Rachael Houser Photography » Wedding Photographer based in Western Kentucky

I was a tad nervous walking up to Jaleesa’s hotel room – I’d only chatted with her via email before the wedding day. I used to work with her mom at the hospital so I knew she’d come from a wonderful family, but because Jaleesa and Ejo lived in Memphis, I hadn’t the pleasure of actually meeting them yet. As soon as I knocked on the girls’ door, it swung open dan Jaleesa welcomed me with the biggest smile! She was so excited I was there and grew even more excited as the day wore on.

Ejo, however, was a man of great composure. Even during Jaleesa and Ejo’s first look, he held it in and I figured I was working with a very straight laced man. No problem, not everyone cries when their bride walks down the aisle, or loves to smile for the camera, or dances the night away during their reception. I could handle great composure. BOY, did he prove me wrong! With the occasional reminder he smiled just fine during their portraits and even shed a tear or two when Jaleesa walked down the aisle with her daddy. But what surprised me most was how he totally let loose once the party got started! He was a different man – and I can’t help but think it had a little something to do with the fact that he’d just married the woman of his dream!

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It’s hard to believe that I made it all the way into May before shooting an engagement session this year! And Chelsea’s & Chase’s session was a great one start off with! They met while both working at a local diner… Chelsea admits that Chase probably worked there an entire year before she really noticed him! Meanwhile, he’d been eyeing her for quite sometime and eventually worked up the nerve to ask her out. As they say, the rest is history!

Chelsea and I really hit it off – she and Chase have an adorable little girl so we talked a lot about our babies. You guys, I have the best job! I got to photograph a beautiful couple in love AND talk about my darling baby boy! Chase, mind you, is a gem! He kept both of us laughing the whole evening and it made for such a comfortable session. I cannot wait for their September wedding!

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Writing a client’s birth story takes time but not too much thought. After all, as the photographer, I’m completely coherent the entire time. I’m not working through contractions or having multiple medications pushed through my IV. I’m not answering tons of questions or focusing on staying completely still while an epidural is being put into place. I’m an observer and a documenter. I’m not an active participant, let alone the one actually giving birth.

Sitting down to write out the story of your firstborn’s birth is a totally different ball game. Especially when your 6 week old is struggling to lay down for a nap. It’s been almost 7 weeks since I experienced his birth. An experience. That’s exactly what giving birth is. A wonderful, chaotic, miserable, beautiful, miraculous experience.

The night before my c-section and Graeme’s birth was much like every night before it. Neil and I attempted to make it special – one last date as a family of two – but ended up just eating dinner at Steak N Shake before heading home and watching Jimmy Fallon. The bags were packed, the car was loaded up. I baked cookies for the nurses, took a nice long shower, blew dry my hair, and to bed we went. It wasn’t a more fitful sleep than normal, for a 39+ week pregnant lady anyway.

Wednesday morning…

6:00 am – Neil finished a few last minute things around the house, got the pups ready for the day, and I straightened my hair. Being SO pregnant and swollen and bloated, I already wasn’t looking my best. The least I could do for my pictures was to have decent hair. Ha!

6:40 am – We left the house, with what felt like everything we owned (I like to be prepared!), and headed to the hospital. While driving, Neil and I talked about it was our very last drive together as a family of two. It seemed like that’s all I could think about. Everything was the last time being just the two of us. It was bitter sweet for sure but I was too excited to get that little boy in my arms. The below picture was really important for my mom and I’m so glad I remembered to grab it before we left the house.

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6:55 am – Neil grabbed us a great parking spot in the hospital parking garage and we headed to labor and delivery where we were greeted by the awesome night shift nurses who got us started. Instead of rooming us with the other c-section patient in the labor and delivery pre-surgery holding area, they roomed us in the labor and delivery triage room which was just off the nurses station. We appreciated that SO much because only Neil could join me in the pre-surgery holding area while we could have my parents, Neil’s parents, and our photographer in the triage room. Thanks Nurse Carla!

I wish I had a picture of it but as soon as they roomed me I used the adjoining restroom to apply my makeup for the day. I’m sure the nurses still talk about that c-section patient that just HAD to have makeup on to give birth. Seriously. I would have made fun of me.

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7:30 am – Makenzie arrived! Again, SO happy and appreciative that they roomed me in the triage room so that I could have my photographer and visitors! I absolutely LOVE having these pictures to help me remember those moments! Because of my special situation – the gentle/family centered c-section I requested that had never been done in that hospital – I had MANY attendants that came and went during the couple of hours that we waited. Everyone involved came to introduce themselves and run through what their job was. Even a nursing student!

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Our parents slowly started coming by. I’m so glad I have this picture of my mom and I! Exposed belly and all!

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8:30 am – Call me crazy but I actually prayed I would go into labor the morning of my c-section just so I could experience at least SOME actual labor. I had Braxton Hicks since my second trimester and some days were worse than others… So you can imagine how excited I was to learn that I was actually having real labor contractions! Sure, they were uncomfortable (early labor) but they were happening and I was cloud nine!

