• Sarah

My favorite session to photograph

What are the most joyous days in my life? The days my children were born. Sadly, I don't have many photos of that day, or of much else because I was pretty preoccupied. I have loved giving that gift to others as they invite me into those sacred birth spaces.

Birth photography is coming out of the shadows and into the spotlight. It is becoming much more common, according to The International Association of Professional Birth Photographers (IAPBP), an organization that aims to help connect interested parents with birth photographers in their area.

I'm so glad that I can be apart of something that also helps heal others as they process the birth of their child.

So how did I come from photographing sports for my high school yearbook to photographing babies coming into the world? I’ve had three kids. No photographer was at any of them. Now look at me: I’m a birth photographer.

I’ve thought about this a lot. It wasn’t really a thing when I had my kids. Obviously I wanted pictures of them as soon as they were out. But pictures of the process? Didn’t even cross my mind. Now, I totally regret it, and I absolutely love capturing this for other moms.

Rewind to 2017 when my little sister was having her baby boy. He was breech so the doctor planned on a c-section. A couple of weeks before the planned cesarean, my sister and I drove up together to be there for our sister’s baby shower. It was going to be a fun weekend, just the two of us and our little girls with our sister and mom.

As we drove up, Katie calls us and tells us that the doctor changed his mind (I’m kind of fuzzy on the details as to why) and that he wanted to deliver the baby the next day, the day of the shower. She needed to know if we would arrive in time to attend the shower rescheduled for that evening. We said of course and continued on our merry way, excited that we would get to meet our new nephew sooner than later.

The shower was a blast as we laughed, shared stories and gave advice to the soon-to-be new mom.

Somehow, in that time period, it occurred to me to ask Katie if I could take pictures of the delivery. At that time, I had never heard of birth photography, nor did I know that it was actually a thing. Not to mention, photographing a c-section is somewhat of a holy grail for photographers because not many ORs allow photographers in there.

Amazingly, she and my brother in law agreed to have me there. I couldn’t contain my excitement. What luck! I barely slept that night and was pretty groggy when my alarm woke me around 6:30 to get ready to head to the hospital. Katie and Chris were already there.

What followed was just fascinating. I’ve never had a c-section before so the process was all new to me. I photographed her getting checked by the nurse, walking to the OR, getting anesthetized, and then getting the incision. The rest was a blur as I witnessed the arrival of my nephew Liam. Tears filled my eyes making it difficult to see what I was photographing and I prayed I was getting the shots in focus. What an amazing experience. It was magical, powerful, and life changing. I was hooked. I wanted more.

Many months passed before I could photograph my next birth. I was fortunate to have a friend (and my neighbor) work to be a certified doula. As I followed her journey towards her goal, my mind kept thinking how we could work together and how fun and awesome that would be. I spoke with her about it and she agreed that it would be a great collaboration.

That September, 6 months after the birth of my nephew, Dani and I worked together at our mutual friend’s delivery. She chose a non-medicated birth. It, too, was inspiring and empowering! To see her work through the contractions, to see her birth team work hard to help her through them, to witness her relief and joy when her baby girl finally arrived earth-side, again, filled me with immense joy.

I couldn’t wait for my next one. Just a couple of months later, I photographed a fast labor of my friend’s final baby. It gave me such a rush and left me wanting more!

I didn’t have long to wait. My doula friend Dani delivered her baby non-medicated early December. That birth has some of my most powerful images that I’ve ever taken. They literally give me chills every time I look at them. To witness her strength and resilience as she worked hard to bring her baby here just leaves me speechless.

I realized that I would photograph these for nickels and dimes if I could. Unfortunately, it just can’t happen. Births are so unpredictable. They can be as little as an hour, or as long as 26 hours. They can happen during the day or the night. They can happen during a holiday or during a weekday. You just can’t schedule them in. Planning must be done. The on-call life has become routine for me and my family. Sacrifices are made.

I’m so grateful though for a family who is supportive of my dreams and aspirations. I couldn’t do it without them. My goal isn’t to do this to sustain my family. It’s just to do enough to give me that surge of joy and to do the same for those women and families who I photograph.

Those images are more than just images. When I deliver those images, I deliver love. Hope. A memory of what happened. Healing when a birth doesn’t happen the way one wants. Those images empower. They help the women know if they went through what they did, they can do anything.

If that’s something I can do, what little it is to help other women, then oh, let me do it as long as I can for as many who want me to.

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