The Day that Changed Me
August 30th, a day that I didn't know I'd make it through. A day that transformed me in ways I never knew I'd have the strength to share. A day that I will never forget. A day that I will always remember and one that I get to celebrate a precious life and what that little life and her birthday represents for me.
Let me start from the beginning.
May of 2020 a momma-to-be named Allie filled out a contact form on my website, told me she loved my work, and wanted to talk to me about booking me as her birth photographer. At this point, I had been doing birth photography for less than a year and an inquiry like this sent my heart SOARING.
Allie and I chatted on zoom a few days later and honestly it felt like talking to one of my best friends and like we'd known each other forever. We just clicked.
Throughout her pregnancy we hung out, talked a lot, and honestly just built a really sweet friendship. She was in my corner, rooting me on, telling me to raise my prices (even though she knew that would effect her), and consistently just pushed and encouraged me in my business.
While she was still pregnant I found myself working births where I saw the need of my role being more than just a photographer. I found myself stepping into the role of doula really naturally when my clients needed it, and Allie encouraged me to really pursue that further. She even believed in me so much that she chose to have me as her doula and photographer before I even completed my training.
Fast forward a little to the middle of August just a few weeks before Allie went into labor. I had my doula training scheduled for the end of August and was SO pumped about it. And then, I found out that I was pregnant. I have two precious babies and had lost what would've been out third at about 5 weeks at the end of May. So this news was exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
The last weekend of August rolled around and it was the weekend of my doula training! I was so excited but also not feeling awesome because I get really really sick in pregnancy. My training was over zoom because of Covid and my friend Lo was doing the training too, we decided to do it together at my house. Shortly after I we got logged in, Allie started texting me letting me know that she thought today was baby day. I thought it was comical that of course this baby would decide her birthday was going to be the one weekend I had something planned, but I chatted with the instructor given that it was a doula training she obviously understood and we made a plan for how we'd make up things I missed if needed!
A few hours later it was time for me to meet Allie at the birth center for us to check in and get a good baseline for where things were at!
She was sitting at about 3cm and not quite in active labor, so her midwife encouraged her to go eat a good lunch, take a good nap, and then try some curb walking and a brisk walk! At this point, I ran back home for a bit to jump back onto my doula training. This is when I realized that things were about to drastically change for me this weekend, and I didn't even know the half of it.
I got home and ran to the bathroom before jumping back on zoom, and when I did I saw red. Any loss mom will know and understand the immediate panic that I felt. At first it was light and I tried to assure myself that spotting can be ok, but deep down, I already knew.
I got back on zoom with Lo, whispered to her what just happened, and tried my best to focus but my mind was racing. I was distracted with so much going on and all the what ifs flooding my mind.
Allie was keeping me up to date on how she was doing and I tried to let my doula training keep me distracted. I texted my midwife and she encouraged me to stay calm and knew she'd see me later that day anyways because she is also Allie's midwife.
A few hours later as Allie's labor progressed and intensified, my loss was becoming more evident and it was harder to have hope that everything was fine. But as any birth worker knows, when duty calls... I got myself dressed, put on a pad, grabbed my doula bag and camera and left to meet Allie at the hotel they were staying at.
When I got to their hotel I could tell things had changed. After listening to Allie work through a couple of contractions, I remember telling Drake to make sure all of the bags and things were ready to go. Being my first birth also in the role as a doula and still in my first year as a birth photographer, I wasn't totally sure where she was at in labor, but based on how she was coping we all agreed that heading to the birth center would be a good idea.
We arrived at the birth center and after a set a vitals Allie decided to get into the tub. It really helped her to relax and was exactly what she was needing. As things continued her contraction pattern really made us think that little P was in a funky position still and so we did ALL the things to get her to move. Lunges, spinning babies, baby momma dance, all. the. things. Allie is hilarious and kept everyone laughing the entire time.
Each time I went to the bathroom, things were made more and more clear that I was losing another baby. I kept stealing moments away and couldn't have been more thankful that her birth was the one I was at. God knew I needed these exact people around me as I miscarried for the second time in just three months. I was so thankful for the way her team - who also happened to be my care team - held space for me and allowed me moments to cry, grieve, and then pull myself together to support and document one of the biggest days of my dear client turned friend's life, while I was experiencing one of the worst days of mine.
Details are pretty fuzzy for me when it comes to timeline and everything surrounding Penelope Mae's birth. But what I know is her momma is STRONG and her daddy is an incredible teammate. They worked so hard together to bring their baby girl into the world.
