Duke's Birth Story

I was hot. It was hot. Sticky, sweaty, hot. The trade winds had stopped blowing just in time for my last week of pregnancy. Luckily we had AC in our condo that we decided to turn on for the sticky pregnant lady who couldn’t stop talking about how hot she was.

Then we waited.

Actually, we waited a whole year. The miscarriage I had right before getting pregnant with you, tacked on another 3 months of pregnancy before you took your turn. When it was all said and done, I had been pregnant for 12+ months and was really ready not to be anymore. But this was my third time experiencing the last week of a pregnancy and I can’t help but smile thinking back to that torturous last week. Yet again, I was ready for you to be here and yet again I was “trying” with all my might to will you here. I mean, after being pregnant for so long there was no way you would be late, right? In my mind I had told myself you would be at least 4 days early. Your brother was. Plus at your 20 week ultrasound the doctor said he thought you were measuring a few days early. Right then I moved your due date in my mind from July 8th to July 6th. Nothing drastic, just a few days. Since we live on an island in the middle of the sea, we thought it would be a smart idea to fly your Auntie Anna out for a couple weeks to be an extra set of hands. She agreed. She was only going to be here for 2 weeks though. And after what felt like 50 years It was July 10th and Anna had already been here for 10 days. I was at a midwife apointment I thought I would never have. She was stripping my membranes and my mind was swirling. What about the money paid to get Anna there, the timing, the cranky downstairs neighbors, being 45mins from a hospital, not doing really any pre-birth mediation, was there enough food prepped, would I miss a night of sleep? I was ready! I was! But was I? All the thinking in the world couldn’t change the truth. You weren’t ready. It wasn’t time yet. I lunged walking up the hill from stone dam. I squatted while reading books to the big kids. I paced the shoreline at Kalihiwai. I was leaning forward and on hands and knees as much as humanly possible. When I walked I visualized you dropping down in my pelvis. But you knew and deep deep deep in my experienced pregnancy mind I knew it too. Control was pointless. But oh how I wanted to know when it would start and end! How long active labor would be. When and if my waters would break. If the bigs would be awake or asleep. How my emotional support would be after the fact? Would Dad be able to handle all I needed from him? Would I feel baby blues? Postpartum anxiety or depression? But the great design of childbirth doesn’t include these answers. At least not natural childbirth. I was daydreaming about taking back some control. Marching into that hospital, demanding they cut you out of me!! But as much as I needed you with me, I knew I stood to have the ultimate control by giving in to all my anxiety and fear and trusting to a level that feels impossible. Trusting the impossible to be possible. Trusting in the one human act that we all have in common... birth. Trusting that I had a strength greater than the burning sun. Energy that was boundless and a willingness to submit that seems contrary to everything else. The mystery of life giving continues to baffle. Oh, and I still felt really hot. Can somebody put a fan on me? My mind was all over the place. The heaviest weightiest thinking and then, over a turkey meatball dinner the night before you came, me saying I give up. Birth, you win. I am done trying. 12 hours later you were here.

During dinner the contractions changed and everything started seeming more regular. I tried helping to put Nova and Fairbanks to bed. I read a story to them but in the middle had a really strong contraction. I was sitting on the edge of Fairbanks’ mattress on the floor. I had to brace myself on the edge of the bed and I started moaning and swaying a little. I think it made your brother a little nervous because he covered my mouth and said “stop mom!” I finished my contraction and soothed his worries…but I knew that it was something I couldn’t stop...even when in the very near future it would be hard and uncomfortable. I was starting to feel the flood of emotions. We tore a couple more pieces of the paper chain we had made to count down to your arrival that hung over the kids window. I kissed them both to bed and went and laid down on my own bed and stared out the window at the green trees moving in and out of the warm glow of the Hawaiian setting sun. I think this is the part of the story that you would want me to say that in my contemplative mind I found peace and a calmness that would power me through….but I didn’t. I am going to be super honest here because this story has a very happy ending (the happiest that endings can have) but you need to know it all to be able to acknowledge the beauty of this process as a whole. I was kind of a mess. I felt so much fear. Dread even. I felt a choking sort of darkness in my mind. Birth has always been a purging process for me. I have to let a lot be felt in order to be ready to feel what was to come. I need to make space. I was feeling a lot of anxiety and it was hard to know what was hormones and what was circumstance. Natural childbirth is the most vulnerable thing I have ever done. And choosing to bring my babies into the world at home means that space and the energy in it matters a lot to me. We had downstairs neighbors that weren’t very nice to us and it made our whole home feel unstable to me…like at any moment it would topple over or disappear. Not an ideal feeling for the nest you are bringing your baby bird home to. There was an uneasiness that felt crippling. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to do what was coming. Grant laid down next to me and I had a little meltdown releasing all my fears to him and letting the tears soak my pillow. I didn’t want to labor alone in the dark in the middle of the night. I wanted to labor during the day with sunlight and people awake. I didn’t want to feel alone. I think after that initial meltdown stage one was complete. I think that was my emotional “transition.” I took a couple deep breaths and probably texted my midwife friend Lindsay for some encouragement. I think part of our conversation consisted of her telling me, “You are a warrior!” You know what? I was. I am. I could do this. It wasn’t going to be easy, I knew that, I have owned that before. I wasn’t alone. I had all the mamas that the world has ever known lighting a candle for me to add to the fire that was growing in my body. I was Pele the Goddess of Fire. The refiner’s fire inside of me was there to create something more beautiful and sacred than all the volcanoes that created Kauai. This baby inside of me was the most important creation that will ever be and I was his Mother. I WAS HIS MOTHER.

Just like I knew it would, the sun set and my contractions increased. Soon enough the house was quiet. Everyone was asleep, dreaming…I lay with my silent fire in the dark. I was on my side closing my eyes through contractions until I couldn’t lay down any longer. When I would feel the contraction start to build I would get out of bed fast and sit on the yoga ball at the end of the bed, leaned over resting my upper body on the mattress. I would sway and rock through each wave. Coming back down I would tentatively crawl back into bed. Time melted away...8pm, 10pm, midnight..until 1:30am. I woke your dad up with my sounds. I told him I didn’t want to labor alone anymore. He thought it was time to call the midwives. But I wasn’t sure. My contractions were all over the place. Some 3 minutes apart, some 10mins apart. I did not want them to show up just because I wanted to be ready. What if I was only dilated to a 4? Grant sat with me through another contraction and said he was going to call them and just see what they thought. We called and we talked details for a minute. Sharon listened to me work through a contraction and said she was going to start getting ready to come. OK. I think it was about 2am at that point. By 3 am Sharon and the photographer were there. The lights were on in my room. I hadn’t left our bedroom/bathroom area. One thing I was really nervous about was waking the other kids. I joked with the photographer about leaving my hair down for photos and we all laughed. We talked shop and I offered her my video light if she needed it and any lenses she would want to borrow...and then another contraction would come. IT was like that. During my breaks I was chatty and talkative and then once I was riding the wave I went into my monkey brain. Sharon set down her supplies and during a break asked if I wanted to be checked. As she checked to see how dilated I was I just hoped I was at least close to active labor. Just close was all I wanted. Her eyes widened. “You are an 8 1/2!”. Really??!! I started bawling and laughing from relief. I had labored by myself from a 1 to 8.5 from 7pm to 3am. What I initially hadn’t wanted was the very thing I had done, labored at night in silence, by myself. And I was in active labor! I was a warrior. I was strong. I could do this. I was almost done. I want to say I really just let go and went to another world but I felt super present and my mind felt lucid. The next few hours consisted of a lot of moving around. At one point I decided to try working through a contraction on our lanai. We opened our sliding door and the humid air wrapped around my body. That sweet wet smell of our jungle home breathed into me. But after one contraction I wanted back in my cave. It’s funny, cause although I say my mind was lucid my body was in charge and I did as I was told. I got in and out of the shower a couple times. I thought about filling our Jacuzzi tub with water but it never seemed right. I was missing the upper body support that the soft tub with my other two births gave me. We stacked pillows, princess and the pea style, on the floor and I tried laboring on hands and knees but it didn’t feel comfortable. I tried the same stack on the bed but my arms always felt like they were having to do so much work. My shoulders and chest were sore from supporting the rest of my body. I just wanted relief. The waves were getting stronger and stronger. In one of the more defining moments I was throwing up over the toilet, while contracting and peeing at the same time, all over myself and the floor. Oh and I was buck naked. There was thunder inside of me. That implosion feeling of being ripped apart at the peak of my contractions. My body was in control. I was not. I was not. My baby’s heartbeat was fine. I was progressing. I was still alive. I was a machine with one goal: Birth this baby. Maybe this was transition?

