“Believers, look up – take courage. The angels are nearer than you think.”
You are about to meet Svenja and Jason, and witness one of the happiest days of their lives.
I met these two amazing souls on the darkest, most umimaginable day of their lives. I was called to a Heartfelt session in January 2015 to photograph a beautiful little baby girl. A little girl who had never taken her first breath. That afternoon I photographed Svenja, Jason, and their stillborn daughter, Luna.
As sometimes happens when you meet people in the most raw moments, we kept in touch, became friends. You understand a part of them that many people don’t, or cant, and there is a comfort in that.
After not long Svenja was pregnant again, growing a new life- a life that would provide the ultimate test of her faith. Her faith in her body, in birth, and in life itself.
Being asked to photograph the arrival of this little soul was an honour i didn’t need to think twice about. To witness this birth and watch the journey that this beautiful couple went through to bring their rainbow baby boy earthside is something i will never forget. Every birth requires parents to dig deep into themselves, to find strength, courage they may not have known existed.
The depth of this journey at times, i’m sure, felt bottomless. But surrounded by an incredible team of experienced midwives who held the space for Svenja and Jason to go where they needed to go, little Arlo found his way out into the world, straight into his daddy’s hands. Never has a baby’s first cry meant quite so much.
I thank my beautiful friends and clients for their willingness to share this story… and i hope it helps to show some other families who may be in the depths of their pain, that sometimes, rainbows really do come true.
I’ve really got to stop falling in love with the families i photograph.
I’m not making any promises though.
The first time i stepped into Nikki and Alex’s home i felt my heart expand a little bit. Nikki was heavily pregnant with her third baby, and we were meeting ahead of my photographing her birth. The gentleness of their home was intoxicating in a way that made me not want to leave- to sit on their sofa and drink tea and talk about life while their two year old (gently) terrorised the brand new fluffy white kitten.
Predictably, the day of their birth was gentle and divine, and then months later when i went back to photograph them as a family of five i stepped into a picture of the most exquisite chaos. Here’s a little glimpe into their world… see if you can’t help but curl up on their sofa with a cup of tea and ponder how lovely life can be.
When i blogged the birth of Remy a couple of weeks ago, i got so many beautiful responses from people inspired and brought to tears by the deep connection and beauty of his birth. Nothing makes my heart sing more that allowing people to witness the extraordinary power and beauty that birth can possess.
Well that little family went home and cocooned themselves in a baby bubble while they got to know each other, allowing the outside world to pass them by while they snuggled, fed, slept and looked after themselves.
Here is a little window into those scared early days.
Oh, and introducing….. Remy’s costar, Pai the pooch. x
I see a lot of couples in their most vulnerable, cracked open moments. Where the depth of their relationship is ploughed to it’s base, unveiling their union at its most raw, with all of it’s superficialities peeled away.
To me, the beauty in these moments can be breathtaking.
This beautiful birth is such a divine example of that beauty- the intensity of the love between these two as they birthed their baby together made my heart skip many a beat…
I hope you enjoy taking this journey with them. x
Those final days of pregnancy can look so different, in so many ways… life generally becomes a little slower, a little heavier, and things are kept a little closer to home.
Visiting this divine woman, at home with her two girls in the final days of pregnancy while her partner was off at work, was a beautiful glimpse into those slow, heavy but gentle days. Things outside the home didn’t matter, the girls seemed to understand the pace of things and we easily passed a couple of hours on a drizzly day reading, baking and exploring.
To me it felt like a magnificent moment to capture before everything changes- before the magic of a newborn is introduced in to this home, before this family of four becomes five, before all the routines and patterns of their life shift, maybe a little, maybe a lot, to accommodate a new soul.
A snapshot of a moment in time…
This is Bradley.
At his birth his dad told me he was probably named this because his mum fancies Bradley Cooper.
This fact is yet to be verified.
Tina and David welcomed Bradley into the world amongst a fluster of grandmothers, a great grandmother and aunties. This is one very loved little boy…
Loved, and very, very cute.
Man i’ve loved this journey with these guys. I knew it would be divine as soon as i met them to shoot Trinity’s gorgeous 37 week belly. To then photograph their homebirth, and now their newborn days… they represent everything i love about capturing these stories of families transforming… morphing into their new, expanded, overwhelming form.
