The Birth of Tenley Harper | My First Birth Story!

winnipeg birth photographer

Getting personal here today on the blog with the birth story of my oldest. When I sat down to write this story initially it was an incredibly healing experience. Her birth didn’t go exactly how I thought it would in my plans, but being able to write out the entire thing, every detail, every moment, helped me to process the good in it too. Looking through all the photos as I wrote allowed me to see the little blessings I’d missed— how amazing my care team was, the love of my husband and doula, and also be able to recognize how freaking strong I’d been!

Today I want to share that with you. As birth workers, we bring our stories and experiences into each birth we attend. And I try hard to keep an honest and open relationship with each of my families. I believe that being authentic with you, makes it easier for you to be vulnerable and trust in me.

I went in to Tenley’s birth already having been a doula for several families, and having studied pretty much everything I could get my hands on regarding pregnancy and birth. While I was disappointed not to get a midwife, we chose a doctor that I felt respected my autonomy, I had a friend offer to be my doula and birth photographer, and through it all, my husband was my rock- keeping me balanced, positive and comfortable in those overwhelmingly un-comfortable last days of pregnancy. I was ready.

She decided to buck tradition and be one of those rare babies with whom labour start with one Big Bang- or a gush rather! I got up after midnight to head for a regular bathroom break, and before I got there, my water broke all over the floor. I was so excited! We cleaned up, and before I could climb back into bed (I wanted to rest until things picked up), I realized that the contractions had actually started immediately. I was already sitting about 4-5 minutes apart. It was happening!

We started to putter around the house, getting dressed, finishing packing our hospital bags. I sat for a bit in the nursery, just centering myself. We decided to head to the hospital around 3:30am. I was really torn- my contractions were between 3-4 minutes already, and almost a minute long and had been for a couple hours... but they didn't seem super intense. Still, I have a family history of quick labours, so we decided better safe than sorry. In hindsight, I wish I'd waited until they were much harder to cope through. We arrived at the hospital and were checked into triage around 4:30am. I was happy and disappointed to hear that I was 4-5cms. Happy they would get me a room, but a little disappointed I wasn't further along. They had issues with staffing on the low risk side of LDRP, so I was given a room in the "High risk" L&D to start out. My heart sank. It was my first true understanding of how much your environment can affect your mental state and coping. Thankfully we had an amazing nurse who offered us the use of a walk in shower in one of the LDRP rooms, as long as we came back to L&D for our checks when needed. Done.

We were down the hall like a flash, and the shower was exactly what I needed. I laboured there from about 6am-800am. Once in the shower I was able to block out everything else and just focusing on releasing my body during each contraction. The time flew by as I closed my eyes and focused on the sounds and feelings of the water hitting my tired body. Around 8am, shifts had changed and a new nurse came to the room to let us know we had to go back and get assessed again. It took me so long to work up the drive to leave the shower. I was worried about leaving my happy place. We eventually made it down the hall, and crawled onto the bed to be checked. This new nurse was not as wonderful as my initial one had been, and I feel like my entire experience changed with her. I tried to lay still for the ten minute heart rate strip they needed, but I felt myself losing control. I was no longer able to easily cope through the rushes, and felt panicky. Eventually I was able to get out of bed to try different positions, and thankfully my doula/photographer arrived as well. Having her there helped me feel stronger-- like I had more people on my side, and our little team could stand up for my rights and wishes.

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I continued working through each contraction in the tiny L&D room, praying that they'd be able to move me soon. I tried position changes and labouring on the toilet, and finally found that counterpressure on my back was the only thing that touched the pain. Having the constant pressure seemed to allow me to relax the other muscles in my body even through the pains. I tried to grab hold of my labour again.

Eventually around 11:15am we got the amazing news that I was being moved to LDRP. The walk down the hallway took forever, but finally we were settled in. I realized quickly that my new nurses were amazing. They took the time to read and ask questions about my birth plan, and then they followed it to the letter. It was so empowering to be respected in my birth, and feel like they understood me. After being checked again quickly, I was told I was 8cm and breathed a huge sigh of relief. At least knowing that progress was being made helped all of it to feel worth it.

