birth photography

A Baltimore Birth Story | Baby Robert

"Birth produces two people.

The first; a flailing soul

struggling to take in a new world, 

a new way of being

as it draws breath against the unknown.

The second; a baby."

-B. Laditan

I've used this quote before, but I love it so much I could use it a million times more and not be tired of it.  One may think as a birth photographer, that photographing the baby and the baby's arrival is the highlight. It's certainly a moving experience and one I hope everyone is able to witness, because it is truly a miracle and watching it unfold is transformative. Every. Single. Time. But it isn't my favorite part. I love to capture the connection between partners the most. The teamwork, the love, the compassion, and the mutual joy for what they've created together. 

Our friends Laura and Rob announced they were pregnant at our college homecoming last fall. The first thing I did was offer my congratulations, of course, but immediately I was hoping and praying they'd ask me to photograph the birth of their baby. Don't get me wrong, I want ALL the births, but I just knew that theirs would be an extra special one. For those that don't know them, they're extra special people. 

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Case in point. They're uniquely themselves and aren't afraid to show it, and I love their unabashed love for one another. So when Laura contact me a few months later to talk about birth photography, I was thrilled. 

As with many first babies, Laura went past her estimated due date and we were one day shy of 41 weeks waiting (sort of) patiently. She went to her routine check-in and learned she was actually in the beginning stages of labor and was to head straight over to St. Joe's to be admitted. 

 

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Things were progressing well and she reached a point where she needed some relief. After the epidural was administered, there were laughs and fun, but also a lot of anxieties. Rob (dad) was so concerned for Laura's well-being the entire time and didn't leave her side for a single second. He may have broken a record with questions for the nurses and also of asking his wife how she was feeling. It was so heart-warming to witness. You could actually feel his emotions and he was feeling a wide range of them.

 

Once they learned that she had fully dilated, the doctor joined us and everyone was prepped for delivery. Assuming, as most would, it would be awhile for a first baby to descend and make his/her way earth side. 

 

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Laura and Rob decided not to find out the baby's gender, so there was also a great anticipation to see what she'd been carrying for the past 10 months. Sadly, Rob's father had passed a short time ago, and while Rob said he didn't care if it was a boy or girl -- it was obvious to me that a boy would mean a lot to him. A way to remember and honor his late father, with whom he was very close. 

 

Remarkably, Laura pushed for only 20 or so minutes, which was a record for me to witness for a first time mom. And their baby boy was born. The photographs of Rob realizing he now had a son are some of my favorite images captured to date. There was meconium stained fluid so Laura didn't get immediate skin to skin right way, but that gave her and her husband a few minutes alone to soak in the fact that they done it. She was amazing and worked so hard, and their baby boy, Robert III had arrived at last. Named, of course, after his Daddy and his late grandfather.

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Baby Robert was born on April 26, 2018 and weighed a whopping 9 pounds 4 ounces. He was placed in his mama's arms just a few minutes after birth and Laura and Rob became parents. It was an honor to capture this for them, and I'm sure these photos will be looked back on and treasured forever. 

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Winnie's Birth Story

We had a lovely Christmas with our families -- we ate too much, had a few too many glasses of wine, got to watch and experience the magic through toddler's eyes, and gave and received so many great gifts. Typically, in our family, no one can beat my sister Mandy's gift giving skills. She puts so much thought and always seems to have the perfect gifts for everyone.

She gave birth to her beautiful little Winnie in July, and because she's my sister and my business took off, her photos had to be put on the back burner. But once November came around -- I knew exactly what I was going to do. I was going to win Christmas this year! Her long awaited images were made in to a beautiful book -- which I have no doubt, will be cherished until the end of time. 

Winnie girl was due on July 9th, and to be perfectly punctual, my sister called me that morning to say things were getting real over there. So I grabbed my camera and hopped in the car. Her contractions were coming hard and fast, but in between she had time to make jokes and still be the best momma to our little Liam.

