I Belong. You Belong


I’d been anticipating going into full blown labor at any minute for the past two weeks. I felt anxious, excited and a little scared. The unassisted birth experience didn’t seem obtainable even one month before it happened.

I’d been envisioning any outcome but the successful birth of our 3rd son. The fear-mongering of past precious pregnancies and birthing experiences rearing their massively terrifying presence in my thoughts.

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With my first birth, I was met with a cesarean and a new fear and mistrust of my instincts and my body.

Past hospital stays after my first two births shared an aspect of discomfort with the lack of freedom given absent of procedure based pushback. So many moments that resembled a lack of care and respect for my changed, vulnerable and healing autonomy.

I didn’t want to have another baby without being able to say that I tried again. My body had gone through an abundance of change in the last 4 years and I was seeking renewed ownership of myself.

By this time I had seen countless pictures and videos; read multiple articles about unassisted home births. Moments captured of mothers’ faces revealing raw pain, joy, and liberation. THAT. That was everything, EVERYTHING, I expected birth to be for me. Trusting my body to change and expel a new life.

I decided to send out inquiries. I sent out three and my midwife responded first - I didn’t need to meet anyone else after we met.

I was 36 weeks so we didn’t have a great deal of time to prepare but I was met with a vast amount of support. Our visits immediately and always filled with positivity and excellent information.

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Despite those wonderful interactions, that invisible veil of boundary made itself deafeningly present to me. Not a result of my ignorance or miseducation - this was cultural, marrow deep. All of the articles that I’d read, the images I’d seen were the stories of predominantly white birth spaces. It left me with the feeling that I was out of place in my own situation.

The topics of feminism and the re-establishment of sacred birth spaces are so commonly recognized as affluent, white ones. As absolutely excited as I was to be included, the fact that I went so long feeling as if I needed an invitation stayed in that small, back corner of my joy.


The day before Archer’s birth was chaos. Amassed amounts of worry, doubt, and fluster consumed our space. I tried to stay busy, attempting to oh-so-subtly assist labor’s arrival. I was awaiting my hodge podge tribe of loved ones to be there... ready to help me relax and focus.

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I was met with a nervous, disgruntled matriarch and my anxious children. This, in no way, was an ease to my wound up mind. Very much the opposite.

I can’t do it. It won’t work. No one is here to help me, why did I think this would work?

There is no denying that my doubt was firmly rooted and fed by the lack of enthusiasm I was met with by my own kin. Even with the knowledge of my desires and my history, I was not met with positivity or full support - “You’re crazy.” “Having a water birth? Why?” Even up until to the very day and hour, “I still think you should just go to the hospital”. They didn’t solely feel this way, it’d been ingrained into them.

The doctors that overlook and mistreat our bodies are the ones we go to deliver our babies.

Why?

We see free bodies giving birth but not our own. The seldom times we do, it’s often in tokenization. A brown face in the sea of pale ones, not commanding space but only quietly mentioned.



I find myself now living as that face and body. That collective narrative the diversity quota in a sea of pale, pink ones. Just as beautiful, just as worthy, just as powerful but not fully embraced or included.

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None of this takes away my triumph, but it tarnishes it in a way I can’t help but to acknowledge.



Is it just me?


Why are my other black peers asking me all these questions as if I was the living invitation they needed to feel welcomed to be that face with me?

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When I reflect on my experiences, the common conclusion is my lack of belonging. A lack of comfort because, in some way, my body is not really mine. I am a presumed statistic, a stereotype. The diversity client or charity case. These moments of power captured and taken to be used as advertisements in a regularly white line up. This all creates a feeling of the disconnect lived here. Further fed by fear.


It all holds true.

With the help of my mother after her arrival, I finally relaxed in my space so that my body could make change. My husband checking in on me in between rearing our children, and my beautiful matriarch trying her best to be present despite her fear and mistrust of the situation. My birthing support echoing cheers while encouraging me to give in to the body that I no longer understood or had the time to learn to trust again, this was the moment of truth.

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The absence of the eagerness to numb my pains yet still control my body was both empowering and unnerving. The comfort of my nakedness, the propping of my bedding, the smells of the frankincense and lavender near my bedside and my mother’s calm, soothing voice felt like light. A spark ignited within me to stop ...breathe, and listen. Though unprepared and still so unsure, I took charge, I knew when it was time to go down my steps and into the pool. Trying to listen only to my body, focusing solely on embracing every part of MY sacred space - MY birthing body.


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I screamed. I cursed. I prepared to give in, to give up.

And then, I felt his head.

Two pushes later, he was in my arms. I’d DREAMED OF THIS. Imagined THIS.

