Hi! I’m Nikki – wife to Chris and proud momma to 3 wild and wonderful boys (Carter, 5, Camden, 3, and Caleb, just shy of 3 months.) When the sun is shining, I’ll likely be sitting around a baseball diamond or on a mountain excursion to catch a sunset or watch deer play. On a cool fall evening, my favorite place is snuggled around a campfire in our backyard or outside our RV at one of our favorite campgrounds. I believe simplicity is key – staying true to our roots, letting go of the unnecessary, and that compassion makes the world go around. I’m an avid Hokie and food/travel enthusiast. As a photographer of life’s great moments, many of my days are spent capturing weddings, families, newborns, and best of all – birth stories. Knowing just how important each of my three birth stories are to me, photographing this once in a lifetime event for families to forever treasure is one of my greatest honors.
This pregnancy was tough. Not tough in the way that I’ve heard from others – relatively all three of my pregnancies have been easy going, but definitely harder than the first two. First, it was very unplanned. The first two were both planned to a T. I knew days before I even should that Carter was on the way and also knew pretty early on with Camden. We had tried for another May/June baby, but when we were unsuccessful we stopped trying since I had a summer packed full of wedding clients that I didn’t want to disappoint. A fall baby definitely isn’t ideal in the photography business, and we figured we’d try again once busy season had passed. Fast-forward to January and the boredom accompanying a blizzard – being snowed in for 5 days (seriously- the tractor even got stuck trying to plow the driveway) was apparently enough to ensure a baby would be on the way in a few months. Only, since we hadn’t planned on this specific timing, we had no idea! It took one glass of wine with dinner that resulted in a hangover the next morning after a week of telling Chris “I don’t feel well. I can’t quite figure out what’s wrong, but I just don’t feel right.” plus a trip to Charlottesville that resulted in intense car sickness and needing to use the restroom 4 times within an hour for it to dawn on us what might be happening. Sure enough, once we got back home from Charlottesville on February 21, 2016, we saw two pink lines. I was stunned. Shocked. Even teary. Chris asked if I was okay and if I was upset. I couldn’t quite form the words for how I was feeling. We so badly wanted a third child, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the timing was all wrong. How could we make ends meet financially if I couldn’t work the busiest season of the year? I knew this would be our last baby and I desperately wanted to soak up every second and have a nice long maternity leave, but how could we make that work? No, I wasn’t upset. It might have looked that way outwardly, but I was simply concerned. It took a few days for the surprise to wear away. And then, as it always does, the excitement began to build. Chris and I reveled in our secret, although we wouldn’t be able to keep it for long. Our kids knew and were so excited! We knew they’d most likely spill the beans. My abdomen quickly swelled and we announced that a third baby would be arriving mid-October.
I was tired. Couldn’t do anything tired. I had many bouts of super low blood pressure, and while I never actually passed out I did lose vision/hearing at times during these spells. Car sickness and food aversions didn’t help with the aforementioned symptoms, but as always, it was worth it. The worst of all was the acid reflux. Never in my life have I had to re-taste every little think I put in my body, but EVERYTHING came back up. Water, ice cream, pasta. You name it. It was totally disgusting and I went through and entire bottle of Tums from Costco in the months leading to the birth. Ick!
I decided to receive care and deliver with the midwives – Misty & Maya – at Brookhaven Birth Center along with their assistants Kai and Savannah. What a lovely experience! I always wanted a home birth but could never quite get Chris on board with that since we live 25 minutes from the hospital, which he found a bit far in the case of an emergency. The birth center is a tenth of a mile from the hospital, so it was a compromise we could agree on. Then we waited…
On October 5th it seemed things were getting started. Around 9:30pm contractions began and while they varied, they were around 10 minutes apart. I was certain this was the beginning. They continued until the 7th with varied length and low intensity but eventually died out. The 9th held the same story – varying length and low intensity, but 10-15 minutes apart and sometimes closer, still never increasing in intensity. They persisted through the night and by morning I had just had enough. If the baby was ready to come I needed to deliver. If the baby wasn’t ready, I needed those dang erratic contractions to stop. The constant being on alert was driving me batty. I had a photo appointment at Brookhaven on October 10th and was determined to stay afterward and deliver. The appointment came and went, and I sadly returned home. That evening I called Chris and asked him to meet the kids and I at the park so we could walk the track and hopefully stimulate more contractions and get things rolling.
On October 10, 2016 at 6:06pm active labor began. Walking the track really seemed to solidify that it was really time, although after 5 days of false labor I wasn’t quite convinced it was the real deal. We left when contractions were around 5 minutes apart, stopped for a quick meal, and then came home. My contractions always seem to be stronger in the car, so while I was in pain, I still thought things would die down once we got home. I immediately got in the shower to calm my muscles and was surprised when things only sped up. At 8:00pm I came to the living room and told Chris I would time contractions for an hour and then we would make a decision. Within minutes I changed my mind and told him it was time to go…now! He went to take a shower himself and I updated our mothers and let the midwives know we were coming. As I was sitting in the living room on the exercise ball timing contractions, I started to worry about making it to the birth center in time. Next, I heard a clipping sound coming from the bathroom. Chris had decided that in that very moment, while I was in labor and worried about getting to the birth center and not having a car baby, was a wonderful time to stop and clip his toenails. I’ll never quite understand what was going through his mind. When he finished he loaded the kids into the van, packed our last minute essentials, and at 8:30pm we were on the way!
