Monet Nicole records with her lens perhaps the most important moment in a woman’s life: the birth of her child. She has photographed women during childbirth not only in the maternity ward, but also at home, when they give birth in bed or in the water. As she writes on her website, her own births changed her. She believes that nothing can compare to the moments when she gave birth to her daughters. “I still cry every time I share the moments when I gave birth to them,” she says. From her experience to date, she firmly believes that the day a woman gives birth to her child is one of the most important in her life, therefore it is 100% worth recording it on camera.
Ashlee Wilkenson, 29, who had photographer Rebecca Walsh (working for Denver-based birth photographer Monet Nicole) shoot the birth of her fifth baby, at home in Colorado. In her own words, Wilkenson describes how unpredictable childbirth can be, no matter how many times you’ve been through it.
“After having my first child in a hospital, I’ve had all of my subsequent pregnancies at home. I labour for around 24 hours with my first, and I believe it would have taken longer if I hadn’t been given Pitocin. Then I had roughly two hours of active labor with my second. Maybe I was three when I had my third? My fourth took 14 hours and was excruciatingly painful from the start. Because of that, I went into my most recent birth knowing to expect the unexpected, but also with a clear sense of what I hoped for, if possible. I wanted my husband to catch the baby. And it was really important for me to try and have some peace and quiet right after the baby was born.
I was fully expecting to go to 41 weeks because that’s what happened with my first and my third, but I’d also been feeling pretty labor-ish from 36 weeks onward. At 39 weeks, I went to bed like usual and then woke up maybe 45 minutes later to a giant contraction and tons of pressure. I felt like the baby was right there.
We’d chatted with my midwife about what to do if things proceeded rapidly because I’d had some fast labors before. So we had this brief time of self-preparation. Thankfully, my midwife, who lives about 45 minutes away, arrived on time, so we didn’t have to. My contractions were super close together and I remember thinking to myself, “I need them to slow down because I cannot do this.” I was still preparing myself for the idea of doing this for another 14 hours after my last labor, even though everyone else seemed to understand how close I was.
I hopped in the bath. I was still thinking I was just in there to slow my contractions down, and my husband and midwife were kind of like, “Sure, Ash, whatever you say.” In the water, things did space out a bit, but then the contractions got really intense again. And it was clear they weren’t dilation contractions. They were get-the-baby-out contractions.
I got out of the tub, and he was born within a contraction and a half. My husband was able to catch him, and then I just held him and looked at him for a while.
He’s such a chill baby. I love that I can see it in these photos, even though he has that little pout face. He has such a sweet demeanor, and he has had it since the very beginning.
It’s hard to put into words just how amazing it was to have him here. It was one of the highest joys I’ve ever experienced. To see him and to find out he was a boy and to hold him on my chest and to hear him cry and to see his face and to finally be done with the really long, hard journey of pregnancy. I soaked up all the snuggles and cried and cried and cried and was so happy and thankful that we did it!
The kids slept through the whole thing. We had a friend here who was planning to watch them if we needed it, and we were open to them coming in if they wanted to – or staying away if that’s what they preferred. But they ended up waking up maybe four hours after the baby was born. They were excited to say “hi” to the baby, but then they wanted to go to my sister’s so they just kind of took off. I got a nap.
Now that I have done this five times, I have definitely learned to expect the unexpected and to be OK if absolutely nothing seems to be going the way it’s “supposed” to go. It’s kind of like having so many kids close together. Sometimes we’re like, “Oh, my goodness, this is crazy!” But our hearts are full.
This labor and birth were so different than what I had hoped and dreamed for the entire pregnancy, but after he was there, I was extremely proud of myself and so pleased with how everything unfolded. I look back on the baby’s birth story and see the hand of a faithful God written all over it.”