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My dad was really worried. It was cute.

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Around 9am they notified me that the previous c-section was going a tad longer than expected so I probably wouldn’t be going back until 10:30. I was more than ready to meet our son but completely understood. I took a few minutes to check to make sure my blog post announcing my c-section published correctly and found out that several comments were already waiting for me!

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10:30 am – Thanks, Neil, for this sweet picture of my dear friend Makenzie! And thank you, Makenzie, for being there for us on the most important day of our lives!

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It’s go time!

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Neil waited outside the surgery suite while they positioned me, hooked me up, and started my spinal.

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Love this iPhone pic of Makenzie and Neil right before Neil joined me! Makenzie had to wait outside until surgery was over… Also LOVE the picture on the left – Neil snapped it right as they started cutting me open. It’s the last picture of me before I became a mother. Surreal!

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11:01 am – Graeme was born! MY baby boy was finally here!

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The picture on the left, in case you can’t tell, is his little butt! Right after that picture was taken, my phone was handed off to my nurse anesthetist so I don’t have a picture of when Dr. Savells held him up and said, Here’s your baby boy Rachael! But I remember it well!!

As part of the gentle/family centered c-section, Graeme was handed directly to me so I could hold him while they finished me up. I was sort of in a fog… apparently my blood pressure dropped quite a bit… but I wasn’t about to mention feeling funny. I was afraid they’d take him off of me. I had such an amazing nurse anesthetist, she took the best care of me and I was feeling great in no time! Because of where he was laying on me, I couldn’t see him very well so most of the time I had my eyes closed and just relished the feeling of him being there and was calmed by the sound of his cries. It’s weird to want to hear your baby cry but right after the birth, it’s the most beautiful sound in the world!

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Also part of the gentle/family centered c-section, they did Graeme’s newborn assessment while he was on me. The second assessment was while Neil was holding him, skin to skin. Here he had stopped crying, which was also a beautiful thing. I remember I kept saying “Hi Graeme! Hi!” and I think he realized that even though he was no longer inside me, that he was still with me. Sigh.

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Seeing Neil hold him brought tears to my eyes… I was a beautiful sight!

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Kay, my kick-butt nurse anesthetist and Dr. Savells, the best OB ever!! I love that she actually looked up from sewing me back together for a picture!

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Makenzie, still outside of the surgery suite, was shooting through the tiny window in the door. I am SO grateful that she did this, even though seconds later she was reprimanded by another nurse for doing so.

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11:35 am – Recovery room. Graeme and I both were exhausted and were able to rest if only for a minute before they started “messing” with us again. Feeling his little body skin to skin on mine was so worth all the pain I felt while pregnant. Just that one thing made it all OK.

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Another newborn assessment and weighing!

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9 pounds, 6 ounces, and 20.2 inches long <3

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First breastfeeding attempt = success!

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Makenzie had been waiting a while for them to give Graeme is bath, we both wanted to pictures, but after what seemed like forever, she asked if she could go to lunch. She’d been working for 4 hours! Of course she could go eat! And what do you know… Not long after she left, it was time for his birth sponge bath! One of the nurses took control of my phone and took pictures, Neil assisted with the bath, and Graeme screamed bloody murder. I too was in distress at that time but only because they started my post c-section assessment, which included massaging my abdomen to help my uterus contract down. Talk about PAIN. Oh my goodness. The worst I’ve ever felt in my life.

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He screamed throughout his first sponge bath but once they returned him to my arms we were both at ease. I love that just my presence is all he needs. He promptly fell asleep and I basked in his soft skin, his beautiful face, his long fingers, and perfect lips. Oh my. I still look at him like that today.

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Around 1 pm – They wheeled us out of labor and delivery and to the maternal newborn unit. Our family followed. In attendance, my mom, dad, and grandma, and Neil’s mom, dad, and sister. Watching Neil show him off was so precious! What a proud daddy! He’d waited so long for that moment!

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My mom meeting her first ever grand baby.

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My mom and dad

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Neil’s mom meeting her third grand baby and my grandma holding her third great grand baby!

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Neil’s sister meeting her second nephew <3

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Makenzie had worked her tail off for hours and I had grown extremely tired so our first family of three photo wasn’t taken until later that night by Neil’s sister. Thankful to have this!

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Between my last trimester recap and today’s recap of the third trimester, I had a baby! I definitely intended to blog about my third trimester before Graeme’s arrival but life got hectic and oh yea, I gave birth a little earlier than his due day and I had to prepare for that, so, yea. Sorry about the delay! I imagine those with children completely understand where I’m coming from when I say, I’m sorry my life completely revolves around my newborn and photography and blogging has to come second from now on. It’s just the way it is and I don’t feel bad about that at all.