Since I was getting cozy in the bathroom, they suggested I try working through a couple contractions on the toilet. There is something called a “sphincter reflex”…that the incomparable Ina May discusses in one of her books. You know how it’s easier to go to the bathroom when no one is watching? Or sometimes laughing makes you pee a little? It’s the theory that when you are relaxed it’s easier for things to open up. Sometimes sitting on a toilet during labor can help you instinctively open up and help things progress. I sat on the toilet and worked through a couple contractions as everyone patiently held the space. After a contraction my midwives asked if I wanted her to help break the water bag. They thought that releasing that pressure might help speed up this last bit. I said go for it. They took a long knitting hook looking thing and tried breaking it open. No luck. They tried again. Nothing. Now keep in mind neither of my other babies water bags had broken until I was pushing. I make them super power strong. My kids like to make a dramatic entrance preceding an exploding bag of water. During the second contraction on the toilet, my eyes widened as I felt downward pressure. “I feel like pushing”. Everyone started scrambling. No one really wanted you to be born into a toilet. Should she drop down on all fours? Can we have her turn around? Throw those chux pads on the floor! In case this baby was a comin’ and fast they prepped the bathroom floor. The contraction ended and I stood up. I can’t remember how it happened but I made my way back to the bed. Nothing felt comfortable. I tried being on all fours. Each contraction was burning and rippling through my body. The pain was intense. My natural voice wanted to yell out wild and high pitched and I had to concentrate really hard to keep my voice low, my sounds guttural. My rebel yell focused on down down down. Sending that energy to my baby and that opening that would bring you into my arms. They suggested turning over on my back, knees to my chest and trying to push that way. Seemed so opposite to how I had delivered before. What was I doing on my bed? Where was the water? On my back???? I was up for trying anything. My body was tired. It was close to 6am. The contractions were coming but not back to back like I feel like they should at this point. One big contraction and then breaks. It would fill my mind with doubt. Was I close at all? But there is no supposed to or right way when it comes to birth. I turned over on my back and I held one leg up as grant held the other. The next wave came and the pressure was insane. I pushed and screamed. “He’s coming! We can see the head! You are doing great! Rachel, breath and keep your voice low. You can do this. You are doing this. One more push. One more push.” The adrenaline surge that was rushing through my body after that one contraction was causing me to hyperventilate. Rachel, breathe! Rachel breathe! Rachel, you need to slow down your breathing. As I found my breath and geared up for the next contraction, our bedroom door opened and sweet Fairbanks had woken up right at 6:00am. What a scene he walked into. Both midwives, a photographer, aunt Anna, Dad and Mom lying on the bed on the cusp of something huge. I am not sure if I said anything but someone asked Auntie Anna to scoop him up and he lay on her shoulder. Standing on my right side. The next contraction was there. Knees pushed into my chest. It was like a movie from the night flashed through my mind and I still battled the trust that this was actually happening. The urge to push came from my heart into my entire body and I yelled out in a release that I am sure was heard on the mainland. One continuous push…fire fire fire, OUT CAME HIS HEAD…push still happening, yell still sounding and OUT CAME THE REST OF THE BODY. In one contraction, one push, I delivered my Duke. It was 6:04 am and the sun was just rising. Had it happened? Did it work? I took a deep cleansing breath, opened my eyes and saw my sweet perfect son being handed to me and placed on my chest.

Like all the births before yours, they were hard, challenging and life changing. They took a level of trust and leaping into the unknown like nothing I have ever, or will ever, experience again. But with your birth, there was a fog that surrounded me in the days leading up to you being here. A force weighing down on me telling me to be afraid, that I wasn’t ready, that things weren’t right. Whether it was hormones or circumstance, it was real and heavy. Until that moment. The whole experience of you being born was so intense for me emotionally that I was still mulling it over in my mind months later when I stumbled upon a quote, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”― Albert Camus. Goosebumps up and down my arms. That was it. That was what it was like for me. It felt like winter until you took that first breath with the rising sun and then I realized that you were summer. You were the sunshine. The happy. The positive. The light. The trust. The one. And despite the fears and challenges that surrounded me at times during my pregnancy and your birth, YOU WERE SUMMER inside me all along. And once, in my arms, your perfect love and trust healed me. My summer baby. My Duke.

I cried and smiled and laughed and introduced you to your brother and sister (who woke up about 30mins after you were born). They both met you as though you were all old friends. Like you had always been with us. So much sweetness and gentle touch. Everyone’s eyes on you were adoring. Being the third child, the after moments of your birth weren’t as quiet or serene but it was definitely not lacking in excitement. Kids all over the bed. Everyone asking questions. Dad cut the umbilical cord after it had stopped pulsing. Anna made me scrambled eggs and toast. We wrapped up in beach towels and I stared at my little miracle. There was a bird that had kept watch on the porch from the time you were born for an hour or so. The soft misty light of the island filtered in through the windows to greet you. They did a quick stitch on me, we admired your amazing placenta and talked about your extremely strong water sac. They helped me use the bathroom, and then your sweet midwives tucked us into bed. They asked if I wanted help showering before they left, but I declined. I just don’t like washing it all away moments later. I don’t even like washing my newborns until days after they are born. I just want the smells and vernix and sweat to last a bit longer. I am a birth junkie like that. You were a great eater from the start. You had a little stuffy nose that I had to clear out often but because of that you made the sweetest little grunting and snoring sounds. Your cry from the second you were born was strong and meaningful. You weighed in at 8lbs 14 ounces. You looked different than Nova and Fairbanks did. You had lighter hair and a slimmer face. You were you and no one else. I couldn’t stop looking at you curled in my arms content and warm. Here. A few hours after you were born we kissed the midwives goodbye tucked into our clean bed and me asking every few minutes if that actually just happened.

 It seemed like a dream. Part of me thought I would just going on being pregnant forever...and having you in my arms was surreal for weeks following your birth.

I had a friend ask me months ago over lunch what that moment was like, giving up complete control during birth. Giving in to complete trust. Looking back, how did I view myself in those moments? I only had to think for just a moment before tears streamed down my face, “Those are the times I like myself the most. I am incredible and believe it”.

That is what you gave me. A reason to let go of control. To truly BE PRESENT. Not trying to make anything be but just accepting what was. To face the unknown and choose the uncomfortable. To be afraid and KEEP GOING. To feel my emotions but do the hard thing anyway. To choose trust. To choose faith. And in the end be filled with a strength and belief in my physical and emotional abilities beyond what I could ever imagine for myself. I gave birth to you. I grew Summer inside of me and get to keep him for the rest of forever.

Dad and I loved on you and then when the neighbors started pounding on the bedroom ceiling he took the big kids out to the beach so you and I could rest together. He didn’t want to leave us. No one ever wants to leave you. The door shut and we lay in bed together. Everything was quiet except for the birds outside. I was suppose to be sleeping but I couldn’t close my eyes. I couldn’t take my eyes off you.

Koʻu kau aloha pēpē. Aloha wau iā ʻoe.




(All my love to Hua Moon Midwives and their gentle and expert care. And giant thanks to Nicolette for taking so many of these amazing photos for us. They are treasures.)

Danny's Birth


I think midwifes are experts at some of life's most pressing questions...the answer being, "Some things are worth waiting for". I have obviously not developed the patience it takes to wait for these babies. If I know a baby could come any moment, it's all I can think about. How is mom feeling? Is my camera packed and ready? I better go to bed now just in case I get a call at 1am. Umm, hello? Baby? WHERE ARE YOU!!? It takes everything in me not to text every 5mins. I am not mad at the baby just out of my mind excited to photograph his first breaths and out of my mind about the slight chance that I could miss it.

So sweet baby Danny made me wait and wait and wait. We all waited until all the stars aligned. I didn't get the call in the middle of the night, rather it was 6:30pm. Thank you Danny! After waiting so long, I sped through freeways and highways and roadways muttering a prayer the whole way...please wait for me...and he did! Thank you Danny! Everyone that they wanted to be there was there. It ended up being just as it should be (always does!) and I was beyond privileged to photograph Angela give birth to her 6th child and only boy. Moms are so kick ass...and witnessing one going through labor and a birth is full on the same way you feel being near a celebrity. Giddy, nervous, hoping I am cool enough. I'm just in extreme awe every time.

Midwife extraordinaire, Lindsey Meehleis, did it again. Playing the best support you could ever want. I am madly in love with her and her magic ways.

Oh babies. I love your entrances so much. Waiting waiting waiting. I will always be here, waiting.






Kate's Birth

She came in the middle of the night. Swinging down from the stars like so many babies do.

Her mama was ready and proved it by bringing me to tears. She spoke with a light southern accent and wept when she finally had sweet kate in her arms.

I am convinced there is nothing more attractive than a partner supporting a birthing mother. Especially when the birthing mother is delivering natural, with just her body and her mind. He supported and loved and never left her side. He did everything he could to be there with her. Once his baby girl was born one of the first things he did was touch her skin and rub some of the vernix on his crows feet. I mean, come on. I was in love.

And so was that family with each other. Three brothers and their baby sister.

When you are invited (paid even!) to witness a baby entering the world, you know life is pretty great. I feel lucky. So so lucky.