During the walk down the hallway, I felt like contractions changed in intensity. although it was a bit early, I was having a bearing down feeling, and since my water had broken, there was no cushion between her head and my pelvic bones. The intensity was like nothing I'd felt before, and I was really struggling to release during each contraction. In hindsight, I think her position was not ideal, and my body was working really hard to try to move her into position. I moved into the shower to try to regain that feeling of peace I'd had before.

A little while later, the nurse came in and tried her best to use the doppler to check baby's heart. I will forever be grateful to her for trying so hard to let me stay there, but after some time it became clear that the heartrate in the shower wasn't exactly what they were wanting to hear. The decision was made for me to come back into the main room and try again, and spend some time walking around the room and using different positions. My nurses encouraged me to start bearing down a tiny bit with contractions if it felt good- they thought that she needed some help to really drop more and engage. I tried different positions around the room, laying down a bit, leaning on the table, sitting on the toilet, and walking. I could feel likes intensifying, and while medication never crossed my mind, I just kept thinking "Holy crap, this is so bad. What's happening!?" Again in hindsight I really believe she wasn't positioned well, and what I was feeling was more the constant strain of her bones against mine, rather than the contractions themselves.

We made the best of it. Around 12:30 I laid down in bed to get another monitoring strip done, and then was checked and pronounced fully dilated, and could start pushing anytime. Yay! Joy! It was almost done! Not quite. In my doula practice now, I talk a lot about labouring down, and allowing your body to do as much of the work on its' own as it can, before adding your own forceful pushing efforts. This preserved your energy, and also helps your baby get into the best position without force. As a doula I knew this in my own birth, but I was so tired, and so defeated by that point, that all I could think of was the end goal- getting her out and stopping these dang contractions! I pushed with all my might. It felt awful if I'm being truthful. It made the contractions stop hurting, I barely noticed them actually. But it added a very real sense of defeat. I would push with all my might and feel like she wasn't moving a single millimeter. We continued trying different positions and angles, hoping that she would shift and make things easier, but in the end I was so tired that all I could do was lay in the bed. I had been in labour for 12 hours, which isn't terribly long for a first time mom, but I'd only gotten about two hours of sleep before it started, and I was pretty wiped.

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Once on my back in bed the nurses helped to break the bed down so that I was sitting up, but in a squat type position. It allowed me to be upright without having to use up so much energy. We also tried on the toilet, standing, squatting with the squat bar and tugging on a sheet tied on to the bar. The sheet seemed to help the most, but I still felt like nothing was happening! Finally at about 2:45 I had one push that finally felt different. I remember whispering to myself "THAT'S IT!" I suspect this is when her head finally shifted slightly better into position, because all of a sudden I could actually feel movement with the pushes. It was such a relief after feeling like I was going to be there forever! Almost instantly the tone in the room changed and the nurses started getting ready for delivery.

It was such a relief to finally feel like something was happening. I was still exhausted, but now I felt exhilerated too. I could DO this! About 3:05 we saw hair. <3 To a poor mama who has been pushed for two hours, it was the best sight ever! Things were getting more and more intense, but now I felt stronger again. The doctor came into the room and introduced herself. I remember being so happy that maybe she could hurry things along. (PSA: I don't recommend this mindset! Birth happens in it's own time, and it doesn't need to be hurried!). They removed the squat bar and started setting up for the typical medical birth. There were blue sterile drapes everywhere. It makes me roll my eyes in hindsight. My nurses had been so amazing at protecting my birth space and maintaining this as just another birth unfolding naturally, nothing to stress about. The OB who came in was most definitely used to birth being a medical procedure. Totally not the feeling I was going for!

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Finally we saw her beautiful head and at 3:22pm on November 29, 2011 Tenley Harper made me a mama <3 She had such a short cord that she could only be placed on my lower belly, and she was absolutely coated in vernix. We only waited about two minutes after birth to cut the cord, mostly because she couldn't be moved at all without tugging on the cord, and I couldn't even see her face. You can see in the second picture how low she is, and the cord was still pulled taught.

