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This sweet Mama reached out to me to capture a some very special memories for her. She shares a little below about the unbelievable suffering she is experiencing. I am so humbled and challenged by her; in spite of such difficult experiences, she still radiates joy, strength, courage, and selflessly cares for those around her.

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“Declan is my last baby and I am so grateful for him. We had a hard pregnancy with hyperemesis gravidarum, and then we had some complications after I gave birth; I had to have an emergency hysterectomy due to placenta accreta, and I lost 90% of my blood during the procedure. They left my ovaries behind for hormones, but since the surgery I have been having a problem with cysts on my ovaries. I have a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer… my maternal aunt was a BRCA1​ carrier, my grandmother died of ovarian cancer before her time, my mother passed from a different kind of cancer at 29, so with that being said, the doctors moved forward with genetic testing. (Now it is known that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and we are all carriers of the BRCA genes (there’s a 1 and 2), but, unfortunately some of us have a mutated form of this gene that does not protect from these types of cancer, so my risk is more like 1 in 3.) Because the risk is so great for me, the recommendation is to remove my breasts (bilateral mastectomy), and have reconstructive surgery, and also have my ovaries removed (opherectomy) which will put me into early menopause at 31 years old.
 
What’s really hard about all of this is that I am just getting over the fact that I can’t ever have kids again. Whether I want to have more or not is a choice I no longer have. Now I’m being told that it’s not if but when I will get breast and ovarian cancer… I want to be here for my family, like my mother didn’t have a chance to be, and I definitely don’t want to put them through me having cancer if I don’t have to.
 
I am trying to be as strong as I can, but I have a lot of anxiety from almost losing my life during the surgery after my birth. In spite of everything that happened, I was determined to nurse my new baby. My sweet boy is still nursing at 17 months, and to be honest I am in no rush. I am so incredibly blessed to be able to breastfeed this one last time and raise this little human I love so much.
 
By around May or June I will probably lose my ovaries and breasts… these are my last breastfeeding photos so I am glad I could capture these last memories.” ~ Doreen

 
If you wish to make a donation to Doreen’s family, please feel free to do so via PayPal to doreen.miller86@gmail.com.

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You might recognize Abigail and Mathew from their recent Maternity Session previews on my Facebook page. They recently welcome a sweet little boy, Elam, and it was such an honor and joy to capture their birth story for them. Abigail texted me when she started to have labor signs, and we stayed in touch as things progressed. Attending midwife Katy (who’s birth I also had the privilege of photographing) texted me when it was time to head over to Kootenai Hospital, in Coeur d’Alene, ID, and I arrived as Abigail labored calmly, deliberately, with the support of her husband, Mathew, and doula, Jennifer. This was one of the shortest first-time births I attended; baby was born within 3 hours of my arrival, and Abigail was incredibly strong, and controlled throughout her labor. I could share more, but I will let the photos tell my perspective, and Abigail shares her amazing birth story in more detail below.

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Let It Be Strong: Our Birth Story, by Abigail

On Sunday, February 19th, around 4 AM, I was woken by the urge to urinate. Immediately, I noticed some extra wetness between my legs. Since I didn’t feel any surges, I thought nothing of it. I was 39 weeks and 2 days pregnant with my first baby, and I had already thoroughly prepared myself to patiently await his arrival. I visited the bathroom then fell back to sleep. (Later, I realized that I had started to leak amniotic fluid.)

Around 8:15 AM, I started to leak more amniotic fluid. This time, it flowed through my panties and onto the floor as I was getting dressed. My husband, Mathew, called my midwife. She asked us to come in for an AmniSure Rupture of Membrane Test to confirm that my water had truly broken.

At 9:30 AM, I started having mild to moderate surges every 6-8 minutes. They hit hard, and I couldn’t talk through them. I was most comfortable bent forward over the kitchen counter or the back of the sofa. I concentrated on the deep breathing exercises I had learned through The Calm Birth School, a four-week online video Hypnobirthing course. Based on what we had learned through The Bradley Method® classes, my husband gathered the items we had decided to use during labor – a rebozo, essential oils, a variety of massagers, flameless candles, birth affirmation cards, MP3s, etc.

We finally left our house for Kootenai Health Family Birth Center around 10:15 AM. Fast-forward through the car ride, the check-in process, triage, and a positive AmniSure Rupture of Membrane Test. I was admitted!

