April 22, 2020

The Birth Story of Pippa Kathleen

Eleven months have come and gone and sweet Pippa is almost a toddler. During my pregnancy I remember thinking this baby would never arrive… but here we are. This is our story.

Joey and I found out that we were expecting on September 14, 2018 and you can watch our announcement video right here. We loved sharing this exciting news with our family and friends and I am so glad I have these reactions on video to cherish forever! 

Joey and I knew we didn’t want to find out the gender of our baby until birth and that was the BEST decision! When in life do you get a surprise this big?! Also, Joey’s reaction when announcing that we had a girl after 9 months of anticipation was absolutely priceless! I heard it all… “I’m too much of a planner” “I could never wait” “How will you know what to buy”… the list goes on. We had everything we needed for a baby and after Pippa was born, the girly clothes, swaddles, and extras came flooding into our home. Our nursery theme is hippos, music notes, and pops of every color. The perfect room for a baby boy or girl! 

Watch our Birth Video Here!

The first 4 months of my pregnancy was extremely difficult. We were in the middle of a busy wedding season and I began getting sick. No matter what I ate or what time of day it was, nothing would stay down. We went to the doctor thinking this was some kind of virus but to my surprise it was completely pregnancy related. They transferred me to the hospital to get fluids and diagnosed me with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which is a very severe form of pregnancy sickness. I spent most days in bed laying on my back trying to not move so that maybe the bowl of Life cereal would stay down. During those dark months I lost weight, had no energy, and lost all excitement of being pregnant. 

One day in particular, I was throwing up, sobbing in the shower, begging God for this sickness to pass. Joey rubbed my back and said we could adopt all of our future kids, and I was completely okay with that. Fast-forward to December and things started to turn around. I started craving foods like tomatoes but I couldn’t stand meat. My energy was up and so I became a ski instructor! Why not? January through March I lived on the mountain and finally started to feel myself again. 

By the third trimester, the baby was growing and my belly was huge! The cravings were so strong. Cake, Ice cream, gummy bears, and even McDonalds… It makes me sick looking back at my diet during the last couple months. I also craved ice, which is a common symptom of low iron levels. 

During the last few weeks of May my wardrobe options were very slim… I barely fit in any of my maternity clothes. Dresses were my go-to! Joey and I shot 2 weddings in May; one was in Austin, TX and the other was in New Hampshire. Photographing a wedding at 39 weeks was not easy but definitely memorable. 

May 21st: Just two days after getting back from New Hampshire I went to a midwife appointment for a check up and that’s when things began to get real. We discussed my induction date of May 27 but I was so afraid of getting Pitocin so we talked about natural ways to get labor started before then. My midwife did a membrane sweep and said I was 4cm dilated and 70% effaced! She was convinced that the baby would arrive within 48 hours and asked me to go to Target to walk around for 20 minutes to help move things forward. NO PROBLEM!  As soon as I stepped out of the car to go into Target at 9:30am I felt my first contraction and they continued the entire time we were there. 

I told Joey that these contractions felt different and we needed to go home to get things ready. Joey went into full on nesting mode when we arrived at the house… cleaning, laundry, editing, packing, and a lot of chaos running around the house. My mom and Amelia were going to be coming into town so I grabbed all of our linens and headed to the laundromat to wash everything quickly. My friend, Tanya, graciously met me at the laundromat to help keep me walking, and even time contractions. Contractions were 4 minutes apart but I continued to labor at home for about 9 hours before heading to the hospital. 

We said goodbye to our foster love and went into the labor and delivery wing of the hospital. Having never delivered a baby before, I didn’t have a good grasp on the difference between early and active labor. When I was in triage being monitored, I was told that although my contractions were 5 minutes or less apart, things were still early and I should try to get some sleep at home. Just when I thought I was going to leave, they wanted to continue to monitor the baby because there were some concerns with the heart rate. 

After about 2 and a half hours in triage, my midwife said, “Let’s stay and have this baby!” I was so relieved!  I requested the natural birth delivery room and thankfully it was available. The biggest difference was the stain glass window and all of the medical devices were stored in stained glass cabinets… mostly it was a prettier room. As soon as we were admitted to the hospital my dear friend/amazing doula arrived. Connie knew exactly where to massage and apply pressure during each contraction. Joey gathered our bags from the car, my IV was put in, and by 11:00 my mom and Amelia arrived! 

