Sometime last year, I was contacted by Simone because I am a Twentynine Palms Birth Photographer. She found me on Instagram and reached out to see if I would be interested in capturing the arrival of her baby boy, Lochlan.
It was super important to her that this moment be documented because her husband was going to be actively deployed during her delivery and she wanted to be sure the moment could be captured so he could still kind of feel like he was there.
We met at our local Starbucks and chatted for probably an hour. I knew right away that I liked her and I can only assume she felt the same because she ended up hiring me. It’s always so important to me that my birth clients are comfortable around me because I am involved in one of the most intimate experiences of their lives. It’s important that there’s a good connection.
At our meeting, Simone had asked me if I would be comfortable photographing an unassisted birth. I’ve heard of this in the past, so I knew what she was wanting. She had a plan in place, she was doing all the research, asking all the questions to the professionals and she was determined. I, of course, do not have any issues with how a mother chooses to bring her child into the world, so long as health and safety is number one.
Before I go further into Simone and Lochlan’s story, I want to put something out there. Women deal with a LOT of criticism when it comes to not only HOW they have their baby, but how they raise them and feed them after they’ve come into the world. This has to stop. As women, we should be supporting one another. Lifting one another up. Encouraging one another. Another woman should never be made to feel less-than because she bottle feeds instead of breastfeeds, or because she had a c-section instead of a completely natural birth. There is no wrong way to love your baby.
Simone’s due date was Valentine’s Day, which meant my on-call period started the week prior on February 4th. Simone and I had talked sometime the last week of January where she said “I haven’t been feeling a thing, so I’m sure he’s going to be later.”
Or so she thought. Less than a week later, and 2 days before I was even to start my on-call period, Simone’s water broke.
Imagine my surprise when I woke up at 7am and saw text messages and missed calls from her letting me know she was pretty sure she was in labor. Panicking, I brushed my teeth, threw my contacts in my eyes, changed out of my PJs and drove to her house. By the time I had arrived, she’d already been in labor for about 7 and a half hours. She was also the calmest woman in labor I’ve probably ever seen!
Part of Simone’s birth plan was to have her mother there to help her with the birth. Because Lochlan decided to make his arrival much earlier than expected, she hadn’t even flown in yet! Now, some of you may be wondering if this incited any panic inside me. Yes, of course it did! However, I knew that it was better for me to remain as calm as Simone was appearing to be. My job went from just being a photographer, to being someone timing contractions, refilling hot water into the pool, listener, driver, support system, advocate and friend.
Because I knew her desires beforehand, I knew my place was still to observe and document. But I also knew that if anything were to go wrong, I was the one to call 9-1-1. I would be the first-responder. This was a huge responsibility that I took VERY seriously. Over then next 24 hours we talked, she breathed through the contractions like a champ, we caught a little bit of sleep, we ate and then we even went to the hospital to have them check her cervix. She was only dilated to about a 4 at 18 hours into labor. Determined to have this baby her way and according to her birth plan, we went back home and we waited.
The next day, we still hadn’t gotten anywhere closer to baby Lochlan’s arrival. As much as she tried, and tried she did, he just had other plans. Simone and baby were both getting tired.
The next morning…. Day 2, she had to make the decision… the one she never wanted to have to choose…. she was going to have to go into the hospital. She was going to need help. I feel that I need to say this…. Simone, you are a warrior. You were strong for your baby. You put his needs above your own desires and you made a strong decision…. It wasn’t easy for her. And honestly, I don’t think it’s ever easy for any woman to change her birth plan. It can be very traumatic and can result in PTSD. Just one more reason women need to be more supportive of one another. With her husband on FaceTime, doing all he could from the other side of the world, and her mom on FaceTime on the computer, the decision was made and off we went. The photos below show her emotions as she wrestled with this decision and fought contractions on hour 36 of labor.
The part that broke my heart was when she told me she felt like a failure. In my mind, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I watched her warrior through her contractions for almost TWO DAYS! I saw courage.
When we arrived back at the hospital, they hooked her up to all the monitors and started to keep an eye on baby’s heartbeat. Throughout the time there, unfortunately, baby just became more and more distressed. Every contraction took more and more out of him and both he and mom were exhausted.
The next worse possible change to Simone’s birth plan was then discussed. It was likely she was going to need a C-section. Try to imagine, if you will, having a plan for something and in the end having to do a 180 degree flip from those decisions you’ve had your mind set on for 9 months. Then also imagine that the people you love most aren’t able to be there with you physically. It can be devastating.
Knowing that this was really the last option, Simone agreed to the C-Section and the preparations started to get her ready to go into surgery. I’m thankful for the fact that the doctors and nurses at Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital allowed me to go into the surgery with her. I’m also thankful they allowed me to document some of it and some of Lochlan’s first moments. And I am so thankful they allowed her phone to come into the operating room so that daddy could also be there with her and see his son’s first moments!
In the end… after 43 hours of labor, baby Lochlan had finally made his arrival. Crying. Healthy. Loved. Simone may have gone from one extreme birth plan to opposite extreme, but she handled it better than I could have imagined. In the end, she made the decision to do what was right for her and her baby’s health and safety. I am so honored to have been able to capture it all. I am beyond blessed to have been able to be there for her during that time. It definitely bonded us together and I think I’ll always feel connected to her now. What an amazing experience. Baby Lochlan, I hope you know just how much you are loved!
If you are looking for a Twentynine Palms Birth Photographer I sincerely hope you’ll consider contacting me for availability.