And just like any good trilogy… i do hope there’s a part IV, V & VI to come…
Thanks for having me along for the ride guys. xxx
ps there’s some pretty special history going on here… the outfit little Indigo is wearing at the end is the outfit her dad wore home from the hospital after he was born… cute, huh. x
A gorgeous family, at home on a chilly Sunday evening. Their birth team trickle in as it becomes apparent this babe is on it’s way. Mum attempts to put her scrumptious toddler to bed, knowing it is the last bedtime he will be an only child, but of course he knows there is something happening and there is no way he is sleeping. But that’s ok, a close family friend is there to give him all the attention he needs. Quite simply, that involves cars, driving meticulously on any available surface. She is up to the job.
The pool is filled, heartrates checked. Labour takes more and more of her focus, and as she slips into the warm water the room draws quiet. She is calm, she is working hard. And she is ok. Her lover takes care of her with massage, water and tenderness.
Then, late in the evening, her labour changes. We are all roused from our slightly sleepy state that is often induced when in the presence of a calm, labouring woman. The babe is closer.
A couple of magnificent, involuntary howls from mum tell of the immanent arrival… dad gets ready to catch his second born while the midwife, calm and quiet, is there in case he needs a hand.
A beautiful baby girl swims out into her fathers hands and through his tears he lifts her onto her mothers chest.
“A girl. We got a girl!”
Kisses. Tears. Cars get put down, briefly, so brother can meet his sister.
A beer is cracked, cuddles are had, phone calls made, more tears are shed.
This, is homebirth.
~You can have a squiz at this family’s pregnancy photos here~
~The beautiful midwife from this birth can be found here~
A scrumptious pregnant mama.
A Star Wars loving papa.
An automobile obsessed toddler.
And an immaculate EH Holden named Smurfette.
Give me these things ANY day for a pregnancy shoot.
I’m so excited to share this family with you. And the best thing is there’s much more to come. I’ve just completed the most magical journey with these guys capturing them right through the end of pregnancy, their incredible homebirth and those delicious newborn days (daze!)…
Meet Trinity, Aaron and Han (told you about the Star Wars thing!)… my latest family crush.
Oh how i love stepping into peoples lives in these early days…
The newborn wonder. The bleary eyes. The heart melty love.
And that combination of just getting though the days however you can, coupled with trying to get everything…. just right.
I adored Maureen and Doug as soon as i turned up at their front door to capture the magic of their newborn baby girl, Olivia. It helped that Tex, their enchanting golden retriever was the first to greet me at the door- everyone’s favourite doorman. In fact Tex was convinced the shoot was for him.
It could have been.
He’s so damn beautiful.
But he couldn’t outshine the little lady they had welcomed into their lives just weeks before…
Homebirths are a special kind of beautiful to photograph… the beauty of people being in their own space, with all of their comforts around them. Lounges to relax on, mugs of tea on constant rotation, children wandering in an out, candles, music, fresh air… and in the midst of it all, a glorious birthing woman.
A lot of people have reservations about homebirth. What if something goes wrong?
What i think a lot of people can’t quite grasp is just how equipped homebirth midwives are. Not only do they carry medical equipment for emergencies, the nature of their ongoing relationship of one-to-one care with a woman means they are very in tune with what is going on in the birthing mother both physically and psychologically, and have an incredible ability to pick up on issues which may arise, long before they become a problem.
If you’ve followed my work or flicked through my galleries, you will recognise this birthing goddess below. This is the forth homebirth of Emma Isaacs, the last two of which i have photographed. Emma’s third birth was possibly the calmest birth i have ever witnessed- that woman knows her way around serenely pushing a baby out of her vagina. But, of course, no two births are ever the same and Emma’s fourth birth cemented that rule. This birth was mentally and physically tougher than any of her others, and her baby was slow to take a breath when he was born- a scenario which i know is a huge concern of those who fear homebirth. But you know what? Her beautiful midwife Sheryl was well equipped with resuscitation equipment to deal swiftly with what was going on. Whilst still attached to his mother with oxygenated blood pumping into him through his umbilical cord and his loving family gathered around cheering him on, little Ryder let out a squeak to tell us he was ok.
You can read Emma’s account of her birth here…
Oh, and did i mention that this baby was a boy? After 3 girls?? And did i mention that he was 4.9kgs???
Yup. True story.
