hospital, I was right behind her! Her older boys came quick so we both assumed this little lady would be the same. 

Claire had other plans. She wanted to make everyone wait. Amanda labored for hours naturally. She was so strong. After an exhausting day with so many interesting moments, she got an epidural and just a few hours later, Claire was here! Perfect in every single way and adored by everyone. 

Amanda & Clay are such amazing parents with so much love for their babies. It was a blessing to be able to document this incredible moment for their family. The rainbow birth of Claire Elizabeth. <3

New Years Eve Birth in Destin, FL

It's an honor every single time a family trusts me to capture these beautiful memories for them, but it's an even bigger honor when a fellow photographer chooses me. Maria (of mariagrinerphotography.com) and I talked about her birth for months. When she booked me she let me know her due date was 1/5/17 but wanted to make sure I was aware that Luna would probably be making her grand entrance on New Years Eve.

Sure enough, on New years eve Maria's water broke! Her contractions were slow to start but when they finally picked up they were intense. During early labor her beautiful little Ava (6 years old) was so attentive. She rubbed her Mama's belly and got her whatever she could. But a Mama knows. As soon as we convinced Ava to take a little nap around 4-5am Maria's contractions picked up. After a while she was exhausted. It was morning. She got an epidural so she could get some rest before (what we were thinking) would be a long day. At that point I decided to go get breakfast. I ran to the cafeteria, and they were still closed. So I hopped in the car and went to the closest restaurant for a biscuit. I ate as quickly as I could because I wanted to get back.. Sure enough as I'm walking up to the hospital I get a phone call. She's complete. Yall I was barely gone 25 minutes! I ran upstairs and the nurses were putting the room together for Delivery. Everyone was smiles! The room had caught a second wind. Dr Esses came in and Maria delivered a BEAUTIFUL baby girl. Luna Grace. She was perfect in every way. Ava was there the entire time supporting her mama. And once Luna was here, she quickly stepped into the role she had been waiting for. Big Sister. Ava & Daddy cut the cord together. It was so perfect.

Congratulations Griner Family. Thank you for letting me document this Amazing Day!

Maternity Milk Bath on the Emerald Coast

Pregnancy should be celebrated. A woman's body growing and changing - creating life! There's nothing more glorious. One of my favorite ways to celebrate Pregnancy is with a relaxing and beautiful milk bath. These images are timeless. Mom will look at them for years to come and celebrate this short but powerful chapter of her life. 

This Mama is a second time mom. We did quick maternity pictures with her first but I really wanted to her to have something to cherish with this pregnancy as it will be her last for now. We decided on a milk bath with soft flowers. I couldn't be happier with the results and neither could she. Not to mention how fun this session was! We talked about the little one inside of her and planned for an herbal bath to welcome him. I'll share those breath taking images soon. For now, I hope this inspires someone else to document fleeting chapter of life.

2014 Home Birth in Crestview, FL

This birth is so special to me. It was one of my very first births I photographed. I had no idea the deep love for Birth that this beautiful home birth would spark or the baby fever it provoked that eventually turned into my third baby. This was the first home birth I had ever been a part of. I'm not going to lie, birth was very much a hospital affair in my mind before this. After witnessing Cindi, the midwife of Gentle Birth Options, LLC in Niceville, FL taking care of my best friend as she labored and pushed and after the baby was born it changed my entire thought process on BIRTH. Birth isn't just about the baby, It's about the mother. It's about the process, which should be filled with love and respect! I can't express the gratitude I feel for having witnessed such beauty.

There are so many things I would go back and do differently when photographing this birth, but I worked with what I had. A manual focus 50mm lens on a crop sensor body. (you read that right, A MANUAL FOCUS LENS AT A BIRTH!) The images aren't as crisp as my work now and some are down right blurry, but the images still tell the story. The birth of my Best Friend's daughter. It's amazing to go back to these images and see how I've grown but also to also see where it all started.

Magical Home Birth in Baker, FL

As much as I love telling birth stories through imagery, nothing compares to the words mom can put together of her life experience. Here's Abel's Birth Story as told by his loving Mama. 

