Birth photos – Why & How?

In the summer I supported a couple during the labour and birth of their first baby and managed to capture some photos as their beautiful baby emerged gently into the world.

The room was dark and lit only by candles, I only had my iPhone to hand and my “viewpoint” wasn’t the best.

The photos were grainy and raw – but my goodness the images I caught were just amazing!!  I managed to capture the moment in which she breathed out her baby.  My client was naked, vulnerable, powerful and goddess like – her partner was by her side holding her upright as she birthed in a squatting position – the pictures were stunning in their simplicity.

As doulas we always ask couples if they would like us to take photos during labour *if our hands are free!* – the question is often met with a quizzical look, followed by a moment of contemplation, and finally answered with “well I guess I can delete them if I hate them!”.

Needless to say the mothers are always keen to view them when we visit postnatally – I think it fascinates women to see their birth journey from “the outside”.  The intensity of labour brings a woman’s focus to within her body during each and every surge, thereby cutting out thoughts of what the external physique is doing.  Our pictures might portray a woman sitting quietly in a corner, with her jaw relaxed open as she breathes out, or alternatively the ferocity of a contraction is caught in the image of a mother arching her body or “roaring” her baby down – a reminder of how much the labour may have taken physically from her.

Likewise partners are often very touched by the pictures as they have been so immersed in physically supporting the mum and sometimes entrenched in the emotive energy of the birth that they also don’t get to “step back” and see the strength of the way they intuitively work with their partners. Birth photography captures that connection forever, a constant reminder of them working together toward their greatest achievement.

We have also taken some beautiful photos during a caesarean section that showed the moment a baby was “lifted” from her mothers body and the skin to skin that followed in theatre.  These pictures were so immensely important to the couple – ensuring their babys arrival was celebrated positively when their initial hopes for a vaginal birth could not be realised.

Finally we of course capture those earliest events – the first breaths, the first cuddles, the cutting of the cord, the weighing, skin to skin, tiny feet and fingers, gazing parents and the first feed.  All beautiful one off moments that are so quickly forgotten.

Feeling Inspired?

If you would like to create a record of your labour and you are considering asking someone to take pictures please remember the following:

1. Tell your photographer to be unobtrusive – if you are aware that they are taking pictures then you are risking your births natural process.

2. Many units do not allow photography of their staff so be sure to keep them out of the frame.  Your midwife might be happy to have a photo with you when you are settled after birth.

3. NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY – therefore as many women birth in the dark you might not be able to get anything beyond a picture of shadows -but most photos can be edited and made brighter later on.

4. Consider using a smart phone rather than a full camera –  Cameras make “whirring” noises when they are focussing, and clicking sounds as they take photos – phones are silent and therefore much more subtle.

5. Black and white photos are often far more flattering – use an integrated filter with your smart phone app.

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