Oklahoma City Birth Photographer | A Healing Home VBAC

Kaitlin is a birth doula and her husband Brandon is a photographer who I have known since high school, when she first approached me about photographing the birth of their second baby, I was beyond thrilled. Unfortunately, my own due date was only two months before hers, and with my labor history I wasn't confident that I would be ready to commit to a birth so soon after my own. Luckily, the stars aligned perfectly and at the last minute we made it all come together and I could not have been more excited to share this wonderful day with the Burton's and their fabulous birth team.

Kaitlin has chosen to share the story of her rainbow baby's healing home birth from her own point of view. No one can describe a birth quite like a new mother <3


Homebirth Door Sign

The birth of my son Greyson, despite being one of the greatest days of my life, was also one that I was really unhappy with for a very long time. I was induced at 38 weeks 5 days, labored for 12 hours at an unheard of level of Pitocin, and was asked (whispered to) if I “wanted” a C-section after being “stuck” (these sarcastic quotations are giving me life right now) at 5cm for 5 hours. So naturally, I was like, “sign me up! This is the WORST!”.

The moments/days after my cesarean went something like this (in a nutshell):
-I was sent to recovery with my son in my arms.
-15 family members immediately came into the room to meet and hold our son.
-Greyson was sent to the NICU for what was essentially a booger in his nose, but was kept for 1 week after finding some other things that were wrong.
-I was unable to see Greyson for the entire week. I went home without my family. Why? Because the one time in my adult life that I got the flu shot, I caught the flu in the hospital.
-I got MRSA (a pretty serious and terrible infection) in my incision and was very sick from that as well.
-Breastfeeding was non existent. I had to pump and send my milk to him in the NICU. When we finally got home, I couldn’t get him to latch because HELLO! I don’t know what I’m doing! So I exclusively pumped for 3 months then my milk said, “bye girl!”.
-CUE POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION. YAY.


Fast forward to 2 and a half years later. I’m now a birth doula, loving on pregnant mamas and teaching them that this is not how their birth has to go. I attend births for a living, and each one of those mamas inspires me. It doesn’t matter if she is screaming the entire time, if her birth plan doesn’t go the way she intended, whatever the situation, I leave every birth in awe of the strength I just witnessed.

So when I found out I was pregnant with this little one, our rainbow baby, I immediately knew how I wanted to meet him or her. I knew 2 things: 1. My baby was going to be born at home. 2. My baby was going to come out of my vagina.
This is the birth story of Oliver James Burton.

September 15th, 2016

Greyson was just getting over a terrible 5 day stomach virus that was going around, and by “getting over”, I do in fact mean that he had gone from vomiting 9 times a day to just one. Woohoo. It was total hell, and I was so glad that it was dying down. I was even happier to report that I had not caught this virus. I did NOT want to catch a stomach virus at 40 weeks pregnant and that cause me to go into labor. That would be the worst thing that could happen and I’m SO glad it didn’t.

Except for it did.

The virus had greeted me in the morning…then again an hour later….and so on for the entire day. My mom showed up around 3pm or 4pm to help me take care of Greyson while I was pretty much dead on the couch. I was vomiting every hour. I had a lot of pain in my stomach and then pain started coming to my back. I really tried to keep my eye out for contractions, but it was hard differentiating between the pain of the virus and the pain of contractions, which I didn’t realize had started around 4pm or 5pm. I finally realized around 6pm that I was having contractions, all of which were in my back. I would have flashbacks to Greyson’s birth and how the contractions pretty much felt the same and I would start to freak out. I’d snap myself back to reality and remind myself that this is a different story.

Oklahoma City Home Birth | Stephanie Ralls Photography

My husband Brandon is a photographer and had a full day of sessions that day. He got home around 7:30. I hadn’t been in contact with him because I was so physically ill I couldn’t move, I really couldn’t do anything. It wasn’t until he got home that he knew I was in labor (Sorry, babe.). I didn’t even see my phone until after I gave birth 2 days from now.

