I’m sitting here looking over my computer screen at my son, Henry Owen, born just 5 days ago. I think I’m in love now. I also think I’m reeling from his unexpected early arrival and the weight of fathering a family of four. I certainly don’t have many complete thoughts or profound statements to share, but I do have a few words and of course some photos.
Rebecca woke me up around 6am on Wednesday morning with, “Don’t be alarmed, but there’s some spotting going on down there.” She immediately called her friend and OB Jen Thompson to get her thoughts. Jen said it could be normal but if it continued to definitely get checked out. It continued. So we called our nanny Ms. Kait to come early and hopped into the car. I was wearing what I had picked up off the floor that morning, though Rebecca did have a motherly instinct to bring our birth plan documents and even a onesie. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the next day I was schedule to fly out early for a wedding in Idaho. Needless to say we were concerned about me being away if something was going down.
On the way to the hospital to get checked out, Rebecca felt a few contractions, though mild. She only recognized them because they were familiar from SJ’s birth 2.5 years ago. When we got into triage at Duke Hospital, midwife Eve said, “We’ll get you checked out and back home in 30 minutes.” When she checked Rebecca she was already at 5cm dilated! HAHA!! We both burst out laughing! They moved us from triage to checking us into our birth room.
Labor and Delivery
You may already know that Rebecca and I are big proponents of natural, non-medicated birth. Rebecca’s body was designed to give birth and I was blown away once again at how well she did. As her husband, I am so proud of her endurance, strength and especially her joy in giving birth! Her confidence, poise and inner beauty lit up that birthing room and set a tone of quiet strength that everyone else followed. I wasn’t the only one praising my wife—our nurse and midwife remarked that Rebecca was their ideal patient and were just as excited about the experience as I was.
Rebecca, whether God blesses us with more biological children or not, you are in inspiration to me and to all women who strive to let their bodies lead them in natural child birth. I love you. Let’s keep having adventures together!
Back to how the day unfolded: The first few hours were spent scrambling to put everyone on notice and put plan B into motion for the Idaho wedding to be covered (more on that below). My sister was instrumental in caring for SJ after Ms. Kait went home and in bringing us some things from home since we were ill-prepared when we left the house.
Labor progressed pretty quickly and at one point I had bets going for a 3pm delivery. I was off, but only by a few hours, since at 6:03pm I reached out and caught my son, Henry Owen, and handed him into his mother’s arms. It was a beautiful experience. I think because we had done it before, we knew more about what to expect, which allowed both of us to be even more connected to one another and to the entire process. An added bonus was right before second stage labor, Rebecca’s OB friend Jen showed up, suited up and was present to witness the birth and pitch in.
We can’t say enough great things about the staff we had on our team at Duke. The midwife practice has exemplified “people over practice” throughout the entire process, starting with Rebecca’s first prenatal visit when pregnant with Samuel. Our midwife Sue allowed us lots of space and offered guidance where asked or needed. Our nurse Jennifer Justice was also a rock star. When Michelle and best friend Bill Ross laid hands on Rebecca during labor and prayed for us, Jennifer joined in with us—all of us praising God for new life. Jennifer even visited us in our post-delivery room the next day, still on a high from the experience of Rebecca’s labor and Henry’s birth. Though my loyalties remain with UNC, I have to give props to the Duke Birthing Center.
Late Pre-Term Baby
Henry is technically a pre-term baby which means his lungs and sucking reflex could have been dangerously under-developed. Thankfully they were not and he’s been breathing, eating, pooping and peeing like a champ since day one. The only difference really is that we are working to create a very calm environment for him over the next month so he can sleep and grow. That’s pretty much all he’s been doing so far, with a few minutes of awake time here and there where he makes all kinds of funny faces.
What does it mean to love two children?
When I witnessed SJ and Henry meet for the first time and looked at both of their faces, it hit me what loving two children might mean. My love for SJ did not diminish, but instead my heart expanded. In fact, my heart is still expanding as I get to know my new son, studying his features, listening to his coos and serving him 24/7.
Plan B is Bittersweet
Of the weddings I am shooting this year (around 15), I was most looking forward to Ashley and Anuj’s. Not for the idyllic Idaho scenery, not for the adventure of a new place with new people. I was looking forward most of all the celebrating with Ashley, who I’ve known for close to 20 years, getting to know her husband and their family and friends and most of all serving them with a documentation of the day’s emotions and events. Only witnessing the birth of my son would have trumped that experience, and as it turns out it did. I am extremely grateful for God’s timing that labor started before I got onto a plane and would have been away for four days (Rebecca is even more grateful)!
I had a lot of peace letting go of shooting Ashley’s wedding mainly because I knew that the backup photographer, Carolyn Van Houten, would do a stellar job, would be able to handle any issues that came up, and wouldn’t be phased by the pressure of knowing that this wedding was a big deal to me. She absolutely rocked it, and if you want to see for yourself, check out the preview on the Cana Collective facebook page.
Carolyn, thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to be fully present at the birth of my son, not worrying about anything related to Ashley’s wedding. Thank you for your flexibility in dropping everything to go to Idaho, for taking care of every detail and not the least for rockin’ the shoot and serving Ashley and Anuj well! Cheers to Carolyn!
Now it’s time to sign off and get some rest, for a few hours at least. As I glance back over at Henry sleeping quietly, I feel at peace. Maybe getting this story out there was what I needed.
More photos of my adorable new son will certainly be posted soon and often (I say that now…). If you want to get an email when I post something new, go to the subscribe page and sign up.