On Thursday, June 21st at 2:05 pm one of my closest and oldest friends gave birth to her first child. I was standing behind the delivery doctor, watching her grasp at the 8 pound 10 ounce baby as it was pushed into the world. My camera’s shutter was firing rapidly, the flash ricocheting off the ceiling and the backs of the five or so nurses that were in the room. To my right was my friend’s mother, sobbing with joy, awe, and exuberance. Her first grandchild.
A few weeks prior to this incredible moment my friend and her husband (J and B, respectively) asked me to be their second birthing coach. They had done a lot of reading and felt they would benefit from a third person who could be on standby, like a Doula, but they didn’t want a stranger. I was deeply touched. They also asked if I would be willing to photographically document the event. I had been expecting the second question, but not the first. I accepted their request with great honor and excitement, and immediately asked what I could do to prepare and be helpful.
My mom cautioned me that it was a big responsibility, and even though I knew that I still felt crazy optimistic and even eager. My biggest concern was being able to stay reserved in moments where J would undoubtedly cry out, scream, or otherwise succumb to vocalizing the pain of delivering a baby. A selfish concern, but because I wanted to be strong and calm for her.
The three of us went to the hospital at 7:30 pm on Wednesday the 20th, and a few hours later she was officially admitted. B was at her side; loving, devoted, tender. I used these first quiet, uneventful hours to continue reading my coaching book, dog-earing pages of especially useful content. J’s labor progressed slowly (and frustratingly, seeing as she had been laboring at home for nearly three days before being admitted). She was exhausted, hungry, weak, and fiercely determined.
My role was backup for B. I wanted to make sure he slept, drank, ate, and had as much energy as possible for the actual pushing and delivery moment. We took turns helping J breathe and relax through contractions, getting her ice, juice, and popsicles to keep hydrated. I spent my turns squeezing or holding her shoulders, brushing the hair off her face, and praising her calm breathing and vocalizing techniques. I watched her through hours of contractions, a ten minute interlude of a nurse attempting to find a vein for an IV and subsequently sticking her about eight times, and the insertion of an epidural.
I slept for an hour from 7-8 am on Thursday the 21st. I had never been up for so long with only an hour of sleep (8am Wednesday to 8pm Thursday), but that one hour was enough. It’s wild what the body can push through when something is suddenly more important than rest.
I’ll never look at 2:05 pm the same way again. 2:05 pm will always be the moment he was born, the moment I saw him, the moment I captured one of the most intense photos of my life, the moment I saw the explosion of raw, pure human emotion from J and B as they laid eyes on their son for the first time. The triumph on J’s face, the smug, sassy pride, the satisfaction of a job well done – I don’t want that to ever fade from memory.
It was a thoroughly challenging experience, but it is now one of the happiest days of my life. I don’t want to talk about the hard parts, though, that’s not what I want the focus to be. Do know that it was hard, terrifying, stressful, and that day I found myself more frightened than I’d ever been before, but absolutely nothing makes you feel more alive than watching a child being born.
x – happy beast
Thank you so much to J & B for inviting me to be a part of this. I believe it provided me the opportunity to take some of the most incredible and emotive photos of my life.
shot with my Canon 60D | edited with Photoshop