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The labor was progressing and her doctor told her to head to the hospital. She had a few tough contractions that stopped her dead in her tracks, and in those moments it was tough for me to decide whether to be a sister or her photographer. I think at one point I had one hand on her shoulder and the other one on the shutter. Her body was working so hard in preparation for Winnie's arrival and she often winced in pain, but the only thing that brought on the tears was when it was time to say goodbye to her first baby, that sweet boy who made her a mother. 

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We arrived at St. Joe's Hospital and the staff made me wait in the waiting room for a bit (pure torture as both a photographer and sister.) Once I was allowed back, the mood was intense; the anesthesiologist was busy, but she got through the pain of each contraction with  determination and grace.

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After awhile she was able to get some relief. And she was finally able to take care of some important business, like letting her Snapchat followers know she was in labor. We turned on Lumineers radio, broke out our family's favorite snack (doritos, of course) and waited for her body to do its magic.

It wasn't long before she reached that magical number and she was ready to bring her babe earthside. It will never become old, watching this miracle of life. Everytime I experience it, I am in awe over the entire process, and especially of a woman's strength. 

 

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A beautiful, healthy baby girl. 8 pounds, 3 ounces and 20 inches of love. Six months later, she's still this lovable, squishy babe (except MUCH bigger, girl likes to eat) and the perfect addition to our family. 

Like I said, I totally won Christmas this year, right? There was nothing she could get me that would beat these heirlooms... and then I opened an Instant Pot. Maybe next year.

Birth of Posie June

A few months ago, I went out on a limb and asked my dear friend, Steph, if she would allow me to photograph the birth of their second child. At this point I'd only documented one birth (my handsome nephew, Liam). I'd fully intended her answer to be a hard no or at the very least she'd need time to think it over - after all, giving birth is an incredibly intimate and vulnerable experience. Much to my surprise and to my elation, she immediately responded 'yes'. Of course, she still had to work out the details, and get permission from her doctor who was to perform an elective cesarean due to complications from her son's birth. 

I remember getting the text message from her in our mom group chat; her doctor didn't only agree to allow me in to the operating room, she was excited to have me! The days leading up to her due date were so exciting! Almost like I was having another babe, only without all the aches and pains and sleepless nights. 

She made it to her cesarean date without going in to labor, and this made for a conveniently planned trip to the hospital for everyone. When I got there they were prepping the OR and Steph for surgery and I shot a few details of the room and captured some of the anxious moments. We placed our final bets on whether baby Dougherty was a girl or a boy. Dad won that bet. I think mom's certainty that she was carrying another boy - due to the similarities from her first pregnancy - made Posie's birth extra special. 

After we put our scrubs on, they invited us to wait outside the OR while Steph went in and got her epidural. Having gone through two cesareans myself at this point, I was shocked by the nerves and anxiety while waiting on the outside of that OR. I can sympathize with my husband a bit more now. As the soon-to-be mama in that situation, you're wheeled in to that cold, bright room and you're in a whole new state of mind. At least for me, it was incredibly surreal and I left the nerves at the door on my way in. You enter a new zone, one of strength and determination, and the only thing on your mind is the health of that baby that's about to enter this world. Basically, you enter the mom zone. That baby is all that matters. 

Moments later, after we watched the doctors wash up and scrub in, someone came out and told us we could come in now. We took our respective seats, and Ryan took Steph's hand in support and reassurance. The doctors did their magic and in minutes Ryan and I witnessed a miracle, as their baby entered this world. They held her up and he announced that she was a girl and the joy and tears overflowed. Then the doctor held Posie over the sheet so Steph could see her healthy baby girl, and she was instantly overcome with emotions. It was perfect and beautiful and I am so thankful to have been apart of Posie's birth day. 

While I'm so, so grateful to have been able to witness and document Posie's birth, I'm also forever grateful for the opportunity because something else happened that day. I was certain before this day that I wanted to make beautiful, interesting photographs as my life's work. Documenting this experience not only solidified that plan, but sparked a deep and natural passion that I didn't know existed. My husband's grandfather, who lived a long and full 97 years, used to say every time we saw him, "you've got to love what you do, that's what matters." Fortunately for me, between being a wife, mother to my baby girls and making beautiful, powerful images for others - I have heeded his advice.