One afternoon, a few weeks after giving birth to my first son, I looked down at him latched onto my breast. I saw the most staggeringly beautiful image I had ever seen. He was simply lying there, latched on and with his eyes closed. I have struggled for five years to describe what I saw. It was beautiful, empowering, transformative.
I took a picture.
I have yet to stop taking those pictures. Through the act of breastfeeding I have found empowerment. I have learned that my body is the most powerful machine on Earth. I grew a baby inside my body. I birthed a baby with my body. I nourish a baby with my body. Through the medium of photography, I have been able to internalize and celebrate this empowerment.
So when I became pregnant with my second son, I knew I wanted my birth to be photographed. I had come to learn that birth photography is a profession all its own. I had a very dis-empowering birth with my first son, and I was on a mission to make my second birth experience reflect the empowerment that I had gained through breastfeeding.
I was going to give birth at home in a pool of water, with midwives and a doula. I was going into this birth with a completely different mindset than I had with the first. I wasn’t going to just “get through it” or see it as something to get over with. I wanted to celebrate birth.
I wanted to recognize that my body was about to do something spectacular. I wanted to feel connected to the primal instincts that would bring my baby into my life.
Initially I felt unsure about having someone there taking photos while I gave birth. It felt too intimate a moment to have someone going “click, click” at me. Then I learned that cameras these days don’t go “click, click,” and it surely wouldn’t be any more invasive than my first birth, when I struggled to push my son out and the head doctor invited the entire resident team in to watch as they finally gave me an episiotomy. I lay back, gazing at about 10 heads between my knees. None of them made eye contact, of course, because they were all staring at my vagina.
I found my birth photographer through simple word of mouth. She came to my house before the birth so we could meet and go over what sort of photos I hoped to have. I wanted pretty much everything photographed. But she asked if there were times that I wanted her to leave the room or if there were family members I didn’t want photographed. I also gave her a tour of my home and a rundown of how a home birth would go. She was someone I connected with, someone I knew was on my side. And I could feel her excitement about being present for such a momentous occasion.
When the day came, I texted her, saying it was time. She arrived a short time later. The atmosphere in the house was so electric that the only person who heard the doorbell was me. “It’s the fucking photographer! Open the door!” My husband buzzed her in. I saw her walk barefoot passed me to our dining room table, where we agreed she would keep her equipment. Then, I do not remember her presence at all until I had a baby on my chest. I looked up to weep and cry and be born again, and there she was, camera to her eye.
And now I get to have these photographs for the rest of my life. I get to have actual photographic evidence that I am mighty. I am a powerful being that brings life to Earth. My body is not broken. I am not a victim. Birth is not an illness.
You do not have to have a home birth to have a birth photographer. You don’t even need to have a professional. But I highly recommend seeing birth as a celebration and an example of how powerful you are. And I recommend that someone, anyone, snap some pics of you. You will not regret it.
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