Birth photography series – hospital birth – Aylesbury baby photographer

Why I love birth photography

I have a huge passion to provide women with memories of what their incredible bodies are capable of. I am a Mum to 3. I loved watching my growing bump, and feel I have achieved something wonderful by carrying my babies, and bringing them into the world.

After the birth of my first 2 children not going completely to plan, I set out to be as an informed as possible, approaching my 3rd birth armed with information and research. I was also very keen to have it documented in photo form to replay the experience (memories do not serve me greatly post babies). This is where my dream of being a birth photographer began. You can read about my own birth story here: https://www.kellybond.com/2021/04/birth-and-babies-positive-birth-bucks-birth-photographer/

I am based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, and live around a 10 minute drive from Stoke Mandeville Hospital. I gave birth to all of my babies here, the first 2 on the labour ward, and the last in the birth centre, a water birth. Being located so close to the hospital is ideal for the sometimes speedy arrivals of babies, certainly the case for the birth I will be sharing in this blog series.

Choosing a birth photographer in Aylesbury, Bucks

The lovely Ayshah got in contact with me about photographing the birth of her 3rd baby. I more commonly photograph 2nd or 3rd time Mums for birth photography. Why? Because afterwards is when you realise what an incredible thing you have just done, and it isn’t until the next birth that you think about how you will remember this. So often, after seeing the images of their birth, Mum’s say ‘I wish I had known about you for my first birth’.

Being a Mum to 2 boys already, she wanted to remember this birth for what it is; amazing, powerful, an accomplishment. We met up for an informal chat first at her home in Aylesbury – very important – I want you to feel comfortable with me to have me present for such an intimate event. I knew Ayshah from a mutual friend, but we hadn’t worked together professionally before.

“When I first thought about having a birth photographer, I wasn’t sure….but after meeting Kelly to chat about birth and my story, I felt a lot more confident.

When in labour, its like being in a hazy dream so having another person in the room that knew me and knew what I wanted just gave me that extra peace of mind”

Ayshah

Initially, we meet for an informal chat to just talk about your previous births, plans for this birth, and what I will do during your birth. Booking is the next stage, confirming when I’ll be on call from, what is included, and deposits paid. We can then meet again as often as you like in the lead up to the birth to just get to know each other a bit more.

I love talking about birth, pregnancy and babies! You can let me know preferences for what you would like captured, or let me just click away as the story unfolds.

Hospital birth – guidelines

Ayshah messaged me when she was in labour, and again when she was heading to hospital. My bag was packed (labour length can vary, so snacks and water are a must), so I just picked up my Nikon armed with 50mm f/1.8 – my fastest and smallest lens. As I plan to be unobtrusive, so must my camera be!

When in the hospital room, I ensure that I am out of the way from medical professionals. My job is to document the birth, and I have no active role in intervening in the physical side of the birth, unless we have discussed a doula role. A midwife or any doctor always have priority and I will always move elsewhere, or already be nestled away in a corner.

From my experience in hospitals though, all the midwives have always been lovely and accommodating. They appreciate that the labouring mother wants these images, and the midwives usually openly invite to make room for me.

Birth story – part one – labour

Ayshah was in the birthing centre at Stoke Mandeville and just getting ready to get into the pool. I said my hello’s, and settled into the background. When she got into the pool, she appeared much calmer.

“I did notice the first few clicks of the camera but after a while they just blended into the background”

A little while after being in the pool, Ayshah used some gas and air for a little extra help, but the physical touch of her husband, Gari, was very obviously a wonderful aid of support. He stayed by her side constantly, offering physical loving touch through holding hands and hugs. Touch from a birthing partner can be a positive and calming way to reduce pains in labour.

I was only in the room around 30mins, when the contractions intensified. The gas and air was helping to regulate her breathing and keep some focus, but I could see her confidence was wavering.

Our friendship had developed a lot during Ayshah’s pregnancy, and I was quite in tune with what was wanted from this birth from our regular chats. At times, my role transferred to a doula support, only when needed. We had discussed this previously.

