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.

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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 | Lakeside Women's Center | Birth of Evelyn

I've known Dalton since junior high, but after meeting his wonderful wife Allison and after learning a little about their journey to conceive (thanks facebook!) I was giddy at the idea of documenting their daughter's birth for them. THEN! After learning that Allison is a photographer, and a fantastic writer, we basically became BFFs. I knew Allison would share the story of her daughter's birth better than I ever could, so it's no surprise that I was in tears half way through reading it. Grab some tissues, because there will be tears.


     When my husband and I first decided we wanted a family, it didn’t even cross my mind that we might have trouble conceiving. It soon became clear that it wasn’t going to be as simple as we hoped. But after four years of heartbreak that threatened to cause us to lose all hope, our miracle baby made her presence known with a little pink line.
From that point on, every decision we made revolved around my growing belly. We knew we wanted a natural birth, so we began researching different birthing classes to see which would be the best fit for us. We eventually settled on The Bradley Method after hearing positive stories from friends.
     For those who don’t know, The Bradley Method teaches women and their partners to birth naturally by educating them with an in-depth look at birth and giving them tools to create a calm, peaceful experience. The classes were incredible and taught my husband and I so much more than we ever would have learned on our own. He learned how to support and guide me, which is one thing we loved the most about this method - it allows for a much more intimate, supportive experience than most other methods.
By the last month of my pregnancy, we knew we were as ready as we could possibly be. We anxiously awaited the day when labor would begin, and it did in my 39th week. This is our birth story.


     On May 27th, I kissed my husband goodbye as he left for the gym, and decided to take a nap. I wasn’t even tired but something in me said, “Hey, you know what? You should really sleep for a while.” I woke up about an hour later to use the restroom and as I was sitting there, I felt what I can only describe as an elastic snap in my belly - it even caused it to ripple on the outside! At first I thought my little girl had simply nailed me with a kick, which she was known to do, but then the trickling began. I said, “Oh my God,” about ten times before getting myself together enough to grab a towel so I could get to my phone. I called my husband twice while standing in the bathtub, and thankfully he called back shortly after. “You should come home. My water broke,” I told him, surprisingly calmly. His excitement was obvious and he said he would be home in ten minutes.
Because I had tested positive for Group B Strep at my last prenatal appointment, I knew we would have to leave immediately for the hospital so I could be given IV antibiotics. I slipped on a pair of Depends (laugh all you want) and busied myself with grabbing last minute things for the hospital that couldn’t be packed ahead of time. I was shaking like a leaf as reality sank in with each passing minute. We were having a baby! Like, soon. When he got home, we hugged, cried and laughed, and loaded up the car.


     My contractions started on the way to the hospital, and they were anything but the mild contractions we were expecting in early labor. They were immediately impossible to talk through, coming every three minutes. By the time we were checked in and I was being examined, they were two minutes apart and I was about five centimeters dilated. The nurse offered to get me a peanut-shaped birthing ball to sit on, which I gratefully accepted.


     This whole part of my labor is a blur because it was happening so fast that all I could do was focus on making it through the next contraction. I straddled the birthing ball and rocked back and forth, vocalizing in pain as I did my best to remain relaxed and calm. “Remember what you learned in class,” I told myself. My husband was amazing. He timed each contraction, telling me when I hit the thirty-second mark so I would know they wouldn’t continue to grow in intensity. It gave me something to hold on to. You can do anything for thirty seconds, right? Even though they lasted much longer than that, the intensity dwindled enough for me to relax before the next wave would hit.


     About an hour after being admitted, I began to feel “pushy” and asked that my cervix be checked. I was seven to eight centimeters dilated, and by this point it was impossible for me to leave the bed. The contractions were causing a horribly painful gripping sensation in my back, which may have been caused by the pressure of her head as she made her way lower. I started to panic, feeling like I wanted to escape my own body. My doctor arrived and I was in the middle of a contraction that caused me to push involuntarily, so she checked me again to find I was almost fully dilated. Transition was almost complete, but I was wrought with fear and completely overwhelmed by the pain.


     It was at that moment I knew that if I couldn’t find a way to cope, I wouldn’t be present mentally for the birth of my baby. I uttered the words I promised myself I never would, and within less than a minute, the anesthesiologist showed up at my bedside, telling me he didn’t know if there would be time, but he would do his best. He told me he would give me a mild version of an epidural so I would still be able to move my legs and feel my contractions, but that I would be more comfortable.
The epidural was placed very quickly and smoothly, and all the while my nurse was pushing down on my shoulders to keep my back curved while I screamed through a contraction. She helped me lie down when it was over and several more waves hit before the medication began to take effect. Somehow the pain still gripped my left side with the same intensity, but at that point my doctor was telling me it was time to push. Thankfully, when I began pushing the medication dispersed properly and the pain was manageable.


