“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.
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~
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)
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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