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.

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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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Welcome, Sebastian : A Birth Story from your Mama | Columbus Birth Photographer

" We were spending what would be our last mellow night at home. It was New Year’s Eve, and Mallory was 39 (plus some) weeks pregnant. We had spent the past 10 days living with a number of unknowns and practicing acceptance ever since our midwife found that, nearing 38 weeks, our sweet babe had flipped breech. 

A breech baby meant not only no home birth but that our birthing options were limited. 

We spent the days surrounding Christmas at the chiropractor and acupuncturist. We did hypnotherapy and moxibustion. We went to an indoor pool so that, at full term, Mallory could do handstands in the water. And then we waited, not knowing where the next day would take us.

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Our one last effort to get the little one head down was to have a doctor perform an external cephalic version where they manually turn the baby. We scheduled one for the second of January. 

Naturally, the universe had different plans. 

The next day, Mallory started having consistent cramps. She worked through waves as the sun rose on the first of the year. 

By lunch time, our doula, Ami, had arranged for us to meet up at St. Ann’s. Our birth team had been working closely with them, and they were willing to attempt an ECV that day. We put the car seat and hospital bag in the car, ate pork and sauerkraut with my parents, and then left for the hospital. 

The probability of success was against us. The bigger the baby, the harder to move, and our babe was over 39 weeks gestation plus measuring large. On top of that, Mallory had an anterior placenta which makes for a more difficult turn. After some discussion, we decided to place an epidural to help relax her body and increase our dwindling odds. 

And then it was time. It’s a wild sight to see two adults pushing with all their might on your partner’s pregnant belly. The first attempt failed, and a second attempt proved to have no more luck. The doubt was palpable. We knew our chances were slim, but to see it not work made it real. If the kid stayed breech, we were looking at a cesarean within the next few hours. Ami suggested inverting the bed to help pull the baby’s bottom out of the pelvis for the final attempt. Collectively, the room did a sharp inhale as the tension from pushing broke and baby flipped. 

Y’ALL. I cannot put into words the elation that comes with regaining ones freedom to choose. 

So, this badass woman I get to call my wife let her epidural bolus wear off in active labor, and, with contractions every 3-4 minutes, we left the hospital to birth our baby at home.

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By midnight, we had arrived back home. I was filling up the birth tub. Ami was helping Mallory and alerting the rest of the birth team. We retired our phones and unplugged the clocks. The world outside did not exist. 

Mallory worked hard. There were long swathes of night where the only indication of time passing were the consistent breaks in silence. The vocalizations during each surge and the sound of baby’s heartbeat through a doppler formed an unmistakable labor melody that carried us through until dawn. 

With the sun came a much needed breath of energy after a long and sleepless night. The second of January proved fierce bringing with it contractions which eventually layered over one another in transitional patterns. Mallory riding the waves, and Rachel recording the vitals she had taken. We were so ready to meet our baby. 

In the afternoon, Mallory moved through labor in the birth pool, the building pressure expressed through low moans peaking with grunts. Rachel checked to see if she was ready to push. There was only a small lip of cervix left, but the baby showed no signs of descent. 

 

The sky settled dark again, and exhaustion hit hard. It had been 36 hours since the onset of labor. We made the decision to transfer back to St. Ann’s Hospital with the hopes of relief and sleep.

Once at the hospital, Mallory received an epidural and had them break her water in hopes that this would help the babe descend. She was given popsicles, oxygen, and a peanut ball. The nurse appeared every so often to help her into a new position for labor progression. 

Our birth team transferred with us which was such a blessing. Everyone was scattered about the room in chairs providing familiarity and unwavering support. 

When we collectively decided that rest was in order, I curled up in an empty labor tub, plummeting into a heavy and unnerving sleep as midnight approached. 

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While I slept, Mallory was dealing with an ineffective epidural. She had two straight catheters, both of which she could feel, painful cervical checks, and she vomited from the medicine when they attempted to adjust the dose. It was then they accepted the need for a new epidural, and she received her third. 