No matter what happened after, this was all I wanted. It was not a fairy tale. It was not absent of bias from my family or body. Doubt echoed through my walls and rooms, as well as my mind but they can no longer take away my power.

Holding Archer in my arms, in a pool full of the birthing parts of us was the confirmation I needed that my body was capable and my choices were mine.

This is true.

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The fact that I am now an outlier to a movement that preaches inclusion but is still limited, exclusive and privileged is just as true.

Mine now, another singular black body, in a sea of equally powerful, beautiful, white ones. Presented with questions, met with skepticism, and left still feeling entrapped by that veil.

In my bones, uncertainty lingers, even as I write this.

The “free birth space” is open to all but somehow women of color are still not welcomed there. My takeaway as I reflect on my own experience, is that the invitation isn’t needed.


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My body belongs in this space, as does any women who wants to be there. No matter how this body is seen. No matter the background it presumably comes from. No matter who finds it to be taboo or eccentric or the privileged thing to do. It is obtainable and you absolutely have the right to choose it. Do not ask, DEMAND.

I’m honored to share this space, this freedom, with you too.

 

WRITTEN BY THE WONDERFUL, ASTOUNDING, IMPECCABLE

SIARRE massey

You can follow her on instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/____si.la____/

AND / OR

VENMO her A COFFEE OR MORE BY SENDING TO @SIARRE-MASSEY

 

Say "No!" to The Hospital Gown - 10 Size Inclusive Outfit Alternatives from A Birth Photographer

As a birth photographer, it is no surprise that I am anti-hospital gown. Esthetically and functionally, they are definitely not what you want around/on your body as you labor and birth. As a HUGE fan of self-expression and individuality in my every day life, molding that with comfort in birth spaces is a tip I pass on to every single one of my clients regardless of where they deliver.

I’ve spoken publicly about the one-size-fits-all multi-use gowns on my Instagram, too :

I specifically referred to these Motherhood Maternity gowns in Regular and Plus sizes in that video for parents interested in the coverage of a hospital gown with the freedom of choice and consent- but this blog is about all your options. From a mom and birth photographer who values your comfort and also values what feeling like a million bucks brings to the table, here are 10 size inclusive alternatives to throw on in place of the L&D gown.


1.) TOMBOYX MICROMODAL BRALETTE - $ 39 , sizes XS -5X
TOMBOYX 6” BOXER BRIEF - $34 , sizes XS - 5X

 
 

Taking spot number 1 is my favorite set of the bunch.

TomboyX apparel is eco-friendly and ethically produced, for any body sitting on or off the binary and incredibly size inclusive. Serving sizes XS-5X in all of their products. The bralette comes in a wide range of colors and the 6” boxer briefs are just flat out CUTE. Obviously, the boxers come off when the baby comes out, but until then, if you’re more of a “keep it covered” type of person, this pair is one to keep in mind.

What I LOVE: This set is SEXY. I love the width of the straps and the keyhole that doubles as a ventilation system in the bralette. The important part of wearing anything on top is the ability to pull it down under the breasts during skin to skin and/or for breastfeeding- if you’re going that route. I love the coverage and comfortability of the boxer briefs and whether or not your ass can squeeze into an airplane seat without thought, this set fits you.

 

 

2.) KALA THE NURSING BRA - $90 , 30A - 42E
KALA THE MATERNITY UNDIE - $45 , XS - 2X

 
 

I’m a newbie to Kala Intimates and regretting that I didn’t know about them for my pregnancies HARD.
Kala is an inclusive brand focusing on eco-friendly sustainable products for everyone. Their priorities are Mother Earth and diversity both in sizing and in the color range their nudes are available.

What I LOVE: The design of the nursing bra makes it easy for one-handed boob removal and is made with organic cotton. ALSO? ANTI-BACTERIAL. It dries rapidly and is said to remain odor-free. The undies are a little bump to big bump transitional piece which is ROCKIN. That means you can absolutely get your use out of them all pregnancy long. The wide hi-low band sweeps underneath a growing baby and stays put. Plus, a discount: Sign up for the mailing list at the bottom of their homepage and get 10% off your first purchase.

What I’m bummed on: White isn’t an ideal color to wear into a birth space, heads up. Luckily, this set comes in a dark grey, too.

 

 
 
 

I love Universal Standard. Let me say that again... I LOVE Universal Standard. The most size inclusive brand in the world, they are dedicated to luxurious fabrics and inclusivity. Every item in their shop is tried on a model of every single size they offer. You’re not wondering what it might look like on your body, you’re seeing it with your own eyes. As someone who owns stuff from US, I vouch for the quality of the camisole. It’s incredible.

