Today is a little different. What I’m sharing today is the most powerful thing I have ever experienced in my life. It is pure love, joy, and pain rolled into one. Birth. Our most loyal couple, Sasha and Joey, allowed me to be a part of their birthing process at Celebration Hospital Labor and Delivery with their perfect angel, Sage Orion. Birth photography is not an easy task. Not being a mom myself (except to our dear fluff-ball Rocky), I had no idea what to expect and I was truly in awe.
Before we begin this journey together, I want to share a warning. These photos can be difficult for one to look at. They can be heartbreaking, heartwarming, and full of love. Some photos may also not be good for the weak stomach. So, if you have any qualms about birth photography, I will catch you on the next blog. Some photos are edited for privacy and censorship. It will also probably be the longest read yet. But, this Celebration Hospital Labor and Delivery story is so important to share and for all of you moms out there, you are truly amazing people.
Okay. I talk about Sasha and Joey literally all the time, but for those who are new, here is your two sentence backstory. You can read more of their blogs at the end of this post! These two lovebirds came into my life in 2017 when Joey proposed to Sasha at the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Disney. Since then, Jack and I have photographed their wedding day through the birth of their first child together, which is where our story begins today.
Sasha and Joey announced in March that they were expecting, and soon after, we discovered it was a precious baby girl. As we were planning Sasha’s first maternity session, she mentioned the birthing process. She asked me what I knew about birth photography and if I had ever photographed one. I hadn’t. Being quite honest, I thought it was a very intimidating task and I was really scared. I had seen and read so many stories about birth photography, the complications that could arise with the baby, photographers not arriving on time, and so on. But, I am always up to try something new, so I told her I would be down to do it if she wanted me.
Sage’s due date was September 15, 2019. It was the perfect timing. We were starting wedding season in New York on August 31, but figured she wouldn’t come early. Sasha and I scheduled her final maternity session on September 8th. Something hit us both and we knew we had to get them in sooner. The Sunday before our wedding, we went out to Split Oak for their session. During the session, Sage was super active and deep down, I knew it wasn’t going to be much longer.
As Jack and I approached wedding weekend, we became a bit more nervous about everything. Hurricane Dorian was looming and causing all the stress on everyone. We were afraid of being stranded in New York and rearranged our flights to make it back before it was set to hit. In the airports and at the hotels, I was monitoring Sasha’s social media feeds to see how Sage was doing. There were no signs of her coming, so my stress calmed a bit. Hurricane Dorian never hit us, thank God, but our thoughts and prayers definitely were sent to the Bahamas.
Looking to the next weekend, I had two sessions scheduled for Saturday, September 7th, but the rest of the schedule was free. I figured if Sage decided to come early, everything would be just fine. Well, friends. Sage has impeccable timing, and it started in the womb. She kickstarted my birth photography journey that weekend.
Friday, September 6 at 6:48 PM. My text tone goes off.
May be possibly going into labor tonight, but I’ll keep you posted. If you can’t come, just let me know if I’m able to contact you.Sasha
Oh my gosh. She’s coming. She’s really coming. And she’s a timely baby who works around everyone else. I love her so much already. I responded that I would be there and would wait for Joey’s call. She did NOT need any stress from me!!
Saturday, September 7 at 5:59 AM. I heard buzzing and looked on my night stand to see Joey’s name on my phone. I answered immediately. Their amazing doula, Hanna, said it was time to go to the hospital. She was about 5 centimeters, but her water hadn’t broken yet. She had been laboring at home for about 21 hours. I told him I would meet them there. Jack yelled in his sleep “You go, dude!! You got this!!” (referring to Joey). Jumping out of bed the fastest I ever had, I hopped in the shower, grabbed my gear, and took off to Celebration Hospital Labor and Delivery.
I arrived at Celebration Hospital Labor and Delivery at 7:00 AM. Joey called to tell me the room number and to make sure I went up a specific set of elevators (key point for the end). I arrived to their room and didn’t see anyone. Suddenly, I heard a groan that sounded like someone conjuring something.
Sasha was having a contraction in the bathroom. Don’t worry, friends. Sasha laughed at my observation. As an outsider and someone who had never experienced anything like this before, it was a strange new world and vibe for me. Being calm and supportive was the only way the four of us were going to make it through together, no matter how scared I was for her.
