Just a month ago I was writing the scariest, most unexpected blog post of my life and today I’m sharing the happiest post of my life. My reality has shifted from an aggressive tumor in my hand to a 9lb 10 oz baby girl. Everly James Alsop entered the world 10 days ago, and we love her more than we could ever imagine. Ever since she was born I’ve been trying to figure out how to accurately describe what I have felt the last few days. It’s not enough to just say that our lives have changed forever, but I can’t really find words to explain what I’m feeling.
We had a rough three weeks leading up to her birth. We were told that scheduling a c-section was basically our only option. But we begged at each appointment to wait, because we really didn’t have a peace about an automatic c-section for so many reasons. Our weekly (and sometimes bi-weekly appointments) always ended in tears and fears…. but we prayed for wisdom and clarity, and God gave us the most beautiful opportunity for the kind of birth experience that we had hoped for.
As I was thinking about how to introduce her to the world, and how I just couldn’t seem to find words right now to explain what I’m feeling and what I experienced, my sweet friend Jill sent this to us. Queue the tears….. all of the tears. Michael and I talked about whether or not these images should just be shared with only family and close friends, because they are intimate and so special to us…. but this was our conclusion:
Never in our lives have we more clearly or more powerfully experienced the presence of God’s grace and blessing. For 8 years I have used this space and this platform, if you will, to share the good, the bad and the sometimes challenging parts of our life because like Ester Havens says …. “God uses stories to change other people’s stories.” We know this is personal, but it’s also powerful. There was a time when I didn’t think I would ever desire anything beyond running my business. There was another season when I thought I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. There was another season where Michael and I needed to learn to be a better team and seek God’s vision for our marriage. There was a time when I was diagnosed with a tumor that could have been cancerous and had emergency surgery. There was a time when I didn’t know how to let go of control and trust the Lord. And then there was the weekend when all of those prayers and fears and worries and struggles culminated into the most beautiful experience of our lives. Words fall short, but these pictures perfectly describe our love for our sweet Evy and the story of how she entered the world.
I’ll share more of her birth story and how the midwives at Henrico Doctors Hospital are our heros further down. :) For now, we’d love to introduce you to our sweet Evy Alsop.
(Jilly, this slideshow is the greatest gift. I will be watching this over and over again as she grows up so I never forget how special that weekend was. We love you!)
Ps. If you’re the type that enjoys lengthy birth stories, keep on reading!!
I used to see women share about their baby’s birth story and I would think “Really? How can everyone have such a different birth story? Don’t you just go into labor for a while and then they’re here?!”. Oh how I have learned my lesson. Evy’s birth story drama started to unfold three weeks before she was born. We had a really hard time the last three weeks of my pregnancy. I’m going to share what we experienced because when we were going through everything, we searched the internet for other stories of moms in my similar situation and it gave me such hope.
There were stories, of women who I will never know, that gave me the courage to be an advocate for the birth I wanted. So my hope is that Evy’s birth story and our experience will be empowering and encouraging for any other new moms with gestational diabetes.
So when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, that was the same time that the tumor in my hand started growing aggressively. I failed the glucose test by only 4 points and yet that automatically put me in the “High Risk” category. After we found out about the diabetes we took the nutrition class. We learned how to prick my finger & check my blood sugar 4x a day, charted my meals and levels, went to Perinatal appointments every week for 1.5 hours of ultrasounds and fetal monitoring, and we changed our diet. We adjusted to this new lifestyle right before we found out that I had an aggressive tumor and needed emergency surgery. After the tumor was removed, my blood sugar levels seemed to be completely normal. I could eat cereal again without adding any protein, and my numbers were great and in range! So was it my tumor that caused elevated blood sugar levels? We’ll never know. I only gained 28 pounds while I was pregnant, and Evy passed all of her tests with flying colors. Nothing about my pregnancy seemed high-risk, but when you live with that title hanging over your head for 3 months, it’s easy to think that you’re abnormal and that something is bound to go wrong.
The reason this is all a part of her birth story is because at her 38 week appointment, she measured 9lbs on an ultrasound, and my OB declared that I would be having a c-section. I was shocked. I sat in her office with Michael beside me trying to hold back the tears. When I asked why, she said it was because of her size and because I was a diabetic… she also said that my pelvis couldn’t handle a big baby. When I pushed back and asked about being given a chance to deliver naturally, she told me that I would have to be ok with putting my baby at risk for shoulder dystcotia which could result in a broken collar bone, potential nerve damage or worse, brain damage. Yea. By the time we got to the parking garage, I was sobbing.
*** Let me just say… we are NOT against C-sections… my sister just had the most amazing C-section and healed 10x faster than me and was out to dinner just days after coming home from the hospital. Her birth story isn’t any less significant than mine. It was beautiful and amazing. This is just our story and our experience. Everyone is different and that’s ok! :) ***
Michael and I took Bradley Classes and we wanted a low-intervention birth. However, we were also very aware that we shouldn’t get our hearts set on any specific birth plan because really, anything could happen. We learned about how to labor naturally, how to deal with pain, and how Michael could coach me through the entire delivery process. We didn’t do the whole doula thing, but we did love our Bradley instructor, Kristine, who did private classes for us since my surgery and moving made the 12 week class impossible.
