A Water Birth Story | UF Birth Center | Jacksonville Birth Photographer


Images: Dallas Arthur Photography
Story by: Shelbi (incredible birthing mama), and Dallas Arthur
Birth Place: UF Health Birth Center
Midwife: Angela Elliott, ARNP, CNM

I had the pleasure of meeting Shelbi for coffee one afternoon in December for our pre-consultation. We talked all about the births of her two older children, and I could tell that she was so excited about her first out-of-hospital birth. She was less than two weeks from her estimated due date, so I was thrilled to be on call for her right away! Her on call period included Christmas and New Year's (and the due date of my very first niece!), but her little guy was so considerate and picked a day all his own to call his birthday.

I always give my birth clients the opportunity to share their stories in their own words, and Shelbi wrote up her birth story in beautiful detail! Enjoy!

"Jude’s estimated due date was Tuesday, January 9, and we had been told to be prepared from three weeks before to two weeks after his due date. On the morning of Sunday, January 7, I woke up with a 'bloody show.' I let Nigel know that we should be prepared for little Jude to make his arrival soon. I washed the bassinet sheets and a few other baby items and then went about my day as usual. Brenli, Micah, and I got pedicures and stopped by a virtual reality gaming place where the kids had a blast. In the early evening, I felt some light contractions begin."


"As this was my third baby, I should have known by this point that my babies like to begin their arrivals on Sunday evenings and then make their grand appearances on Mondays! I let Nigel know that that was how it worked for me in the past and that we should be prepared to have our baby on Monday. We joked that we would get a great night’s sleep and then head to the birth center after rush-hour in the morning. But, Jude’s labor mimicked my others, and he had better plans than sleeping on that Sunday night. 

That evening, Brenli and Micah helped me time the contractions as we were reading books and getting ready for bed. The contractions weren’t painful, and we prepared for bed as usual. I decided to go ahead and sleep through the contractions until I got to the point that I couldn’t ignore them. I was able to sleep for a while and then was awakened by three contractions in a row. At this point (almost 11pm), I knew it was time to prepare for Jude’s birth, and I let Nigel know that we would soon have our sweet baby. He wanted to take a shower before we headed to the birth center. I began timing the contractions again and had several about four minutes apart. Then the contractions moved to less than two minutes apart and were lasting for less than a minute. I knew it was time to alert the photographer (Dallas), the midwife (Angela), and my mom (Nani.) I told Nigel that if he hadn’t already taken a shower, he should skip it and head our way. Angela and Dallas and I agreed to meet at the birth center at about 12:20. I had fully anticipated that when my labor came on, it would be strong and fast, and it looked like I was right. My mom arrived at the house and helped me time contractions while we waited for Nigel. She began getting anxious since my contractions were between one and two minutes apart and the birth center was about 35 minutes away. Once Nigel arrived, we loaded his truck and headed straight for the birth center. Luckily we had packed a 'barf pitcher' in his truck, which I took advantage of a few times on the way there. So much for the salad and sweet potato, black bean quesadilla that I had for dinner!"


"Angela and I had agreed that I would text her as we took the exit for the birth center. Probably due to the contractions, I had a tough time actually sending the text. Nigel had to help me and we successfully sent the text as we arrived at the front door to the birth center at 12:25am. While we were sitting in his truck at the front door, I felt a wetness. I wondered if it was urine or my water breaking. Angela came down to meet us, and upon seeing and hearing me, suggested that I ride in a wheelchair. Nigel went to park the truck and then met us inside. Angela had already begun filling the birth tub with warm water. Dallas was in the room as well. Angela suggested that I may want to use the restroom. When I tried to, i didn’t actually need to, but I noticed quite a bit of blood (that was the wetness I had felt) and asked Angela to take a look to see if that was normal. She had no concerns."


"I laid on the bed so she could check my dilation. I asked, 'How does it look?' She said 'It looks like you’re going to have a baby soon!' I asked how far along I was and she said 'You’re complete!' Wow! 10 cm already. This was going to be fast."


"Nigel helped me put on my bikini top. Admittedly, he wasn’t exactly sure how to tie it (ha!) and I helped him figure it out. Then, I climbed into the warm tub and Nigel put on our Baby Jude playlist."


"Nigel, Angela, and Dallas stayed near the tub while I labored. Nigel offered words of encouragement. I recall Angela commenting that when I called her, I was concerned that the contractions weren’t quite lasting a minute...but now—no concerns at this point!"

Notice the phone in Angela's hands...trust me, she is texting for a really good reason! You'll see!


"Nigel and I had planned for Nigel to catch baby Jude. I was confident in my body’s ability to push when my body knew the time was right. I did not want any 'directed pushing' unless it was absolutely necessary. I knew my body would know what to do. At this point we were listening to the third song in the playlist."

Oh, you'll see why the playlist details are so important! Prepare for goosebumps, friends.


