Year in Review: 2018 Birth Highlights

Jess here! This year has been quite an adventure. It’s been over 3 years since moving to Pittsburgh. I have had the pleasure of capturing so many birth stories since starting out 5 years ago. It has been so rewarding in ways that are hard to put into words. It has been humbling to say the least. Every year I love to look back at all the moments and highlight my favorite photos (that are shareable). This year was the beginning of Pittsburgh Born Photography with my new partner, Kate. I have always envied birth-workers in partnerships. I longed for a partnership for so many years. I have to confess, I wasn’t sure now much longer I wanted to do all this in the beginning of the year. It was getting to be too much to be on-call my entire life 24/7. It wasn’t sustainable in the long run. When Kate agreed to our partnership it changed everything for me. I am still working just as hard if not harder getting everything off the ground, but it’s in a much healthier and productive way that I trust will pay off in the long run. We have worked with incredible families this year that we have become close to. We’ve had beautifully high moments, and some moments that tested us in ways we never anticipated working in birth. I have particularly loved attending a handful of births with Kate this year. They were so special to share those experiences. I kind of want to attend ALL births with Kate but then neither of us want to be on-call 24/7, defeating one of the biggest reasons for being in a partnership! Thanks to all the women and partners that have invited me into their sacred birth space. I hope 2019 is even bigger and better for Kate and I!


Kate here! What.A.Year! 2018 will forever be so so special to me. This year I fully saw my DREAMS come to life and that is an experience I find so hard to put into words. It has truly been an amazing journey. When Jess first approached me about going into a partnership together I was so excited but also so nervous! Was this really happening!? Was I actually going to make this birth photography thing MY full time thing!? I mean, I have two little kids at home and a husband who often works long hours. How was this going to work? PARTNERSHIP, FRIENDSHIP, TEAMWORK, that’s how! Together, with each others support and encouragement, not only have we managed to ‘make it work’ but we’ve given each other the opportunity to really thrive and ENJOY living out our birth worker dreams. It’s incredible and I am so grateful. I can be the best mother I can be AND the best photographer & doula I can be simultaneously and that just fills me with so much joy and gratitude. I’ve grown so much as a photographer this year and have really enjoyed exploring my style. We’ve formed some amazing friendships with clients this year, made some life long memories and have had so much fun. I cant wait to see what Pittsburgh Born does with 2019!

2018 Birth Photography Highlights

Kicking Off With TMC

FIRSTS! What’s better than a first!? This family was so awesome to have as my (Kate) first birth client. Such a fun, sweet, gorgeous family, welcoming baby #2 at one of my favorite places on planet earth, The Midwife Center for Birth and Women’s Health. Carley birthed so beautifully (and quickly!). I left Carley’s birth on an amazing high. YES! Without a single doubt in my mind, THIS is my passion. THIS is what I want to be when I grow up. THIS is my calling. A wonderful beginning. So much love to this family for taking a chance on me.

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The Birth Jess Begged Kate to Become Her Partner After Viewing Gallery

I (Kate) loved this birth so much. Taylor was incredible and so strong as she brought her second baby earth side. I love being able to see that strength coming through in many of her photos. She and AJ were a great team and it was such an honor to be welcomed into their birth space. They hired me pretty late in the game and I am SO glad they did! I fell in love with some new gear during this birth (Tamron 24-70mm lens) and totally ‘leveled up’. There is no greater feeling than taking your craft to the next level. It is so exciting and leaves me hungry for more.

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Jess’ First Repeat Client in Pittsburgh. Kate’s First Cesarean. Our First Birth Together!