(midwife to star swinging babies: Lindsey Meehleis from OC Midwifery. She delivered Fairbanks and I adore her)

Fairbanks's Birth Story

I spent most of the pregnancy with you feeling like I needed “more time.” More time to get stuff done, more time for work projects, more time for one last shoot, more time to get the house in order, more time to wrap my head around having two kids, more time to be READY. This had nothing to do with you…really. I wanted you and was excited for you to be in my arms but from previous experience I knew that certain things would be easier to get done with you chillin’ in your hot tub a little bit longer. What I had kind of forgotten was one of the most miraculous lessons that childbirth has taught me: trust.  Trusting the whole process. Trusting that timing happens for a reason. Trusting you to communicate with me and me to communicate with you. Giving up control and trusting in the basics. Not very much matters once you go into labor. Once I felt that first rising contraction, I remembered. All that mattered was healthy baby and healthy me.

I had an uncomplicated pregnancy with you (similar to Nova’s). Everything happened when it should. You grew and so did I. Towards the end I had a few days with a little bit of high blood pressure but I am starting to think that just happens to me a couple weeks before I deliver. I never got swollen with you and didn’t have any tailbone pain like I did with your sister. I did have some sciatica pain during the first part of the third trimester, which was pretty icky but thankfully didn’t last. But honestly what I cared more than anything about was trying everything that was in my control NOT to have a posterior birth. I leaned forward for months. I tired to only sleep on my left side. I crawled around on my hands and knees whenever I could manage. I loved Nova’s birth story but I wasn’t going to complain if your’s was a lot shorter and maybe less painful.  But there I was thinking too much about something that in the end I knew was out of my control.

For months I had Braxton hicks contractions. I would be walking or standing or doing nothing and my stomach would get hard as a rock. One time we were walking into Disneyland and it happened. I had to stop walking for minute and catch my breath. It would feel like I had no room for my lungs. I wondered if all these little tightening’s were helping prep my body for real labor…was I dilating? After having one baby it is hard not to compare what you have already experienced with all the new experiences. I never really had Braxton hicks contractions with Nova and subsequently ended up doing all of my dilating and laboring with her over a two day period. Intense and long. So these little contractions you were giving me were tiny seeds of hope. Maybe this time would be shorter? I had to keep reminding myself that it might not mean anything and to stop trying to guess. If your birth involved 24hrs of active labor like your sister’s, so be it. I had done it once. I could do it again.

Starting Thursday night on March 28th, I had what felt like pretty bad period cramps that lasted for a couple hours. Peculiar since your due date was still a week away. Nova was 5 days late and so I really didn’t expect you to come any earlier than your due date, April 3rd. Besides, I still had things to wash and buy and do. We spent the couple hours before sunset at Newport Beach. We ate Café Rio and splashed in the water with Nova. It was a bit chilly and I wrapped your sister and myself up in blankets. Passersby looked at my belly and I felt proud. I was super pregnant and that only meant one thing, I had one of my all time favorite humans on his way.

As an interesting side note: when I was experiencing a little high blood pressure, I was quite stressed out about numerous things.  I tried not to be but I just had so much whirling around in my mind. And knowing that I had high blood pressure didn’t help because I was stressed wondering about all the “ifs” and really wanted our homebirth. Your sweet midwife, Lindsay Meehleis, pretty much ordered me to stop working and to take it easy. She said I could be productive 1hr a day and then the rest of the day I could only relax and do enjoyable non-stressful activities. When you run your own business you don’t really get orders like this very often. A load was lifted. She prescribed a massage and I obliged. I changed my mindset after that and gave my worrying a break. I think it was only once I did that that I became ready for you to be here. I needed to make some space and once I did early labor started.

Friday, March 29th, at 1:30pm I felt the first “wave” contraction. I told your dad and his eyes got wide, I smiled. I laid on the couch and started paying attention and timing them for fun. After about an hour, I stopped timing but they were growing and feeling more intense. My excitement was building. I called your midwife just to tell her early labor was happening and that I think my mucus plug was starting to come out. Then I left to get a pedicure. I know this sounds weird but I needed to take my mind off the contractions. I actually went a few hours not really having any, which is typical in early labor and when I did have contractions they were mild. I could talk through them and even walk through them. Still pretty easy going.

We got Cortina’s takeout for dinner and the contractions kept coming. I think your dad and I both thought there was a chance stuff could really get going this night so we kind of kicked it into high gear. Finishing baby wash, getting out supplies, turning up the water heater.

We both gave Nova a bath and I helped dress her in her jammies. I laid her down in her crib with little tears in my eyes reminding her that at anytime her baby brother might come. We kissed her goodnight with my heart beating out of my chest.

That night I was probably awake every hour a few times. Contractions were coming every 30 minutes or so. I would try to sleep in between…but it was hard. I know I did get some sleep though. And as intense as they were starting to feel I could still lay down through most of them, which meant they were still pretty mild.

At about 6am I woke up your dad a little teary eyed and told him I was feeling lonely and didn’t want to labor alone anymore. He immediately was awake and comforting me. I was feeling so many emotions. I think more than anything I was realizing for the 2nd time what the hardest part of labor is, the unknown. As hard as the contractions may feel or even the life altering experience of going through transition and pushing, the unknown is what always gets me. It didn’t matter that I had done it before. I still had no idea how long it would last, how intense it would get….my mind was way over-analyzing it and to be honest I think I was really starting to remember being in labor with Nova and how challenging it was (challenging is a dumb word to describe it). You were getting close and I was purging.

For me labor always consists of so much purging. Letting go of things. Creating space. And that is what I was doing. Cleaning out so we could both have a fresh start for our birth tub beginning.

Contractions were getting stronger but were still sporadic. Your midwife called and she suggested getting on my hands and knees, sticking my hips up high and rocking them back and forth for 45mins, even through contractions. Apparently this could help intensify the contractions and get stuff going faster. After doing this I was suppose to lie on my left side. It definitely was an uncomfortable position to be in during contractions and they felt so much stronger and more intense in this position…painful I would say. Nova was playing along side me during this excersie and even climbed on my back a couple of times. Why else would I be on my hands and knees on the floor if I didn’t want to play and wrestle?

After we were done with that we decided to go for a walk. I was kind of nervous to be out in public contracting…what if I started acting like a crazy person? Would I make our neighbors feel uncomfortable? Grant reminded me it didn’t matter at all and not to worry about it. So out we went. It was around 9:30am. I did have a few contractions but with long breaks in between. What gives? I thought walking would speed things up not slow them down. The sun was out and there was a cool breeze. It felt really good to feel the sunshine on my face and arms.  It smelled like spring flowers and cut grass. It was a Saturday and felt like it. People were out doing yard work and it was seriously gorgeous outside…which I think always happens on Saturdays. It really just felt like a happy, exciting day.

Lindsay showed up around 10am. I wanted to impress her with strong contraction, which is ridiculous, because really “trying” to do anything during labor generally just slows things down. So much of it is a mind game, which only proves how connected our minds and our bodies are and how much our thoughts affect us physically.

Stuff just felt slow moving and we were trying to decide if she should check me. Both of us knew checking was a little bit pointless. I could be any range of numbers dilated and it could change in a flash OR maybe not for hours, days even. But, there was a possibility of her trying to help strip my membranes to speed things up if she did check me. I decided to go ahead and be checked. We both agreed I was probably a 3 or 4 so I wasn’t getting my hopes up too much. Besides it was a lot more painful as I neared active labor with Nova and I just assumed the contractions I was feeling couldn’t be close to active labor. I thought they were still too mild and sporadic.

I lay on the couch and she checked me. Her eyes got wide as she said,  “You are a 6 almost a 7…and 90% effaced”. What?! This was amazing news. I knew it meant the more difficult part was coming but it also meant I was nearing the end and would probably not be doing this for another day. I felt serious relief at that point since my mind to that point had been so fixated on NOT having a super long labor.

Lindsay thought she would maybe head to the Target nearby to let things speed up without her staring at me, but just as we started the discussion, contractions started coming and coming and coming. And they were more intense. “I am not going anywhere. Time to set up the tub.” This was around 11am, minutes after she checked me.

Melissa, her assistant, showed up and the house was in a bustle. Hoses were being attached, supplies were being organized. Beach towels were being carried into the family room where the tub was going to be.

I sat next to Nova in her highchair as she ate lunch and bounced on the yoga ball. I knew I was in active labor but it felt SO different than last time. I was still able to focus on Nova and walk around and make jokes. Was I really in active labor? I even helped put Nova down for her nap. By this point tears were in my eyes as I hoped Nova could be around once he was born AND that it would be positive for her. I didn’t want her to be bothered at all by what I was going through.

It was 1pm. Nova was in her crib napping, the tub was full of water and I was ready to get in it. Right around this same time my parents arrived. They had been driving from Utah and my Dad was dropping my Mom off. They both came in for a minute and my Dad saw me draped over the tub. I pretty sure he heard a contraction as he was leaving and I remember thinking, “I hope he knows I am alright”. With my Mom there I could relax about Nova a bit. I knew once Nova woke up Grandma could help take care of her and distract her.