During this time my mom was in touch with our midwives and doulas, keeping them updated with everything. At this point, which is what is supposed to be early labor and totally manageable, my contractions were every 2 minutes lasting 30-45 seconds. They stayed this way for about 24 hours, and were honestly not that much different than my transition contractions. The pain was extremely hard to manage already. My birth team was convinced that this was false labor and that the dehydration from the virus was causing the contractions. Dawn, one of my midwives, came over to check on me and brought me Epsom salts for a bath and a shot of Zofran for my nausea. Everyone was fully convinced my labor was going to stop and that my body would get some much needed rest. Wrong. I did get maybe an hour of sleep, however after that my body was back at it. Contractions still coming every 2-3 minutes lasting 1 minute at this point.

September 16, 2016—My Due Date

Honestly, this entire day is a blur for me. I have no idea what I was doing in this 24 hour period other than getting through it one second at a time. The times that I think things happened probably didn’t happen at those times, so I ask that my birth team please disregard the times because they are probably wrong! Lol!


I was laboring in my bathroom, as I did for about 40% of my labor. I kept in my mind throughout my whole labor that I needed to be in productive positions because I needed to bring my baby down. I was constantly squatting, on all fours, or leaning over countertops with my legs bent while swaying my hips. I wanted to make every second count. I had a sort of routine. I’d do maybe 10-15 contractions leaning over my kitchen counter, then I would get on my knees and lean over a chair, then maybe hop in the bath for 30 minutes, lay down for 30 minutes, then get back up. Every time I would have to go to the bathroom I would stay on the toilet for a few contractions because all of us in the birth community know that’s the “dilation station”.

I labored like this until about 5:30am. At this point I wanted Lauren and Cara, my doulas, to come. I was desperate for any kind of help and I didn’t think I could handle it on my own anymore. I should also mention I probably felt this way because Brandon was sleeping (I wanted him to get some good sleep because of the very long day he had, and the very long day he was about to have), my mother in law was sleeping on our couch, and my mom had gone home to take a shower and came back to find me at a total loss for what to do, so I was laboring alone for awhile. That’s when she called Lauren. She also called Brandy because I wanted my cervix to be checked. My husband had woken up at this point and was helping me through each contraction. I had to be holding someone's hand through every single contraction or it was completely unmanageable in my mind. Brandy arrived first; she checked me and found me to be a 3 and only 50% effaced. I was immediately ready to give up. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. At that moment, Brandy told me that I was perfectly capable of having this baby. She told me I was strong and that I am doing everything right. She left me with the words, “today is your day”. I was ready to keep going after that. She gave me the strength I needed to keep going.

Lauren and Cara arrived to check on me after Brandy left. They stayed with me for a while, doing lots of double hip squeezes to help my back labor. Just their presence made me feel better. I knew it was still very early in the process (even though I’d been laboring hard already for almost 13 hours) so I didn’t expect them to stay; I had a long way to go. Lauren suggested I drink a glass of wine and try to get some sleep. My team was worried I was going to get too exhausted, and honestly, I already was. I felt depleted, and so so weak. I drank some wine and slept for about an hour.

I’m not 100% sure, but I think it was around 11am when Dawn came and administered some IV fluids to hydrate me. Everyone was hoping and pretty confident that this would stop my contractions. She also gave me Benadryl so that I could hopefully get a sufficient amount of sleep. They were very worried my body would suffer even more from exhaustion if the labor continued and I hadn't rested. However, none of that happened, my body was apparently very ready to have a baby. I didn’t get much of a break from this labor. Our baby wanted to meet us so very badly!

Fast forward to around 7pm. Hour 26 of labor. I was just going through the motions at this point. I wanted to be checked again just to see if anything was happening. My mom called Brandy and she was at my house in 20 minutes. She checked me and I believe I was 4cm and she could stretch me to a 5 so she did that. I think I was 75% effaced at this point? I was distraught, to say the least. To hear that I only progressed 1cm in 13 hours was very hard to grasp, considering how much pain I was in. I started to cry and, yet again, Brandy to the rescue with such sweet, encouraging words. "You CAN do this, your body is apparently ready to have a baby and you WILL have this baby in your arms soon". It was finally at this point that my birth team and I were convinced my labor was not going to be able to be stopped and that in the next day our baby would be here. I labored long and hard with my husband and 2 moms by my side. My dad also came to support me a for a couple hours. My husband was 100% my rock, holding my hand through every. single. contraction. And when he had to pee, it was my mom, my mother in law, or my dad holding my hand. I was so so so blessed to have this support system. I can’t thank them enough for the love they gave me through this experience.