"With baby number 3, I thought surely he would come before 41 weeks. I carried my second to 41 weeks and 2 days and I knew for sure I could not do that again. The misery of it was still too fresh! So 41 weeks rolled around again and I gave up on ever having a baby - I'll just stay pregnant forever. Or at least until Thanksgiving. He was "due" November 12th and it had been a long-running joke that he'd be born on the 24th, his grandpa’s birthday and Thanksgiving day. The morning of Saturday the 19th, 41 weeks on the dot, I went in for a non-stress test to see how baby was tolerating the contractions I was having. My contractions were noticeable but not unbearable by any means and my cervix was 3-4 centimeters dilated. I figured surely we had a few days to go still. So we went home, continued our day as normal, cooked and ate, and just hung out as a family. I spent some time sitting on and leaning over my yoga ball while my husband and our girls watched Harry Potter. They were scared! It was so cute. After we ate dinner I made 2 huge pans of brownies. I was hopeful that if I baked enough for the birth team, they would have to come eat them! We ate our brownies, then bathed our girls and we all went to bed a little early, around 7. I fell asleep somewhere around 8:30 and woke abruptly at 10:00 with a huge contraction. I couldn't lay through it. I absolutely HAD to be on my hands and knees. I tried to lay back down when that contraction was over but a few minutes later another one came and there was no mistaking that this was labor and baby was coming sooner than I had anticipated. Paxton heard me vocalizing through them, woke up, and immediately started rubbing my back. We moved to the living room so I didn't wake up Piper and Paisley and turned on Titanic. He had never seen it and we had been talking about it for days, so I figured there was no better time than active labor to watch it! I tried to rest on the couch, but laying down and leaning back wasn't an option anymore. The contractions were so intense. I didn't time them, so I'm not sure how far apart they were, but they were CRAZY intense. I labored over my ball and leaning over the couch for a couple hours before I called Cindi. A few minutes later I got a call from Kassie (the other midwife) and we decided that since I was a 2 hour drive from her, needed antibiotics, and contractions were so intense, she'd go ahead and head my way. I text Kayla (my photographer) to let her know things were picking up and I would need her soon. Kayla and Kassie arrived minutes apart, around 2:00.

 

After assessing me and baby and checking my cervix to see how I'd progressed (I was 6-7 cm), we started the first course of IV antibiotics. Kassie gave Paxton the job of holding the bag of antibiotics up and gently squeezing as it dripped into my IV. Towards the end of the bag, he squeezed it a little too hard and bubbles rolled up into my arm, through my armpit, and into my chest. I immediately panicked. I've seen way too many episodes of Grey's Anatomy and I just knew I was having a pulmonary embolism! I still joke that he tried to kill me. My chest got cold and I started coughing and my contractions all but disappeared. Once I was talked off of the edge and convinced that I wasn't ACTUALLY dying, things started to pick back up.

 

I labored on the toilet for a little while trying to get back into my "space" but the smell of the air freshener and the fact that my legs were going numb kept me from focusing, so I moved back to my ball in the living room. Cindi arrived around 3:30 (I think) and immediately sent me from the living room to go labor alone in a bedroom. Since the girls were asleep in our bed, I moved into Piper's room. Paxton followed me in and rubbed my back while I labored over the bed. I found a lot of comfort in leaning over in his lap while he sat facing me and rubbing my lower back. Every contraction felt like my back would split open. As it got closer and closer to morning, we realized that Paisley would be waking soon. She usually gets up around 5:30. My labor had finally picked back up and contractions had gotten closer together again and everyone knew that if she woke up, I'd go into "mommy mode" and labor would slow again. So Paxton called his mom to head over and pick her up. Like clockwork, Paisley woke up at 5:30. The sun was not quite up. Nana arrived just a few minutes later to get her. I got to hold my baby for a few minutes and comfort her in her early morning confusion before she left. I didn't want to let go because I knew things would be so much different the next time I held her. It was such a surreal experience to hold onto my tiny girl while my body worked tirelessly to get her brother out. I could remember vividly standing in my kitchen 25 months prior, laboring and waiting on Paisley. 


Once she left, I moved back to our bedroom (Piper is a much harder sleeper) and labored in there a while. This is where things become a blur. I know the tub was being filled, but they were having a hard time getting the water warm enough for baby. When the sun came up, things slowed down again, with contractions 6-7 minutes apart. Piper woke around this time and joined us all in the living room. She sat by me on the couch for a few minutes before disappearing to play in her room.

 

I mentioned my concern with how far apart my contractions were, even though they were lasting a long time and were extremely intense, and Cindi assured me that it was normal for things to slow when the sun came up. She also suggested a few things to get baby in a better position and to get him descended more because he was still really high up. I lifted my belly through contractions to pull him back behind my pubic bone. I stood with my foot propped on a chair through contractions. I laid on my left side on the couch, and thought I would surely be ripped in half by every single contraction.

 

By 7:30, when it was time for my second round of antibiotics, I was totally exhausted and becoming very defeated. I was being told I was doing so good, but I didn't feel like I was. If I had been doing a good job, my baby would be out already! My last labor was 3 hours from start to finish, so the last thing I was expecting was a 10 hour labor. The contractions were intense, the pressure was insane, and I was bearing down with every contraction. I went to the bathroom to labor on the toilet a while longer - excruciating, but effective. It was getting harder and harder to pant through the urge to push, so I had Kassie check me one more time. Some women don't care to know the state of their cervix, but it's encouraging to me to know there's been a change. Almost complete and baby was right there! She said "I can break your water and you can get in the pool now" and I said "let's get this show on the road!" 
It took several tries from both midwives to rupture the amniotic sac. Finally, I had a contraction that pulled it tight enough to get the job done. I stood in the bathroom through 3 contractions to get as much fluid out as possible before FINALLY moving to the pool. I had been dreaming about that warm water for hours, it seemed. I decided last minute, at 37 weeks, to rent a pool again and have another water birth. I'm so glad I did! The water was immediate, although temporary, relief. As soon as I was in I had another big contraction and my body started involuntarily pushing. I got a few seconds of relief before another onecame. This one felt like a train barreling out of my body. It rushed over me and every muscle in my body bore down. It was loud and my body was screaming and all of a sudden my baby was moving down and I could FEEL him. I felt him move back up and thought oh no, I can't do this for much longer. I can't! And I said it. "I can't do this" - and in my head I knew, if I'm saying that, then this is almost over. I've done this enough and seen enough births to know that “I can't” means you ARE.

