** Trigger Warning.
This is a story of loss and contains pictures. **
Let me tell you a story. A story about redemption and pain, sorrow and joy, death and life.
A little over two years ago, I was sitting at my desk finishing up some editing around 11 pm. My phone rang with a number I didn't recognize and I usually just ignore those calls. That night I answered. It was the mother of a girl I had never met, but who I knew through social media for years. I almost photographed her wedding but I was late into a pregnancy. I almost was her doula but I had already booked another birth. Somehow we had never met, but yet we knew each other. I automatically thought she was calling for some birth advice because I knew Caroline was to deliver any day. Instead I heard the words "Emma didn't make it. We don't know what happened. Can you please come?" So I drove in the wee morning, 3 hours to meet this soul sister and photograph her first born girl who never took a breath in this world.
I don't know how that night could be beautiful, but it was. I walked into the room and it was dimly lit with candles. Essential oils and soft praise music was filling the room and that beautiful new mama was snuggling her baby girl just like every mama does. At the end of the pictures everyone in the room surrounded Emma and sang "It is well". I will never forget the rawness of that moment as grandparents and friends and mama strained out those words with tears falling down their cheeks. I will never forget.
For the next 1 year and 11 months I watched Caroline mother with empty arms. And oh what a mother she is!
In July, I had the incredible honor of being present for Emma's sister's birth as a doula and photographer. Not only was this a birth after loss, it was a VBAC. It was hard to think about the details of the birth because the ONLY goal was to have a healthy baby. Induced early because the cause of Emma's death at 41 weeks 1 day was unknown, this birth story started with a lot of fear, labor triggered all of the trauma of Emma's death.
It seemed like all the odds were stacked against Caroline having the natural birth she dreamed of with Emma, but every step of this birth story was held. Held by a caring Father who knows the pain of loosing a child. Throughout the day and night Caroline was a mighty force as she labored naturally. Josh transformed before my eyes through the labor as he supported Caroline every. single. step. Friends and family who had walked the road of trauma and loss waited and watched and carried them. The birth room was a space of saftey and warmth.
In the end, not only did Caroline deliver her healthy, crying, full of life baby girl but she had a beautiful, natural VBAC.
That night I watched sorrow mix with joy. Sorrow because of all of the things they missed with Emma and joy because this precious child was safely in their arms.
It's not been easy, this life after death. Sorrow is not wiped away forever and there will always be an aching for Emma. But the miracle of birth and life is something to gasp about; to throw our hands in the air and dance about. Welcome to the world Eleanor Jane! I cannot wait to watch you grow.