For a 4 year old- the wait for a baby sibling must feel like FOREVER! Little Mia was very aware of every passing day while she waited for her mother to give birth. Her baby dolls were mothered into oblivion as she waited for the real thing to arrive. Sometimes patiently, sometimes less so. Mind you, her beautiful mum also had her moments on the patience front. You may remember them rock hopping and exploring in the final days of pregnancy here.
Well birth, as it always does, finally happened, and little Mia got her wish of a new baby sister named Ivy. As she very eloquently and gleefully exclaimed to her dad when she found out it was a girl, “Now there are THREE girls and ONE boy in this house.”
Yes, darling. Yes there are.
Here is a little glimpse into their early days of being a family of four. The constant feedings, the need for double the attention, double the pairs of hands, double the patience…. and the pay off… double the delight.
My love to families in this phase right now! I know a few of my mamas are in the midst of it as i write…
Right here, is everything i love about family adventure sessions.
I tagged along with this scrumptious family on one of their weekend picnics and found myself in a whole world of fun… hide and seek amongst the paperbarks, a barefoot family cricket match, an Oscar-worthy reenactment of The Three Billy Goats Gruff and a stroll to the beach as the sun was setting.
Most of the time, it was as if i wasn’t even there… which is exactly how i like it. That’s when we can capture the beauty of how a family is in their magical day to day…
Who’s up for an autumn adventure with me tagging along in my invisible cloak?
Drop me a line and let’s book it in…
Meet Dan, Mia, Nina, Hugo and Jasper the pooch.
These guys decided to show me around their favourite local park near their home for this Family Adventure session…it quickly became clear they know it inside out. Every tree, every garden bed, every hiding spot- this is their own special stomping ground.
We fought off the chilly, windy morning with hot coffee and games of hide and seek, and Nina the Chief Flower Picker systematically worked her way through every blossoming plant in sight. No blooms were safe- no matter how far out of her reach they were… i suspect they see her coming.
Meet Moosh and Maeve. Two little chicas who adore each other in bonkers quantities.
We had booked this session for a Saturday afternoon in late winter, and we thought we may have to push it out because of the rain. It had been drizzling for a couple of days and the morning was soggy and grey. But we held off, and as the sun passed over the sky, it seemed to collect up the clouds as it went. Come mid afternoon the gentle light was dancing through the streets- in that delicious way that it does when a few grey days have gone before. Somehow sweeter, more golden.
Wispy grass, afternoon light and an abundance of freckles… I dream of afternoons like this.
“…if a woman PERCEIVES that she or her baby is threatened with damage; or FEELS horror, fear and helplessness at a procedure…even if this procedure is ROUTINE to medical staff; she can experience that as a traumatic event.
This is REGARDLESS of her level of pain relief at the time.
It is REGARDLESS of the fact that she and her baby leave the hospital alive and physically healthy.”
©Birthtalk.org, Melissa Bruijn & Debby Gould
It is real. It is happening. It is very, very powerful.
A recent Australian study shows that one in three women are reporting a traumatic birth.
One in three. Astonishing, no?
There is a much bigger picture here at play as to why these women are suffering so much as a result of their births- a picture that I’m not here to go into today. Instead I want to tell, and show you, a story of hope.
A dear friend and photography colleague, Anna Todd, and I recently had the honour of holding a birth release ceremony for a very special woman. Just to keep you on your toes, her name is Anna too.
Anna is a single mum to two beautiful boys- Alexander 3yrs, and Mikhail, 3 months. Without going into too many details- Alexander’s birth was a traumatic event for Anna. For Mikhail’s birth she was hoping for a healing experience- ideally, a waterbirth. But Anna ended up with a Caesarean birth under general anaesthetic with Mikhail at 35 weeks, resulting in Mikhail spending time in the special care nursery.
Three months on, Anna was struggling to move on from her birth experiences. She read online about a Birth Release Ceremony and knew this was something that would help her to move forward. She reached out to Anna Todd to ask if this was something she could help with, and Anna asked me, as a doula, to come on board. To hold the ceremony whilst she photographed it.
I love ritual and ceremony. One of my dearest friends, Elizabeth Trevan, is a wedding, baby naming and funeral celebrant and we have an ongoing, endless discussion about about the power of ritual and ceremony. I consulted her about the essential elements of creating this ceremony for Anna and she reminded me that the most important element, is setting a clear intention.