Finally being able to turn her around and into my arms was the best moment ever. I remember looking at her face and thinking "Oh, of course it's you! I know you!"

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And just like that, it was all over! I remember feeling shocked. It seemed like it took SO long while it was happening, and then all of a sudden in a whirlwind she was here, with us, forever. It was a bit surreal as one by one people left and the room settled down. It took a long time to process her birth story and to reconcile how I thought it would go and how I would handle contractions to how I actually did. I realized I had come into the birth with very strict expectations, and that just isn't reasonable with birth! They say the one predictable thing with birth is that it's unpredictable-- how true that is!

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She has lit up our life over the past 7 years and I can't imagine a life without her. She surprises us daily with her thirst for knowledge and incredibly insight. She's already wise beyond her years and I can't wait to see where the next seven years brings her!


Fresh 48 Giveaway Rules | Winnipeg Belly & Baby Fair

Tomorrow, tomorrow…. I’ll be at the fair, TOMORRRRRRROOOOWWWWW!


After what seems like such a long wait, we are finally just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Winnipeg Belly & Baby Fair, which is tomorrow Sunday October 21, 2018 from 10am-3pm. I hope you’re coming out to meet me!

Along with having a vendor table for the first time, I’m so excited to be offering up a prize draw for fair attendees! Everyone that signs up to join my mailing list (which basically includes blog and website updates, don’t worry, I hate spam!), is entered to win a FREE Fresh 48 newborn session. Pretty great, right?

I wanted to make sure the rules were easy to find and accessible to everyone, so here you go. Any questions, drop me a line!



Please review the following terms and conditions before entering a contest or giveaway hosted by Embrace Birth Services. We reserve the right to change these terms at any time, and by entering our giveaway you acknowledge that you agree to abide by the most recent version.


  1. How to Enter:
    • Entrants must be present at the Belly & Baby Fair on October 21, 2018.
    • Sign up for Embrace Birth Services email list and be part of said list at the time of drawing for winner.
    • Individuals may unsubscribe for the mailing list at any future date.
    • No purchase necessary to enter or win.
  2. Prizes: Winner will receive one Fresh 48 Photography Session.
    • Session is a lifestyle/documentary style session which includes 20 fully edited images in digital format and will last approximately 45 minutes.
    • This photo session takes place at home or hospital during the first few days post birth. Session to be scheduled during daylight hours at a time of mutual choosing.
    • A full session contract and model release must be signed by the winner. This session is free of charge only with a fully signed model release. If the model release is not signed or revoked, the session will revert to a $200 balance owing. Exceptions are made for images containing nudity.
    • The winner may choose to apply a $200 credit towards a Birth Doula or Birth Photography package in lieu of a Fresh 48 session.
    • Sessions typically take place within the Winnipeg city limits. Please contact prior to entry into contest for other locations. I cannot guarantee availability outside of Winnipeg.
    • Prize holds no cash value and expires October 31, 2019.
    • Prize may be transferred with permission from Embrace Birth Services but may not be sold.
  3. Odds: The odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
  4. Winner Selection and Notification: Winner will be chosen at random using a random number generator on or before October 26, 2018. Winner will be notified via telephone or email within two (2) days following selection, and winner will be posted on social media as well. Embrace Birth Services holds no liability for winner’s failure to receive notices due to spam, junk e-mail, or other security settings or for winner’s provision of incorrect or otherwise non-functioning contact information. If the winner cannot be contacted, or fails to claim the prize within five (5) days from the time award notification was sent, the prize may be forfeited and an alternate winner selected.
  5. Privacy: Embrace Birth Services will not share your private information with any third party or publicly. The only information that will be shared is your name and/or social media handle at the time of winner announcement or in any subsequent sharing of the contest results.

Winnipeg Belly & Baby Fair 2018

It's October! That means it's almost time for the annual Fit 4 Two Winnipeg Belly & Baby Fair!

