“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 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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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