Another thing I don’t feel bad about, but did when it was happening, is my weight gain. LORD, you guys have no idea how hard it was for me to see those numbers on the scale… to not recognize myself in the mirror… to attempt but fail to fit into all my awesome maternity clothing I’d only bought a month before… to even take pictures of myself to document my pregnancy. It.Was.HARD. But I did it anyway, and I’m so glad I did! I know I’ll cherish these pictures because pregnancy is beautiful, even when it’s not pretty.

Now, only 6 weeks postpartum, I’ve already lost 39 pounds! I still have a ways to go (30 pounds, OK now you can do the math) but I am starting to feel more like myself. Oh yea, AND the swelling is gone! That’s the main thing I don’t miss about being pregnant!

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Weeks 27, 28, and 29

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Weeks 30 and 32

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Weeks 34, 36, and 39

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Second and last 4D picture of our little guy from our second 4D ultrasound appointment. I thought he looked totally different than from first 4D ultrasound appointment. Now that he’s here, he definitely looks more like himself here for sure. Working from my desk (or anywhere for that matter) was starting to become uncomfortable. I started going to the chiropractor around the beginning of my third trimester, with plans to continue even after Graeme’s birth, but for financial reasons (insurance didn’t cover cent) stopped half way through. I was primarily going to prepare my body for natural child birth. Turns out, I didn’t need the preparation…

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For several weeks, I ate raisin bran cereal every morning for breakfast. For obvious reasons. Wink wink. When my breast pump came in the mail I was more than a little excited! Insurance covered every penny of it too, which made it all the more awesome. I still love this thing – use it every morning and throughout every wedding day. At our second baby shower, our close friends Nikki and Andy gifted us with Graeme first and only camo outfit. Adorable! But sadly, he was never able to wear it… being a 9-6 baby means you don’t get to wear the cute newborn size clothes :(

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The loot from our second baby shower! I had so much fun going through and putting away everything!! Our little guy is so blessed and so loved!! Prior to pregnancy, it wasn’t unusual for me to bake blueberry muffins for breakfast and have them eaten by bedtime the same day. You can only imagine how fast they went during my third trimester! YUM! During most of my pregnancy, up until the giant belly would no longer allow it, I stretched nightly. Another natural birth preparation technique. Oh well. It was relaxing at least.

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Another stable in my pantry during pregnancy: pita bread and humus. Every single lunch. No exaggeration. Anndd this is what I looked like on any given day. During the week I wore sweat pants, a t shirt, and a fuzzy comfy jacket. Hair a mess. No make up. A huge perk of working from home! Food again… this time a desert that I made frequently because 1) it’s delicious, 2) it’s simple, 3) it’s cheap, and 4) it takes less than 5 mins to make.

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Snow! In case you’ve been living in a cave… near the equator… you would know that most of the US got more snow than normal. Western Kentucky was no exception! I think this pic was taken right before one of the few date nights I was felt like doing. Look how handsome my husband is!!! I prayed every day for Graeme to look and be like his daddy. So far so good! After every baby shower it would separate and wash Graeme’s new clothes. This picture depicts what Aly would be doing while I was separating his clothes (before washing, of course). She’s always love laying in laundry. After the clothes were washed, it was time to fold and organize! So many clothes, you guys!

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A few times a week I’d make myself a Green Monster smoothy. I need to start making a pitcher of it so I can drink it once or twice a day. It’s so good and SO good for you! Graeme was never on the left, very rarely in the middle, and almost always on the right side of my abdomen. It’s not AS uncomfortable as it looks. My feet. My ankles. Oh my poor lower extremities! This picture was taken before I’d even gotten out of bed that morning. No, I didn’t have pre-eclampsia. They tested me every week.

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Speaking of testing me for pre-eclampsia… this was right before they “checked” me and said I was 1 cm dilated! Progress! More progress – decluttering the whole house! Our master bath really really needed it :/ The eve of turning 39 weeks, four days before my c-section, Neil and I went on our last date before becoming parents. We saw Matthew West in concert! It was awesome but my feet and ankles paid the price. Oy. Officially the last picture of my swollen pregnancy feet! I do NOT miss those!

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I know, I know. This blog post is WAY over due. BUT better late than never!

My dear friend and mentor Stephanie Reeder Photography has done so much for my business. This time, she did wonders for my personal life. I asked her to photograph my maternity session not long after we found out we were pregnant and she lovingly gifted the session to us. I could not have asked for more!

I ordered the dress and waited for it to come in. And then. And then, it snowed. And then, the dress arrived! I text Stephanie as soon as it arrived and we scheduled for us to meet her down at her house for the session. The day came and I prepared myself for the session when Stephanie informs me that the snow is practically gone in her area. Gone? Like there was no snow there? That about broke my hormonal heart! Stephanie to the rescue! She blessed me and Neil even more by agreeing to come to us, where the snow was still plentiful, and photograph our maternity session. Below are just a few of my favorites… it was so hard to narrow them down!

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