This is the beautiful Sacramento homebirth photography story of baby Blakely, and her mother’s own written account of her birth-day experience.
As a birth photographer who serves a wide range of cities, I get the opportunity to document births in diverse settings and locations. The intimate homebirth story I am sharing here took place in the small town of Dixon, just outside of Sacramento, California; in the beautiful home of Kari & AJ. This was the birth of their fourth child, but their very first homebirth experience; and their first time having a birth photographer. They were so happy to be creating a birth photography story to share with their daughter as she grows into a woman, who may birth her own child one day.
Here is Mama Kari, on the homebirth of her daughter Blakely:
“Like all of my births, Blakely’s birthday is a day I will never forget. We had been preparing mentally, physically and logistically for our first home birth for months. It was an experience we were genuinely so excited for. I wanted so badly for it to go smoothly and end with the ultimate goal of a healthy baby.
Leading into this birth I had different stressors than my previous 3 births, which were interesting to navigate. The 3 previous births, I was worried about getting to the hospital and birth center on time, making sure we had the bags packed, car-seat loaded, sitters for the kids, my doctor being there to deliver, etc. This time I was stressing about when we would call our birth team, Shalin: our doula, Cathlene: our birth photographer, and Claudette & Lael: our midwives. In hindsight, those aspects are so small and menial in comparison to what the birth day is about. I knew I needed to let all that go and just let her come when she was ready and not worry about things working out “perfectly”. God had her arrival planned in his perfect timing and that is what I tried to focus on.
Days prior to her arrival, I had contractions in the early hours of the morning but they would slow down and eventually stop altogether before I even got out of bed. But, her due date came and around 3am I awoke to contractions like I had the previous few days, but this time they felt really different. There was just this feeling in my gut that she would be born that day, very similar to the feeling I had with our 3rd baby, who was also born on her due date. I stayed in bed till around 5am when I could no longer sleep through the contractions and decided to get up to manage a little better. They continued to get closer together and come on stronger till about 730am. At this point we had already informed our birth photographer to head our way and let our doula know things were picking up. But then everything stopped! Of course. The second we tell people it’s time my body shuts down! This was exactly how my labor began with our 3rd baby; which is really just annoying!
We decided to continue on our day like normal and try to get labor going – we took the kids to school, saw my midwife in hopes that she could advise us on things to do to get baby on her way, we went to the chiropractor to get my hips opened up and to ensure baby was in the right position and then, we had a good, big breakfast. Contractions would come here and there, but overall the feeling of labor was lost. After hours of doing this, I was beginning to feel defeated. I was doing “all the things” to kick myself into labor but Blakely didn’t seem like she was in the ideal position. My gut, along with doula and midwife thought Blakely might be OP. So we picked up the kids from school and sent them off to Mema and Pops so that we could focus on Blakely and preparing my body for what was to come. All afternoon AJ and I worked on inversions, side lying, the miles circuit, rebozo work and a long walk around the neighborhood with my brother and sister alongside us. Contractions were still coming, but far and few between and really only when I went from lying down to standing up. It was exhausting and frustrating and exciting all at once. I felt overwhelmed and annoyed that I had people “waiting” on me and wished things were going a different way, in the way I had envisioned my first homebirth. I had never experienced a labor like this before. The stop and go was so hard!! But I also knew that with each contraction, although far between, that we were so much closer to meeting baby Blakely!
I decided to kick my brother and sister out to grab us some dinner and give AJ and I some time alone so that I could vent to him and refocus. I jumped in the shower and had a really good cry. I felt that I needed to release all the negative energy and frustration of slow labor and let go of the ideas in my head about how I wanted this birth to be. I asked AJ to jump in with me and pray with me and let me cry and get it all out. I was so bummed!!! This was my 4th baby…I should know labor by now! Haha. I laid it all out there and gave it all to God. All my fears, stresses, worries, frustrations. Everything. The freedom of release and then the trust I gave to God was incredible. I got out of the shower ready to accept however my labor proceeded but sent a few venting text messages to my doula Shalin as I knew she was the sound board I needed and got the last of it off my chest and that did it – within 15 minutes I had 2 contractions and I became overwhelming uncomfortable very quickly and that’s when I knew labor was on. It was time! It was about 6:15pm and I came around the corner of the hallway and looked at AJ and said “I’m feeling really uncomfortable, like I want to get in the water”. He was surprised as I had only had 2 contractions since crying it out to him in the shower, but I think my face said it all as he kicked in to gear very quickly, calling the birth team and prepping the tub.
