Sunday, March 28, 2010

a baby story

I got a call from a woman last week sometime about going maternity shots for her. She was having her 6th child and wanted pictures of her 5 children (1 girl, 4 boys) and her pregnant belly, (another boy). I agreed, we set up a time, and that was that. As the day came, we eventually made the call that it was too chilly and windy to shoot, so we rescheduled for the following Friday, knowing that day was exactly a week out from her due date and really cutting it close.

On the Friday of the shoot, I get a voicemail about 2 hours before I am scheduled to meet her at the George Bush Library pond, saying that she wasn't feeling well and we would have to cancel. My heart broke, as I knew the belly pictures were important to her, so I called, got her address and my son Andrew and I headed to her house so we could AT LEAST get her belly on 'film' before that wasn't an option and her little man made his debut.

When I arrive at her home, her children were all dressed to match, and she looked lovely is this amazing sheer black lace top that showed off her belly nicely. We headed to her back yard, found a pretty spot in the shade for everyone to sit and started shooting. We shot for about 15 minutes and in that time, she had SEVERAL severe contractions and with each one, I was getting more and more nervous.

We made our way back to the front of the house, I packed up my equipment, and was about to head out when I realized that, inside the house, things were going downhill fast. I didn't know what to do and soon found out that her husband was in town at the grocery store, she had been planning on a water birth, but her midwife was in Austin and she had no real plan for where her kids were going to go for all this, which is completely understandable considering she was a week out from her due date.

At some point, I talked to 0ne of her friends and we made some plan to get the kids to her, but that took a back seat very quickly when I noticed she was in real live labor and there would be no transporting of children, as I was absolutely NOT leaving this stranger in her home to have this baby alone, no matter what!

Then, her water broke. Now, I should mention that this mother-to-be was the absolute calmest, most in control I have EVER seen for someone about to literally give birth on her living room floor. She was on speaker phone with her midwife by this point, and that was probably all we needed to get through this situation, but me being who I am (a mother, yes, but a TEACHER, a PHOTOGRAPHER, not, I repeat NOT a doctor) I called 911 because I needed direction, coaching and support. I think I remember telling the sweet 911 operator "I am about to have to deliver a baby, it is NOT going to wait and I need you to tell me what to do." She had lots of other questions for me first, so I was trying to rack my brain for old episodes of ER, and really wishing I had been a fan of 'Rescue 911' or whatever that show was called... I kept thinking 'boil water, get towels, sheets, I need a shoelace'.

Under strict orders, my son Andrew kept her boys outside, but her 11 yr old daughter stayed in the house with us simply because I had no idea where towels, shoelaces, or anything else would be in the event that they were needed. She was a champ, doing anything and everything we asked her and is really the heroine of this story. We got a small stack of towels between the mom's legs and about 20 seconds after that, what we think was a head appeared, and less than a minute later, a chunky, pink baby boy was in my hands.
Per the 911 operator's instruction (or instinct, I cannot remember which), I untangled the little man from the cord... it wasn't around his neck, just everywhere else, like he had been caught in a spider web. I cleared his mouth with my finger, wiped his eyes, and strategically passed him to his mother, being careful not to put any stress on the cord. We still had a 'placenta to deliver, catch and wrap up for the doctor', Miss 911 tells me, to which I responded (only in my head, I hope) AWESOME, only with very sarcastic undertones.

Luckily, the mom had planned on a home water birth, though the moment she asked me to start gettign her pool ready, I quite sternly told her to give up that dream, because there was no time for me to blow up a pool and fill it with warm water so we could follow her 'birth plan', but she did have the blue and white hospital pads, suction bulb and other necessities on hand, so as 911 was asking me for things, we (11 yr old daughter and I ) were able to go to the birthing box and find them. The mother used the bulb to clear the airways, we got mom to a sitting position and got our little man on her breast within 3 minutes of delivery.

That's when the cavalry arrived. The new daddy got home first, to a huge surprise, then the sheriff appeared, closely followed by the ambulance. As throngs of people started pouring into the little home in the country, I took advantage of the break and unpacked my camera. I was able to capture the still unnamed newborn only minutes old, in his mother's arms, looking around, probably wondering what all the fuss was about. I have so much admiration for this new mommy, who was so happy and content to look her baby over, smiling and talking to him, posing for pictures... In all my life, I have honestly never seen anything like the strength this woman showed.

The last picture I took was of two gloved hands holding clamps, as an 11 yr old girl who demonstrated such maturity and grace under such pressure, cut her new baby brother's umbilical cord. I will never be the same.