The day of Anna’s ceremony arrived… ahead of time I asked Anna to set her intention for the ceremony (as had i), and to create an altar- similar to a birth altar- with significant and powerful items from her childhood and her mother, from both of her boys births and newborn days, and anything else that she felt especially connected to.
When we arrived I cleansed the space (a sprinkling of witchcraft), and sat down with Anna as she told me her birth stories. What had happened, how she felt, the effect it had on her. Every last detail she wished to share. She told us about her mother, parts of her childhood, her family.
Then we prepared a warm, healing herbal bath and immersed Anna in it to begin the ceremony of release.
I want to let these incredible photographs below by Anna Todd Photography tell you the rest of this story- my words would not be enough.
How very blessed I am to have women like Anna Todd that I work alongside. Women feel very safe and comfortable having Anna in their birthing space, and likewise Anna (mama Anna) felt very comfortable and supported in having Anna Todd capture her Birth Release Ceremony. For her- having the photos to look back on were an important part of the journey.
In the days following the ceremony- the most special thing that Anna reported back to us was that she felt her bonds were stronger not only with baby Mikhail, but with Alexander as well. She was amazed at how powerful the effect of the ceremony was- and of the strong feelings of relief that followed. I put this down to the fact that she was READY to let go of those experiences as she knew they were no longer serving her. She had set the intention and was ready to heal.
If you have experienced a traumatic birth, there are networks out there to help you. You don’t have to carry the burden alone. Talk to a midwife, doula, counsellor, therapist. Check out www.birthtalk.org and their blog, Birth Trauma Truths. Reach out. You too can heal.
I would like to send a huge thanks to mama Anna for giving us her blessing to share her story with you. As with birth photography, these are very special, private and emotional moments. I know she wishes for other mothers to begin their journey of healing, just as she has.
If you feel a Birth Release Ceremony would help you, or someone you know, feel free to contact Anna Todd or myself.
You can see more of Anna Todd’s divine work here.
Looking for organic herbal remedies? The herbal bath remedy we used was from Blissful Herbs. It was truly divine.
I would like to introduce to you Nadine, Jonathan, Rocco and Ines.
What do you need to know about this family?
I met Nadine 6 years ago when we were both doulaing in London. My first memory of her is that she had the sparkliest eyes, the reddest lips and the most wicked cackle I’d ever heard. I adored her immediately.
Jonathan, her husband, is an infuriating ace with a ping pong bat. More alarming than that is that he clearly learnt everything he knows on that front from his delightfully well spoken English mother, Rosemary. Andy and I challenged them to doubles, once. Just once.
Jonathan’s negronis are almost as good as his table tennis.
I was Nadine’s doula for the homebirth of Ines 18 months ago. Doulaing the doula- now there’s an honour. An easy honour. I turned up, took some photographs, watched on in awe and helped clean up afterward. Oh, and ate Rosemary’s freshly baked sponge cake at midnight. It was incredible. And well worth leaving a Stephen Merchant show at the Opera House for.
In preparation for his mum’s birth, 6 year old Rocco drew pictures of Nadine giving birth to put up around the birth pool. Written on them was, “You can do it mummy, I know you can” and, “You did it for me, you can do it again.” And you know what? He was right.
When she gave birth to Ines, Nadine managed to pass on the sparkliest eyes in the world. That kid is like kryptonite.
I love these guys to bits.They have one of the happiest households i have ever known.
As you will see from these photographs- we started this session at sunrise at North Bondi, Ines had a refreshingly unexpected dunk in the cool autumn waves (and recovered spectacularly well), we went home for a quick change and then headed into Surry Hills for brunch.
How did it feel being asked to capture their family at this very point in time? Well, hopefully you can see how that felt through these photographs.
Sometimes, birth doesn’t go as we planned it. As we imagined it. As we hoped with all our hearts it would.
Sometimes we need to dig very deep in our souls to accept that we cannot always control how things unfold, despite all of the preparation we undertook to get there.
This beautiful family has gone on such a journey. Lisa and Peter were doula clients of mine, planning on a natural birth for their first baby. But after 3 nights of labouring like a goddess, Lisa’s babe wasn’t budging. The decision was made to go to theatre. It was not made lightly.
However, this glorious woman refused to lose her sense of humour… that theatre was filled with joy and laughter, and thus, their daughter was born into a room of warmth and love.
It is possible this babe was waiting to share her birthday with her mama… which she now does. Together, they celebrated with a glass of very well earned French fizz.
