The Beauty of Home Birth | Peoria IL Area Birth Story

Jen: the epitome of wife and mother

I am sure I could live an entire lifetime and fail to come across a woman like her again. When I met Jen she was a mother of three with a magnetic personality and a smile to match it. I don't know how she has managed to stay so connected to who she is through motherhood, married life and the unending challenges that come with those privileges. So when Jen and her husband approached me about capturing the birth of their fourth child, I didn't even hesitate to say yes. There could be no greater honor than being asked to witness the birth of a child. 

This photograph is from Jen's babywearing session with Tianna. See what I mean about the magnetic smile?

This photograph is from Jen's babywearing session with Tianna. See what I mean about the magnetic smile?

Jen, unlike any person I had ever met ever, was opting for a home birth in her Mackinaw home. And in an even more unique spirit, she was sincerely hoping to carry her baby to 40 weeks or more. Jen had never made it to her due date in her previous three pregnancies. Her first birth, Tanner, was an induction. He was just a tad early. But when the two girls came along after, Jen saw the immense difference even a week can make in a newborn's demeanor and development. 

I on the other hand-I could not WAIT for her to deliver. Not another day. Every time my phone rang leading up to the 40 week mark my heart raced until I saw it was just my mother-in-law calling. Again. With two scheduled inductions myself, I had never experienced the waiting game of a patient baby.  But the call did eventually come; rather the text finally came. Five in the morning yielded the first sign from her that this was it. Baby number four was going to land earth side today. Around 9:00 a.m. I got a follow up text that things seemed to be picking up and I could maybe head on over.

I am not 100% sure what I was expecting as I made my way up the stairs of Jen and Jerritt's split level home into their living room. I can say I was not expecting the three older children to just be running through the house playing like any old ordinary day. I was not expecting Jen to be so ... Jen. Laughing, patient, collected, empathetic to her children's needs even in childbirth. The epitome of woman, once again. 

Mother labors in birthing pool during home birth photographed in the Pekin-Peoria area. 

About an hour after I arrived, Jen's water broke.  She had gotten into the birthing pool just a few moments prior to my arrival and the pool was doing it's job well to keep her progressing and comfortable. The midwife, Amie, arrived about that time as well. Because Jen is the amazing woman she is, the midwife needed only to check the baby's heart rate a couple of times during her labor and just let Jen's body do the work the rest of the time. Even fully dilated, Jen was able to laugh, to control her breathing, and to generally hold a conversation. She was stoic. When she informed everyone she was ready to start pushing I thought, "Wait, what? No!" Jen had barely even flinched through a single contraction, let alone cried out. 

I have two favorite moments from Jen's delivery and this is the first. I am not sure if her husband knew prior to the pushing stage that he would catch his new baby or if he just forgot in the excitement of it finally being time, but his brief moment of excited panic was heart warming. He had no idea how to catch the baby. Amie graciously told him that well, you just make sure when the baby comes out... the baby doesn't hit the bottom of the pool. It only took Jerritt a few seconds to prepare himself for that moment. And that was about all he had to anticipate it. His wife graciously delivered their fourth child in about two pushes, surrounded by her husband, three other children, best friend, Douala, midwife, a couple of dogs a few feet away, my daughter just hanging out sleeping in the car seat and myself. I am not sure if her son's smile or her husband's smile was greater. Just after helping Jen guide her new baby out into the world, the midwife instructed Jerritt on how to pass the child between Jen's legs so she could be the first to truly welcome the baby into the world. Jen's face was magic. the first face that child ever saw was it's mother's. 

 I still become overtaken with emotion when I see this photograph. Jen's raw elation at meeting her baby is amazing.

 I still become overtaken with emotion when I see this photograph. Jen's raw elation at meeting her baby is amazing.

At this point the midwife stepped into full care provider mode, assisting Jen in to a more comfortable position, getting towels to wrap Jen and baby in. Taking an initial set of vitals in mom's arms. About ten minutes into this, big brother Tanner finally pipes up for my second favorite moment in Jen's delivery. 

"Is it a brother or a sister!" He questioningly exclaims. At this point, everyone else in the room exploded with laughter. We were all so elated and mesmerized by how amazing Jen was and how chubby this overdue baby was that not one of us checked if it was a boy or girl.  

Teegan Lee Jolliff was born in the 10 o'clock hour of a sunny and mild Friday March morning.

She weighed in as Jen's biggest baby and nearly "large for gestational age" at 8 lbs 10 oz. Due to Teegan's size and quick delivery, accompanied by her refusal to complain with a good cry, she did need a little supplemental oxygen. But after a little help for her lungs from the midwife Amie and Douala Mallory, big brother Tanner was able to cut the cord with his two middle sisters watching at the helm. Jen then transitioned into her own bed for a well earned nap, Subway and snuggling her newest daughter.

The Jolliff Family. Each of the children has the initials TLJ. 

The Jolliff Family. Each of the children has the initials TLJ. 

Childbirth is a miraculous thing. Having the honor of photographing one is life changing. I actually struggled picking up my camera after being a part of Jen's birthing team. I had officially photographed the most rewarding event I would ever have the chance to take part in. Done. Check. Completed. Nothing seemed to live up to that opportunity for me. And in those weeks following Teegan's birth, I knew this was what I was passionate about. Life. Adventure. Beginnings.