a walk with a sister :: whitney

Whitney was the first one to see and resonate with Sister Birth when I launched it in December, and the first one to hire me for the role. I'll never forget the way she emailed to say, "Will you be my sister for this birth?" Oh goodness, yes! Alongside her, I've been tweaking and completing the services I offer. Alongside her, I've grown and learned from the simple, joyful, brave and steady woman that she is. 

I'm sharing our journey together in three phases, using words and a small selection of their photographs, as an example of one way Sister Birth can play out. It's as unique as YOU are, so your journey with me won't be identical. 

1 :: Prenatals

We got to meet three times in total. The first at her home when I came out to talk about what was originally going to be only birth photography, but during that meeting she asked about Sister Birth and ultimately ended up "upgrading" to it. I brought her a grande cinnamon dolce from the starbucks midway between our houses, which ended up becoming a tradition for us. :) I remember talking about the circumstances around her first birth compared to now, and the way that that would change things. I remember being struck with her straight-forward and kind manner. And meeting her little daughter, who befriended me quite quickly!

The second time we met in my little ex-convent-turned-office near my house. She brought her husband Paul along this time, too, so that we could all meet and get on the same page about the upcoming birth. We discussed all the nitty gritty stuff about birth plans and preferences, and what roles they'd like me to take, and we also shared personal stories of meeting spouses and raising kids and such. 

Meeting with Grand Rapids pregnancy and birth doula and birth photographer

Meeting with Grand Rapids pregnancy and birth doula and birth photographer

Our third meeting was shortly before her son would be born, and again I drove up to her home and we sat in her sun-filled living room drinking coffees as her daughter played around us. I took some photos of the two of them together, capturing their soon-changing relationship and the belly that housed a growing son. We looked through her birth photographs from last time, and let that spark conversation. We planned out placenta smoothies and talked through feelings as birth was becoming more imminent and Whitney was getting more and more anxious to have her baby!

2 :: Birth

Whitney texted me early on the morning of her EDD to tell me that her water had broken and contractions were just beginning to pick up. By mid morning it was definitely go time, so I loaded up and headed over. I arrived just a bit before their midwife, but Whitney was nearing transition already. We got her some food and drink to help power her through to the end and stayed in a relaxed position to hopefully keep labor from accelerating more quickly than the midwife's car on her drive up! During labor, Whitney remained witty and calm, her husband was so attentive, and everything unfolded so beautifully. Hip-squeezes, massages with the Labor Blend, and verbal encouragement were her biggest needs (besides water), but all the strength came from inside of her own confident heart. Baby Walter was born in the mid-afternoon and it was truly wonderful. Afterward, I made her a placenta smoothie and heated up some food for her and Paul to eat, departing a few hours later, with promises to return in a couple days to check in on them. 

3 :: Postpartum

I visited with Whitney twice after her birth, once on day 3 and another time at 3 weeks, right after her husband returned to work. During our first time, she and Paul were on a HIGH, just joyful and relieved and basking in the goodness, with their daughter around and adjusting to the new baby. They wouldn't let me do much for them, practically speaking, on either visit, but we got to talk about things like breastfeeding and physical recover. I checked in to be sure they were being fed by their village, and we all just stared at baby Walter with amazement.

At our second visit, which I didn't photograph except for this little iPhone snap, we spent time revisiting the birth story with the aid of my notes and the photographs, and processed some of her feelings/experiences around transitioning to parenting two tiny children so close in age. Both times we had coffee, too, naturally. :)


So that gives you some sense of what it's like, I think. All of that plus the myriad of educational/inspirational emails sent throughout, the texting back and forth, the photo book chock full of photographs from all three phases of the journey (which Whitney will be getting in the mail within the next few weeks), and the monthly Sister Circles that all my sister-clients can attend before and after their births. 

It's a joy to be a sister!