Documenting birth is one of my favorite subject matters and I have really missed birth stories as the world has all but shut down these last few months of pandemic living. As a birth photographer I am gifted the opportunity to be present as a little one enters this world, as two people become parents and help create visual memories of a day so filled with emotion, that so much of what happened can be eclipsed by the hard work, exhaustion and brand new little person who has come screaming into the picture.
Someone offered to document my own first birth--here I am, a photographer, and all I could think at the time was "why in the world would someone want pictures of that?!" And now all I have to show for the day I became a mother (other than my amazing 9 year-old) is a few, weirdly composed, blurry pictures taken by a thoughtful nurse. If I could go back and remake that decision, I would! Birth photography celebrates the power of a woman, the beauty of a couple, the first breaths of a human. Each time I have given birth, I go to my own place--to cope with the discomfort, the intensity, with eyes closed, my memories are visceral, otherworldly. Having someone document my second, third and fourth births, allows me to go back and see for myself what was happening. My memories are jumbled, but through the beautiful, raw images I am right back in those moments and can understand how it all unfolded.
I make a point to meet my birth story clients in person to discuss my being present for their birth, to document such an intimate experience. More often than not the one expecting has reached out to me and expressed that their partner is more on the fence about having the birth photographed. It doesn't even phase me. Because I was that person! But once we sit down together, talk about what hiring me looks like (and that I will be a fly on the wall), explore what birth images actually look like, they are all in!
I photographed my first birth story nearly a decade ago. I immediately fell in love with birth photography--each birth is unique, follows its own rhythm. There is no need to pose anyone or instruct them what to do with their hands. A laboring couple is so in the zone, their chemistry palpable, their connection so clear. Many women have told me that they can't imagine having a photographer present for their birth because they would look terrible by the time the baby arrives. Can I just tell you something? The look on a mother's face as they reach for that warm, wiggly, sticky baby eclipses any perfectly made-up, dolled up woman any day! I may be ugly crying when I laid eyes on my second daughter, but the fact that I have a picture of that moment helps bring back every one of my own four newborns and their unique arrival.
I try to arrive during active labor, unless baby decides not to play nice, and document the details and anticipation. I then stay through the birth, skin-to-skin, all the first cuddles and measurements. Some clients opt for me to stay a bit longer in order to document their other children meeting their sibling for the first time. And I have to say that is one of my favorite of life's moments. I would have all the babies if I could continually witness siblings meeting. Some are thrilled and out of this world excited, others don't seem to notice the tiny bean all snuggled up with mama. Of course a few are a bit put out that there is a new baby and aren't so thrilled. Whatever the reaction, my clients seem to cherish this birth story photographs most.
Each time I return to my own home after documenting a newborn's arrival, I am filled with love for my own kids. I appreciate what we all went through to become a little family. I forget so much of the stress and frustration of being a mom as I have felt transported into a scenario where time seemingly stands still and reminds me why I do this--why I mother, why I photograph, why I love telling other peoples stories. It clarifies my own lie