The Beauty of Laboring At Home| Part 1 of 2 | Jacksonville Birth Photography


Images and Story by Dallas Arthur Photography
Hospital: St. Vincent's Southside
Care Provider: Full Circle Women's Center
Doula: Ali Castillo of NOVA Birthing Services

This birth. This powerful, emotional, surprising, long, incredible, unforgettable birth.

It's just too much for one blog post! Part 1 will focus on the time that I spent with this family as mom labored at home. Part 2 will tell her story once she left for the hospital, and what it was like to meet their sweet baby boy!

A mom in early labor poses for a picture on the porch with her husband and dog as they await the birth of their first child.

A little background on the state of things when this baby's birth story began, from mama herself:

"My family (two big sisters, mom, stepdad, dad) were all in town for my due date, which I knew not to bank on, but I couldn't help myself. So, for the whole week I tried everything under the sun to get little Hootie to make a move! At my 39 week appointment, Dr. Adams [OB at Full Circle] let me know I about 60% [effaced] and 1 cm [dilated]. TEARS! I was so sad that my family wasn't going to be able to see his arrival and my attempt at a natural childbirth. I left defeated but encouraged by Dr. Adams that Hootie would come when he was ready, and to just relax. That Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 we were all set to meet for breakfast before everyone headed to the airport. I started my walk to Simply Sara's about 2 miles from our house and, right on top of the Ortega bridge at 8:30am with an unsuspecting fisherman under water breaks! We lock eyes and say nothing as I waddle back home to change pants!"

Um...water breaking on a stranger...that's a first! Birth is a funny thing!

A pregnant mom and her doula laugh through contractions as she labors at home before heading to St. Vincent's Hospital.
A doula uses an iPad to time her laboring client's contractions.

So her family rearranged their flights to leave the next day, and spent the morning and afternoon supporting mama through her contractions. 

Five hours after her water broke, one of her sisters called me around 1:30pm and let me know that she was ready for her doula and I to join them.

Pregnant mom rests her hands on her belly while waiting for her baby to be born.

Labor is a funny thing. I like to think of it as a train. The faster that a train is coming up to speed, the harder it is to stop it or slow it down. Birth is such a primitive, natural process, and just like animals in the wild, our labors can stop or slow down if they are closely watched or feel threatened. I would never want to show up too early (before the train gets "up to speed"), and have a client's labor slow down because they feel the pressure of being in front of the camera. I usually arrange to arrive when clients are in active labor (4+ cm, or unable to speak through contractions if they are choosing not to do cervical checks), once they are so focused that they don't even notice what is going on around them.

With this labor, though, there were a few reasons why I arrived a little earlier than usual. 1) She had already been in labor for 6 hours by the time I arrived. 2) She is a doula, and wanted to document the whole process, because birth is so sacred to her. (Awesome!) 3), She is a good friend, and I just wanted to be there to cheer her on!

Laboring mom breathes deeply as she focuses through a surge during labor.

When I arrived, the house was buzzing. With all of her favorite people in her home, mama was comfortable, relaxed, and having fun. Her sisters styled her hair and pampered her a bit, while her pressure waves were far apart.

Laboring mother and her sister laugh as she gets her hair styled in early labor. Laboring at home in Jacksonville, Florida.

Squatty Potty for the win! These things are awesome for keeping the pelvis open and helping baby remain in an optimal position!

Laboring mom laughs while having her hair braided. St Vincent's Hospital Full Circle.
Laboring mother squatting on a Squatty Potty during early labor at home in Jacksonville.

College football played in the living room while the family relaxed. Their sweet pup roamed around and loved all of the attention. It's like he knew that he wouldn't be the baby for much longer!

Family watches TV and plays with the dog while mom labors at home in Jacksonville, Florida in the Riverside area.

Dad loves photography (he's pretty talented, see part 2 to see some images he took with my camera at the hospital!), and he had taken weekly Polaroids of his beautiful wife's growing belly. They had to get one final picture before baby arrived!

