I met Jodi and her husband Mark in Seattle in May of 2009. I was in the middle of a crazy travel schedule that was a combination of book tours, photographing clients in my different studios and caring for my father who just had surgery and lived in a remote part of South Dakota. Fourteen airplanes in less than two weeks was pushing even my limits to stay centered. And while I was having a great time, I made sure to keep up with my morning dog walks, meditations and workouts at the gym so that this frenetic energy didn’t spill over into my studio time with my clients where I like to be calm and relaxed. My photography sessions start with me relaxing in my chair, pen in hand to take notes, and my clients sitting on the couch looking at my work. I like to get to know the people who I am about to create something with.
Jodi briefly touched on the fact that she had a difficult pregnancy at the beginning of our session as we were getting to know each other. I know getting pregnant, staying pregnant and the actual pregnancy isn’t easy for many of my clients. Expectations are sometimes vastly different from the reality of the pregnancy and birth. So this wasn’t new to me to listen and empathize with a mom having a particularly difficult time. Jodi didn’t elaborate and seemed to take it in stride. She emanated a grace and strength that she was just going to get through it, and not let it bring her down.
I saw them ten weeks later to show them their beautiful proofs from our session together. It wasn’t until they returned with a beautiful little girl that I realized how truly special and inspiring a woman Jodi is, AND what a truly difficult and challenging pregnancy, birth and post-partum she had endured and was still enduring.
I asked her, as I ask all my clients, how her birth was. With Mark at her side nodding, Jodi smiled radiating a sense of loving calmness and said “Everything that could have gone wrong during my pregnancy and birth, did.” She then modified it to say, “I’m not sure I’d say everything, but it was very challenging and lots of things I didn’t expect to happen did. It has been one thing after another but now I have this beautiful little girl. She is perfect.” What made me pause was her genuine smile; what made me want to tell her story, was her positive outlook in the face of tremendous physical, emotional and spiritual challenges.
Jodi was plagued by nausea starting at six weeks that lasted most of her pregnancy. She couldn’t tolerate the smell or taste of the normal healthy foods she was used to and had headaches almost daily. Then her right thigh went numb, and became excruciatingly painful when standing for any length of time, eventually making even sitting, walking and sleeping difficult. Anemia caused periodic episodes of extreme fatigue, light-headedness and heart palpitations. She didn’t feel up for exercising which was a core part of her life and well-being. There was some bleeding early on in the pregnancy that was misdiagnosed as a miscarriage by a midwife who Jodi decided to fire, leaving her looking for a new midwife at ten weeks pregnant.
Her due date came and went, and so they decided to try a few things to begin labor, one of which made it difficult to urinate leaving her very uncomfortable. Contractions began but after three days there hadn’t been much progress. They brought in a birthing tub, but she was having severe back spasms that were being treated by a special machine with an electric current so she couldn’t get in the tub.
After four days she was able to get into the tub, but several hours passed and labor stalled. Before heading out to walk stairs to get things moving again, her midwife checked the fetal heart rate and it was dangerously low. They called 911 and she was rushed to the hospital. They were ready to do an emergency C-section, wheeling her towards the operating room. Her midwife halted the flurry of activity, because the baby’s heart rate had stabilized. Monitoring of the baby’s heart rate continued, while Jodi breathed through the contractions.
After almost five days of labor both at home and in the hospital, Jodi was exhausted and had not progressed beyond eight centimeters. She and Mark knew at this point that they were most likely heading for a C-section. But they wanted to make sure they did their best to try every other alternative. They decided that Jodi would start pitocin to strengthen her contractions. In case the baby did not tolerate the contractions and an emergency C-section became necessary, they also decided to do an epidural. This gave Jodi a chance to get some rest and eliminated the potential need for general anesthesia during surgery. Her mother and Mark watched the monitors as she slept.
After several more hours, the baby was still in distress and Jodi’s cervix had not dilated any further. So the anesthesiologist was called in. And the story continues, from too much anesthesia making her arms numb so that Jodi feared she wouldn’t be able to hold her baby, to a nurse not honoring her plan of wanting Mark to cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. Each step of the way, she was being challenged by her own body and the medical staff around her. But she persevered and her daughter was born Friday 6/19 at 10:05 AM.
“As I was going through this ordeal, Mark was extremely supportive and always very positive,” she said. “I also kept reciting one of the mantras from my hypnobirthing class in my head ‘I am prepared to meet whatever turn my birthing takes. I am prepared to meet whatever turn my birthing takes.'”
“As much as that experience wasn’t what I wanted, it is what it is.” She said. ”You never know what to expect in pregnancy or birth. You can plan for the ideal birth but you just have to do your best and be accepting of what happens.”
She continued, “I know we did our best and although our birth wasn’t what we wanted, now we have this wonderful outcome, our lovely little girl.”
I knew with everything going wrong with my pregnancy, I wanted to do something nice for myself. I was totally impressed with how many awesome photos there were of me. Looking at myself in those photos, I have never looked so beautiful and certainly never felt so photogenic. The experience was one of the highlights of my pregnancy.