This family was my (Jess’) first repeat client! I was so so excited to embark on their birth journey again. Their first birth was straight forward and textbook. It was also a turning point for me as a photographer. I was becoming more confident in what I was doing and how I approached shooting a birth. Everything was according to plan second pregnancy around until we learned that baby number #2 was breech. We tried everything to flip baby but he was not interested in being head down. This family was so wonderful because they were totally cool with Kate jumping on-board and attending as well. We wanted to do a handful of births in the beginning of the year together so we could both learn from one another and shape our style and approach for our future clients. Birth number #2, was different, but also amazing and beautiful. We loved their OB that delivered baby, making sure Mom got a perfect baby being held up after birth shot! It’s probably my favorite cesarean photo I’ve taken thus far. I’m so happy I was able to share this first birth with Kate!

walking to cesarean birth
dad in cesarean birth
baby born cesarean birth
baby wrinkles
birth photographer helping with breastfeeding
family photo after birth of baby

A Whirlwind Birth Story.

It was a pretty straight forward textbook induction. We all felt very good about everything. The whole family was very involved and supportive of Mom in labor. I love watching and capturing supportive families. When it came time to push we pushed and pushed and pushed some more. Mother’s epidural was not working great anymore either. When they made the choice to go into the OR both her husband and I accompanied her. Unfortunately the anesthesiologist could not get her numb like she needed to be. Her husband and I had to leave the OR for Mom to be put under general. This was a first for me. It was a stressful moment but Mom and baby were safe. We were able to come back in after delivery and support her as she woke up. It was one of the longer births of the year I believe I attended. I loved working with this family and learning so many fun things about them. One of the silver-linings about longer births is often you get to learn and connect in depth with the family you are capturing.

wide angle hospital room
Pushing in labor
Couple connecting in labor
Exhaustion in childbirth
mother and son
Baby after cesarean

Dad Coach of the Year

We LOVE referral clients. This family was friends with our breech cesarean birth above. They were so easy and wonderful to work with. They also welcomed Kate in the birth, making it our second birth together. I was able to focus on videography and Kate took a lot of the photos. I was able to make a stellar birth film because I didn’t have to choose between video or still shots! We loved how encouraging Dad was in this birth. He was like a professional motivational speaker! His profession is in helping people so it came naturally to him I think. Their birth was wonderful. We also loved that her Mother was a support person in the room. My own Mother was at my first birth as well, so these kinds of births always hold a special place in my heart.

magee birth room
Pushing in childbirth
in labor
Dad reacting to baby born
overhead shot of baby born
baby hand at magee women's hospital
baby in warmer after birth in pittsburgh

A Beautiful Midwife Center Birth Smooth as Butter

This third time Mom knew exactly what she was doing during this night time birth. She and her husband where a beautiful team and it was so lovely to see her look to him for support during the birth of their second son. It’s always super fun and exciting for Jess and I when we have the opportunity to capture really intense crowning photos but that’s not all we walk into births hoping to do. We love the sweet, tender, quiet moments. The connection of family as new life is brought into the world. That’s the majority of our work. The celebration of love and family.

Birthing at TMC
Water birth at midwife center
After birth of baby
birth photographer holding mother's hand
postpartum space
Baby an hour old

Some of The Most Caring and Good People We Have Ever Met

Sometimes we meet client’s for birth consultations and hope with all our hearts that they will hire us and then become our best friends forever! Kate was like that for me. I wanted her to hire me because she was so easy and seemed so awesome. She hired me obviously! This family we felt the same way. The Mother was so pleasant and we just fell in love with their little girl, who accompanied Mom to our consult. Through the birth process and beyond we became very close with this family. They are some of the most dedicated and loving individuals we will ever have the pleasure knowing. They will do everything for both their children. We are very happy to have this family as friends. This family will always be in both mine and Kate’s lives.

newborn photo outside
baby bottom before bath
family connecting together
Family together in their backyard
baby looking at camera

Long and Strong

Another very family centered birth. This mom was very strong and endured a long birthing process. Her husband was so great and supportive in every way. This was our first birth where Kate and I started using our on-call scheduling. I love when Moms are open to all suggestions. She was always willing to try something new. We did many things in this birth. In the end baby was not coming down. It was the first birth I could not accompany my family into the OR. I knew it would happen someday… They were still so strong and their birth was beautiful. I loved working with them.