“Kelly has such a calm presence and was able to know when to say some positive reminders and reassure me I could do it”

Birth story – part 2 – the birth

Ayshah’s second baby was a weighty 11lb 2oz, so we were all expecting a good sized weight for baby no.3. When her body was pushing, it was necessary for Ayshah to stand in the pool for the aid of gravity. The not so little baby boy was a little stuck with his shoulders and needed an extra hand from the midwife to guide him out.

The midwives of Stoke Mandeville Hospital really are exceptional. They helped Ayshah deliver a beautiful 11lb 3oz boy in the pool, following her birth plan. Ayshah remained in the pool for delayed cord clamping and had some gorgeous skin to skin time. Baby Cooper took a little while to pink up on the Apgar score, but it wasn’t long before he was exploring his lungs. Smiles all round!

I may have shed a few tears behind the camera… these moments are so incredibly precious. Even just looking back at these birth photography images from this 2017 birth, it makes me keen for another! It floods back all the memories of that day; the anticipation in the room, the tangible moments witnessed during a height of a contraction, the love seen and felt seeing parents holding the baby in their arms.

“Having photos of the birth of Cooper is something I’m so grateful for. Its so easy to forget these phenomenal moments”

Birth story – part 3 – after the birth

The placenta was being a little stubborn after a while in the pool having cuddles. As the cord had finished pulsing and providing the baby with extra blood from the placenta, the cord was cut so that Ayshah could get out of the pool to deliver the placenta.

Delayed cord clamping is advised with most babies and has big benefits to the baby.

“Deferred cord clamping allows extra blood to be transferred from the placenta, increasing the amount of iron transferred to your baby. Iron is essential for brain development and infants with better iron levels seem to do better on tests of neurodevelopment later in childhood.

DCC (delayed cord clamping) makes babies more stable after birth. If the cord is clamped immediately, there is a sudden drop in blood pressure due to the movement of blood into the lungs when the baby takes their first breaths. DCC allows extra blood from the placenta to replace the blood, keeping the blood pressure more stable.

NHS website

I personally find the cord and placenta amazing! This organ connects baby and Mum for 9 months, providing the baby everything it needed to grow and develop, ready to be welcomed into the world.

A post birth cuddle – baby boy comfy in his mother’s arms

Seeing these parents bring another beautiful baby boy into the world was my absolute privilege. The connection in their relationship is intimate, knowing, understanding and welcoming. It is the image of love. Gari was right by her side the whole time. A husband’s role during labour is not to be on the sidelines, but right in it with his wife.

First feed – happy family

In the words of Jess Urlichs:

Thank you for standing by me
watching what I’ve gone through.
I forget sometimes through teary eyes
that you’ve had to go through it too.
The labor and the birth
while that pain was mine.
Your hand was never far away
Your eyes never so wide.

Last words of testimony from Ayshah:

“Having Kelly at the birth was so special to us, having a familiar and calming support of someone who loves and appreciates birth as well as knowing she will capture moments that are so sacred. The birth of a baby changes you, and to have that captured is incredibly special”

The next in this birth series is a super speedy home birth. I’m looking forward to sharing with you.

Birth photography – home birth – Aylesbury baby photographer

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 can breathe my baby out’ – KG hypnobirthing

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.

Pushing, and baby crowning – pool birth at home

“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!

Birth and babies – positive birth – Bucks birth photographer

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.

These images are some of the most precious images I have.

My favourite newborn image of my son, 11mins old. Water birth. Delayed cord clamping.

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 –

hand holding, the affectionate forehead kisses of support, an embrace. These are moments to remember and treasure.

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.

Me and my firstborn. 8lb 12oz. An active labour of varied positions. Complications started after this photo. Approximately 7mins old.

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.

Me with my daughter. 7lb 2oz. Speedy arrival! 15mins old.

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.

My first cuddle, first sight, first time I took in everything about him. 43seconds old (according to the camera time!) 9lb 6oz.
4mins old. Precious cuddles.

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!