Because Universal Standard doesn’t offer intimates yet, we’re back to TomboyX for briefs that go with and Free People for the scrunched socks. Both will give you the vibes that Universal Standard is sending out with this incredible ad.

What I LOVE: Size range, size range, size range. The fabric is soft and quality and washes incredibly well. I think this option is fun and playful but also gives you pieces you can continue to wear even after baby.

What I’m bummed on: Finding socks that are made specifically for fat bodies is proving to be pretty difficult. I’m not a huge fan of Free People as a whole, so take a peek at the socks listed and try your local thrift shop and/or maybe do some hunting on your own if you’re also in the “Free People isn’t great at all not in the slightest” camp. Also, just like above, white isn’t ideal for a birth space if you want to keep it white- There are lots of color options for both the briefs and the Camisole, so pick whatever you’re feeling!

 

 

This set is so trendy it’s almost disgusting, but in a good way. It def sits as the least size-inclusive of the bunch, so anyone with large breasts and/or curves should head straight to option 5, but smaller chests and thin humans, this is for you!

In color “Tobacco” the femme boxers and bralette are so PRETTY. The color and cut are peak Autumn. For bellies, either size up to wear around the abdomen or be aware that it will sit lower on the hips if buying in your size. I’m not familiar with how the sizing works for this brand, so make sure you take a peek at their sizing guide prior to purchasing.

What I love: I am especially a fan of the buttons on the femme boxers and the accessibility of the bralette for breastfeeding parents, sliding the straps off the shoulders will be a cake walk for easy out-and-back-in of the goods.

What I’m bummed on: The sizing is a bust. It’s one of those things that has me remembering that plus-size options still aren’t the norm. I also can’t find any information on sourcing and/or company ethical policies- so if supporting brands that are good for the planet is your forte, you may want to keep digging and see what you can find and/or, choose another option.

 

 

5.) PACT SLEEP TEE - $35 , XS-XL

 
 

PACT is bringing it with their fair trade, certified organic cotton goods. They don’t do toxic dyes, pesticides, and are ALL for conscious consuming. Another “straight size” option, in reading reviews, the XL is roomy, not snug, and this piece definitely fits true to size, with many people stating it’s actually roomier than they anticipated, in all sizes- which is great news as you’ll have a pregnant belly under there.

What I love: FLEXIBILITY. I love a roomy shirtdress. I love that to be “covered” you can actually wear nothing underneath, which means that as you get closer to baby time and fluids pour out of your nether regions, it’s no big deal. Even though this is sold as a sleep tee, it could absolutely be worn over leggings with a denim jacket post baby for colder months, OR with sneaks and bike shorts for casual summer wear.

What I’m bummed on: Ugh, sizing. Inclusive sizing gets lots and lots of extra points from me-anything that doesn’t include plus options gets this whiny sentence.

 

 
 

 

7.) STORQ FULL CUP NURSING BRA - $46, 30D - 44F
STORQ MATERNITY ROBE - $90 , XS-XXXL

STORQ specializes in classic, timeless, well-made pieces for pregnant bodies that don’t sacrifice style-and they do it extremely well. When I look at their collection it strikes me as capsule wardrobe-ish. Focusing on the basics made with quality materials, each item is really beautiful. They’ve done an impeccable job marrying functionality with style.

The sizing for STORQ is okay. We’ve got a decent range of XS - 3X, which is where I believe all brands should be at a bare minimum. The Delivery Robe is great for pregnancy, and is marketed as being great, too, for all the poking and sticking, or lack there-of, in a delivery room. Paired with the Full Cup Nursing Bra, you’ve got pieces that will take you well into your postpartum period and beyond. The nursing style is limited to just larger breasts, however their regular Everyday Bra coming in at $42, is also available and in sizes 30A - 44D. You lose that nursing capability, but it’s an equally amazing option.

What I love: I think these may top my list as 1.) most practical and 2.) hottest. I love the robe, I love the nursing bra in “Rust” and I REALLY love them together. The wide back bank of the nursing bra isn’t frumpy, it’s lovely and frames the body so well it doesn’t even look like a nursing bra. You get that one hand flap front and in fabrics specifically sourced with luxury in mind.

What I’m bummed on: These are sitting at the priciest. I’m a firm believer in investing in quality work, which both of these fall under, but the price tag, regardless of how warranted, is still high and may be a little out of budget for most families.

 

 

8.) DWELL + SLUMBER CAFTAN - $62 , XS-XXL

Dwell + Slumber has made a serious name for themselves making trendy, comfortable, jersey dresses with lots of room to move in the most pinterest-worthy color palettes. “Buttery Soft” and “100% Nursing and Bump-Friendly” this is another one of those pieces that follows you well into postpartum.
It also has… wait for it…. POCKETS!! Tucked discreetly into the side seam.