Birth Affirmation Banner Flags

September 17th, 2016—Birth Day

**A HUGE thank you to Lauren for my birth notes or else I wouldn’t have any idea what happened on this day. The times are actually correct!**

My labor had finally progressed to the point where I knew it was time to call my birth team. It was 2:30am and I needed my doulas. I needed their help, knowledge, and simply their presence. They arrived around 3am and commenced the constant double hip squeezes to help my back. Brandy arrived around 3:30 am and checked me around 4am. I was 6cm and 100% effaced. Another pep talk. Thanks, Brandy. I’m so annoying. Stephanie, my birth photographer, arrived at 3:45am and all I could think was, “Thank God Brandon remembered to call her, I don’t know what I would have done”.

At 4:30am, my team began to set up my birth pool in the living room. At this point I was doing standing lunges through contractions with Brandon to try to move some cervix out of the way. I thought I was dying through these, but I knew that Lauren told me to do these for a reason and I knew how effective it was so I got through it and was VERY happy when it was over.

It’s now 6am and Dawn arrives. I am clearly in transition (AKA the toughest part of labor). I got into the birth pool around 6:30am and labored in the pool until 7:15am when I stood up and swayed with my husband through a few contractions. My water broke at 7:30am. I then got back into the pool and was desperate for this to end. I didn’t think the pain could get any worse, and then of course since my water broke I was reminded that it could get worse. Lauren suggested sitting with one leg up in a lunge position through my contractions to help bring baby down. It was awful, but I did it. I actually got to the point where I was doing that on my own because I was so desperate to hold my baby. At 8am, Lauren suggested I labor on the toilet for a while. I think I did 5 contractions there and then got back into the pool. Brandy checked me at 8:45am and found I was 9cm and baby was very low. I then began pushing around this time during my contractions. It felt both great and horrible to push. I loved that it was something different, but the pain in my back was at it’s peak for sure.

I pushed from this point on until 10:21am when our sweet baby boy, Oliver James Burton, was born. Brandy placed him into my hands and it took me a good minute to even realize what just happened. Brandon was crying. I was crying. Actually, most of the people in the room were crying. I couldn’t believe that this just happened; I just experienced an actual dream come true. I kept repeating, “I can’t believe I did it,” over and over. And just like that, the pain was gone completely. I was looking into the eyes of the sweetest boy in the world. I was in complete awe of how beautiful he looked in my arms, with his skin against mine; Something I wished I had with Greyson's birth so very badly. Everyone deserves this, I thought. It was the best feeling in the world.

20 minutes later we were still in the pool and I got him to latch on the first time I tried. More crying happening here. I got out of the pool around 11:20am and made my way to the bed, where Brandon and little Ollie were doing skin to skin. I climbed in bed with my little family and I was the happiest girl in the world. After Oliver was born, my dad started making a huge breakfast for everyone that I’m sure they were all super ready and thankful for. I know I was. I was soooooo ready to eat. Everyone hung out and ate while we got to know our little boy.

Brandy did Ollie’s newborn exam at 12:30pm. I believe the weight portion went a little something like this:

Brandy looking at the scale: “No fucking way. It says 10 pounds 10 ounces”.

Dawn: “Use the other one!”

Brandy confirms that I did in fact just birth a 10 pound 10 ounce, 22 ¾ inch long baby. We are all in total disbelief. It was awesome.

So that’s it. That’s how our little Ollie James came into this world. I have to say, it did NOT go as planned. Obviously. But let me tell you something, it was the absolute best experience of my life. I feel so healed with this birth. I feel like a different woman, doula, and person. It changed me and I feel like I can do anything. I had my baby at home, where the people surrounding me never once made me feel like a patient, only a person and a mother. Thank you to my birth team and my family who held me in love the entire time. You all are the reason I was able to do this. This day is forever cherished. Welcome to the world, Oliver. You were surrounded by so much love the day we met you, and even more now.