Birth is an overwhelmingly spectacular event, however it happens.
I introduce to you… Evie.
Is there anything more scrumptious than a full mop of hair on a newborn baby?
Teeny tiny milk spots?
This delectable newbie got a bit greedy as she passed the Cuteness Collection Point, i feel.
Throughout her mum’s pregnancy, Ziggy was the working title for this little babe who’s gender was a surprise. Ziggy turned out to be a girl, and has been blessed with the name Annabelle. But she’s still Ziggy to everyone… so she gets to keep her moniker.
Ladies and Gentlemen… meet Annabelle Ziggy, with her support cast of a besotted mum and dad, and a DOTING grandma direct from Canada.
If you’ve spent any time sniffing around my blog, there are some gorgeous faces you will recognise here. I love having families come back time and time again for me to document different chapters of their lives.
This is the Isaacs.
I met Emma, Rowan, Milla and Honey a couple of years ago and have had the pleasure of photographing Emma’s Blessingway for her third pregnancy, and the subsequent birth of the beautiful Indie which you can see here.
Emma joined me a few weeks back when i was interviewed on Wake Up on TEN about Birth Photography, (that’s here) and then just last week i spent an afternoon with them, hanging out at home and rock hopping at Maroubra.
The chaos of the Isaacs household is infectious- these spirited, rambunctious girls sweep you up into their world of wild to a point where the reality outside magically vanishes…
For those who missed it- here is the interview i did for Wake Up on TEN with Natarsha Belling, James Mathison and my beautiful client, Emma Isaacs. Exploring the big question- “why” birth photography.
I recently had the honour of photographing the 29th Homebirth Australia Conference at Brisbane City Hall. The weekend provided a space for like-minded birth workers and the greater homebirth community to share wisdom, evidence, knowledge and stories around their work in, and personal experiences of, the world of homebirth. Keynote speakers came from across the globe and from down the road to impart words of encouragement and inspiration to this small, yet fiercely passionate community.
For those who attended the weekend, those who couldn’t make it, and those tempted to attend next year- I share these photos with you as a reminder and insight into the wonderful weekend it was.
Friday night kicked off the weekend with an intimate audience with keynote speaker, Sara Wickham, and a student midwives circle led by Jane Hardwicke Collings. Sara was presented with a custom made “pinard trumpet”…
Saturday morning hit full swing with a marketplace in the beautiful Brisbane City Hall before the games began…
The Homebirth Australia Conference Goddesses
The fearless Catherine Deveny led the charge as Mistress of Ceremonies and had us howling before we’d finished our first coffee… “putting the ‘bacon’ back into homebirth”.
Sara Wickham on Addressing Risk
“Almost any time we use the word ‘risk’ in relation to childbirth we could choose to use the word ‘chance’ instead. The meaning stays the same but it is no longer cloaked in fear.”
Rachel Reed– Authoritive Knowledge & Informed Decision Making
Homebirth Australia’s most mini spokesperson
Sue Cookson- The Boiling Frog Syndrome, followed by a standing ovation of support
Midwife Jo Hunter on Vexatious Reporting
“Midwifery is the oldest profession on the planet.”
The Red Tent
Homebirth Australia’s Cherie Shuberrie
Handing Down of the Knowledge Ceremony, led by Sonja MacGregor. Inspired by the Blessingway tradition, midwives and student midwives feed beads onto a string to represent the collective knowledge. This is added to at each conference.
Consumer Informed Choice Panel- women telling their stories
Jane Hardwicke Collings and Judy Mort- Students Midwives Circle
Debby Gould & Melissa Brujin of BirthTalk on Birth Trauma – Is Homebirth the Answer
Dr Sarah Buckley– Homebirth – The Safest Choice
The Conference Dinner, Saturday evening. These shots are from early in the night, elegant and civilised.
And that’s exactly where we are going to leave it.
First up Sunday morning- Dr Andrew Bisits, Royal Hospital for Women Randwick
“Anything that interferes with labour is a potential threat to the bond between the mother and baby. This is part of a labouring woman’s instinctive response.”
Catherine Deveny opens her heart and tells us her own truth- and makes me sob behind my camera
Clockwise from top left-
Charlotte Young- The Power of Storytelling
Jessica Offer- The Way to Pippa’s Birth
Hazel Keedle- Women’s Reasons for & Experiences of Choosing a Homebirth After a Caesarean
Talulah Gough- Healing the Mamatoto
Hazel Keedle- Women’s Reasons for & Experiences of Choosing a Homebirth After a Caesarean
My Midwives Ispwich – Collaboration gradually changing one community’s perceptions of homebirth.