This piece comes in 3 sizes- XS-S, M-L, AND XL-XXL, and lots and lots of colors.
Dwell + Slumber’s following is massive and very, VERY loyal. They sell out quickly and don’t guarantee restocks on particular colors or patterns. If you find something you like and it’s still in stock in your size? GRAB IT QUICKLY.

What I LOVE: I’ve felt this brand before and when they claim “buttery soft” they aren’t exaggerating in the slightest. I love flexibility in the make- throw it ver your head and you’re done. The length is great and the wide variety of colors is something I appreciate a lot.

What I’m bummed on: You know it’s coming… the size range. Being that XXL is at the very edge of their size offerings, I’m not confident that a 2X body would fit in the largest size with room to move.

 

 

Looking for an option outside predictable maternity brands, I stumbled across the “MOMMYROBECLOTHING” shop on Etsy.
Based in India, they specialize in cotton robes and kaftans in a wide array of sizes, shapes and patterns. The tie-dyed pieces are all hand dyed and their reviews are glowing. Also, HELLO! THEY HAVE SIZE RANGES UP TO 5X. There’s also an area of the item details that talks about requesting buttons down the back for easy epidural access.

I am so obsessed with this one I am legitimately considering buying it for myself. Happy Birthday to me.

This specific piece buttons up the front and also includes a waist tie. Which MEANS you can unbutton and wear this as a traditional open robe tied at the waist, or buttoned without the tie as a maxi, and ALSO as a laboring gown, and it, again, follows you out of pregnancy and into postpartum.

What I LOVE: Everything. Seriously everything. I can’t get enough of this one.

What I’m bummed on: Not bummed, just to note- shipping will take longer as this is coming straight from India. Keep that in mind while you order and do so sooner rather than later.

 

 

Knix just released their new Maternity line and they are off to a bangin’ start! Packed full of necessities for pregnancy through postpartum, including my favorites: the Leakproof Maternity Nursing Bra in a SUPER wide size range and underwear options that work for maternity and into postpartum that go up to XXXL. In beige and black, I am loving this collection and am excited to see future additions.

The Leakproof Maternity Nursing Bra includes removable breast pads and claims it is “buttery soft”. The details say that its stretch fabric is meant to form and adapt with your body, so it may be snug at first as it sets you your curves. The Boyshorts are made with spandex and are WILDLY stretchy- just like the maternity bra, these are meant to stretch and change as your body moves from through pregnancy and to postpartum.

When I had my babes, my go-to labor outfit was a long comfortable sweater I could throw over a good bra. I also wore underwear, and slid them off the closer it got to pushing time. The sweater was great for fluctuations in body temp during the laboring process. This sweater from H&M comes in straight sizes and is also available in their H&M + line up to 4X. Each is linked above.

What I LOVE: I love that this set is neutral and easy. Three stand alone pieces that can be used again and again and, from a vain perspective, would look incredible in birth photographs. Knix is a really reliable company and I’m excited to see where they are headed.


Regardless of where you’re having a baby, these are all solid options that mesh style and comfort. Fingers crossed you found something you loved and that will help you plan an outfit of your own for delivery day and bid that hospital gown a solid, firm, resounding “Goodbye!”


xo

Hannah Spencer
Owner/Photographer, Milk And Hannah

Hiring a Birth Photographer? Ask Them These 8 Questions First - Milk And Hannah | Columbus Birth Photographer

HOME BIRTH, COLUMBUS OHIO, MAMA

Eight Questions

F O R
Y O U R
B I R T H
P H O T O G R A P H E R


Birth Photography is booming and as a professional, I want to make sure you hire the best one for you.
Before you pay that retainer fee and make that booking official, here’s a list of my top 8 questions to ask your birth photographer.


 

 


1. CAN YOU SHOW ME WHAT A FULL BIRTH GALLERY LOOKS LIKE ?

Social media is wonderful but it’s also the worst.
We live in an online world in which only the best of the best versions of ourselves are on display, and this extends to businesses and artists, such as Birth Photographers. We show you THE BEST, and can you blame us? We aim to impress! But this doesn’t tell the full story of birth photography, and to make an educated decision on whether or not your Birth Photographer is a good fit for you, you need to see the full story, not just what Instagram shows you.

Ask your Birth Photographer to see what a full finished gallery looks like.
A professional worth hiring will have one or even several to show you, and will do so happily.

Things to look for :

  • Editing style- Do you like how the photographer edits their images- whether dark and contrasty or bright and airy ?

