birth :: emmaus sol (an adoption story)

i was supposed to be on maternity leave. but when maleny contacted me about photographing her birth story, i couldn't say no. i just couldn't. because maleny is one of the generous and selfless women who chose life for her child, and then bravely chose to share that child's life with a family whose arms had long been empty, waiting and longing to be filled. in other words, this birth would be an adoption story. 

maleny wrote out her story for me, the story that begins with finding out she was pregnant with emmaus. though it's too long to share here in its entirety, i'll insert a few excerpts in what follows.

On October 27, 2014 i found out i was pregnant. i knew then that i would not be able to provide and adequate life for this human developing inside of me. my conviction to give birth was solid, but parenting was not. despite my episodes of fear, confusion, and rage, i knew that baby was and is worthy of experiencing life. life of beauty, wonder, amazement, hurt, surprises, questions, answers and most importantly: love.

after a long journey filled with disappointments and false starts, maleny was connected with the couple who would end up being emmaus' family. megan and luis are the couple maleny chose to raise her baby. maleny describes them:

As i got to know Megan and Luis, I adored them... Megan is the kind of person who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, but feels the mood to approach things in an appropriate manner. she’s unique, intelligent, creative, and encouraging... Luis is an introvert, quiet, gentle, thoughtful, and entirely stoic. He processes subjects critically and is very conscientious on how to frame his ideas.... They balance one another. I like them very much.

In the months leaded up to maleny's estimated due date, the three of them worked hard to build a trusting, open relationship, and then to develop a birth plan. they chose a natural birth at a birth center with a team of midwives, as well as a doula. they also worked together to come up with a boy name and a girl name, but decided to leave the gender a surprise. 

i can't begin to express how in awe i was of maleny as she labored for this boy. she chose the absolute best start for him through a series of loving and informed decisions: like a birth that would not include drugs and interventions, and the careful selection of a birth team that would surround her and the baby in trusting support and love. my eyes filled with tears at this demonstration of love, which was so evident every step of the way, through all the pushing, then the moment he was laid on her chest, and into the moment she released him into megan's arms, then as she smilingly watched him be measured and weighed and fed his first "meal" of donated breastmilk. 

while Maleny labored and delivered, Megan and Luis were waiting just downstairs for the moment when someone would call down for them to come up and meet their baby. the moment they came into the room and laid eyes on their son is an incredible one to see (check out their facial expressions in the photos!) they were effervescent with joy as they held him, grateful disbelief spreading over their faces.

after emmaus arrived, was measured, weighed, diapered and fed, megan asked if we could take a few shots of him in a special blanket. this blanket (in which you'll see emmaus wrapped in the final photo in the slideshow below), was knit square by square through tears and prayers over the last four years, as megan and luis waited in hope and fought off despair, until at last there were enough squares to be put together into a baby blanket. a baby blanket that is finally full with a baby. a handsome, dark-haired, and perfectly formed 8 lb son.

and now i'll stop my effusive writing about this birth and let the photos do the talking. 

[note: just one more thing: several of these photos include nudity that couldn't be cropped out as i was actually shooting. though the family wants and treasures those images, in the slideshow below i have opted to use simple opaque shapes to preserve modesty because it was either that or omit some images that are pretty important to the storyline. i hope this choice won't too badly distract from the emotion and flow of the story.]

Here's a huge shout-out to the incredible team that made this birth as supported and empowering and loving as it could possibly have been.

Midwife: Sara Badger

Student Midwives: Becky Burkett and Kelsey Ingvartsen

Doula: Erica Guthaus

Birth Center: Cedar Tree Birth and Wellness