Birth Becomes Her | Birth Stories from Birth Photographers
Birth Becomes Her equips birth photographers from around the world with tangible resources and a space to share their birth photography. Sharing beautiful birth photography from birth photographers around the world. Follow this blog to get birth photography resources and much more.
“I did a LOT of research and found out not only the risks of a vba2c (vaginal birth after two cesareans) but also the risks they don’t tell you about repeat cesarean sections..the info that was never provided to me by my first two care providers for this pregnancy. Once I felt confident that I wanted to attempt a vba2c I had to find my team...I started by asking Trav, "what would you say if I told you I wanted to try for a vba2c?" His response honestly surprised me when he said, "I think you should do it if thats what you want because I know how important it is for you" (love this man!) I saw two OBGYN’s who were very clear that they and their hospital policies would not allow for me to even attempt it, but I didn't let that defeat me...I left every appointment up till 20 weeks crying, stressed, scared, tired of fighting for something I seemed to understand better than those OBs. While talking to Nicole she kept mentioning how I needed to meet the midwives in Madison. I called and spoke with Kim, then met with Mara and used Emily for my main appts and the delivery of our Miss Lilly!
At 40 weeks and 3 days I decided to be induced as I was starting to swell and had pre-eclampsia with my first two pregnancies. The balloon catheter got me to 4cm pretty fast. They broke my water a few hours later and contractions picked up and I was really feeling them. My birth team ( Trav, Alie, Nicole and Emily) helped in many ways, encouraging me, empowering me, giving counter pressure and simply just being there for anything and everything I needed. The world revolved around me and this baby! We walked the halls, me, Trav and the girls danced, we used the bath, squatting the birthing ball, the back of the bed, the bath again. I made it to 5/6 cm in five hours of breathing and them screaming through contractions. They watched me sooo closely and we stopped and started Pitocin a few times to make sure things didn’t go way too fast. It got to the point that my contractions were too strong and my body wouldn't relax to do what it needed to do to turn and drop baby into the right position. So we decided at this point that I needed to rest and I got an epidural around 1:30/2 a.m. Around 5:45 a.m. we finally made it to push point!!! In an hour and a half I birthed my FIRST vaginal birth! My husband got to catch our baby and he said it was the most amazing experience of his life.
The support I received from my Midwife, Emily, Travis, my Sister and Nicole will never be forgotten. I was heard, encouraged and empowered...they never let me waiver and they helped me push myself through things I've never pushed through before. Finding the right team and believing in my body was the most important part of this experience. Vaginas DO open and babies DO come out!”
Monet and Jenn here! We wanted to take some time to share 3 tips that new birth photographers can use to successfully launch thriving birth photography businesses. Jenn and I spent a lot of years and tears building our own businesses, and we are passionate about making this path a little bit smoother for people just starting out!
Find a Community. Birth photography is one of the most challenging and demanding jobs out there. You will need emotional and physical support as your business grows. Connecting with other local birth photographers will help you develop a network of back-up support. ALL new birth photographers SHOULD have a back-up plan in place for every client who hires you. Birth is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and as soon as you start marketing your services professionally, you need to have a back-up. It’s also beneficial to connect with other birth photographers around the country and world. Our FB group is an amazing place to share images, ask for feedback, and grow!
Introduce yourself to the staff. In order to get amazing images for your clients, you need to have a good working relationship with their care team. Nurses/OBs/midwives/doulas can either make your job easy or hard, depending on how they feel about your presence in the birth space. One of the best and easiest things you can do is introduce yourself - quickly and professionally (with a smile!)
Hi! My name is Monet, and I have been hired by ___________ to document their baby’s arrival. Please let me know if I can help you in anyway. I’m so excited to work at this facility with this team.
Don’t Give Away Births for Free. Birth photography requires a lot of time even BEFORE you arrive at your client’s birth space. We can’t tell you the number of times we’ve heard about new birth photographers waiting for weeks upon weeks to attend a free birth…only to find out that their client delivered their baby without notifying them. Please charge (even just a little bit) so that your client is invested in calling you. And show your value! Saying publicly that you’re willing to do a birth for free sends the message that birth photography isn’t an investment. If you are offering a discounted session, make sure you list your full price as well as your discounted price so that your community begins to associate birth photography with a fair, living wage.
Being in the presence of a new spirit entering the world is an experience that is hard to put into words. The combination of being in complete awe of what the female body is capable of combined with an unwavering understanding that this is what our bodies were designed to do, that THIS moment is what LIFE is all about.
