The Unexpected Adventure

Phoenix Eileen - The Unexpected Adventure

Phoenix’s story starts long before it ever began, back when Josiah and I first started dreaming of what it might be like to be more than just the two of us.

The year was 2012. We made the decision to throw out the birth control and “see what happens.” Never in a million years would I have imagined that a year and a half later, we would be sitting in doctor’s office being told Josiah has a sperm count of ZERO. The doctor was baffled and sent us to a fertility specialist, who basically boiled it down to a theory that Josiah had been born with the equivalent of a vasectomy and that we had two options: IVF or adoption.


You never think it’s going to happen to you. Until it does. And you are sitting in an uncomfortable chair in front of a man in a white coat, feeling like you just got sucker punched in the gut. All your dreams and plans laid to waste in one heartbreaking swoop. No one can prepare you for news like that. For two years, we faced and battled with our grief. Josiah and I travelled very different paths to process the blow we had suffered, which took a toll on both of us individually as well as our marriage. Conversations regarding how we might actually have a family someday always ended in tears, so eventually those conversations disappeared all together. It wasn’t until our 7th wedding anniversary in July of 2015 that we were sitting at a dinner table watching the sun set into the Pacific Ocean through a restaurant window that we revisited that conversation only to discover our separate journeys of acceptance had landed us in the same boat, with an entirely new outlook on life: despite the hardship we had faced over the previous couple years, we realized we didn’t need the stereotypical “American Dream” to be happy. In fact, we were quite stoked on our life with just fur-children and each other. With that, we agreed to let go of our dream of a child entirely and just enjoy the life we were given.

Unbeknownst to either of us, I was already 4 weeks pregnant sitting at that table.

Two days after that night, Josiah went under the knife for a small procedure to officially find out his prognosis -- were there even sperm in there? Or was he actually sperm-less? 10 days later, we were sitting in that first doctor’s office staring at an X-ray of Josiah’s nether-regions that showed a blockage in his business keeping the sperm trapped. But sperm THERE WAS. This was good news. This meant that if and when we changed our minds on the whole “kids or no kids?” issue, the doctor could swoop in there and let the spermies free!

I was now 6 weeks pregnant staring at that X-ray.
In fact, I had thrown up that morning.

3 days later, I threw up again.
And my best friend forced me to take a pregnancy test.
So I took 5.
The results were in.
I was knocked up.

The next 9 months were a roller coaster of feels.

I can officially say I am NOT A FAN of being pregnant. I was unlucky enough to throw up every single day of my pregnancy and suffered heartburn that would make a grown man cry. Growing a human being is HARD. But hey, at least I looked damn good doing it.

{photos below by Lindsey Gomes}

{photos below by Sabrina Klomp, One Another Photography}

Fast forward to the night of March 24th (because, let’s face it, no one wants to hear someone complain about being pregnant) -- 4 days past my estimated due date (and the longest 4 days of my life). I’m lying on the couch binge-watching Pretty Little Liars, when my water breaks. (GROSS). One hour later, the bags are in the car and we are off to the hospital.

The time is now 10pm. We arrive to French Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, where I am loaded up into a wheelchair and wheeled back to the room we would call home for the next 3 nights.

{birth story photos by Lindsey Gomes}

My contractions were clocked at 5 minutes apart, although I wasn’t quite feeling them that often. The wonderful nurse informed me that would change. And it did. Fast. For the next 16 hours, I labored all over our room: sitting on the edge of the bed, leaning over a birth ball, cross legged on the bed, lying on my side, hanging onto Josiah, and even in the shower (where we battled contractions and fought nodding off to sleep for 2 hours). No matter where I was, Josiah was always there for me to fall into. It was just him and me (oh, and Lindsey of course -- these pictures didn’t take themselves!!!) -- riding each wave of pain and doing everything in our power to just stay afloat. Josiah could tell by a shift in my breathing when another contraction was starting. Not once did he say, “Are you SURE you don’t want the drugs?” He supported me in everything, coached me through each rush, and reminded me to never stop breathing (you’d be surprised how colossal a relief something simple as breath can be). Even when I started having “rolling contractions” (picture of set of waves -- crashing one after the other with no time to breathe in between) and my resolve started fading, Josiah answered my cries of “I don’t think I can do this” with a resounding, “You’re so close. You’re so strong. You can absolutely do this.”

Now, when they tell you in your birthing class “You’ll feel an overwhelming urge to push” -- they aren’t frickin kidding. That urge is INTENSE. And you can’t hold back any longer. That baby is on it’s way out, and there is no stopping it. And I was there.

