Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Birth of Emiliana Lucia Joy

(Sit on the sofa with a hot drink... It's long!)

After Joel's birth, we were apprehensive about the delivery of Emiliana. I had hemorrhaged hard and fast, losing 2200cc, then later another 800cc (at least). My blood pressure had been dangerously low, I had several blood transfusions.

After his birth I was very anaemic, I began to have nightmares ... post traumatic stress turned into depression which shook our world for long time as we battled it through prayer and natural treatments, determined to avoid harsh drugs.

We prayed for Emiliana's birth more fervently and diligently than we had any of our other children.

We planned a hospital birth where my labor would be started via breaking my water. You see, I delivered Joel very fast, as in, he would have been a car baby and we'd have had no medical assistance for my bleeding kinda fast. So we didn't want to risk me going into labor on my own and not making it to the hospital then hemorrhaging again.  I also want to share, that I had hemorrhaged with a miscarriage and with Rachel too, so after 3 times, we expected it was going to happen the 4th time.

I had a lot of fears about unneccessary interventions. I want to birth naturally and drug free. We knew pitocin would prevent that most likely. I felt somewhat confident that breaking my water would work based on my previous fast births and having a good bishops score previously, but also, knew that should I need pitocin, the midwives were willing to turn it off as soon as labor established. Ultimately, if I just needed pitocin... it was a neccesary evil.

We prayed for a healing birth. I also prayed, that for the first time I have that elation, that adrenaline RUSH that ladies tell you about after birth, something that due to bleeding and with Esther, being very doped up, I had never experienced.

I faced a lot of criticism for people in the natural birth community. They would tell me all the risks, tell would tell me " have you tried this? or this?" ... YES... I tried everything before Joel's birth after losing 3 x's the normal amount with Rachel, but it just didn't work.  I began to feel weary that people were so determined to push the homebirth or not having my labor augmented. We tell women to research, to plan, to listen to their bodies, but sometimes we think that the only result of that can be a home birth.

I'm the kind of person that researchs everything, over thinks the tiny details ... so it was a decision made out of over 2 years of research, meetings and conversations with natural birth professionals and highrisk OB's.

So we planned to break my water and then hope, and pray, that labor kicked in.

My water was broke at about 8:30am after arriving at 7am. Baby was -2, 3cm dilated and 60-70% effaced on arrival.

At first nothing happened. I sat on the birth ball. I walked. I swayed. I tried manual nipple stimulation. I could feel Emiliana moving down.

I was so very nervous and anxious.

I noticed painful contractions when I stood, but not on the birth ball, I wasn't sure if being on the birth ball was just acting as pain relief or stopping the contractions.

Soon I realised that I was only contracting when I was standing up. I started to feel dizzy, clammy and sick and started to feel the darkness coming around my eyes, I was about to pass out.

My blood pressure was quite low.

I found every time I stood up, contractions started regular and strong, but I started to feel like I was going to faint, but when I laid down, my blood pressure seemed to improve but contractions stopped.

There was an emergency in the next room, so I couldn't get a hold of anyone to explain to me what was going on and why, and what was the best way to deal with it.

My midwife eventually came in, and suggested I try using a breast pump while sat in bed, to see if that helped. I was skeptical but decided to try. At had my friend Traci & photographer Danielle with me, but I felt strange about sitting there with a double pump on, so I asked them to step out for a little while. Little did I know, I wouldn't see them for a while!

By this point I was about 4cm, and baby was -1,  cervix still posterior. It was about 2:30pm.

Within 5 minutes of pumping, I was hit by an overwhelmingly strong contraction, that just wouldn't stop. It went on for close to 3 minutes, and I barely had 20 seconds reprieve when another hit. I knew the pumping had given my body that push and this was labor.

For close to half an hour, I was having this horrendous contractions, I couldn't get up off my side because the contractions were so long and hard, but I knew I needed to move to cope with them.

I felt my control slipping aware, I was very scared, and due to the emergency, no one was answering the calls.  I knew I couldn't handle this. I was crying and panicking, and struggling to gain control.

I told Josh I wanted an epidural. He reminded me that I could do it. You've done it twice before, you can do it again. But I insisted. I needed an epidural. I told him I didn't care about natural birth anymore.

The nurse came in, I was only 5cm, and I was having contractions that FELT to me, like I was in transition.

This was very discouraging to me! I wish I had stuck with my birth plan, which was to not be checked.

Knowing the epidural was on it's way gave me hope. I gained the will to get the birthball on the bed, and lean over it. I sure wished I had someone to do counter pressure on my hips, I thought they were going to explode!

