Sibling Meeting Stories | Boca Raton Regional Hospital

One of the most important moments for me when I was pregnant with my second baby was to truly be present, experience and capture the first moment my first born child would become a big sister and meet her baby sister.

Circumstances surrounding my birth were complicated and we didn’t get to preserve that moment through photographs. So as with birth stories, another incredibly important moment of my life I missed out on having documented, I put my entire heart into capturing this extremely fleeting moment for my families.

Your older child(ren) will only meet your new baby once. If they are under the age of 8, their reaction is incredibly quick. I have only a few moments to capture this incredible exchange of emotions from your oldest to your newest and it is so precious.

I absolutely loved coming to Boca Raton Regional Hospital Labor and Delivery to capture these big sisters meeting their baby brother.


My Full Birth Trauma Stories

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I had my first child at 27 years old. Before her birth, I had never spoken with any women about pregnancy and my gynecologist certainly never educated me on anything pregnancy or birth related. What I mean is, no one ever said to me:

Paulina: Birth is different from getting your wisdom teeth removed. You may not want to know how they go in there and rip your teeth out but you need to know as much as possible about pregnancy and birth in order to own your experience and make educated choices.

No one ever said that to me in my life.

So I went into pregnancy winging it.

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I put 100% of my trust in my OBGYN, because he was an OBGYN, do I have to explain any more? He went to school for this, he delivered thousands of babies. What more did I need to do?

And my OBGYN never said "you really should take a birth education class, and also, here are some resources to prepare for birth" or anything. My prenatal visits were laughable, under 5 minutes in and out. Extremely impersonal, most of the visits I left feeling like “did he really know who I was?”

In the beginning, I would bring in a list of questions regarding pregnancy and birth, but he would dismiss all of the questions and say I’m the ‘perfect patient’ how he wishes every patient would be 'this perfect, and that I had nothing to worry about and I shouldn’t bother myself with those questions.

How I really felt was that he thought I was an idiot, or that he didn’t have time to waste on me.

But I stopped bringing in the lists of questions and just shut down.

I had such bad red flags, but I suppressed them, I pushed them down and told myself to shut up, you’re wasting his time and annoying him, don’t look bad in front of this highly educated individual, you don’t want him to be annoyed by you.

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I went into my first birth completely uneducated and it was nothing short of fear-filled and overwhelming.

My OB asked if I wanted to be induced, I said "I guess?"

He might as well have asked me in Chinese, I had no idea what an induction meant.

After 12 hours of cervidil they turned on the pitocin, and the pitocin made her heart rate decel (it dropped and that was bad) and they said c/section, I was faced with my greatest fear.

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This was literally the one thing I was freaking petrified of and refused to learn anything about and in that way, hey it happened.

One thing about me and my first daughter, when we are freaking out in public, you can’t see it, we internalize the shit out of it. So clearly no one had any idea I was having a panic attack.

And me, not knowing anything, I thought I was going to die.

I looked at my husband with tear filled eyes as I laid AWAKE FOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY on the OR table and said "if something happens to me, if I bleed out and I don't make it, you have to promise me that you will make sure our daughter grows up with my parents and my family as part of her life"

I honestly have no idea what was even going through his head hearing me saying that. Maybe he was equally afraid. We’ll have to ask Mr. Splechta in my next blog post.

My OBGYN walked into the operating room, DIDN’T EVEN GREET ME, and imagine how I am seeing this: I am thinking I’m most likely going to die, I hadn't spoken or seen my OBGYN at all since my last prenatal visit, he immediately talked about 'last night's game' with OR staff.

And this fucking conversation is stuck in my memory for nearly 7 years now. “So how ‘bout that game last night”

What the fuck, to be carrying around ‘his last famous words’ in my head all these years.

I thought thats it, this is how I die.

No wonder I had post partum depression for a large part of that first year, although I wondered why did I get unlucky and stuck with ppd?

I never connected the two.

I was a photographer and after I had my daughter, I met a lot of mommies with infants, and that became my tribe. My life boat. But lord, I didn’t even leave my house to meet other people until she was 9 months old. It was thanks to an internet mommy-group friend who had anxiety too, we both agreed to show up at the playground one day and take a chance. And that is when my post partum depression fog began to slowly lift.

The more moms I met, the more I shifted into motherhood photography.

I was hearing a lot of stories of women being bashed for breastfeeding and also for doing so in public, and I started to build some fire in my heart to be their voice. So I got into breastfeeding photography and with each new photograph I posted a very compelling story, a combination of facts and empowerment, to tell people to basically fuck off, and that breastfeeding your child is as normal as bottle feeding, AND in public.

I worked with a lot of pregnant and nursing moms. And all our children were of similar ages.

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One of the moms / maternity photoshoot clients welcomed me into her birth space at the time, this was 5 years ago now.

I went feeling curious.

I thought, hey this could be the next natural step for my work, I do maternity, family, newborn, breastfeeding, birth is part of that cycle (I had NO freaking idea what I was in for, birth is NOTHING like photography)

As I drove to her hospital, I wondered what birth looks like, I felt I completely missed out on seeing the rest of the story in an LD room with my birth.

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The moment she gave birth to her son, not only did I transcend whatever photography meant to me at the time, I was in love with the documentary aspect of birth, but I also I decided I was finally ready to shed my fears and try for a second baby.

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This time I had ammunition. This was about 4 years ago, at the time, I knew from all the moms I met at the playground, (many of them with traumatic birth stories of their own) that in order to have a positive experience you need a midwife, a doula and to stay as far away from a hospital as possible. (Oh how things have changed for me in these last 4 years)

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In route to a home birth (during my second pregnancy) this was the day

In route to a home birth (during my second pregnancy) this was the day

The home birth I attended

The home birth I attended

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So at 20 weeks of my pregnancy, I left the care of an OBGYN (who I very much admire) and at 22 weeks I hired the only remaining available home birth midwife in the community (everyone else was completely full for my due-month).

So I hired this midwife, even though sitting with her during that consultation I thought “she’s not even paying attention to me” (I didn’t realize at the time that not every midwife is perfect for every mom)

I hired a doula who was excited to ‘trade services’ with me being a photographer.

And I decided I was going to have a vbac (vaginal birth after a c/section) at home.

My husband got me that said "she believed she could so she did" and it became my creed. I was convinced, that it is the power of the mind.

As my due date approached I started having some health related issues that were dismissed during prenatal visits as nothing too big, and while red flags were popping up in volumes, I tried to shut my instincts down.

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I went to a prenatal visit with my midwife and my doula came with me (to meet my midwife for the first time) during that visit I completely faded into the background as they networked and I felt like a 3rd wheel. I thought “why am I even here? maybe I should just leave”

I felt so fucking invisible during that visit, or maybe even like an annoyance.

But I shut down my intuition, because lord, I was well into the last month of my pregnancy, it's not like "vbac accepting providers" were plentiful or even willing to take a transfer with 4 weeks to spare.

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The night before my due date I was so fearful that I wouldn't go into labor and would have to be transferred out of home birth midwifery care and into OBGYN care to my midwife’s backup OB 1 hour from my home, so I went to get ‘acupuncture to try to naturally induce’

I called my mom that evening and I said “Mom, can you please pray that when I go into labor, my water doesn’t break until the last minute”

I knew what happens if you’re a vbac at home, and your water breaks before labor even starts. You have no chance if labor doesn’t promptly begin then, and you’re on the clock. Then you get transferred, and who knows how that will end.

At 5am the next morning, my water broke. My labor didn’t start until 10am. My worst nightmare.

By 2pm, I knew my midwife would be coming soon to check my progress, and I started to panic. I called my doula and told her that I need her. I wasn’t in active labor and if I didn’t do something to stimulate stronger and closer-together contractions, I was afraid I would have to be transferred.

