A few days ago I received a phone call from an expecting mama.
It is her first baby and she’s due in 5 months, and I’m so excited for her.
Although meeting people virtually and not in person is not as common for me, (while I do travel for birth each year, most of my clients are local), I am a little old school in that
I like to sit down with my couples over a cup of coffee, tea or a smoothie and learn about them
but this mom lives very far from me (further than my typical client) so we agreed to do a Facetime contract signing instead of getting together in person.
This morning we met for the first time over Facetime. As soon as I introduced myself and said hello, I wanted to know more about dad.
It is my opinion that in today’s day and age there are a lot of different aspects of pregnancy, labor, birth and post partum that are a long lost art. One of them being, we don’t nurture a connection with all three parties (the birthing person, their partner/spouse and baby). If we are doing it right, we try to nurture mom & baby relationships, but
mom’s partner/spouse immediately has to go back to work (most of the United States offers no paternal leave from work) and there are also not as many couples going to every prenatal visit together, birthing classes together, meeting the midwife together, the labor doula, doing the hospital tour together, etc.
In other words, there’s a bit of a disconnect.
My business is very intimate to me. Because your birth story is very intimate to you, so I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Because of my philosophy of my work in the birth world, to me it is imperative that I meet with all the parents, not just the birthing person.
A big part of this is definitely about the birthing day… the last thing I want is to walk into the delivery room the day you are giving birth (or to the birth center or your home) and find your partner or spouse with their guard up, because a non-medical stranger they’ve never met before is “watching”
As photographers, as DOCUMENTARIANS of birth, we are always “watching”
And if you haven’t had the chance to meet me, to learn why I do this for a living, and how committed I am to my families, it is easy for me to understand why a partner or a spouse would have their guard up with me in the delivery room.
The purpose behind me documenting this incredible moment for you both is so that you can specially let your guard down, be present and enjoy this moment.
I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to guard their emotions, their attention, to watch whether I am being intrusive, to be protective over their birthing partner, that is not at all the type of environment I want to cater to during labor and birth.
So going back to this morning, when I asked dad if he has had the chance to see any of my work (my birth photography, my birth videos) and what really spoke to him, so that I could learn what is important not only to the expecting mom but to her husband, he told me right away he had not seen any of my work yet.
Which means only mom has seen and fallen in love with my work.
While sometimes that can be enough, and all a couple needs as a motivator to invest in my work, because in this case, the mom’s husband trusts her judgement in making this decision of investing in something she really finds value in, a majority of the time, I need for the partner/spouse to let their guard down and meet me.
I spent a part of this morning contemplating how many photographers in America are saying they are ok with it if partner/spouse doesn't see their work or meet them beforehand the day mom goes into labor.
One thing I have noticed about the location I serve (south Florida) is that
“burn-out” is high among photographers who are offering birth photography services..
Many of the photographers I revered for their birth photography 4-5 years ago no longer offer it because many of them did indeed burned out or lost their spark for it.
I also do find it common that there isn't as much gratitude in the "birth-photography" world as their is for labor doulas and midwives and OBs. I have personally noticed several times when a labor doula supports a mom for 12 to 24 hours of intense labor filled with hard work on mom’s part and many emotions, a deep bond is created and it is hard to break and it is on-going for months and years well after baby has been born. Similar with midwives and OBs who are supportive of their patients through 9 months of pregnancy, labor, delivery and post partum visits, moms develop a sort of revered bond with their provider.
But I do find that in the birth photography world, it is often a text saying "we love the photos" and that's where the relationship often ends for many photographers & their clients down here in south Florida (unless mom gets pregnant again down the road and reaches out). With this being said, I don’t want to down-play birth clients of mine who our relationships have continued with well after birth. I have the amazing honor (that makes me want to sing, dance and cry all at the same time!) of becoming a godmother to one of my birth client’s babies this coming June (he was born last year), two of my clients who gave birth last summer are some of my dearest friends. One of my home birth transfers to my favorite hospital in Boca is also one of my closest friends to this day. All of this because I really really care about my families and I care about what is happening in their lives well after they give birth. But I do work with 2 to 3 families giving birth each month (which translates to anywhere from 24 to 36 birth clients each year — I only photograph birth, no other genres of photography), so not every couple stays in touch with me even though I want to; some move out of state, some go back to a high demanding job, others really only hired me for photography, and so there definitely are families who even gave birth in the last three months who don’t keep in touch with me.
South Florida is a pretty transitional area, most people living here are not natives and many couples do leave the state within a few years of living here for better career opportunities or to return to home. Some of my birthing couples don’t even live in Florida and are flying in only for a few months to give birth here (yes we have that amazing of providers and hospitals to warrant such a trip!)
So the way I personally find fulfillment in my own business is by getting to know my families really well prior to birth, to understand what their story is and what having this birth story that I am going to capture means to them.
On a personal level, even looking back to before I was a mom, I was never passionately driven (or motivated) to love a career when it was superficial (about business and earning money). There always had to be a driving factor that made me passionate to work!
And I do think that on a very personal and intimate level for me alone, I need my families to 'get me' and why I do this for a living if they want to work with me, because my career is born of my own birth traumas.
I experienced two emotionally traumatic births with both of my daughters (and my second birth was way more traumatic than the first)
and so in a way, I think if at least part of my families didn't see how passionate I am for birth education, birth advocacy, women's rights, and helping my clients find the right providers for them so that they feel supported, and if my birth clients were solely hiring me for a service, I would burn out quickly. I don't know if I could repeatedly for many births arrive at the hospital, photograph, leave, deliver photos and move onto the next client. But that is a very personal and intimate approach to my business only, and it is why every month and every year, I have a continually growing passion and love for my work and I do not feel burned out after nearly 5 years of 12 months a year commitment to my craft and the families I work with.