I've been feeling rather nostalgic this week, (partly because I've been on an organizing spree, sorting through boxes of pictures and keepsakes), and partly because my youngest daughter, Zoey, turns 3 TODAY! She came after a fast and furious labor -- I'd had on and off contractions for several days, but nothing that was turning into real labor. I had been up early Sunday morning with somewhat consistent contractions that faded off again before they intensified. At the time, we had a 22 month old daughter, Elikia, a 6 month old foster daughter (baby V), and I was just ready to have this baby and be done! I called my midwife that morning, asking if there was anything I could do to help this prodromal labor turn into active labor. She suggested red raspberry leaf tea, so I ran to Target, picked some up, and drank 3 cups over the course of early afternoon. Then I laid down for a nap around 3pm. No sooner had I laid down then contractions began in earnest. After so many false alarms, I was hesitant, but within a few hours realized this definitely seemed to be the real deal. We called my sister in-law to come stay with the girls, expecting to go to the hospital, labor most of the night then have a baby! We arrived around 6:45pm and I was shocked to find out that I was already 8cm dilated! I wanted to get in the tub sooo badly, but had to wait for them to get the 20 min monitor on baby and get an IV port placed (which blew my vein 3 times in the attempt!!) By the time that ordeal was over, I was ready to push! (At the time, I was really irritated that I hadn't been able to get in the tub, and I remembered asking if I could get in as soon as baby was born! My midwife laughed and said maybe!) I'm sure she knew that would be the last thing on my mind once baby was here! Unlike with Elikia, pushing was MUCH easier this time and by 7:23pm, Zoey was born and placed on my chest!

 the ONLY picture we have from soon after she was born!

the ONLY picture we have from soon after she was born!

She came out with the loudest cry I've yet to hear from a newborn! We joked that she completely skipped that sweet little newborn cry and was crying like a 3-6 month old from the beginning! Maybe she knew that with a 22 month old and 6 month old sister, she might need the extra volume! :)  I was elated and so surprised at how much easier labor had been this time around and Andrew and I were thrilled she was here and healthy!

We hadn't planned for the older girls to come see her right away, but it had all happened so fast, and I was feeling so great, we called my sister-in-law and asked if she wanted to bring them over. (In hindsight, I don't think right at bedtime was a great time to bring Elikia over to meet her new sister! She was a very overwhelmed and tears was not quite the reaction we had hoped for!!) She finally did warm up a little and even gave Zoey a little kiss before leaving.  Baby V (the 6 month old) was pretty indifferent to our newest addition. ;) We were both excited and nervous about this awesome responsibility of parenting three little ones!

 our little family! <3 <3 

our little family! <3 <3 

Even though I loved photography and had invested in a good camera after Elikia was born, I hadn't even thought to bring it along for Zoey's birth, or teach Andrew the basics on how to use it. Almost every picture we got in the hospital was on Andrew's phone, and all of those have been lost, except for the ones I had shared on Facebook. And despite how fuzzy and technically terrible these pictures are (from a photography standpoint), they are absolutely priceless to me!

Looking at them instantly brings back memories of all the feelings that day --  the elation, joy, exhaustion, and overwhelming love I felt for Zoey and my whole little family! I'm so thankful for them, but I'm still kicking myself for not having made photos more of a priority. I wish I had some that showed what an amazing support Andrew was to me during labor -- because he was! And of how hard I worked to bring her here, and of Andrew's face when she was born (I would do almost anything for a picture of that!)  And because I'm a birth junkie, I REALLY wish I had pictures of what her cord and placenta looked like. I know I saw them -- but so many details are lost in the haze of birth! 

When I became a doula, I KNEW I couldn't just stand by and not document these incredible moments for my clients. So I began offering to take pictures as well and the reactions of tears and delight I got from my clients after delivering their pictures inspired me to keep taking photos. For those who've had fairly "normal" births, the photos immortalized the joy, wonder, and easily forgotten details of that day. For those whose births did not go according to plan, the photos helped have been part of the healing journey, allowing them to process their experience and see their own strength, courage, and the threads of beauty of their unique birth story.  I am continually humbled and honored to be tasked documenting one of the most sacred events of someone's life -- the birth of their child. 

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And on this day, I'm celebrating the birth of MY child! The one who has stretches me to be a better mother, who amazes me with her fearless courage, who makes me melt with her sweet hugs and long, slobbery kisses, and who takes me from tears of exasperation to peals of laughter faster than anyone I know! Happy Birthday, Zoey!!!

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