My doula relayed to me her frustrations that pick up time was coming up at her kids school, she’d have to arrange that and also get the tub from her house

Me thinking: WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS?!

And then she completely abandoned and stripped down all my security with saying: if you’re not even in active labor, by the time you do get to active labor, I may be completely exhausted and unable to support you for active labor, so you have to choose if you want me there now or labor, I can’t do both.

And I thought “but what if I never get to active labor if you don’t come help me with spinning babies or rebozo or something else to strengthen my contractions?”

And then I thought, she clearly doesn’t want to be here, why would I push someone to come who doesn’t want to be here. So I told her not to come.

Don’t fucking come.

By 5pm, my midwife arrived and checked me and I was only 3cm dilated, but worse, I wasn’t anywhere near active labor. My contractions were weak, erratic. She told me she already called her backup OBGYN who told her she needed to transfer me.

Laboring for at least 24 hours at home prior to transfer went out the window. She never told me that if my waters were ruptured prior to active labor, I would get cut down to 12 hours at home. And so here I was, driving to a city an hour away, to a hospital I had never set foot in and I was put in a really gross under cared for room in Triage with a heck of a bitch of a nurse who really didn’t care about the fact that I was barely holding on emotionally. She didn’t care that my first birth was extremely fucking traumatizing. And that this was suppose to be my redemption, a healing experience.

She painfully checked me for dilation.

I was left in Triage for hours without being told anything informative. I kept asking when I would get to speak with the doctor. I wanted to know if I could move around, if I could continue to try to labor. No one could answer that. They had no idea where he was, or when he’d even come to see me.

And then suddenly, once I was in the room, the OBGYN called me on the phone, he didn’t even come into the room. He said there was a situation, he was needed at another hospital that night to be on call for incoming VBACs, and I could have a c/section now, or sign an “against medical recommendation” form that released them of any liability if my baby or I died.

I said to him: “If I am understanding correctly, if I don’t consent to a c/section right now, I have to sign this form, and then if my baby’s heart decels or gets stuck, no one will come to deliver or help me?”

He responded with: “That’s correct”

I agreed to the c/section.

Then called my doula, to come pick up my 3 year old and take her to my parents house. The least she could do.

My doula arrived and said something to the effect of: at least you are being given a choice and it is your choice to make.

I scoffed. That was no choice.

Once out of the operating room, they pumped so many drugs in me (never telling me which or even asking me) and I felt paralyzed and my eyes shut despite me fighting for my life to keep them open. I was in a feeling of desperation, I needed my baby and my husband, but no nurse bothered to stop by my bed, I was trying to call out by the drugs inhibited my voice. I didn’t know what time it was, I couldn’t see anything because I didn’t know where my glasses were and my vision is so bad without them. I wasn’t even seeing nurses passing by my bed to stop one. I didn’t even know how much time passed by with me paralyzed in this bed. Then suddenly as the drugs wore off, I called a nurse, begged her to find my husband. A very long time passed and she returned to say they couldn’t find him. I never felt so alone and abandoned in my life and I just wanted to see and touch my baby.

I’ll say it loud and clear ^ that was North Shore Medical Center August 2015.

Finally when they FOUND my husband, who had passed out in the waiting room (the man was awake with me for 24 hours) they brought him to me, but he said they didn’t have a room for me, the baby was stuck in the nursery, and I couldn’t get out of bed, they refused to bring the baby to me. When what I strongly feel was an absolutely disorganized and destructive system at this hospital finally ended my ‘recovery time’ plus their administrational ‘shift change’ and FOUND me a room, I saw my baby for the first time in EIGHT HOURS.

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Months later, I found myself suffering from daily panic attacks.

I could not function as a mother and I told my husband, I need to see a therapist, this isn’t good.

I was trying to heal from major abdominal surgery with a 3 year old and a newborn at home and my husband hustling at work to support all 4 of us.

This is the birth that broke me.

Completely broke me.

I lost all hope that anyone in the birth world cared about mothers.

I was suppose to have this totally supported and empowered birth experience because I chose a midwife I chose a doula I chose a home birth, and instead, my second birth was FIVE THOUSAND times more traumatizing than my first birth ever was.

And we were so done having babies.

After two horribly traumatizing birth experiences, there was no way I would ever allow myself to be in such a vulnerable state again.

Two years later I attended a hospital birth with Courtney McMillian, a Certified Nurse Midwife in Boca Raton.

This was my first hospital birth after having my traumatic birth with my second child.

Courtney stayed with her patient in the LD room during labor. She was patient. She sat at her bed. She was soft spoken. She was positive, she was loving, she was like a mother or a sister to her patient.

After the birth, she hugged her patient’s spouse after a tough delivery.

And then as time moved on, I began seeing Courtney at more and more of my clients births as I photographed more births.

And my hope started to grow from a tiny little spark into a little flame. Maybe there are people who care about women’s psychological state during birth.

Over the last three years now from that moment meeting her three years ago a purpose grew in my life, that little flame exploded into a massive bonfire.

I decided my mission in life is to photograph what POSITIVE birth experiences can look like, what empowered women and really damn committed birth providers look like, so that any woman who my work reaches would never ever describe her birth the way I do my second birth: abandoned, unsupported, pressured, condescended, defeated.

I will damn well make sure the world is aware of what birth trauma looks like

I will damn well make sure women know how to find fierceness within yourself to never have that traumatic experience

I will damn well make sure women know how to build a team of people who will worship and support you as a birthing woman.

I can’t even look at our cell phone pictures without crying, I just looked at them yesterday and it is nearly 4 years later from my second birth.

In these last four years, I have met a few teams of precious individuals who honor the sacred birthing women. I sing praises of these LMs, CNMs and OBGYNS on my social media accounts, because the rest of the world should be ashamed of how they treat birthing women, and these fine individuals represent the change I will damn well make sure the next generation of birthing women will experience.

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The only way I heal my trauma

My trauma I live with to this day.

I fight to every single birthing woman in south Florida, that they may listen to their intuition and guide them down the path of empowerment through my work.

Loose Stomach Skin After Pregnancy

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I have been terrified of this post for almost 4 years.

From the moment my second daughter was born, I knew I did not want to hide forever.

A few weeks ago, my niece saw my stomach for the first time when my oldest was hugging my stomach (both of my kids routinely hug my belly and thank it for carrying them) and my niece said with an innocent and genuine surprise "why do you have a grandma stomach?"

…and I felt so much shame that I have hid it for almost 4 years.

That tight belly skin has become the only non-shocking belly for my niece, along with all the young ladies and mothers of the world.

I've known that I want to share my journey as a 2x polyhydramnios mama with you all a long time ago.

Crap, I'm crying. 

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I haven't shared, not because I thought someone would judge me or be an asshole to me,

in fact I already knew years ago that all of you would be nothing but proud and loving if I did this, but as I took these pictures today the only words that came to mind about my belly were "disgusting monster"

I think that's why I've hid in the shadows all these years covering my stomach with tunics and tshirts.

But today I need to get past that for myself

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for my daughters to see that even though I'm crying while I am writing this


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and posting these pictures

and this is causing my ego pain to share this with you

I am being brave.

I am being brave for the 1% of pregnant moms who have polyhydramnios who forever hide in the shadows.

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I am being brave for all the women who hide their bodies as if they were shameful.

No matter how I felt about myself in the past or will in the future, I won't hide anymore. No more curated posts, only the real stuff.

The real stuff that will stop tearing women apart about not being fucking perfect after giving life to a baby. 

#istandwithbirdspapaya

What Makes a Birth Photographer?