Practitioner Informed Choice Panel- Sara Wickham, Andrew Bisits, Rachel Reed, taking questions from the floor
Clare Davidson- WA Women’s Reason for & Experience of Birth with a Private Midwife
Sara Wickham pulls it all together with Own Birth, Own Knowing- encouraging us to work together, sharing our knowledge, sharing our wisdom.
The fundraising raffle contained some rather spectacular prizes- including a vulva puppet- prompting reactions such as this…
The glorious Sonja MacGregor
Jane Hardwicke Collings, School of Shamanic Midwifery, leads a spine tingling closing ceremony… drums, candles, and a sprinkling of magic.
Ok, and one of me with my favourite birth boffin, Sara Wickham. May we meet again.
So there you have it.
Now, will i see you in Melbourne, May 2015?
This week I was asked to be a guest on the morning television program Wake Up on Ten to discuss the growing trend of birth photography. Thrilled, I agreed. I was asked to bring one of my clients with me so that together, we could give them both sides of the story- in front, and behind the camera.
There has been a lot of media flying around about birth photography over the past couple of weeks in reaction to a story from the UK’s Daily Mail which stated that 1 in 5 pregnant women would consider getting a birth photographer. As often happens with such an article- particularly with something new like this that challenges people’s comfort levels, there has been very strong feedback from the public both in favour, and vehemently against the concept.
In preparing for the show, I wasn’t sure what angle they were going to take with the interview. Would they be in support of this growing genre? Or would they ask the questions that seem to arise time and time again regarding ‘invasion of privacy’, ‘intrusion on the sacred space’, and the predictable ‘that’s the last bloody thing I’d want anywhere near me while I was going through THAT!’
As it turned out the interview was very positive, the gorgeous hosts were on board and the whole segment gave a beautiful spin on birth photography and showed it in all its glory.
But the preparation for this interview made me think. I needed to clarify my line in my own head about why I strongly believe birth photography is a good thing. What is it that draws women to hire me? And what is it that makes people react so negatively to the concept of this?
Here is the thing. There are aspects of birth photography that I know are not always ideal in the birthing space. After 8 years of working as a doula, one of the biggest lessons I have learned is that the less disturbed labour is, the more straightforward birth will be. And by disturbed I refer to, amongst other things- medical interventions, light, language, shifts in location (e.g. travelling to hospital), and being watched. [You can read Sarah Buckley’s insights on “Undisturbed Birth” here.] Inhibition is bound to stall labour. That is because birth takes part in the primal part of our brain- our primal selves and our self-conscious selves are not friends.
Being watched. Isn’t that exactly what photographing someone is doing? Yes.
Yes it is.
Here’s another thing. The other, equally as important thing I have learned about a labouring woman is that the thing she needs most, is support. She needs to feel safe with her caregivers and her support people. She needs to feel loved and protected and free to be whoever she needs to be to bring her baby into the world.
So… in terms of birth photography- how does this all piece together? How and when does a birth photographer not disturb the balance of a woman’s birthing space? I believe this is where it is ALL about the connection between the woman, and the photographer. Is the photographer a person she connects with, feels safe with, and trusts to be in her sacred space? Does the photographer have knowledge of birth physiology and the delicate dance of hormones that allow a woman to birth her baby? Does the birthing woman feel secure in the knowledge that the photographer is there to support her journey and capture her magnificence? And does the photographer have a heightened sensitivity of the woman’s needs- is she responsible for the energy she brings to that space at all times?
When all of these factors are aligned, the relationship can become one of deep support and respect, which can enrich, rather than disrupt, one of life’s most magical journeys.
Beyond the Birth
Why do women choose to have their births photographed? The most common reasons are to have a record of their baby’s first breath, to capture the moments when her and her partner become parents to this little being, the first moments they meet their new love. But when I deliver birth photographs to families- I get the feeling that the meaning of those photographs goes a whole lot deeper than that. A woman who laboured beautifully at home in water and birthed her baby right where she visualised she would will often look at the photographs in awe of what she achieved and say “MY body did that!”; a woman who hoped for a natural birth but made decisions different to what she had planned will often look at her photos and be reminded that she put in an enormous effort before the journey took a different path and realise that it wasn’t all for nothing; and a woman who has her baby by elective caesarean in theatre will be reminded that going into an operating theatre at any time- even when it is by choice- takes a lot of courage and is an overwhelmingly huge experience.