 

Cindi and Kassie had both reminded me earlier in the morning that I would have to control my pushing so that I didn't exhaust myself and baby get stuck or cause tearing, as both of my girls had gotten stuck in one form or the other, and I had torn with both of them. Somehow, even as fast as things were happening, I was able to consciously remember that and remind myself to not push furiously through the contraction. They were telling me not to push without a contraction, but the contraction wasn't stopping, and I wasn't pushing, my body was. I panted and breathed my baby down through my body. As I felt his head emerging, I told my husband to jump in and catch him. He did! He skinned his socks off and jumped in the pool! He didn't get to catch either of our girls and we had only briefly discussed him catching this baby. I so badly wanted him to. In my head I'm screaming at this point and then I see his hands going towards the baby and I'm terrified he's going to pull on him. My first 2 were both pulled from my body and the pain was so bad. I told him don't pull on him, just catch him. He knew that! But I had to tell him. And then baby's head was out. And then his body followed quickly behind. Daddy guided him perfectly up to me and I pulled him to my chest. My baby, my perfect baby boy, who I had dreamed of my entire life, was finally in my arms. 3 minutes of active pushing, 23 minutes after my water was broken, 10 hours after labor had started, 41 weeks and a day after conception, at 8:03 AM on a beautiful, cold, Sunday morning, my dreamy baby boy, Abel Leonidas Shelton, was finally earthside. 


He was out and his cries filled the air. His lungs were strong and healthy. And he was so big! His hands and his arms were huge. He looked like a little linebacker! A perfect mix of both of his big sisters. I couldn't believe how big he was (9 lbs and 14 oz, after he pooped twice!) and how easily he came out. My mind was reeling at how quickly everything happened. Piper rushed over to the pool to see him and see why he was crying. She was so happy to finally see her brother! 
We got out, got cleaned up, and then Nana brought Paisley back to meet Abel. She wasn't so sure at first, but she has since warmed up to him. And there we were, our perfect and complete family of five :) 


I am so blessed to have been able to birth 2 of my babies at home, and to have been surrounded by such an amazing, supportive Sisterhood of women while I did it. None of this would have been possible without the incredible care my midwives provided me or the unending support my husband has always graciously given. I am immeasurably blessed.

Planned Cesarean in Fort Walton Beach, FL

Gerriane contacted me inquiring about a Fresh 48 and Newborn session a few months ago. I always ask my Fresh 48 inquiries if they're interested in birth coverage and possibly give them some information. She was hesitant as she was having a cesarean. *If you know me, you know I have a birth bucket list. Cesarean is on my bucket list. I've never been aloud back.* We both thought this was the perfect moment for her to get her birth pictures (Third cesarean) and me to gain the experience. She contacted her doctor, the hospital, the nurses and the anesthesiologist for permission to allow both her husband and I back in the OR on Delivery Day. When all of our ducks were in a row, I finally got excited. This birth story is all about Gerriane and Grace, but it was so special to me as well. This was the very first birth FWBMC allowed a photographer in the OR for.

At 9:30am I met Gerriane & Brad outside the hospital. She got checked in in the ER and we made our way up to L+D. The nurses prepped for the C section and we all waited. Waited on the Dr. Waited on the fluid. Waited on the Anesthesiologist. Waited. Finally at 12pm they came to get Gerriane. She gathered her IV line and off she went with the nurses. Brad and I got dressed in our sterile paper outfits and we waited some more. FINALLY someone came and got us, apparently we were lost..... they lost us. ;) 
 

This is my favorite part, we walk back to the OR an open the door. We get the quick "Don't touch anything". As soon as the door opened there it was. They had already started and they were getting ready to make their way through her body to get baby through the sun roof they already cut. 

I quickly got my settings adjusted and started my work. Documenting Grace's arrival. The beauty in this amazing birth. There was so much of it. The doctor's hand worked effortlessly. He was a seasoned professional. He and his assistant quickly got down to baby, they broke her water and if flooded out. Then came baby. Those are my favorite images. Her first cries. They delayed clamping her cord, per parent's request. Finally she was taken to the warmer, checked out and brought to mom.

So. Much. Beauty. BIRTH IS BEAUTIFUL!

After the cesarean was complete and mom was in recovery with baby, dad brought brother and sister to meet the new addition. QUE THE TEARS! Not a dry eye in the house. SO MUCH LOVE.