Today I want to write to you about Birth Photographers. 


A little-known fact about the people who capture birth is that they are not photographers alone. Documenting the moment a woman meets her baby for the first time changes you as a person, whether you allow yourself to fall into it, to become transformed, or whether you don't realize it and suddenly awaken to realize you are a different version of you. Either way, the change that happens to a photographer when they witness women birth their babies is inevitable. 


When a person commits to being on-call for many weeks, waking up multiple nights in a row due to false alarms, sitting with her through the throws of labor, watching the miracle of life be born to her and of her, whether doctor, midwife, nurse, doula or photographer, it simply is impossible to go back to regularly scheduled life as if nothing had transpired and as if you were unaffected. 


Birth affects all those who witness it in various ways.


When your job's entire focus is to observe as much of the process of birth as possible.

For you to capture as much of a mother's emotions during this process, as much of the connections and relationships between mom and everyone part of this day, as much of this transformational process as a possible, because by craft you are a birth documentarian, a meeting stories artist... Then, none of the details of the day escape you, you cannot ignore and avoid them because they are YOU, as they transform from living art into your documented art, and you are forever changed by birth. 


You become connected to many women through time by the universal path every human being takes to arrive into life, called birth. 


Your presence at births is a never-ending sisterhood that is connected like a tree with its roots spread across the entire globe. 


You become connected to those who are giving birth, to their partners who are experiencing this with them, their providers delivering their children, their older children eagerly coming to meet their baby sibling. You become part of an unwritten family that goes to the ends of this earth and never dissipates. And being united in this day as a historian and documentarian of birth through the spirit of art, you are never forgotten or discarded, despite your silence and uninvolved presence, in a unique way, you are part of the stories of families that affect this world. 


PHOTOGRAPHY

Unlike family photography and studio portraiture work, you cannot know exactly how your birth will unravel, what day it will happen on, how long it will last and even at the end of the day how your baby will be born. Even with a planned c-section birth, there is not always a 100% guarantee what day you will meet your baby.


PLANNING YOUR BIRTH

It’s impossible to plan birth. Even with a wedding that has been planned for an entire year, somethings always don’t end up according to plan, and your wedding is on an hour by hour schedule. With birth, you just don’t know what to expect. As much as you plan and prepare for it, it is not sheer willpower and a calm and certain mind alone that determines how your birth will go, you're also at the mercy of your body, your uterus, and your baby.


PLAN VS. PREPARE

It is important for a woman to prepare for her birth by take birthing classes to educate herself on the physiological aspects of birth, (to be aware of what your body is doing during this intricate process that belongs to you and your body), and don't forget about the mind: a woman should prepare herself psychologically for an experience of her life that will with certainly transform her.


IT'S IMPORTANT TO HONOR HOSPITAL POLICIES - THEY ARE THERE FOR A REASON

This is a very valid point "it’s important to honor hospital policies," I cannot agree enough with that statement! 

We don’t want to bring into our hospitals people who will be disrespectful and disruptful. Labor and delivery is a place that is safe and sterile any persons who cannot honor that would be counterproductive to that. 


HEALTHY MOM, HEALTHY BABY

Isn't the ultimate goal of birth is to unite a healthy mother with her healthy baby as quickly after birth as possible? (unlike the past decades when babies were sent away for hours to the nursery)

And doesn't the act of this "golden hour" of bonding time between mom and baby not hurt the mother nor put her baby’s life in danger and is implemented for the sake of an emotional bond with baby, more successful breastfeeding, steadying baby's temperature, heart beat and for the sake of psychological well being?


Similarly, a woman can have the fleeting moment, the moment she lays eyes on her baby's face for the very first time ever and touches her baby for the first time, the baby she has carried in her womb for the last 9 months, documented by a professional who has a code of ethics, with a clinical knowledge of birth and has a deep respect for medical personnel to never get in the way of a nurse, anesthesiologist, midwife, obstetrician or any other medical person. With a track record of listening to medical staff, standing where they are out of the way, not touching anything sterile. 


CESAREAN BIRTHS ARE SURGICAL

Besides a birthing woman's partner, there is the clear hesitation of letting another family member into the operating room with a camera to take pictures -- this is a sterile environment and that person might disrupt that, or worse, they might faint at the sight of surgery. There is even the hesitation of allowing entrance to the operating room a photographer who has never attended nor witnessed even a vaginal delivery before. 


DEPRESSION

Everyone is aware of post partum blues and post partum depression. ACOG even lists that cesarean birth may cause more fatigue or longer states of fatigue over vaginal delivery and lists fatigue as one of the leading causes of postpartum depression 


“Many women feel very tired after giving birth. It can take weeks for a woman to regain her normal strength and energy. For women who have had their babies by cesarean birth, it may take even longer.” 


And everyone from doctors to websites offer solutions from how to diagnose ppd or how to medicate ppd but it is not nearly as often discussed how to strive to prevent ppd from ever even arising.


ACOG also lists changes in hormones as a leading cause of depression: 

“Changes in hormone levels—Levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease sharply in the hours after childbirth. These changes may trigger depression in the same way that smaller changes in hormone levels trigger mood swings and tension before menstrual periods.” 


But did you know that gentle cesarean, which includes skin to skin, a clear drape for mom to see the baby’s face instantly as they are delivered (without seeing the surgical incision), longer periods of mom-baby bonding during the first “golden hour” and that all these aspects can contribute to a release of “happy hormones” called endorphins? And that unlike adrenaline and other hormones, these endorphins can contribute to mom being less likely to experience post partum depression 


>>> source <<< 


WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU PHOTOGRAPH YOUR BIRTH?!


Honestly, it is a good and valid question, a lot of people don't get it, so let's ask it:

Why is it necessary for women to have their birth photographed?


GLAMOUR AND FAME

I can tell you it isn't glamour and fame. A woman who hires a birth photographer isn't concerned with glamour or fame and in fact, understands that she will likely not look her best in the photographs from her birth story. 

Sure, in preparation, she may put on mascara, or waterproof foundation, but haven’t you ever had a challenging day where are you feel a bit of confidence and courage when you took a moment to feel your very best, despite everything else being challenging and uncertain? 


SOCIAL MEDIA

In this day and age of many people putting countless of the most minute and intimate details of their days, you might think Facebook or Instagram has something to do with birth photography. 

Don't get me wrong -- I am grateful that I have access to social media. I believe the topics of pregnancy, labor, birth, and post partum are not talked about nearly enough among women who are going to be stepping into this chapter of their life in the next decade, so I love having the ability to share stories from the clients of mine who have given me permission to share their photos and talk about various pregnancy and motherhood topics. But social media is not even on the table with half of my clients. They want privacy and that is my priority. They know they can trust me. 


IT IS JUST 1 DAY 

It may be just 1 day but it is not just A day. 

It is not just ANY day. 

This isn't like going in for an endoscopy or a cavity filling. 

You are MEETING LIFE. 

A life YOU created, grew, nurtured, supported, spoke to, felt moving in your belly for 9 months. A life you prepared for, for 9 months. He or she has a little room waiting for them back at your home. A bassinet. Newborn diapers, and that one special outfit. 

You're about to take a lifetime of photos and videos of this little person. 

And this is the moment you meet them. 

But it also so much more. 

You're not pregnant every year of your life, and even with large families, your years of carrying babies in your womb are limited. 

And how many times is your body and your mind physically in this in-between world where you are neither pregnant nor not pregnant, when your baby is in the birth canal, entering this world. 

How many times in your life do you literally need to summon the amount of courage, raw feminine energy and power to bring your baby earthside? The level of vulnerability and sheer power that balance on this day are not repeated in any other days of your life. There isn't another day of your life where your emotions are entirely beyond your control, and your guard are let down because meeting your child for the first time in your life only happens this once. 