Birth Team

Oklahoma Birth Photographer | Personal Blog | Welcoming Maisie Part 3 | The one with all the pictures

The on call OB rushed in, followed by a flood of nurses, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw Tiffany's head in the crowd. The OB came to me and assisted with the placenta. Through the commotion I only picked up bits of what was happening and being said. The OB begrudgingly commented that there was barely enough blood in the umbilical cord because clamping had been delayed for so long and I smiled a bit - my OB and I had planned to delay clamping, but I hadn't had a chance to inform the current OB about it. At some point, her umbilical cord had been cut and Maisie had been moved to the warmer instead of to my chest. I have no idea when this happened, and Trey isn't clear on whether he was able to cut it or not. Everything was utter chaos. I mentioned above the mess that I wanted to keep my placenta, and the OB denied my request because "It's gross, you won't want to do anything with it."  After 10 minutes or so, a nurse brought Maisie to me for the first time. She latched almost immediately and nursed like a champ - which was a huge relief after the initial struggle with Jude.
 
Maisie was an 8lb 20in chunk who quickly regained her birth weight and is hanging around the middle of the growth chart. She sleeps almost through the night - and has slept 8 straight hours a few nights, which we are incredibly thankful for considering 2.5 year old Jude still struggles with night wakings. She absolutely adores her big brother, and he tolerates her. Our little family is complete and we're considering installing a white picket fence soon ;)

*Photos courtesy of Tiffany Roberts Photography

Oklahoma City Birth Photographer | Personal Blog | Welcoming Maisie Part 2

After witnessing the many beautiful, peaceful, family centered births of my clients it was hard not to have high expectations and plans for my own. With my oldest, we chose to induce at 41 weeks because I couldn't deal with the discomfort any longer. As anyone familiar with births knows, one intervention leads to another - I was induced with piton, which lead to an epidural, and he was born with the assistance of forceps which lead to a long recovery. I wanted better this time, for Maisie, and for myself. I longed for spontaneous labor because I KNEW I could handle it. I wanted no pain medication because I KNEW it paved the path for more interventions. I saw a Webster Certified chiropractor for 9 weeks before my due date to help with positioning and avoid the discomforts I dealt with before. I practiced hypnobirthing with the Hypnobabies home study course. I meditated on birth affirmations. I researched labor positions. I built a labor playlist, and gathered various essential oils to help with calming, centering, anxiety, and promoting labor. I expressed all of my wishes to my OB, and he was completely on board with everything I wanted. I did everything I could to insure the birth I longed for would happen. It may seem silly to some, but after needing so much assistance to conceive both of my children- I wanted to prove that my body wasn't broken and could very well do what it is biologically capable of doing.

Sometime during my second trimester I began having dreams about the day I would meet my baby. There were three dreams that repeated multiple times. In the first two I went into labor spontaneously and the third I was induced.

In the first dream, labor began, and I woke up with my husband handing me a swaddled baby boy. No one would tell me what had happened between labor and now, and my photographer had chosen not to photograph it. No reason was ever given. In the second dream, I checked into the hospital in labor, my husband walked into the OR while I followed him - I told him I would be right back, and left. When I returned, he handed me a swaddled baby boy.

My third dream was the only one where I actually "labored." I was induced in my kitchen, (It's a dream, remember?) my OB walked in around 5pm and said "I'm so sorry I haven't checked on you since we started this morning! Lay back and lets see what's going on" as I laid back he saw that the baby was crowning, and being born. I adamantly told him that I could NOT have my baby yet since my birth photographer hadn't made it to the kitchen yet, and asked my husband to call her.