Joey popped out of the bathroom and told me to come in. Sasha was just chilling and sitting in the shower, trying to relax. She was still cracking jokes with the occasional contraction here and there. This is where I first met Hanna, the most amazing and calming doula. What better place than a bathroom, am I right?? Eventually, the nurse came in and told Sasha that they needed to get a consistent heart rate for the baby. They also insisted that Sasha needed an IV of fluids to keep her and Sage hydrated. The one thing I know for sure about Sasha is as many tattoos as she has, she hates needles. I felt so terrible for her, but the only thing we could do was watch from a distance and support her.
The amount of pain that Sasha had for the next few hours absolutely broke my heart. Sasha wanted to go through the entire birth naturally, but the pain was unbearable. The only options were IV meds or an epidural, but not a walking one. Hanna suggested waiting for the next dilation check before deciding on the epidural to ensure she had a clear head, not making decisions through a contraction. She was such a source of reasoning and calming powers. I honestly don’t know what they would have done without her! Joey stood by to hold Sasha through the pain, massage her shoulders, and even put on her must-have spooky witch socks. Classic Sasha! Joey was the best support, perfect husband, and such an amazing dad-to-be.
Sasha pushed through the pain for a while longer like a freaking champ, and the next check came. She was 7 centimeters and they decided to break her water. To open the birthing canal more, the nurses grabbed what is called a peanut ball (literally one of those exercise balls shaped like a peanut) Hanna warned Sasha that once her water broke, everything would speed up. But, we didn’t know just how fast.
The next 30-ish minutes were kind of a blur because of how fast it went. Sasha was crying and screaming. My heart was breaking behind the lens. She told Hanna she needed to push. It had only been 4 minutes since breaking her water. Hanna said it was just the baby moving further down and everything would be okay. I know Sasha pretty well after these years, and when she says something with the conviction she did about pushing, you don’t mess around. She said it again, and the nurse said she would check Sasha out. Sasha had a (record-breaking in my book of literally my first birth) dilation change. She went from 7 centimeters to 10 in less than 5 minutes. They said “It’s time to push!” If you ever wanted to see genuine reactions from someone saying it’s time to push, Sasha and Joey had them for you.
Birth photography is a funny thing. Every doctor and hospital has different policies. I couldn’t photograph during the actual pushing process, but I was so thankful to be there to experience this miracle with Sasha and Joey. After the first push, Sasha was able to reach down and feel Sage’s full head of hair. I saw a snap in Sasha’s face that said she needed to get the baby out now. Never have I ever seen someone so calm while giving birth naturally. It was like no pain was there and she was just getting the baby out.
Three more pushes and Sage Orion was born. The nurse put the baby on Sasha and told me I could continue photographing. The love in Sasha and Joey’s eyes was unreal. The tears were flowing and she was perfect. Sasha said she would never complain about pain again and I believe it. I had never seen such a strong woman before. She pushed through the insane pain and created this beautiful little masterpiece.
Sage Orion Feliciano was born September 7, 2019 at 9:48 AM. She was 7 pounds, 7 ounces, and 19.5″ inches long. This was Hanna’s 7th birth as a doula. On this day in 2019, there were 7.7 billion people in the world. 7 is known to be the number of perfection, and that’s just what little Miss Sage is.
If you made it this far, thank you for sticking with me. This process was a whirlwind of an experience for me, but even more so for Sasha and Joey. To say I have been blessed with amazing clients is an understatement. I’ve been blessed with a second family who lets me third wheel through life with them while hiding in corners. Sasha is THE strongest woman I know (besides my own mom) and I am truly HONORED to be a part of their journey. Birth photography and birth in general is stressful, scary, heartbreaking, and heartwarming all wrapped in one. I really don’t know what else I can say besides thank you. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for having me always. I love you four so damn much.
For your final story, I will give you a fun one. Joey and I left when Sasha’s parents arrived to meet their granddaughter. We walked to the elevator, chatting about the experience, the amazing team, and so on. We were also discussing our tiredness, as a new parent does. As the doors open to the main floor, something wasn’t right. Joey and I saw mailboxes. Also, the wrong door opened. Joey pressed a button to another level, but it didn’t change. We were starting to freak out. I suggested we go back to the top and try again. As we exited the elevator, I looked up and saw we were on the employee elevator. Watching someone give birth truly exhausts you.
Thank you again for joining us and I hope you enjoyed this blog on my first birth photography experience at Celebration Hospital Labor and Delivery! As promised, you can view their back story at the links below and you can check out the hospital here.