Meeting my first birth client
I was ecstatic when my first birth photography enquiry came through, back in 2016. I related so much to the Mum; traumatic first birth, hopes for a positive birth, wanting support, wishing to hold onto the memories of a more positive experience.
Helen got in touch after seeing my Facebook post about wanting to photograph births, and we set up a face to face meeting. We clicked straight away (no photography pun intended). We talked about her experience with her first birth and her hopes and plans for the birth of her second baby. Helen shared with me the trauma and sad feelings that surrounded her birth experience.
Having experienced some post trauma to my first birth, I could completely relate and immediately wanted to do everything I could to help her achieve ambitions. I left feeling incredibly excited for what was to come!
When you are expecting a baby, your due date is engrained on your brain, and as it edges ever closer, you expect baby to have arrived. More commonly, babies arrived anywhere between 37-42 weeks, and less than 5% of babies actually arrive on their due date.
With this in mind, I was on call from 2 weeks before her due date, and I was constantly checking my phone to be sure I didn’t miss any messages! When my phone pinged with a text to let me know things were starting (38 weeks and 6 days gestation), I was literally dancing around my living room as all timings had aligned for me to be definitely available.
Arriving at the house for home birth
I set off for Helen’s house when her husband informed me that the pool was filling and she wanted to get in. When I arrived, the midwives were already there and Mum was in the pool. All seemed fairly calm; Helen was regularly contracting and her written birth affirmations pinned to the wall to help her retain focus.
“The lights were dimmed right down with just the tree lights twinkling. It was lovely and relaxing.”
I noted my surroundings, the available light source, took some test shots to get my camera settings ready for the environment, and set up in a corner of the room, intending to just blend into the background, my presence being an unobtrusive as possible.
I stepped in only when Helen’s husband was out of the room, to offer my hands as support for her to hold in the height of a contraction. Knowing I was able to help keep Mum’s focus with a helping hand later encouraged me to add doula services to my work.
Those moments of strength gained from physical touch are so important during labour as it helps to raise oxytocin levels, a love hormone. Oxytocin can relieve pain and offer comfort in the same way a hug releases those endorphins.
A baby girl is born, just as the birth plan was intended
In our initial consultation, Helen expressed her wish to see the crowning of her baby for herself and used a mirror in the pool at times. I did capture the crowning and head being delivered, but for the purposes of privacy, those images are just for the parents.
“Kelly captured my baby emerging into this world from the most tasteful angles”
Being present for that first second you see your baby is so wonderful. That raw emotion, and absolute amazement of what has just happened, captured in a beautiful image of love. I feel privileged to be invited to witness such an intimate event.
Helen was incredible. After her first birth that caused emotional trauma, she was set on achieving a birth which she had more control of. I felt so happy for her once her baby girl was in her arms – she had done it – she had achieved the positive birth she so longed for!
“I look back on the images with amazement of what I achieved”
Since photographing the birth of baby Phoebe, I have photographed the family on a few different occasions; a newborn photo session, an update of the children a couple of years later, and most recently, their doorstep photo in the first lockdown of 2020.
It was such a beautiful experience as my first birth to photograph. It also helped me to feel accomplished with the birth of my own babies, knowing that birth can be so different when armed with research and knowledge of choice.
I catch up with Helen every so often, and she regularly expresses such gratitude for the images that were captured of her baby girl’s home birth. I was only too grateful myself to be given the opportunity to capture such a special time for the family.
A final word from Helen, talking about her experience having a birth photographer at the birth of her second child:
“She is my last baby and this was my perfect birth; everything I wanted and more. I can honestly say it was the single most empowering thing I have done in my life. I made sure this time that I surrounded myself with positive people that were going to help me on this journey. I look back at the beautiful photos that Kelly took at the birth with a big smile. Being able to play back the experience gave me a new appreciation for what my body has achieved”
Email me to chat about your own birth plans. I would love to photograph the arrival of your baby, whether that is a home birth or hospital birth.
I will be sharing another birth with you soon. It is something so close to my heart. Birthing a baby is not easy, but what a birthing body is able to do is incredible, and I love capturing an act that I consider so beautiful. See you in the next one!