Bump to baby – how my births got better each time
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I took a photo of the growing bump every week to document this event. Growing a baby is a form of miracle. It is really incredible to watch the changes of your body, and then reach the time when the baby is ready to make his or her appearance – although most likely not on the actual due date!
Then a whole lot of other changes happen in your body to allow this baby to be born. Whether that is through a natural birth, or through medical marvel.
I am Mum to 3 beautiful children, and had a natural birth with each, all a little different. With each of my pregnancies, I discovered more information and through ongoing research into birth choices, I was that much more aware of the options that were available to me.
This resulted in a more positive experience each time. Birth preparation is key!
My interest in birth expanded over the years and I was determined to achieve a positive birth with my last baby, which for me meant an unassisted water birth with minimal medical intervention.
Most importantly, I wanted my birth photographed. This is where my journey into being a birth photographer began.
What is birth photography?
Sometimes people look to me in confusion – ‘why would anyone want photos of that‘?! Your thoughts of birth will often guide your opinion on what birth photography is, and sometimes this is based on your own birth experience, and sometimes it can be from a shortage of information about birth.
I think birth is amazing! Birth photography really isn’t about what some people consider ‘the gruesome bits’.
Post birth, it is common for women to feel somewhat fragile, emotionally and physically. Being able to look back on the images of your birth can help you regain that feeling of strength, of what you were able to accomplish, along with the support you had during that time.
To me, photos are my memories. 3 kids later, my brain isn’t great at holding onto those memories without a photo to nudge it!
Part of photographing a birth, whether a home birth or a hospital birth, is about documenting those intimate moments shared between Mum and Dad –
Some supportive moments by partners during a few of the births I have photographed:
Supporting women through this incredible time is really special to me. I have always been an advocate for positive birth, and to help women be suitably supported. Everyone needs support through birth, in preparations for birth, the actual birth, and post natal support; it is a lot to process.
I want to share with you some birth stories to show what birth photography can be like, which will be over a series of blogs. First I’ll start with mine.
My birth story
Like all Mums, I experienced all sorts of feelings in the lead up to the birth of my first baby; anxiety, excitement, eagerness, uncertainty. I was blessed to meet a wonderful person during ballet classes I was attending during my pregnancy, who was training to be a doula.
If you have not heard of a doula before, Nancy Keen, hypnobirthing teacher, gives a great description:
A doula is a paid birth companion. They provide emotional and physical support during pregnancy, labour, birth and beyond. They are often someone who has given birth themselves so is able to give support through understanding. Their knowledge and experience means they are able to help parents make choices that are right for them and advocate for parents to ensure their needs are met. A doula is an invaluable part of the birthing team.Nancy Keen – Birthright Hypnobirthing
Jane offered to be a doula to me and I accepted. It was the best decision I made about the birth of my first born. She was an incredible asset, support, and confidence enabler during my birth. Jane has now become a much valued friend.
My birth went well, and I succeeded in my hopes for a physically active labour, aided by calm music used when labouring at home, but I had complications afterwards with a major haemorrhage. All eventually was well, but my experience of birth was tainted.
When the birth of my second baby approached, I was keen to avoid a repeat. Ultimately, I kept so calm during the labour, that I didn’t notice my own transition, waited too long at home, and nearly didn’t make it to the hospital at all!
My daughter crowned as we pulled up in the car park, and as I was taken by wheelchair straight through the triage of A&E for a short cut (works were currently being done on the entrance to Stoke Mandeville Hospital Maternity entrance), she arrived less than 5mins in the hospital room. So much for the water birth I was hoping for!
I had a positive birth experience in terms of no complications, but I missed out on the things I had hoped and planned for. I did manage to use a TENS machine during this birth, although put it on too late anticipating my labour to last longer, so it didn’t help much with the height of contractions.
My daughter arrived so unexpectedly quickly that we actually didn’t take any photos of her until she was nearly 15mins old, after lots of lovely skin to skin contact post birth. This saddened me as those first moments of holding and meeting your baby are full of emotion and adrenaline. I wish someone had taken photos sooner.
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall and take in a visual of the whole room when she arrived so suddenly, taking us all by surprise.
Third baby – making a birth plan – hopes and dreams
We were blessed and surprised to be expecting baby no.3, and with the 2 different birth experiences I had already had, I set out to achieve a labour I was more in control of. Preparing for birth involved extensive research.
When my baby was discovered to be breech at 36 weeks – panic set in! I thought all was lost for my birth plans, but I got in touch with the lovely Nancy Keen of Birthright Hypnobirthing, who helped by directing me to the amazing Spinning Babies website and with research, advice, and much prayer, he turned!
Having a detailed birth plan does not mean that you are ignoring medical profession. It just means that, all being well, those are the things you wish for in your birth. The more research you do, the more you are aware of the options available in child birth.
Something I have always kept in mind that Nancy says:
“Your body, your birth, your choice”
I really wanted to labour in water and deliver my baby in a birthing pool. Given the hurry that my daughter arrived in, I made sure I left for the hospital in good time! I would have loved a home birth, but due to my postpartum haemorrhage after my first birth, I was advised to birth in the hospital.
I was thrilled to hear of the availability of a birthing pool, which I enquired about as soon as I entered the labour ward!
I was able to visibly and psychologically relax as soon as I got into the hospital birthing pool in the birth centre, knowing that I had made it to this point. I was so close to getting the birth that I wanted.
My Mum was my second birth partner (only 2 birth partners are allowed in hospitals) and my stand in birth photographer. We had had lots of discussions in the lead up to the birth about exactly the kind of photos I wanted captured – I had shown her so many from the style I loved! I gave her a mini tutorial with my camera beforehand, and had set it ready on estimated settings from the assumed lighting conditions. I knew I would just need to be prepared to edit heavily if needed.
I think my Mum did an absolutely fantastic job at meeting my (I’m sure exasperating) stipulations. I had told her in detail, what kind of moments to capture, how to frame images in terms of what was in the shot, the angles I wanted her to get and thus where to stand.
Bless her; Mums really are amazing aren’t they! I’m forever grateful for these birth images.
At this point, I hadn’t yet photographed a birth, but I had been marvelling at birth photography for the whole of my pregnancy. Then when I saw what an incredible job my mum had done under my direction, I was very keen to get some births booked so I could provide such images for other mums! I just knew it was something I wanted to bring into the photography services I offer.
6 years later, I have been invited to attend some amazing births, all quite different from one another, and captured some incredible moments.
Interested in talking about birth photography for your birth?
I hope this blog has shown you an insight to my story and why I decided to offer birth photography. When my first birth enquiry came through – I was ecstatic!
In my next blog I will share with you the birth story of a brave mum, and my first photographed birth. See you there!