welcome baby kai!

birth is a journey, a crazy, unpredictable, wild journey!  no one can tell you how long labor will be,  when it will begin, or what the path will look like.  my midwife, bj snell, has told me several times, “if i had a crystal ball and could tell when this baby will come, i would be a rich woman!”  it’s true!  many people would pay big bucks to know this kind of info!!!  for those of us who have had the privilege of carrying our babies to full term, it’s the end that is often the most difficult!  i remember feeling so uncomfortable, not being able to sleep, only have 1 shirt that i felt decent in, and just waiting and wondering and trying to figure out… would today be the day i would meet my baby?  early on when i heard of women who scheduled c-sections without any medical need i felt so righteous and smug for my choice to go natural, but near the end i envied those women who could look at their calendar and know that on monday the 28th, an hour or so after 10:15am, they would be holding their babies!  there is little else in our life that reminds us of how little control we truly do have, than birth!  we are painfully aware of our lack of control and it is not easy to tollerate, to just ride the waves and trust that our bodies will work, our baby will come… perhaps not as early and quickly and easily as we had hoped (or maybe so!), but in the end, there is always a baby… a tiny, slippery miracle that with it’s first breath cries out, “i’m here!”…tears flow and all are in awe and nothing is ever the same!

i met pete and krista when they were pregnant with their baby boy, and looking into hiring me : )  for me, the connection was instantaneous!  and i have just LOVED the opportunity to get to know this beautiful family, through their {before baby} session we did, 21 hours of me hanging out at their place while they birthed their baby boy (see pics below), and then a {with baby} session that i still need to blog : )  plus many texts back and forth about life and photos, surfing and breastfeeding!

they had a homebirth and as you will see, their home is AMAZING!!!!  there is beauty and inspiration in every crannie of their house, but i believe it’s the beauty in their relationship that really makes this place magical.  i hope you get a glimpse of the beautiful connection that pete and krista have cultivated!  for 21 hours i photographed and laughed, drank refreshing water from wide-mouth mason jars and glass bottles, listened to stories of when krista was a little girl, looked at baby pictures, ate yummy fish tacos, witnessed many tender moments (a mother’s tears when telling her daughter how proud she was, krista’s tears during an emotional part of labor, the intensity of seeing his son for the first time, a couple clinging to each other when things were getting difficult), and all the while i sought to capture the beauty and connection that was oozing everywhere i looked.  i have never taken so many pictures!

can i be honest?  sometimes it feels awkward to bring my camera up to snap a shot of someone crying, or another tender moment.  like, what is happening is so real, so intimate… the person is being so vulnerable and trusting, dare i risk marring it with the click of my lens?  yet i tell myself, this is why i am here, to document the truest parts of this journey!  i have been invited here to do this!  heck, i have been paid to do this!  i will not shy way, but will continue to be present and engaged.  and although it can feel strange, it also is why i LOVE my job so much!  i get to be a part of one of life’s most real and raw experiences!!!  when true character arises and pretending isn’t possible any more; where it’s normal and natural to need others, and for some reason help seems a little easier to accept than it usually does.  i feel so incredibly blessed to be able to do what i do!

thank you pete and krista, for the honor of spending kai’s birthday with you (and for allowing me to share his birth story)!  what an amazing team of people you brought around you to love you and support you and walk with you through this birth journey!  you both endured and persevered so well!  and your baby boy, kai edward, is so precious… such a gracious gift from above!

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born at home at 40 weeks & 6 days gestation, after 24.5 hours of labor, 9 pounds 11 ounces, 22 inches long



midwifes: bj snell & vickie alston with beach cities midwifery and women’s heathcare

doula: cathy weinstein

first assistant: michelle snyder




welcome, sweet amryn grace!

isn’t that name stunning?!  so unique, yet familiar somehow!  one of my very best friends in the whole world, gave birth to her first baby 8 weeks ago today!  and i had the privilege of being there that night to support and pray and photograph : )

let me tell you some things about my friend cayla.  1) she loves jesus with her whole heart!  2) she is able to maintain a beautiful perspective on all the blessings in her life.  within the last year, cayla and mike got married, bought a house, got pregnant, fixed (or should i say, are still fixing : ) up the house, and had their first baby!  what this couple has done within their first year of marriage is both crazy and amazing!!!  i have been so inspired to see the ways that cayla and mike have loved each other so well in the midst of all the stress that these blessing have provided!

birth of sweet amryn put all of these wonderful attributes of cayla beautifully on display.  amryn was born on a friday, and that monday cayla and mike decided to go ahead with their plan to have new flooring put in their house.  it was risky as cayla was due that week, but since most first babies come late, and since cayla and mike needed that last piece of their house done to feel ready for baby to come, they gave the go ahead for a crew of guys to come and demo their floors and put new ones in.  a process that would take 5 FULL DAYS!!!  well, tuesday rolls around and cayla starts feeling contractions.  mike heads to work and cayla comes over to labor since there was a crew of dudes at her house.  contractions continue coming every 4-6 minutes, and at the end of the day she and mike decide to get a hotel that night, so they don’t have to sleep/labor in a construction zone.

