They let you in the room. Ah. Eh. Like... When she's in labour?

This is said incredulously.

Or they say, birth photography..whats that? and I answer with ‘Exactly what you think it is’

Early on when I first started tentatively whispering to people that maybe, just maybe… I might want to be a birth photographer some of the reactions were:

UGH.

Who would do this?

I just think of the episiotomy.

What about birth trauma?

Unfortunately this is a reflection of our current birth culture where instead of an exciting event of a baby being born into the world, is clouded with fear. This is something I hope my imagery will help to change.

As Ina May Gaskin said

"It's easy to scare women. It's even profitable to scare women....But its not nice, its very bad manners so lets stop"

One of the surprising things about this work is how calm birth can be. Yes, it always looks like work or as I’ve heard some of the more experienced midwives say ‘they don’t call it labour for nothing!’ but there are really lovely moments too. I’ve seen beautiful, transformative, empowering births and I want you to know that when it comes to birth you get to choose how you go into it. You can choose to tune into the messages you like and tune out the ones you don’t. I want you to know its possible to feel confident, assured and excited!

My friend Louise from Mamma Mudra recently asked on instagram:

What if we planned our births like we plan our weddings?

When I got engaged people said oh you need Pinterest! What will your colours be? Your flowers? What kind of dress? Will it be a sit down or a cocktail wedding?

Yet so often we I ask people what they hope for when it comes to their birth they say ‘all the drugs’ or ‘I’m just going to go with the flow’ You don’t need to go with the flow, this is your body and your family and your baby. So make the plans.

Take up space.

Ask for what you want and expect to get it.

Take your broken heart and make it into art

I could’ve put off this photoshoot, waited until I lost 5 kilos or had my hair cut + coloured. But I know if I did lose the 5 kilos I’d be looking to continue with the next five. Never quite reaching the destination

Brené Brown talks about body image being one of womens biggest triggers. "Nearly all women feel ashamed of their bodies at one time or another." I remember dropping out of swimming when I was in my early teens because my body was changing and I felt like I didn’t have the kind of body that should be displayed.

Ive worn jeans when its 40 degrees. Wear shorts! My husband will say, puzzled and exasperated. I don't own any. The reason I don't own any is because my thighs rub together. My moon-tan thighs are whiter than socially acceptable. Its only been recently that Ive started to dismantle these ideas and question where they came from.

I cannot tell you how often I’ve sat across from a woman who says something negative about their body and im flooded with shame, if she thinks she is fat what must she think of me?

Or the woman who proudly details a tiny list of the "clean" foods she has eaten today, excited about her discipline and (silently) corresponding worthiness.

Or the line from Clueless when Cher says "I feel like such a heifer. I had two bowls of Special K, 3 pieces of turkey bacon, a handful of popcorn, 5 peanut butter M&M's and like 3 pieces of liquorice." I daren't share the last time I fed my body to distract from feeling an uncomfortable emotion but safe to say that it was worse than cereal and 1/2 a serve of m & ms.

When someone who I saw as having a perfect body asked me whether I could photoshop a little cellulite from her thigh it felt like my heart broke. You see I’d imagined that people who look a certain way were exempt from this pain of always wishing we were a little different. Taller, shorter, slimmer, more athletic, not so athletic, a bigger booty, bigger breasts or smaller breasts.

Im not sure how we got here, but I know it has to stop. So im taking the words of Carrie Fisher as an instruction: "Take your broken heart and make it into art."

If you can't find something to love about your body, can you find something to like?

It's not about the babies

“People want to see cute babies.”

“People love photos smiling and looking at the camera.”

Both of these statements have been said to me and I still have no intention of providing photos of cheesy smiles. Im here for bigger work. Im here to capture the magic moments of the everyday, to facilitate a space where you can be so completely yourself that I get to take a photo of exactly who you are. Lets be honest, the ‘say cheese’ smiles only exist in photographs, I don’t Ive ever seen a cheesy smile come organically.

When I shoot a birth, its not about the baby. Even though I feel like other people want it to be.

For me,its all about mums experience, this incredible transition, regardless of whether this is her first born, her fifth or somewhere in between.

