NOVA

my birth story

It has been two and a half years, and I'm finally getting to write a bit about my own birth story. In a lot of ways it was my catalyst to begin and truly enjoy the art of birth photography today! To start, I was speaking with a friend about a non-profit trying to gain more volunteers when I had the craziest dizzy spell. As in, I had to sit or I would have fallen. At that moment I knew something was up, but tried to put it out of mind. An easy task believe it or not, because not less than a week later a pipe burst in our home while we were working. A pipe on the second floor, in the bathroom. Water everywhere, it was raining in our living room just barely into our 7th month of home ownership. Seriously, I could not make this up. So we ended up in a hotel for about two weeks, where I still just didn't feel right. My husband and I are very open with each other, so of course we went to the store and bought one of each type of pregnancy test. I'm not kidding. We got back to our room and I took one. I know I should have waited until the morning, but whatever. We were there and anxious!

First test was a positive.

I didn't believe. I was pregnant. This state that you go through your adolescence being told is not great. Abstain, don't have babies. Naturally, I grabbed the test box and read the statistics about a possible false positive. Apparently that wasn't a thing, so I took all the rest of the pregnancy test over the course of 2 weeks. Finally, I reconciled the fact that I was growing a tiny parasite inside me and went to see the doctor to confirm and all that jazz. By jazz, I mean light blues. By this time we had moved into long term temporary housing, and I was sicker than a dog. I had to get IV fluids twice and was pretty much non-functioning!

For the expecting mamas reading this, always keep bags without holes and paper towels in the car. Also to be safe, travel in the right lane in case you need to pull over for what ever reason!!

Other than being super sick and quite tired I plugged along until one day, at 20 weeks, I walked into to work and had a crazy stitch in my side. I tried ignoring it, do you see a pattern (haha), until I couldn't breathe without concentrating. I was scared. Called the husband and said I'm coming home, we need to go to the doctor. Mind you, I worked an hour from our temporary home. I got in my car and called my mom. I could barely talk. I was in so much pain, she was trying to give me directions to the nearest hospital when I gave up and got on route 66 to just get home. Things went down hill and I had to pull over to call an ambulance. Scariest day of my life! I was passing a kidney stone, but at the time I could have sworn my baby and I were dying! Being a first time mom, it was the only conclusion!

After that eventful first and second trimester things were pretty smooth sailing. I picked up energy, felt much better, and we finally got to move back into our house at the beginning of my third trimester. I do not recommend moving at this time of your pregnancy, unless you have movers and un-packers! My husband was a saint!!

With all of that said, I was fairly type A throughout my pregnancy. Researched everything, watched, and read even more. I practiced how I would labor, hired a doula, and made sure I was with a practice that had a midwife. I wanted a natural labor. I did not want to find out the sex. We thought it was one of the last ways in life to truly surprise ourselves. Little did we know, now having a toddler! I also wanted a birth photographer. However given our crazy life circumstances at the time could not afford one. I was super grateful that my best friend, Anna Gibson, was willing to be on call and come document my journey to motherhood.

So on we went. Approached our due date, with family in town, and passed our due date. Our child decided to wait until she was good and ready to make her appearance! After nine days of waiting through prodromal labor, Miss Bit decided it was time, but still took her time. I woke up Monday morning with strong contractions. I had to call my early to work husband back home, and started walking to keep the contractions going. I was nervous, not sure about timing, my husband wasn't home, but I knew in my heart that baby would't come until the world was right. August 19th was such an amazing day. We walked a lot! We went to a nearby park and walked even more, found a four leaf clover and was congratulated by people passing us as I grimaced through yet another contraction. By late that night I had called my doula and photographer to come, I felt I was getting close. After the party arrived at my house we made our way to the hospital. The REAL party!

I feel like life has been a blur since this part. Yes, still 2.5 years later, it is still a blur. I greatly appreciated my midwife explaining every step of the process and answering all of my questions. I received the tiniest bit of pitocin which was enough to kick my laboring body into high gear. I labored in the bath tub until I felt like pushing then I got out and started pushing. I'm sure much more happened during this time, but like I said it was a blur of anticipation, contractions, and the drive to meet this stubborn human!

Looking back through my images I still get emotional! I love that my husband was with me 100% of the time. He held my hand and supported me through the entire process! I very surprisingly didn't curse throughout the entire event. Oh and I was a blubbering mess when Miss Bit joined us earth side. My husband told me her sex and we just wept. She was finally with us, in our arms!

with grit and grace,

Nicole

Welcome to the World Mr. R | Birth Photography

I think she is caught between who she is

and who she wants to be.

This is how I see birth.

While we know baby will come no matter what is going on in our lives; I truly believe the safer you feel the easier it is both emotionally and physically to welcome your baby into the world. This doesn't mean pile your partner up with the honey-do list. Tempting I know.Rather I challenge you to sit and appreciate all of those aches and pains, the trouble breathing, the heartburn, and the loss of sleep. You are not fat, you are not a whale. You are beautiful and strong. You have created and grown a human being!

That last trimester is when you settle and nest to prepare your home and heart for all of the changes to come. Then, the actual laboring is the mental and physical fitness test to get you to that finish line. This process is the most obvious to me with first time parents. There is a level of letting go that has to happen, because you really have no idea what motherhood is going to present you. It is exciting, terrifying, wondrous, painful, and so very worth it. The beautiful surrender to primal need is incredible. I feel so honored to be asked into such a sacred place: the creation of family.