At some point during all of this when I was probably wondering out loud whether I was progressing, Lindsay told me to try and feel his head. I had never done this with Nova’s birth. With my pointer finger I could feel the top of his head! It was amazing. It felt like there was something slick covering his head…the water sac?

Don’t get me wrong, contractions were still super uncomfortable and even painful at times but I am telling you they were nothing like having back labor. I couldn’t help but keep exclaiming, “ This is not the same as back labor…this is still hard but…” Really. No one had to give me backpressure at all. The contractions instead of wrapping from my front to my back, like with back labor, stayed right in front. Early labor and active labor felt so much easier this time. Shorter and less painful.

Then transition happened.

I am guessing transition started happening around 2:45pm. Up until that point Grant and I had been in the tub and I had switched positions a couple of times. I either wanted to sit leaning back on your Dad a little or be on my knees leaning over the sides of the tub.

I don’t think transition felt different from Nova’s birth. I think transition is transition. You know you are in it when it feels like your body is splitting in two with every contraction.  I say “you know” but when you are in transition you kind of don’t know. When you feel pain that intense you hope it means the end is near but in your mind you aren’t quite sure. I remember feeling a little bit of fear. Fear thinking that I would be stuck in that place forever. Fear that it would really never end. I kept asking how much longer..and I saw Melissa and Lindsay make eyes at each other that told me maybe we were close. They are smart and knew better than to ever tell a woman in transition how long anything would last but when I pleaded with them to tell me whether I would have to do this for the rest of the day, they both had an inkling that wouldn’t be the case.

This is generally the part of labor when women feel like they can’t do it.  I don’t know about others but I am not the most quiet. At the peak of the transition I cry out and my whole body shakes. I remember feeling foggy and emotional. I remember crying out and whimpering for “help”.  “Please help me, please help me”. Lindsay looked firmly into my eyes and said, “Rachel you are the only one who can do this and you are doing it!”. She kept reminding me not to be afraid of the contraction that was approaching but to welcome it, let it work for me. This has to be the ultimate challenge. Knowing the most painful thing you will ever feel is approaching and to welcome it. Want it. Truly know and believe it is for your benefit. This is the test of natural childbirth.

I tried changing my no thoughts to yes thoughts.

Nova woke from her nap in the middle of this right around 3pm. I cried and starting mumbling my worries for her. Lindsay had to gently remind me she was fine and was going to be taken care of. Grandma brought her out to the family room and Nova kept saying, “Mommy sad? Mommy sad”. I remember your Dad telling Nova to look at him so she could see his eyes weren’t worried and to tell her I was fine just working hard to get you here. Grandma took her out to the backyard. They could still hear me from out there and Nova was a bit worried but Grandma and her talked about all the animal noises I was making and they practiced making them together.

So I was inside growling like a lion and Nova was outside growling like a lion.

It was the middle of the day and the afternoon light was streaming through the family room windows. It felt calm but not the same as nighttime calm. It was energizing laboring during the day. I liked knowing that the rest of my world was there with me, whether they knew it or not. I felt like the energy of a Saturday gave me something.

With Nova’s birth I never felt the urge to push. I kept asking Lindsay if and when I should push and she kept telling me to listen to my body and push when it felt like I needed to. This was kind of frustrating. What if I didn’t know or never felt it? But to my surprise contractions started to bare down and sure enough my body naturally started pushing without any direction from anyone else.

Right around this point I turned around and was on my knees facing your Dad. I guess I was only pushing for about 15mins but it honestly felt so much longer while I was in it. I remember opening my eyes for a second during a pause and looking into the reflection of the water and at my hand gripping on to your Dad’s foot. Was it uncomfortable for him? He wasn’t saying if it was. I knew he wasn’t thinking of himself but was thinking of you and I. I felt so grateful he was there for me in that moment.

With every contraction and every push and every grunt the room was full of praise and positive words. “You’re doing it!” “Great job!” “That’s perfect!”. Even with all of the support I don’t think I was alone in my surprise when with one of the pushes your head popped out!  I really didn’t know we were close to that (neither did dad). Once that happened I was a woman focused. There was what felt like a long break between your head coming out and the next contraction and I was worried for you. The next contraction came and I bore down and gave you everything I had. There is no motivation better than knowing you will hold your newborn child in a few seconds.

Whoosh! Your body came out and relief. Your Dad caught you with Lindsay helping. You came out with your water sac covering your head and body and Lindsay gently removed it as your Dad and her lifted you out of the water and into my arms.

I wish I could describe in any accuracy what that moment feels like. It is the perfect cocktail of joy and relief and love. Like fireworks and falling flower petals and laughter and the best kind of tears. In that moment I had never felt so full and complete. You were here.

You were pink almost right away and let out a big loud cry! Music to my ears. You looked almost identical to Nova when she was born.  Dark hair, cheeks for days, cute button nose, 8 chins, arms rolls. You looked like one of my babies. You WERE one of my babies! I recognized your strong kicks in my arms. I have a feeling you weren’t so sure you were ready to come out of your hot tub. I held you close and kissed you to remind you I was still right there.

All of this happened in a matter of moments and I told someone to knock on the window so your Grandma and sister knew you were here and to run in. They did and your sister smiled and her eyes lit up. She had been waiting a long time for you. “Bath tub! Bath tub!” Having a pool full of water in the living room is torture for a toddler and of course we wanted her to jump in with us! Off came her clothes and in she came with us. All of us together. A family of four, at home, healthy, HAPPY. It was truly an amazing moment. I kissed your Dad and both of my babies. We sang you your song. I had never felt happier.

To make sure you were warm enough we needed to get out of the water. Out came Nova and Grandma took her to have a real bath. I held you and carefully stepped out of the tub and onto the couch covered in beach towels (beach towels are the hallmark of a homebirth). You were still connected to me via the umbilical cord which was super thick!! I was still having contractions which surprised me. I guess with subsequent births the after contractions while delivering the placenta and while your uterus contracts back down are more intense. No one told me this. Once I delivered the placenta there was some relief.

We waited to cut the umbilical cord until it stopped pulsing almost 30mins after your were born. It is pretty awesome to feel the cord pulse.

I tore but Lindsay did a pro job of stitching me up.  I could care less about tearing. Would it be nice not to tear? Sure but during transition and while I am pushing it is the last thing on my mind.

You latched on super quick and wanted to eat eat eat. I was a happy mom.

You were in my arms from the moment you were born and for hours afterward. We were bundled in towels staring at the blue sky and sunshine.

At one point I looked at my hand that had been wrapped around you and there was black stuff all over it. Poop!!! You had a massive meconium poop all over both of us. It was kind of adorable.

It was obvious you were a big boy and we all made guesses on your weight. Some were high 9’s others were over 10lbs. I think I guessed 10lbs exactly. You ended up weighing 9 lbs 15 ounces. I decided it was close enough and I was claiming 10lbs. You were such a bundle of love.

The next few hours were clean up and resting and holding and kissing. I moved into the bedroom. Lindsay helped me go to the bathroom and I put on a giant adult diaper and a frozen witch hazel pad.

I laid in bed, in shock. You were here. Active labor was really only 4hrs. The sun was still out. I felt really good. Not sleep deprived. I was a mother of two.  Was I really not pregnant anymore?

Who can deny childbirth is a miracle?

I was so transformed by both of my children’s births.  I have no choice but to have complete respect and honor for my body and what it can do. The love and attachment I felt for you the moment you were born is mind blowing. Immediately you are someone I felt such an intimate connection with. I am not sure why, despite all of my faults and shortcomings, I am blessed with the family I have. Fairbanks, despite any of my mistakes you were created and grew and were born and are perfect. It is impossible for you to be anything but perfect. And I wonder…why me? Why did you choose me? How am I worthy?

They say being born in the caul, as you were, is a sign of good fortune. Being born this way brings good luck and supposedly natural healing abilities. To me, my sweet boy, you are my good luck. My good fortune. You were meant to be part of our family…and now that you are I feel abundantly wealthy.

Sometimes, even now, two and a half weeks later, I am still in disbelief you are here. I have to look at us in the mirror with you balled up on my chest to remind myself it really did happen. I wonder if I will feel like that for the rest of my life…amazed that you are mine. I have a feeling I will.


(Eternal thanks to Lindsay, our midwife. We are all madly in love with her. I have a midwife post coming soon!)

Nova's Birth

I got a call around 4pm that it was happening. I booked a flight, packed bags and flew to Salt Lake landing around 11:30pm.

They told me to sleep for a couple hours and they would call. I slept, tossing and turning, half awake...not wanting to miss their call. 3:30am I was on my way driving through deserted snowy streets to St Mark's hospital.

You might think, with me being 34 weeks pregnant, that I would have been suffering from complete exhaustion...but amazingly I was awake and ready. There was a baby coming and parents laboring. The world was asleep but we were wide wide awake.