I cannot speak for every single birth photographer on this planet because every woman experiences birth differently, and many birth photographers are women who have experienced their own childbirths and that contributes in a large portion to the passion they put forth in the photographs they captures for their birth photography clients.


POSITIVE

Some birth photographers had positive birth experiences that inspired them to educate or to give the gift of having these memories preserved for other mothers.


TRAUMATIC

Other Birth Photographer’s have had emotionally traumatic experiences which inspired them to seek out and educate about choosing better providers, better prenatal preparation and education, better postpartum support and that is the driving force behind their work.


ART

And even other Birth Photographer’s are so swept off their feet by the beauty and raw power of women who give birth to babies and that is the driving force behind their work.


Every birth photographer comes into this profession from a different life journey, a different inspiration, a different calling. 


ORIGIN

When my first born daughter was around 9 months old and I finally worked up the courage to look at the pictures my husband took on a cheap camera the day that she was born, I was sad because my husband wasn’t in any of the moments that really mattered to me, or in barely any photos at all. Because he took them and he isn't a photographer, and more importantly, my husband isn't a documentarian nor a woman who desperately wants to preserve the moment of birth.  


When the day passes by with the glimpse of the eye, families that hire me will be able to remember what it felt like walking into the hospital, preparing for baby to be born, walking down a hallway, having the strings of a labor down tied, having their husband or partner kiss their head the moment tears were streaming down mom's face, they felt a call to support, the very first cry baby lets out when their voice is so fresh and it will never sound the same ever again, the look in your partners eyes the very first time they become a parent— that look never happens again in their life time. 


A STORY OF LOVE

These are the moments I strive to capture for my clients. Because this is a story of courage, of preparation, a moment they prayed and waited for, for months, some families for years and years after failed rounds of IUI and IVF, the loss that is brought with miscarriage, for some families even stillbirths that they remember to this day. But above all, this is a story of love. 

It's Not Just about Photographs for me

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A few days ago I received a phone call from an expecting mama.

It is her first baby and she’s due in 5 months, and I’m so excited for her.

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Although meeting people virtually and not in person is not as common for me, (while I do travel for birth each year, most of my clients are local), I am a little old school in that

I like to sit down with my couples over a cup of coffee, tea or a smoothie and learn about them

but this mom lives very far from me (further than my typical client) so we agreed to do a Facetime contract signing instead of getting together in person.

This morning we met for the first time over Facetime. As soon as I introduced myself and said hello, I wanted to know more about dad.

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It is my opinion that in today’s day and age there are a lot of different aspects of pregnancy, labor, birth and post partum that are a long lost art. One of them being, we don’t nurture a connection with all three parties (the birthing person, their partner/spouse and baby). If we are doing it right, we try to nurture mom & baby relationships, but

mom’s partner/spouse immediately has to go back to work (most of the United States offers no paternal leave from work) and there are also not as many couples going to every prenatal visit together, birthing classes together, meeting the midwife together, the labor doula, doing the hospital tour together, etc.

In other words, there’s a bit of a disconnect.

My business is very intimate to me. Because your birth story is very intimate to you, so I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Because of my philosophy of my work in the birth world, to me it is imperative that I meet with all the parents, not just the birthing person.

A big part of this is definitely about the birthing day… the last thing I want is to walk into the delivery room the day you are giving birth (or to the birth center or your home) and find your partner or spouse with their guard up, because a non-medical stranger they’ve never met before is “watching”

As photographers, as DOCUMENTARIANS of birth, we are always “watching”

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And if you haven’t had the chance to meet me, to learn why I do this for a living, and how committed I am to my families, it is easy for me to understand why a partner or a spouse would have their guard up with me in the delivery room.

The purpose behind me documenting this incredible moment for you both is so that you can specially let your guard down, be present and enjoy this moment.

I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to guard their emotions, their attention, to watch whether I am being intrusive, to be protective over their birthing partner, that is not at all the type of environment I want to cater to during labor and birth.

So going back to this morning, when I asked dad if he has had the chance to see any of my work (my birth photography, my birth videos) and what really spoke to him, so that I could learn what is important not only to the expecting mom but to her husband, he told me right away he had not seen any of my work yet.

Which means only mom has seen and fallen in love with my work.

While sometimes that can be enough, and all a couple needs as a motivator to invest in my work, because in this case, the mom’s husband trusts her judgement in making this decision of investing in something she really finds value in, a majority of the time, I need for the partner/spouse to let their guard down and meet me.

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I spent a part of this morning contemplating how many photographers in America are saying they are ok with it if partner/spouse doesn't see their work or meet them beforehand the day mom goes into labor.

One thing I have noticed about the location I serve (south Florida) is that

“burn-out” is high among photographers who are offering birth photography services..

Many of the photographers I revered for their birth photography 4-5 years ago no longer offer it because many of them did indeed burned out or lost their spark for it.

I also do find it common that there isn't as much gratitude in the "birth-photography" world as their is for labor doulas and midwives and OBs. I have personally noticed several times when a labor doula supports a mom for 12 to 24 hours of intense labor filled with hard work on mom’s part and many emotions, a deep bond is created and it is hard to break and it is on-going for months and years well after baby has been born. Similar with midwives and OBs who are supportive of their patients through 9 months of pregnancy, labor, delivery and post partum visits, moms develop a sort of revered bond with their provider.

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But I do find that in the birth photography world, it is often a text saying "we love the photos" and that's where the relationship often ends for many photographers & their clients down here in south Florida (unless mom gets pregnant again down the road and reaches out). With this being said, I don’t want to down-play birth clients of mine who our relationships have continued with well after birth. I have the amazing honor (that makes me want to sing, dance and cry all at the same time!) of becoming a godmother to one of my birth client’s babies this coming June (he was born last year), two of my clients who gave birth last summer are some of my dearest friends. One of my home birth transfers to my favorite hospital in Boca is also one of my closest friends to this day. All of this because I really really care about my families and I care about what is happening in their lives well after they give birth. But I do work with 2 to 3 families giving birth each month (which translates to anywhere from 24 to 36 birth clients each year — I only photograph birth, no other genres of photography), so not every couple stays in touch with me even though I want to; some move out of state, some go back to a high demanding job, others really only hired me for photography, and so there definitely are families who even gave birth in the last three months who don’t keep in touch with me.

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South Florida is a pretty transitional area, most people living here are not natives and many couples do leave the state within a few years of living here for better career opportunities or to return to home. Some of my birthing couples don’t even live in Florida and are flying in only for a few months to give birth here (yes we have that amazing of providers and hospitals to warrant such a trip!)

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So the way I personally find fulfillment in my own business is by getting to know my families really well prior to birth, to understand what their story is and what having this birth story that I am going to capture means to them.

On a personal level, even looking back to before I was a mom, I was never passionately driven (or motivated) to love a career when it was superficial (about business and earning money). There always had to be a driving factor that made me passionate to work!

And I do think that on a very personal and intimate level for me alone, I need my families to 'get me' and why I do this for a living if they want to work with me, because my career is born of my own birth traumas.

I experienced two emotionally traumatic births with both of my daughters (and my second birth was way more traumatic than the first)

and so in a way, I think if at least part of my families didn't see how passionate I am for birth education, birth advocacy, women's rights, and helping my clients find the right providers for them so that they feel supported, and if my birth clients were solely hiring me for a service, I would burn out quickly. I don't know if I could repeatedly for many births arrive at the hospital, photograph, leave, deliver photos and move onto the next client. But that is a very personal and intimate approach to my business only, and it is why every month and every year, I have a continually growing passion and love for my work and I do not feel burned out after nearly 5 years of 12 months a year commitment to my craft and the families I work with.