pregnant belly in labor
couple kissing in labor
working through contraction
Rebozo during labor
exhaustion during pushing using rebozo
Dad prepping for OR
pointy ear baby breastfeeding

The Connected Couple

This family was so easy and lovely to work with. Dad was so amazing and supportive of his wife. I love when partners get really into helping. He never hesitated and was her rock. Mom labored for some time at The Midwife Center before deciding that she may need a break and a little extra monitoring. We drove in their car for the transfer. Some bus guy was mad and honked at us for pulling up in front of the hospital for Mom and I to get out. Mom needed a little rest so after some trial-and-error getting her epidural in correctly, she got relief and everything melted away. She found energy and pushed baby out like a pro. Their babies hair was so long at birth! I loved doing their postpartum newborn session because of baby’s beautiful golden long locks of hair.

Birth Partner using rebozo
nitrous oxide in labor
Father excited of birth of child
Couple in labor at birth center
Birth of baby
Overhead photo of baby being brought to mother

Stronger Than She Thought

As a first time mom you just don’t know how long an induction may last. Typically it’s more common for it to take a bit of time for first timers. Not the case for this mom! Things sped up quickly for this family and I found myself speeding down the road up and down Pittsburgh hills that made me a bit nauseous at the end of my journey. It was also in a hospital that I was unfamiliar with, which made the situation a bit stressful for me. I made it in time! Mom was worried she didn’t have the strength or courage to push baby, since her epidural was not as strong as she had hoped. We reassured her she was doing it and that she was strong. I was so proud of her when she birth her little girl.

Birth of baby in Washington PA
baby wrinkles after birth
father holding daughter
Placenta at birth
baby feet inside
handing off baby

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting But Worth It!

This was their 3rd rodeo. Baby was suspected to be rather large. At the end of her pregnancy they weighed their options and opted for a scheduled cesarean birth. This was completely different than their previous birth experiences. It was new territory. Though cesarean births were not a new territory to me, in my personal experience the women who had scheduled cesareans always seemed to go into labor before their scheduled date. This Mom didn’t go into labor before the day. We expected delays and bumps but didn’t anticipate an all day endeavor. We were never sure when they’d give us the green light. We sat around and chatted all day. Finally at 6pm (our scheduled time was for 9am) we made it into the OR. I experimented with my 14mm lens more than I had ever had before in birth. It was fun to be able to really make the OR as wide as possible. She was nervous but she did it. Their boys were so fun and excited to meet baby for the Fresh 48 session.

in waiting room
baby shown from the curtain
baby at warmer in operating room after cesarean
waiting for cesarean
in operating room
cesarean being performed

Second Repeat, Different Photographer, Same Awesomeness

Jess (Thomas….so many Jess’s in my life this year) photographed this couples first birth. When they contacted her to document their second child’s birth she shared with them that she was now working in a partnership with me (Kate) and this lovely coupled welcomed me with open arms. I had the privilege of photographing their first child’s baptism during baby number 2’s pregnancy and I just enjoyed them so much. So, I was thrilled when it was me who was on call for BIRTHday. This second time Mom had a quick induction (quicker than any of us anticipated) and she handled it so beautifully. Baby boy was celebrated in such a lovely way immediately after birth surrounded by family. It was such a joy to be part of this family’s birth story.

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Who Says I Can’t Go Natural With Pitocin?

Sometimes clients ask me how realistic it is to be on pitocin and not have an epidural. I always have referred to this Mother who has done it 3x now. I was there to witness it for her 2nd and now 3rd birth. This 3rd birth was more difficult than she anticipated with her endurance but just as she was about to get pain assistance her baby finally dropped and she was ready push. They are such a great couple! I have really enjoyed working with their family now two times. I love the excitement I was able to capture in their birth.

baby belly in labor
contemplation in labor
couple holding onto one another in birth
family excited about birth of child
Placenta with blood bubble
Baby born in hands and knee position
Kissing after delivery

Who Says I Can’t Go Natural With Pitocin, Part II?