As soon as I walked into the labor and delivery room, my surges began to come 3-4 minutes apart. At 11:45 AM, my midwife checked my cervix. It was 4 centimeters dilated and fully effaced! (Neither I nor anyone else could have predicted how rapidly my labor would advance from that moment. In less than 3 hours, we’d meet our baby!)

Our doula, Jennifer, arrived shortly after. I was barely getting time to relax before the next surge would begin. I even asked her, “When do I get to rest in between surges like we learned about in your classes?”. (Jennifer was also the instructor of The Bradley Method® classes we attended.)

While a rapid labor like mine might sound like a welcome alternative to an extended labor, I wouldn’t say that it was necessarily “easier.” With labor being sped up, there was less time to mentally and emotionally process what was happening. Also, physically, my body didn’t have time to adjust to a slower build-up of discomfort so I experienced all the sensations very intensely. Finally, my husband and I didn’t have the time to utilize all the coping skills we had practiced or all the comfort measures we had brought along.

Throughout my entire labor and delivery, I was positioned on my hands and knees, and I only wanted the double hip squeeze – a technique for counter-pressure on the pelvis and back. Mathew and Jennifer took turns providing this so they wouldn’t fatigue. As I felt a surge building up, I’d say, “Squeeze!” My pelvis was being stretched by the pressure of our baby’s head bearing down. The hip squeeze seemed to push my pelvis back into a relaxed position, which both relieved the pressure of the stretch and even caused my pelvis to flare out slightly, allowing our baby room to rotate around and move down.

I never felt fearful, panicked, overwhelmed by pain, or out of control. I kept breathing, sighing, and moaning during my surges. I consciously kept all my tones low to maintain my state of relaxation. Moving also helped. I swayed forward and backwards, as well as circled my hips.

I believe all husbands are special, but mine is in a league all of his own. Through The Bradley Method® classes and his own research, Mathew was empowered to be my ultimate support during pregnancy, labor, and birth (and beyond). His encouraging words, his gentle touch, and his calm demeanor created and protected the safe space I needed to go within myself to complete this challenging task. The bond that these shared experiences helped us forge is truly awe-inspiring.

Around 1:00 PM, I inquired about using the tub. The thought of being surrounded by warm water in a dark space seemed safe and relaxing, but the act of moving from my current position on the bed seemed daunting. I broke the task up into small steps and tried to move as quickly as I could after each surge ended.

In the tub, I remained on my hands and knees. Mathew continued to provide counter-pressure on the outside of my hips. Jennifer rubbed my back and talked me through each surge. One of the most comforting things she kept saying to me was “Yes, that’s it. Let it be strong.” I think hearing that over and over again helped me not fight against my surges but instead, embrace their power and truly abandon myself to birth.

While in the tub, I went through transitional labor. I became very instinctual. It was almost as if I entered into a glassy-eyed, drowsy, dream-like state. I was much less aware of the external world and, at the same time, much more internally focused on the work of labor. During the peaks of my surges, I grasped the faucet head and forcefully pressed my forehead into it. For some reason, the coldness and hardness of the metal provided some relief from my surges. (The next day, I complained to my husband that my forehead felt bruised. He reminded me what I had done while in the tub and we both laughed about it!)

After spending about 30 minutes in the tub, I started to feel “pushy.” At first, I felt embarrassed to tell my midwife this, as such a short amount of time had passed from when my cervix was only 4 centimeters dilated. I was sure she’d think I was nuts! About 2-3 “pushy” surges came while I was still in the tub. I tried to keep quiet and breathe through them, but finally, I told my midwife that I was feeling the strong urge to push. She called out to the nurses who began to prepare the area on the bed for delivery.

I exited the tub around 1:30pm. I had a few surges just outside the tub on my hands and knees on the floor. With the help of the nurses, I made my way back on to the bed. The nurses also helped me take off my wet bra and change back into my nursing nightgown for the birth…

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Around 2:00 PM, my midwife checked my cervix. It was dilated to 10 centimeters, and it was time to start pushing! I remained positioned on my hands and knees and pushed for about 45 minutes. The frequency of my surges decreased a bit, and I was able to relax between them. However, their intensity did not. I wanted even more counter-pressure on the outside of my hips to cope. Mathew was standing on one side of the bed and Jennifer was on the other. In this position, they were each able to use both of their hands and really “put their weight into it.”