So, my goal was a natural labor. I wanted to wait and go into labor on my own, because I knew that that was my best shot at a vaginal delivery. So now that you know that, you can understand why scheduling a c-section was a shock. Because of what we had learned through our Bradley classes, we really didn’t think that there was enough reason to just schedule a c-section. So we fought for what we had a peace about. I wasn’t against a c-section if that was truly what needed to happen, but I was against never getting a chance to go into labor and see how things progressed.
I was so stressed the last three weeks of my pregnancy. I left every OB appointment in tears and torn between doing what the doctor said and doing what I had a peace about. Michael and I prayed for clarity and wisdom. I would cry before bed every night because trying to make myself go into labor was exhausting. I ate the pineapple, I took the primrose oil, I walked for miles, I did everything except drink Castor oil, and I was so tired of feeling like every day that I didn’t naturally go into labor was one day closer to a c-section. By the time my due date came, I was a mess. For two weeks I had felt like something was wrong with me. My doctor told me that if I was going to be able to deliver this baby then my body would have shown signs of progression and I was only 1cm and 50% effaced for two weeks. I felt like I was being too stubborn and naive to think that I deserved a shot at a natural delivery. But then when I thought about the reality of my situation and the need for a c-section, it didn’t add up.
Was the baby showing signs of distress? Nope. Her heart rate and fluid level was always perfect!
Am I showing signs of distress? Nope. My blood pressure was fine and I didn’t have swelling or any signs of pre-eclampsia.
So we prayed and I cried, and then we prayed some more. I felt so bad for Michael because every night before we went to sleep he would grab my hand and ask “How ya doing?” and I would lose it. It was the most horrible mental game I have ever had to play. So Sunday morning, on the 12th of February, we decided to go to the hospital tour that we had signed up for. We took the tour and this is when everything changed. I found out that Henrico Doctors Hospital has a Midwife partnership program that allows patients who want low intervention births to work with midwives right in the normal labor and delivery area of the main hospital. Michael and I just happened to have a chance to be introduced to one of the sweetest midwifes at the end of the tour and I tearfully told her my story. I was two days from my due date and my OB was convinced that a c-section was my only option. So she felt my stomach, asked me my height and shoe size, and then boldly told me that I could definitely deliver my baby. Once again, we left and I was in tears before we got onto the interstate. But these were different tears…. these were tears of hope. For the first time, someone believed in me and viewed birth the way that we did.
OB’s are trained to be able to save the day in any situation. They are surgeons who can save baby’s lives if they are in danger. It was once explained to me that OB’s view birth as inherently dangerous unless proven otherwise, and they operate and make decisions based on risks. Midwives believe labor is inherently natural and that complications will tell us otherwise.
So after some intense discussions with my OB, and a few cervical changes that happened after my due date, my doctor reluctantly signed off on me being induced on Friday the 17th! This was an answered prayer in so many ways. She wasn’t working on the weekend and so we got our wish and we went into labor and delivery as midwifery patients. I didn’t want to be induced, but they were planning to re-measure Evy the following Monday and if she was over the 4500 gram limit, a C-section was imminent. So we opted to be induced, and we called our families and best friends. I took a shower and packed my bag and cried. I was so emotional because I was so scared and my whole world was about to change. We had our best friends meet us at our house and we left with them to go eat one last dinner together before it was baby time. As we left the driveway of our house I looked at Michael and said “Oh my gosh… next time we come home we’re going to have a baby”…. queue the tears once again.
So I started the induction process with a bulb, then low levels of pitocin and I got to 5cm. But it wasn’t until they broke my water that things got real! YIKES. We had the most amazing midwives. We started with Amber who is patient and so reassuring and kind. Then Rhonda came in at 8am and I knew that she was going to be the one delivering my baby. We loved her. When she talked to me she would sit on the end of the bed and place her hand on my leg. She loves the Lord and she believed with every ounce of her that I could do this.
After breaking my water, I experienced contractions that can only be explained as nearly intolerable and excruciating. I cried and hung on to Michael’s neck and squeezed his hand every time one would start. I knew that contractions without an epidural would be hard…. but contractions at a pitocin level of 20 were unbearable. My contractions were 3 minutes apart but after three hours of this pain, we found out that I wasn’t any further dilated, and I have never felt the wind get knocked out of my sails more than in that moment. I was in so much pain that I was giving up. At 8cm we decided to get an epidural and I had about an hour of not being in excruciating pain… then I got sick twice and I started feeling pain despite the epidural. My legs were shaking and I felt so weak. Michael sat beside me and in tears, I told him that if Rhonda came to check me and I wasn’t 10cm, I was ready for a c-section. The thought of potentially pushing labor to the max, and then not having the strength to push out this big baby was terrifying. I would never forgive myself if Evy got stuck and she suffered because of my decision to push. Michael and I prayed together and Rhonda came in and told me that before I made a big decision like that, we needed to see if anything had changed.