  • High Quality images (Are the majority of photos in focus or are they blurry? Is there a lot of grain or scratchy speckles ? )

  • Color - Are the photos edited in color or black & white or both? ( Your preference will vary-just be sure it aligns with what you want! )

  • Story Length - Does the gallery show images from all aspects of birth - labor, pushing, moment of birth, and the postpartum period ?

  • Diversity in Shots - Are the photos creatively composed or are they all the same? Are you seeing moments you’d never have thought to photograph? Both small details and large ones ?

  • Emotional Connection - Are you feeling connected to the photographs? Do you feel moved emotionally?


2. WHEN CAN WE MEET IN PERSON ?


MEET YOUR BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER IN PERSON.




I can’t stress this enough. For me this usually happens after a basic e-mail interview, a contract signing and retainer payment, but occasionally, parents need to meet me in person before they’re totally sold, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s a pretty big financial commitment! Regardless, part of my process is meeting my client and their families in their home. Connecting on a level above Client/Photographer, and beginning a relationship of trust and care that transfers into a birth space that is supported, loved, and invested in.

Birth spaces are one area where you don’t want people around you who you don’t mesh with. This will have a direct affect on your ability to focus, relax, and birth your baby.
Before you make a decision, get to know your birth photographer. Meet them in person, get to know them, see how you get along, and listen to your gut-you’ll know if it’s a good fit.





3. WHAT IS YOUR CHILDCARE SITUATION ?

The vast majority of birth photographers, I’d put my money on 80%, are parents to young-ish children.
And children are THE BEST, they really are, BUT…
They make it absolutely impossible to do what you need to do when you need to do it.

If your Birth Photographer has babies at home, ask them what their childcare plan is.
Birth doesn’t normally happen Monday through Friday, 9am - 5pm, it happens during Father’s Day Brunch ( been there!) it happens at 2am on a Wednesday, and on Christmas Eve while everyone is still sleeping. It sometimes lasts for 4 hours, and others last for 37.

Childcare for a Birth Photographer should be covered 24/7, 365 days a year, with need for little notice and no time limits.
If your choice doesn’t have a 24/7 care plan laid out, ask what the back up plan is- if they have no back-up plan, you may want to consider another option.


Specific details you’ll need to know :

  • Are you covered 24/7 in the time surrounding my due date ?

  • What if my birth unfolds during a holiday or celebration ?

  • How much time does it take to finalize childcare arrangements after being notified I’m in labor ?




4. ARE YOU A LICENSED AND / OR REGISTERED BUSINESS ?

State laws vary on business license requirements from one to the next,
but the basis of this question is a simple one : Are you a legally operating business ?

Because birth photography sometimes happens inside hospitals and birthing centers, it’s very important to make sure your Birth Photographer is a professional- licensed to operate in your State/City/County. For Ohio, this means I’ve paid applicable fees and taxes to become a registered business in the State of Ohio and am operating a legal, recognized, licensed Limited Liability Company.

It’s easier than ever to obtain a decent camera- they are built into every cell phone and for sale for under $100 at every local department store. In that same breath, a Facebook business page can be made in under 5 minutes, regardless of the legitimacy of the actual business. New birth photographer Facebook Pages are popping up every single day.

- HOWEVER -

A camera does not make a professional photographer, just as a guitar does not make a professional musician.
A Facebook page does not promise you are dealing with a reputable business.

A Birth Photographer worth their weight in gold will be operating their business legally in their country/state/city/county .



5. HAVE YOU EVER WORKED ALONGSIDE MY MIDWIFE / OBGYN / DOULA / BIRTH TEAM ?

Birth communities are relatively close knit with many of us connected outside of the birth space. Ask your Birth Photographer if they’ve ever attended a birth with the professionals that you’ve chosen. If they’ve been in the same birth space, great! If not, no worries. It’s just a good idea to have these details up front.

And to round things out, ask your birth team if they’ve worked with your Birth Photographer.
They’ll have a pool of knowledge and experiences, both good and bad, so consider them a great resource in nailing down a Birth Photographer that checks all the right boxes for you.


6. WHAT HAPPENS IN THE EVENT OF A PERSONAL EMERGENCY ?

Life Happens.
Good birth photographers have policies in place to prepare.

In the event that something out of the control of your Birth Photographer comes up - a car accident, a broken leg, the FLU - it should be clear what the expectations are. Will your birth be covered by a back-up photographer? Will you receive a refund?


A Birth Photographer worth the investment will have a back-up photographer ready and waiting in case something comes up.
A really good birth photographer with have 2 or more back-up photographers.

Double check your Birth Photographer’s policies on “Acts of God”, or situations outside their control.




7. ARE YOU COMFORTABLE AND PRACTICED IN PHOTOGRAPHING BIRTHS IN DARK SPACES ?


Light is the main ingredient for making photographs- and in the middle of the night, there’s not much of it.
A daytime birth is a rare occasion, and when the hospital or living room lights are dimmed down, is your Birth Photographer able to handle the low light?