"I felt a contraction and had the urge to push. I could feel baby Jude move in my body, and I knew that he would be out in one large push. I recall thinking that he was coming so fast that neither Dallas nor Angela nor Nigel would know Jude was on his way out. I had pictured a slower process, with multiple pushes, where Jude would begin to crown and then Nigel could be prepared to catch him. Instead I immediately said 'I’m pushing him out right now,' pushed, and felt his entire body move outside of mine."


"Angela immediately picked him up and placed him in my arms. It felt so amazing to hold him and look at his beautiful face. He was born at exactly 1 AM. At that point, we realized that the song 'Hey Jude' was playing! It was the fourth song on the playlist and Jude timed his arrival perfectly! We were all amazed!"

See? How cool is that! Goosebumps!


There was pure magic that room. Shelbi simply sparkled as she held her youngest son close to her heart. And "Hey Jude" played in the background...

"Remember to let her into your heart,
Then you can start to make it better,


Obviously, there are many reasons I'm glad that photography exists. One of those reasons is because the world needs to see this strong mother's beautiful smile, and words just can't do it justice. She exuded pure pride, relief, and joy.


"Very shortly, I delivered the placenta without any effort and informed Angela (in case she missed it.) The 1-minute and 5-minute APGAR measurements were so non-invasive that I missed them."

Well, she also may have missed them because she was absolutely lost in love with this tiny little cuddle bug in her arms! Jude was so calm, and his sweet fingers grabbed tight to her chest.


"We had waited for the placenta to stop pulsing before clamping and cutting the umbilical cord."

I just love his little hand and face here! Almost like he's saying, "I can't look! Just do it!"


Moments like this just take my breath away. After 40 long weeks, to finally meet face-to-face is so incredibly special.


"Then Nigel climbed into bed for some immediate skin to skin time with Jude while we drained the water and rinsed me off in the tub. I had some vernix on my body and Angela recommended that I rub it in to my skin."


The chubby cheeks, the pouty lips, the flat little ear, the still-wet hair, that tight grip on the towel...oh I just love baby details.


"Britney, the assistant, had arrived (she missed the birth by six minutes.) They dried me off, and I climbed into bed to snuggle with Nigel and Jude. We welcomed him and loved on him for a while."


So many vital signs can be assessed with baby right there on mom's chest. It is wonderful to see such gentle, discreet midwives who quietly monitor baby's health.


After I got some sweet images, I stepped out into the hallway to give mom, dad, and baby some time to themselves (something I think is so important for bonding), and I sat down to review my images.

By the way, remember that text message that Angela got while she was with Shelbi by the tub? Just a few minutes after Jude's birth, a second laboring mom came in and quickly had her baby in the birthing suite next door! Angela walked out from catching the second baby and cheerfully looked at me and said, "Hey there! How are you doing?" Um...me? You just helped welcome two new souls into the world in under thirty minutes! How are YOU doing? She's an absolute treasure and it was obvious that she was completely in her element and loving her job! It was a joy to work alongside her again!


After about an hour and 45 minutes, Angela started the gentle newborn exam right there on the bed with mom and dad. Jude was just as content as could be as he was carefully examined, measured, and diapered.


You know what's amazing? If you look at the first image of Jude in his mama's arms, you can see that he was just absolutely coated in vernix. It all rubbed in to his skin and was completely gone within just a little while! His skin was silky soft, not to mention now protected and nourished by that awesome vernix!


Squish! So cute!


Every baby born at the UF Health Birth Center gets a picture in the nest! Their Facebook page is just full of sweet little just-born babies. Jude snuggled right in.


"Angela suggested they I have some nutrition before taking a shower. I ate a snack and then Britney helped me take a shower."

How lovely is she? Shelbi sat and talked for a while as she waited for the water to get hot. People talk about a pregnancy glow but that postpartum glow is so gorgeous, too! It was wonderful to see a mom feeling so amazing after having her baby: calm, proud, happy, and supported.


"We then snuggled a bit more and got ready to head home around 5am. Upon arrival Nani said her hellos to Jude and then headed home. As Nigel and I were walking upstairs, I heard Micah call for me. I went to his room and realized that Brenli was in bed with him. I let the kids know that while they were sleeping we had had their baby brother, Jude. I advised them to sleep a bit longer and headed to my room. The kids were so excited that they couldn’t sleep and came into my room to welcome our newest arrival. I then got the big kids their breakfasts, made their lunches, and helped them get ready and off to school for their first day back following the winter vacation. Nigel and I spent the remainder of the day getting to know one of our greatest loves. In the afternoon we took Jude to meet his other brothers, Donovan and Dominic, and his grandma, Florence. An excited Brenli, Micah, Nani, and G-Pa were waiting for us upon our return. Welcome, Jude! We are so glad that you’re here!"

So just to recap...she put the kids to bed, went into labor, had a baby, then got home before the kids woke up, made breakfast, packed the kids' lunches, and got them off to school. Can you say supermom?! She's my hero!


Hey Jude! Your parents are amazing and I was so honored to have been asked to document your speedy, peaceful entrance into our world. I know you will grow up in a home full of love and fun!


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