A Birth Story: Ella Marie Forbes

My dear friend Melanie and I go way back to our super awkward and rebellious high school days. To be frank, she’s pretty much the only real friend I had then, and pretty much the only person I still talk to. We immediately bonded over our shared hatred for almost everyone we went to school with and our love of punk rock music. We also have a special connection when it comes to humor. We have a direct line to each other’s funny bone and have spent countless hours cracking each other up over the DUMBEST things ever and still laugh at them today (tip: don’t even think about putting on Finding Nemo in front us. Too many inside jokes for you handle). What I’m trying to say is, Mel always made me laugh, and she always had my back. She’s been real since day one and we’ve kept it “weird” ever since.

At 17, she became a mom. It didn’t really surprise me, knowing her. It also didn’t surprise me that she wasted no time in receiving her high school diploma and has since worked her ass off to be an excellent mother. Her daughter, ten years later, is a beautiful, funny, and smart little book worm, receiving excellent grades in school. I always knew she was a good mom, especially before she became one and that’s because she’s a good person with a good heart. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this winter, she’d be welcoming her second child with a man who’s perfect for her.

Since moving to LA five or so years ago, Mel and I sort of lost touch a little. I also deleted my Facebook around that time so a lot of people thought I died or something. We sort of chatted here and there, but finally connected again after she reached out to me and asked me to photograph the birth of her second kid. I was over the moon about it. After her daughter Annabelle was born, we talked about how when she has another baby, she wants me in the room to photograph the birth. I’ve always been fascinated by birth and bringing life into the world and can’t wait to do it myself someday, so of course I promised her that I would do it, no matter where we’re at. That day finally came and I wasn’t about to miss it for the world. The last few weeks consisted of constantly updating each other on our schedules to make sure I could set some time aside to be able to drop what I’m doing as soon as I get the “it’s time!” text. Being about 45 miles away from her hospital also posed a potential challenge, so I kept hoping that she went into labor on a Sunday night when there would be no traffic and when I’d have nothing scheduled (other than The Walking Dead), and that’s exactly what happened. I’m sitting there on my sofa, watching the Walking Dead’s midseason finale and as the show starts getting good, I get a “Jesus Christ” text, followed by another one that says how her water just broke all over her bed. THUNDER CATS ARE GOOOOOO!

I scramble around for everything, getting my first taste for rushing to the hospital to witness a baby being born. My boyfriend is sitting there laughing at me as I’m like, “What else should I bring?!” as I’m trying to jump in the car to brave the hour long drive back to Fullerton. I know all births are never the same, but it isn’t uncommon for a mother’s second baby to arrive a lot sooner than her first, as with the first, the labor and delivery last a long time. When she had Annabelle, it was a breeze. Her labor and delivery didn’t last long at all. Lucky girl. I half expected her second time around to last maybe three hours or so.

When I arrived to the Labor & Delivery wing in the Maternity Ward at St. Jude (same hospital I was born in!), I checked into Melanie and Ryan’s room and almost instantly starting crying. There she was, little big belly and an even bigger smile on her face. Didn’t even feel like a day had passed since we last saw each other. There was no place else in the world I would have rather been at that moment. I was so excited to be apart of this sacred and special moment, and really, who better? She really is a sister to me.

Already tired: Maternity Ward threads, complete with bags under my eyes! #tired

She was 4cm dilated when I arrived, so clearly my fears of missing this birth were over, and also the realization of this MIGHT be a very long night began to sink in. We sat there, watching Family Guy and the Simpsons, until the anesthesiologist came in to administer the epidural when her contractions were becoming too much – which she handled like a rockstar, by the way. After the epidural kicked in, she was able to get some rest and sleep for an hour or two. The nurse came in every so often so check how far dilated she was becoming, and slowly she made it to 7cm, then 9-10cm. In between the check ups, you could hear the doctor and nurse in the room next to our’s yelling “PUSH! Another one!” and eventually a baby crying. This was totally building up the anticipation. The nurse came back and checked Melanie again and began prepping the room for the delivery. It’s about 4:45am now, and the nurse began telling Melanie to push a few times. As soon as the nurse saw a head with SO MUCH hair, she went and got the doctor. As soon as Melanie felt another contraction coming, things got real! It all happened so fast after this. A few more rounds of pushing and that baby was out! I hardly even remember it. I almost easily missed the doctor pulling her out, it was that fast. Flashes of one of the nurses yelling out the time the baby was born; “5:08! 5:08!”, flashes of the doctor using an enema to clear fluids of Ella’s mouth and nose, flashes of Ryan with a huge smile on his face…if I didn’t have the images I took, this would be all I remember happening. Then I hear Ella let out a little cry, a very very cute cry. There’s something heartwarming about it, I can’t explain it. She went from that shade of “Just Born” purple to bright pink and looked as plump as a piece of freshly-picked, vine-ripened baby fruit! As they cleaned her up, the nurses shouted out her weight and length (6lbs. 5oz., 20in). Ryan watched with love all over his face. He was a man possessed and instantly smitten by his new little girl! It was such a precious moment to be in, and I’m so grateful I was able to capture this for them. It was SO worth staying up all night for, and tackling the two-hour morning drive back into LA afterward…where I passed out on my face with a full heart and slept until 2pm!

































Melanie was a champ, and is evidently built for child bearing as she makes it look like it ain’t no thang! I’m so inspired by her and the whole thing and although I know having a child will happen someday, it makes me less intimidated by the whole thing and I actually look forward to it.



Ella Marie Forbes
6lbs. 5oz.

This was my very first live birth session, something I had always wanted to do but never actively sought, and I honestly don’t think this could have gone any better. I always hear how difficult it is to do, but I think I really lucked out. Birth photography comes with SEVERAL challenges. You’re on-call until the baby is about to be born, so you have to work that out with clients and can probably never fully guarantee that you’ll be available. It’s not like you can just cancel or post-pone shooting for a wedding. It’s really flying by the seat of your pants. Complications during birth could also arise, the mother in labor could very well change her mind at the last minute as she’s laying there with her legs in stirrups and tell you to leave, which you can only accept graciously. The lighting in hospitals isn’t the greatest and using flash is out of the question so being equipped with fast lenses and keeping a steady hand is a must. You can’t get anywhere near the birthing bed or the station with all the tools, you’re stationed to the corner of the room and just have to make it work. Shooting weddings and concerts for the past decade has seasoned me to the point where this was to be expected and I knew how to work around it while still capturing it as beautifully as possible.

Congratulations, Pookie! You’re an amazing friend, and an even more amazing & beautiful mommy! xo

Note: These images are obviously personal to the client so please respect their family and do NOT use these images without permission. 









talk to you soon!