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I wanted the pushing part to go much slower than the rest of my labor had gone. I had practiced “birth breathing” through The Calm Birth School. It’s different from the typical pushing technique a woman is encouraged to do. Instead of holding my breath and bearing down, I tried to give deep pushing breaths down and out while remaining open and relaxed in my pelvic floor.

I only pushed during my surges. I quickly figured out that if I pushed beyond them, our baby wouldn’t budge and it would only fatigue me. The pauses between pushes allowed me to rest and allowed his head to stretch my tissues. A few times, I reached down between my legs and felt the top of our baby’s head. There was so much hair! The nurses kept applying hot compresses and oil to aid my body in stretching.

It was gratifying to feel our baby move down my birth canal with each push. It was incredible to feel the effects of my efforts on him coming into this world! I felt like I had so much control and influence.

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My husband bravely and unabashedly watched our baby slowly emerge.

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Elam Rivers Colling was born at 2:41 PM. He weighed 8 pounds and 11 ounces and measured 20.75 inches long.

Mathew even caught him!

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Although my husband assures me that is was only seconds, it felt like forever before Elam was passed to me. My midwife rubbed him for stimulation while the nurses tried to figure out how to help Mathew pass him to me between my legs. However, before they could, I threw my leg over to turn to be able to reach him, reclined back, and brought him up onto my chest. (Looking back, I’m surprised I was able to manage such an acrobatic move right after giving birth!)

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As soon as Elam was in my arms, I was completely engrossed. All at once, I felt energized, gratified, and serene. I was entirely astounded at the miracle I had produced. In an instant, I became a mother to my baby. And the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual journey of birth – just as nature intended – had perfectly prepared us both for that very moment.

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Congratulations, Abigail and Mathew! Thank you so much for inviting me to document Elam’s birth story. I can’t wait to share our Newborn session together!

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I am beyond excited and honoured to share this INCREDIBLE birth story with you. The day before Valentines Day 2017, my doula client called me to head her way, and I supported her through a very challenging, and inspiring birth. The sweet babe above was 11 lbs, 14 oz at birth, and the 11th child to the amazing mama who birthed him with enduring strength, and determination.

(Yes, you read that correctly: 11 lbs, 14 oz!!) Birthed vaginally. And, VBA2C!

Women are gifted with incredible strength, and magnificent design.
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“The Birth of 11 lb 14 oz Levi Andrew
 
Levi was born into our family that includes his ten siblings, on Valentine’s Day, 2017.  This is his birth story.
 
Levi’s position the entire pregnancy had been some form of transverse or oblique presentation.  Never once did he attempt a vertex or breech position.  My babies had hung out in crazy positions before, but as we approached 36 weeks, I became more concerned about his presentation.  As a childbirth educator, and mama of ten other children, I know how important fetal positioning is for a smooth birth.  Add to this that I personally felt he was my largest baby, and I knew we could be getting into a pickle that would be problematic for my natural birth plan.  I began getting Webster chiropractic adjustments, doing Spinning babies, using homeopathics, and practicing good positioning for myself. 
 
My OB is incredibly supportive and non-alarmist.  At 38.5 weeks we decided to attempt an external cephalic version (ECV) to turn him vertex.  My OB was successful in turning him, and he and the nurse swiftly put on a belly binder to hold him in position.   As he was being monitored for any signs he didn’t tolerate the version well, I walked in circles, did gentle lunges, swayed my hips, and did everything I could to get gravity to hold him in place.  When we arrived home, about an hour from the hospital, I could tell he had again moved transverse.  I just prayed and asked God to please work out his birth story. 
 
At my next prenatal appointment a few days later, we discussed what, if anything we can do.  Since I’m a VBA2C, most of the other physicians in the hospital aren’t willing to attend my birth, unless it’s a c-section.  If I were to come into the hospital in labor with a transverse baby, there would be no effort made to turn him, and I’d be headed for the operating room.  We decided to do a pelvic exam to see if anything was going on.  I was softened, slightly effaced, and beginning to dilate after all the stop/start contractions I had been having.  We tossed ideas around, and decided that since I was in the 40th week, and he could be present with me in the hospital, it was wise in the big picture to try another version, and then an amniotomy (break my water) to help him engage, once he was in a low enough station to do so safely.
 
