Unless you were really paying attention (stalker), you probably never realized that I didn't blog Mac's birth story. Yes, it was extremely personal, but that's not really why. The birth itself was pretty typical - I labored for 17 hours and then had a C-section because he wasn't progressing and his head was huge (I blame my husband for that). Nothing out of the ordinary or super dramatic - this happens to people all the time. And a few weeks later, I actually did write it all down with the intention of sharing it. But now, I think I'll save it for Mac and his future wife to read when they're expecting their first baby. Just the thought of that makes me well up with tears.
You all know how photo crazy I am and I absolutely love birth photos. They are so raw, so real, so honest. I am usually brought to tears looking through those photos because they are such an intimate glimpse into the life of a family at one of the most important and life-changing moments in their lives. It's incredible that we are able to experience that kind of emotion, pain, love, support and pride though pictures. It's what I love about photography - the ability to experience that moment like you were there and feel that emotion with the people in the photos. That's powerful.
I really wanted to hire a birth photographer. But no, I did not. Why? Mainly because I was absolutely terrified that I would not live up to the expectation I had in my mind of what a strong laboring mother should be. I didn't know how I would handle the pain, how I'd handle the contractions, how I'd handle myself. I didn't know if I could do it. Any of it (not that I had an alternative at that point). I was so scared of being judged on how I was doing, or how I looked or whether I was being strong enough. I was worried about doing it wrong or looking dumb. I was scared that I'd pay a fortune for photos that documented me at my worst and just made me feel inadequate.
I was also stupid.
What a ridiculous idea that I would do it wrong...that I wouldn't be strong...that I wouldn't cherish every single photo for the rest of my life. Giving birth is a crazy paradox - I have never felt weaker and stronger at the same time. Never felt such fear and excitement. Such pain and such elation. Such terror and such confidence. And every single photo I have of that experience is near and dear to my heart. My wonderful husband took over my camera and documented the process from contractions to the surgery to the moment we met our son. He took photos of the monitors, of the room, of the doctor pulling the baby out of me, of my uterus sitting on my stomach, of my son being weighed and cleaned up and finally placed on my chest. He even got the anesthesiologist to take over the camera to get a few pictures of him cutting the umbilical cord and Mac's tiny hand gripping his daddy's finger for the first time. The photos are wonderful and incredibly personal and deeply emotional. Some of them are grainy and some are out of focus, but they mean the world to me. Yes, I wish I would have hired a birth photographer so Ryan could have been in more photos with me, but I had the next best thing - a husband that knew how much I'd want those photos later and took the initiative to capture all the details. I can't thank him enough for doing that. Those photos, along with the birth story will remain private. They're just too personal to share.
And even though I didn't get the professional birth photos, I did have the foresight to hire Jodie from Fresh Art Photography to come to the hospital the next day and get a few photos of us with our new family member. She calls it the Fresh 48 - photos of the baby and the new parents at the hospital within the first 48 hours. I just let her know when I was in labor and she was at the hospital about 12 hours after the baby was born. The morning after Mac was born, I was a bloated, hormonal, sweaty, exhausted, emotional mess. I was so puffy and bloated from all the fluids they pumped into me that I could barely bend my swollen fingers. I couldn't sit upright because of the severe pain from my incision. I forgot to brush my hair. I was sweating like crazy from all the hormones so I couldn't put on makeup. I couldn't even fit into a bra or the size large plain white t-shirt I planned on wearing, so I was in a granny-type nightgown, braless, sweating away. Basically the worst possible combination of nastiness and exactly the last way you want to be documented for all eternity.
As always, Jodie was wonderful. As a mom to three, she's exactly the person you want there telling you it's all normal, it's ok, it's going to get better. She was supportive without being judgmental. She was there and documenting it all without being intrusive. She was gentle and kind and understanding. She didn't pose us or give us any direction - she just captured the moments as they happened. Us. With our son. As parents. As a family. Exploring this tiny new person we just met, yet already knew.
I have to be honest here, when I first saw these photos I shuttered. I couldn't even look at them. I even considered asking her to take them down off her website because I was so self-conscious - so embarrassed. It probably sounds incredibly vain and self-centered, but I hated the way I looked. I'm almost unrecognizable to myself - so swollen and exhausted. It took me months after Mac's birth to be able to revisit these photos and really take a close look at them for what they are. And do you know what...I am SO proud of these pictures. I couldn't care less what I look like. I JUST GAVE BIRTH! I went through major surgery. I produced a tiny perfect human being. I battled. And I look like it. I wouldn't have it any other way.
So in the spirit of my word for the year, I'm EMBRACING them. And I'm posting them here because I'm so proud of what I did. I made a baby! These photos are all the memories I have of that day. It went by so quickly and I was so exhausted and drugged that I can barely remember what happened. But I have these gorgeous pictures. Photographic evidence of the intense love and overwhelming emotions I felt those first few hours of becoming a mom. Photos of my parents meeting their first grandchild. Photos of Ryan taking care of his wife and beaming with pride at his baby boy. So, if you're on the fence about whether to hire a birth photographer or one to capture those first moments with baby, please don't even hesitate to do it. It's worth every single penny.