It’s a well-known fact that life’s milestone moments are celebrated with photographs.
I think about the money I shelled out for a wedding photographer and senior portraits. But I never thought I would find myself in my friend’s hospital room last night capturing the details, emotion, and story of her childbirth. It just never crossed my mind as an option.
I had my youngest child 7 years ago, and I don’t think many women were inviting photographers into the delivery room back then. It’s easy to understand why. Birth is an intensely private, vulnerable, and even messy experience.
But a few months ago, my dear friend turned to me and asked if I would consider being present at her delivery for the purpose of taking pictures. I’m sure she could see the surprise on my face. She knew that photography is a hobby of mine and has seen my photos through the years. At the birth of her first child, her doula took photos that my friend cherishes. She wasn’t hiring a doula for her second birth, but wanted the same kind of pictures. I was humbled and honored that she asked me and immediately agreed to help.
As the months passed, I discovered through casual conversation that this is not an unheard of idea. More and more women are asking close friends to document their deliveries through photography. My neighbor gave me advice based on her recent experience taking pictures at a birth. “Shoot everything,” she said. “Your friend can always delete a photo later if she doesn’t like it.”
So I charged two cameras and packed them by the door. I anticipated the sudden notice of impending delivery for a week. Finally, the day after her due date, I got the call. I met my friend and her husband at the hospital and settled into the room with them. My role was an observer. I documented the entire experience, from the pain on her face during contractions to the joy as her baby boy was first placed in her arms. Some of the photos are graphic, and some are sweet. I must admit it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I was there at my friend’s request, for her own reasons, but I benefitted from watching the beautiful, amazing miracle of birth.
Not everyone is going to want photos of their birth experience, but for those that do I have a suggestion to help ensure it goes well. Communicate.
It’s important for both the birthing mom and the photographer to understand what’s wanted. My friend knew it was okay to call my home phone in the middle of the night. I knew she didn’t need me to offer emotional support during her delivery. I also knew she was looking for photos that told the whole story that she could tuck away and cherish, not artistic shots she could blow up and place on her wall.
I’m so glad I could help my friend document this important milestone. Now excuse me, as I edit the nearly 350 photos I took and get them to her as soon as possible!