I managed to gain a rhythm, and sound out deeply. I was finally in control.  I could feel pressure with each contraction and knew that I was about to have a baby anytime.

The epidural seemed to be taking it's time getting here. I later learned, that the nurse and Josh had conspired against me, deciding that I would regret it, so they were taking their time intentionally. THANK YOU JOSH FOR KNOWING ME!!!! He had intentionally taken her aside for this conversation and she was quick to get on board with him.

I kept thinking " I need to tell Josh to tell Traci & Danielle to come in!" but then a contraction would hit and I couldn;t manage to talk!!

It was 3:58, the midwife came to check me, and she was sure, from my sounds and intensity of labor, that I was about to have the baby.  I was too. She checked me, and again, I made the mistake of asking, because I thought, that she would say '9 or 10cm'. But no, I was just 6cm, and felt discouraged.

I just felt like I needed to push though. So as they were checking my vitals, I just decided to go ahead and push.

Apparently, it went something like this..

"Maybe we should check her again? She really sounds like she is about to have this baby"
" Wait, is she pushing already?"
"Is that the head?????"

I remember with Joel, knowing I needed to push, but the pushing hurt, but with Emiliana (and it soon made sense), the pushing really was not very painful or hard, that ring of fire really wasn;t bad at all!

She flew out... at 4:05pm.  From 6cm & -2, to total deliver in 7 MINUTES.

As they lifted her up to me, I noticed how tiny she was! Esther was 7lbs 11, Rachel 7lbs 15 and Joel 8lbs 5oz ... so imagine our surprise at this tiny 5lbs 13oz beauty.

I couldn't stop saying 'oh my gosh! oh my gosh! oh my gosh!" over and over. I felt amazing. Filled with adrenaline and love. Every part of me filled with so much joy.

I held her and they left her cord to stop pulsing, at which point Josh cut the cord. My prayed had been answered, I was awake, alert and filled with joy.

I was immediately treated with cytotec pretty much the moment she delivered. This is a drug that is used in the stopping and preventing of post partum hemorrhage.

Emiliana latched on immediately, and then proceed to nurse for a solid 30 minutes without stopping right after her birth.

Once I had her, the staff were mindful of my birthplan (as they were the whole labor! they knew it, and stuck to it, no questions or reminders needed! AMAZING people!), I was able to keep her. They never tried to take her, do anything to her, any newborn exams. I think we finally weight, measured and checked her over 4 hours after she was born.

Being in a small country hospital, the sweet nurse and midwife, I think had the same adrenaline rush and were all emotional too, since they don't often have the chance to experience natural birth, with all its rollercoaster emotions and surprises.  I think sometimes in hospitals, the staff become so used to birth, but it meant a lot that they were genuinely grinning and excited as we were. The whole room was on a birth high!

I was so thankful, that from the moment she was born, for four hours, she was snuggled close to me, nursing, feeling loved and treasured. I was so glad that she never had to be away from me, after making the difficult transition from womb to 'earth side'.  All familar sounds, smells and touch.

Pretty soon afterwards, I was able to Skype with my mummy, Mark, Grandma, Grandad, my brother Sam and Emily. Emiliana was busy nursing, so only mum and grandma got to see her. I didn't want to flash everyone. hehe!

After a little while, the nurse came in and I was bleeding more than they liked, so I was started on methergine.   Knowing that, even with preventative treatment, I still hemorrhaged, even though it was significantly less than in the past, along with how fast labor went once it kicked in, (once again!), made me realize how we had made the right choice.

Having the labor managed meant I was able to have a very calm after-delivery experience, nurse my baby and enjoy her. While in the past, I was bleeding so much, that I was unable to nurse well immediately, and ended up having to pass the baby off, while I fought to stay conscious, and felt helpless to take care of my new baby.

Soon after Emi's birth, I started to have leg pain, which the next day we discovered was a blood clot in my leg. So we faced having to treat hemorrhaging and a clot at the same time. It seems I am some what of a medical conundrum at this point!

We still have no idea why I keep bleeding after birth. Preliminary blood tests showed no disorders, and with Joel and Emi, I have not had that signature boggy uterus, we have been baffled as every check revealed a rock solid post - delivery uterus.  We also don't know if the clot was purely because of pregnancy/birth or if it is related to something deeper going on.

I ended up being in hospital 6 days. While I missed Josh, Esther, Rachel and Joel, I really enjoyed being able to rest, sleep when I wanted, no worries of cleaning house or cooking, and getting to bond with Emiliana.

With her being baby 4, I believe it was a real blessing that I was able to focus that time on my tiny baby . I also spent a lot of time in prayer and focus on God, praying over my vocation as a mother, my hormones, praying for God's grace to help me be a calm and graceful mother. It was a special time in many ways... a chance to retreat and grow closer to my sweet Jesus.

