Phoenix Birth Photographer
Welcome Riley Ellis
This year, I wanted to focus more on sharing the stories of the amazing families I photograph. I asked Vanessa to share her beautiful birth story with us. Her story touched me deeply, to say that I am blessed to have her in my life not only as a client but now as a friend is a bit of an understatement. This woman was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, the way she loves and lives is truly inspiring. I hope you enjoy her precious story.
I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis on Saint Patrick's Day in 2011. Now, I realize I'm writing a birth story for my daughter who was born in January of 2017, but I promise – it had everything to do with my decisions leading up to that day, so bear with me!
My first daughter was born in February of 2012, and although I remember a hundred things about becoming a mom, the entirety of my birth experience has been all but lost to me. Because, for me, one of the worst symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis is memory loss. I couldn't tell you, honestly, if it is short term memory or long term memory loss that affects me more, as both seem to go to the wayside some days. But all I know is that when I try to look back on that day in my mind, I have so few solid memories left. So, when my husband and I found out last year that our family would be growing once again, I knew I wanted to do everything in my power to freeze that day and those irreplaceable first moments, especially since we were told years before not to expect another pregnancy, and knowing this one would be our last.
Like most moms-to-be, I dreamed of having a natural (albeit DEFINITELY drug assisted) birth. My first daughter was born cesarean, so one of my first orders of business was to find an OB/GYN that supported my VBAC dreams. Then, I began researching photographers. I didn't want to let a single moment of that day slip away from me again. It really felt like a pipe-dream, to be honest with you. Everyone dreams of having those beautiful, raw, emotional first moments of life photos like they see all over the internet, but having someone actually capture that for you- just another regular person – seemed pretty unattainable. One of my closest friends is a 3-time pro- mom, and a doula on top of that, so she was (and is) my general go-to for all things baby. She also had these INCREDIBLE birth photos done for her when her youngest was born last year. I remember telling her, “Your birth photos are art. I don't expect to have anything like this. Nobody gets anything as beautiful as this.” But nonetheless, she contacted Chyanne, who was still happy and willing to work me into her schedule!
As is to be expected, my pregnancy didn't go the way I had hoped. I developed a condition called polyhydramnios, where I had way too much amniotic fluid, and then on top of that, pre-eclampsia (again). My doctors told me there was little choice for me, a repeat cesarean was necessary as soon as was medically acceptable. So, they scheduled my daughter to be born on January 16th, 2017, at 37 weeks exactly.
I showed up to the hospital that day steely, ready, prepared... calm. I knew what to expect with a cesarean and wasn't afraid. My husband has a super weak stomach and couldn't handle being in the OR, so I decided my mom would be going in with me, along with my birth photographer. While I was sitting in triage, the hospital told me their policy dictated that only one person (regardless of whether they are there personally or professionally) is allowed with me into the OR. My heart of hearts knew that the moment of my daughter's birth was something deeply personal and what should be unforgettable, so I made the decision to have Chyanne go in with me. I was prepared to “go it alone”, so to speak, just so I wouldn't lose those priceless memories.
Now is where it gets hard (even now) to write the events of that day. I remember them having me walk to the OR and get settled on the table. The surgical team gave me an epidural, situated me on the table, hooking me up to the monitors and getting me settled on oxygen and draped while my support person and doctor got scrubbed and ready. There were tugs and pulls on their end and anxious waiting on my end. Chyanne kept a vigilant eye for me, letting me know what was going on on the other side of the drape.
There is no pain, per se, as anyone who has experienced a cesarean can attest. Just incredibly bizarre feelings of tugging and pressure. There were long pauses of little activity, and then suddenly, then entire room began to move quickly. “The pediatric nurse is ready, its any second now,” Chyanne told me. Then drape was lowered and the moment was here.
My daughter, Riley Ellis Carlson, was born at 12:32pm. The nurses took her over to the infant warmer and began assessing her. She was a perfect 7 pounds, 8 ounces. My lifeline, Chyanne, hovered in the in-between, where I couldn't be, keeping me notified of what was going on. “They're just cleaning her up,” she told me. “She's beautiful, Vanessa.” Soon, a nurse came over to let me know that Riley wasn't breathing as well as they would like, so they were going to take her for more intensive monitoring into recovery and she would be waiting for me when I was finished. I asked Chyanne to go with her, even then not wanting a moment of that precious new life to be missed.
Shortly thereafter, I was wheeled into recovery myself. I got to hold her for the first time. The moment she was placed on my chest, everything was right in the entire universe. She was being given supplemental oxygen, so I held her in one hand, and her tiny little oxygen mask in the other. She and I breathed in those first few moments together, while I willed myself not to forget anything. The feel of her impossibly small little hands, the sight of her crazy post-birth hair. Chyanne stepped out so that my husband could come meet his little girl. But despite the nurses hopes that skin to skin time would help my baby girl regulate her breathing on her own, she wasn't doing as well as they wanted, so they made the decision to take her back to the nursery for even more close monitoring, and her dad and Chyanne went with her. Once she was there, she began declining. She was transported to NICU, where she would spend her first 10 days of life.
From here, my memory (for now) clears again some. I remember very clearly sitting in my post-operative suite waiting for the all-clear to go see my baby. Once I was able to walk to NICU to be with her, things once again fell into place. Days passed agonizingly slow, but I was able to document them for myself. Riley was finally given the all clear to go home 2 days before my 30th birthday, on January 25th, 2017.
Riley is now 3 months old, sleeping peacefully next to me in her bassinet. She is in every aspect a healthy, happy and wholesome child. The first time I opened my birth photo gallery, I cried. I couldn't believe I was lucky enough get to relive that day over and over again through Chyanne's artful rendition of my birth story.
I know that my future is uncertain. Multiple Sclerosis can be an unforgiving beast, and some days I worry my girls may not see me old and gray, but through documenting moments such as these, my babies will never forget me. Long after I'm gone, my daughters will get to remember their mom. Thank you, Chyanne, for giving us our memories.