maternity pictures

A Story of Gratitude & Redemption - Alyssa's Birth Story

Killian's birth was an emotional one! More emotional than any birth I have had the pleasure of documenting! It all began when I met Bruce, Alyssa, and Vallory during our initial consultation and heard their back story. They were so excited for this baby and to have their story captured for a number of reasons. First, Bruce told me that due to some unfortunate circumstances, he wasn't at Vallory's birth and was so excited to be at this one and to be able to support Alyssa. Second, they were excited to have Vallory (age 6) at the birth to witness her sibling being brought into the world. Third, there was some postpartum trauma, which added another level to the emotion of the night!

You can read Alyssa's birth story in her own words below.

Killian's Birth Story
7 lbs, 15 oz
Saturday, April 20th 2019 @1:50am

Labor
Labor began on a rainy evening on Good Friday. I had gone in to have my membranes swept earlier that day. Afterwards, we went to Discovery Place in Charlotte, and were watching a movie in the IMAX Theatre when I began to have early labor signs and downloaded a contraction app to help me track them. We tried to figure out if we should stay in Charlotte or go home to Indian Trail- we called my midwife and she said to go home and rest. It felt ominous outside to me as we headed home while my contractions got more intense and real. My mind started going more inward to sustain the process and I knew it wouldn't be long because Vallory came fast! We were home for maybe 2 hours and I knew it was time to go to Baby + Co! Bruce started to get more excited/nervous and we were all nervously laughing because we knew it was going to be a LONG night. Little did we know how long it would be with my postpartum complications!

Delivery
Both of my births were unmedicated, but my first birth with Vallory was in a hospital setting, so I was excited to be in a beautiful birth center. The different setting really made a big difference in how our delivery felt. My midwife was so supportive and calm. I also loved that we chose to have Vallory there, as her presence was sweet and kept a light energy in the room that I needed. And seeing her expressions as her brother was being born was priceless. What I remember most when I think back to my birth is Bruce being my strength when I felt I had run out. I remember gripping him and feeling at the end of myself, but him being there for me gave me a feeling of joy and hope and excitement for this new chapter together. It really helped me push through (no pun intended)! Killian was born at 1:50am Saturday morning. All I could think about wow beautiful he was! He felt so warm and sweet. I was admittedly anxious and wanted to make sure he was okay, but he looked right at us when he emerged from the water like he was so happy to meet us. <3

Postpartum
After Killian was born, I had a bad hemorrhage due to placenta accreta and required a blood transfusion. That was definitely not in our plan. The trauma was difficult to work through, so I felt worn out all the time, breastfeeding was/is a challenge and painful...basically everything was harder this second time around. But this baby was our redemption child for our marriage. I think it almost makes sense as we have struggled so much to become a family again, that this process wouldn’t be easy either- but just as worth it. It almost took my life and surviving it has left me which such an extra layer of gratitude for my life and my family. I’m so, so happy to be here and experience life with the people I love, as well as be able to care for my new baby, because at one point my mind wondered who would take care of him if I was gone. But he's here, we are all healthy and happy, and my family is complete!

Kira's Milk Bath Maternity Session | Charlotte Maternity Photographer

This gorgeous mama right here has become a great friend and peer since I moved down to Charlotte eighteen months ago. So I was honored when she asked me to capture her pregnancy with a beautiful milk bath session. I’ve done one milk bath session before, but it was with my girls and involved Froot Loops, so I was excited when Kira brought her vision to me. As luck would have it, our visions meshed perfectly—I loved the classic look she was going for and she was excited when I suggested we also spice things up a bit! Kira has since given birth to a beautiful little girl named Adelaide. I can’t wait to get her in a milk bath with her mama next! Congratulations Kira!!

What is a Doula Anyways?

Hiring a doula may be one of the most beneficial and important decisions that you can make during your pregnancy (aside from hiring a birth photographer that is)! I know that when I look back at my own pregnancies and births, it would have been nice to have some extra support. For example, I would have loved to have an impartial, informed person educate me on my options when I was getting differing opinions from different doctors in the same practice about whether or not I needed to have a c-section. Or a trusted postpartum coach to give me a pep talk and tips to get me through when I found myself crying in my kitchen while holding my crying days-old baby because, “I thought I’d be better at this!”