That night I went into the hospital, and let our doula, Esther, know what was going on.  When I got hooked up to the monitor to prepare for the version, we confirmed I was having regular contractions.  They began to grow stronger.  Once the OB was ready to do the version, I was contracting too tightly to complete it.  I got a shot of terbutaline to stop the contractions, and relax the uterus, and then Levi moved head down.  Once the shot wore off, the contractions began back in a regular pattern, and were increasing in intensity.  I sat on the birth ball, and called the doula to come be with me.  My husband had to leave to take our daughter home, who wanted to be present for the birth, but wasn’t allowed because she was a minor. He didn’t want me to be alone while he was gone, and the contractions were clearly well on their way.   It was nearing midnight, and I was so happy the contractions were rolling, and that I had to stop through them to concentrate.  About an hour later they began slowing, and I discovered why.  Levi had moved, and was no longer putting any pressure on my cervix.  We called the doctor to come and confirm. He decided to check me to see, and although I had made some change from all the contractions, he feared his exam revealed transverse lie-in truth, partial baby bottom/side.  He confirmed once again with the portable ultrasound machine.  We had to develop a new strategy.
 
Since my cervix is extremely posterior, it makes cervical exams terribly difficult until I’m in advanced labor.  To break my water would mean a lot of pushing of the baby downward to reach the bag of water.  We decided we’d try the version again, and then hold Levi in place and break the water.  At a little after 3 am, my OB turned the baby again, held him deep in the pelvis, with help from the nurse and my own hands, and broke my water.  Now baby could engage.  Levi looked fantastic the entire time.
Nearly immediately, the contractions began.  For hours, the contractions kept coming, but baby remained high.  I was tired. 
 
Around 5 pm the contractions became more than I could handle, and I began asking to be done.  A nurse examined me, and this is when everything went south with my mental state.  She found me to only be about 6 cm dilated.  I was so confused, because I know my body, and I was feeling tremendous pressure.  For nearly an hour I fought the need to push.  Looking back, this had happened before in another of my labors, until a skilled midwife checked me and confirmed I was complete-while the nurse had mistakenly felt a lip that she thought was the dilation of the cervix and announced I had only been a 6. 
 
I was unable to communicate all this information to anyone, as the contractions were coming too quickly and the pressure was increasing.  I knew the best thing to do was allow my body to do it’s work, but the pain had grown so strong and I was so weakened from such a long ordeal.  Esther prayed with me and stroked my hair.  She gave me affirmations and put a cool washcloth on my head.  Every time I thought I could handle the next wave, another would crash and I’d be sure I was done…that I couldn’t do another one.  My husband looked me deeply in the eyes and was firm with me..that I could do it..that this is exactly how the end of labor looks for me, and it was almost time.
 
The nurses convinced me to try another position, and immediately the pressure changed and I knew for sure I was complete and I could feel his head.  I demanded to have the OB check me, which knows my cervical anatomy and my usual birth pattern.  He did and said that I felt this way because it was time to have a baby.  I was complete.  I flipped over to my back and into a semi-squatting position, and began to work with the contractions to birth Levi.  Two pushes for his head, and two for the shoulder, and he was out!  Immediate relief!  Everyone was exclaiming for me to open my eyes and see the baby, alternating with “he is huge!” and “look at all the hair!”
 
Levi Andrew, 11 lbs 14 oz was here!  He was beautiful, and pink, and ready to nurse.  I had only a very minor abrasion that didn’t require stitching, and I was barely even sore! 
 
What a long and difficult labor that ended so beautifully!  All that work, and the reward is this treasure that God knitted together and entrusted his father and me to raise!  I was so well supported and felt so loved.  God is so amazing, and His plan so perfect!  Praise Him!”
– Andrea, Mama of 11 beautiful children

 

Welcome to this side of life, little (big!) Levi.

Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version

Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version

Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version

Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version

Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version

Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version

Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version

Esther Edith Photographer and Doula, Fresh Baby Photography, Birth Photography Spokane, Newborn Photos Spokane, Fresh 48, lifestyle newborn, hospital birth photos, homebirth phtoography, home birth photographers, water birth photography, waterbirth photos, 11 lbs 14 oz big baby, natural birth large baby, huge baby vaginal delivery, transverse baby, hospital natural birth spokane, natural birth doula spokane, ecv, external cephalic version

 

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