i’ve seen (and i know!) that labor can be physically exhausting!!!  but it’s progress that keeps a laboring woman going!  we are reminded that the hard work we are doing is not in vain, that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and that soon we will be holding the tiny baby we’ve been dreaming about!  well, thankfully cayla also had some amazing encouragement and support in mike and beach cities midwifery, because progress was slow to come for my friend!  she was in early labor for 3 days, which for her meant having contractions every 4-6 minutes, without much cervical change.  even after castor oil, labor induction massages, walking around, etc, little progress was made.  we prayed and asked God to keep baby girl safe and bring strong, effective contractions!!!

finally, thursday evening, after laboring for THREE days in a hotel room, walking past staff when she came and went, feeling observed each time; cayla was far enough along to stay at the birth center!!!  i felt so relieved for her and mike, knowing that now they could fully relax and rest.  they were here and would stay until the baby came!

as you can see in these images, mike and cayla have something special!  technically they are still newlyweds, yet there already is such a depth to their love.  these two were tired, physically and emotionally!  yet watching mike be so attentive and engaged and seeing cayla find rest and comfort in mike was so, so beautiful!!!  my words and my images fail to do their beauty justice!

as the sun thought about waking, amyrn grace made her appearance!  my sweet friend reached out and brought her baby girl to her chest!  such an amazing moment!!!  so many hopes and dreams realized as she kissed her baby for that first time!

mike and cayla, you have created something quite beautiful – in your home, in your relationship, and now in your amyrn grace!!!  no doubt, God’s cutest blessing in your lives!!!

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gavin scott, welcome!

this mamma & her amazing man have been two of my very best friends for the past 17 years!!!  suz and aron and i met in high school, 17 years ago and we have all come a long way!  from pimples and soccer games to kids and ministry!  we have seen each other through spiritual crisises, witnessed each other’s marriage vows, been pregnant together, cooked for each other, prayed together, shared recipes and fears and maternity clothes, and have watched and learned from each other about this crazy & wonderful thing called parenting.  but the most incredible thing that suz and aron have done for me is help me believe in love!

i remember in high school when suz would feel insecure about herself, and would wonder if she looked good enough, or was smart enough, aron would ask her to say out loud, “i am a diamond!”  so she’d whisper it.  then he’d ask her to say it louder, “i am a diamond!!!!!”  and she would say it louder!  then he woud have her yell it, as if to tell the deepest part of her soul that it was true, “I AM A DIAMOND!!!!!” and she would!!!  and it still makes me cry!

before these two, i had heard that love like this exists, and i had hoped that it did, but i had never seen it!  god gave me the gift of sitting in the front row and seeing aron love suzanne so sacrificially and unconditionally, and watching her accept and receive his love and then love in return… and i am forever changed!  not only that, but these two have supported, encouraged, pursued, initiated, given, sacrificed, cared… basically, loved me so well throughout the years, that i am able to more deeply believe that i really am loved and cared for!  what a gift from God this family is!

well, with all that to say, i was more than overjoyed to be able to photograph suz & aron’s fourth baby coming into the world!  (how blessed this little one is to be born into such a family?!)  what an amazing night that was!  the hospital room was filled with anticipation, love, and awe! see for yourself…

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cutie cutie ruby!

and she really IS a cutie!  and you know what else is so cute???  the way that this new daddy looks at his wife, who just birthed their first child.  i can just feel his love and admiration for her!  can’t you?!

i wish i could tell you more about the birth, but alas, i MISSED it!!!  yes, it’s true… another missed birth!  i arrived within 30 minutes of being called, but this little girlie wanted to be in her mamma’s arms pronto, so i got there minutes after she came.  the induction went faster than anyone could have possibly imagined!  even the doctor missed it!

when i did arrive, it was a joyous scene… hands held, hugs given, kisses received, with smiles and laughter filling the room!

thanks david fam, for allowing me to share these images, and for inviting me in to document and be a part of the night you became a family of 3!  i LOVED every moment of it!  congrats to you all!


