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i was SO excited for this day. the day of little fen's birth. my first time at a birth. my first time photographing a birth.

i got the call at about 4:45am and groggily answered the phone, knowing that it would be the call to inform me that danii had gone into labor, because no one else would call me at such an hour. i had packed my camera gear the night before just to be prepared because i knew i wouldn't be thinking clearly if i got a call in the early morning. so i grabbed my bag and headed over to their house with much excitement and anticipation.

i arrived and jamie, the midwife's apprentice, answered the door. she whispered a hello and welcomed me inside. the house was very quite except for a few moans from danii who was laying on her side in the living room, attended by the midwife and her husband. the atmosphere was so calm and everybody was there to encourage and support this laboring woman.

i got my digital camera around my neck and my film camera and tried to work with the very low lighting. in order to maintain the calm and soothing atmosphere, the only light was one small window in the room. i would prepare my shot and wait for someone to move and the light to fall on danii's face. :click: very much unlike a beloved session where i can ask people to move into good light, i would never ask a laboring mother to move into good light or her husband who is her support system. it's not about me and the pictures, it's all about her needs.

after a while of pushing, danii moved into the tub. soon after her son cedar woke up and joined us in the living room. tyler and the midwives were very good about explaining what was happening. cedar would ask questions and they would be very straight-forward and honest with him. he didn't seem concerned that his mother was in a lot of pain. he was very chill and relaxed about the whole thing. at one point he was playing with the floating thermometer in the tub - dropping it so that it bounced and bobbed around. the contrast of a laboring mother and a little boy playing in the tub next to her was amusing.

tyler was right beside her the whole time, rubbing her back and being her firm foundation to hold onto. it was time for the baby to come out so danii laid back in the tub to push. we could see his head and cedar kept saying "daddy, i can see his head!" it was really really cool to me that he could be a part of the whole process and see, at such a young age, that birth is a natural and beautiful part of life. after a few hard pushes, the midwife, kim, brought baby fen to danii's arms. after a moment of relief, there was laugher and crying in the whole room. it was so beautiful to see the joy on danii and tyler's face as they got to meet little fen for the first time.

hugs were passed around the room as we all shared in their joy.

cedar was so proud and joined in mom and dad's excitement. he was hungry so he got some cherrios and sat and watched the beautiful scene before him - mom and dad and new baby brother, reveling in their joy.

i wanted to give danii and tyler some time alone to enjoy their little one, so cedar took me to the basement to meet their baby chickens - he was so proud of them. and then we went for a little adventure outside. there was a huge storm the night before, lighting and thunder that shook the whole house, so the leaves on the tree were full of water and cedar was making it rain by bouncing on the swing. just another normal day in the life of a kid.

we went back inside to be a part of weighing and measuring fen. cedar was pretty curious about how the sling worked to weigh cedar. and the midwives brewed some healing herbs.

i've been afraid of birth my whole life, even to the point where i thought that i would never give birth to a child of my own because i was so terrified by all the stories i had heard. movies and tv had always shown women in labor to be like scary monsters who would scream at their husbands and everyone around them. how can one not be terrified of bringing life into this world when this is their perception of birth? yet after doing a lot of research and learning about home births - after seeing the incredible strength that danii had throughout her birth, the kind and loving encouragement of the midwives and the calm, peaceful environment, i was able to experience first-hand how positive and joyful birth can be. i am so thankful to danii and tyler for giving me the gift of this experience and sharing in their joy and being able to witness the beauty of bringing life into this world. i am so grateful and i look forward to photographing the beauty of many more births.

and now, danii's story:
"Sunday night I was feeling optimistic and excited for the upcoming birth not knowing when it was going to happen. Starting that evening at about one in the morning contractions started. I chose to focus and see if they continued and gained intensity. To stay focus and relaxed I imagined a wave peaking up high and surfing it into the crash and the lull between contractions. This helped me to stay calm and focused.

At about 3:45am I decided I should wake up my husband and tell him to let the midwives know that labor had begun. He called at them at about 4am, while I went into the bathroom and threw up. He asked if I wanted them to come and I thought that I was fine yet and thought I should wait for more intensity. I then went and continued through a few contractions in the living room and suddenly felt the urge to push. I told him to call them back and tell them I was pushing. The midwives arrived around 5 am. She calmly watched and then got things set up around me. She then said, “just a few more minutes.” I could not believe that I was actually pushing a baby out already since my first took days. I stayed focused, resting between contractions and ignoring my surroundings. The tub was not yet filled and they were continuing to fill it. My midwife let me know that his head was positioned in a way that was making it difficult for him to come out.

After an hour the tub was full and I was able to get in. All the while resting during contractions and then pushing as hard as I could during them. I moved to the tub, which was so relaxing and restful. It took so much pressure off of me. I continued to push feeling his head slowly getting closer and closer. Then Cedar, my son, wandered out of bed and stood next to the tub. He acted like this was no big deal, which was very funny to me. I remember seeing him asking about the membranes and saying there’s the baby’s head. It was exhausting and I felt my strength dying, but my midwife’s calm encouragements and my husband’s hand to hold gave me strength.

Finally I felt that burning of the head coming out, and then expecting one more push to get him out. The midwife said, “No you’re not done, keep pushing. “ After three last pushes, he made it out and into my arms with his happy cry and very short umbilical cord. And my son came to say hello, then sat and watched us in the water, eating cheerios and overlooking the tub while me and my husband soaked up baby Fen."