At first it puzzled me when mums would say to me yeah I’d love to have a birth photographer but I didn’t do it with my first so I would feel guilty. It was only later when debriefing with my husband I realised these women thought the photos were about the birth of a child. They aren’t, they’re about the birth of a mother. (side note. My sister is 9 years younger than me and my mum had a photographer at her birth. It never occurred to me that I missed out as the older sibling. Though when it comes to her being allowed to have her ears pierced at six, thats another story.)

I swing between desperately wanting to tell these stories and also wanting to keep them tucked away precious only for the families I serve. These photos and these families mean so much to me that it can feel almost intrusive. When I send out a birth gallery I worry about whether Ive done their birth justice. When I write about individual births I make sure I run it by the families first before sharing. This work isn’t about me, its about them and I want to make sure they’re feeling honoured.

My favourite moments are the in between moments. Your partner feeding you jelly or attempting to help you tie up your hair. The bag of Allens lollies in the freezer waiting. Your partner peeling you a banana and making a cup of tea while you’re lying on the couch having some skin-skin time with your new baby.

These moments matter. Your memory will fade but these photos remain to remind you.


Photographs as a map

My friend Donna and I attended a talk on aboriginal astronomy. My main takeaway from this talk was this: When Westerners buy aboriginal art they think its for the beauty. Something to decorate their homes with.

What they are really looking at is a map.

This single sentence pierced through me like an arrow through the heart, like a tiny pinprick had opened a world of light. I was overcome with emotion and nearly burst into tears, covered in goosebumps I thought YES. This is what my art is too. A map.

Not googlemaps or a melways but an indication showing you the direction home. When I take photographs at your birth, im providing you with both an opportunity to time travel and a map so you can always return there.

You can return to that time and that experience whenever you want to, and while you can still get there without the photographs, they provide a prompt.

Something tangible to hold in your hands as you submerge into the story.

The midwife who supported you, the way your partner looked at you, the layout of the room and the song on your spotify playlist. These details matter and they will slowly fade which is why its so important to me to catch them for you. So that you can allow that oxytocin bliss so flow over you again. So you can be outside of yourself looking at your power and vulnerability. Marianne Williamson said 'it is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' You need not be afraid, let me light the way.

Being seen is scary. When it comes to birth this is such a pared back and true sense of the word. Naked, vulnerable. Your true nature. There is no capacity for manners or niceties, the way in which you were cultured to behave in your day to day life stripped back. Your TRUE essence. The essence of you. The essence of your partners relationship with you. The essence of your birth.

Because for me, it was never really about the baby. I know that ultimately by healing mum, I offer the baby a world in which no healing is required because they've never been hurt.

When you see yourself through my lens, you will never be the same again. My true ability is to tap into your power and reflect it back to you. What can happen, as a result of that is that you get to see yourself in a whole new light. Reclaim lost parts of yourself and truly step into your power. Not only can it metamorphise your relationship with yourself but also the relationships of those surrounding you. What greater gift could you possibly offer your baby, your partner, your family, your community?

It starts with a ripple.

It starts with you.


If you would like me to document your birth please get in touch as soon as possible.


A testimonial:

You know, for a couple of weeks after Savannah was born, I would shudder when recalling my labour and birth experience.  It was traumatic.  I didn’t feel empowered, it wasn’t how I’d imagined, I was disappointed.  But in the coming weeks since, I’ve learned to let it go, through patience, acceptance and meditation. 

And what really sealed the ‘letting go’ for me, were your photos and your gifts.

I had forgotten about how Steve fed me jelly in labour – so did he.  I had forgotten about how we giggled when he tried to tie my hair up.  I had even forgotten what the birthing suite looked like.  It was your photos that conjured up all those warm and fuzzy feelings, the pleasant moments, the happy ones.  And now I’m slowly starting to recall my labour with fondness and gratitude, and not feelings of disappointment. 

I can’t stop looking at the photos, each time recalling a different emotion. 

We bloody love them, and we are so grateful to you for your kindness, your professionalism and your support before, during and after Savannah’s birth.  We can’t wait to tell her about you when she’s older. 

And if we go for baby #2, you’ll be our first port of call! 

Thank you so much for everything Liane.  We are so humbled, so grateful, and so thankful for you and your work.

So much warmth, and beautiful blessings,

Steve, Kez, Sav & Kev xoxo