Just before I arrived to that place, I heard Josiah say, “Your mom is outside the door. Do you want her to come in?” (I had previously told my mom I wanted her at the hospital, on call, just in case I felt I needed her. After all, she had birthed 3 children naturally herself, and who doesn’t want a badass mama like that in her corner?). I quickly nodded, and before I knew it my mom’s hands were on my shoulder while I was saying, “Tell me I can do this, Mom. I don’t feel like I can do this.” My mom put her face right next to mine and declared into my ear, “Oh honey, you’ve already done it.” She kissed me on the head, and walked away. It was that final nudge from my mom that gave me the confidence to bear down and DO THIS THING. And so I did. I channeled the mama bear in me, moaning and roaring and quite possibly terrifying every single person in the birthing wing.

I pushed for a little under an hour. Each push, though harder than the last, brought my little bird closer and closer to my arms. On that final push, I heard our midwife, Christy, say, “Take your baby, Sarah! She’s here! Just reach down and take her!” And just like that, the gooey little darling was on my chest and over my heart. Josiah, who had held my hand through it all, reached over and watched as his daughter instantly grabbed onto his index finger and wouldn’t let go. I’ve seen my husband cry a number of times in our 10 years together, but the way he cried during this moment is a memory I will treasure for a lifetime. We had done it. He had seen me through one of the most daunting and intense events of my life.

Birth is an incredibly empowering experience. Not only had my body grown and housed a tiny human for the past 41 weeks, but it had naturally found a way to bring that tiny human out of my womb and into my world. My body did that. All on it’s own. I didn’t need pain medication or induction tools, I was created strong and capable to naturally give birth to the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes on. It was the best gift I could have given my daughter - to bring her into the world so alert and awake she rooted and crawled all by herself to my breast to eat for the first time.

But MAN did it hurt like a MOFO.

We stayed two more nights in the hospital and were given the kindest, supportive treatment. Each nurse had nothing but the most positive and encouraging things to say about Josiah and myself and the way we supported one another as our delivery unfolded. The lactation consultant had even said, “I loved hearing you sing your daughter out.”

And thus, at 12:52pm on Good Friday March 25th, Phoenix Eileen Leader was born -- weighing in at 7 pounds 7 ounces and measuring 21 inches long. Her head smells like new life and happy dances and is so damn kissable. I’m obsessed with her pouty lips and her long fingers and toes. Her smile makes my heart melt, her voice makes my world bright, and her snuggles make even the worst of days good again.

as you can no doubt see, I am blessed with some INCREDIBLE photographers as friends who have documented this epic shift in our life.

my session with Sabrina made me feel beautiful in a way that felt impossible being pregnant. during a time when I felt a stranger to my own body, she made me feel like a pregnancy unicorn. you cannot put a price on that kind of "feel good".

Josiah and I are no strangers to Lindsey's lens. she never fails to capture the true us - awkward moments and all.
so we were (and still are) beyond honored and blessed that she spent all 16 of those gruesome hours in that hospital room with us in order to document the birth of our daughter. not once did I feel weird with her being there. in fact, she served as another calming voice reminding me that each contraction brought me one breath closer to meeting my baby girl. Lindsey, you are such a shining light in my life. I've said it a million times, and I'll say it again -- I am so lucky to count you as one of my best friends. And I am over the moon to know that I will always have you to capture our crazy life, wherever it may lead next.


Natalie R:

I read this with tears in my eyes... Just beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story ❤️

Linda Leader:

Thank you for so beautifully capturing in words and pics the epic miracle of Phoenix Eileen!


I have no words - my heart is just bursting with joy and happiness for you!!!! All the emotions of getting pregnant, being pregnant, giving birth, caring for a baby...allllll the emotions!!! There's nothing else like it. Love and happiness for you, mama!

Michelle C:

Oh my sweet friend. This post, your journey, your sweet husband and gigantic heart. I read this post with celebratory tears. Knowing the journey you and J have been on only makes Phoenix's arrival the sweetest prize. I know your adventure will only continue to bloom as you parent her on to a wonderful life and enjoy every tender moment along the way.

Jana Marie:

This is so awesome. What a great story. Both in writing and visuals. Thank you for sharing. I loved this! Congratulations to you all!!

Amy Honaker:

This is such a beautiful story, Sarah! Thanks for the happy tears and for sharing this journey xo Congratulations to you and Josiah, Phoenix is absolutely perfect and a blessing