Welcoming Roxy: 8.8.16

The two nights before Roxy was born, I had uncomfortable and inconsistent contractions all night long. By the time Monday morning, August 8th, rolled around, I was sure Roxy had settled in for a few more days even though just hours earlier I was convinced we would be at the hospital ready to welcome her at any moment.

I remembered a photo my mom had taken in a bubble bath with me in her belly the morning she went into labor, so I wanted a similar one. Jose took this for me the night before Roxy was born.

These were both taken by Jose, one after the other. Both with my Pentax 645nii – the first is Kodak Portra 400 and the second is Ilford HP5.

Photo by Jose Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Our boys took a bath soon after, and I wanted one last photo of them as just a pair of siblings before their sister arrived and made them a trio.

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

I drove Max to speech and occupational therapy that next morning, and the car ride increased the number and intensity of my contractions (as it usually does anyway), but I still mostly brushed them off. I used one of the giant exercise balls in the OT gym to sit on and ease my discomfort, at which point I decided I should probably call my midwife and get her opinion. They agreed I should come in for an exam to see if I was in early labor.

Jose left work and picked up Max from therapy while I drove over there, and met me at the office where my dad then drove our car home and my mom drove our kiddos home (so much to coordinate when this is your third baby!).

After an hour waiting to be seen at the midwife’s office, my contractions got more intense and closer together. Jose was timing them and his app hilariously finally said “you need to go to the hospital right away!” 😉 At which point we left the office without ever being seen for the exam.

Luckily, all of my bags were already in Jose’s car, and I had my parents bring my packed camera bag because I knew I wanted to photograph our experience as long as I could (using film!) while I was in labor. I may or may not have been inspired by meeting Sally Mann earlier in the summer. 😉 Documenting this process was an awesome distraction to have in between contractions and really helped take my mind off the pain. In case you’re curious, I also felt compelled to listen to Weezer while laboring in the car — specifically the song “Thank God for Girls.” 😉 The first shots below are from right after we left the midwife’s office. I had to labor from the backseat because both of our cars have recalls on the passenger side airbag that I didn’t want to chance.

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

We settled into our room around 12:30pm.

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

I loaded film and did some metering between contractions so I could hand the camera off to Jose from time to time. Of course he had to capture my love for all the ice I could get my hands on. 🙂

Photo by Jose Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Our incredible midwife, Cara, monitored me for about three hours before they decided to admit me, just to be sure things were progressing.

Photo by Jose Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Jose Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

I felt great between contractions and my amazing husband helped keep the mood light, as he always does. It really helped ease the pain quite a bit. And that lovely shower behind us in the photo below? Also one of my favorite pain relievers. That hot, running water felt so good on my low back during contractions.

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Jose found a decently comfy spot to relax in between my contractions as well. 🙂 My favorite place to work through them was on top of an exercise ball while holding onto Jose as he kneeled down in front of me. This man is by far the most amazing partner I could ever ask for, and laboring with him by my side was an absolute pleasure. Our whole labor was so quiet and intimate, with just him and I holding each other and working through every contraction that brought us one step closer to our baby girl.

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

By the time I got to about 6cm, I decided I wanted an epidural. My first birth experience involved a long labor that ended in a c-section. For my second birth I went all-natural in an effort to reduce as many interventions as possible that could increase my chances for a repeat c-section — and I got the all-natural VBAC that I worked so hard for! This time around I gave myself permission to get an epidural if I wanted one, and after a while, it was obvious to me that I could keep going all-natural if I wanted to, but I was ready for pain relief so I could continue to fully enjoy the experience and hopefully have a less intense birth.

And I’m so glad that is what I opted for. I was able to relax and take short naps. And soon after I got the relief, my water broke and I felt the heavy pressure and need to push.

For some reason the epidural took much better on my right side than my left, but I was grateful because it left me just enough sensation to know how and when to push. I also knew based on my last experience that I needed to breathe into my contractions and push more gently, to help me have a not-so-difficult recovery after. And that’s exactly what I got thanks to Jose’s coaching, our incredible midwife, and the epidural that brought me just the right amount of relief.

