The Birth of Richard Leo

Birth stories are love stories.  I remember having lunch with this family and feeling how excited they were to capture their love.  Love for each other, love for their new baby, love for their family, and big sister love.  I couldn’t wait!

What made her story even more amazing?  Kathryn, her husband, and daughter were surrounded by family, wonderful midwives, and an outpouring of love and support.  Congrats to you all ~ it was an absolute joy to document the birth of your sweet (surprise) boy!  Thank you for sharing your story! 

“I sit here thinking about how to start my birth story. Should I jump right in with all the juicy details up front? What is the perfect sentence to begin my precious baby’s story of entering this world? What has led me to where I am now? A lot of things run through my mind…not just that one singular day. I prepared for this birth long before I held Leo in my arms.

The choice to labor unmedicated was a natural result of the person I have become. As soon as I could read, I read labels…a lot of labels. Anything that I put in, on, or around my body I would examine what it was made of. I slowly stopped buying things that didn’t make sense for me and my body and started searching for substitutes that were in their purest form. Fast forward to pregnancy – why wouldn’t I give my body a shot at bringing my baby into the world in his or her purest form? Why would I artificially want to mask any of that experience for myself or my baby? I knew I could do it. I also have my husband, Jake, to thank…he accepts me and supports my decisions no matter how “crunchy” they might be.

~January 30, 2017~

I woke up on the sofa where I slept for the past eight weeks upright. I glanced up at our cable box, and the numbers 6:43 shined brightly back at me in a blue hue that lit up my living room. I looked outside and the moon was fading as the sun rose. I held my belly and felt my stomach tighten in a familiar way – labor contractions. I felt another contraction and looked at the time-6:48. I heard Jake dressing to leave for work in our bedroom, and I went in. “I’m having contractions,” I said. “I’m not going to work then!” he replied. I told him I could be in labor for the entire day so going to work is the best choice. He begrudgingly left for the day. I started to make my coffee and I struggled to get my mug from the cabinet. The contractions took my breath away. They quickly moved to two minutes apart. Laughing to myself, I called Jake not 30 minutes later to come back home. I made my long list of phone calls and started to get our two-year-old daughter, Helen, ready to leave. Jake returned home and collected everything on the last-minute list. (You know that image gracefully leaving the house and lovingly saying goodbye to your first born? Ya…that didn’t happen.) We left in a chaotic whirlwind…my coffee under the Keurig dispenser, and morning breath in full force. Naturally, I’m worried about what the midwives will think of my stank breath at this point. I know, I’m weird.

I was missing something…breakfast! “Stop at Chickfila!” I demanded. Jake was hesitant, but he knew I meant business. As much as he doesn’t want to admit it, he remembers the lecture from our birth classes about needing food for energy to labor. (I was fully prepared to piss off the hospital staff when I delivered my first child because they don’t like you to consume food or drink while in labor.) My mom called me while I scarfed down my chicken biscuit to let me know she might not make it to the birth center in time. (I later found out she had a textbook grandma story – she was pulled over for speeding to see her daughter give birth.) She wanted me to pull over and call an ambulance because she knows my body as well as I do. My husband and I laughed at her after we hung up because we knew she was probably right, but we’re stubborn and too close to the birth center. We quickly unloaded our car at the valet and headed to the elevators for the birth center.

I got out of the elevator and halted. With my Chickfila in hand and backpack on my back, I worked through a painful one. I rocked my hips back and forth and thanked God that we made it to the birth center. My mother-in-law, Lynn, was waiting for us already.  Seeing her brought a smile to my face and made the moment real. It was early so I waited on my hands and knees for the midwives to arrive. I knew they were on their way. Then I saw her. Jane. Thank you, Lord! She took a look at me and said, “Yep! That’s how we like to see ‘em! You’re doing a good job, momma!” She helped me off my knees, and we excitedly walked to the birthing room. I received a quick exam, and Ashley (now present) confirmed I was eight centimeters dilated. The tub started to fill and somehow my clothes came off and I was in the tub. I could not get in quick enough.

The warm water took the tension from my entire body. I could feel the muscles in my face loosen as I swam around the tub. Melissa, our birth photographer, and my family arrived to watch our new family member be born. Y’all…my dad came…and he stayed for the entire thing. He is pretty amazing. I spent the next few hours with my knees pressed into the sides of the bathtub, and my upper body hung over gripping onto my husband whenever I needed extra support.

with grandparents attending UF health birth center water birth

 Using my deepest voice I could find within I commanded the pain to leave my body. I reminded myself that these strong contractions were bringing my baby closer to my arms. At times I would lay on my side to give my knees a break. Helen watched me labor and joined me when I could breathe in between contractions. She wanted to hold hands with me and Jake. She brought a calming comfort to the pain I was experiencing. At times the sounds I made were worrisome to Helen. Lynn was so great, explaining to her that I was singing to the baby.

as her baby brother arrives naturally big sister presentmidwife ashley UF health birth center mom laboring in the water
 I waited patiently for my sister. She was driving around two hours from Orlando. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her!

at UF north family arrives for the birth of her nephewmidwives ashely and jane by her side mother labors naturally in the waterwith the support of her husban a calm waterbirth at UF health birth center

I was finally able to let go of the fear…the fear of pushing a human out of this impossibly small space. Things happened quickly after that. I held my legs and pushed with all my might. Mucus Plug. Bag of waters. A piercing pain appeared in my lower back that made me cry because I started to question my strength. After finding comfort on my hands and knees, I told the midwives I was ready. The baby was ready. With a few pushes, I felt the baby’s head crowning. The pain. I wanted the pain to stop and to hold the baby in my arms. And that’s what I did. (My favorite way to explain labor is that it is like being at the highest peak on a gigantic roller coaster. There is nowhere else to go. You’ve got to finish the ride.) Harnessing all of the energy remaining in my body I pushed. I turned to my front, and Ashley handed me my beautiful baby.

baby is brought up to moms arms after a push on all foursat UF health birth center birth photography captures baby's first moments 
“It’s a boy! Leo.” I joyfully said to my husband. I looked around at my family, my new baby, my midwives and sighed. Welcome, Leo. I love you so much.”

You can view Richard Leo’s full birth story below ~ please turn up the volume & choose HD!

 Birth is beautiful ~ if you are interested in capturing your story in photos + film, I would love to chat!

Hi I'm Melissa!

I'm an introverted, T-shirt wearing, animal loving, nature admiring, lucky wife, mother of 3, photography and birth obsessed lady.