I fully understand that when I am trusted and welcomed into the birth space of individuals I hardly know it is a huge privilege. One that I do not take lightly. And so, I breathe deeply, and shoot methodically and try to conceal my sniffles while acting as if I am a ghost of my typical boisterous self. And in those sacred moments, and every time I visit the gallery thereafter I know one thing for sure, I am one lucky lady to be doing what I do.
Sweet little Wade’s birth story is one of my favorites. I met this mama over coffee to be sure we would be a good fit for one another and she instantly won me over with her southern charm and gorgeous smile. Little did I know that this soft spoken beauty was about to bring her son into this world unencumbered and leave me with a new understanding of the strength of a woman.
This was my FIRST birth outside of the hospital setting and I was beyond excited! This was also my first experience with a mother who had no reservation in regards to being modest. Although I truly believe all births are beautiful the combination of those two things made this one of my favorite birth stories to date. I am so in love with the raw beauty of these images and whenever I look at them I feel like I am looking at a painting.
And so, since words would never do these moments justice I will do what I was hired to do and tell Wade’s story in pictures.
Brief Description of Birth: Couple Welcomes Baby After Devastating Fire
What’s the meaning in a name? In Torey and Cory’s case, it means everything.
In April of 2018, my worst nightmare happened to these two. A fire burned down the apartment building that they lived in.
I met Torey at school. We were both enrolled in a 2-year diploma program for digital photography at Georgian College. I was almost done my very last exam, she was almost done her first year. News quickly spread that one of ours had been affected by the fire.
My business class had just finished our final presentations. We had to create a business that would generate some income for the college, a charity and the members of each group. Once we heard of the fire and how it affected someone in our program, our class decided to donate all of the possible funds earned to help out Torey and her family.
Shortly after this devastation, Torey and Cory found out they were pregnant. I can imagine it was just the news they needed to help in the healing process of all the loss they had just experienced.
Fast forward a few months.
In her 39th week, I knew from Torey’s first pregnancy that her delivery only lasted 6 hours and that her babe came during Week 39. With a scheduled induction on February 1st (the due date of her babe), I was pretty sure that I would be heading down to the hospital on – or after – that date.
I received a text from Torey on January 29th at 9:46pm stating that her water had broken. I couldn’t even tell you about how excited I was!
I couldn’t sleep much because I checked my phone constantly throughout the night for updates.
I. heard. nothing.
When I was up at 4:30am to feed my babe, I checked in with Torey. Her text back was that she could barely breathe through the contractions anymore. And at 6:00am on. the. dot. I received a text from Cory stating that she was in active labour.
At 6:19am I pulled out of my driveway in darkness and started driving down to Barrie from Muskoka.
I heard a text while I was driving at 7:12am. When I checked later, it was from Cory saying that Torey was already 7 cm dilated! I was almost pulling into Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) parking lot. The sun was just starting to illuminate the landscape in it’s golden light.
I found their labour and delivery room, dropped my bags in a corner and started photographing. Standing around the hospital bed were nurses and Barrie Midwives who were delivering the baby. I didn’t even have a minute to collect myself. I got my camera out and started documenting Torey and Cory’s birth story.
Nearing the hour babe’s head began to crown. And at 8:02am Torey pushed out a sweet little baby boy!
Witnessing a baby being born will never get old. I’m so thankful that these two let me into their special birth space to capture their story.
So what’s in a name? Torey and Cory decided to name their baby boy Phoenix. The reason is because of the name of the mythic bird that rose from the ashes.
The first Birth I photographed was incredible on many levels. I think every Birth is powerful in its own way, but this one will forever hold space in my heart. April is my boyfriend's hairdresser and that is technically how we met. Photographing her C-Section is what really brought us together as friends though.
April's story is one of an underdog. Her childhood consisted of mental, physical, and sexual abuse from her Mother and family. This later lead to her diagnosis of Complex Disassociating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CD-PTSD). CD-PTSD happens when there are layers upon layers of psychological abuse to a child. She was also diagnosed with several other diseases including a rare blood disorder, Endometriosis, Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, and most devastatingly, infertility.
April attests most of her diagnoses to the CD-PTSD from her childhood. Given everything that she has been through, she could have very easily closed herself off from the world. However, she instead used her trauma as fuel to her own fire.
