For many weeks before the birth of her daughter, Rachael was texting me - telling me that she had told Emilia that she'd better adhere to my busy shooting schedule. I always nervously laughed at those messages, thinking that I had a decent grasp on the incredibly unpredictable nature of childbirth and knew how difficult it could be to make this shoot happen. After a busy Saturday with a family shoot in the morning followed by a wedding, Texting-In-Her-Sleep-Mary automatically answered the texts at 2 a.m. informing me of a water breaking. When I awoke a few hours later to sunlight, groggy and panicked, I thought I'd missed my window.
"She just started pushing." was the response to my frantic texts, fielded by her husband Travis. I hopped in the car and sped across the Chesapeake Bay. The birthing center exterior was cold and quiet on this November morning, but as I let myself in, it was a whole new scenario. I immediately threw my camera bag down and went running after the pained cries I could hear coming from a back room, adrenaline making my hands shake terribly.
Rachael sat, legs propped up on the side of a tub, with Travis at her side and two staff members guiding her through her contractions. I quietly said hello, and immediately started clicking photographs, doing my best to stay out from under foot and to slip in to the corners of the tiny room for different angles.
I quickly picked up on the rhythm of the end stages of labor - Rachael would direct her energy to pushing, focusing her breathing and her anguish towards bringing Emilia a little closer to the world with each set of contractions. In between, she'd sleep for a few moments, pour warm water across her belly, or smile at the sound of her daughter's heartbeat when the nurse checked it. When he wasn't grasping her arm tightly, kissing her fingertips, or whispering words of encouragement, Rachael would ask for sips of water from Travis.
And then, she was here! It took just a few seconds for the nurse to pull Emilia up and out of the water and place her upon Rachael's chest. "I'm a mom. I'm a mom!" was her disbelieving reaction to this tiny, sweetly squalling little lady laying against her.
Fast-forwarding through some semi-gory details (and also the reminder that there was SO. MUCH. about childbirth public education/vague adult curiosity leaves out), mama and baby were a few feet away, comfortably snuggled together. If you need any indication of how giving and thoughtful of a person that Rachael is, she not only insisted that I hold Emilia, but that Travis take a photo of me doing so. Totally exhausted, very hungry, and certainly in a few sorts of pain, and she's making sure that I get my little moment of joy.
Rarely do I get to hop in to shots, but I'm so glad she insisted I take this little moment. I will cherish this day, and this photo, for all of my days. I will also always get teary-eyed and snotty-nosed every time I look at it (I've had to walk away from my computer about a dozen and a half times trying to write up this blog post to recompose myself - yeesh!).
After making sure Rachael's craving for vanilla milkshakes and french fries were indulged, I left this new family of three to enjoy the quiet before they headed home to my afternoon session.
And then I got to crash the party again two weeks later for Emilia's newborn session! (Cue all the color and less of the overwhelming emotions!)
Emilia is probably the calmest, most alert newborn I've ever met. In the entire two hours I was with her, she didn't cry once, only a little fussing for about thirty seconds. Otherwise, she was wide-eyed, and prone to making silly faces while we played around in her sweet little violet-colored nursery. She's sleeping well, eating like a champ, and totally rocking that amazingly full head of hair.
And clearly if you give birth to a child in the water, she is indeed a tiny little mermaid. Although she only shows her fins if you ask very politely (or you do a really bad photoshopping - take your pick!)
Illustrated mermaid tail from www.alluregraphicdesign.com - cheers to open source illustrators!
Huge congratulations to Rachael and Travis on this little beauty - cannot wait to document her growth and all the joys she brings to you guys! -MEJ