I have attended this event in the past as a mama and as a volunteer for the Winnipeg Babywearers, but I am super pumped this year to finally be attending as a vendor!  This is a great chance to get out in the community and meet some of you, and also say hi to some of my much loved past clients!

If you haven't attended before, the show takes place on Sunday from 10am-3pm at Earl Grey Community Centre. There's two huge rooms filled with friendly faces and crafters, vendors, informational booths and more. It is FREE to attend, but donations are suggested and go towards a wonderful cause-- The Postpartum Depression Association of Manitoba. It's the perfect opportunity to grab some friends and get your Christmas shopping done ahead of time. There's even a photo booth by Jenn of Songbird Photography, so don't forget to bring money for that!

Are you planning on joining us at the Winnipeg Belly & Baby Fair on October 1st? If not, wwwhhhyyyy? I'd love to see your smiling faces!

Winnipeg Belly & Baby Fair

What will my doula do?

I sit down for a lot of consults with potential families that go the same. “So… we’ve researched a doula, and we read what your description is. And we love your site and the vibe you give off. But… I guess I still don’t understand what you really do.” It’s true, there’s a bit of a mystique still around doula care, and a lot of misconceptions– many people still think that doulas are only good if you’re planning a twinkle lights style homebirth. And while I’m happy to support that– a doula can help ANY family, in any variety of scenerios.

For just a taste, I’ve started a quick list of some of the things I’ve done in the past year while spending time with my doula families.


Help you set up your birth space— hospital or home, I can get your comfort items ready, set the mood with candles or music, or make sure you’ve got the best pillow. For that matter- I can help you come up with a playlist that has just the right vibe for your labour. I’ve pumped up and switched out birth balls when they weren’t quite right, hunted down more pillows and blankets (for mom or dad), and adjusted lighting.

Help you decide if it’s really labour, or really time to go to the hospital. It can be super intimidating trying to decide if the signs you’re feeling are real labour. I often spend time on the phone or through text, talking about symptoms, feelings and instincts and helping mom decide what the next course of action might be. If it’s too early, I’ll help you come up with things to do in the meantime to keep your mind off of the contractions or to cope with the pain.

Help you transition from hospital to home. Moving from the comfort of home to the hospital can be a bit jarring to your system, especially if you’ve never been there before. I can help bridge the gap, navigate hallways, and even answer questions about parking.

Remind you about preferences that are about to become overlooked. Sometimes you get so caught up in the sensations of birth that you forget about things that were very important to you. I’m there to point out if your placenta is about to leave the room without you seeing it, turn on the music you wanted to listen to, offer up reminders about a position you wanted to try or to ask about delayed cord clamping. We talk beforehand so I know all the things that will matter to you.

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Answer questions when things get confusing. Medical staff can sometimes forget that their jargon isn’t second nature for you. Or you may have questions about recommended tests or options at different points during labour. I’ll help to clarify the confusing language, and figure out which questions you can ask your providers to get the answers you want.

Offer options- whether it’s pain relief, positions or next steps. When you’re dealing with intense contractions, sometimes it’s hard to remember all the comfort techniques you had planned. I’m there to offer reminders of things you can try- and we can even practice those during your prenatals. If natural measures aren’t working, I can help you BRAIN (Ask me about it!) your next steps in an informed and judgment free zone.

Help provide comfort to older siblings (or partners). It can be hard for your loved ones to watch you in pain, and harder still to be in the middle of labour and trying to provide comfort yourself to an overwhelmed family member. As a doula I’m able to give reassurance and explanations about the sights, sounds, smells and progress of labour to those with you, be it your partner or a little one. Sometimes all it takes is a quick reassurance  that all is normal, but I’ve also held hands, rubbed backs, had serious talks and even helped a loved one to a chair when they’re feeling faint. I support them so that you don’t have to.