I shot this sweet couple's wedding almost 7yrs ago. It was amazing to see them entering this next stage of their life together. Ryan seriously blew me away with his doula skills and Brittany....Brittany was a solider. Laboring naturally, gorgeous and glowing.  Did you know there are about 240 babies born EVERY MINUTE of every day? I love thinking about that as I grow my own babies. I loved thinking about that as I watched Brittany working so hard for her sweet daughter. She and so many others in that exact moment giving so much for another.

Nova was born, perfect. Making noise, ready to eat..with a room full of tears and kisses. It truly felt like a celebration.

Did you hear they named her Nova!! They first got the idea from my own precious bundle and as I watched Nova #2 take her first breaths I felt so elated to have another gorgeous Nova join us.

After the adrenaline wore off me and Ryan both started feeling the exhaustion. I do think it took me a couple days to come out of the birth haze. Worth it. So totally worth it.

What a gift to be invited to photograph these moments for people. I am truly truly grateful.



Charlie's Birth


My sister Kate gave birth to her Charlie and invited me to photograph his arrival. I said YES.

Some of the details are a bit hazy...but by the time she actually made her way to the hospital she had been dilated to a 5 for the better part of a week...(is that right Kate?). Needless to say my mom and I spent many moments a day exchanging excited glances knowing that at any moment a new perfect baby would join our family.

Of course Kate and Jake were calm as clams...which they were smart to be. Babies usually come once they are ready but with that number 5 flashing in lights above their heads, it was hard to concentrate.

Once they arrived at the hospital they called to say it would probably still be awhile but they would call once we should come. Well....we decided to come anyway and just sit (not so) patiently in the waiting room. I am so glad we did! From the time they arrived at the hospital I think Charlie was there only 2ish hours later!

No time to photograph the long wait. There was none (unless you count 10 months). He was ready and he was coming.

The sun was still out and my mom and I held our breath as we watched our sweet Kate perform her miracle. She didn't use any medication and everything she was doing she felt. I had photographed births before having my own babe, but after joining the club, watching birthing moms really takes on a whole new light. You start to remember.

Jake was kind of like superman. Calm and confident. Talking her through every contraction. His eyes were focused and serious. Kate, Jake and Charlie were all working SO hard. It was amazing to watch.

Then he was here! And we all cried. How is it possible to love someone so much before they even take a breath of air? But we did.

I have to confess after the many many many hours I spent in labor I did feel a little shell shocked that my sister had such a drastically different experience. The mystery of birth still eludes me. I think it always will.

Thanks to Jake or whoever for snapping some of the shots I was in. I love the one with all my sisters...and the one with sweet Anna being drugged by newborn baby.

Kate, you know it's hard for me to not see you as my baby sister. With that sweet little voice you had as a three year old....and now to see you as a wife and mother is just amazing. You are a natural with your baby like I knew you would be. He is so blessed to have you as his mother.

Charlie welcome to the clan!!!!! We love you to the moon and back!

Some Favorites from 2012

Here are a few of my favorite portraits from this last year...shots that made me linger a little longer..

Not going to lie, 2012 has been a transitional year. It has been full of really really great moments and some challenging ones. I guess that is bound to happen when it's a year you move.

This year some of my photographic goals include shooting WAY MORE personal work. I really slacked in this area in 2012. I am going to put down my phone and pick up my film cameras and shoot my own life. I think it's deserving.

I also am excited to announce some changes to my pricing which will include some new Southern California only rates for my wedding clients. I will still be available for travel (and y'all know I LOVE to travel) but clients having me shoot close to home are worthy of some perks. So if you have inquired about having me shoot your wedding in 2013 and want to take a look at some of my new options, feel free to email me (info@rachelthurston.com).

I really really want to thank all of my amazing and loyal clients AND friends and family for supporting me as a photographer and mother. It is a constant evolution of adjusting and changing to meet the needs of my family and my desires as a creative. I am going to be starting some new blog posts dedicated to being a working mother. I have so many thoughts running through my mind and sharing I know would help me and hopefully some of you dealing with similar life challenges.

I just feel blessed. Really really blessed.

Happy New Year everyone!



Franklin's Birth

If you are a reader of my blog you know how often I express sentiment for photography and why I choose to be a photographer. I guess when it boils down I just want what I spend time doing to mean something. To make something better than it was before. Sometimes it's hard to do when this is how I earn a living and just like any other adult I feel the pressure of taking care of my family. Sometimes the "meaning" gets lost in wanting (sounds like a typical Christmas time theme). Sometimes the meaning gets lost in my own pride or insecurities. Sometimes it is just hard to focus.

Then Aubrey asks me to photograph Franklin's birth. And I am left wanting.. nothing. What means more than the birth of a baby?

By a show of hands who's life has turned out exactly as they thought it would? Yep. Not mine. Probably not Aubrey's either but despite a couple unexpected turns this single mom wowed me with her strength, courage and love for her unborn child. In Aubrey's words "Eric (Franklin's dad) is an incredible father", and I guess you can imagine how incredible Aubrey is as well.

Childbirth and labor are extremely private and vulnerable moments and I would like to thank Aubrey for allowing me to share. I think it's important and so does she.

I had only met her once before his birthday and then on the day of the first snowfall of the season I was told he was coming. I drove in a flurry of white to the hushed room where I stood as a silent support and observer. Aubrey and Franklin did all of the work together. She, choosing to deliver naturally, brought back strong memories of my own labor. My heart beat fast and the snow fell gently. The room smelled of oils that her doula lovingly used to comfort and massage. I knew I was watching a transformation. I knew in the moment she gave all control away she would find everything.

My eyes and fingers where on auto pilot. Dialing in exposures, looking for light, watching expressions...giving up control  of my own. I am there to help keep what already exists..but I have to find it first. Maybe Aubrey felt the same way.

The sun set and Franklin came, not wanting to spend another night without her arms.

You guys..shooting a birth is SO AWESOME. I don't care what kind of hotshot photographer you think you are. Shoot a life beginning or ending and tell me your ego matters.

So humbled and so grateful, I drove back home to my own baby. Priorities in check, sending a little prayer to the universe for letting my eyes see what they have seen.



(If you are interested in having me shoot a birth please email me at info@rachelthurston.com for more information)


Nova's Birth Story

Your due date came and went. I knew better than to set my hopes on Feb 13 being the day of your arrival…but still I felt a measure of disappointment not having you here that day. It wasn't until The 16th that I felt a contraction. I always wondered if I would know when I was actually having contractions…but you know. It is a wave. Starts small and builds and then comes back down again. They started in the morning and at one point they were lasting about a minute and were 6mins apart. I didn’t want to get too excited (but I was and so was your dad). We called the midwives just to give them a heads up and we called your Grandma Thurston. We knew we weren’t in active labor yet but we were close…and because of how fast your gmas labors were and all of my friends labors were I just thought yours would happen fast and I wanted everyone to be on the ready. By about noon the contractions started slowing down and getting farther and farther apart. Bummer!!! I was ready for you to come and getting mentally ready and then they just got weak. Every once in awhile I would get a strongish one but they some of them were just weak. Wah! In our birth prep class they told us early labor can be long and to come up with activities so we went to the movies.

We saw Justin Bieber in Never Say Never..which is hilarious since neither of us care much for some be-bopper singer. I was sitting in the dark theater still having sporadic contractions. At this point they were intense enough that talking through them was annoying and they did kind of take my breath away but they were still light enough that once they were done I felt a total release. At one point in the movie, after a contraction, my eyes welled up with tears. I felt SO good. Each time a contraction ended I felt almost euphoric. Like I was floating. I know it was a magic mix of hormones and emotions and I am sure it is all part of the plan to make you WANT to work through what is to come. I was watching a movie about a young child achieving their goals and dreams and I couldn’t help thinking non stop about you. What you would want to achieve and dream and devote your time to. I felt so inspired by the life you were about to live and that I was going to be privileged to be a part of. I just felt the greatness of you AND I was a hormonal miracle..so there I was crying while watching Justin Bieber.

By the time we left the movie my contractions had decreased even more and by the time we went to bed I hadn’t had one for hours. WHAT? What a tease. Your grandma had come over to sleep in case it was time..and it was hard for me to feel like everyone was waiting watching and looming over us. I knew you had a plan and would come when it was time for you to come..and I didn’t want others to make us feel pressure.

I slept through that entire night and woke up in the morning realizing I hadn’t had one single contraction all night. It was now Feb 17. Time to get serious.