Cara eased me through every push and every contraction. Jose held my hand and helped me find just the right amount of strength I needed to make it through to the end. And before I knew it, Roxy was on her way out and I pulled her up onto my chest in the most gentle and peaceful entrance into the world. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Jose captured our first photo together below (not film on this one — I stopped photographing with my film camera after I got my epidural and wanted to focus my energy on resting and then pushing).

Photo by Jose Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

I captured the below photos in our recovery room the next morning.

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

The honesty of the next photo was really important to me, too. Just me and my girl after our first night together. Un-showered, same robe I labored in, belly still swollen, attached to an IV for extra fluids, film camera in hand, tired as can be, more in love than ever.

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Jose brought the boys up to meet her that day, too, and it was the sweetest moment ever.

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

And then, we brought her home.

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Jose Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

The next day, we took her to her first doctor appointment.

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

And every day since, we have continued to immensely love on her as we always will forever and ever and ever.

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

Photo by Lea Ciceraro - www.LoveMeSimply.com

XOXO

What Do Photographs Mean to You?

Exist in photographs. For yourself. For your children. Love never fails, and must be preserved with photography.

www.LoveMeSimply.com | by Lea Ciceraro | NC Family Photographer

We have photographs on nearly every wall and surface in our home. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the door. There are huge canvases, small prints, big prints. Framed prints on my childhood piano and our fireplace mantle. A photo of my parents on their wedding day. Simple frames, fancy-ish frames, and sometimes no frames at all. Albums upon albums from my childhood. Instant Polaroids taped to our refrigerator. Candid moments that I’ve snapped over the years. Tiny details like hands and feet and curly locks on new babies. Moments from when my husband and I were dating in the late 90’s, to our wedding and honeymoon in 2006, to each child and adopted animal we have made a part of our home and our hearts since then. [Below: Me as a kiddo in 1986 when we lived in Germany]

www.LoveMeSimply.com | by Lea Ciceraro | NC Family Photographer

Many of the photos were taken myself, of course, but there are also plenty that I have hired other photographers to take of me and my family (like the one below, shot by Alissa Saylor). Why? Because existing in photographs is important. I want to exist in photographs for my children and for myself so we have these amazing heirlooms that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

www.LoveMeSimply.com | by Lea Ciceraro | NC Family Photographer

You know what I think about often? That one day my children will look for photographs of me and their dad, and us with them. What will they have? [See more photos below: on the left is me with Maximilian snapped by my hubs, and on the right is me with Oliver a few years later, snapped by Alissa Saylor] I understand the power of thinking I’m not good enough in any one point in my life to be in photos. It’s easy to get in a cycle of not wanting your photo taken. But what happens when you’re gone?

www.LoveMeSimply.com | by Lea Ciceraro | NC Family Photographer

I am good enough. Right now… today. My family loves me, they want these photos taken as much as I do, and they mean more to me than anything else in the world. I am good enough to be photographed with my kids. I want to celebrate this beautiful life I have been given. I want it to mean something and to tell our family history.

This is why I take photos constantly, and why I hire photographers I believe in to give me these photos that generations of our family will hold onto and cherish forever. Because a portrait is more than just a photograph. These photos are more meaningful than anything our family will ever own or vacation we will take or presents we will buy. These photos, these memories, are the only possible thing we could spend money on that will go up in value the way they do. It must be done right.

[Photo below of my parents on their wedding day in 1971, and to the right is me and Jose on June 3, 2006 – snapped by Bronson Pate]

www.LoveMeSimply.com | by Lea Ciceraro | NC Family Photographer

My husband can count on one hand how many photos from his childhood he has. And when we were dating, I don’t recall seeing any family photos on the walls of his house. It’s heartbreaking to both of us and our own kids to have that piece of history missing. Whatever the reason was, now the photos aren’t there and there’s nothing that can be done about that. It’s a legacy lost. Missing pieces of the puzzle he’ll never get back. So we’re making sure we preserve these memories for our kids.

What’s more important today, in this moment, than photographing your family and existing in photos with them?

www.LoveMeSimply.com | by Lea Ciceraro | NC Family Photographer