❤  Paulina

The Flash Debate: Behind the Scenes of Birth Photography

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The transition to using an external flash during births was a very difficult one for me to make. After four and a half years of photographing births (and nearly 100 births photographed over this time) without  using an external flash, the thought of suddenly changing the way I document birth really scared me.

Working for four and a half years without using an external flash has worked well and it has catered to me being an unobtrusive part of a birth team.

The thought of suddenly introducing what I considered a very noticeable piece of equipment into a calm and focused birth space worried me as well.

I have prided myself on the fact that I arrive during the intense throws of labor, when mothers and birth teams do not notice me, and I have loved that doulas, midwives, nurses have all coined the term “birth ninja” for me over the years, continuously being surprised at how I was able to capture so many raw and purely emotional moments when they didn’t even realize I was there.

What started this entire idea of debating external flash use during birth?

For years I have been a member of IAPBP (International Association of Professional Birth Photographers) and slowly I started noticing a small group of quickly growing birth workers called Birth Becomes Her. I joined the private group, and slowly began to find my footing in what I realized was a nation-wide on-line birth community for birth photographers and also labor doulas and midwives crossing over to birth photography. As I observed their work over the years and their work ethic, I realized several of the birthing photographers working in Denver, Colorado and in Canada were using external flash during their client’s births. For months and YEARS this was a knowledge that I didn’t know what to do with.

I loved meeting and sitting down with my clients and explaining how I don’t bring any large equipment to their labors, to keep it an intimate and quiet setting. How I like to be a fly on the wall, reserved and focused, silently supporting the laboring couple while also capturing their extraordinary journey, while never being noticed. I loved priding myself on how many of my clients would tell me, they were not even aware I was in the room until well after their baby was born. Being an unobtrusive member of my client’s birth team was a key element in how I saw myself for years.

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The thought of bringing in an external flash, with a light going on constantly, illuminating an otherwise dark sacred laboring space, distracting my client’s focus, distracting their birth team — well it was a terrifying thought.

I continued to follow the photographers of BBH for a long time, especially someone I hold in high regard, Monet Nicole, and I continued to wonder how she does it. How does she get her birth clients on board with such a distracting, obtrusive element of photography.

It wasn’t until I started digging deeper and actually considering it seriously that I found myself becoming more educated.

The first big impact on my journey to flash was the investment in an external flash. Being a natural / or available (ambient lighting) photographer for years, this is something I’ve worked with maybe one or twice at a wedding well over a decade ago. I found the members of Birth Becomes Her (BBH) very supportive and informative — and they guided me to purchasing my first flash for just a few dollars. All these years I thought this would be a $200-$400 investment for me but instead, I made a small purchase for a very basic speedlight that ended up working exceedingly well for me

Fast forward 5 births and two months, I have documented five women laboring, giving birth and enjoying their newborn babies all while using flash. I even used flash at two of those births during day light hours to help me fill in the shadows.

What have my birth clients said about me using flash at their births?

Since purchasing my flash and photographing five births with it, I have asked feedback from my clients, their partners/spouses, labor and delivery nurses and midwives each time like an absolutely paranoid person if the flash was bothersome, (Think: Natural Light Devoted Photographer), as I was trying to collect feedback on how the external flash affected them. I wanted to use their feedback on how they experienced the flash during their labor/birth to decide if I could or should continue using flash with future birth clients, and each time my birth clients have one of two responses regarding their feelings on the external flash:

-you used flash?

(After all the paranoia on my part of being obtrusive to my birth clients, this reaction made me laugh out loud, that no one even noticed it being used in a small and dark birthing space)

-it was completely fine and didn’t bother me at all

The Beauty of Natural / Ambient Lighting

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With all of this being said, there is something to be said of the beauty of natural / ambient lighting.

There are definitely moments where I certainly make the decision to not use external flash. Moments where shadows are casting all over the room, all over mom’s face, and its a moment of absolute beauty. It can be a profound moment of reflection, it can be moody, romantic lighting. But typically, for the delivery of baby, I use flash. This moment happens extremely quickly. I have had perhaps 3 of 100 women crowning for a long amount of time. Typically by the time baby’s head is crowning, baby is on mom’s chest within 3 to 10 seconds thereafter. There is no time for messing up, no time for dimly lit rooms.

Hypnobirthing

As a personal feedback myself, if I was going to attend a Hypnobirth where my client was laboring in a room without light, and the mom was not yet at the stage of labor where she was bearing down, (transition), I would be very hesitant to use my external flash, despite the 100% positive feedback from the last five clients births I have attended using my flash. Being a hypnobirther myself with my second pregnancy, I don’t know if adding ANYTHING extra to my gear during early labor is conducive to a positive and calm birthing environment, other than a dark room, soft voices, essential oils, hip squeezes.

However, that being said, I do things very specifically with my birth photography and birth videos. I rarely arrive to a birth when a woman is 6 hours away from transition, although occasionally I do come earlier than usual, typically, I arrive about 1-3 hours before the stage of labor called transition. I do this intentionally. I don’t want to be in any way disruptive to a laboring mom. And a person can be disruptive just by being present, it doesn’t require a bright shining light to mess with the flow of labor. I communicate really well with my clients and their birth teams during their labors to ensure that I am coming closer to when a woman is between 6-8 cm dilated. It varies of course based on whether she is a first, second time mom, an unmedicated birth or epidural or induction. But I always aim to arrive when a woman is between 6 - 8 cm dilated. That ensures she is past the stage of 5 centimeters and active labor really kicks in. On average, women dilate about 1 centimeter per hour, but I find this to be a very loose guideline as I have seen women go from 5 to 10 centimeters in 12 hours and women go from 5 to 10 centimeters in thirty minutes. And that is why the efficacy of excellent communication has its positive outcomes for all the births I attend.

Birth Photo without the use of external flash

Birth Photo without the use of external flash

I did attend a hypnobirth in January of this year where mom was closer to 3 centimeters (a birth I chose to attend earlier for many reasons) and I chose to use flash at this particularly labor. I informed mom and dad ahead of time that if it was bothersome, to let me know and I would continue with the use of ambient lighting only.

Birth Photo with the use of external flash

Birth Photo with the use of external flash

According to the parents feedback, it did not affect the mom at all, and I find that most of my birth clients build a tremendous trust with me during their pregnancies, they follow my work on facebook and instagram and together we take the time to review the difference in quality of images with the use of external flash vs not using flash, and it is my clients who decide they want me to use flash at their birth. It is never a requirement or rule. It is a very open flow of communication.

I hope this helps someone who is in between trying to make the decision.





FEATURED Guest Mama Blogger: The Triefler Tribe on the topic of VBAC

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I spoke to Michelle for the first time in the beginning of July of last year. She initially reached out to me to get my input on Boca Raton Regional Hospital. I am a huge supporter of mamas choosing this hospital for their births, especially when moms are trying for a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). Over the last four and a half years I’ve been to many hospitals from Jupiter through North Miami and have really gotten to see various hospital restrictions/policies and the way labor and delivery is run from hospital to hospital, and under larger hospital umbrellas like Broward Health, HCA, etc.