Your dad and I went curb walking. Where you walk with one foot on the curb and the other on the road trying to jiggle you out. It was pretty hard work being 40+ weeks pregnant. But I was determined. At some point near the end of our walk your dad and I got in an argument. I can’t even really remember what it was about. Great. I was already feeling so much with you about to arrive and now this? I just needed to feel super close to your dad and and I know he needed it to. We decided to go out to lunch for Indian. Spicy food to kick you out of there. We went to a great palace down in Belmont Shores. On the drive home things got heated and once I got out of the car I was crying and I grabbed headphones and stormed out of the house. What was happening? So much emotion. So much I wanted. So much NOT happening. My patience was thin and I was more fragile than usual. I listened to Jesca Hoop and Diana Krall. I also listened to yoga mantras I had on my iphone. I walked and cried and dragged my huge body all over the neighborhood. Once I got home I had made an appointment to see an acupuncturist. I was on a mission to get you here. I can’t remember how it happened but your dad wanted to come with me to my appt. I went and she poked me and rubbed me. I couldn’t tell if it was doing anything but I knew it couldn’t hurt. Once I was home I jumped in the shower and I remember your dad peaking his head in and telling me he was sorry. He went for a walk and when he got back he had written me a little poem and brought me a citrus blossom to smell. It was around 9pm and I remember sitting in the big blue ball leaning over onto our bed reading the poem and smelling the blossom as I was starting to have contractions again. Your Dad noticed there was a full moon. I walked out our bedroom door with my camera to look at the sky and make a wish on a star.

Around 10pm we were both in bed and they started and grew. I knew this time was different than yesterdays contractions. They were growing more and more intense. I remember at one point while I was pregnant thinking it was so strange how no one could describe to you what a contraction felt like and I promised myself that once I was feeling them I would take a mental note of how to describe it. For me they started in my back and felt like a intense period cramp that wrapped from my lower back around to my uterus and then grew until it peaked. It felt like a period cramp that got REALLY strong and tight right in the front of my uterus and then it slowly crept back down. I know you are supposed to relax and not fight the contractions but it was hard not to hold my breath or clinch my fists. It was hard to keep my body loose when everything wanted to tighten up along with my uterus. Your dad was timing the contractions on his iphone and I was still having to tell him when they were starting because they were “mild” enough that he couldn’t tell when they were starting on his own. Honestly the next 6-7hours were comprised of contraction after contraction growing in intensity and length and me asking your Dad every two seconds how far apart they were. I knew that once we were having contractions that lasted one minute and they were coming every five minutes for at least an hour we could call the midwives. Calling the midwives meant I was REALLY in labor, active labor and it also meant that there was an end in site.

During the middle of the night while you Dad and I were laboring alone, we moved from the bedroom out to the family room once I really didn’t want to be lying down anymore. I stood in the family room or sat on the couch and during contractions your Dad would stay close until he knew I could relax. I had him light a fire..which was nice to watch. It was dark outside and quiet but I had a fire inside of me. Something big was happening. At one point while we were still alone, I was starting to get emotional and tired from the intensity of the contractions. I was crying wondering how much longer this would last? When were you coming? Your Dad soothed me by saying “You are going to be holding her in the morning”. We both really believed that. Once the time was right you Dad called the midwives and my Mom. I talked to Molly once on the phone and she wanted to be on the phone with me while I was going through a contraction so she could hear me. You can tell a lot by how a laboring woman sounds. Sometimes all the midwives need is to hear you in order to know what stage you are at. Your midwives, Molly, Debbie and Juli arrived around 5:30am with your Grandma Thurston arriving right after them. They all arrived in a sacred hush…only talking in whispers. Molly came over and hugged me and I cried on her shoulder. When Grandma got there we locked eyes and she gave me a knowing look as we both welled with tears. The space was filled with so much energy and in a weird way so much calm. We all had a job (including you) and we were doing them.

(a photo I took in between contractions!)

I know they checked me not soon after they got there and although I didn’t want to know the exact number I was dilated to I wanted to know if I was indeed in active labor (dilated to at least a 5) and progressing. I was in active labor!! Good thing. It didn’t feel like early labor anymore. While they were filling up the birthing tub in our bedroom I labored all around….on the toilet, in the guest bath, in the family room. I was getting up from sitting the guest bath tub and had to throw up in the sink. Debbie thought it meant I was in transition! Transition meant you would be here soon! To be honest the next 12hrs were a blur. Time existed but was hard to grasp. At one point I had everyone cover up the clocks in the house. I didn’t want to obsess about how much time had passed or not passed. I was already crazy in my head that I wasn’t holding you and it was past morning! Your Dad promised! One of the issues that was causing everything to last longer was your position. You were posterior, with your back against mine. Not only does it cause more pain for me as you drop but it also adds time because you need to move into a favorable position before you will deliver. I have no idea what a “non” posterior birth feels like (and supposedly a posterior birth is the most painful kind) but once the contractions were intense enough, I had to have someone give me back pressure during the peak of every contraction. Your dad pretty much held a rolling pin into my lower back for 15hrs strait. Yep, a rolling pin and I would beg for him to push harder and harder. I pretty much felt everything in my lower back. It felt like burning, splitting and sharpness. It felt like nothing I knew could exist.

Because of your position, we wanted to try and get you to move. The midwives had me try a lot of different positions…none of which were very comfortable for me. I did a runners lunge on top of the bed and contracted while throwing up in a bowl. I squatted while hanging on to a sheet that was thrown over a door. I contracted standing. They put a sheet around my back and tried jostling you around. I had been naked since the moment the midwives arrived. Clothes were a bother and unnecessary. I would get cold getting out of the tub and would wear my bathrobe until I got too hot. Once while squatting off the back of the couch I was in tears and the midwives reminded me to talk to you. (I needed to remind myself of the prize). Your dad and I were both in tears as we sang you your lullaby. I just wanted you here so bad.

They tried to get me to eat and drink to keep my energy up but it was hard. I had no appetite. They fed me some fruit, little cut up pieces of cinnamon toast. I drank gatorade, water and coconut juice…all given to me with a straw. I’m not sure I held a straw once. They fed and watered me like a baby. At one point I know my Dad had landed and my Mom asked him to pick up some more coconut juice at the store and bring it over. I guess he didn’t know what to get so he got one of every coconut item in the store. Coconut water, brown coconut etc…I didn’t find this out until after but I thought it was pretty adorable. When he came to drop off the goods he wanted to come in. My mom tried to explain to him that he really didn’t want to come in. My mom said he was sad and frustrated but he really didn't realize I was laboring all over the house. We weren’t all in there watching a movie while I excused myself to the restroom. We were working hard. Cute Grandpa.

The videographer we had hired to come flaked. Yup. Flaked. Your dad emailed her but she never showed. I had my camera out set to auto and everyone there did a great job taking shots when they could. Between my 5D, iphones a canon elf and one HD video camera, we actually ended up getting some decent photos. It was important to me..but the fact that the person we hired didn't show up, bugged me for about 5secs and then I was over it. I was busy with other things.

My favorite place to be was in the tub. It was immediate relief as soon as my belly hit the water. I probably got in and out of the tub 5 times. Most of the time Grant was behind me and he would press that beloved rolling pin into me as I pressed into him. Dad pretty much never left my side. Before going into labor I wasn’t sure how I would react. Would I want to be alone? Would touch bug me? Would Grant drive me nutzos? Turns out I wanted Grant clued to my side the entire time. He was my rock. He was confident, calming and sweet. When we would lock eyes I never once saw fear or sadness. He was fiercely committed to me, to you and being the strength I needed him to be. On the rare occasion he had to leave me to eat or use the restroom, I would cry. “Where are you going?!” The midwives reassured me they would give me back support when needed and he would be right back. I needed him more than I’ve ever needed him and he didn’t disappoint. He was amazing. I felt so bonded to him. More than ever he felt like my husband.

Once day started turning to night again…it got hard. Really hard. I had no idea what time it was..my only clue was the light. I was panicked. I had been up for nearly 48hrs strait. I had been laboring for 24hrs of that 16 of which were active labor. I didn’t know if I had it in me to labor through another night. My body was doing what it needed to do and I never felt like there was anything “wrong” but mentally everything was getting jumbled. I was exhausted. Starting around what I would guess was 8pm or so…my contractions got to the point when I pretty much had no break. They flowed one after another. The build was less and they felt like immediate peaks one after another. I felt like I had held a fairly calm exterior the entire time (considering) and in between contractions I would joke around and maybe even laugh. I felt like I had it all in perspective. Once night came, something changed for me. I cried and moaned and kept asking what my “options” were. Her heartbeat was OK, I was OK but why wasn’t she coming? Why couldn’t I feel her lower down? Would she ever be able to come? I didn’t ever ask for pain medication but I did wonder if the whole thing would work. It felt like no end was in site and that I had lost control over my body.

Before going in to labor I had ideas. I never really thought of labor as painful..and contractions weren’t contractions but “waves”. I believed that labor was natural, doable and something I didn’t need to be hospitalized for. I wasn’t sick. I was pregnant. I knew it would be intense but I also knew it would be temporary..and what couldn’t I do for 24hrs? I had chosen not to concentrate on the what if’s of pain and labor sensations. I mean what could I really do about them anyway? I knew I had very little control over what labor would actually feel like and I had chosen to concentrate more on the after. What the first days of being with you would look like and feel like. I did some hypnotherapy sessions and really loved listening and meditating to the recorded sessions. It gave me so much relaxation during early labor and I assumed it would in labor as well. Truth be told most of what I thought would help me during labor didn’t even cross my mind. I only listened to a little music (I specifically remember listening to Empire State of Mind while lunging on the bed), I chanted a yoga mantra for a few minutes but never listened to my hypno. I wasn’t that interested in aromatherapy; I don’t think a single candle was ever lite. I was really in my head and my body for the whole process. It helped to concentrate on key words I concentrated on during hypnotherapy like “trust”…and this more than anything filled my thoughts. The word “Trust” was at the front of my mind the entire time. Trusting myself and trusting, you, my baby. No matter how intense the process got, I always felt connected to you and I always trusted you. I knew you would come when the time was right. I knew you were working hard as well and had been working hard with me the entire pregnancy. The pain and discomfort I was feeling seemed separate from my thoughts of you. I knew you were OK and understood more than I did. Your wisdom and insight helped calm me.