Emiliana Lucia Joy was born December 13th 2012 at 4:05pm, weighing 5lbs 13oz and 18inches long.

Emiliana ... "Eminiate"
Lucia... "Light"
Joy (self explanatory!) ....

"To eminate light and joy"

Born on St Lucy's day.

When 2012 began, we prayed it would be a year of more joy in our homes. Here she is, we have 'more joy' in our house forevermore.

We prayed for a healing birth, a birth that ended positively, with no emergencies. That I could hold my little Joy immediately, and never let her go. That I could be strong enough to hold her and from the moment she was born, give her exactly what she needed. Our prayers were heard. Praise the Lord!

Here are my previous birth stories for those interested...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Project Life 365

I have never been the mom that remembers to run and record a first word, the date a tooth fell out. I don't have the patience for scrapbooking.

However, I love to take pictures. I also like to think a lot.  My thoughts get lost and forgotten in the everyday.

So this year, I decided to participate in Project Life 365. A photo a day for a year. That's not a hard challenge for me to actually take a photo. What I am attempting to do though, is share the thoughts that go along with that photo and that day.

A diary so to speak ...  I hope it's something I can print & bind for memories sake, so that my children can reflect on it when they were older, and perhaps get to know their mommy a little more.

You can follow the journey here ...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Finding the light...

Since I don't currently have my photographer website up & running, which is where I normally would post this kind of thing, I decided to go ahead and post here :)

I am doing a 'P52' photo project with a group of photographers. The overall theme, is 'light'. The concept is, that you learn better, how to use and find light creatively for your photos to succeed.

Having a stomach bug and not getting out much lately between car troubles and not yet wanting to venture out solo with 4 littles (one of which is 3 weeks old!), I am restricted to my house and was honestly thinking about quitting, on the first week.

However, today as I was thinking about my p365 photo journal (, I was frustrated because it was 5pm,  the light was going fast and my camera battery was only just charged.

I went into my dark kitchen, only lit by the light coming in through 2 small windows. One, the light was rather flat and neutral,  but the other window, ever evening, the setting sun blasts through it with blinding warm light, so that I have to close the blinds.

Then it dawned on me... It's photographers GOLDEN HOUR outside, this is prime photo op time outside, why couldn't I attempt to use that golden hour sunlight, INSIDE my house.

Boy, was I challenged!

When sharing this pictures, I want to make some things clear first...

- All were taken within about the same 8 square feet, just from different heights and angles.
- My camera really needs a good clean and so does my lens
- They were all taken with natural light, no electric lights, no reflectors, flash etc, just light from the 2 windows.
- I made some minor contrast/exposure tweaks in ACR, but these have not been photoshopped in order to give an authentic representation of the experiment. I chose not to go in and remove shadows/color casts etc because I wanted to show what the lighting really did.
- This weeks specific theme is 'Breaking the rule of thirds' - which will explain some of my more unconventional framing.
- No children were hurt in the carrying out of this experiment ;)

Attempt 1 - Backlight:

My first attempt, I used the sun bursting in from the window as a back light, here you can see the light in very warm, you get a very soft hazy picture, with lots of pretty highlights. However, I was having a hard time because of the strength of the light and movement restrictions, getting a good angle in which I could get her face as sharp as I like, and we are lacking much catchlight in her eyes. I think a reflector would have helped in this case, but I didn't have access to someone to hold one for me to bring the light back into her face.
I will go back to trying to successfully get a good backlit image in this lighting, plus she isn't making the best face.

Attempt 2 - Side lit :

I decided to try and place around with the contrasting light coming through the slats from the side. I have seen some neat pictures done this way... I don't honestly think I 'got' it. Although I think that perhaps a black & white conversion and some tweaking in photoshop, some cloning out of my plug and camera charger back there could actually make this a decent picture.
Here you can see how parts of her face are really blown out and yellow from the bright golden light, and there are some harsh shadows on the left of her face.
I really want to attempt to do something cool & creative with these slats .... so I think more on this.

Attempt 3: Using light from both windows at an angle.

Ok ... kinda bleh. The lighting is boring, I have this huge WHITE distracting segment in the back because of the window,  subject is too soft, but there is non of that golden flaring light that makes it acceptable.   It's not an BAD lighting situation, it's just not terribly exciting and I am not sure what to do  to make it more creative.

