The night before Bear was born had been a rough one for me. My mom was sick and had called me in the middle of the night to come help her, which of course I did. I arrived back home early the next morning, in just enough time to help get the kids off to school before diving into my heavy workload. The day was blurry and I wandered through it in a sleep-deprived dazed. In the early afternoon Geoff called me to chat. “Hey, just so you know,” he said with a smile in his voice. “It looks like this baby might come in the next 48 hours. Just so you know.” I immediately was wide awake. “WHAT?” I cried in surprise. “Lisa isn’t even due for another three weeks! You guys are making me lose the birthday bet!” We laughed and I thought as I hung up the phone there was no way that baby was coming today – maybe the day after but not today. He still had some baking to do! So that night, completely exhausted and in need of DEEP sleep I laid down early with a sleeping pill in my belly to make sure I got all the sleep I could. I was blocking out the time for the birth later the next day as I drifted off to a welcome, dreamless slumber. At 1:02am my phone rang – and it rang enough to wake me up from my drugged state. Something was happening. “Hello?” I mumbled into the phone. “Sarah,” Geoff’s excited voice filled my ears. “She’s at 10cm. It’s go time.” My first thought was SHIT! My second thought was Thank God I Charged My Camera Batteries! “You don’t have to come,” he said. “Yeah right!” I told him. “I’m on my way.” I didn’t even change out of my pajamas… I just jumped out of bed, grabbed my gear while Dustin reheated some leftover coffee and then drove like the wind from Roseville to Elk Grove where Lisa was laboring in their home. Baby Boy (he was still nameless at this point) was about to be born and there was no way I was going to miss it! I arrived at Geoff and Lisa’s a little before 2am. The house was dark and I quietly made my way up the stairs to whereI could hear Lisa. I slipped off my shoes, took my three favorite lenses out and lined them up in the hallway where I sat and watched my dear friend work her baby from her body. There was magic floating around so thick I could have swatted it away. This was the first home birth I had ever photographed and the difference was incredible. There were no sounds other than Lisa breathing, Geoff soothing and the midwife encouraging. The lights were low, the dogs wandered in and out of the room to check in on their mama. Lisa was crouched in front of Geoff, swaying slightly, breathing hard – pain rippled through her and registered on her face. I breathed with her – quite and apart – witnessing the magic being made.
After a while on the floor Lisa moved to the bed where she REALLY started to push. I remembered my labor with Lauren – that first baby when everything is unexpected, unknown and scary. Lisa would go away during a contraction. That’s the only way I can describe it – she would just go off into some distant place in her mind and when the contraction released her she would stumble back to us, not quite sure what we were talking about sometimes, but ready for this baby. After a few more contractions and the immense effort of pushing the midwife said, “Lisa, reach down and feel your baby.” Lisa was confused, scared even – but she reached down and touched the top of her baby’s head and EVERYTHING changed. Her physical demeanor, her mental fortitude, her resolve – all of it changed the second she felt him. Just minutes later the midwife instructed her again, “Lisa, reach down and grab your baby.” In the second it took to sweep him up to her chest the whole world changed. There is was, small with big eyes and a tiny voice that let you know he was really here. Tears flowed, followed by laughter. And the words again and again, “He’s here! He’s here!” There was no frenzy of nurses and doctors – no rubbing the baby down to “clean them up” and putting goop in their eyes and sucking out their nose – no taking that baby away from its mama until SHE was ready. There was just quiet and time and happiness everywhere.
Of course, as the child of photographers Bernard better get used to this! Seeing Geoff photograph his little family for the first time made my heart so happy. I was am so grateful that I got to be there for Lisa and Geoff. So happy to capture this for them so Geoff could be fully present, so Lisa can look back and see her labor and those first moments with her son, so when they tell Bear the story of the night he was born it will be illustrated and he will be able to see all that love and longing that awaited his arrival.
Lisa went off to take a shower (I have said it before and I will say it again, the first shower you take after you have a baby is TRANSFORMATIVE! The clearest memory I have of the days in the hospital after Lauren was born was that shower. MAGICAL I tell you!) and Geoff got to hold his son for the first time. Skin to skin, under shirts and blankets to keep him warm. The midwife checked the baby out, all was well and perfect and then Geoff handed a hungry Bear off to Lisa – Lion King Style, of course.
While Lisa fed Bear for the first time I ran downstairs and made her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and grabbed her an Odwalla protein shake – the girl had to eat! Geoff and I shared a celebratory slice of cake since it was 5am and that’s a bit too early for me to have a celebratory toast with whiskey. And then I drove home as the sun rose, back to my own little family and my own warm bed. My heart was full, my life changed yet again by witnessing the beginning of a life and the expanding of a family. Photographing births is like balm to my soul – it makes me so happy I ever picked up a camera and fell in love with it because THIS – this is what it’s ALL about.
Lisa and Geoff and Bear – I LOVE YOU! Thank you for letting me be a part of this beautiful day. I am forever grateful for it. Go HERE to read Lisa’s account of Bernard’s birth as well.
This birth story is amazing! I’m 4.5 months with a baby girl and cried the whole time reading this! Congrats to the new parents & their beautiful baby boy!