It has been a week since Miller Preston Sutton made his grand entrance at seven pounds, fifteen point one ounces, and twenty point five inches long. It already feels like a lifetime ago because it was such a surreal experience for me. I’ve never actually witnessed a birth before. I had planned to photograph two other births, but neither worked out. As a photographer, this was unlike any other event I’ve captured. At weddings, you have some pressure to get the right shots, but the event is structured. There’s a sequence of events, and you know where to be for the first kiss, first dance, etc. People also know to get out of your way. Births are entirely unscripted. Yes, there will be laboring followed by delivery followed by first looks. But let me tell you there is no timeline, no best vantage point to stand, and everything is fluid. Unlike weddings, the paid photographer is not guaranteed the best view in the house. That goes to the medical professionals without hesitation. There is no adjusting for better light or better backgrounds. It’s hard. But it’s absolutely worth it!
Valerie got up last Monday morning and proceeded to get ready for work. Then her water broke. She headed to the hospital while I was given the go-ahead to go to my optometrist appointment while she checked in and got settled. Gary had to get back from Alabama. Valerie drove the kids to Grandma’s house and then drove herself to the hospital. She’s Superwoman. I think I got there and began shooting around 11am or so. Valerie remained calm and in control throughout her entire labor. Being a former NICU nurse and now a certified pediatric nurse practitioner, she watched the monitors, and when Miller moved himself off the heartbeat monitor she was usually able to get him back on it. Oh, and she did this all with no meds and no epidural.
Darren and Emery were both quick deliveries, from my understanding. Miller followed suit! Valerie labored for a few hours and then rapidly progressed to delivery. I had told her and Gary that they could use me if they needed to for anything throughout the day. I didn’t mind handing ice chips over, moving the fan (because it was sauna-hot in that room!), etc. When Valerie looked at me and said “Jessica, go get Dava” I knew it was go time. I summoned Dava from the nurses station (probably with a panicked look on my face?) and from that moment on there was constant activity until Miller was born.
The photos after his birth are my favorite: Valerie and Gary seeing him for the first time, Darren and Emery seeing him for the first time, each of the family members holding him for the first time, Emery helping put on his first diaper, the family checking out his tiny little fingers and toes for the first time… I got to be a fly on the wall for some of the most special moments in this family’s lifetime, and for that experience I have no words – only pictures.