The last couple of hours were life changing. Truth be told, I never knew those feelings existed. I never knew it was possible for my body to feel the way it did. I didn’t want certain words to be a part of my experience but they were! I felt pain. I felt like my body was ripping in two. I wondered how my heart wasn’t exploding. It was an out of body experience. My body was doing what it needed to do and I felt like I was just a passenger. Everything else going on was faint and in the background. I knew who was in the room at any given time, but didn’t really care. Everyone spoke in hushed tones and whispers. The windows were fogged with steam from the tub and rain. I could hear the clinking of bowls as people ate in the kitchen. I knew they were filling the tub with more water. I could feel my hair piled on top of my head in an elastic falling to one side. I noticed it all but just barely. Nothing mattered except you and my body trying to bring you to me. I would cry during and after contractions and I really felt like maybe I couldn’t do it anymore. I remember one hard moment leaning on the side of the tub with Juli looking into my eyes. She reminded me of my own strength. That I was doing this and had been doing it. She reminded me I DID have control and to breath. To breath for me and my baby. It helped but I still worried I would let everyone down every time I contracted because I was having a harder time controlling myself. I had let go. (This is probably when I was in transition)

During one break I remember leaning my head on the edge of the tub and staring at the window. It had been raining on and off all day and little raindrops dotted the window. I reached my hand and touched the glass wondering if it would feel cool. It did, but not as cool as I had expected. I felt like I came out of laborland for a minute and showed myself. I felt like I was between two worlds.

Sometime during this “transition” your Dad gave me a little gift. He was out of the tub and I was leaning over the edge as I opened the little box with the most beautiful ring. The ring I wanted from the OK store. I loved it…but remember thinking I didn’t deserve it since you weren’t here yet. But everyone quickly disagreed. I did deserve it!!

Around 9:30ish we all had a little conversation. After each contraction I kept asking what my options were? How much longer? Was I at a 10 yet? Why wasn’t she coming? I need this to be over. I can’t do this anymore!! Because of my extreme exhaustion from being awake for over two days, one of the options was to transfer to a hospital. If we transferred now me and baby might have a enough strength to still deliver vaginally….if we wanted to transfer and our exhaustion grew it might increase the chance of having to deliver cesarean. I didn’t want to transfer!! And knew I didn’t have to BUT I also wondered if you would ever come..ever drop. How much longer could I go? I cried that I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I didn’t want to deliver than have them take my baby to a nursery. I was beside myself. What should I do. It was pitch black outside and my body was in a million pieces. I looked up from the tub to my sweet Mom standing in the doorway. I asked what I should do and she said , “You aren’t the only one deciding, she might have another plan”. I agreed with her. It seemed like the situation was unsolvable. You were stable. They were checking your heartbeat a lot with a little waterproof monitor. You weren’t upset…what should I do? What did you need me to do?

Molly said she would check me one more time (which was getting more and more uncomfortable since I was pretty much in a constant contraction with no breaks) and depending on how dilated I was we would make our decision. I was in the tub and leaned back on your dad so my belly was pointing towards the ceiling. She checked me and I was fully dilated! Ready to push! I hadn’t had the sensation to really push on my own yet or least I never really noticed it. They said lets try pushing and see what happens. I asked how long we would try for (at this point I was all about stuff not lasting very long). I said you needed to come before midnight. The midwives said if they could tell me or guarantee a time you would get here, they would be the richest midwives in the world. They had me switch positions on to my knees with my upper body leaning on the side of the tub. I started pushing with each contraction and tried concentrating on putting all of my energy into a downward motion. I had to think deep, breath deep and go deep. Grant was with me in the tub and Molly’s upper body was half in feeling and helping to guide you out. Everyone else was gathered around.

Pushing felt a lot like the burning sensation I felt while during the perineum stretching before labor…just more intense. I could feel you in my vaginal opening. I knew you were close. I could feel pressure and stretching with each contraction and I knew my body was getting ready. There wasn’t a thought in my head at the time about tearing. I just needed you to be here. I needed to be done laboring. It felt like 15mins…but 45mins after I started pushing you were here. One big push and then another. Whoosh! Relief! I turned over into a sitting position and Molly removed the cord from around your neck, passed you under my leg and up out of the water onto my chest!!! My baby!!! It worked you were here. Miracle!!!! I cried. 10:27pm. My eyes were fixed on you. You had hair, dark hair and chubby checks with multiple chins. Your eyes were closed and wide and you were quiet…and little too quiet. You made small movements and little coughs but no big cry. I wasn’t too worried…you were still connected to the placenta so you were getting blood and oxygen from that. I felt pretty calm but I did want you to belt. They gave your lungs a few suctions and a little oxygen by your nose. I kept asking if you were ok and they kept telling me yes and to keep talking to you. I kissed you and your dad and I rubbed your body, flicked the soles of your feet and sang you your lullaby. You were here!!! I was in shock. They thought it would help to clear your lungs to get me and you out of the hot tub. I’m not sure how I did it with you still attached to the umbilical cord, but I stood holding you and stepped out of the tub and on to the bed with you. They covered us with towels, I shook and you started to cry. Heaven to my ears. I felt some nothingness contractions since my placenta wanted to come out. We left it connected to you until it finished pulsing (which your dad and I got to feel. SO COOL)…which was about 40mins after you were born. I delivered the placenta with one small grunt. Easy peicy. I hadn’t had a REAL contraction for almost an hour! Heaven. It was amazing how one intensity..the physical turned to another, happiness and joy as soon as you were here.

The next few hours consisted of me and your dad being completely consumed and awe struck that you where here, with us, in our arms. We got to examine the placenta..AMAZING…you feed within the first 45mins..just little sucks but it felt super normal and I felt all this desire to feed you. I wanted to feed you and care for you and protect you the moment you were here. It was all I wanted. It was such a dream NOT being in labor and having you in my arms and SEEING you.

I went to the bathroom soon after you were born which was kind of weird but not that big of a deal. While I was out of the bed the midwives changed the sheets and completely remade the bed (which felt more comfortable than any bed I had ever climbed into). Grandma made me and and Dad scrambled eggs with toast. We drank some of the Germany grape juice that Jenni gave us and toasted. The doctor had to come to stitch me up and I was just full of love for everyone there helping and caring for us. OXYTOCIN!! They gave you an exam and you weighted 8lbs 10oz and were 21 1/4 inches long.

I felt so bonded to everyone there. Truth be told the birth team that showed up weren’t the midwives I knew best from the birth center..but they were the right ones for your birth. I have never felt so cared for in my entire life. The way the looked at me, touched me, the words they used to soothe and strengthen me were all perfect. There was such a sisterhood surrounding your labor and birth. I needed what they were there to give and they gave freely and with no reservations. They held the space with so much protection and acceptance. I fell in love with each one of them.

After they cleaned up and we took photos and I was stitched up, everyone left at about 5am and we were tucked into bed for our first few hours of sleep as a family. I felt like I was floating.

It did take me a few days to get over the initial shock of labor and delivery. I struggled at first coming to terms with what I considered a more traumatic birth than I had anticipated. It was longer and much more challenging than I had imagined it being. I was worried that maybe it was somehow more out of control than other births…that I could have been stronger. That the intensity was something I let take over me. I was worried that I maybe somehow stressed you out…I think the memories and feelings were still so recent that part of me felt fear. Fear that I would have to go through it again!! Obviously I was not ready to birth a second child and joked with you that you would be an only child. I remember feeling all of these things and then a few days after your birth I was taking a sitz bath in the bath tub and your Dad was chatting with me. I realized that I had done the most challenging thing I would EVER have to do. I had pushed the physical limits of my body and survived…and not only survived but thrived! It was amazing. You were born and my body instantly started healing itself. I could walk and talk and laugh and hold and eat and smile and even take you the pediatrician only days after. I was a living miracle…and so were you. I knew I had tested emotional and mental boundaries during my divorce and now I had done the same physically. I felt so empowered!!! I was amazing. My body was a wonder. It worked it all worked. It was then that I started giving myself credit for the feat it just surpassed and started putting the “trauma” in check. It was normal and not something I had to fear..because I had conquered it! I did what I set out to do and had NO regrets. I never wanted to leave home or medicate myself. My body never needed medication, never. I started giving myself credit for delivering with special circumstances, posterior and you were born with your arm by the side of your head. No wonder it took longer and felt the way it did. And even with those circumstances we did it. I wanted to give you a birth you could be proud of. I wanted to give you everything…or at least try. If I could survive that labor, what couldn’t I survive? I now know I am capable of surviving any challenge. Physical, emotional or mental. I have proven that to myself. What a gift.