Attempt 4: Using my kitchen as the 'open shade'

Here I had her sit down and pushed the chair further back, this removed the harsh light from being right on her, and I think created almost an open shade effect. The light is very evenly distributed on the subject, nice catch lights in the eyes, nice and crisp, lots of color.
This is the SAFEST use of the light, it's really the best portrait lighting and it took me quite a while to figure out how to find a good place to get this in my dark kitchen.


Despite what I thought, I really don't know as much about light as I thought. I know how to use SAFE light. I know how to use light in basic, easy situations, but I do not know how to use light difficult lighting situations to my advantage, how to use them creatively & how to overcome the problems they present.

I am going to keep going back to my kitchen, at sunrise, and sunset (you see the light comes through the other window in the morning!), until I can master using the light creatively!

I am feeling very challenge and excited to see how this journey improves me as a photographer and creatively.

This is exactly what I needed for 2013. I had decided already to step away from professionally offering photography for this year already, for personal reasons and was looking for an opportunity, to use the time off, to challenge myself technically and creatively.

Excited to see what 2013 brings!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year Resolutions...

I thought so much about 2013, about THIS blog. I had eloquent words, wisdom, high hopes. Then this morning I woke up feeling quite wretched. After months of exhausting, morning aches of pregnancy, my 2 year old waking up at 5am, I had developed the habit of immediately putting on Thomas the tank engine, then drifting off on the sofa to sleep.

My first resolution was LESS TV. We used to be a no TV home, but the last 9 months, eradicated my resolution, and the habits slowly formed. 2013, we would have a basket of pre approved DVDs, that the children would only be allowed to watch one per day, during the time I was preparing dinner.

Yet, as I woke up with this hard hitting stomach bug, I caved into Thomas, since I knew I needed the cheerful engines help during the sprints to that porcelain throne.

It was 6 hours into 2013 and I had already failed.

My children all awoke. We gathered on the sofa with blankets and PJ's, and I clutched my bottle of water, nursed tiny almost 3 week old, snuggled little boy, and watched girls in PJ's & tiara's enjoy Cinderella.

It was then I realized, that I hardly even just sit like this with the kids. If they are watching a movie... I am working, editing, cleaning ... and then it became clear, I had not completely failed, since my other resolutions were falling nicely into place....

Time to sit quietly with the children...
More time to soak up and observe the simple things in life...
Observing my children's personalities through varying reactions to Lucifee, Gus Gus, the sisters...
Watching their faces, hearing their thoughts...


2012 my resolution was to have more joy...  more joy that comes from Christ. 2013 ... my prayer is that I will have more peace ... in my heart & in my home.

I think that all the resolutions that are filling my heart ... have one over arching theme... the desire for peace.

The type of peace, that allows you to see more clearly and enjoy simplicity and silence.

The kind of peace that adds a steady pace and routine to each day.

Peace that brings organization, that helps life fall into place, because you have found a rhythm.

Peace that pauses the action and opens eyes to the beautiful.

A peacefulness that opens your eyes to praise and thanks.

A peace that shows you how much you have to be thankful for and to soak up every second before it slips away...

The peace that lets anger, frustration, raised voices ... become quiet...

A peace that slows down your negative emotions and gives you self control over them,

A peace that shows you Christ in all things.

A peace that teaches you how to be like Christ in all circumstances...

My resolutions aren't rules I can fail at... my resolution, is a prayer...  for a peaceful spirit, that when 2014 begins, I can look back at 2013, and see all the ways, that a journey to greater peace in my heart and my home, has permeated all the tiny details.

The same way, I can see how 2012's prayer for JOY permeates every single aspect of our daily life, and our family identity.

And I pray, that there will be lots less, maybe NO tv... because I think my need for it, comes from lack of peace... because... I don't have the peace to believe, that in Christ, I have the strength and ability to handle the hard days without it.

I came to NEED it, as a coping mechanism... to bring peace... when I believed... that I couldn't handle my day without those times of cartoon induced rest... and when I rely on a show, rather than Christ to get me through... I miss out on ways He can sanctify me and also, opportunities to read, play, talk or create with my little ones... before they are grown, and its too late... and I look back and regret...

Now ... for some FUN goals for the year ...

  • Paint my nails every now and then in fun colors. 
  • Write out 1000 Gifts
  • Take a photo a day
  • Read a book, one at a time, from cover to cover, instead of having several on the go all at once, that never get finished. 
  • Always fold my laundry right out of the dryer.
  • Dye my hair a different color ... red? brunette? 
  • Write more poetry
  • Fill out the children's baby books. 
  • Go to the outer banks and sleep on the beach! 
  • Find a favorite Thai and a favorite Indian restaurant in the Raleigh Area
  • Run the 5K with Holly Barton in Washington DC
  • Mix colors and patterns creatively when I dress