She knows in her heart that through therapy and self-healing that she opened up space for her baby to arrive. April did not let her infertility diagnosis stop her from living her dream of becoming a Mother. She wanted more than anything to not let her childhood define her and to be the best Mother in the whole world.
Photographing April's C-Section was heartwarming. An hour before she was scheduled to enter the Operating Room, the surgeon said that I actually was not allowed inside, despite us already confirming that I was. Both April and I were disappointed. We had a very open and honest conversation with the surgeon, to whom we are both so grateful to for changing her mind. I think that we all connected over April's incredible story and how hard she worked to get there.
In the end, I was allowed to enter the OR to photograph the arrival of April's miracle baby, Virgil. My favourite moment and photograph from this experience were once he came earthside and everyone in the room paused for a moment. There really was an unplanned moment of silence in the room to appreciate the arrival of this miracle baby.
I only know the surface of April's story and can only imagine the dark depths of her soul she had to visit to overcome her traumas. She taught me that we are all different from the circumstances life gives us, we don't have to be defined by them. You can set your own path and accomplish anything with love and persistence.
The moment that I knew a photograph was more than just pretty artwork for the wall was a moment I’ll never forget. It was a place I’d choose to never be in again if I had the choice. As I sat at the funeral of a young mother, who happened to be a client that turned into a friend; the photograph I took just 4 years prior, of her holding her newborn was displayed in front of her casket. Just a week before her funeral we were planning out her next photo session and just like that she was gone.
I couldn’t help playing it over and over in my head that her two young daughters wouldn’t have their mom to look at anymore. They couldn’t just go into her room or call out her name and see her face like a child should be able to do. They couldn’t feel her hugs or her kisses any longer. Her daughter who wasn’t even one years old, wouldn’t remember the sounds of her mothers laughter. What they did have were photographs and it was then I realized that a photograph could be so much more than just an image. It could be a way to be with the ones we love even when we are far apart from them.
When I got home from her funeral I hugged my kids a little bit tighter and longer that day. I thought about my place in the world and what I could offer the people around me. I didn’t understand the true power of an image and the place I had in creating them.
Finding my place as a photographer hasn’t been an easy journey. I have spent the last year now diving into documenting families by capturing moments that showcase each family member and their unique personalities. I found it is a way to create genuine raw images. The kind of photos that make you feel like laughing, crying or doing something in between.
Just a few short months ago I photographed my first birth and I fell in love with photography all over again. The fact that I get to provide a service that will cause people to feel joy for years and years into the future is an honor beyond anything I can describe. Girls will grow up and become women and some of those women will begin the journey into motherhood and when they do I hope they have their moms to share their experiences with them. But for those that have lost their moms along the way, could you imagine how special photographs of them experiencing motherhood would be?
The mom is these images was courageous and strong and she too lost her mother. I choose to share these photos with this story because the joy and strength this mom had bringing her baby girl into the world was empowering to capture. She said how this was the best day of her life and giving birth was the most amazing experience she has had. Now when I get behind the camera I feel a sense of purpose that I have never felt before. I know that I am providing images that will be a way for families to feel close, even when they’re miles apart.
You know this story. You've heard it dozens of times from dozens of women. I was rushed to the OR for an emergency C-section. My baby's heart rate bottomed out. My blood pressure was too high. The cord was wrapped too tightly. My baby was breech and my provider was not comfortable delivering. I wasn't confident I could do a VBAC. My scaring is too intense. I'm scared. I'm terrified. I don't want to give birth again.
And then the news comes again. Another cesarean delivery. A repeat C-section. It's ok, it's controlled this time. Nothing to be worried about. Women have cesarean deliveries all the time. It won't be like last time. There's nothing to be worried about this time.
We as friends, as family, as clinicians... we seem to have this attitude of reassurance that manages to minimize a mother's real fears. We stop validating her when we constantly try to make it better. We stop listening and start trying to control her birth narrative for her with our words instead of support her with our actions.
It's going to be fine. But what if it isn't?
In some areas of the United States, birth doulas and photographers are welcomed in the OR. Whether emergency or routine, their presence is valued. In these facilities, providers and staff recognize how vital it is to a mother's healing process and even just basic understanding of the events that unfold to have a doula or photographer. They understand what pictures can mean, what they can DO for a mother. And especially for the mother who is facing a repeat cesarean, who knows exactly how her birth will unfold but still has a sense of daunting anxiety surrounding it... how can birth photography impact her?
