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  • Writer's pictureKrystal Leaver

NEW beginnings and first BIRTH story by Krystal

I was honored to photograph my first 'official' home birth in Las Vegas in 2020. But before I dive any deeper into all the details of that empowering experience, I wanted to document a little bit of backstory of how I got myself transitioning into this work....

>>> If you hang around me longer than a few minutes, photography will sooner then later come up. Over ten years ago, I was given the opportunity to witness my cousin give birth to her daughter. Photography was rather a new hobby at this time, but I brought my entry level dslr with me anyway. I managed to take and give her some images of that day, and the experience from that day left me completely amazed.

Fast forward to 2014, and I was pregnant with my third son. My photography interest continued to grow. I completed an online photography school and began to teach myself everything I could about my camera.

Beckett's birth in March of 2015 was incredibly quick, and I have a total of ten mostly blurry pictures of it all. He was born so quick my midwife Allyson Juneau-Butler None of me laboring, just a couple after birth cell phone images my doula took that I am super grateful to have. Beckett was born at home in just a couple pushes en caul (with his waters still intact), and knowing how I feel now, I would have paid ANYTHING to have a birth photographer there to capture it all. After Beckett's birth, photography specifically birth photography instantly became something I was drawn too and knew I wanted to do someday.

My third son but first planned home birth, was born encaul (my water never broke until he was out) which sadly we did NOT get pictures of. The feelings of what my body naturally went through on this day, was miraculous and was an extremely empowering moment for me as a woman and now mama to three boys.

It's now early 2020 before the world shut down, I met Noelle through our kids gymnastics class and we just started chatting one evening. I had mentioned I stay at home with my kids and work part time as a family photographer but that "someday when my life was less a mess" I dream of doing birth photography. We exchanged numbers, and shortly after that Covid lockdown had closed our kids gym.

A few weeks later we touched base, and Noelle updated me with the news that she was pregnant and just switched to a homebirth because of all the uncertainty over hospital birth policies now. She asked me if I would be interested in trying to photograph her birth so I could get one under my belt and see how it went.

I was excited and then instantly thought there is NO way I can do this. The list of excuses flooded my brain as to why I couldn't do it. Why I wouldn't be able to make it work, the kids, the uncertainty, I have to be on call, no way I can't etc...

After something wouldn't let me say no thank you, I agreed to do my best to try and make it, but made no guarantees. She was cool with it going either way, so I accepted that and hoped things would work in the end. As the weeks grew closer to her due date, my excitement grew and I started brainstorming and putting together all of the ways I could actually make a quick exit if I needed too. My family stepped up to support me, and I was really getting excited to finally be close to possibly doing this. Could this really be happening?

This brings us to the Friday morning before the birth. I got a text from Noelle and she was having more regular contractions coming and going. I anxiously waited by my phone keeping all my backups on speed dial and thinking any minute it could be time to jet out of there.

My excitement and the time grew and grew. By Saturday evening, still no baby call and I decided to go to bed early incase baby decided to come later that evening. I got exactly one hour of sleep, after my head hit the pillow and my phone buzzes next to me. Text reads...."I think it's time now" on. I jump out of bed, quickly got dressed, checked my birth bag and camera gear to make sure I was not forgetting anything and drove the 45 minutes to her house.

I'm pulling up, and I can't decide if I'm more excited or nervous. Is this really happening? Am I really doing this thing I have only thought about doing in the past? Yep, I am. Now let's go.....

I quietly and nervously knock on the door. I was greeted by Noelle's sister and doula who say "we have a baby boy, she just gave birth in the tub". I was completely thrown off guard from the surprise and after a few moments, I entered the birth space and immediately the butterflies were gone. Mama and baby were doing perfect, and I got to work capturing those first precious moments of them together. Less then a minute into shooting, I turned around and Well Rounded Mama's (Las Vegas) midwife Tiffanie Gonzales walked in and was just as surprised as I had been! Baby was already earth side in mama's arms! Placenta was delivered flawlessly, then shortly after that cord was cut by daddy.

Las Vegas midwife Tiffanie Gonzales with

baby Derek after his gentle newborn exam.

Big sister Zoey, insisted before the birth that she wanted to be there for it all, and loved the idea of catching the baby being born. Because things stalled for so long, then escalated so fast, they woke Zoey up right before her new sibling was born. She was right by mama's side the whole time. Wide eyed and fascinated with every single moment. Noelle told me right after the baby was born, Zoey looked at her and said "awe......I forgot to catch the baby". I just LOVE that! What a special and amazing moment for their families history.

While Noelle cleaned up and was able to finally eat her dinner, it was Zoey and Grandma's turn to hold their new baby! After mama's midnight snack, baby was placed back into her arms, and he was able to nurse for the very first time while Zoey snuggled in and never missed a moment.

During his newborn exam, Derek was so wide eyed and alert! Watching him taking in this new world for the first time, and getting to capture those moments was purely marvelous. After a perfect baby exam and some loving from his midwife Tiffany Gonzalez, Derek was placed in mamas arms for some much needed rest for them all. The night was complete, and my job as a photographer was forever changed.

All swaddled up for the first time!

I have known deep down that I have always wanted to photograph birth stories such as this one. I never knew when I would be brave enough to pursue an on call job, but all it took was this experience to finally get me out there and into the action. This work is incredible, and for me there is no looking back now. I felt overwhelmed with joy, honor and excitement after what this experience brought to me. After many years of slaving over my household and children, this experience made me feel ALIVE again!

What's ironic is just a few days before this birth, I had signed up for a little free mini course about birth photography. The timing for this class showed up just at the perfect time for me. At this point, I wanted to know everything I could about making myself a better birth photographer. After that intro session about birth photography, and Derek's birth, I FELT that this was exactly what I needed to be doing with my time! Guess what??? I invested in myself, and signed up for an online six week live BIRTH photography certification. I can't tell you how much I have already learned and taken away from the ladies and fellow classmates of the BIRTH BECOMES YOU family.

This leads me to my why. Why do I want to do this? Be on call? Get out of bed at 2AM unexpectedly? All the unknown territory that comes with birth. Spending countless hours waiting on baby to come? This is not a easy niche as far as photography is concerned.

The challenges birth photography brings are worth it to me in the end, because when I'm out there capturing these life moments, it makes my soul sing and I just feel.......alive. Showing families how incredibly powerful they are in the most vulnerable of times is beautiful to me. Birth is empowering and we should all support one another for the magic that it uniquely is. Bringing NEW life into this world! What's more sacred then that? I want my images to give a glimpse at your once in a lifetime miracle entering the world.

To Noelle, You are a Rockstar and I was so honored to spend those first precious moments with you and your family. Thank you for the push I needed to take a step closer to my dream job. I want you to know that without your encouragement to be on call for a real live birth, I probably would have waited years before feeling ready to give my dream a go. Welcome to the world baby Derek.

Happy New Year to you all!

XO Krystal


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