A couple days ago marked 4 years since I found out my son would likely not live due to an underdevelopment of the left side of his heart. It was around the same time I was studying anatomy and physiology at BYU. The late nights I spent bent over a pile of flash cards and the endless hours memorizing parts and systems of the human body and specifically the human heart, it gave me a taste of life I had never experienced before.
I wish I understood when I sat in that dark hospital room and looked at X-rays of my unborn baby's heart, the gravity of the information I was being given. I wish I had known what questions to ask. I had believed everything happened for a reason, so I did the most terrifying thing I could do: I accepted it. Yes, I spent a lot of nights glued to a computer screen researching every last bit of information I could, I sought a second opinion, I blogged words I never imagined I would say, all while knowing deep down, I had accepted the outcome. Looking back, I wish I had known the balance between having faith in whatever happened, without allowing it to keep me from exploring further. I didn't understand at the time.
I think about his underdeveloped heart sometimes. That heart beat that had put me out of denial when I found out I had gotten pregnant on birth control. The heart beat that took me from the world I had intentionally constructed around me, a world where life felt more filtered and clear, and stretched me past borders I didn't know I had into an unknown I didn't know existed. It's been 4 years since I found out about his heart defects, and I've been a little uncomfortable ever since. I'm learning though, the value of discomfort, of exploring into it rather then turning away from it.
I think about that tiny heart sometimes. I think about how I had never truly been still, until I heard his heart beat for the first time. And how I would become swallowed in stillness, when it would beat for the last. That frozen moment in time and space, when I held his dead body in my arms. I knew that incredible void was pushing me against my borders. The borders that had safely been keeping my life the way it was. I wanted to run from these borders, back into the safe, predictable, life I had always known. The life I knew how to exist in.
But it turns out, there is richness there, hiding in these borders. Hiding in the places, we don't care to look.
I think about the day his heart stopped beating, and the first time I considered the question:
What lives beyond these borders?
I have since found it is a playground of exploration. Nothing to be predicted, only to be discovered.
Creating seemed to be the only way to continue this road. So I picked up a camera, day, after day. I sat in stillness, and at times, I let busyness and hustling consume me. I both questioned myself and followed where I felt called. I stayed up late learning, I met people that would show me the parts I couldn't learn on my own. I practiced and began again, and again.
The creative process was allowing me to navigate my inner world in a way I never had, and soon, I realized that his heart defects were beginning to show me my own.
And the other day, it clicked with me.
I want to shoot a birth.
I want to shoot lots of births.
I had considered it before, but felt resistant to the idea, since I had been under medication during my son's delivery and had never actually seen a birth. But the unknown I felt here, it was asking me to step into, rather then away, from it.
I posted my request to shoot a birth and I was grateful at the large response. I am lucky to be surrounded with community that offers so much support.
Stacey reached out to me after my sister and their other co workers mentioned it to her, and she told me she was due within a week. Having struggled with infertility for 4 years, this was a baby Staci and her husband had fought for. Infertility I can imagine, feels similar to mourning a death in a way, as it’s the fear and heartache of not being able to birth a baby that very much exists to you. After 4 years, they found out there baby was ready to come. The people that got to be in the room in that moment felt the weight of how long they had waited, and the renewal of having the day finally arrive. Staci is a bad ass, and everyone that was there knew it.
She had told me the day she planned to be induced, and I made my schedule available. A few nights before, I found myself up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep. At 3:30 AM I got a text from her saying her contractions had become really strong and she was being admitted to labor and delivery. She said the doctor told her she wouldn't start pushing until later that morning. I got up, grateful I was awake to receive the text, and began my morning routine. I got centered and texted my other commitments through out the day to let them know I may be unavailable as I was shooting a birth that day.
Around 6 AM she texted me saying she's going to be pushing in 40 minutes. I grabbed my bag, downed a quick cup of coffee, and headed to the AF delivery room.
Stacey was there with her husband, twin sister, and sister in law. She was apologizing to me from the moment I walked in and I wondered if she knew how much I wanted to be there. That this was as much for me as it was for her. I considered it a gift and a privilege, this opportunity.
More of her family showed up, and soon the delivery began. More and more, I felt the sacredness of what I was capturing. I knew right away, I wanted to do this again, and again.
Seeing Stacey and baby Madden meet, seeing the oxygen fill his lungs and hearing him scream for the first time, I thought again, about the human heart. That learning to navigate this world with our full hearts, also means exploring the wilderness of our discomfort. That hospital room was filled with love and also with pain. That motherhood is a commitment to allowing both to exist at once. And heart centered living, it's a commitment to the same thing. It means being led to unknown places, to shitty experiences, to beautiful experiences, and it always means one thing:
To explore further.
To let pain be a message that we are meant to wander in, instead of away.
These borders we reach, they are in fact bringing learning, love and the gift of being fully present to what is present to us right now.
I realized that when I wanted to escape the dark and painful void of empty arms, empty promises and commitments, loneliness and suffering. These were actually a chance to step toward the edge. To bring to light the uncharted territories of my life, and to explore them further. To dive deeper. To breathe all the way down to the root.
It is in this, that we come back to ourselves, and back to the things that are meant for us. It is here we discover what was beyond the borders all along.
Have you seen anyone look more beautiful while giving birth?!
Also, I'm still capturing birth stories and if you or someone you know is giving birth soon, I would love to capture it. Shoot me a message here or on my Facebook.