I believe it helps women OWN their births. And heal their births.
And further again I see that it gives women an insight into the incredible amount of love and support that was surrounding them through their birthing process. To be able to witness the look of concern, and utter awe in her older child’s face, when her own face was buried in the side of a birth pool- riding one of her countless contractions, to see her doulas red thumbs, pressed into the small of her back as rocks side to side on the birth ball, to see her partner keeping guard by her bed, not leaving her for a second while she sleeps after the exhausted decision was made to have an epidural. All of these perspectives that she otherwise, would not have seen.
And on a broader scale- when birth photographs are shown to the greater community- I believe that in a small way, we are clawing back the vision of birth that movies and media have mis-portrayed to us over the years. The image of a woman in theatre, dressed in a blue hospital gown, legs in stirrups, screaming at her partner and being rescued of her baby by a masked doctor. You know the ones. That is the image of birth that society is fed, time and time again. And sure, maybe that picture is sometimes a reality, but it doesn’t have to be.
Birth doesn’t have to be scary and bloody and screamy and dangerous.
Birth is beautiful. Birthing women are magnificent. Every single one of them. And the more we start to see of that, the sooner we will start to heal the wounded image that we as a society carry of birth, and will open ourselves to the deep magnificence it has to offer.
And that is why I photograph births.
(Clearly, a five-minute slot on a morning chat show was not the space unleash these thoughts to the world. But if you would like to watch the Wake Up on TEN segment entitled Capturing The First Breath, you can do so here)
I feel a bit lost shooting landscapes. It feels strange to have no little feet to chase after, or no labouring woman to marvel at and capture the beauty of.
I feel overwhelmed by being surrounded by the immense proportions of a world so beautiful- how can you capture that in a shot? Or even a series of shots?
None the less, occasionally, I try. Sometimes I feel I have no choice but to try and freeze some of what my eyes are seeing- perhaps in an attempt to digest the beauty at another time, because in that moment it is too big for my heart.
That was how I felt last weekend during a visit to Falls Creek, Victoria. I have never been to this famed ski village in winter when it is bathed in snow- it would be another world entirely- but in summer it is beyond glorious.
The powerful charge of the mountains and the crisp, thin air make you feel, literally, on top of the world.
Early mornings by the ocean are without question my favourite way to start a day. So when someone asks for a family photography session, early in the morning, at MY local beach… it’s a whole trifecta of goodness that I love.
Natasha, John, Oliver and Ruby came to have an early morning play at Bronte a couple of months ago, and I tagged along for the capturation.
We jumped the waves, threw sand balls at the rising shoreline and explored the sandstone cliffs. Oliver swiftly stole my heart.
But then, I suspect he’s well practiced at that.
I have a story to tell you about little girl named Lily, and her amazing parents, Dave and Jess.
Dave and Jess were ready to start their family, so were thrilled to find out they were pregnant with their first child. That elation got turned on it’s head when, at 16 weeks pregnant, Jess’s waters broke. They were told there was nothing much they could do except to stay on bed rest and hope for the best. The baby’s chance of survival was 1 in 100. Rather than expecting the worst, Dave and Jess decided that without doubt, that 1% chance was theirs. They welcomed their community to send their energy, prayers and wishes to their fragile little baby, and Jess spent the next 8 weeks at home in bed.
At 24 weeks pregnant, the little fighter was still holding on, despite being in an amniotic sac which never resealed, so Jess was moved to Royal North Shore Hospital where she spent the next 5 weeks. On the 13th March 2013, at 29 weeks pregnant, Jess went into labour. Plans for a caesarean section were being made but this clever baby had other plans. Before they could make it to theatre, Jess birthed a breech baby girl named Lily Mireya Missio, weighing just 1.67kg.
Lily spent the next 5 months in intensive care and the following 2 months in the children’s ward- her biggest challenges being lung function and digestion. Remarkably, Jess expressed breastmilk for every single feed for her little girl, to give her the very best chance possible. During Lily’s time in hospital Dave and Jess tag teamed an around-the-clock roster (whilst Dave held down a full time job)- so they were with Lily every step of the way.