It was almost 7am on July 4th, I had been in confirmed labor 2.5 hours when the anesthesiologist walked in to administer an epidural. He asked my photographer to step out of the room, since protocol is to only have one support person present during the placement. Because my contractions were so intense at this point, I had trouble staying in the position he needed. I leaned on Trey for a while, and then the nurse switched places with him. She had just came on shift, and started talking me through contractions in a low, calm, soothing voice - much like the woman who records Hypnobabies tracks. This helped put me back to my calm center that I so greatly desired. I didn't stay there long, and repeated the cycle of extreme pain, self doubt, and then calm breathing. I could feel the catheter for the epidural moving down my back towards my hip (something that I didn't feel during my first labor), and then back out. I asked multiple times if we were near finishing, and of course, got the typical reassurance of "he's almost got it!" After what seemed like hours, I asked to stop, I couldn't take laboring in such an awkward position any longer. As the anesthesiologist packed up his things, I told my nurse that I needed to push. She suggested moving back into the bed (I was still sitting over the side) so she could check my cervix to see how far dilated I was. I couldn't find the energy to lift my own legs, and Trey helped pull my left leg onto the bed.

Surprisingly, everything following happened quite a bit like the movies. As Trey lifted my leg I yelled "I need to push NOW!" As I felt my body pushing on its own and screamed for Trey to grab Tiffany (our birth photographer) since she was still waiting outside. He walked around the curtain towards the door when the nurse lifted my right leg just barely onto the bed and I felt my body begin to push again, and yelled desperately for Trey to come back. He walked to my bedside as Maisie crowned.

 

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

*Photos courtesy of Tiffany Roberts Photography

/ If you or someone you know is expecting in 2017, contact me for more information about birth coverage via the contact form or by email at info@StephanieRallsPhotography.com

Oklahoma City Birth Photographer | Personal Blog | Welcoming Maisie

 Pro Tip: Do not check into the hospital wearing your hippy homebirth shirt

Pro Tip: Do not check into the hospital wearing your hippy homebirth shirt

From the first dating ultrasound, I assumed our second baby would be born sometime after 41 weeks. Jude was born via induction exactly a week after his due date, so it only made sense that this baby wouldn't voluntarily come any sooner - and I wasn't interested in inducing again unless necessary. Our due date was estimated as "July 5-7" I went with the 4th for the sake of keeping things simple, and because it just sounds more fun than July 5th or 7th. However, I was still anticipating labor to start around July 14-16th.

July 1st I started doing a few "home remedies" to induce labor and help get baby into a good position - knowing darn well they don't work unless baby is ready to come, but for some reason it just felt like the thing to do. Friday night into Saturday afternoon I had mild contractions about 30 minutes apart, we spent Saturday morning finishing up on most of the pre-baby to do list that I had, and by the time we were home that afternoon contractions were coming about every 10 minutes, although some were 20 minutes apart. Totally normal, and not an indication that labor is looming nearby. For funsies, Trey and I did the miles circuit together while making dinner that night. There were no changes, and contractions actually slowed down. Which is fine, since baby still has two weeks to go before the date I'm expecting her.  For the last few weeks I had been experiencing infrequent sciatic pain, Sunday it happened just like any other, except instead of being sporadic and maybe 1-2x in a day, it was happening several times an hour, and going horizontally across my thighs instead of straight down one leg. Laying in bed that night, I had reoccurring pains that I finally started timing around 11pm. At 1130 Trey noticed what I was doing, and being his calm and collected self, tried dragging me to the hospital immediately.

We called Labor and Delivery to find out what they suggested I do since "contractions" (which I still wasn't convinced were even real) were about 5-6 minutes apart. The nurse on the phone suggested walking to see if they would stop (P.S. THAT'S NOT HOW THIS WORKS), I chose not to, because I was still team "this isn't labor"

By midnight, the "not contractions" were 2-3 minutes apart, and my mom had arrived to take Jude to her house for the night. I finished packing my hospital bag, had a snack, and we headed out. Checking into the hospital could not have been more awkward - when you walk in saying you're in labor, but not visibly having any pain, no one really wants to believe you, and I got plenty of strange stares. We stayed in L&D triage for four hours determining if I was in labor or not. I was admitted at 4:30am, and finally met the on call doctor who recommended breaking my water.

Compared to laboring with Pitocin, spontaneous labor was simply uncomfortable. After my water was broken, I immediately fell into transition, which is a nice way of describing the pits of hell. At this point I threw Hypnobabies out the window, and asked for an epidural. My photographer had to leave the room for this - but at last check my cervix was still pretty far from complete, so no one expected what would happen next...

*Photos courtesy of Tiffany Roberts Photography