Birth Photography / Atlanta, GA / Brittany Knapik Photography / William Parker

In recent years a dialogue started that has opened the hearts of many and has allowed families to share their experiences and struggles with others. Pregnancy loss and miscarriage is a topic that many sadly considered to be taboo; something you just didn't talk about and as a result something you often struggled through alone. Thank God that is changing. So many of my clients have experienced unimaginable loss and being able to share their story is part of the way they begin to find peace and healing within their family. By the time they share their stories with me they are expecting what some refer to as a "rainbow baby".

A rainbow baby is a child that is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. The following quote describes it well:

Rainbow babies are the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it does not mean that the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with the aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and the clouds. Storm clouds may still loom over but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy, and much needed hope.

It doesn't matter whether your loss is in the first few weeks of your pregnancy, late term, or shortly after your baby's birth, it is the loss of your child. A loss that you should be able to grieve, one that you should never feel shame over, and one that you should be able to share as openly as you need or want to. The term rainbow baby has not only encouraged parents to share their stories of struggle but it has allowed them to rejoice in the happiness that a new pregnancy and baby brings.

When Lisa and Brock first approached me about documenting the birth of their baby they were extremely open about their previous loss. There was an obvious hurt that still lingered but they were so happy about their new blessing. There was a brightness in Lisa's eyes, there was hope in her words; they had endured unimaginable pain but they weren't going to be fearful of their future happiness.

The first time any parent holds their baby in their arms is an incredible moment, but seeing Lisa and Brock when they held their son, it was so much more. When they heard him cry, when they felt the rise and fall of his chest, when they knew their rainbow was shining, it was like they all took their first breath together.

On April 5, 2016 the clouds parted and the Boyd family finally saw their light at the end of a very long tunnel. William Parker Boyd is and always will be a rainbow of hope.

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 / Lila Rose

When I was pregnant and in the process of writing our birth plan I had so many people tell me that I needed to be flexible and remain open minded because birth rarely goes exactly how you want it to. For my birth, they were right. Nothing. Went. As. Planned. For Susanna and Adam however, it was like their birth plan was a script for their sweet Lila’s birthday. And if anyone has ever deserved for their birth to go exactly as they wanted it to, it was these two. Buckle up y'all and get your tissues, this one is beyond incredible.

When I first meet with a client one of the most important questions I ask is what the road to pregnancy looked like for them. Susanna and Adam’s answer literally floored me. I was sitting at their kitchen table, Susanna to my left, glowing with her perfectly round baby belly and Adam, directly across from me beaming with pride at how totally awesome his wife was. Susanna laughed a little and then started to tell me their story, a story that had begun 4 years earlier.

They were married in 2011 and one month after returning home from their honeymoon Susanna discovered that she was unexpectedly pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy. She had to have immediate surgery and ended up losing one of her fallopian tubes. After taking the time to heal, they decided to start trying to get pregnant again and with Susanna having only one fallopian tube had been told it could take some time. Again, she got pregnant very quickly but during their first ultrasound their doctor told them they were actually experiencing a molar pregnancy. They explained to me that a molar pregnancy happens when the tissue that would normally become a fetus instead becomes an abnormal growth in the uterus; it isn’t an embryo but it triggers all of the symptoms of a normal pregnancy. Molar pregnancies can quickly become dangerous so their doctor immediately scheduled them for surgery.  There is a very small chance that women who have molar pregnancies can end up with trophoblastic disease, and an even smaller chance that those women will develop cancer that spreads to other parts of their bodies. Susanna was part of that very small percentage of women. After her initial round of chemotherapy her doctors found thirteen tumors on her lungs and she had to undergo several rounds of even more intensive chemo.

Two years into their marriage and finally cancer free, they were hit with their next obstacle; at just 26 years old chemotherapy had kicked Susanna into early menopause. She began taking hormone replacements and was instructed by her doctor to meet with a fertility specialist to see if IVF was even an option. At their egg retrieval they were told that all of her eggs were most likely destroyed by the chemo; her doctor came back with 36 viable eggs. They were told that their chances of having any healthy embryos to implant were extremely slim; they ended up with 7.

