Let's start at the very beginning of this story. This one is long. Sorry, not sorry.
One January day three years ago I was in the Casey's home after just photographing the birth of their son. They had chosen not to find out the gender of the baby and so a name was not already predetermined. They had a girl name they LOVED (Eden), but couldn't think of a name they loved just as much for a boy. I remember Kenan asking if Eden could be turned into a boy's name, because they liked the name so much. After a short deliberation they decided to "save that name just in case we do this again".
Yeah, I knew right then we were going to do this agin. I imagine after JUST giving birth to your fourth child you know for sure if you're done. I knew all I would have to do to be taking pictures at another Casey birth was wait patiently. I was not disappointed. :)
After Kenan announced to the church that they were expecting a fifth baby I was immediately asked to be there to document the birth. Unfortunately, I was out of town a couple of months later when they announced that the fifth child was not just a fifth, but a FIFTH AND SIXTH. Twin girls.
The window of time to expect twins is a lot wider than the window of time for a single birth. When 36 weeks hit I basically had a whole month that I needed to be ready for the possibility of babies at any moment. IT WAS SO STRESSFUL. Over the course of a month one has things one must do. Every time I left to go do something I thought about how far away from the Casey home I would be by going grocery shopping, or eating at a friend's house.
Well, I was right to be stressed out because when it was time IT WAS TIME.
On March 8th I got a text from Kenan at 2:21 AM saying that things were happening, but I didn't need to come yet. I figured I had hours. At least AN hour. Nope. The next text came in thirty minutes later and said I needed to come now. I left my house at 2:59.
Eden was born at 3:08 AM.
I have ELEVEN PHOTOS on my camera that were taken before the baby started crowning. Eleven. I was in the house in time to put my lens on my camera, ask about the situation, raise my eyebrows at the situation, and snap photos of a baby being born on a bed.
Oh, by the way "the situation" is that there was NO MIDWIFE.
Labor had happened so quickly that Sheryl had not arrived. She was on speaker phone, speeding down the road with her flashers on, getting to us as fast as possible. The only people present were Ashley, Kenan, me, and Marah (thank God for Marah, who is a nurse). When I walked in Ashley was trying so hard not to push. That lasted as long as it could, then her body decided we were done not pushing. She sat up and had a baby. Unassisted by anyone.
Just take a second to think about that and how badly you don't want that to be you. Then go hug your mom. Tell her thank you.
Some photos of the two minutes of labor I was able to document then... A BABY! This is Eden.
This is relief.
This is adorable.
Oh, this? This is Aunt Marah following the instructions of the speaker phone midwife and trying to find a fetal heart beat for Addison using a paper towel roll, as one does when lacking a stethoscope.
This is Amy. Marah, in the panic before Eden's birth, had called Amy Smith to come over. Amy is another home birth mama and there was a major experience deficit in the room. We needed back up.
The thing about twins is that after you have a baby you're still not done. You have to have the other one too. So that's where this story gets really interesting.
Luckily, a midwife IS INVOLVED in the rest of this story. I know, I was really happy about that too. My art degree doesn't help much in the way of birthing babies. Cheers for Midwife Sheryl!
I had to super crop this picture and fiddle with it in order to make it appropriate, but I felt that Marah would want it included. This is Marah getting to be the very first person other than Ashley to hold baby Eden. And baby Eden is looking at her. Had to include it.
This is when I bounced back and forth between taking pictures of the precious new baby girl and Ashley, who was still very much in labor.
Eden sucking her thumb.
This is the longest chunk of the story, with the most drama, and the fewest pictures. After the midwife arrived she spent time trying to determine the position of baby 2. In order to do this the midwife had to press on Ashley's belly during contractions, and even reach in and try and feel what was going on. I've never had a baby, but I imagine that part of your body doesn't feel super awesome IMMEDIATELY following the birth of a child. That's really not when you want someone messing around down there. Unfortunately, that's what had to be done in the moment.
It was eventually determined that Addison (baby 2) was presenting breech (feet down). There was a split second when Sheryl thought she felt a hand, which would have been bad news. This is the part that I found truly amazing. Almost any doctor at a hospital would have immediately taken Ashley in for a c-section with a breech birth. They would have just told her no. Sheryl calmly said that Addison was feet down and she was going to walk Ashley through how to deliver a breech baby. That's all there was to it.
Except that Addison was being pretty stubborn. Addison was not moving down and Ashley felt like her contractions weren't going anywhere (and they were horrible to endure because of everyone poking at her). She labored with Addison for almost three hours. She kept having to move from squatting, to laying down, to sitting on a birth stool, back to the bed to lie down.
For a little while it was funny the things Ashley would say. I inappropriately chuckled more than once. Once after a contraction she yelled at Sheryl, "When can you just go in and GET HER?" and Amy and I laughed to each other. Then it stopped being funny. I've seen women in labor, including Ashley in labor twice before this moment. To me labor pain has always looked really, really tough - but it's the kind of tough pain that can be managed by the super strong, super amazing women that I've worked with. With all that, I've never watched someone endure pain like this. After this going on for a good long while Ashley cried into Kenan's side, "I think this is killing me."
And then I cried.
I can't show many photos from this three hours. Basically none of them are appropriate. I hate that because some of them are really powerful labor photos. If you feel like you're missing out just imagine Ashley in horrible never-ending pain that no one can stop, and Kenan looking super hopelessly concerned. That's pretty much the sum of it.
When morning rolled around and there was still no Addison, Ashley's mom came over to take the older kids. They would be waking up soon and certainly weren't going to get any attention from Ashley and Kenan. This is Ashley's mom meeting Eden for the first time.
FINALLY Addison decided to make her debut. Again, I can't show you pictures of this, but it was AWESOME. The water hadn't broken yet so Ashley basically gave birth to an orb, and when that orb popped there were feet! I've never seen a baby be born upside down, so that was new. In the course of a couple of hours Ashley gave birth unassisted at home, and then to a breech baby. All the things you're not "supposed" to do she just went ahead and did them. With aplomb, might I add.
This is Addison and a very exhausted Ashley.
Kenan finally getting to hold Eden.
I love the one on the right because it's very reminiscent of a photo I took at Rylan's birth.
Ashley made these adorable anklets to identify the twins. Turns out it wasn't super necessary. They don't look alike at all. But the anklets are still super adorable. Worth it.
Rylan was the first to meet the twins. It was apparently too early in the morning for a reaction.
Kenan, telling Facebook about the news.