I woke up this morning and got my husband off to work. I did my morning meditation and then scrolled a little through Facebook before I started my day. That’s when I saw it. I got giddy seeing one of my birth images front and center on the Improvingbirth.org Facebook page that was a re-post from this Huffington Post Article featuring images of Dad’s in the delivery room. I was excited at first, and then I got upset.
I decided to check out the comments expecting to read people celebrating incredible moments captured by so many amazing photographers. The families who have shared such intimate moments are on the forefront of an incredible movement – professionally documenting their birth because it’s a life changing day worthy of remembering every moment. It takes tremendous courage to invite a “stranger” into your birth space to capture such an intimate moment. It takes even more courage and vulnerability to allow the photographers to share these moments with the world. I am not speaking for all birth photographers in this post, but I am rather disappointed in the comments on this post. They are like many I have seen before on birth images. I was upset to see people commenting their opinions about birth positions and perceived interventions used, rather than about the incredible moments documented.
It is my opinion that a negative opinion about another persons birth experience, especially when you only have assumptions based on an image, shouldn’t be vocalized. It matters only how the person giving birth feels about their birth. You don’t know what their risk level was, what led them to make the decisions about how, where, and why to give birth the way that they did. To assume someone didn’t know their options, or that they were incapable of making the right choices for their birth, is to sink into psychological biases where we over simplify information, and fill in characteristics from stereotypes, generalities, and prior histories.
I have attended home births where mothers were fully supported and free to birth in any position they wanted, only to end up wanting to give birth on their back. I have witnessed mothers who needed an IV because they couldn’t keep any fluids down, and go on to have a pain medicine free vaginal birth in the hospital. Cindy Crawford talks about ending up giving birth on her back and feeling that was the best for her in the documentary “More Business of Being Born Part 2”. When we make these negative comments based on visual assumptions, we are encouraging women and their families to not share their birth stories in fear of judgement.
When we make these negative comments based on visual assumptions, we are encouraging women and their families to not share their birth stories in fear of judgement.
When we do this, we will stunt the knowledge sharing of what goes on during births across the world. Un-informed comments could end up limiting improvements and innovations in birth itself. You can have an incredible birth experience giving birth at home on your knees, or in a pool of water. You can have an incredible birth experience under the bright lights in the O.R. You can also have an incredible birth experience in the hospital with your legs in stirrups, an epidural in your back, and an OB telling you to push your baby out. What matters most is that a family feels supported in their birth. That they were able to make decisions about their options, and didn’t feel bullied into anything. Until you are asked for your opinion about someones birth experience, after being given all the information, I encourage you to simply comment on the beauty of the moment.
Here are my top five reasons why you should consider hiring a birth photographer (or videographer, because adding motion and sound is pretty awesome too).
5. We know birth, we love birth, and we respect birth.
Birth photographers and videographers are knowledgeable about the birth process. Some of us have been aspiring midwives, received doula training or are doulas, and have spent a lot of time reading books and articles about birth, etc. We may even be birth activists in our area. Operating a camera under the lighting conditions of a birth is really important. But just as important is knowing when to leave for a birth, what important moment is coming up next, when to talk, when to leave, and knowing where to stand to not be in the way and still get the shot.
Birth photographers and videographers are some of the most passionate people I know. I’m biased, but we are as much cool as we are hardcore. It takes a really unique person to commit to being ready to go at a moment’s notice, and not know when they will be returning home. We risk the possibility of missing important events in our life like family events (holidays, birthdays, weddings, or even a family members birth). It’s rare to find people who are as passionate about their work as birth photographers are. We are more than just documenters. We are part of your birth team. We also tend to end up really good friends with our clients.
4. You can remember things that might become fuzzy or that you couldn’t see.
There are times where you just cannot look at everything and take everything in during your birth. Labor and delivery can require a lot of centered attention of both parents, which can limit taking in details. A photographer can capture friends and family in the waiting rooms, babies who had to go to the nursery or be put out of sight, even introductions that cannot be seen. Having a professional document your birth, especially in the case of a cesarean, can be very helpful in connecting with the birth story. During a cesarean, a mother is limited to what she can see and her mobility to see the things she would like to. We can also help you remember the little things like what’s happening while your napping, the snacks you eat, your room number, and what you were wearing.
3. Your partner and everyone in attendance for your birth should be in the images!
They are an important part of the birth story and could end up missing in chunks if they are left in charge of the camera. You could even end up having no images because they were busy being supportive. It is so freeing to have your partner able to be fully present for such life-changing moments. Like this article and research suggests, not being fully present for your big moments can spoil your memory of them. As Tiffane Wen put it, “Divided attention is absolutely an enemy of memory.” Leaving partners and friends to focus on joining you in the moment, and have someone else freeze time for you, can help everyone enjoy and remember the moments.
2. It’s a story that will be told for many years to come.
One of my favorite shows, The Gilmore Girls, Lorelei tells her daughter her birth story every year on her birthday. It had been recited so much, that Rory could follow along and even finish the story. As one of the most famous midwives, Ina May Gaskin, puts it “Whenever and wherever you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life”. Your story in images or motion, will help you recall details and enhance your story telling
1. Babies only take their first breath once. They only have one birth.
Everyone is born. It is a journey we each share with every human on earth. Our birth story is as unique as our fingerprint, and it only happens once. We so easily remember to photograph a nice meal, a birthday party, grab a selfie before date night, or photograph a teen heading off to prom.The birth photographer is an essential tool for recording family history. Life is about moments, so don’t forget to document your most important ones!
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