Back in July, Michelle reached out to me asking what would happen, if a rupture occurred or a c-section needed to happen. I immediately recommended to interview the practices who deliver at Boca Regional who do VBAC, and since Michelle was specifically interested in midwives (Certified Nurse Midwives) for her delivery, I suggested the practice that most of my VBAC clients have chosen over the last two years to VBAC with — Courtney McMillian, CNM and Polina Goldenberg, CNM at Boca Midwifery. Michelle and I chatted back and forth for about a month on facebook messenger and I shared all my knowledge of the previous successful vbacs I had attended with her during this time. I was really happy for her when she told me she had met with Boca Midwifery and decided to leave her OBGYN in Port St Lucie who did not do VBACs and hire the CNMs at Boca Midwifery for her trial of labor in hopes of a successful VBAC. I was so happy this mama would have the best chance at a VBAC. Her midwives and their backup OB Dr. David Lubetkin currently have a 13% c-section rate, and a very high rate of successful, smooth and safe VBAC deliveries.

In Michelle’s guest blog post below, she shares with us the story of how she planned for her VBAC and her amazing birth story. I invite you to check out and follow Michelle on her amazing Triefler Tribe blog here

➡➡➡➡ thetrieflertribe.com

Where she shares personal stories of her own infertility struggles, talks about her motherhood journey and what it’s like being a girl mom (and now has one child of each gender!) and compares her first pregnancy journey to her second.



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When we found out we were pregnant again, naturally this time, after conceiving our daughter via IUI and given a 3% chance of conceiving on our own, our world was turned upside down in the most beautiful way. Having had a c-section with my daughter at 37 weeks for suspected IUGR and breech presentation, I knew this time I wanted a VBAC. I knew that in order for that to be possible, I needed to have a home birth or to find a hospital and provider willing to take me and allow me to attempt a VBAC. I wasn't a big fan of attempting a VBAC at home so I joined a VBAC support group on Facebook and was given a wealth of knowledge of where to go and who to see. That meant having to travel an hour and a half south of where I live in order to have the BEST chance of being successful.

I started going to physical therapy and a chiropractor to make sure my body was aligned and in the best shape possible. I needed to do everything in my power to make sure my son had enough room to turn head down, unlike his stubborn big sister!

The day before I went into labor, I went to physical therapy and had acupressure done.

From my previous midwife appointment the week before, I was already 3 cm dilated, 50% effaced, and my son, Weston's, head was at a 0 station so he was getting ready to arrive any day! Contractions started that night but weren’t consistent. The next day, I had my midwife appointment at Boca Midwifery. They checked me and I was still at a 3 but 90% effaced. We went all the way home and I started having irregular contractions all day long. They got to a point where they were getting uncomfortable so we decided that it was time to head down to Boca once again. My midwife was very confident that I was in early labor. Luckily, Aaron and I were able to put my daughter, Peyton, down to sleep for the night. I was bawling my eyes out because I felt in my heart that I was putting her to sleep for the last time before we brought her brother home. My in-laws came over and Aaron and I left the house for the last time without our little girl.

When we got to the hospital, at around 10:30 p.m. my contractions slowed, of course. I was still admitted and the night was only getting started. We waited a while and I started bouncing on my ball and walking around and things started picking up again. My parents decided to start heading down south, my midwife arrived at the hospital, and my doula was there shortly after. While Aaron got some last minute sleep in, my doula and I started walking the halls. Contractions started getting more regular and more painful. I was dilated to about a 4 now. (Side note: I will say that I am the WORST with cervical checks. I can hardly get through them). I decided to get into the labor tub that we rented which was SO worth it. It really helped.

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Having a doula was invaluable.

My AMAZING doula, Lisa Raynor, was absolutely incredible. I could NOT have gotten through this without her. She knew exactly what to do for each contraction and her hip squeeze technique was just what I needed. It helped SO SO much. Not only was she there for physical support, her emotional support and knowledge helped me make decisions that I otherwise would have been so confused about. I will forever be grateful to her for all she did for us.

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So, I was in there for about 3ish hours when my midwife came to check again because my contractions were clearly extremely painful and very close together. I also started feeling some pressure so I was checked again and dilated to only about 5/6ish. So it wasn’t as much progress as expected and she asked if I wanted her to break my water instead of starting a low dose pitocin. I agreed, my water was broken, and I got back in the tub. Contractions from there were excruciating. I believe my water was broken at about 4 a.m. and by 6:30 a.m. I was completely and utterly exhausted. I was practically passing out in the tub in between contractions from laboring all that day and all throughout the night without any sleep. It was SO hard to keep my focus and I was really struggling. All I wanted was rest but these contractions weren’t stopping anytime soon.

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My midwife offered to check me again and I was SO hesitant and the thought of another check, during these contractions, and having to mentally bounce back seemed impossible but I agreed. I wanted to know if I made progress… but when she was about to do it I freaked out. I was having horrible contractions, I was completely exhausted to the point that I wasn’t even making sense to myself, and mentally, the checks do not go well for me. I NEEDED to keep a positive and strong mindset and that wasn’t going to happen. I had to make a choice at that point. The anesthesiologist wasn’t going to be available until after 8:30 a.m. The thought of not having any sleep since the previous day and eventually having to push really didn’t sit well with me. As much as I wanted to do this naturally, the circumstances weren’t in my favor and I agreed to get the epidural.

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I felt a bit defeated, I’m not going to lie. I wanted the natural birth experience. It seemed like everyone in the room understood what I wanted but also knew that I was past the point of complete and utter exhaustion from being up for 24 hours and we weren’t sure how much I progressed at this point. The epidural went very well. It was basically painless and it was an instant relief from all of those horrific contractions. My midwife came back in to see what I progressed to since I was open to the check since I was numb and I was at a 6 still. At this point, any feelings of defeat of getting the epidural were GONE because if I didn’t get it and I knew that I didn’t progress after ALL OF THAT PAIN and having to go through another check… it would have put me over the edge. I was so disappointed. No one gave up on me though and everyone had to help me mentally get back in the game.

So I rested. It felt so good to finally relax and let my body do what it needed to do in a restful state of mind and in calm body.

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They started me on a low dose pit to try to get some progression going.

When I say low, I mean like at a 0.5. While I rested, my husband, midwife, doula, and birth photographer all went down to get some food.

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Shortly after, they were all back in the room but not because they were done eating. Weston started having heart decels during my contractions. My blood pressure was dropping. So they had me switch sides to see if that helped and it did for a little while.

They stopped the pitocin to let the contractions slow down a bit and to make sure his reserve was still good.

After 30 minutes, all was well, and they started the low dose pit again. They started it and my body and Weston DID NOT like that. I was having a 3 minute long contraction and he was struggling in there. I kept asking what was going on and is everything okay, but everyone was SO busy and bustling around, flipping me back and forth… I knew something was wrong. They were just about to give me terbutaline to stop the contraction but they put me on my back first and it stopped so I didn’t need the medication. They stopped the pitocin completely. At this point, if things continued to go this way, with no progression, it was looking like a repeat c-section. My midwife and back up OB have a very low tolerance for heart decels and their main goal is for a safe mama and baby.

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I knew that things weren’t looking great when my midwife sat down and explained to me that a VBAC was not a guaranteed thing and that this was a TOLAC (trial of labor after csection).

TOLAC (trial of labor after csection)

My heart sank and my husband, Aaron was sitting by my head trying to make me feel better. Of course I wanted a healthy baby and for me to be okay after all of this, but I couldn’t help but feel so SAD that I did so much during this pregnancy to give myself the BEST chance at a VBAC and that this was happening the way it was.

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My ANGEL of a nurse, Mary Jane, I will never forget her for as long as I live. I knew her for a few hours, but she is probably one of my favorite people ever.

She was the EXACT nurse I needed for this experience.

She had asked me earlier that night if I prayed. I told her no. After all of these hiccups, I was laying on my side toward Aaron, she came over to my other side and I heard her whisper in my ear “I know you don’t pray, but can I please pray over you”. I said yes, of course. She started the prayer with everyone surrounding me in the bed and it was such a calming experience. She has such a calming voice. After she did this, things were starting to look up. It was absolutely incredible.