It is hands down the thing I am proudest of. It is my greatest accomplishment. I made you and delivered you. And you are perfect. My little Super Nova.

I waited almost 5weeks before I was ready to watch the video your Grandma taped of your delivery and you know what? I didn’t look nearly as hard as it was to feel. What was the big deal anyway? ☺ Maybe you won’t have to be an only child after all.


Obviously this story was posted mainly for family and friends, so if you read the whole thing consider yourself part of the crew. xxoo.

(despite the imperfection of a lot of the photos...they are some of my greatest treasures. What a miracle photography is!)


[vimeo 19571109 w=800 h=590] With only 9 days until our due date, we need to give all the attention we can to this wondrous land we have been visiting for the last 10 months.

Filmed on an iphone using the 8mm app, the belly takes center stage. The loop tree is one of  "our places" near our old house that we love to visit. We introduced baby girl to the tree and I rubbed my bare belly on it so she could get all the positive energy that oozes from it. Then we slow danced and sang our song that I wrote for her.

I feel like I need to make sure you all know how THRILLED and 99% we feel about becoming parents. I shared some of my feelings in the last blog post to remind myself that we aren't all made up of happy happy, positive positive all the time.  We are all duel sided...but I am sorry if I left any of you worried or wondering about how I feel about my own capabilities or excitement at becoming a new mom.

So here are some Friday confessions for this week on a slightly more positive note:

- I have LOVED my pregnant body. I have felt more myself, full, complete and drop dead sexy.

- Although I know there will be transitions, I secretly am glad I already spend a far amount of time at home. I think this will give me an edge with some of the adjustment.

- I'm pretty positive she will be the most gorgeous breathtaking thing any of us have ever laid eyes on. ESPECIALLY if she is plump plump plump.

- I have never appreciated my body more. I honor every part of it in a whole new light. I read this quote a few nights ago that my midwives shared in our birthing bible and wanted to share it with you all:

The beauty of my body is not measured by the clothes it can fit into, but by the stories that it tells. I have a belly and hips that say, " We grew a child in here, " and breasts that say "We nourished life." Mu hands, with bitten nails and a writer's callus, say, " We create amazing things." - Sarah, from I Am Beautiful: A Celebration of Women in Their Own Words.

I agree with EVERY word.

- I am so grateful I have had so much time around newborns. I know how to hold, soothe, kiss and trick them (like rubbing their cheeks to get them to turn their head for a photo....sorry baby just a photo trick not time to breastfeed!)

- I have learned so much from our midwives and birth classes and feel so confident about our choice to birth at home.

- Yes my back hurts and my body rolls from room to room but I spent most of my time knowing how much I will "miss" her once she is out. She is going to feel so far away.

- Guess who gets to have feeding, loving, cuddling, diaper changing time with her two favorite people in just a short few days?! ME!

We anxiously await her arrival at every moment.

We've Been Waiting For You...

Happy 1 week of breathing air Baby Boy Affleck!

After all the worry of missing you come, you ended up waiting for your Auntie Rach....well kind of. I missed your birth but only because you were born in about 2 seconds (felt like 2 sec. actual time..from 1st contraction to birth approx 1 hr 30min). And then you were here!!!!!

We're all obsessed, especially your mom and dad. I did a voice recording of them talking about what it was like to be parents on the day you were born. I can't wait for you to hear it.

I would like to book at least 30mins of holding you this weekend (if you can come up for air from your #1 favorite pastime..eating!!!)

(And to answer the question you're all asking....YES. That was the view from their hospital room. Oh, Newport Beach. You are really too much.)


His name is official and public knowledge now... Baby Boy = Cole. xxxooo.

birth day

(photo from tristan's birth)

I came across a little birth documentary slide show I made a couple years ago...and thought I would share.

I assure you this slide show is "PG" rated. ANYONE can watch it. It doesn't showcase some of the most recent births I've photographed, but my new and shiny website will.

my beautiful, amazing, God send, sister in law, stephanie is pictured above. her and my brother have had me photograph 3 out their 4 children's births....so you will see a few photos of them and my lovely babies.

I kind of feel like every baby I photograph being born becomes one my "my" babies. one of my babies was the neice of the couple's wedding I just photographed in utah. she is 4 almost 5 now...I just see her and remember her first moments. her first breath. the look on her parents faces. being able to preserve those memories really means everything to me. nothing is better, nothing.

click here to watch the slideshow. (there is music so turn up or turn down according to your pref).

if you are interested in having my document a birth, please email me and I can shower you with details.

..very well might be my favorite thing to photograph.

love to my babies. xo.

tribe rokker porter

born february 7th, 2009, 1:43 pm. at 6lbs he was so small he looked like all body and no legs! we weren't there until a few hours after the birth....and the natural light was gone (boo), but I still think we got some adorable photos despite the harsh overhead lighting. listen to me!! complaining about lighting! what is my problem?! A BABY WAS BORN! I think I was a bit of a holding hog, and grant was getting funny ideas about me being more ready for kids than I let on.....one big decision at a time please!

tribe we love you and already miss you! all day yesterday I would keep randomly asking grant, "where's the baby?"....and after he responding a million times, "I know, you miss him...he's in orange county"....he finally stopped responding, but I kept asking, "where's the baby?". I couldn't help myself. I love myself some newborn baby.

maybe this will change your mind

..or my mind...or somebody's mind...

I'm not usually one to post photos of myself, but as I was editing through my nephews birth I came across these and haven't been able to deny the "worlds happiest aunt" look pasted across my slap happy face.

perfect baby and me.

perfect baby, sister in law (mother of perfect baby) and me.

perfect baby, older brother (dad of perfect baby) and me.

perfect baby and me crying because I had to leave 10mins after he was born to catch a flight.

me + having to leave newborn baby nephew minutes after being born= not cool.

I will post more from the birth in the next day or so.

stop my beating heart

Some may say happiness comes from many sources. A warm weather day when it should be cold. Surprise guava juice when you return home from a long trip. Sitting on Ke'e beach watching the sunset with a background of wild chickens and the lapping of water. Maybe an amazing concert, a once in a lifetime job opportunity (this could be my big break), a dryer warmed blanket with mint cocoa, drive ins, sleepovers on trampolines, new computers, pants that trick you. Space. Saturn through a telescope. Stars. The moon.

I would say, yes please....but......

Sitting in a delivery room anticipating the second life never will never be the same again, wondering, asking, waiting, waiting, waiting and then....... crying. looking. straining. holding. Without another thought in your mind. You love him, and everything else is just a bonus.

I'm not even talking about my OWN child. Made an aunt 4 times over, with the birth of my 2nd nephew yesterday....I am scared thinking that when I actually give birth to a child of my own fireworks, shooting stars and marching bands may burst out of my heart cavity.

Here's to Tristan (and wright and steph). I love you. Thanks for making my heart so full.

Lily Louise Born Oct 11th-Laguna Hills, CA

How amazing is my job? Can it even be considered a job if it's this amazing?

Yesterday I witnessed the birth of another baby. I was there photographing all of the "firsts"..and some of the lasts...the last moments before Heather and Scott's' family went from 4 to 5.

One thing that always amazes me is the amount of love I feel for these people as I experience these changes with them. My responsibility as a photographer is to observe, and so I do. I observe everything. Not only lighting and potentially good shots, but I get to observe as these new parents and grandparents go through a whole evolution of emotion. apprehension, fear, letting go, giving in, needing and feeling support, shock, delight and after a baby is born everyone is always in love.

When you photograph a birth the people involved can't help but be real. You never leave wishing they had opened up more. I can walk into the delivery room barely even knowing them and leave feeling like we've become good friends.. I love it. People in situations like that can't help but be real.

One of my favorite parts of lily's birth was watching her grandfather. He was nervous and uncomfortable anticipating his own daughters discomfort and the second Lily was with us, melted into a tender, cooing, tear filled man. He just kept saying, "she's perfect...she's perfect".

Heather and Scott thank you so much for allowing me to be there with you. Lily is as perfect as her grandfather says...and her name... Lily Louise...it makes me want to write a song for her. maybe I will.

Sienna's Birth-Sept 14, 2007

I missed the actual birth by 5 minutes!!!!!! There aren't enough exclamation points to express my frustration with that. Wrong freeway exit, wrong hospital building and running on foot. Man.

I'll tell you what wasn't wrong...that baby. She is perfect. Jackie ended up having her natural which should give her bragging rights for the next 5 years or so...maybe a lifetime of bragging if you ask me.

I loved being able to see mom, dad and aunt ooh and ahh over her and unlike most births I had more than my fair share of holding time. Thank you so much for letting me be there to capture all the "after" moments...those are the ones people really want to see anyway. Love you guys.