This is everything I am thinking as I observe and process a birth. It is emotional for me every time, but never as emotional as for the parents. The relief of meeting this precious tiny human, scouring every inch, counting fingers and toes over and over again, and waking to every noise they make in those first few hours and weeks. It is all magic!

This family embodied the awe and pure appreciation for the surrender. Mama was a powerhouse through her natural labor. Mom and dad worked together, cried together, and celebrated together. Here is a snippet of their birth story.

McDowell family, party of 3.

be inspired. live boldly.

Nicole

Welcome to the World Baby S | INOVA Loudoun | Birth Photography

my

mother

was

my first country,

the first place i ever lived.

-lands

Each birth I attend and witness humbles me so greatly. This birth was no different. Even more so because we didn't know baby's gender! The connection between mama and baby is so incredible. The womb is their first home, where they grow their organs and hear your voice and heart beat! It's like magic. I truly believe a birth gender reveal is one of the last ways we can surprise ourselves in life. What better motivation to get through the surges, too!

Mama was so cool and collected, joking even when she first arrived at the hospital. Poking at her husband and being goofy with the medical staff and doula. As things intensified, I was honestly mesmerized by her primal unravel while she listened and moved to accommodate her soon to arrive tiny human. From tub, to birth ball, shower to the bed, mom and dad communicated by sharing quiet glances and small touches between surges. The support and love was seriously amazing!

After an abrupt relocation baby was placed on mama's chest, dad cut the cord, and whispered "it's a little sister" to his wife. These three were so sweet and were already talking about how much their oldest daughter (not quite 2) was going to react to having a SISTER!

If you are interested in having your birth story documented, send me an email through the contact form! I'm now booking into 2016, so lock in 2015 rates!!

be inspired. live boldly.

Nicole

Durrance Party of 4 | Lifestyle Newborn | Leesburg, Va

This family! There is so much to say, but I'm not the best with doting words. The Durrance's are the sweetest people you will meet. With compassion and wit, style and love, they are some of the most patient and giving people I know. You may remember their birth story, where Miss A graced us with her presence! Here they are again, cuddling, protecting, and smiling through their early days of adjustment as a family of 4. How sweet are her nursery details and daddy cuddles!?! Oh, and older brother R peaking at his new sister, my heart melts!

Any advice for a new family of 4?

be inspired. live boldly.

Nicole

We are ALL Valuable | This Bold Life

Each body, human, and spirit contains a story. Some bad, some good, some bad but with a good message, and still some good with not so great endings. This is humanity. This is the journey of our lives leaving many people going through life wondering: "what is this all for, am I really making a difference, am I good enough?" This can further transform anxiety, depression, or exacerbate PTSD, bipolar disorder, and more. *deep breath* My mental state, is who I am. It is who you are at any given moment. Your perspective, is your reality. My mental state is not something I need to fix, I am not broken. Yes, I am highly sensitive, empathetic, sympathetic, and very giving. I am still learning how to cope in a world full of people with a jaded viewpoint of how I should fit in. As I wrote in this post, I believe "should" is self shaming, and I don't want to place shame on other people. I want you to feel amazing, because you are.  You were born, you have lived life, you have your experiences and that is who you are. We must stop asking more of people! 110% is just plain unhealthy!

Hearts On My Body Washington DC Photographer

Enter the wonderfully brave Pamela with her version of Hearts On My Body in Washington, DC:

"Today, I stood in front of the Washington Memorial to promote self acceptance and to put a stop to negative body image. I want people to know they are loved, they are needed, and they are accepted for who they are. This is a call that is very near and dear to my heart. 10 years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was a happy, skinny, youthful teenager, who shortly after became quite the opposite. I spiraled downwards, became extremely depressed, and gained a lot of weight. For years I stayed home, stayed away from anyone who can see me and potentially judge me. Staying in caused more weight gain, more self abuse, or insecurity that I could have ever imagined. I suffered like this for years. A few years ago I was put on an antidepressant that caused me to gain 70 more pounds. I was devastated. Leaving the house a few times, I was made fun of, looked at strangely, and told that my looks have really changed. I know they didn't mean that kindly. Within the last few months my husband and I have been working so hard to get me back to happy. We did a lot of research and eventually I went to a treatment center for bipolar disorder 2 months ago. It completely changed my life. Today I am proud of this body. This body got me to where I am today. This body got me past all of the pain. This body is still here. This body is beautiful. I am NOT my diagnosis, I am NOT my weight, I am me! And me is pretty darn amazing. #allbodiesarevaluable

I am beautiful NOVA photographer

"I blindfolded myself because I wanted to feel the writing, feel the hugs, to hear the whispers in my ear. If I could see all of that, I wouldn't have noticed all of the beautiful things I felt."

"Afterwards, I felt completely set free. I felt like I could walk around DC for the rest of the day in a bikini. I cried, I laughed. I felt very naked, but for the first time in my life, I felt accepted, and absolutely beautiful."

Show this courageous and beautiful woman some love in the comments.

be inspired. love authentically. live boldly.

Nicole