It always is difficult when you risk out of the birth center at the end. This family didn’t let it bring them down for long. She thought perhaps I had come at the wrong time because things started to settle as I arrived and not much was happening anymore. They made the choice to get things moving with pitocin and it definitely did get things moving. She was in an excellent spot in labor for the pitocin to give her a push. She was awesome and birthed her baby without any pain medication aid after being induced. Her mother was also there to help and support them. She was a wonderful addition to the birth team. The midwife was so excellent and encouraging during pushing. I also borrowed Kate’s birth lens (Tamron 24-70mm) for this birth and basically bought it for myself right away after this birth. I have used a 35mm Sigma Art for 3 years as my primary birth lens. I’m so happy Kate and are both Nikon users to use one another’s equipment!

Couple together in birth
Couple after delivery
Cord in birth
birth of baby at Mercy pittsburgh
Baby details
Baby being presented to mother

Staying Close To The Hospital

When you have a client who is going to birth her 4th child and is walking around 5cm NOT in labor yet, you might get a little nervous and stalker-ish! Her births before were never precipitous (very fast), but they were not long either. When they chose to stay at the hospital after one of their appointments I wanted to make sure one of us could rush to Magee at any given moment. I actually convinced them to let me come for a little bit and capture some quiet moments because I was afraid the next time I’d join them it may be birthing time. They insisted I go home until things picked up. I trusted their judgement but almost decided to camp out at the local Panera Bread. An hour or so later I got the call to come out. They still didn’t believe they were super close because she had labored hard before like this but I felt she was definitely close. I’m pretty sure her midwife knew that too. She was surely ready! It was so good and beautiful! It was smooth as butter.

Adjusting monitors in labor
on all four position
Contractions during labor
Baby emerging during birth
Baby being born in pittsburgh
baby being burped
Admiring baby

When Birth Diverts

What a powerful birth to witness. I get chills thinking about. I truly believe that mothers are gifted a deep and powerful instinct passed to us from generation to generation. I learned pretty quickly in my own journey through motherhood to just listen to my heart and quiet everything else. This mother did just that. She listened to her heart, she listened to her body and she listened to her baby. Even when everything she was hearing was taking her away from the birth that she had envisioned, she listened. This incredible mother belly birthed a healthy baby boy and it was truly inspiring to witness her strength and bravery first hand.


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The Preemie

We really haven’t had a ton of preemie babies in our photography and doula career. I experienced a 36 weeker in the very beginning of my doula career but nothing since then. This Mother gave us a bit of a scare at 35 weeks being admitted in the hospital. We were mentally prepping to go in for a cesarean that day because of Mother’s complications. She was okay and did not need an emergency cesarean but we also were told she would not be able to leave the hospital until whenever she delivered. So everyone prepped again for a really long stay that could last for weeks. Mother was finally able to leave fortunately after a few days and we went about out lives. The day of our scheduled appointment she actually went into labor for real this time! We didn’t really know what to expect and how everything would play out with her previous complication a week before and baby now at 36 weeks. Everything went perfect! Well, almost perfect. Dad did not make the birth but we had been prepared from the beginning of that possibility because of his travel schedule. We were able to Facetime him soon after delivery between his connection from DC to Pittsburgh.

Baby at delivery
Newborn being brought to mother at birth
newborn photographer captures birth
newborn baby first weight
Friends at birth in Pittsburgh
Dad face time after birth of newborn

The Confident First Timers

This couple. They snuck in just before the New Year and it was a perfect way to bid farewell to 2018. These first time parents never showed an ounce of trepidation when planning for their first baby’s arrival. Megan knew she wanted a medication free birth and she just went for it completely full of confidence. That confidence never wavered. Not even through transition when so often the work begins to seems impossible and Jess and I are ready with words of encouragement to get Mom over that bump. No, Megan knew she was capable through out her entire journey to her son.

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