Birth Photography / Atlanta, GA / Brittany Knapik Photography / Samantha Jean

As I sat down to write the intro for the Sallee’s birth story I was trying to think of a way to do their story justice. Samantha may only be a month old but her story has been a long time in the making and I couldn’t come up with the words myself to adequately explain all that her family went through to bring her into their world.

So I turned to Nancy’s words. I found the Facebook post that I read several months ago, the one that compelled me to reach out to an old friend about the possibility of being there to photograph the day that they finally welcomed their miracle into their family. Here it is. Nancy and Barrett’s story in her own words, that she so bravely shared with the world last July.

After being diagnosed in January 2015 with diminished ovarian reserve and secondary infertility, we decided to move straight to IVF. No looking back, all card on deck, trusting in the journey the Lord has planned for us. Back in November, "I took the bull by the horns" and saw a reproductive endocrinologist because I wasn't getting pregnant and when I did I miscarried. I also had an unanswered, unexplained and rare second trimester loss that I needed closure on. After my doctor ran every test imaginable, my loss is still unknown, but I was diagnosed with secondary infertility and diminished ovarian reserve. I have very little eggs left and my body will be going into pre-menopause within 5 years. I was heartbroken, but we had answers and a game plan. I then started the emotionally-draining and hormonally-charged IVF stimulation in February. It was expected that I would stimulate 10 eggs, 6 would survive the merge with sperm and by day 5 I'd have 1-2 to send off for genetic testing. I prayed and prayed throughout the entire stimulation, but mid-way through the journey I was brought in to see my doctor and was warned we may have to cancel because I wasn't stimulating on the highest dosage allowed and that I might have to extend my process on the meds. Even if I did continue, there was a high possibility that I'd have to repeat the stimulation due to the fact only 3-4 eggs were stimulating at that time. I came home and prayed and prayed, hugged my son a lot, cried to my husband, did a little fertility yoga and a walk on the treadmill.
I woke up the next day with a positive attitude, trusting in God and my body. It was a turning point in my relationship with God and this journey I was on. I had to be patient and trust in Him. By the next doctor appointment, I had stimulated 1-2 more eggs but they were small. The nurse said they were waking up. We continued with the news from my doctor that we'd move forward and see the process out. I told her I was not giving up. By the day my body was ready for retrieval, I had 3 eggs that were the ideal size and 4 others with the possibility to force-mature the eggs after retrieval. I woke up from the procedure delirious and with the news that the doctor got 9 eggs. I was in shock, overwhelmed, joyous and so relieved. I thanked God and my body. I kept telling my husband I knew my body and I knew not to give up.
By the next day we heard from a nurse, 6 eggs survived day 1. The next 5 days were the longest days of my life waiting to hear how many would survive to day 5. We got the call on our way to see the doctor that 5 had survived. FIVE, FIVE!!! Five is my husband's favorite number and we got FIVE! I cried tears of joy because we expected so little, yet God provided. Those 5 embryos were then biopsied and were sent off for genetic testing. The doctor also said to expect 1-2 embryos to come back normal because when you have few eggs in reserve, the quality of eggs is diminished. I had to wait, wait and wait for what seemed like ages for the news to hear if they were healthy. While we were on vacation in Telluride, we finally heard back...we have 4 healthy, normal embryos. Again, I started to cry tears of joy. I have so much to be thankful for and that's my relationship and trust in the Lord. He hasn't given up on me ever and I should NEVER give up on Him. And I haven't. I am now happy to announce that I have this little light and I'm going to let it shine. We are 10 weeks pregnant!

They went through an unimaginable loss but fought through every hardship with grace, humility, faith and open hearts. Nancy shared their story every step of the way giving hope to everyone who followed along. They chose faith over fear and on January 20, 2016 they held their little light in their arms for the first time. Here is the story of that beautiful day.

 


Birth Photography / Atlanta, GA / Brittany Knapik Photography / Towne Family

Every birth is different. Every birth is incredible.

I find myself repeating these words over and over again in the car while I am driving to meet a couple in labor. It’s funny; it seems like something that is so obvious it doesn’t even need to be said. But every time, those words creep up again and I am practically giddy while thinking, “Every birth is different. Every birth is incredible.”

It is such a simple thing but it is also remarkably powerful. With every birth I get to help a family tell a story; the story that they want told. So just like every birth is different, so is every birth story. Some couples call me the second contractions begin, wanting every moment, every stage of labor documented. They want to look back on every second of their baby’s journey into their arms, and those stories are amazing. Other couples want a slightly less intense version of their baby’s birth to remember. They want me to come in immediately following the birth to document all of the details of their baby’s first few hours of life; being weighed and measured, getting a bath, nursing for the first time, meeting family members, and these stories are amazing too.

This is Bobby’s birth. Justin and Sara, along with their (extremely large, extremely fun and extremely loving) families, welcomed Robert Powell Towne into their lives on August 5, 2015. The anticipation of his arrival, his precious first moments in his parents arms, the love radiating from his grandparents, aunts, and uncles as they held him for the first time, those were the memories the Towne family wanted to hold onto forever; that was the story we told.

Birth Photography / Atlanta, GA / Brittany Knapik Photography / Cosgrove Family

There are so many reasons I made the decision to specialize in birth photography; the energy that you feel when you are in a room with a woman who just gave birth is indescribable, the look of love on a new mother’s face can break your heart into a million pieces, every moment is so pure and genuine. But one of my favorite parts of the entire experience is watching a couple come together, labor together and love together. Yes, it is the mom who goes through labor and birth and it is she who has to physically bare the weight of it all but when her partner is there every step of the way, offering support in any way they can, the entire process becomes something they experience together and that can be remarkable to witness.

John and Mary welcomed their second child, Callan Cosgrove, to the world on July 13, 2015.

The birth of their daughter, Leah, in March 2013 ended with a cesarean and after careful consideration and getting approval from their doctor they were excited to be attempting to VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) the second time around. They were given strict instructions that if she didn’t go into labor on her own by her due date that they would have to move forward with a scheduled c-section. For about a week before their due date Mary was having contractions and was extremely hopeful that her VBAC would become a reality. Unfortunately, her contractions didn’t pick up and she and John had to go in to the hospital at 5am on the 13th to be prepped for surgery. My heart ached for her; as someone who ended up having a c-section with my first child as well, we had spoken at length about how badly she wanted to try for a vaginal birth and I knew how much it meant to her that she could even try.

A lot of people may say that it isn’t a big deal that she had to have a scheduled c-section, and for some people it may not have been. But to be told you will have the opportunity to at least try to labor, feel like you’ve done everything right to make it happen, and then have your chance taken away because of a time constraint… that can be heartbreaking. But as I watched Mary that morning she was a warrior, poised and brave; she had John by her side, supporting her in her  birth experience and that made all the difference in the world.

He helped tie her into her gown and when she had a contraction they both felt her disappointment. When she was scared of the needles that came with getting her IV and epidural, he was there holding her hand and showing her pictures of their little girl to keep her calm. When she began to shake from the medicine his hand was there to let her know she wasn’t alone. When they took her back into the operating room he was by her side, and when she came out to join him and their son, his was the first hand she held. With Callan finally in Mary’s arms, it was John who radiated pride; pride for his new son but even more so, pride in his wife and her journey.

Their birth story is a story of love, resilience and incredible support. It will forever hold a special place in my heart.