I cried the moment this precious girl was born and in her momma & daddy's arms. I cried because I was proud. I cried because I think birth is incredible beautiful and powerful and something I can't believe I get to be a part of. I cried because I knew I was losing another baby that I would never embrace the way I got to watch sweet P embraced.
The time came for me to head home and I honestly am not totally sure how I made it home safely. I remember nothing about the drive other than arriving to my driveway and realizing I didn't remember the entire drive. I walked into the house, dropped by bags, crawled into bed and pressed myself as tightly into my husband's arms as I could.
I slept fitfully for about three hours until I needed to be up to hop back onto my zoom call doula training. It was Sunday, August 31st. My husband had some extra work to catch up on before a trip to the mountains a few days later, so he got up really early to go to a job that he'd been trudging through the last 6 months. To avoid an even longer post with way too many details, I'll just say that it had been a really hard work experience. That stress on top of a pandemic, a miscarriage in May, and everything else going on was just a lot. It was really hard on both of us.
I got up a saw that my bleeding was heavier and knew it was probably almost done. I knew that what should've been our rainbow baby was gone.
At around 9am I pulled myself together and hopped back onto zoom with Lo. I tried my best to be engaged and learn as much as I could, but I was reasonably so, incredibly distracted and exhausted.
At noon my phone rang. It was my husband and I figured he was just headed home because he had finished his work.
He had finished his work. But not in the way I thought. He had been fired. I won't get into the details because honestly it doesn't truly matter, but what I'll say is it was unexpected, unjustified, and incredibly terrifying.
I broke. I immediately fell to the floor. I couldn't breath and looking back I definitely was in a full blown panic attack. Lo, heard me and came over and met me where I was at. She literally sank to the floor with me and held me as I wept.
I want to be really raw and honest here. We had just bought a house three months prior. We had literally NO savings. We were broken, terrified, angry, hurt, confused, all of it. We were losing a baby, Joe lost his job, and we genuinely thought there was a chance we would lose our house.
Even typing this out, it all floods back.
There's a point to all this, and I hope you'll stick with me, because this is the part that matters.
All the pain, heartache, brokenness, anger, all of it. It has a purpose and God is so so kind and so faithful.
This day changed us and I want to take a minute to share how.
As a doula and a birth photographer this birth showed me my strength and that truly this is what I'm called and meant to do. I truly believe that God has gifted me with the ability to love and serve momma in one of the most intimate, sacred, and important seasons of their lives. He's given me a passion and a heart for meeting mommas in a moment where they meet the end of themselves and trust and push forward. I am a different doula and a different birth photographer because of Penelope Mae and her incredibly beautiful birth story (you can check that out with way better detail from here momma's perspective here).
My marriage is different. This weekend honestly was the start to probably the hardest season of our lives, but also, one of the sweetest and most fruitful. We trust God more deeply, love each other more deeply, know each other more deeply, it truly just transformed us. The following two months included unemployment, covid, and grieving so much loss. BUT, it was also filled with rest, God showing up financially in ways we could've never imagined, and him softening our hearts to adoption.
I don't want to relive August 30th and 31st 2020, but I wouldn't change it. I grieve a lot that happened that weekend. But ultimately there's so much more to rejoice in.
I have a friend that I hope is a friend I get to keep for life. There's a precious girl that is the most beautiful example of beauty from ashes that I get to celebrate every year as I remember my precious baby that I won't get to meet on this side of heaven. I know Jesus more deeply and trust God's plan with more open hands. I love and known my husband more because of walking through suffering with him.
I’ll leave you with some words that, as I’ve walked this road of loss, have meant a lot and just a few more of my own.
You and I are deeply loved by our Creator. He is a Redeemer and I know that he works ALL things together for those who love him. So even though I still don't know what the redemption of this story fully looks like I DO know who is redeeming it. I know that my babies that we've lost have purpose and that He works it all together for His glory. So even if their purpose was for me to know and trust Him more deeply, that's enough for me... but I truly hope and believe it's even more than that.
I hope that their lives help YOU to know Him. I want you to know that you are fully known and fully loved by the God that created you. I want you to know that He's a redeemer. He takes broken things and makes them beautiful.
We're still in the wait and we still don't know what this redemption story will look like. I hope I get to see and recognize it this side of heaven. We expectantly wait as we lean in and just rest in His goodness. Because He's still good.
"Of one thing I'm perfectly sure: God's story never ends in ashes." - Elisabeth Elliot