Finally blanketed with relief, she was determined to rest. At this point, however, there had been no progress in dilation or descent in over 12 hours. The nurse was hoping to place an intrauterine monitor to determine contraction strength and possibly add pitocin. Mallory told them to wake up “the girl in the tub” and then demanded everyone else leave. 

Startled, I came to in the room trying process the information I was being given. I stood next to Mallory’s bed in the otherwise empty delivery room. She was not only tired, still without sleep, but also physically and emotionally drained from the long labor and lack of personal space that comes with hospital interventions. 

Trusting in what her body and baby were telling her, she decided that labor augmentation was not that route to go; a cesarean was going to be less stress on our little one. 

We called the cavalry back in and let them know our decision. Mallory was hoping that, with the new working epidural, they would allow her a couple hours of sleep first. However, her rising temperature loomed over as future cause for concern, and it was decided that we would move forward with the plan before it became urgent. 

There was relief tinged with fear as we readied ourselves. They wheeled Mallory out, and I got dressed in paper scrubs as I tried to shake off the adrenaline. It was time. 

Entering the operating room was like walking outside, every surface gleaming with bright white light. Mallory was already prepped, and I took my position seated by her head. Just before pulling the baby out, they revealed the drape’s clear window. I watched as they pulled our child out and towards us. I announced, through tears, that he was a boy. After a delayed cord clamping, I met up with him at the warmer. Within moments, we both returned to Mallory where he was placed skin to skin.

 

We were in love from the moment we saw him. Nine pounds, eight ounces, the chubbiest of cheeks, and a perfectly round head from being nowhere near Mallory’s pelvis. 

Birth is fascinating and unpredictable. Although Sebastian had a cesarean delivery, having care providers who were respectful, supportive, and trusted birth was instrumental in ensuring an empowering experience. Mallory was able to labor as she wanted and make decisions based on intuition rather than external pressures. 

And, at the end of it all, we got this delicious baby boy."

-Mama, Amy Caldwell

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To Mallory,

You are power. Raw power. 
I  am forever grateful to have been allowed inside your sacred space. Thank you for the opportunity- both to document your journey, and to get to know you, your wife, and your darling child. 

All my love,
Hannah

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Birth Team:
Midwives: Rachel McCloskey and Audra Phillips / Columbus Midwife Collective
Doula: Ami Shaffer / Central Ohio Doulas
 

Birth

Eliot Says Hello | A Birth Story | Milk And Hannah | Columbus Birth Photographer

When I met Sasha and Corey for the first time, I stayed long and we talked much.
Birth, politics, cats, crime, philosophy, books, weddings, dentistry, college, real estate...
 It was dark when I left, and my heart was happy. 
We were a really good fit for a client-photographer relationship.
And as, like, friends.

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Sasha was sitting at 40 weeks and 2 days when I got a text message one Friday night at 9:23 PM. 
Two lovers had spent their afternoons at the Ohio State Fair walking and eating and not riding rides (because pregnant), and she was feeling pressure and pain that were different than the Braxton Hicks she'd been experiencing. She said she'd start timing them and circle back with me.

A 2:39 AM check-in reveals the contractions are consistent- but not so painful that she's ready to head into the hospital- and that she was resting in between.
Perfect.
I let her know that I'd check in with her in the morning.

8:26 AM: 

 
 

D E A R   S A S H A  :

You are an incredibly determined, loyal, loving, hilarious, glorious, cool as a cucumber woman
snd I want to be you when I grow up.
Thank you for inviting me into your sacred space. For allowing me the honor of documenting it. 
Eliot is lucky to have you as Mama, Corey is lucky to have you as his teammate and partner, and I am lucky to know you, and call you friend.

All my love.

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Birth Support: Sasha's Mom, and her husband, Corey.
Birthing Location: Riverside Methodist Hospital, Columbus, Ohio