Give your partner a chance to step out to grab a meal, or move a car. I remember back to my first birth and how relieved my husband said he was after our doula arrived. While I was buzzing on labour adrenalin, he hadn’t slept or eaten all night, and by that time he desperately needed a few minutes of fresh air and some nutrients. With my doula by my side, he was able to go take care of himself so he could continue taking care of me. I’m so glad to give this same relief to partners now as I know how much it meant to him!

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Help with early breastfeeding. Sometimes your labour goes perfectly according to plan but it’s breastfeeding that you struggle with. As an experienced breastfeeder and doula, I’m there to help prepare you ahead of time, and also postpartum to get your breastfeeding relationship off to the right start.

Remind you to do life during early labour. One of the easiest ways to get burnt out during your labour is to sound the alarm bells too early. I highly recommend that my clients stay aware of their bodies, but continue to “do life” during early labour for as long as they can. We’ll keep in contact during these hours so you can communicate how you’re feeling, but I’ll encourage you to ignore those contractions and rest until you can’t ignore them any longer. This puts you in a better headspace once true active labour begins.

And of course, provide physical support through touch relaxation, massage, position changes and more. While much of doula work is through the ‘heart’ side, I also use my hands to keep your body comfortable. Whether it’s strong counterpressure through hours of back labour, walking the halls with you through early labour, a foot massage after you’ve gotten your epidural or supporting you while you changing pushing positions, I’m your girl.

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Winnipeg Fresh 48 Photography | Newborn Photos

We've all seen the Winnipeg Fresh 48 newborn photos of our generation- a scowling newborn, fists up or swaddled tight, on a pink, white or blue background. And as generic and nondescript as they are- we still love them. Why? Because these first hours matter! These are photos of our babies, before they began to change. Before their fresh birth looks changed to newborn looks, then to infant, and all to quickly toddler looks.

As time goes on, we're getting better at documenting infants. We snap on our phones or head down to a studio at a couple weeks old to create gorgeous Anne Geddes-esque recreations. But how many truly good fresh squishy newborn photos from those early days do you see? Not enough! We always start with the best of intentions, but the reality is that after you've gone through birth, many parents are too tired to remember to pull out their camera or even their phones for more than a quick shot to post to Facebook. Months later you scroll their your phones going "but I swear we took more! How is there not a single photo of me holding her?" Raise your hand if you've been there!

In-hospital pictures in some form aren't new. Check out the "Fresh 48" style photos of my own birth (33 years ago today! Let's all dip our toes in the nostalgia pool for a second.) The 80's touch is great. We knew even back then that these memories matter. And now we have so many more options for capturing these shots in ways that we'll *want* to remember as the years go by.

New parents often say they don't want photos taken of themselves in those early hours and days postpartum. You're finding your groove, exhausted, and the last thing you want is someone posting your postpartum bedhead to Facebook without your knowledge. You want the photos of yourself to bring positive memories, not stress.

This is why I have absolutely fallen in love with Fresh 48 photography. Winnipeg Fresh 48 gives you the chance to document these moments without having to be the one behind the camera. It means a professional photographer who has specialized experience with the birth and postpartum period, who knows just which angles to use to flatter everyone and provide you with memories that will last a lifetime. Winnipeg Fresh 48s mean actually being in those newborn moments with your baby-- and not just in the form of a blurry selfie!

A Fresh 48 session takes place the day or or the day after birth typically-- it gives you a chance to get freshened up, brush your hair and put on makeup if you'd like to (or not!) and change into something new. Then your photographer comes to you in hospital or home and gets a chance to freeze those emotional, raw and love filled first moments.

An average session takes just 45 minutes, and they are one of my favourite things to document. Squishy newborn details; fingernails, tiny baby lips, curled up legs and brand new feet. Mom and baby's cuddles and feeding, dads loving looks and careful holds. New siblings reactions to "their" new baby. These pictures tell a story of a moment in time that you won't ever get back. You don't get much more special than that!

Unlike the bland, unflattering hospital photos from our past, your Winnipeg Fresh 48 photos are warm, expressive and detailed. Take a look!

Ready for those heart filled wonderful captures from your baby's early days? Shoot me a message today and let's talk!