I initially told our mothers and birth photographer, Jessica, that we’d get settled into the birth center and then update them to let them know when to come. While riding in the car I decided I didn’t think we had time for that and told them to leave now. When we arrived at the birth center they were holding a monthly meeting that I usually attended – birth circle – and Misty had been there as well. When I told her I was coming, she quickly ran home to change clothes. We arrived at 8:45pm and a friend and birth doula, Rachel, came over from birth circle to fill the birthing tub and helped me into the room while she carried my bag. I shuffled into the room as quickly as possible, changed into my water gown thing and hopped into the tub. Rachel got me some water and talked me through the contractions while Chris helped the kids get settled in. My parents arrived a few minutes later, followed by Jessica. Things quickly got intense but the water felt amazing and provided great pain relief. The soon-to-be big brothers bounced in and out of the room to check on me and anxiously awaited meeting the newest addition. Carter had planned all along to be the first to see and announce the baby’s gender, so he wanted to be certain not to miss his moment. Shortly thereafter, Chris’s parents and my cousins (who should basically be considered my siblings) arrived. Everyone stopped in the room for a short moment to say hello and then left to wait in the waiting area. I felt the urge to push and I felt like I pushed forever, but nothing ever happened. The amniotic sac was still intact and the baby didn’t seem to descend as quickly as I had anticipated. Eventually, Misty mentioned that she suspected I wasn’t actually fully dilated and that if this were the case I would need to stop pushing and wait for that to happen. I felt defeated and didn’t feel as if I could actually stop pushing. Right in that moment I felt a popping sensation and it felt as if the baby’s little body popped into a lower position. I felt the amniotic sac lower in the birth canal, and knew things had moved. At that moment I began pushing and it felt as if the baby was imminently arriving. I asked for someone to fetch the older brothers as I pushed out what I thought was the baby’s head. Minutes later, I realized that I was just pushing out a bubble of amniotic sac. The caul was still intact and it in fact was not the head. I was disappointed but then quickly realized that the head was coming and it was going to be hard work! I pushed with all of my might and it took a few minutes to move the head all the way out. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life! It felt like a boulder was moving through my body. Misty announced the baby was crowning and it was just the motivation I needed as I continued on the journey. Once the head was birthed I collapsed into Chris’s arms and felt so relieved. I took a look around the room and realized that our entire family was in the room. Chris, our kids, our mothers, my female cousins – all people I had expected might witness your birth – in addition to our dads and male cousin – who I did not at all expect. I didn’t have the energy or wherewithal to say anything, but I was surprised to see so many faces watching intently. Of course, with my position in the birthing tub they weren’t able to see what was happening, but they were certainly excited for the baby to arrive earth side.
With the next few contractions, I slowly pushed the shoulders and body out, and was surprised that the rest didn’t slip right out. The baby’s chest was so large that Misty had to physically pull it out. Born at 10:44pm, Misty quickly passed the baby through my legs and I sat down to pull our precious new bundle from the water. It took a few moments for the baby’s lungs to clear and I was concerned. Letting out shallow cries and gurgling sounds, the baby worked to clear its airway. My fingers landed on the baby’s bottom and I suspected the gender to be a boy, but made sure the older brothers were in great position before I opened the legs. Carter was in too much shock and awe to make his announcement, but Camden excitedly said “boy!”. It was a good thing, too, as we had never been able to agree on a name for a girl!
His lungs still sounded wet and he didn’t seem to want to let out a good cry to clear them, so Misty held him at a decline and rubbed his back to help out. Within a few moments he sounded much better and his color was improving. I reveled in holding his sweet little body and noted that he seemed small, although I felt very weak and he felt too heavy for my arms. I adjusted so that my arm would have more support as we snuggled close for his first few minutes in this world. Our sweet Caleb Joel had arrived! After Caleb’s placenta was birthed, he was carried to the bed and Chris helped as his big brothers took turns snipping his umbilical (or “electrical” according to Camden) cord. Chris then snuggled him close as I got cleaned up and examined. Once I was settled in the bed he latched to feed for the first time. After feeding, Caleb was visited by our families as everyone took turns holding and meeting him up close for the first time.
Next was the newborn exam and we all commented that he didn’t look as big as we first suspected. To our surprise, he weighed 9 pounds 5 ounces and 22 inches long – the biggest of the Trent boys! When his head measured 14.5 inches around, I then understood why pushing took so long! He was quite large! We dressed him in his first outfit – a sleeper with stars with a matching hat and bib that read “Love You to the Moon and Back” – fitting as I like to tell my boys that I love them to the moon and back, more than all the stars in the sky. At 2:45am we headed home to enjoy a night and day of blissful rest.