     “She has so much hair!” my doctor exclaimed, asking me if I wanted a mirror so I could watch the birth. I’m so glad I said yes. I watched my baby crown while breathing through “the ring of fire,” blowing small breaths so I wouldn’t tear. She was on her side rather than anterior, which might account for the pain I felt in my back. Her head came out and then her shoulders, and I watched my little girl make her entrance into the world after a four hour labor and forty-five minutes of pushing.
When she was placed on my chest I was hit with a tidal wave of love and awe. She grabbed her daddy’s finger and wouldn’t let go, her tiny cries piercing the air with her first breath. I looked into the face of our daughter and wept with relief and joy. She was finally here, and suddenly, in that moment, nothing else in the world existed but our little family.
Birth is something that changes you. I don’t feel like I’m the same person I was a week ago, but I mean that in the best way. I feared that if I couldn’t stick to my plan, I would somehow feel less empowered by my birth experience. I’m happy to say I feel completely empowered, and while it didn’t go according to plan, I suppose that’s just my first lesson in motherhood - to adapt, compromise, and grow.

--

Thank you so much, Stephanie, for capturing this day for us. We are eternally grateful to have these images to reflect on in the years to come. -Allison

You're not Daft Punk, but somehow you're still up all night.

If you have a newborn, you've likely already been here. If you're still expecting, you'll be here soon.

Yes this is my toddler. No he does not sleep.

Yes this is my toddler. No he does not sleep.

It's easy to walk your way through the check list that causes newborn strife during the day, but at 3 am, it's all about survival. You know this sweet being is fed and dry, but for some reason she just won't.stop.crying. The reasons you THINK she's crying, and the most common reason's why she is actually crying are quite different. I'm going to help you navigate through those murky midnight waters.

Why you think your baby is crying at 3am

  • She hates you.
  • This isn't your child, the hospital clearly switched her with a quiet baby who sleeps from 7pm-7am.
  • She's spoiled.
  • Everything is awful.
  • The house is one degree too cold. Or maybe one degree too hot. Who touched the thermostat again?!

Real reasons why your baby might be crying

  • She's over stimulated.
  • Her diaper is wet/dirty (yes, even though you haven't even finished changing the last dirty diaper - this does happen)
  • She's over tired.
  • She's hungry
  • She's going through a growth spurt.

What you can do about it

  • Cut down the stimulation. This helps ANY time of day at most ages. Are there lights on? Noises from outside? Are you stressed? Create a calm relaxing environment. If you're stressed, your baby can and will feed off of that energy. Try to relax, talk in a soothing voice, hum, sing, be silent. Whatever works for YOU. And if you can't relax, hand her over to a relaxed partner, or lay her in a safe place and walk away while you regroup for a few minutes.

  • The 5 S's. Harvey Karp is a genius when it comes to calming babies, and it works *almost* every time. 1- Swaddle 2- hold baby on her Side- tummy to tummy with you, on her Stomach, or over your shoulder; baby wearing is wonderful for this, as well as skin to skin. 3-Shush; your baby spent 10 months inside a sack of water, mimicking the sound can have a calming effect. If this works for your baby, a white noise machine will be worth its weight in gold. 4- Swing; again, mimicking the womb is comforting. Rock your baby, sway your baby, or even gently bounce your baby! 5- Sucking on a pacifier, or suckling at the breast are incredibly soothing for babies (and even toddlers)

  • Stick to a schedule. It may seem counter intuitive, but sleep begets sleep. If your little one is missing a nap time, and then staying up late it's possible she is OVER tired, and it's keeping her from settling down to sleep at night. Look at your schedule and see if something different happened today. Maybe her two hour nap was only 30 minutes. Or maybe she skipped a nap all together. Sticking to a schedule can help tremendously.

  • Feed her, again. Your baby was eating normally all week, and suddenly wants to eat non stop in the evenings! There's no WAY she's still hungry. Offer, she may surprise you. Baby's stomachs are incredibly small and growth spurts demand extra nutrition.

  • Recognize growth spurts. You can't change them, but having an idea about what's happening and can help you keep your sanity. I can not recommend The Wonder Weeks enough. It gives you a good map over your babies first year of growth and "mental leaps" when she's learning new things. SO MUCH changes within the first year, and it takes a lot out of her. Even if she's not showing a physical change at the moment (learning to roll over/crawl/etc) she could be going through a mental development such as recognizing patterns or the connection between words and actions. Growth spurts are very physically and mentally demanding. This can cause sleep interruptions, increased appetite, and just over all fussiness. The silver lining is, she's learning something new and will be moving on before you know it.

  • Ride it out. Sometimes babies just don't sleep. You can read every book out there and it's possible that your baby is like mine and just isn't interested in any of your shenanigans.


The days are long, but the years are short.

I guarantee, there will come a day where you'll barely remember the details of these long nights. It's hard to appreciate them while you're in the thick of it, and that's OKAY! Tomorrow is a new day, do what you need to keep yourself and your baby happy and healthy <3