i recently got the amazing gift of attending and photographing the birth of my little sister’s first baby!!! my sister, angel, lives in colorado so i had plans to arrive there just a couple days before the due date. we all prayed and hoped that the baby boy, jude, wouldn’t come early. angel and i were grateful when, after i arrived, we had a whole week together to chat and watchmovies and just do life alongside each other (something we don’t get to do living states away), before she started feeling any contractions.
(warning: this birth story i am about to tell is very intense. everything turns out ok in the end, but if you are pregnant and need to keep your mind focused on the positive, you might not want to read on)
the contractions started at dinnertime, but because they had begun, did not mean we would see the precious baby boy any time soon! i went to bed expecting to be woken up in a few hours for the birth, but the next morning there was still no jude. and the contractions had kept angel up all night! so that day we went on walks, watched a bit of “the notebook,” made cookies, and things were progressing, but very slowly. angel and her husband, dan, had planned a home birth, so that evening they consulted their midwife, who came over and concluded that jude was just not in the correct position yet. she had angel (and dan) do some positioning exercises that would help the baby get in better positioning. we continued to chat and smile between contractions. it got late and i decided to sleep for a bit to give dan and angel some privacy, and when i woke up around 4am, things had gotten a bit more intense. the next 10 hours were a blur. we all lost track of time and place. there was more walking, water therapy, hand holding, use of the birthing ball. at some point angel started transitioning to pushing. she was so exhausted! at this point, she had been up for 2 nights straight in active labor! no sleep! she was so stuck in this land of labor that she started getting extremely discouraged. her body and her mind were so tired! i set down the camera so i could just be her sister! i did all that i could – i gave counter pressure on her back, prayed for her and dan, tried to encourage them, advocated for them, made coffee for the birthing attendants, boiled more water. but i cannot describe the anxiety that i felt, watching my baby sister struggle and cry and despair. i am a nurse and i photograph births for a living, but that did not prepare me for this experience. i felt so helpless and scared, as i saw the hours pass and no baby. wisely, the midwives pow-wowed in the other room. i wondered if they were going to suggest a hospital transfer, but instead they put angel on the floor to push. she was so exhausted that she actually slept between contractions.
finally, after a total of 5 hours of pushing, and a LONG and incredibly trying 40 hours of labor, we all met jude paul! yes, i cried! and i remember holding my sister’s face and kissing her forehead, crying, telling her, “you are so strong! i am so proud of you! i can’t believe you just did that!”
i am still so in awe of my sister!!! she persevered and did something that i don’t know if i could have done! she is SO STRONG! and i could not be more proud of her! and it was such an honor to watch dan love my sister so well through this process! he hugged and walked, pushed and waited, cried and loved! he did not slink back in fear or fatigue (though those were both there i am sure) but he was so present with angel, supporting in whatever ways he could. dan and angel, you are an amazing team and i’m inspired by you both!!