New dad takes picture of his pregnant wife at 40 weeks gestation.
Polaroid picture of laboring mom at 40 weeks pregnant.

Dad ran out for Chick-Fil-A, and mom met him at the car to help him bring everything in. Dinner for everyone! They were so considerate of all of their birth team's needs. They had snacks, homemade treats, tea and coffee...everything their family would need to support them through this wonderful process. 

Couple walks in from the front yard with Chick-fil-a for the birth team.

There is so much beauty in laboring at home. In the movies and on TV, what do we always see? A woman's water suddenly breaking, or a first contraction, and then everyone screaming and scrambling, collecting suitcases and booking it for the hospital. HINT: for 99% of pregnancies, that is nowhere near necessary.

Mom focuses through a contraction on a birth ball while laboring at home with her husband, mom, and doula.
The family dog watches a pregnant mom breathe through a contraction while sitting on a birth ball while she labors at home before heading to the hospital.

I believe that a woman should labor where she is comfortable laboring, and birth where she is comfortable birthing. Period. Maybe that is in a hospital, surrounded by talented medical staff to support her. Maybe it's naked in a meadow with the sunshine warm on her belly. Maybe it's at home, with your pup by your side, rocking some Brooks & Dunn. For this family, it meant laboring at home until she couldn't talk through her contractions, and then heading to St. Vincent's Southside Hospital to birth her baby with the incredible team of midwives and OBs of Full Circle Women's Care here in Jacksonville. The best of both worlds!

Mother labors on a birth ball in her home in Jacksonville, Florida.
Phone hooked up to a speaker playing country music during labor at home.

Mama used her doula tricks that she had used with so many of her clients before. She had an awesome birth ball (it had rubber grippies on it and sand in the bottom to keep it from rolling away), and used different labor positions to stay on top of the waves. 

Mom squats on the floor and lays on a birth ball during a contraction at home.

Mama shares a very special bond with her dad. He gave his daughter her space, as her sisters, doula, and husband supported her, but his loving gaze was always on her through every contraction. It was touching to see him lend his quiet strength and confidence to his youngest daughter. 

Grandpa looks on and folds laundry while his daughter labors at home.

I love details like this. The fresh flowers, the candle, Oprah magazine, candy canes, the laminated birth plan...all a unique part of this family's story.

Husband lights a special candle to create a safe and warm environment for his wife to labor peacefully at home in Jacksonville.

This is doula Ali Castillo of Nova Birthing Services. She is mama's wonderful friend and backup doula. (As in, mama is also a doula, and Ali will backup for her if she has two clients in labor at the same time.) They are such an amazing team and it was so cool to see them work together.

Doula encourages birth client through an intense pressure wave.

This is where mama's contractions began to require some serious focus. She started to get a little shaky and a little teary, and they were getting much stronger and closer together. After a few very difficult waves, they decided that it was time to start moving towards the hospital.

Laboring mom is supported through a contraction by her husband and sisters.
Laboring mother laughs after a contraction is over.

But first, a little makeup! Anything that a laboring mom can do to make her feel more comfortable and confident is a great thing. Even if that means doing your eyebrows in between contractions!

Mom in labor puts on makeup before heading to St. Vincent's Southside to have her baby with a midwife from Full Circle.
Sisters, doula, and mom laugh with laboring mom while she is getting ready to head to the hospital.
Laboring mother breathes through a contraction while applying makeup.

One last surge before heading out the door. It was a good one!

Laboring at home in the kitchen.

And a quick picture, the last one as a family of two before they headed into the night. 

One last picture before heading to St. Vincent's Southside to birth their baby with a midwife from Full Circle.
Couple drives to St. Vincent's Hospital Southside to have their baby with Full Circle Women's Care.

And off to St. Vincent's they went!

It was so special spending a few hours with them as they labored at home. Mama listened to her body, and with the guidance of her doula, they made the best decision as to when to head to the hospital.

Read the rest of their birth story here!
(You’ll want to see this sweet baby…he’s a cutie!)

How will you remember your birth story? I would be honored to be a part of your birth team and help you document your baby's entrance into the world!