To try to write this birth story accurately is going to be a feat. The emotions that occurred during this birth was overwhelming and unexpected.
Katelyn and Alex, at first glance, are a loving and happy couple. You’d look at them and deem them ‘normal’. That everything is ‘okay’ and they look like your run-of-the-mill, young, married couple. But ya’ll… this is so much more than that.
Alex and Katelyn both are incredibly hard working. With flourishing careers, Katelyn and Alex wanted more for their life together. They checked marriage off the list and were looking for a family. After months of trying, a successful pregnancy was looking further out of reach. Their journey led them to IVF.
I first met them at their maternity session (which you can view here) and I learned more about their journey. Upon meeting Katelyn, you could feel this glow of yearning to meet her baby. The anticipation radiated off of her and Alex both. When they spoke about their pregnancy, you heard the excitement in their voice with this little tinge of heartbreak of what they had been through. Their baby, the pregnancy, is what their hopes and dreams rode on. It was inspiring and emotional just to hear them speak on their experience thus far.
As they drew closer to due date, Alex and Katelyn were in a car accident. During a snow storm, they were driving on the interstate. Alex was driving and as the car exited the road after being hit, Alex took one had from the wheel and covered his wife’s stomach. Katelyn was distraught and panicked, being so close to due date with their baby, Alex comforted her in a calm tone as the car finally came to a stop. Rushed to the hospital, they learned that everyone was okay for the most part.
For them, getting to delivery day was their top goal after everything they went through. When baby was measuring big, doctors recommended Katelyn be induced. When I got the email, I was much looking forward to watching these two meet their son for the first time.
Alex texted me when it was time for me to arrive. I walked back with Alex to Katelyn’s room. Her door was decorated with ‘It’s a boy!’. Upon entering, there were balloons, banners, and decorations everywhere. It was a sign that Katelyn and Alex were not the only ones who traveled this journey and anticipated the arrival of their son, Shawn Alexander. Their family and friends were so emotionally invested and were ready to celebrate little Shawn’s arrival.
Katelyn was in amazing spirits. She was chatty, on her phone texting family and friends and comfortable. Katelyn was 5cm, water had broke and contractions were consistent. It was the perfect recipe for a good delivery.
As time went on, Katelyn’s epidural started to wear. After many attempts at different meds, none of them were totally helping with the pain. The nurse and doctor checked hours later… She was at a 6. Four more hours passed and she was “maybe a seven”, to quote the nurse. Katelyn continued to be uncomfortable and we (Alex, the moms and I) tried to help distract her from the pain. We watched ‘A Star is Born’. We spoke about life, it’s lessons and our faith. And then, we played Uno! We were in the midst of Uno when Katelyn got sick. She started shaking and the woes of labor started to really weigh on her.
It was 11:00pm at that point and we decided to nap. In my mind, something didn’t feel right. Katelyn was progressing so slowly that I felt like something was not right. I’m no medical professional but I just had an inkling. Katelyn was having to be turned and moved every thirty minutes or so because contractions were becoming too close and baby’s heart rate was dropping. After our small power nap, the hours went on. 1am, 2am, then around 3am, Katelyn was just so exhausted. She hadn’t ate since 5:30am that morning. I spoke to her and Alex and told them I would leave to sleep at home. Once I got up in the morning, I would check in and come back whether baby was born or not. We could still get pictures either way.
To be honest, I was completely anticipating waking up to a text saying that baby was born. I wanted that for them. I had grown close to them over this time and wanted so badly for them to have baby Shawn in their arms. I texted at 10am. Alex said baby was not here and they were exploring the c-section option. I told him to keep me updated. I got another text at 2:30pm and Alex said they were doing a c-section right then.
I left my home and traveled to OSU. I admit, over the several times I’ve photographed births and the stories my newborn parents tell me, this was like no other birth. I had never left a laboring mom before only to come back and baby still not be here. This was new territory for me and only a reminder that, truly, no birth is like another. They are all different.
I arrived at the hospital at about 4pm. I hadn’t had a single text from Alex. I entered the labor and delivery waiting room to a large group with unsettled faces. All of them were waiting on baby Shawn. Alex’s mother asked ‘They are still back there….’ and my face told it all. Alex’s mom saw my face and said ‘Yeah, I thought so…’ My heart dropped because we had no idea what was happening. In my experience, an emergency c-section has been about 45 minutes. Maybe an hour and 15 minutes. But over two hours (it was 4:45pm at this point) and we were all praying everything was okay. Family members were crying, on the phone, reading their bibles and praying. Eyes waited for the body that would cross the clicking doors, hoping someone would tell them, tell us, what was going on.
Alex, in his red Ohio logo-ed shirt finally crossed the view of the waiting room to walk towards us. We could all feel ourselves leaning closer, as the seconds that passed to read his face couldn’t tell us quick enough what was going on. Alex’s lips broke into an upward curve revealing a smile only a new daddy could have. ‘EVERYONE IS OK. Everyone is doing ok.’ he said. Everyone got up at once and hugged the person closest to them. There was a wave of relief over the room. ‘Praise JESUS!’ and ‘THANK YOU GOD’ exclaimed from each family member as they crowded around Alex. He said, ‘Everyone is doing good. He wasn’t breathing well at first but he’s ok now. Katelyn’s asleep too. She’s out!’ Everyone began hugging Alex and then he took off his glasses. Everyone fell silent.
’The moment he held onto my finger was the minute I knew everything was going to be ok.’ and Alex broke into tears. Guys, this dad…. he was a rock the entire time. He was coordinating with everyone. Made sure Katelyn had what she needed. He was a servant to his family in such a graceful way. I know that Alex’s first moment with his son was not only filled with joy, but a huge rush of relief.
I waited as Katelyn’s nurse (and best friend) guided me back to the recovery area where Katelyn and baby Shawn bonded. As the curtain turn back, I was surprised as Katelyn was bright eyed and smiling as she was breastfeeding her son. In everything Katelyn did, it was filled with pride and so much tender love. She completely changed. Her voice was soft and every word said to baby Shawn was meant to verbally cuddle him. She was in love in a way she didn’t knew existed, but every mother knows well.
In my time in recovery with Alex and Katelyn, they were glowing. Being in their presence you felt happiness and contentment. Alex got to do his first diaper change with his son that came with comical facial expressions. Then, Katelyn’s best friend/nurse got the grandmas and lined them up behind the recovery curtain. She pulled back the curtain to reveal the new family and I thought the grandmas were going to melt to the floor, because their hearts definitely did. They crowded around and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over little Shawn. From dimples to hair, hands to toes, they were loving every bit of him. Katelyn looked up at her grandmother and said ‘He’s got your eyes!’ and her lip quivered and her face lit up. She was just overjoyed and honored for Katelyn to compare the two.
Katelyn and Alex, I want to thank you for their incredible experience. As a complete stranger, I’m thankful for your vulnerability during this process. You two have endured so much and to have gotten to witness and document it is a once in a lifetime experience. To their families, I can not thank you enough for your love, kindness, and welcoming spirit. As a photographer, the more comfortable I am, the better I can do my job. You made me feel like family and I don’t think it’s something I’ll every forget or take for granted. Katelyn and Alex are extremely lucky to have a family like you all. Your presence alone was so much support for them that I know they couldn’t have gotten through this without you.