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Later on my midwife checked me and I was STILL at a 6 after all of that time!! She asked if I had any procedures done on my cervix because there seemed to be scar tissue there. I said no, because I haven’t. I have no clue what that was about. Now we knew why I wasn’t progressing. She started to massage my cervix (I didn’t feel a THING from the epidural, but I felt this, and it was a LOT of pressure. If I didn’t have the epidural and she had to do this, I would have lost my mind). She took her hand out and said “you just went from a 6 to an 8”.

ALL WAS RIGHT IN THE WORLD!

That was when I knew that getting the epidural was the right choice for me. I would have continued to labor, hard, with no progression because of some issue with my cervix. This is why I am so glad I had the care that I did. Instead of just giving up and rushing this VBAC attempt into the O.R., they did everything they could for me. After that, things were going SO well. The vibe in the room changed and everyone was chatting and laughing and truly enjoying one another. I had some energy back, my positivity was back, and Aaron looked at me and said “the vibe in here has completely changed, let’s keep this going”.

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We were all having blast and soon enough his head was coming out of me and it was time to push! This was my favorite part of the entire experience. We were all laughing and joking around while everyone is staring at my vagina waiting for more of his hair to come out! I was surrounded by Aaron and a bad ass tribe of women.

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My mother, my nurse MJ, my midwife Polina, my midwife Courtney, my doula Lisa, and Paulina, my birth photographer. The most amazing birth team I could have ever asked for. I can’t even begin to express how much I love each of these women and what they did for me and baby Weston. They kept us safe, they never gave up on me, they didn’t give up on him and they helped me achieve the birth experience I have always dreamed about.

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I pushed for less than an hour and Weston was HERE. Born January 18, 2019 at 12:45 p.m. weighing 8 pounds 3 ounces and 20.5 inches long. He was put directly on my chest and it was the most blissful experience in the world. I was so relieved and said “WE DID IT”. The feeling in the room was incredible and I am so happy with how everything turned out.

I couldn’t be more grateful to EVERYONE at Boca Regional Hospital.

The most incredible staff I have ever known. Every single person is rooting for you, wants what is best for you, and takes care of you.

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I do want to talk about something else. I want every woman reading this to know that you have a choice. You have a choice in how and where you want to birth, no matter if you had a previous c-section or not. You have the right to exceptional prenatal care.

You have the right to NOT be traumatized by your birth/ birth team.

Birth doesn’t always go exactly as planned. Mine didn’t both times. But this time, I had support, I had a fantastic birth team, and I had a voice. I feel so content and happy with my birth experience. I want every woman to feel the way I do. You deserve it!

Thank you Michelle for an amazing guest blog post!

I invite you to check out and follow Michelle on her amazing Triefler Tribe blog here

➡➡➡➡ thetrieflertribe.com














Guest Blogger: Planning an Out-Of-Hospital Birth

This February, I have the pleasure of introducing you to a new and exciting guest mama blogger on the Paulina Splechta Birth Photography & Films birth blog @thecarinachronicles

I had the pleasure of meeting first time mom, Carina, during pregnancy with baby boy Matteo.

The mom blogger behind "The Carina Chronicles.com” Carina blogs about healthy eating and powerfoods during pregnancy, and even ventures into topics of couples therapy and her “Unexpected” Pregnancy Reaction. You can visit her blog here ➡ thecarinachronicles.com

During her pregnancy we had the chance to run a ‘trial labor session’ at Natural Birthworks Birth Center in Margate, FL to be able to give women planning a birth center or home birth an idea of what early labor might look like for some moms. In Carina’s guest blog post below, she shares with us her research making process that led her to deciding to have an out of hospital birth with her first child. I am so eager for you to read her post! Let me know your thoughts on out of hospital births below!

Planning an Out-Of-Hospital Birth

The decision to have a home birth isn’t a common one, especially since only 2% of babies in the U.S. are birthed at home. We have grown up relating births to hospitals, along with the picture of birth being a terrifying experience thanks to what movies and tv shows portray it to be.

The truth is, most complications in hospitals arise due to interventions as soon as labor begins. If a woman is low-risk for complications during pregnancy, then they can ultimately have an out-of-hospital birth. Women have been birthing since the beginning of time, and our bodies are made for this.

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Here are some ways to prepare for an out-of-hospital birth, whether it be at home or in a birthing center. Doing adequate research, mentally and physically preparing for labor, and designing the ultimate labor environment are essential for having a comfortable home birth.

1. RESEARCH

Researching and instilling confidence in yourself about an out of hospital birth is the most important starting point. Giving birth out of a hospital setting is not the norm, especially when it comes to telling others about it. Most people simply relate giving birth to being in hospitals because it is known as a “safe” environment. Most people will scare you into the complications of birth, such as “What if the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck?” or “What is the baby becomes distressed?”. Midwives are equipped to handle these situations and there is always a Plan B if your midwife feels a need for a transfer. This is why it’s important to have all the information on hand and remain confident in your power and ability to birth naturally.

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A very powerful and informative documentary is ‘The Business of Being Born’, a documentary that explores the maternity care system in America and questions what occurs behind closed doors. ‘Midwife’ is another great documentary we enjoyed which examines the life of a home birth midwife, from prenatal visits, to birth, to postpartum. This convinced me to make the switch from my OBGYN at twenty weeks of pregnancy.

2. PREPARATION

A wise home birther once told me, “You need to prepare for this as a runner prepares for a marathon.” This means preparation for birth starts at the beginning of pregnancy. Mental and physical preparation is key to prepare for the intensity of childbirth.

Mental Preparation

We all know the saying “mind over matter” which relates to how you must think during childbirth. Deep breathing, meditation with guided imagery, and positive thinking are important during labor.

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Many mothers have taken hypno-birthing classes, which is a childbirth education course that teaches self-hypnosis techniques to combat fear and pain during labor. Meditation is another great relaxation technique that focuses on practicing mindfulness to train awareness and attention and achieve a mentally and emotionally calm state.

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I did not take the hypnobirthing classes, but I did listen to guided meditations intended for childbirth throughout my pregnancy. These meditations focus on a positive childbirth experience and help to eradicate any thoughts of fear during labor. Throughout labor, my partner helped me maintain deep breathing techniques through contractions to calm my nervous system. Focusing on the count of my breath helped to distract me during the intensity of a contraction.

Physical Preparation

At every prenatal appointment, my midwife would ask, “So, how much are we exercising?” Staying active during pregnancy is important for both physical and mental health. Walking and prenatal yoga are two great exercises to prepare the body for childbirth.

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Prenatal yoga helps to increase the strength and flexibility of muscles needed for childbirth along with improving sleep, reducing stress levels, and decreasing aches and pains associated with pregnancy. Walking during pregnancy helps keep mom and baby’s weight in check along with reducing the risk of preeclampsia, and lowering the risk of gestational diabetes. Always be sure to check with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise routine.

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During pregnancy, I worked in a nursing home which required a lot of walking. I worked up to 39 weeks pregnant and would average at least 5,000 steps a day. When the baby decided he wanted to come ten days post due date, I increased my walks to 2 miles every other day along with squats and lunges at the park in hopes to induce labor. Occasionally, I would do prenatal yoga from DVDs I rented at the library.

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3. ENVIRONMENT:

Setting up the perfect environment for your home birth is crucial. Your midwife will most likely give you a list of supplies to prepare, such as towels, blankets, trash bags, and other similar items. Setting up the ambiance of the room you plan to birth in is important to having calm and peaceful labor, from deciding who will attend your birth to making sure you have a toolbox of natural pain relief techniques.