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hospital birth, induced at 39 weeks & 2 days, labored 7 hrs from start of pitocin, 5 lbs 13 oz, 1st child


cary lewis is born!

some babies come quick.  and some come slow.  let’s just say, this little boy was in a hurry to be in his momma’s arms!

i got a call right as i was getting ready for bed, that now was the time!  so i changed, grabbed my things, and put the pedal to the metal, racing down the road!  when i arrived at the polston’s home, i got out of my car and heard a woman gasp.  i figure that’s when cary made his grand entrance!

i could hear kelly pushing, because she was outside… in the jacuzzi in fact!  this little man was born in the jacuzzi!  yes!  you read that right!!!  (fitting though, if you saw this family’s real life {before baby} images : )

thankfully, the midwife, sue gill, lives closer and made it in time!  so… i do not have any laboring pics from this birth, but you can still see that this baby is FRESH!  and oh so cute!!!  i think he looks a lot like his (not so) big brother, when he was first born.  especially their crying face : )

being there at this birth (or at least a couple minutes after : ), reminds me how seamless birth can be!  and by “seamless” i mean, it can fit right into life; birth can happen without gaps or disconnections from your real life.  it is possible to put your kids to bed, go into the jacuzzi, push your baby out, walk back to your bed, breastfeed and cuddle, have a snack, invite grandma and grandpa over to meet the little bundle, then all fall asleep in your own beds!  now, don’t get me wrong, birthing a baby is the one of the hardest jobs imaginable!  kelly, and all other mammas, will vouch for that!   i am not saying it’s easy, i am just saying that it can be done in the context of your real life.  it can be… seamless!  and it is beautiful when it is!

polston fam, so thankful for you!  it was such an honor and pleasure to be there that night cary was born!  i feel so blessed to call you clients as well as friends!   and you make the cutest baby boys!  congrats on #4!!!

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welcome sweet baby jude!

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!!


i thank God that He allowed me to be there to witness, alongside of some amazing midwives, this beautiful yet intense birth and to see my sweet nephew coming into the world!


see my favorite photos from the birth below!


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backlit baby buns, hand squeezing, & the amazing shape of a contracting tummy

thanks jen for allowing me to share these images!

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Born at home, at 40 weeks and 4 days, after 6 hours of labor, 8 lbs 10 oz, 3rd child


Midwife: BJ Snell, Beach Cities Midwifery

First Assistant: Birgitte Damgaard

From Jen’s Perspective


mason is born!

“go team kliewer!”

that is what jason (my hubby) and i say out loud to ourselves when there is a big task ahead of us.  it is sort of the way we pump ourselves up to face something a bit overwhelming!  take this past week for instance… when faced with a messy house, lack of sleep, over-tired & over-sugared kids, and 5 hours to pack for a 2 week long family trip to the mid-west for the holidays, all i felt like doing was flopping.  you know… lay on the ground, close my eyes, mumble something only when absolutely necessary, and do everything i can to pretend nothing exists but me and the floor!  but thankfully, i was not alone in that moment!  my hubby with his words, example, and energy pulled me up off the floor.  he prayed for me!  we got a plan that made the task seem somewhat possible, and we moved into action, shouting, “go team kliewer!”  i couldn’t have done it without my other team member, and thankfully i didn’t have to!

when i photographed cheryl and kevin sheik’s first birthing several weeks ago, i was reminded of how beautiful it is to witness an effective and loving team in action!  these 2 blew me away!!!  kevin remained so engaged with cheryl, in spite of all the unknowns of birth!  he was so present and so available and so willing to serve her in whatever ways she needed!  he gave her the space and freedom to birth their baby the way she needed.  and cheryl was so accepting of his help and love and touch!  she was so strong and determined as she labored!  together kevin and cheryl both peacefully and beautifully brought mason into the world!

cheryl and kevin, you two work together so well!  i LOVED being a part of the work, anticipation, joy, and celebration of mason’s birth!!!

go team sheik!!!  i am a big fan!


ps- of course, they were supported by the wonderful beach cities midwifery team: all beautiful women who create such a comfortable birth environment!

vickie alston: midwife

mette dempster: doula

brigitte damgaard: birth assistant


pps- and thank you so much, cheryl and kevin, for allowing me to share these images!

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guinevere is born!

baby guinevere was born peacefully at home into her daddy’s loving arms!  being a part that day, when she made her entrance into the world reminded me of the importance of community!  we can’t do birth alone and we definitely cannot do this life alone.  we need our peeps.  in life and in birth, we need people beside us to encourage us when it gets hard, to remind us of why we are doing what we are doing, to believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves, to cheer us on, and possibly most importantly, just be with us!  we are not meant to do life alone.  and we are not meant to bring to life alone either!

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birth Real Life

welcome baby cooper!

no matter how they get here, every baby’s birth is a miracle!  cooper john was born february 7th via c-section.  and i was given the honor of photographing him meeting his two big brother.  it is incredible to be invited in to be a part of such a special moment in this family’s life!  to see the older brothers show interest and give love in their own special ways to their little baby brother was precious!  this was just the first few moments of being a family of 5, and how beautiful they were!  hope you can see some of the magic in these photos!