Rachael is a good friend of mine who also happens to be an incredible birth photographer. When she got pregnant, I knew I wanted to photograph her birth. Thank goodness, she let me.
This was her double rainbow baby. Her body had suffered and mourned for this child. He would complete their family, becoming the much-needed period at the end of a sentence that held its breath for too long.
He came on the last day of summer, a remarkable completion to that season as well. Rachael’s blood pressure was too high, so they induced labor a week and a half early. It wasn’t their plan, but Rachael and Drew let go of their own plans a long time ago. They graciously accepted and rejoiced that they would meet their son that day.
After a few hours of slow labor, contractions came hard and fast. Rachael was so strong, so brave. She fought through each one and knew her body well enough to know she would bring him into the world in a more peaceful state if she had an epidural. And she was right.
Drew was by Rachael’s side, as was her best friend and doula, Lauren. I watched them dance through this experience, breathing life into Rachael as she swayed with pain and and eventually began to push. It was such a holy environment this little family created—the soft hum of music, the quiet whispers of encouragement, and the gentle kisses Drew kept giving Rachael.
I was struck multiple times that night by the beauty of it all. It was a tangible thing. Rachael glowed. Drew couldn’t stop smiling. Her body was art and science and faith all wrapped up into one.
At the same time, because I was making photos, I was struck by how un-pretty birth is. The orange hospital light, the cords, the sweat, the blood, the ugly blankets. If you don’t know what’s happening, it’s not aesthetically pleasing.
I remembered these thoughts while I edited these photos. As I began, I tried to edit the light to make it look less orange. I wanted those bright, perfect photos I’ve seen. But after a frustrating 30 minutes, I decided, “Ya know what? It wasn’t bright and perfect in that room. It was orange and a little ugly and yet more beautiful and sacred than I’ll ever be able to capture.”
So I edited them to look exactly how it looked in that room. And I am really proud to have honored the space and honored this story. I’m even more proud of Rachael for the grace with which she brought her son into the world. Women are so impressive and I don’t think there will ever be anything that indicates this more than birth.
Congrats to Rachael, Drew, Henry, and Hazel. Welcome to the world Jonnie. We are so glad you’re here!