Whenever I talk to people about labor and birth photography (or birth stories, as they are more commonly called) I get one of two reactions. Either people love the idea, or they are completely mortified by it. In my experience, I have found that those who are repulsed by the idea of a birth story are those who haven’t actually seen one. So today, I’d like to share mine with you.
Bringing a baby into this world is HARD, and I’m not just talking about labor and delivery. I’m talking about the 9 months of eating nothing but dry cereal and vanilla ice cream because it’s all that sounds good to you, and then throwing it up 20 minutes later. I’m talking about the extra pounds and inches which, I’m sorry to say, get harder and harder to work off after each pregnancy. I’m talking about the aching bones, the creaking hips, the sleepless nights, and the I’m-so-tired-I-can’t-remember-my-last-name moments that every pregnant woman battles at one point or another.
Oh yes, having a baby is hard work. However, it’s also one of the most exhilarating, and rewarding mountains you will ever climb, and when you reach the summit, you will realize you are a different person than you were when you started your journey. It is a monumental accomplishment that should be celebrated and remembered.
My son’s journey into our family was a difficult one. I had lost three babies in a row prior to getting pregnant with him, two of which were 16 weeks along when they passed away. I had a very difficult pregnancy, which ended with me on bed rest at 36 weeks due to a separated pelvis. Life had been hard for a while. One thing I learned over and over again is that you can’t always count on tomorrow. You never know how much time you have with the ones you love. One of my biggest regrets is that I don’t have any pictures of myself during my prior pregnancies. I kept saying, “Oh, I don’t feel well”, or “I look terrible right now… I’ll do it tomorrow.” Those babies left an imprint on my heart that will last forever, but there’s no physical evidence that they were here, or that they were a part of me.
That was one of the reasons I began thinking about doing a Birth Story.
At first, most people thought I was crazy. They couldn’t seem to wrap their minds around why I would want a stranger shooting graphic, text book shots of my baby crowning. (Which FYI, is NOT what a Birth Story is!) They told me all about their labor and delivery stories, and how they did everything possible to avoid the unforgiving lens of the camera. After all, puffy and swollen isn’t a great look for anyone! They didn’t understand how I could actually WANT, and PAY FOR pictures of myself, looking like I had been hit by a bus. Thankfully, my husband understands me and my compulsive need to document everything in my life, so we went ahead and booked a photographer. It was one of the best decisions we have ever made.
You can view the rest of the photos from that day here.
I love these pictures. They are absolutely priceless. Every time I look at them, the memory of that beautiful day flows through me as if I’m experiencing it all over again. I’ll never forget looking through them with my husband for the first time. He turned and looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “this was worth every penny.”
So what do you think? Have you ever done a Birth Story? If not, would you do one in the future?
Q: I don’t like pictures of myself on a normal day, why would I want pictures of me puffy, vulnerable, and exhausted?
A: I’ll admit labor isn’t beautiful in the typical definition of the word. However, I think it is the epitome of beauty in it’s truest form. Sacrificing of yourself to give life to another human being is a miraculous and powerful experience. A good photographer will know what angles to shoot from, and how to capture the moments that will make you feel beautiful, powerful, and strong, both inside and out.
Q: What about the doctors and nurses? Aren’t there hospital rules about who can be in the room with you?
A: Always check with your doctor first before hiring a professional photographer. My doctor didn’t mind at all, and the nurses at the hospital were great to work with.
Q: Having a baby is such an intimate experience… didn’t it feel awkward to have a stranger in the room with you?
A: I don’t know if I’m the best person to ask about this because I actually knew my photographer pretty well, so it wasn’t awkward at all. When I was first admitted into the hospital things were light and fun. The excitement in the air was tangible. We laughed and chatted with our photographer during those first few hours, but as things got harder, I noticed her less and less. There was a palpable change in the energy of the room as I tuned out my surroundings and turned inward, finding my inner strength. For a while the world became very still, and my photographer respected that. For the majority of my labor she was a fly on the wall, quietly clicking away. And my nurse was sweet to make sure that my husband and I got enough alone time, which was important to me.
Q: I have seen some shots I really love. How to I make sure my photographer will meet my expectations?
A: Don’t be afraid to speak up! When you book your session, tell your photographer if there are any details or shots that are important to you. Which moments do you want to capture? A little communication goes a long way!
Q: Birth Stories seem to be kind of pricey. Why is that?
A: I think Birth Stories, just like any other kind of photo session, vary greatly in price depending on who you hire. Just remember that you get what you pay for. Labor, as you are well aware, is unpredictable. Your photographer has to be ready to go at any moment, and will spend an average of 12 hours with you. Keep in mind, a good photographer is going to document so much more than just the actual delivery. They’ll capture the little details that you are going to be too busy to even notice. For example- one of my favorite shots from my session is of my husband and his mom, wrapped tightly in each other’s arms, with tears of joy in their eyes as they watched me hold my baby boy for the first time. It is absolutely beautiful, and yet I didn’t actually see it happen… I was a little preoccupied. I am so grateful my photographer captured that moment for me.
Most photographers will also include post-birth pictures, such as family and friends holding the baby, or older siblings meeting the baby for the first time. Those shots are priceless! My baby was born during cold and flu season, and the hospital wasn’t letting any siblings visit, but my photographer knew how important it was to capture my girls interacting with their new little brother, so she offered to come to my house when we were released from the hospital and took family pictures of us there. She was amazing!
Now, that being said, I understand that hiring a professional photographer may not be a possibility for everyone. In that case, you can have a friend or family member snap a few pictures for you. After all, any picture is better than no picture at all.
Q: So now that I have all these great pictures, what should I do with them? How much is too much to share?
A: Here’s the thing ladies, we live in a world where the word “Selfie” actually exists in day-to-day conversation. We are living in a time where people love to document and publicly share everything that goes on in their lives, from what they had for dinner, to their dog’s new hair cut. I get it- it’s cool! But when it comes to your Birth Story, think long and hard about how much you really want to share. Even though my pictures are all rated PG, they are still very personal. A good picture can stir emotion in others, and make them feel as if they were there! But you’d hate to have people feel like they were there against their will. As beautiful as it is, not everyone wants to be there. Nor should they be.
Obviously, I’m not a shy person. After all, I’m sharing these pictures with you, a total stranger. But I didn’t post these pictures on Facebook or Instagram. I just didn’t want them popping up unexpectedly on my friends’ newsfeeds. That being said, I have loved ones spread across the globe, and I wanted to share this experience with them. So I uploaded the pictures onto my personal blog, and then posted a link to my blog on Facebook so that people could choose whether or not they wanted to see them.