What Makes a Birth Photographer?

Today I want to write to you about Birth Photographers. 

A little-known fact about the people who capture birth is that they are not photographers alone. Documenting the moment a woman meets her baby for the first time changes you as a person, whether you allow yourself to fall into it, to become transformed, or whether you don't realize it and suddenly awaken to realize you are a different version of you. Either way, the change that happens to a photographer when they witness women birth their babies is inevitable. 

When a person commits to being on-call for many weeks, waking up multiple nights in a row due to false alarms, sitting with her through the throws of labor, watching the miracle of life be born to her and of her, whether doctor, midwife, nurse, doula or photographer, it simply is impossible to go back to regularly scheduled life as if nothing had transpired and as if you were unaffected. 

Birth affects all those who witness it in various ways.

When your job's entire focus is to observe as much of the process of birth as possible.

For you to capture as much of a mother's emotions during this process, as much of the connections and relationships between mom and everyone part of this day, as much of this transformational process as a possible, because by craft you are a birth documentarian, a meeting stories artist... Then, none of the details of the day escape you, you cannot ignore and avoid them because they are YOU, as they transform from living art into your documented art, and you are forever changed by birth. 

You become connected to many women through time by the universal path every human being takes to arrive into life, called birth. 

Your presence at births is a never-ending sisterhood that is connected like a tree with its roots spread across the entire globe. 

You become connected to those who are giving birth, to their partners who are experiencing this with them, their providers delivering their children, their older children eagerly coming to meet their baby sibling. You become part of an unwritten family that goes to the ends of this earth and never dissipates. And being united in this day as a historian and documentarian of birth through the spirit of art, you are never forgotten or discarded, despite your silence and uninvolved presence, in a unique way, you are part of the stories of families that affect this world. 


Unlike family photography and studio portraiture work, you cannot know exactly how your birth will unravel, what day it will happen on, how long it will last and even at the end of the day how your baby will be born. Even with a planned c-section birth, there is not always a 100% guarantee what day you will meet your baby.


It’s impossible to plan birth. Even with a wedding that has been planned for an entire year, somethings always don’t end up according to plan, and your wedding is on an hour by hour schedule. With birth, you just don’t know what to expect. As much as you plan and prepare for it, it is not sheer willpower and a calm and certain mind alone that determines how your birth will go, you're also at the mercy of your body, your uterus, and your baby.


It is important for a woman to prepare for her birth by take birthing classes to educate herself on the physiological aspects of birth, (to be aware of what your body is doing during this intricate process that belongs to you and your body), and don't forget about the mind: a woman should prepare herself psychologically for an experience of her life that will with certainly transform her.


This is a very valid point "it’s important to honor hospital policies," I cannot agree enough with that statement! 

We don’t want to bring into our hospitals people who will be disrespectful and disruptful. Labor and delivery is a place that is safe and sterile any persons who cannot honor that would be counterproductive to that. 


Isn't the ultimate goal of birth is to unite a healthy mother with her healthy baby as quickly after birth as possible? (unlike the past decades when babies were sent away for hours to the nursery)

And doesn't the act of this "golden hour" of bonding time between mom and baby not hurt the mother nor put her baby’s life in danger and is implemented for the sake of an emotional bond with baby, more successful breastfeeding, steadying baby's temperature, heart beat and for the sake of psychological well being?

Similarly, a woman can have the fleeting moment, the moment she lays eyes on her baby's face for the very first time ever and touches her baby for the first time, the baby she has carried in her womb for the last 9 months, documented by a professional who has a code of ethics, with a clinical knowledge of birth and has a deep respect for medical personnel to never get in the way of a nurse, anesthesiologist, midwife, obstetrician or any other medical person. With a track record of listening to medical staff, standing where they are out of the way, not touching anything sterile. 


Besides a birthing woman's partner, there is the clear hesitation of letting another family member into the operating room with a camera to take pictures -- this is a sterile environment and that person might disrupt that, or worse, they might faint at the sight of surgery. There is even the hesitation of allowing entrance to the operating room a photographer who has never attended nor witnessed even a vaginal delivery before. 


Everyone is aware of post partum blues and post partum depression. ACOG even lists that cesarean birth may cause more fatigue or longer states of fatigue over vaginal delivery and lists fatigue as one of the leading causes of postpartum depression 

“Many women feel very tired after giving birth. It can take weeks for a woman to regain her normal strength and energy. For women who have had their babies by cesarean birth, it may take even longer.” 

And everyone from doctors to websites offer solutions from how to diagnose ppd or how to medicate ppd but it is not nearly as often discussed how to strive to prevent ppd from ever even arising.