Ask to see examples of photographs your Birth Photographer has taken in low light. If they don’t have any examples to show you, take a peek at the full gallery they’ve shown you and weigh the pros and cons . A dark location for someone who doesn’t shoot in dark spaces or carry a flash along with them will result in few quality, usable photographs and is something you should take into consideration during the decision making process.

For those uncomfortable with the idea of flash photography during their birth, or those with conditions like photosensitive epilepsy or any disorder that makes you more prone to seizures, definitely bring this up with your Birth Photographer so they can best prepare. In the event that you have been diagnosed with photosensitive epilepsy, you’ll want to find a birth photographer who specializes in low light birth photography without flash, and has the portfolio to back that up.


8. THERE'S A CONTRACT, RIGHT ?


This is #8 on the list, but it could just as easily sit at #1.
Hiring a Birth Photographer that has a contract ready for you is crucial, and here’s why.

Contracts protect not only your Birth Photographer, but you. They lay out the groundwork for the stuff you expect like pricing, payments and turn around times, and the stuff that you don’t - Like, what happens in the event of an emergency, what happens if the camera falls onto the hospital floor and breaks into pieces, what happens if you forget to contact your photographer, and what to do if either of you would like to pursue legal action.

Contracts may seem intense, but they’re the safest way to lay a solid foundation for a client/photographer relationship and for both of you to have something to reference. They’re also a surefire way to spot a Birth Photographer who values you and is worth your investment.

Look over the contract carefully, and be sure to save yourself a copy, if it’s virtual, or ask for a copy of the original if it’s paper. Keep in mind, Photographers have likely invested in a local lawyer to look over their contract and/or draft something that’s specific to their own business. Rarely, if ever, are they something that is editable. You can always inquire, but you’ve heard it here first that extensive lengths go into contract creation, for the good of the Photographer and for the protection of their client’s, so definitely keep that in mind.

5 years into birth photography, and I have witnessed my fair share of wonderful stories and horrible ones.
Keep this list handy to help round out your expectations for the artist you choose to document these moments of triumph that you won’t ever be able to redo.

I care about ya.
Hannah

Birth

The Hospital Birth of Summit | Dublin Methodist Hospital | Columbus | Milk And Hannah | Birth Photographer

Rachel was freshly 8 weeks pregnant at our initial sit down to see how we jived, to see if we were a good fit. She made me a mug of tea and we talked in the living room. I took notes and wanted to know all about her, her 6 year old son, her husband, her birth the first go around and what she hoped for her next one. An hour later I met Adam and Shore on their way back from the pool. It was a really good afternoon.

By the end of the meeting, we were connected. It was effortless. All of the stories you’ll read here are effortless- that’s how client/birth photography should go. Every time. But we were fast friends, she and I, from minute 1.

———————————

I drove to Rachel and Adam’s apartment for their final meeting 2 days after Christmas, at 39 weeks pregnant and had gone to 42 weeks with her first. She had texted me all that day that she was feeling contractions- but at her 39 week doctor appointment, they monitored her and none of them showed up. Monitors, man. Forever not picking up what babies are putting down. They were headed home, and would meet me there.

I arrived before them and turned off my van. Leaning the seat back a few spots- I sunk in and scrolled IG until they arrived. A beep from Adam and a wave from Rachel in the passenger seat let me know they were here.

As I approached I heard “I just had a really intense one. It was hard to breathe through.”

We walked into the apartment and got comfortable on the couch. Chatting with both of them about how she was feeling, getting final details about what my role in the space would be, or what they wanted my role to be. I started noticing discomfort on her face in intervals. I asked if I could feel her stomach and she happily agreed.

A familiar firmness. I was switched back to that feeling from my own labors.
She was in the middle of a contraction. And it was long.

A few minutes later, Adam told me about their dinner plans. I smirked at him. They noticed.

I grabbed my things, told them to rest, and said to be prepared in case those dinner plans didn’t work out.

10 hours later he was born.

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Birth, Personal

The Bathtub Birth of Smith Stone | A Columbus Ohio Birth Story | Milk & Hannah

I can still remember Nicole’s DM on IG last year.

She was moving to Columbus from Seattle and wanted to connect - she also let me know they’d JUST started trying for a second child and would be hiring me at some point during their time here. I was all over it - a huge fan of her work “Miracle Mamas” - a support group for moms with addiction. She’d be here 4 weeks later, sitting in my living room with her son. But two weeks before that, I’d get a photo in my messages of a positive pregnancy test. My woman was moving to Columbus and she was doing it pregnant.

