As a Birth Photographer in Wilmington, North Carolina, I cannot express to you how much I love my job.
Witnessing and photographing the birth of my friends’ son changed my life. No kidding, I actually felt the steering wheel of my world make an abrupt turn. The experience shook me to my core….the beauty, the danger, the extreme love…..the arrival of this brand new person. I knew that day that I would change my focus in photography, I would be be a Birth Photographer.
Now, at 6 months and some change pregnant with our second daughter, I find myself reflecting. Reflecting on the births I have been invited to photograph and bear witness to over the years.
I have the rare privilege of being a modern women in a Westernized society to have attended births other than her own. I know that this gives me what I believe to be a unique perspective. Also, the fact that I have photographed births in Oregon & North Carolina adds to this perspective. Being a photographer in these two states has shown me the HUGE different in their approach to birthing! I have photographed home births, hospital births, and golly! even one almost-car-birth.
Judgment free zone <3
I must also note that I do not judge families on how they choose to give birth. Each family is doing what they believe to be the best for their new child. Each birth is so very very different and uniquely beautiful. As you read through these observations, please note that these are simply that. Observations. This is not me advising you. I am merely wanting to share some things that I have noticed in my years as a photographer, and I hope that you might find inspiration in my experiences.
Let me just start right here, with the biggie. Doulas. I have attended many births with doulas, and many without, and I can say unequivocally that doulas make a world of difference to a laboring women and her family. If you are planning to labor in a hospital, I cannot possibly recommend hiring a doula more adamantly. A doula is an experienced birth professional who provides emotional and physical support. They are your advocate in the birthing room. Also, I know that it is true that we are our own best advocates in every day life. However, in the birthing room a woman and her partner can be more vulnerable to doctors and nurses who may become ”intense” with their suggestions.
I must say here that I am pro birth professional: doctor, nurse, hospital or homebirth midwife. However, I have seen it before where a laboring woman’s words fall on deaf ears, a partner’s concerns are not taken seriously, and a birth plan completely disregarded by birthing staff. A doula is there to steer a birth in the direction that you and your partner desire, with a level-head and the experience to empower you.
Cape Fear Area Doulas is an excellent resource to help you find just the right doula for you and your family.
Partners, Husbands, Birth Supporters
Birth supporters, be there for the laboring mama in whatever way you can. Rub her back, cheer her on, be quiet if she needs quiet (and advocate for quiet if that is what she wants!). Be loud with her if she is in that space, bring her water, hold her hand, make eye contact with her, embrace her, let her hang on you, kiss her, tell her how proud of her you are. Put down your phone! Leave the camera in the bag! If you would like the day documented, hire a photographer (wink wink), because your job is to be there for her, not to document. All that matters is that she is supported in this moment, these hours. Even if she is impatient with you, even if she snips at you…..just stay there, she needs you.
If this new wee one isn’t your first child, are you planning on having your older child at home with you while you labor? Yes? Then I would absolutely recommend having a person who attends just to them. This person could be an aunt, or grandpa, or close friend….anyone who is comfortable with birth and who can convey that comfort to your kiddo. I have attended a few births where a doula was hired solely for the benefit of the older child/children, so that they may have someone experienced there to support them and answer any questions they might have. Doula, family, or friend…..it’s a super good idea to have someone there just for the sibling/s.
The more the merrier?
I have experienced the extremes as far as number of attendants at a home birth. On one side there comes to mind a birth where there must have been at least 15 women there to support the laboring mother and her husband, along with the midwife and her assistant. They were in the kitchen cooking, they were in the backyard with the children, they were circled around her while she labored. They sang to her, they held space for her, they encouraged her. In the end, after her son had been born she was brought a plate of food and a frosty beverage, while everyone cooed over the new little person.
On the other hand, I have attended births where all mama wanted was silence and semi-isolation….she wanted to labor alone with just her spouse (and me, acting like a wallflower), with her midwife tucked up against the wall, only to intervene if necessary. These two births couldn’t be more different! And yet, they were exactly what the mama had wanted. My point is this….know yourself ahead of time, think about how you deal with a challenging situation in everyday life, and then perhaps structure your birth environment around that inclination.
Much like when we get married, we spend a lot of time thinking about the big day: the dress, the flowers, the vows, the venue. And then, when the day has come and gone, we find ourselves dizzy and, sometimes, in a completely different world than we had been in before.
The same notion can be applied to birth and the postpartum months. It is so very very easy to fixate on the day of birth itself (naturally!), but I can tell you it is JUST AS IMPORTANT to plan for that postpartum time. Ahead of time, familiarize yourself with a lactation consultant in your area (Angel Food Lactation and Nutrition is amazing), read up on what recovery will be like and stock your pantry accordingly (aloe, pads, cleansers, etc.). Will family be staying with you to help? If so, good, hopefully they’re super handy in the kitchen! If not, think about asking for a Meal Train to be set up in your honor. Ask for help.
In case you are not having family come and help, may I strongly suggest hiring a postpartum Doula? Postpartum depression is a REAL issue, and is way more common than many people are aware……setting yourself up for a thoughtful and assisted postpartum time will make all the difference, I promise you. When I go to the homes of lovely parents who have just recently welcomed their babies, and I’m there to very happily do lifestyle newborn photos, I can always tell the parents who have set themselves up for a gentle postpartum transition, and I can tell you that this time doesn’t have to be dark. With proper support, these days are beautiful and awe-inspiring and gentle!
As my birthing time draws nearer, I am attending more birth and pregnancy circles, connecting with other women who have just given birth or, like me, are about to…..again, in my case. This is my second time giving birth, but I learned SO MUCH from my first birth, and even more so since then. I am preparing, and am loving this time, I am attempting to crate an environment for a gentle transition to being a family of four.
I am so very lucky that with my work I am connected with so many wonderful birth workers in and around Wilmington, and I am ALWAYS happy to steer you in the direction of someone who can help you if you are having troubles. Plus, if you need a Birth Photographer……I know a gal. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, call or text me at 910.228.2457, and know that there are people out here who are here for YOU and want to help you make a gentle transition too.