De-del-dee! My phone chirped next to my bed. Reaching for it in the dim of early morning, I looked at the screen and saw the words I’d been anticipating for days. “Ghenya’s in labor. We’re on our way to the hospital.”
Two months before, I’d received an email from Ghenya, one of my past brides. She told me that she and Jonathan were expecting. She asked if I’d be willing to photograph the birth of their son. I’d never seen a birth before – somehow not even “The Miracle of Life” in high school health class. It was an intimate, life-changing moment they were inviting me to witness, and I was both thrilled and nervous. As a wedding photographer, I’m lucky to document a lot of big life-changing moments. But this was different. I said yes, not exactly knowing what I was signing up for.
So on an early Sunday morning, I got out of bed, double-checked my pre-packed camera bag, and made some coffee while I waited for confirmation that I should also head to the hospital. It was a long day of waiting – for me and for them – as they were sent home from the hospital when things stalled. As day turned to night, my sister, an OB, advised me to get some rest.
De-del-dee! My phone again, waking me up at 1:34am. “This is for real,” the text from Jonathan said. I threw on the clothes that I’d left by my bed, and headed out into the cold January night.
I arrived at the hospital, the labor and delivery floor quieter than anticipated. Ghenya and Jonathan joked that it wasn’t so quiet half an hour earlier, before the epidural kicked in. The nurse encouraged us all to get what rest we could.
A little after 6am, and things quickly ratcheted up. A brief and intense series of pushes brought baby Theo into the world at 6:41am. Ghenya and Jonathan’s tears were matched by my own behind the camera. Love, wonder and joy etched in sharp relief on their faces. A moment defined by before and after. A new life. A miracle. All the clichés that no longer sounded cliché.
The nurses weighed and measured Theo, and Ghenya nursed him for the first time. An hour or so later, their two older boys came in to meet their new brother before going to school. Cuddling him, the younger one whispered “I’m going to take such good care of you.” Oh my heart.
Two days later, I returned to the hospital to join them for their journey home. They carefully bundled Theo into warm clothes and his carseat. Jonathan queued up “Just the Two of Us” on the stereo. The weak, winter sun shone as they pulled into the driveway and strode up the snowy walkway. A quiet sense of contentment settled over them as they brought him into his nursery, the fulfillment of a dream.