1. Birth photography creates normalcy. It's such a simple idea. A birth photographer in the OR feels normal. It feels like your birth becomes a celebration. It helps change the narrative in the smallest of ways... it gives a mother hope that she will have a beautiful experience.
2. Birth photography can heal. Especially when there is an emergent need for cesarean birth, photography gives a family back the moments they thought they lost: remembering the moment you held your baby for the first time, hearing a first cry, capturing a weight, seeing your partner fall in love at the moment he/she has the chance to meet your child... These are moments mothers are losing to anesthesia, to pain medications, to just fear and anxiety, to sheer exhaustion. Having the photographs of these moments give mothers an opportunity to celebrate again.
3. Birth photography completes the narrative. When we as photographers spend hours alongside a laboring mother, invest in their birth and their story just as much as every other person in that room, it's crushing to us when we cannot continue to follow you to the OR. Yes, we often feel like we did not finish our job we set out to do. And when a mother receives back her images... there seems to be a missing piece in her story. The moment of delivery. But why does that MATTER? As mothers we are seen in our greatest weakness in labor, often lost in pain, unsure if we can keep going, defeated. But in that weakness our greatest strengths are revealed: perseverance, tenacity, the incredible ability to withstand all. That's the end of the narrative. A mother deserves to have that memory of strength, of tenacity, of perseverance. You deserve to have the moments of your most magnanimous accomplishments recorded. And when you reflect on your birth, it's no longer a reflection of what didn't happen, but what did. It's closure.
Normalcy, healing, closure. Whether it's your first c-section after an arrest of labor or a repeat cesarean delivery after four miscarriages and a double wide incision from your twin birth two years ago... these three things matter. They can aide in the fight against birth trauma, postpartum depression. They give us hope and they give us happiness. So I urge you... if you are in an area that welcomes birth photographers and doulas into the OR with open arms: hire one. Without question. If you are in an area that says absolutely not, be the first person who does. Contact the women's health director. Express to your obstetrician how important normalcy, healing and closure are to you and your family.
Lastly, a word on these images. This is Laura. Laura was the mother with four miscarriages. She had a deviated septum in her uterus that required four surgeries to correct. She delivered twin girls, only to hold one in her arms for only three hours before her baby passed. Her pregnancy was a miracle. A sticky baby among years of scars. A blood disorder. A preterm delivery. A repeat c-section. When Laura contacted me and said she secured clearance at our local level one trauma center for a birth photographer in the OR I could hardly believe it. It does not happen here. At all. Ever. I was honored she chose me. With overwhelming support from her OBGYN, Laura's birth partner and myself were welcomed to witness the birth of her baby girl. Tiny, perfect. Laura said, " I’m beyond grateful for this video and these pictures. I was in such a deep emotional place of nervousness going into this delivery and you truly changed everything with your amazing calmness and comforting aura. Forever thankful."
Laurel was dreaming of a fairy tale birth: easy and carefree, so natural that it felt effortless. During her labor she imagined being Snow White in the Disney movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In the fairy tale of Snow White, she would sing to the birds and dance while cleaning and making all those beds; everything was easy for her. Hoping to feel like singing to the birds, her singing sounded more like screams at times and there was no whistling while she worked. Longing to dance during the work of labor, like Snow White in the movie, walking was too painful and she did the last thing she expected to do: lie down to labor and deliver. She was thinking about her mom and three sisters and their birth stories. Each had their babies at home and the deliveries were under three hours. Coming from the Netherlands, Laurel grew up seeing lots of babies born at home. It was very much the norm for her family and it was a big part of her reason to have her baby at home.
She was hoping for the same easy and carefree delivery as her mom and sisters with her first birth, but that was not going to be her story. Her baby boy was born at home surrounded by the loving support of her husband, the midwife, and myself simple and uncomplicated. And even though her birth was much longer and more intense than she expected, she did get her fairy tale ending. Laurel is married to a handsome prince and they have a beautiful baby boy and are living happily ever after.
The decision to have your older children present in or around the birth space is uniquely yours. The only ‘right’ decision is the one that you made for your family. Having your children present while laboring can be distracting for some as it can be tricky to take the ‘mom hat’ off and allow your mind, body, and soul to focus on birth. But for others, it can naturally aid in releasing the perfect amount of oxytocin to help labor progress. Whether they were present for the labor and birth or not, the moment they meet the newest member(s) of their family is universally anticipated and often full of love. The transition of their world is just as intense as it is for the parents and documenting this interaction is often celebrated by birth photographers.