I’d really hoped to have this posted before Isabella turned a month old (today), but having a newborn and a toddler at home makes things a little more tricky for getting things done. I know I’m supposed to sleep when they’re sleeping (which is a small 1.5-2 hour window each day – if I’m lucky!), but let’s face it, that’s possibly happened once in the last month. I finally had a chance to edit the images for this post (don’t ask me about the rest of them!) and am taking today’s nap time to write everything down. So, here it goes…
When Catherine was born, I did almost everything short of drinking castor oil to get labor started! In the end, my water broke the day before her due date and even though I’d progressed to 7cm in about 22 hours, she still wasn’t showing signs of dropping into the birth canal so instead of trying to keep going, we opted for a c-section and she was born the morning of her due date! You can read her birth story HERE.
Because of all of that, my doctor said there was an 80% chance that my body would do the same thing with any other pregnancies so around 28 weeks, we scheduled Isabella’s c-section for February 21 at 1pm with Dr. DuBose. I would be 39 weeks and 1 day when she was born. It was all set and I was excited that we had a plan! No waiting around hoping and praying labor would start, no walking stairs countless times to try and get her to drop, no eating pineapple or spicy foods unless I just really wanted them :-) Ben’s parents were going to fly in from Paraguay the week before, we would celebrate Catherine’s 2nd birthday, then have a couple more days as a family of 3 before meeting Isa (pronounced Ee-sa).
I’d been having Braxton Hicks contractions for a good bit of this pregnancy, which actually scared me enough to say quite often that I really hoped she would stay put until February 21! But I never thought too much of it because we had several things planned and scheduled for the last weeks leading up to her scheduled birthday. But by the weekend of the Super Bowl, things started getting a little more intense.
Some friends had planned a small evening out at the Melting Pot for me on Friday, February 3. In the hour it took to drive there and be seated, I’d had about 8 contractions. They weren’t coming at timely intervals and they were still just Braxton Hicks (or so I thought) so while I was concerned, I wasn’t worried. Especially after they calmed down and eventually stopped. Saturday was fairly uneventful and I even went up to the hospital to see a friend and her baby who was in the NICU and get some photos for her. I went home and we went back out for dinner and gelato with friends that night. Sunday morning we went to church as usual and came home for lunch and to figure out what we wanted to eat while watching the Super Bowl that night.
I have photos of us hanging out with Catherine (mostly with me on the couch because I was editing to get some work done and my “Braxton Hicks” were starting to pick up so I was trying to take it easy) and her in my lap while I was editing. I love it even more now since it’s the last one I have of the two of us before Isa came! Ben went to the store and started getting food ready for the evening, I kept editing (after a wedding, a birth, and a maternity session the weekend before, there was plenty to be working on!), and around 7:30 or so, we put Catherine to bed.
We watched the game and I started keeping count of my contractions. I was still convinced they were Braxton Hicks even though some of them were starting to get really painful. There was just NO way they could be real contractions. I was 36 weeks and 6 days along, we still had two weeks and a couple days before Isa was going to be born so what was there to be concerned about?? I have no idea how far apart these contractions were because I still thought they were Braxton Hicks, so I was only counting the number of contractions I was having, not how far apart they were. So by midnight, I called the on-call nurse to ask about it because I’d had between 6 to 10 per hour since the football game had started. She told me to keep counting but to go and eat some protein and drink plenty of water but if it continued for the next 3 hours, I should go to the hospital for them to check me.
So I told Ben to go to bed and get some sleep (just in case) and I stayed up to eat a spinach salad with grilled chicken, some cheese and almonds (I tried finding ALL the protein we had in the house!), drink water and I attempted to keep working. By about 2:30am I’d been having at least 10 contractions an hour so I woke Ben up asking if he thought we should go to the hospital… but when I woke him up, he didn’t even realize that it was after 2am! He was thinking that he’d only been asleep for about 20 minutes :-)
TIME OUT – I’d had the thought over the weekend that we should go ahead and pack our bags for the hospital, just in case. I’d also mentioned to Ben that we should go ahead and install the carseat, just in case. But with several photo sessions to edit, I chose to keep working through the weekend instead of getting those things ready. Because we still had PLENTY of time!!
So at 2:42am, I called my mom to ask her to come stay with Catherine while we went to the hospital to get me checked out. We threw a few things into a bag (just in case this was really happening) and I got my camera and a few lenses ready (again, just in case!). Before mom arrived, I walked into Catherine’s room and laid my hand on her while she slept. I resisted the urge to pick her up and rock her for a bit because that would have woken her up and she doesn’t do well being woken up, especially in the middle of the night. But I laid my hand on her chest, told her I loved her and cried because that was possibly the last time she was going to be our only child!