But I didn’t have a doula because I didn’t know what one was or what they did. Not until becoming a birth photographer and seeing them in action did it become clear to me just how invaluable they are! Then I met with Andrea Gerdes, a local Charlotte doula, for a coffee date and we really hit off. I love Andrea’s energy — she’s sweet, calming, and knowledgeable about her craft. We decided to partner up so that we could give our respective clients the best of both worlds — the support and encouragement you deserve during labor and birth, and the gorgeous images to look back on and remember forever. Click here to learn more about our Doula/Birth Photographer package!

And without further ado, let’s meet Andrea!

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Andrea Gerdes of    Complete Joy Birth Services

1) I’M SO EXCITED TO INTERVIEW YOU! CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?
My name is Andrea Gerdes and I am a birth and postpartum doula and an infant sleep consultant. I have been married to my husband for 17 years and we have three amazing kids that I homeschool. My husband and I are both Virginia natives but we have been in Charlotte for over 4 years now.

2) WHY DID YOU BECOME A DOULA?
When I was preparing to give birth to my own children, I did a lot of research and put a lot of thought into how I wanted my births to go. Though I was a aware of doulas at the time, I never had one with any of my own births. After I was done having children, I had a lot of information I had gathered and a passion for the process of birth. When I learned more about the role of the doula, ! fell in love with supporting mothers through the journey of birth and postpartum. Doula work has been such a perfect fit for me and the dream job I could never have imagined when I was younger.

3) FOR THOSE OF MY READERS WHO AREN’T AWARE…CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT A DOULA DOES? WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A DOULA AND A MIDWIFE?
A doula is a non-medical support person for people who are going through the major life transition of becoming parents. The main types of doulas are birth doulas and postpartum doulas. Birth doulas educate and support expecting families throughout pregnancy and attend births. Our role is to support the birthing person and any other people present emotionally and physically. Some examples would be to suggest position changes, rub the laboring mother’s feet, grab the new dad a cup of coffee, and facilitate conversations with nurses, doctors, and midwives. Midwives are actual medical care providers who deliver babies both in and out of hospitals. Though they can provide non-medical support as well, their primary focus is on the health and well-being of mom and baby. Postpartum doulas support the family after the birth of their baby by seeing to the needs of the new mother and supporting her as she learns her own ways of mothering.

4) HOW DOES SOMEONE BECOMES A DOULA? WHAT TYPE OF TRAINING & CERTIFICATIONS ARE NEEDED?
These are no legal standards for the term “doula” so technically anyone can call herself a doula, whether she has been trained or not. Most doulas will go through a certification process that includes training (either in-person or online) and other requirements for being certified such as attending a certain number of births and reading books about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

5) HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DOULA 'STYLE'?
I have a lot of knowledge about all things birth so I tend to provide my clients with a lot of information so they can make the best decisions for themselves about their care. At births, I tend to be “behind the scenes” a bit, in that I am always there and offering encouragement but I let the laboring person take the center stage. If a mother is coping well with her labor, then I let her do her thing and simply hold the space. If she is struggling or needs suggestions, I am there to offer more hands-on support options.  

6) WHAT IS THE ONE ITEM YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT AT YOUR BIRTHS?
Snacks. While this is for me and not for the laboring moms, it is so important. Once I arrive at a birth it can be a very long time before I am able to leave and get food so I come prepared with lots of snacks to keep me going!

7) WHAT’S THE CRAZIEST THING YOU’VE HAD HAPPEN AS A DOULA?
This is such a crazy job. From late night phone calls, sometimes being gone for days, to walking in 30 seconds after the baby is born (some babies come super fast!). I don’t want to get too specific because I like to protect my clients’ privacy, but being a doula means things are never dull!

8) WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING A DOULA?
Bringing a new baby into the world is such a huge transition for families. I love being a part of that transition and knowing if I can make it just a little less stressful for them then I am giving them something very valuable. My clients teach me so much as well and I am always in awe of of women and how they give birth with so much strength and courage.

9) WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO ALL PREGNANT MAMAS?
You are the expert on your body and your baby and you have everything within you to make the right choices for yourself and your little one.

10) WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT DOULA'ING?
I’m usually doing my “other job” which is homeschooling my three children. Being a doula and a homeschooling mom definitely keeps me busy! I also love to read, drink coffee, and spend time in nature.

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