After 205 days in hospital, it was decided Lily was well enough to go home. Still on constant oxygen and a feeding tube, there are some challenges to overcome, but given the tenacity she has shown thus far, no one has any doubt she’s up for the challenge.
I was lucky enough to capture Dave and Jess finally taking their little girl home. This was only the second time she had been out of the hospital walls, into fresh air, and it was the very first time Lily had felt the sun on her face. What a beautiful day it was.
Oh, and you might even spot me in there having a little cuddle.
A couple of months back I was thrilled to hear that this birth photograph i took back in March had been selected as a finalist for the Renaissance Photography Prize in London. This competition raises money for the Lavender Trust, an amazing organisation committed to supporting young women with breast cancer.
I was particularly thrilled that they chose a birth photo to be part of the exhibition, as i firmly believe that the more that people see how beautiful and powerful and unscary birth can be, the more that we as a society can start viewing birth as a normal, physiological event not to be feared, but to be embraced and rejoiced.
The exhibition has been on this week in London, with framed prints of the photographs being sold for the Lavender Trust. You can check them out here.
And I thank Rebecca, my divine subject, for inviting me into her birth space and allowing me to share this image with the world. You can see more images from Rebecca’s birth here.
Meet Emma. Homebirthing goddess, producer of delectable daughters (all three of them), business entrepreneur. Basically, Queen Juggler.
This was one of the most peaceful births i have ever attended. Emma laboured gently and silently in the pool, surrounded by her husband, her mother and her midwife, Sheryl Sidery. She smiled as she birthed her baby’s head and slowly lifted her daughter to the surface. Her birth was so swift that her daughters went for a play in the park and came home to a new sister. Her birth was so swift that i only just made it in the door.
Emma is determined to open peoples minds to the possibility that they can ENJOY their births. And OWN their births.
You can read her blog post on Indie’s birth here.
We need more Emmas in this world.
Please, do not share, edit or reproduce any images here without permission.
Your respect is requested. In fact, it is a requirement of attendance.
You met Tess, Jeremy and their rambunctious boys in an earlier family post… well here, you’re lucky enough to witness the birth of their third beautiful boy.
Tess’s birth with the twins had been a pretty medicalised event, so all she wanted from this birth was a calm, fuss free entrance into the world for her little one. Well, seek and you shall find… that was exactly what she got. A beautiful, uninterrupted water birth in a birth centre with her lover, her doula and the midwife of her choice.
Tess and Jeremy worked as one body to bring their perfect, cheesy(!) baby into the world.
Simple and exquisite.
Please, do not share, edit or reproduce any images here without permission.
Your respect is requested. In fact, it is a requirement of attendance.
Meet Jeremy, a very pregnant Tess and their twin boys, Archer and Jude. How fun it was to spend a morning with them… Fun, and maybe a little bit crazy.
Pirates terrorising the garden, rockin’ out on the guitar, a dance party to Pearl Jam (every 3 year old boy’s favourite band, right?) and some pretty impressive gymnastics courtesy of dad-the-climbing-frame.
This is a family that that is frequently doubled over with belly laughs. It’s divine.
Not only was I lucky enough to capture this family session late in Tess’s pregnancy, I also captured the birth of their third baby a few weeks later.
I might share that one with you soon, if you fancy.
Well hi there… so nice to see you here. Welcome!
POP! Hear that? That’s my blog cherry. It’s all terribly exciting.
To mark the occasion I would like to share with you a birth that I documented not too long ago…
This birth was a so very special (ok you’ve got me, they all are, every single one of them). It was the first birth that I attended alongside my doula sister, Lucretia McCarthy. What a treat it was to watch her work… she was calm, compassionate, thoughtful and funny. Oh, and she does a mean double-hip squeeze. All the things a doula should be.
But the real treat was witnessing Rebecca, this strong, beautiful woman, and Philippe, her unflinchingly focussed, loving partner, welcome their second little boy into the world. They worked so beautifully together, and between them, Lucretia and their wonderful midwife, the room was filled with a complete trust in the wisdom and ability of Rebecca’s body to birth this baby.
Welcome to the world, Tosh.
I’d like to take a moment here to thank the families, and especially women who give their permission for me to share these extremely personal images with you all. I am in awe of every one of you and eternally grateful.
Please, do not share, edit or reproduce any images here without permission.
Your respect is requested. In fact, it is a requirement of attendance.