Birth Photography

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.


A daylight homebirth

When it comes to birth, my philosophy is that what is good for mum is good for everyone. The January Harshe quote comes to mind:

"I don't care what kind of birth you have...a homebirth, scheduled cesarean, an epidural hospital birth or if you give birth alone in the woods next to a baby deer. I care that you had options, that you were supported in your choices and that you were respected."

Im careful when I talk about birth/feeding because I don’t ever want you to think I would or could judge you for your decisions. Thats not my role. I subscribe to the concept of unconditional positive regard, which means that I believe in your decision making and will support you regardless.

So with this in mind, Im going to start sharing more birth stories on my blog (naturally, if you’re seeing it here that is because I have express permission from the families I serve)

The Arrival of Silver Lou

This particular birth I arrived just in time. Just.

We were awaiting the arrival of their third baby, mama had been on-again-off-again labour for two weeks. Dad called me around 11am and said ‘look im just heading home from work, she might be in labour…I don’t know if you want to come down?’ Since this birth was just over an hour from my home and I knew the traffic would be light I said ‘Look, id love to come down now and if I arrive and its too early or you feel like im bothering you i’ll leave.’ I found out later that as he left work the guys joked that he would be back in an hour.

As I pulled up out the front of the house and went to get my camera bag from the passenger seat I could hear mum and thought. Oh we are ON! My many years on the triage desk at The Womens’ Hospital has attuned my ear.

I raced across the road, took a deep breath and stepped into the house as gingerly as I could. They were right in the zone. Dad in the pool with mama and the nurses were relaxed but close by. This baby wasn’t far away.

When I went back to look at the time of the photos from the moment I arrived out the front of the house to babies arrival was nine minutes!

This mama so calmly breathed her baby out and I will never forget the looks on their faces when they realised they had a baby girl after two boys. Because Silver was born into water, the nurses explained, she hasn’t realised she’s been born. She was so calm as Rhiannon gently blew air onto her face as a way to let her know she had reached the surface.

Im so incredibly blessed to work with these amazing families who not only allow me to witness and document such a sacred moments but also allow me to share these image with you.

CapelSoundDaylightHomebirth

Fine wine, cheese....some things get better with time

Some things get better witth time. Have you ever thought about purchasing something, ummed and ahhed and then eventually gone through with it?. Then as time passes its become more valuble? 

I had a family portrait painted by one of my favorite Etsy sellers. I think I had been following this artists work for about a year before I decided to take the leap and make the purchase. At the time it was slightly more than I would like to spend and it felt like such an indulgent purchase. Who was I to spend so much on something just for me? 

Fast forward 3 years and I'm ssoo glad I did! Shortly after I made the purchase she announced that her business was going in a different direction and she would no longer be doing custom portraits. I loved this picture when she sent it to me and I think every time I look at it I love it more and more. Gradually the meaning of the picture changed, from a cute family portrait that we later printed on our wedding invitations, giving it so much more meaning. 

Its now printed on high quality, 300gsm paper, framed and has pride of place in the back of our lounge-room. The picture has already moved house with us once and I can only imagine what will unfold in the future. 

So if you're hesitating when it comes to either birth photography or updating those family photos, whether its because you want to lose a few kilos first or because it seems like an indulgent spend. I like to think of the 'front porch' analogy. Now I have no idea why the oldies in this story like to sit on the front porch..but thats where they hang out. So think....you're an old lady sitting in your rocking chair with your bestie rocking next to you. What are you talking about? How tidy your house was when you got a new Dyson? Or how your life got better the older you got? Are you marvelling at how tiny your waist was when you were in your 30s and cursing that younger version of yourself for being stressed out about the occasional indulgence? Are you flicking through your family albums? I don't use the word 'investment' when it comes to photography because I know that you wont one day sell these photos and get a great ROI. What I do know is that financial markets aside, what is the point if not for a little indulgence? Not only will your-elderly-self thank you. But your great-great grandchildren will too. As much as I hate to think about it, I do worry that future generations will be left with millions of fast photos in a cloud that they never look back at. So hire a photographer, whether thats me or someone else. Hire someone to capture these memories forever and to distill the story into an album for the ages. 

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Picture by Jess Miles of In the Daylight