I will preface this by saying this is going to be a long read. Feel free to skip to the bottom for the photos, otherwise settle in.
I met BriAunna in early 2015 (I think, maybe, don’t fact check me) when she transferred offices and came to work with me at AAA Travel in West Seattle. She’d fairly recently moved to Seattle from Reno with her fiancé and didn’t have any of her own family in the area. She was pregnant at the time, and as I’m low-key obsessed with babies, I was like FRIENDSHIP! Thankfully she embraced my weirdness immediately.
Her son Max was born in August 2015, and though she switched jobs after that, we still kept in touch. She was the coordinator for my own wedding in 2017, and while Max was *dressed* as my ring bearer, I think he actually ended up in the car watching a movie during my actual ceremony. What are you going to do when you’re two, right? Movies > weddings.
BriAunna had always told me that she and Chad were planning on having another baby at some point. I impatiently waited. As Max is my honorary nephew, I needed to add another one to my auntie brood! So when BriAunna texted me a photo of a positive pregnancy test last winter I was BESIDE MYSELF.
One night in February, I was drifting off to sleep when suddenly I HAD AN IDEA. I could photograph BriAunna’s birth! NO – I could photograph AND film her birth! I didn’t even sleep that night I was so excited to pitch this idea to her. I’ve always wanted to get into birth photography and videography, but it’s really hard to pitch yourself as a birth photographer when, spoiler, you haven’t photographed a birth. When I texted her the next morning, she was in!
That was how my Hello Baby! series came to fruition. Once BriAunna had so readily agreed, I thought hey, if I’m documenting one pregnancy, why not document two? Or three? Or four?! That was when I reached out to my community, asking for Hello Baby! volunteers.
But this is Baby Koepnick’s birth story so let’s get back to that.
BriAunna had been giving me small heart attacks fairly regularly since mid-July. So many that she had to start sending me text messages that said NOT IN LABOR before she sent the actual texts she wanted to send me. Baby’s due date was August 28th, but BriAunna’s body didn’t really feel like it was necessary to keep the baby inside that long. FYI, this same thing happened with Max, so really I should have known.
BriAunna had an induction scheduled for August 11th. That was all wonderful, but I was cautious because I was filming a wedding on August 10th and some part of me was just like, she’s going to go into labor while I’m filming this wedding. I texted her the morning of the 10th and was like, you keep that baby inside of you for twelve more hours, THAT’S ALL I NEED. Being the calm and composed woman that she is, she said yep, no problem.
At 10:00pm on the 10th, she texts me and says so casually, FYI, getting contractions, be on alert. So I abandon my wine and the dancefloor (I know, who am I???), grab my husband, and we scoot on home from this wedding so that I can back up all my wedding files and make sure my gear is good to go for this birth.
I’m hopeful that maybe I’ll get to sleep for a few hours before I need to go to the hospital. And I did!
At 9:00am on the 11th, my husband drove me downtown and dropped me at the hospital. I wasn’t sure what the status was (like, I knew she was already 3-4cm dilated, but that was as of last night, where were we now!?), but I risked missing the birth to grab a coffee because my body and mind were in physical pain from filming for twelve hours the day prior.
When I got to the birthing suite, I found Chad, BriAunna’s husband, and Jenniffer, BriAunna’s mom all straight up CHILLIN’. Obviously BriAunna was there too, I didn’t think that needed to be stated, but here we are. BriAunna ordered a very mediocre sandwich from room service and I enjoyed my coffee and then Chad left and came back with donuts (maybe the best donut I've ever eaten?) and it was all very calm and very relaxed.
The lovely labor and delivery nurse Dayla had gotten BriAunna started on a Pitocin drip, and we settled in with some Netflix while we waited for Baby Koepnick to put her mother into the throes of labor. Her waters were broken at noon, her Pitocin drip upped, and things began progressing. BriAunna went from just having to pause during a contraction to full on not being able to move, hand squeezing, deep breathing, fairly quickly.
We’d all taken bets in the morning on baby’s arrival time and weight. Chad optimistally went for a 2:30pm delivery. The doctor guessed 4:00pm. I guessed 4:13pm. Jenniffer guessed 5:30pm. 2:30pm came and went fairly quickly, but BriAunna’s contractions were definitely getting a lot stronger by then. The doctor came back in around 3:15pm and checked her – only five centimeters dilated. We all felt a little bit deflated in that moment as the contractions were so much visibly stronger!
Dayla, who has been a labor and delivery nurse for twenty years, took one look at BriAunna after that and said right, you’re going into the tub! BriAunna had been opposed to the tub (“I don’t want to get wet!”), but what Dayla says goes in room 551. Into the tub she went!
Dayla had explained to us after BriAunna was checked and at five centimeters that once she got to seven, it would likely be one centimeter an hour until she was fully dilated at ten. Pfff. There goes my birth time guess – straight out the window! It was almost 4:00pm at that point. We put on some 90’s jams and figured we’d settle in.
BriAunna was in the tub, Chad sitting next to her, holding her hand. Jenniffer and I set up camp on the long bench by the window – we had time! I even pulled out my book and started reading. At this point there was nothing we could do – Chad and Dayla had it under control. I could hear her contractions getting stronger though, and I remember thinking to myself like, damn, this is only going to get worse for her! Three or four more hours of this!?
At 4:05pm, BriAunna gets out of the tub. She’s in so much pain – she’s just about ready to ask for that epidural, but she wanted to get checked. Dayla gets her back on to the bed. At this point the contractions are so intense, Chad has one hand, Jenniffer has the other. Dayla checks her, stands up immediately and goes to the phone and says, “We need Doctor for delivery. Right now.”
BriAunna had gone from five centimeters to ten centimeters IN AN HOUR. This was when it got crazy. All of a sudden, nurses start flying into the room, along with a midwife and a doctor we haven’t seen yet. Dayla pages again, “We need Doctor K for delivery NOW!”. BriAunna, who LOVES her doctor, was LITERALLY trying to hold the baby in to wait for her doctor.
At 4:13pm, Doctor K comes FLYING into the room. She doesn’t even have time to get her gloves on. Baby Koepnick is out in ONE PUSH at 4:14pm, a girl, Libby Jocelyn, born during the chorus of Wanna Be by the Spice Girls.
You guys. This was unreal. I had so much adrenaline going through me that I could barely hold my camera while I was filming. My entire body was shaking just watching this.
BriAunna is an actual superhero. Throughout her entire labor she was so calm, so composed, so collected, so dialed in – it was inspiring to just be in her presence! I’m serious! I told her when she was laying in bed, cuddling Libby, that she had just set the bar for me for my own delivery in the future. I couldn’t even wrap my head around what I’d just witnessed!
What an amazing woman, and with such an amazing support team. Chad, who is a total goofball, was able to be serious and steady when BriAunna needed him. I haven’t spent a lot of time with Chad, and when I have, there’s always a lot of silliness happening. I got to see another side of him during BriAunna’s labor and delivery. These two are so perfect for each other and so good together. And BriAunna’s mom is amazing – just a constant, steady beacon of support and warmth and joy.
I stayed until Max was brought in with his Papa to meet his baby sister. Slightly apprehensive at first, but very much an immediate connection and interest in his little sister. Plus, he got a brand-new superhero Big Brother cape, so now he is SUPER BROTHER, lifelong protector of Libby.
I am so thankful to BriAunna and Chad for letting me be a part of what was such an intense and intimate day. I will remember this day forever. Welcome to the world, Libby!