Even on the way to the hospital, Ben and I were sure that they would send us home after monitoring me for a while. There were so many things happening that week too! The next day I had a newborn session to photograph as well as MY maternity photos that afternoon (hair & make-up and flower crowns for Catherine and me), on Tuesday the ladies at crossfit were throwing a diaper shower for me, Wednesday was the volunteer sale for the BIG consignment sale in Greenville (and I really needed some summer clothes for Catherine!) and then I was going to spend the next week finishing up work and finally getting Isa’s nursery ready (it needed a second coat of paint and the furniture needed to be pulled out of their boxes and the crib had to be assembled!).
We calmly walked up to the 6th floor of Greenville Memorial and I stopped to take a quick restroom break… and to also take this selfie because I was indeed a little annoyed :-)
After changing into a gown and getting hooked up to the blood pressure and heart monitor machines, we waited. We texted a few more friends who wouldn’t see anything until the morning’s regular hours, we talked, and Ben held my hand during the really rough contractions. At one point I looked over at the paper spilling out of the machine that was monitoring my contractions and I knew they were way too regular for us to be going home. And when the nurse came back in about 45 minutes after we’d gotten there, I knew it before she said it, “You’re going to have a baby today!”
And I burst into tears! At that point, they were mostly tears of pure shock because I could NOT believe that this baby was actually going to be born 3 weeks before her real due date. I was only 37 weeks along! I had several friends who were past their due date and still waiting on their babies, but ours was going to be 3 weeks early?!?
Total and complete shock… but happy and so excited at the same time.
So I was wheeled to the recovery room we’d be going into after the c-section and we began touching base with our parents and any of our friends who had actually responded to our texts. The one call I did make was to my friend Amy Keely about coming up to take photos. The nurses said she’d more than likely be able to come into the operating room for the entire procedure (yay!) so I texted her, then called her and left her a voicemail. It was 5am so I kept my fingers crossed that she would wake up enough to get back to me and be able to make it up to the hospital before 6am.
The original plan was for my friend Kim DeLoach to be there for photos on February 21, but she was just getting over the flu so I knew it wouldn’t be a good idea for her to be there. And she would have been the first to tell me to try and find someone else if I HAD called her! And the reason I called Amy was because we were going to grab coffee that very week for her to ask questions about birth photography because of friend of hers was hiring her to photograph her birth later in the spring! So, when Amy did call me back, I asked how she felt about some “on the job training” :-) Thankfully she was up for it and made it to the hospital in time to put one some scrubs and get a quick run down of my camera from Ben as they wheeled me back to the OR to prep me for surgery (after second shooting my last wedding with me on January 28, she’d taken her camera to the shop to have it calibrated).
I know y’all are dying to see photos, so I’ll fill in the gaps as you scroll through…
Breathing through more contractions than I ever thought I’d have to… while c-sections were never a part of my plan, I am actually grateful that I was able to experience my water breaking with Catherine and then to experience “real” contractions with Isabella. But even more grateful that I didn’t have to go through too many more of these because I know they only would have gotten worse.
Amy and I had texted a few times as she was waking up, but then we decided talking on the phone would be much easier!
And I couldn’t help it, but I did take a few photos while we were waiting… Ben took the rest until we went into the OR.
The anesthesiologist giving me the low down on everything…
And then Amy arrived!
The rest of these are in the OR and in recovery… ALL thanks to Amy so that Ben could be in the photos too! Seriously, Amy, we are so thankful you woke up so early to come and capture this day for us!
Dr. DuBose was on call that day (she’s in the darker scrub cap), which was perfect because she was supposed to do the c-section on February 21 anyway! Plus, February 6 was also her birthday so it was fun to celebrate her while she delivered our baby girl!
Isabella Grace and her first breaths… she was not a happy camper.
And we LOVE this one because Isa looks so bored!
I’m beyond impressed that Ben stood up to look over the curtain!
And as with every birth – but especially my own! – I was crying when I heard those first cries.
Just a few hours before this we didn’t think we’d be meeting our second daughter that day…
and now, we were laying eyes on her for the first time!
Before they even pulled her out, the anesthesiologist guessed she would be 7lbs 4oz. And he was exactly right!!
This sweet nurse has been at other births that I’ve photographed so it was fun to see her before my c-section and realized that we’d worked together before!
I think I looked up at Amy to see how she was doing :-) I love birth photography and I hope she loved/loves it as much as I do!
Look at that sweet/angry little face!!
It’s such a small thing, but I was SO excited when one of the nurses brought us a hat with a bow in it!!
Amy followed Ben and Isa back to recovery while the doctors finished up with me.
Ben is such an amazing papa and I love seeing him with our girls!
This was when the tears came all over again!
Dr. DuBose stopped by to check on me and I’m glad we were able to get a photo with her! I’ve sent her photos of deliveries she’s done before so I’m excited to send her ones of her little birthday buddy now too!
To see more Birth Stories, click here.
For more information about me capturing your own baby’s birth or Fresh 48 Session, click here.