Baby Samuel's natural birth was the first live birth I had ever seen in my life. Three years later, I still remember those 18 hours of coverage like they were yesterday. Nate's anxious footsteps pacing back and forth, back and forth. Patriotic cheers from Winter Olympics enthusiasts blaring from the hospital television that nobody was paying attention to. The clock's steady tick tock, tick tock. Moans, yells, and at last, a baby's first cry.
I get goosebumps every time I remember.
When Nate and Bec asked me to photograph the birth of their first child, I was 22 and fresh out of college. I had only known this couple for a few months. Nate, a photographer, took me under his wing my first month out of school, helping me get my wedding photography business up and running. The depth of my relationship with Nate & Bec deepened the moment they asked me to photograph their son's birth. I was to spend the next month excitedly preparing alongside them for baby Samuel's birth. We toured Duke's Birthing Center together, watched the Business of Being born together, and spent many evenings sharing stories and laughing, joyfully awaiting the birth of baby C.
This process I shared with Nate & Bec in many ways felt like a religious conversion. Before they reached out to me, birth photography had never been a legitimate genre of photography in my mind. I didn't even know the basics of birth- my knowledge of it was falsely based on dramatic TLC stories like "I didn't know I was pregnant" and "A baby story." I didn't know that American women were actually choosing to have what is called a "natural" birth as opposed to a birth aided with drugs like Pitosin and other intravenous methods. Nate & Bec's request instigated my quest to learn about birth. And I was soon hooked.
Nate & Bec opted to have a natural birth at the Duke Birthing Center with the aide of midwives and and the incredible doula Cherry White. Their reasons for choosing a natural birth were two-fold: they wanted to be in an environment were birth is treated as a natural part of life and not a medical procedure, and Bec wanted to see what her body was capable of handling.
Bec's birth ended up being a "one-in-one-thousand" birth experience at Duke Hospital. Everything on her birth plan went smoothly, no pain medication was used, no medical intervention occurred, and baby Samuel was born completely healthy. During the second phase of labor when Bec was about to push, the doctors and nurses joked that she hardly seemed like she was in labor. She was smiling so widely and exclaiming, "This is awesome!" and "I love feeling everything that is happening!" Definitely NOT what you typically see on TLC shows, that's for sure.
Those first few minutes of Samuel's life were an emotional whirlwind. Bec was crying and screaming with joy, Nate was totally stunned and in shock, and tears were trickling down my cheek as I shot hundreds of pictures. Even though Bec was the one with a surge of oxytocin and "baby-bonding" hormones, we all felt high. It was surreal, and experience I will never forget.
Nate and Bec, thank you so much for allowing me to be a participant in your birth experience. Had it not been for you, I would have never gotten hooked on shooting birth. The day baby Samuel was born is a day I will never forget.