She checked me and Evy was almost +3 station and I was 10cm and fully effaced. Basically, Evy was as close to being born as she could possible be without me pushing. Michael and I had prayed for clarity and we got it. Rhonda told me it was time to push and in a split second my mind had to change gears. I had already convinced myself that I couldn’t do it, and Rhonda held my face and told me to forget what I had heard the last 2 weeks and just focus on what was happening…. I was about to meet my baby.
The nurses prepped the room and pushing began. I remember being in pain in my ribs for some reason with every contraction and I also remember Michael being really excited. He was so excited to meet his little girl and I don’t blame him. We have been through so much in this season and this final hurdle seemed like redemption was just on the other side. I pushed for 30 minutes and all I remember was our nurse Sarah telling me that I was killing it and that I was hours ahead of where I needed to be. Then I remember Michael telling Jill to stand behind the curtain to wait until it was time to take pictures of her being born and Rhonda said “Oh, I think she needs to come in now, we’re close”. Then I remember Rhonda saying that the next push will be the one that led to meeting our baby and if that doesn’t give you the courage to push as hard as I possibly could, I don’t know what else will. I remember being so hopeful and so terrified at the same time. I never screamed but I do remember praying “Dear Jesus help me” because I knew my own strength was gone a long time ago. I remember pushing and praying, and then I heard “Her head is out annnnd her shoulders are out…. Michael, grab your daughter”….. and I lost it.
Michael laid our first baby on my chest and I held her and wept. It was over…. she was here and she was beautiful & healthy. I delivered a 9lb 10oz baby girl without any issues. I cried and held on to Michael with one hand and held our sweet Evy with the other. It seemed like a dream. The main thing I remember was the RELIEF that I felt. In a matter of minutes, all of my worry and fear and stress was over. Jill recorded audio of Everly entering the world and all you hear are my sobs, Jill’s sobs and Michael crying and laughing at the same time…. and then you hear the sweetest little cry. It was the greatest moment of my life. We loved our wedding day, but nothing will compare to meeting our baby girl. Rhonda hugged me and held my face and told me how proud she was of me, and I couldn’t even find words to appropriately thank her for believing in me when it seemed like no one else did.
Our birth story for sweet Everly didn’t go exactly as we had planned, but I can honestly say that we don’t care, now that she is here. It was beautiful and exactly how it was supposed to be. We are so thankful that we were advocates for the birth that we wanted and that we stood up for what we had a peace about. We are thankful for the midwives and that Henrico Doctors Hospital gave us the chance to have the birth we wanted. Rhonda was the greatest gift to us. She loves the Lord, she has delivered over 2,000 babies and she was so clearly made for her career. I love meeting people who are doing what they were designed to do and their passion overflows through the way that they serve. I could do a whole blog post about how it’s the LITTLE things that make such a MASSIVE impact when it comes to medical care, but I’ll leave that for another day. For now, I’m just going to thank Rhonda for sitting on the end of the bed and holding my leg when she talked to me, for never using language that was hard to understand and for always telling me that I was strong and capable.
After months of medical worries, a surgery, gestational diabetes and being scared into thinking I couldn’t deliver my baby, she’s finally here. We are so thankful. Michael and I love being parents to this precious little girl and even though we’re a little sleep deprived, we know that this stage doesn’t last forever, and we’re cherishing these first few weeks. God is so good.
It’s been a while since I’ve photographed an engagement session at beautiful Maymont Park. Meeting Ryan and Danielle there was perfect even though I totally forgot that Maymont closes so early! We heard a reminder that the park would be closing soon and just as I started to feel a bit panicked, the clouds cleared, the sun started to shine and I was able to capture the most beautiful light before we unexpectedly had to leave the park!
This beautiful day began in the historic manor house at Belmont Country Club. Abby was showing me her details and then she gave me a gift and told me to open it. I questioned her because it just didn’t seem right for the photographer to be opening a gift on the bride’s wedding day but she insisted! Abby had made me a custom cross-stitch of Michael and I with cameras in our hands! It looks JUST like us and I was just amazed at her talent and thoughtfulness!
Ah! It’s our FINAL STUDENT SPOTLIGHT!!! This July post has been a long time coming but it’s HERE and it’s LIVE and I want you to help me celebrate these amazing photographers who are making their dreams happen!!!
This six month update feels like it’s weirdly disproportionate compared to other monthly updates! Why is that? Well, last month I posted a couple of sets of images that were actually at the beginning of his sixth month and THEN we photographed multiple weddings, had several trips away from home for a few days and the dads were for several days!
Hope and Jesse are the sweetest couple. You can just feel it when you’re with them! You can see it when you watch them interact. You can hear it in the stories that their family members and best friends shared about them. They are truly soulmates and best friends. They have an undeniable love for one another and that is why even a rainy, misty wedding day could be incredibly vibrant, warm and joyful!!
Rhett’s fifth month was full of fun. It’s crazy to me that I know I only take my big camera to about 10% of the things we do in a month and yet each month is SO full.