In August of 2014 they decided to move forward with their first round of IVF. Knowing that they had 7 viable embryos they only implanted one, and it took. They were pregnant! But sadly, one month later they suffered the devastating loss of a miscarriage.

After years of heartbreak, of surgeries, needles, hospital visits, and appointments with specialists, they were done. They needed a break. They needed to enjoy one another in the ways that most newlyweds get to from the very beginning. So they took a step back. They made plans to take the trip of a lifetime, to get away from everything… really far away. They jetted off to Amsterdam and then to Norway, where they stayed in the Ice Hotel and when they arrived home they were rested, refreshed and ready to start their second round of IVF.

Having already gone through one round together, Susanna went in for that first appointment alone. They knew the routine, she’d go in and have an ultrasound to make sure she was ready for implantation and then schedule her next appointment; something she could surely do solo. But during her ultrasound they were shocked to find she was already pregnant! In making the decision to take a break from all of the medicine, hormone replacements and IVF treatments, her body had reset itself. She was no longer menopausal and they were able to get pregnant on their own.

Watching them tell their story was like watching a couple that had been married for 50 years. With only 4 years of marriage under their belts they had been through more than most couples will have to go through in a lifetime and they were still so happy and so obviously in love with each other it took my breath away. I cried most of my 30 minute drive home.

A few weeks later I got a call from Adam at 3:30 in the morning; at 41 weeks pregnant Susanna had gone into labor.  

From beginning to end, Susanna fought to be present for every second of her labor. She was an incredible force and trusted her body in a way that was so innate and incredible to witness. She had an amazing team around her who all trusted in her body as much as she did, they were there to do all they could to support her and with the help of her incredible midwives, doula, and husband she was able to have the natural water birth she worked so hard for. After four long years, Susanna and Adam finally welcomed their daughter into this world and into their arms.

Lila Rose Ames was born on September 23, 2015. She is a miracle among miracles.


Birth Photography / Atlanta, GA / Brittany Knapik Photography / Harper Rose & Sophie Brooke

I met David and Marcy several years ago through a mutual friend and was so happy when they decided to have me there to photograph the birth of their twins.

This pregnancy was a complete surprise for them, in more ways than one. As a result of Marcy's first pregnancy with their now two and a half year old Eden, she had some lingering medical issues that needed to be taken care of before they thought they could start trying again; so she was scheduled to have surgery this past January. A few days before going into the hospital she went to CVS to pick up her pain medicine for afterwards and on a whim decided to take a pregnancy test. Remembering that they are most accurate when taken first thing in the morning she waited, but woke up at 3:30 am needing to use the restroom and decided to go ahead and take it. She expected a negative result and to go right back to bed, but the test came back positive and she woke David up immediately for a very necessary middle of the night freak out.

Surprise number two came a few weeks later when Marcy went to her ObGyn for her first ultrasound. David had a meeting, so, as with so many second pregnancies, Marcy went to the appointment solo; no big deal. Her doctor decided to do a quick ultrasound but she was warned that it might be too early to see anything. The second she looked at the screen she knew something was different. This time around there were two distinct black circles on the ultrasound screen; this time there were two babies.

This birth was such an incredible experience to be a part of. It wasn’t just Marcy and David welcoming two new babies into the world; it was a life changing day for everyone in both of their families. I wasn’t able to be in the operating room for the actual birth of the girls so I was with their families in the waiting room. While I would have loved to be there to document Sophie and Harper’s first moments with their parents, being there to capture the look on their families faces when they received the news of the girls arrival was one of the most beautiful moments I have been lucky enough to photograph.

Marcy and David are amazing and the love that their families share for them and one another is nothing short of extraordinary. With every birth there is a moment, a moment when there is so much love in a room there is hardly enough space for air and it makes it hard to breathe. On the day the Ames twins were born I lost my breath so many times I lost count.

David and Marcy, you have brought so much joy and love into this world with your beautiful girls and you deserve every moment of love and happiness that comes your way. 

 

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.