Over the coming months we developed an old soul type of friendship. One that picked up quickly and without effort. We bonded instinctively and effortlessly. Late nights in her attic surrounded by vintage clothes, trips in the Audi going…under?… the speed limit (always under the speed limit, Noah). Photo shoots in my master bedroom and lots and lots and lots of thrifting. As her baby grew, so did our friendship.

On October 24th, 2018 the texts came in that she was having contractions.
A group message with her partner, Noah, her midwife, Rachel, and I kept the updates scrolling. But only hours into the journey, her water broke.

I grabbed my gear, called them in the car, but I was on my way.

Knocking once with no answer and then twice, I opened the door to a silent first floor. Steps into their dining room and her howls echoed down the staircase from the second floor. I bounded up the stairs to see a warrior woman laboring in the bath. Noah holding the shower head over her back, her sisters standing over her in town from the West coast.

20 minutes later, Smith arrived in the bath tub.

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Nicole,

I cherish you. In a life where random interactions with strangers happen every single day, it feels way more than a coincidence that our lives really connected.


All my love,
Hannah

 

 

Midwife: Rachel McCloskey
Secondary Midwife: Lora Hart
Thank you for being such incredible providers,
and for always including me in birth spaces as part of the team.
I appreciate you both so, so very much. <3

Birth

To Hazel, To Ivie - Love Letters to Her Daughters : The Birth Story of Ivie

My dearest sweet Hazel-

When I had my third contraction around three in the morning- I knew it was time.  I laid in bed timing my contractions for the next few hours and when I was certain this was it, I quietly got out of bed and crawled into bed with you.  I snuggled up to you from behind and nestled my face into your wild curls and the warm nape of your neck. I lay there with you quietly just soaking up the last few moments with you as my only child.  It’s such a bittersweet thing- knowing I’m about to give you this gift of a sibling, but also my heart breaking for you in a way knowing it would never be just you and me again.

    You woke up and rolled over and gave me a big hug and I said “guess what?!” we are going to meet your baby sister today!”. You looked at me wide eyed and smiled and squealed “we are?!”..  We tip toed back to my room so you could wake up dad and tell him the news.

    I’d shown you videos of homebirths and water births so you would know what to expect. One night while I was putting you to bed you asked out of the blue if it would hurt.  I assumed you were talking about birth and when I told you it would and that I might cry and even yell, but that it would all be worth it because in the end we would have this beautiful baby- you looked at me with tears in your eyes and told me you would hold me and kiss me to make me feel better.  And boy did you. You were the best little birthing coach anyone could ask for. You watched pensively and as things got more intense and I got louder, you would cover your ears but never take your eyes off me. You rubbed my arms, poured water on my back, gave me kisses when I needed them, and when I was really quiet with eyes closed in another place in my mind- you would creep up and look me in the face to make sure I was still in there somewhere.  At one point deep into a contraction, I felt the water behind me stir and to my surprise you had gotten your bathing suit on and jumped in the pool with me. You thought it was the funniest thing. The thought of you coming in with me had never crossed my mind, but I’m glad you thought to do it because it made you so happy and that made me happy.

    You’ll learn one day that the birth I had hoped for you didn’t come to fruition.  And in fact, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. Not just because I was treated with disrespect and condescension at the most vulnerable and intimate time, but because I felt like I let you down.  That’s a feeling that gets etched into your soul so deep, that I’m tearful almost 4 years later writing this. That’s why giving you this experience to be able to see birth for what it really is was so important to me. Birth is a really amazing thing.  It’s not disgusting, it’s not shameful, it’s not anything to hide or be embarrassed about. You had no preconceived notions or societal influences to clout what you saw. To you it was just birth, simple and matter of fact.

    I wanted to show you that women are strong.  I wanted to show you that your mom is strong.  I wanted to show you that you are strong. And that one day- if you choose to and are blessed with having a child, that you are in charge of your body.   Arm yourself with knowledge and follow your gut and your heart. And don’t ever let anyone influence how you feel about your body. You get to decide who you are and who you want to be.  And I will always support and love that person no matter what. I hope that one day you feel proud to have me as your mom. I’ve been proud to be your mom since the moment we met.