ACOG also lists changes in hormones as a leading cause of depression: 

“Changes in hormone levels—Levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease sharply in the hours after childbirth. These changes may trigger depression in the same way that smaller changes in hormone levels trigger mood swings and tension before menstrual periods.” 

But did you know that gentle cesarean, which includes skin to skin, a clear drape for mom to see the baby’s face instantly as they are delivered (without seeing the surgical incision), longer periods of mom-baby bonding during the first “golden hour” and that all these aspects can contribute to a release of “happy hormones” called endorphins? And that unlike adrenaline and other hormones, these endorphins can contribute to mom being less likely to experience post partum depression 

>>> source <<< 


Honestly, it is a good and valid question, a lot of people don't get it, so let's ask it:

Why is it necessary for women to have their birth photographed?


I can tell you it isn't glamour and fame. A woman who hires a birth photographer isn't concerned with glamour or fame and in fact, understands that she will likely not look her best in the photographs from her birth story. 

Sure, in preparation, she may put on mascara, or waterproof foundation, but haven’t you ever had a challenging day where are you feel a bit of confidence and courage when you took a moment to feel your very best, despite everything else being challenging and uncertain? 


In this day and age of many people putting countless of the most minute and intimate details of their days, you might think Facebook or Instagram has something to do with birth photography. 

Don't get me wrong -- I am grateful that I have access to social media. I believe the topics of pregnancy, labor, birth, and post partum are not talked about nearly enough among women who are going to be stepping into this chapter of their life in the next decade, so I love having the ability to share stories from the clients of mine who have given me permission to share their photos and talk about various pregnancy and motherhood topics. But social media is not even on the table with half of my clients. They want privacy and that is my priority. They know they can trust me. 


It may be just 1 day but it is not just A day. 

It is not just ANY day. 

This isn't like going in for an endoscopy or a cavity filling. 


A life YOU created, grew, nurtured, supported, spoke to, felt moving in your belly for 9 months. A life you prepared for, for 9 months. He or she has a little room waiting for them back at your home. A bassinet. Newborn diapers, and that one special outfit. 

You're about to take a lifetime of photos and videos of this little person. 

And this is the moment you meet them. 

But it also so much more. 

You're not pregnant every year of your life, and even with large families, your years of carrying babies in your womb are limited. 

And how many times is your body and your mind physically in this in-between world where you are neither pregnant nor not pregnant, when your baby is in the birth canal, entering this world. 

How many times in your life do you literally need to summon the amount of courage, raw feminine energy and power to bring your baby earthside? The level of vulnerability and sheer power that balance on this day are not repeated in any other days of your life. There isn't another day of your life where your emotions are entirely beyond your control, and your guard are let down because meeting your child for the first time in your life only happens this once. 

I cannot speak for every single birth photographer on this planet because every woman experiences birth differently, and many birth photographers are women who have experienced their own childbirths and that contributes in a large portion to the passion they put forth in the photographs they captures for their birth photography clients.


Some birth photographers had positive birth experiences that inspired them to educate or to give the gift of having these memories preserved for other mothers.


Other Birth Photographer’s have had emotionally traumatic experiences which inspired them to seek out and educate about choosing better providers, better prenatal preparation and education, better postpartum support and that is the driving force behind their work.


And even other Birth Photographer’s are so swept off their feet by the beauty and raw power of women who give birth to babies and that is the driving force behind their work.

Every birth photographer comes into this profession from a different life journey, a different inspiration, a different calling. 


When my first born daughter was around 9 months old and I finally worked up the courage to look at the pictures my husband took on a cheap camera the day that she was born, I was sad because my husband wasn’t in any of the moments that really mattered to me, or in barely any photos at all. Because he took them and he isn't a photographer, and more importantly, my husband isn't a documentarian nor a woman who desperately wants to preserve the moment of birth.  

When the day passes by with the glimpse of the eye, families that hire me will be able to remember what it felt like walking into the hospital, preparing for baby to be born, walking down a hallway, having the strings of a labor down tied, having their husband or partner kiss their head the moment tears were streaming down mom's face, they felt a call to support, the very first cry baby lets out when their voice is so fresh and it will never sound the same ever again, the look in your partners eyes the very first time they become a parent— that look never happens again in their life time. 


These are the moments I strive to capture for my clients. Because this is a story of courage, of preparation, a moment they prayed and waited for, for months, some families for years and years after failed rounds of IUI and IVF, the loss that is brought with miscarriage, for some families even stillbirths that they remember to this day. But above all, this is a story of love.