After 3 births and a day of stop and go contractions, I finally recognized the shift and feeling of active labor! I got into the tub as it was filling and really tried to embrace my labor and enjoy it as much as I could, taking in my last few moments of being pregnant and trying to fully capture this process of home birthing. The atmosphere was set. We had worship music playing, the room was lit with candles and twinkly Christmas lights, the bathtub was lit up, my husband was there and we were doing this…we were about to have our baby girl in the incredible comfort of our own home. One by one the birth team arrived and I was filled with so much peace. No more worries. Everyone was there. The tub was giving me so much comfort and I was so elated that the labor I wanted was happening. Contractions were getting intense and coming closer, but I stayed focused on my breathing to get through. AJ held my hands and whispered encouragement in my ears, soft kisses to my forehead and extreme love in his touch. He asked to get in the tub with me as I began approaching transition and he was so excited!
My doula, Shalin was there in every way I needed without me ever having to say a word. She covered me in wash cloths to keep me cool, reminded me to stay hydrated, applied counter pressure and comforting massages through contractions, held my hands and had me focus on her as things picked up. My sister Candis continually added hot water to the tub to keep it comfortable. My brother Colby was there taking video and surrounding us with love. My midwives Claudette & Lael gave me so much peace as they stayed calm and let me do my thing. Cathlene, our birth photographer, was working throughout the room and capturing all of these precious moments. Everyone was there and all was moving, yet all was calm and my birth space was being held beautifully by everyone. I remember all this simply because between contractions I would look up and start talking or laughing about something and it was amazing be surrounded by people I trusted and loved and felt completely comfortable with.
I remember AJ touching me in preparation of catching our baby and looking at Shalin as I was breathing and moaning out to bring our baby girl down and sure enough, 2 contractions later and I was pushing. In previous conversations I had told Shalin and Aj that I really wanted to breathe her out and take my time and not scream…I did so good until this point, haha! I screamed but it felt so good and I felt so empowered. I was in my home and felt like “I could do me”! Shalin was softly reminding me to slow down and take my time and so I tried to focus my energy on crowning slowly, but It was so hard! This was the first time I held my baby in after having their head come out and even if for just a moment, it allowed me to regain my breath and prepare for the final push. Then I did it. I pushed her out at 8:26pm and AJ caught her and I quickly turned around to embrace and pull our little girl up. She was perfect, and healthy and so sweet. This moment is so hard to describe. The feelings of pure empowerment, uncontrollable adrenalin, heart bursting love, unbelievable vulnerability and being so completely proud of myself is just amazing. Seeing our baby girl for the first time and holding her in the water as Aj held me, is a moment I will never forget. There is nothing like bringing a baby into the world in your own room.
I remember just sitting there falling in love with my husband all over again because of his incredible partnership and ability to be there for me through labor and birth and staring at our beautiful little Blakely, completely in love with this little baby we just met, and feeling so loved by everyone in the room. It was peaceful, happy, calm, everything and more than I dreamed of for a home birth. No bright lights, loud noises, unknown people, unnecessary touching and intervention. It was beautiful. She was precious. Just laying there with us, calm and quiet, taking in her great big world. This journey was hers too.
After some time went by, I birthed the placenta and then got out of the tub and into bed. We held Blakely in our own bed and just laid there taking our precious baby in and everything else was taken care of for us. We were brought food and drinks and just got to sit there and take it all in. Our birth team did their thing and slowly everyone left. It was wonderful. Home, in bed with our baby, no one to bother or wake us. We both said how could we do this any other way??
After a long day of frustrating pre-labor, 2 hours of active labor and our baby was here Earth side, safe and healthy in our arms at home. What an amazing blessing! Our birth team was incredible and they will forever hold a special place in my heart and everything turned out so much better than I could have imagined or tried to plan myself. I felt so blessed to have had this birth experience and I will never forget it.”
Here is a selection of images from Kari & Blakely’s intimate Sacramento homebirth photography story. To view another fourth time mother’s birth story and read her own written birth reflections, check out my blog post on the Birth of Baby Marigold here.
If you are planning a homebirth and are interested in having a birth photographer, feel free to reach out to me here to check the availability of your due date. I am based in Northern California, and offer birth stories to families in the Sierra Foothills, the Sacramento area and the greater Bay Area. I would be honored to be a part of your birth team.
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