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My sweet Ivie girl-

    I don’t know where to begin.  We did it. It’s 4 months later as I write this and I still can’t believe it.  Even all throughout labor, I was in disbelief at each stage thinking to myself that I couldn’t believe I was at that certain point already.  After I had my third contraction at three in the morning. After I’d had contractions for three hours and I knew this was it. After I let work know I wouldn’t be in.  After I got into the pool for the first time once things picked up. After I had the first urge to push. After you were born. After waking up the next morning and staring at you next to me.  After each time that I got to the next big thing, I couldn’t believe that I’d made it that far. Yet at the same time I felt such an overwhelming calmness and confidence that what I was doing each of those moments was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

    I’d always imagined it would happen at night, but as I was walking around the house getting things ready that morning I thought maybe you had something else planned.  It was a bright, sunny day and the sun was beaming in through the windows as your sister sat and ate her cereal and watched cartoons like it was any other day. Only she knew today was the day.  Your dad went to the store to pick up some white hydrangeas for me. I wanted them all around to make the space as serene as I could. Things started to pick up a little and when he wasn’t back after awhile I wondered if sending him might have been a mistake.  I had been in contact with both my midwives, and they seemed eager to come to me, but I didn’t feel ready. Something in me just knew that it was going to be a little while still. You’re dad came back empty handed and I was a little disappointed. He had gone to four different stores and no one had white hydrangeas.  

I decided to tell my midwives it was okay for them to come over, even though I felt like they were just going to be waiting around for a while.  After I threw up the first time, Erica who was traveling from Athens, text me saying she thought maybe we waited to long and that she was racing to get to me.  I still didn’t feel like it was time and I told her to drive safely and not rush. Soon after Cortnie and Hannah arrived, two of your dad’s employees showed up with trays of food and a box filled with bouquets of white hydrangeas.  He hadn’t told me, but he text them and asked them to go all over Columbus and find as many as they could. When Erica came busting in, we were all just hanging out on this bright and sunny day as I arranged flowers. It was such a warm and funny moment to me.  

We sat around in the living room waiting as things progressed.  I eventually went upstairs to try and get some rest since things weren’t moving especially fast.  Erica and Hannah left to get lunch down the street. Your dad came upstairs and laid with me in bed.  In between each contraction I could fall slowly into a state of relaxation. But the longer we were together alone, the more intense each contraction got.   It was finally time to get into the pool since things seemed to be picking up. We came downstairs and I got in and soon after Erica and Hannah were back. Being in the pool made it so easy to relax in between each contraction.  As soon as one would come to an end I could instantly let go and relax my entire body and just lay weightlessly against the edge. I found squeezing hair combs in each hand so that the teeth dug into my palm so helpful. It was the perfect amount of counter pressure.  

    When I was mentally preparing myself for birthing you at home, I thought there were going to be two certainties that I should acknowledge up front and allow myself space for.  First, I thought I would break down right when everything started. Just knowing the shotgun had gone off and this was it and there was no backing out. That this tiny human was inside me and had to come out somehow.  It’s an overwhelming realization even when you know it’s coming for nine months. I remember brushing my teeth the morning I was getting ready to go to the hospital with your sister and a contraction hit and this wave of fear washed over me and I started to cry for just a moment.  I thought this feeling would be inevitable again and decided the best thing was to allow myself to experience it and then immediately let it go and move on.

    Second, I thought for sure at some point during natural birth, I would break down and tell everyone around me that I couldn’t do it.  Maybe during transition, maybe when it was time to push. Whenever it would be, I was certain there would come a point where I would be overwhelmed and scared and begging for it to come to an end.  

    That morning, I felt nothing but peace. I wasn’t scared. I was just determined.  I felt like I had something to do and I was just going to do everything in my power to do it.  I spent most of the labor with my eyes closed and just tried to fall deep down inside myself. I would come up once and awhile to kiss your dad or smile at your sister and tell her I loved her.   

    Things slowed down in the water so I went back upstairs to rest in bed with your dad.  Soon after, things picked up quickly. Each time I was left alone with him, things picked up quickly.  It was like my body was sending a message loud and clear to just let it be left alone where it felt the most calm and protected to do the work it instinctively knew how to do.  

    By the end of it all I think I got in and out of the pool three or four times.  I imaged birthing you in there all along as it seemed the most relaxing for me, but apparently it was too relaxing because every time things would slow down.  

    You were born on the couch, with your dad sitting right behind me, his face next to mine- neck in neck.  I didn’t know until afterwards, but I pushed for four hours and never once felt like I absolutely couldn’t do it.  There were positions I was apprehensive to try because getting in to them felt like it was going to be uncomfortable, but at no point did I feel like I wasn’t going to be able to do it.  

    The feeling of having you placed on my chest, in our living room, with your dad behind me, with your grandma and sister one couch away, with bistro lights hanging from the ceiling, with women fiercely supporting me and allowing me total autonomy, with nothing but warmth and respect flowing all around me is truly indescribable.  I can tell you, without a doubt, that it was and will forever be the greatest moment of my life. And my greatest hope is that you and your sister get to experience that same feeling one day, because that moment is the moment that really defines what love is and what life is all about.

 

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