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Birth Team

It’s imperative to be strict on who you have during your birth because the energy given out by those people will affect the flow of labor. You can consider hiring a doula, who is a non-medical person who assists women before, during, or after childbirth to provide emotional and physical help. A birth photographer is also a significant investment because the labor process can be such a blur and capturing those images of you doing something so powerful can be rewarding. But most importantly, you must consider the family members who will be there. Having too many people at once can interrupt the flow of the labor process, possibly stalling your labor.  My midwife once told me, “The hormones you used to make this baby are the same ones that will help you get the baby out.”

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   I had initially intended for a doula to be present during my birth, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out due to scheduling conflicts. However, I now look back and realize the importance of having a doula. It would’ve allowed my partner to be with me every second, instead of having to run back and forth to apply pressure to my hips during a contraction along with simply getting me snacks from across the room. A birth photographer also would’ve been a great investment because thinking back; I don’t quite remember much of that day. Luckily, my midwives birth assistant took great photos and a video of the baby being born in the tub. When it came to family members, I did not want anyone present. I felt like birth is so personal that all I needed for emotional and spiritual support was my partner, and I’m happy I made that decision.

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Pain Management

There is a reason why a seventy-one percent of women receive epidural or spinal anesthesia during delivery because childbirth is no joke. However, once receiving the epidural, it may prolong labor which increases the risk of complications. There are many natural pain relief techniques one can use during labor to make the transition easier.

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You can relax in warm water which relaxes muscles and relieves pressure on the pelvis. Sitting on an exercise ball and rotating your hips can also help open the pelvis, and aid in descending the baby. Aromatherapy is found to help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation during labor, such as lavender and peppermint oil. I loved being on all fours in the shower while allowing the warm water to hit my back and helped me relax during the contractions.

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Be sure to keep all this in mind if planning to be part of the small group of powerful women having out of hospital births. The earlier you start preparing, the easier it will be. Know that whatever you decide, even if your birth doesn’t go as planned, what matters is bringing your beautiful baby into the world. Whether it be at home, a birthing center, or in a hospital, know- You got this mama!

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How was your birth experience?

Would you consider a birthing center or home birth?

Let me know by commenting below!

Questions to Ask at your first prenatal visit

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Once you find out you are pregnant, the next step is to interview OBGYNS / Midwives.

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You don’t have to skip the above mentioned skip this and go straight into your first prenatal visit

(but this is a little known fact!)

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When I got pregnant with my first baby, I asked my closest friend if she liked her OBGYN, I got his name and office directions and scheduled my first prenatal visit. I didn’t even do the interview step! But come week 40 of my pregnancy, and I still had not gone into labor, I suddenly started becoming aware of several red flags that had been waving during my entire pregnancy right below my nose that I had not even noticed until it was my due date.

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Once you hit your due date, there’s not really any going back. That is not the time to evaluate if you made the right decision going with this provider.

Most women simply do not know that pregnancy and birth, just like every other decision in life, you can make a list of providers (doctors [OBs] and midwives) and go and interview them!

All you do, is call the office, let them know you’re pregnant and would like to schedule a consultation with so and so.

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Most women realize they have some questions about pregnancy, or symptoms they may be feeling (like nausea, headaches/migraines, bleeding, belly tightening sensations, the list goes on) and they compiled these questions on a sheet of paper, or notes on their iphone and ask during prenatal visits. And I highly encourage that! But before you even get to that point, ask yourself, what are the main criteria that you look for in a provider who is going to be delivering your baby?

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Knowing what you’re looking for in a provider can help you make the right decision in which doctor or midwife to hire as your prenatal care provider. But sometimes it’s not that easy. Sometimes, we have no idea what we are expecting, or hoping for, until much later. Sometimes, as a first time mom, we truly don’t even have any expectations cause we are doing this for the first time, experiencing pregnancy for the first time, every new symptom is really NEW new, so our expectations are set a little low and we are kind of up for anything.

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But just because our main focus of pregnancy is healthy mom, healthy baby, does not mean compassion, patience, warmth, have to be taken out of the equation. And because every single doctor and midwife is so different, it’s important to ask good and direct questions to make sure we are choosing the person who we will trust during our entire pregnancy and when we go into labor without a doubt!

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So below, I’ve compiled a solid list of questions that not only great for your first prenatal visit, but if you’ve already been under the care of a specific doctor or midwife your whole pregnancy, this is a great time to evaluate what questions you may have, just in case you realize they may not be the right fit for you (which sometimes happens) and it’s so helpful to identify if someone is not the right doctor for you, before you get to 35 weeks of your pregnancy which is the typical cut off time by obstetrics practices to accept transfer of patients from another practice (in case you want to leave your doctors practice to hire a doctor who is more in line with your expectations).

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Without further ado, here is a list of 11 questions to ask at your first prenatal visit:

1. Who will deliver my baby?

Keep in mind the bigger the practice, the more providers who are on rotation of who is on-call what night, and if you go into spontaneous labor, you may get any of them, so you want to be sure to meet every doctor and midwife in the practice to get a feel for their personalities, characteristics, how you feel around them, and what their philosophy of birth is.

2. Are they open to birth plans? or a birth preferences list?

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3. What hospitals do they have privileges at / prefer delivering at and why?

4. How many vaginal checks do they do during pregnancy and during labor? Should I get them, how necessary are they, what are the benefits/downsides and when do I need to have them done?

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5. Under what circumstances during pregnancy would you recommend an induction? How can an induction affect the outcome of my birth (vaginal / cesarean) What type of inductions do you do?

6. What is your opinion of labor doulas? What percentage of your patients use a doula? What doulas do you recommend?

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7. Under what circumstances during labor would you recommend to administer medications such as cervidil or pitocin?

8. How do you handle past due dates? (Over 40 weeks, over 41 weeks)

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9. What is your percentage of your patients get an epidural, What percentage have vaginal births? / percentage of c-sections? Under what circumstances during pregnancy would you recommend a scheduled cesarean?

10. Are you planning any vacations, trips, major surgeries, or other events 3-4 weeks before my due date, or up to 2 weeks after my due date that would interfere with your attendance at the birth?

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11. What positions do you feel comfortable delivering in? (on back, squatting (using a squat bar), on all fours (knees and elbows)?

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Once you are decided on the practice you will be delivering with, and get into your second and third trimester, you can go here to read a list of questions to ask your doctor in your third trimester, before you give birth: http://www.paulinasplechta.com/blog/2018/7/18/what-to-ask-a-midwife-or-obgyn-when-meeting-

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Not Just a Birth Photographer

I find it really hard to disconnect from my birth clients and just be a photographer.
Nowhere in my birth contract does it say I will hold your hand when labor gets too intense, but if a woman needs me to, I do, like I am in my black tee in this picture taken by a nurse.

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Nowhere under “birth” does it say I will drive all the way back the next day for when your first born is meeting your newborn baby for the first time and you are melting, but I am melting along with you and I am there. 

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I can’t help it. These are not only my clients, they become my family.
My heart ♥️♥️♥️♥️ and my life divide three ways...

in ways most business owners never share their heart and life...
1.... to my own children...
2.... to my husband and home...
3... to my birth clients
No personal event ever outweighs me attending a birth. I’ve gone to births and missed my own birthday, I’ve missed my children’s birthdays
I’ve missed Christmas
I’ve even gone to births with the worst of migraines.
In 4 and a half years I’ve gone to almost 100 births. Because it’s not just a job to me. It’s not just photographs that look beautiful. It’s the power of the birthing motherhood community that no one talks about until a woman is vulnerable and simultaneously she is so powerful during labor, titles and time melts away and you are there to support her through a sisterhood that is felt, not spoken.
#notjustaphotographer
#paulinasplechta
#uniteinmotherhood