a walk with a sister :: karissa

We first met when she was pregnant with her firstborn. We sat down in my living room for a consultation about birth photography and my baby needed to breastfeed. Without thinking twice, I fed him. Little did I know that that simple act and our conversation that day would catalyze some empowerment for this mama who — as I listened between the lines of her sharing about her birth plans — really wanted a home birth but didn’t quiet realize that having it was feasible or sane. ;)

Fast forward to her first powerful home birth — which she did end up hiring me to shoot! — and then the quick birth of her second son — which I wasn’t able to attend because I had my own baby the day before hers! — followed by a pretty difficult postpartum season for her. There was through all of this a growing friendship and lots of conversations about birth politics and practices and a deepening desire for truly undisturbed births. Together we grew in our perception and convictions about birth and postpartum. She was pregnant again and lost that little one, and we walked through that, too. And now for this baby — a daughter so longed for and so exceptionally precious to her heart — she invited me in again to walk with her with with intentionality and to witness her in her power as she found her way and sculpted her path to a powerful, peaceful birth and a joyful, supported postpartum.

All this to say that the history is long with this woman, and the love real. And even if there were some twists in the plot that changed our plans for me to be present for her actual birth, there’s been incredible joy in walking right up to the edge of it with her, and to meet up again on the other side.

Here are some images from our first official prenatal appointment together, at which - among other things - I showed her how to palpate her own belly to find her baby’s parts and position. It was so special.

Karissa also had a gorgeous mother blessing hosted by her friend and facilitated by Amanda of Happy Henna (she did a fantastic job). It was attended by her tribe of fellow mamas who love and support her and her coming baby.

And then, not terribly long after this mother blessing, Karissa went into labor early, at just 37 weeks, which was a surprise to all! The initiation of labor and the course it took was so utterly unlike those she had with her sons that it took some doing to settle into it, but she got there. She found her footing and her power, and then when it was truly “go time” she birthed her baby girl with autonomy and confidence in the hallway just outside the bathroom door! (Gratefully, a couple of other insanely talented women were able to somewhat last minute do photo and film for her). Murphie Jane had made her appearance in grand style a couple of hours before midnight.

The morning after Murphie was born, Karissa invited me to come meet her girl. I arrived to find her glowing and perched in her sunny bedroom with a snuggly babe. Now, you never go visit a newborn mother empty handed so I came with scones and ingredients to make breakfast. I came also with my camera, of course, and a willingness to help with the boys so she and Nick could rest together a bit. Together we oohed and aahed over the perfection of Murphie’s tiny self and we got cozy on the bed while she retold her birth story ( I love holding space for the sacred telling our birth stories!).

I returned again a week and a half later, bearing daffodils from my yard. We talked more about how she’s doing with postpartum (getting enough support? well nourished? resting well?), took more photos, got some laundry folded, groceries put away, and some kid-wrangling done. There’s so much power in showing up with flowers or food and a willingness to help. In so many ways what I do is small. It doesn’t seem that important and it isn’t a grand sweeping gesture. But what it is is showing up, checking in, making sure a mama knows that she is seen and that she is doing a darn good job and that she can and should take all the time she needs to acclimate to this major life change.

Cannot say what a gift it’s been to journey with you, Karissa. And I know it isn’t even over.