"Whenever and however you intend to give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life." - Ina May Gaskin
When I first started thinking about becoming a birth photographer, I received a variety of reactions.
Oh! That's interesting!
The reaction from everyone who knows me well, however, was pretty much the same.
Oh my gosh! That's perfect for you! It makes so much sense!
If you've read my bio on my website, you know that I have always been the person with a camera ready to photograph life. Photography seemed like a no-brainer, but figuring out WHAT to photograph was my sticking point.
Even just 5 years ago, when I gave birth to my daughter, I didn't really know birth photography was a "thing." I had seen beautiful photographs from births in all of my research and reading during pregnancy, but I just assumed those mothers were lucky to have friends or family present who happened to be photographers. It wasn't until later that I realized there is an entire industry of professional photographers who specialize in capturing birth stories.
That's when this idea started growing. You see, when I was younger, I had a fascination with birth that was unusual for my age. When aunts or cousins were pregnant, I always asked a lot of questions and was enthralled when I was invited to feel a belly with a baby rolling around inside. In a class in high school, we were required to watch a birth video. While the rest of the class cringed, I sat in awe of how perfectly the female body was designed for birth.
Then in 2012, I had my first child and I realized just how important birth photography can be. The end of my pregnancy became complicated very quickly. I developed gestational hypertension in my third trimester which was rapidly heading into pre-eclampsia territory. I was in and out of the hospital for a couple of weeks before doctors decided it was time for my sweet girl to meet the world. The induction was a pretty spectacular failure, and I ended up in the OR.
I was completely unprepared for this turn of events. I had spent my entire pregnancy planning and mentally preparing for a normal vaginal delivery. Surgery just wasn't on my radar. As a result, I was at the mercy of the hospital staff. My daughter was born perfectly healthy. They showed her to me briefly before they whisked away my husband, my mom, and my daughter. I was left alone in the OR with a bunch of strangers begging for someone to tell me what was going on with my baby.
I missed so much. My husband held our daughter for the first time (the first baby he had ever held) while I was still in the OR, and I don't have a single picture to show for it. Our families watched through the nursery window as she was weighed, measured, and foot-printed, and I missed all of it.
I finally met my daughter about an hour or so after she was born, and I'm so thankful my doctor grabbed my camera and began snapping pictures because I honestly don't remember it. I have some fuzzy memories from those first moments holding my daughter, but most of them have been lost in the haze of anesthesia.
By the time I was pregnant with my second baby, I had quit my full time job to stay at home. We couldn't afford both a doula and a birth photographer. Since I was planning a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), I really wanted a doula to help me navigate this birth. However, I still desperately wanted pictures. I sat down with my mom, my husband, and my doula during my third trimester and expressed to them how important photos were to me. I told them my camera would be available to any one of them at any time. I told them to take pictures of everything.
They listened. They took turns with the camera throughout my labor and delivery. Unfortunately, I went through a long, exhausting 50 hour labor and delivery.
I am so incredibly thankful for the pictures I do have, but I often wish I had been able to hire a birth photographer. Someone who hadn't been awake with me for 2 straight days. Someone with a fresh perspective.
The births of both of my children changed me. They taught me about myself: my strengths and the lengths I would go for the sake of my babies. They were the two most life-changing experiences of my life, and I will forever wish they had been captured with the same reverence I feel when I think back on those days.
I chose birth photography because it combines two things I'm passionate about: art and motherhood. However, I also don't want anyone else to miss moments like I did. I want every mother to be able to look back and see the combination of her own strength and vulnerability. I want her to look back on the way her partner stroked her hair and stared at her in adoration. I want her to be able to see the look on her own face when she laid eyes on her precious baby for the first time. I want to capture all births with the reverence that bringing new life into the world deserves.