Labor is intense! I knew having a natural labor would be hard but I have never experienced anything this difficult. 

In John 16, Jesus is sharing the grief of being separated from the Lord that will turn into joy when being reunited. Out of all the things He could have used to compare that suffering of being separated from Him, He chose childbirth.  Verse 21 says “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” 

 I have been determined to have a natural childbirth from an early age. Middle school girls with period cramps would pop an Advil and continue on… Middle School Valorie’s logic was “If I can’t handle a few days of cramps, there’s no way I could ever have a baby”. Please understand that a period cramp is an awful comparison to birth but I managed pain in different ways such as running, drinking more water, and lots of baths. 

The bath, birthing ball, prayer, Fig Newtons, and my amazing support team helped me get through this natural labor. The epidural scared me to death and it never crossed my mind once to even get one. I’m squeamish with needles. I wanted my baby to be alert after birth. The thought of being stuck in a bed during contractions was horrifying and I heard recovery is easier without the epidural. Lastly, my mom is one of the strongest women I know, and she had three natural births so I was very determined. 

Labor lasted 34 hours. I had no sleep during the contractions; felt exhausted but took each contraction one at a time. Around noon I took a bath with the jets on and my contractions slowed down to 10 minutes apart. Everyone was discouraged and my midwife talked about a few options:

  1. Start a Pitocin drip. (This terrified me because most women who get Pitocin also get an epidural and I didn’t want that.)
  2. My midwife could break my waters. (This could just cause my contractions to be more painful without speeding along the process)

I asked for a membrane sweep and for an hour to think about which route to take. The contractions immediately picked up again. I used the peanut on the bed and watched The Office… the one where Pam is in labor! Within 30 minutes of watching, I announced I was peeing myself and couldn’t stop. Everyone started cheering, “your water broke” as I darted to the bathroom to clean up. My mom came in to help and I fell apart. The fear of what was to come hit me hard. I didn’t feel ready or capable of delivering a baby.  I was crying in my momma’s arms for a few minutes… She told me it was time and I was already doing it and doing it well. I didn’t need Pitocin or my water broken and this is exactly what I wanted. 

I asked to take one shower to clean myself up and talk to Joey alone before everything progressed. It was almost over! Each contraction after my water broke was no joke! You couldn’t have strapped me to a bed long enough for someone to put an epidural in my back! I consistently had to move during contractions because of how painful it was to sit still and think about the pain. For one hour I tried every possible position to labor in but the only thing getting me through these intense contractions was prayer and then it happened…

The next contraction began and with no coaching my body just pushed. It’s unbelievable what our bodies are capable of! I announced that I was pushing and everyone helped me into the bed. My midwife entered the room, checked my cervix, and declared, “let’s have this baby”! I couldn’t believe it was finally time. 

I couldn’t tell you much about those 20ish minutes of pushing but I remember praying and singing some of the songs that would come on. Surrounded by the people I love, feeling a bit hazy, and pushing it wasn’t long and my midwife told me the head was out. A few more pushes and a baby was laid on my chest. Moments later my husband with tears in his eyes announced, “it’s a girl”… He immediately collapsed over me crying full of joy! 

We had a daughter. 

The room was filled with watery eyes and all of a sudden the pain was gone. Pippa Kathleen Kelley had arrived and our birth story couldn’t have been any more perfect! 

Delivery team:

Thank you Amelia for taking these amazing photos and videos! I am so happy that you were a part of this sweet birth. Amelia has been so encouraging and helpful throughout the entire pregnancy and birth. 

Connie was the best doula ever!! She prayed for me throughout my pregnancy and helped me find my awesome midwives. During labor she knew exactly where to massage and that helped tremendously with my natural labor.

Mom… I love you! So much! You always told me that I could do this and wiped my tears along the way. The memories you helped me create during my pregnancy from the ladies retreat to the Austin, Texas trip… I will cherish forever. I love you. 

Joey endured so much during my pregnancy. From cleaning vomit during my hyperemesis days, late night gummy bear runs to 7-11, all the ice chomping, and staying strong during the birth of our sweet Pippa. I am married to a wonderful man who loves the Lord and that has always been my dream! We love you daddy

This was just the beginning…

This is when my water finally broke!


Valorie Kelley

  1. Mandy says:

    This was beyond beautiful and the pictures are gorgeous. ❤️

  2. Johanna says:

    I absolutely loved reading this!!




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