I met Helene for the first time when she was around 38 weeks pregnant. In a coffee shop in downtown Portland, towards the end of the first time I met Helene, I remember asking her: “Do you believe in your heart you are going to go home with a baby?” To which she responded: “No.”
Unsure of how I should even begin to tell this story, I went hunting through Helene and I’s email conversations prior to her delivery, dating back some months. I could wax on and on about loss and the slow journey back to hope and everything in between. But once again, I will probably do better telling the story with photos. I am taking a snippet of an email to shed some light on the situation:
“After we lost our baby, Jaime and I went into hibernation mode. We felt like such outcasts. So many people didnt know what to say, and most said they have never heard of a second trimester loss before. It tore me to pieces each and every day. While the pain is still there and with me, I have learned that I did NOTHING wrong. And we did love our baby very, very much. And sadly being open about our journey with infertility and then a second trimester loss I have learned how not alone I am. It breaks my heart to learn that others have gone through the same pain I have, but I also have found comfort in knowing I am not alone. It is hard emotionally being pregnant again, but I cant wait to finally hold a living child in my arms. ”
As Helene neared the middle/end of her second trimester, she had still not felt her baby move. No kicks, no jolts, nothing. Concerned, Helene and Jamie began the routine ultrasounds at OHSU that would be a weekly third trimester treat…to see the baby she could not feel growing inside her. It seems baby was squirming around in there just fine, but Helene couldn’t feel it. This led to a bet between her husband/wife, ob-perinatology team. It really seemed like Helene just couldn’t feel her uterus. Would this mean she couldn’t feel contractions or labor? Worried that she may be well into labor without feeling anything, at the very end of her pregnancy, Helene, Jamie and their doctors decided to just make Oregon Health Sciences University their home until baby, (a surprise!) made his or her entrance.
The first time I went up the hill to OHSU to see Jamie and Helene, contractions were still not regular and but after a few rounds of misoprostol, things slowly began to happen. I sat in a chair off to the side after a doctor came and said more miso wasn’t really an option and they would like to introduce Pitocin. Sticking to her original birth plan of an unmedicated birth, Helene refused and asked to please try some other methods. She seemed so completely void of pain, I thought for sure things weren’t progressing. Describing “tingling, spasm-y” sensations in her lower back and that alone at 5cm, I started to realize maybe Helene really would have a painless birth. Helene’s Doc who had seen her through everything they’d endured went home to eat dinner.
Fast forward to the next “check”…Moving right along and still basically painless. Not comfortable of course, bit of back labor. But nothing like the Mack-trucks-driving-opposite-directions feeling that I remembered from my own labor. Suddenly, Helene is ready to push and no one seems quite ready for it. The doctor is nowhere to be found, and another is pulled from the hallway to help the nurses deliver.
During the beginning of the pushing process, Helene looked at the unfamiliar doctor and said “is it too late for an epidural?” (completely joking, yes folks, I just said an unmedicated woman in the throes of pushing her first child out cracked a joke.) He at first looked dumbfounded and then proceeded to explain why, well, it was a bit late for that, as Helene and the other staff laughed. It was the first of many mid-push jests. Some of which included asking for more grape popsicles and commenting (like the below photo) that “it’s not as bad as I thought it’d be”. Uh, yeah. Guess not! LOL!
Still no beloved Doctor to be found, Alan made his way into the world to parents who had been waiting for him a very, very long time.
Don’t get me wrong, all births are emotional. I cry (not like, sobbing, but ya know, a tear or two for sure) at every birth I shoot. Just with happiness for the new family, for the miracle of life, at the thought of all the joyful things new parents will soon experience. But this one, I don’t think I did. I was more like silent in complete awe.
Thank you Helene and Jamie for letting me take part in your joy. I hope you treasure these photos for many years to come…
Next up, Alan’s newborn photos