As a childbirth educator and doula, I've witnessed many births and said, "Look! There's the baby's head!" while, well, looking at the baby's head crowning. While moms may not want everyone looking down there even without a camera lens, many are fine with it — but many others wouldn't dream of having the actual birth photographed.
"I posed in Playboy," says mom Stephanie Adams, "but taping the birth of my child was not an option for me. It was a private — not always so pretty — spiritual event between just me, my husband, and my baby (OK, the doctor too) and I do not believe others should later view the process on video — instead, just view photos after."
Dana M. recalls the births of her sons: "I was delighted to see them entering the world when I wasn't exhausted and focusing on pushing them out. It was neat to watch a birth from my body and see my sons come into the universe."
Professional birth photographer Ashley Jones says, "I have not been asked yet to take photos of the baby's head crowning, but would have no problems doing so. After giving birth, you realize that some of those 'private' parts become very public when they become functional in childbirth and no longer sexy. I always leave it up to the client what they would like me to capture and how much they want me to show."
Professional birth photographer Nicole Bradley echoes Jones' sentiment but also thinks photos of the actual birth is something parents should consider based on their comfort level. She says, "Every mom-to-be comes to their birth experience with a different history. I find it’s important to my clients to meet them where they are. For a few this means absolutely no birth photos. For some it means they want to see it all — no detail is too personal or graphic."
Many moms' initial reaction to the idea is "No way!" However, some mothers change their mind as the birth of their baby approaches. Talk to your photographer and let her know exactly how you feel — what types of photos you are looking for and which ones you consider inappropriate.
"For many, the idea of photographing the birth itself is something we talk about, at length, over the course of their pregnancy," explains Bradley. "Usually my clients are a little resistant to the idea at first. And while I can’t dictate what is best for any family, I do encourage my clients to consider birth photos because it is a moment they can’t ever have back. They may feel differently after the birth of their child. Most of my clients end up opting for shooting the birth and I offer to put those photos in a separate digital folder so they can view them when and if they feel ready. It’s better to have the option to delete photos you don’t want later than to not have photos you later wish you had."
Kimberly McGuinness-Rook hired a professional photographer to document the birth of her fourth child. She says, "I'm so glad we did this! Our photographer captured this special event in our lives in such a beautiful way. Being that I'm a midwife I have been to many deliveries where there was a photographer in attendance and I can confidently say that choosing someone that has experience in birth photography is vitally important. The last thing you want to feel while in labor is like you have the paparazzi following you around."
She had no qualms about photographing the delivery. "We knew we wanted very natural, candid shots of the process as we moved through it and that's exactly what we got," she says.
Que B. hired Jones to photograph the birth of her fourth baby. She explains, "My previous experiences were really hazy in my memory and I really wanted photos to help me preserve the memory of my son's birth."
She chose the route that didn't show everything, but documented everything she wanted. "I think a good photographer can capture the experience without the photos being too graphic. She did such a great job making something so personal and very beautiful while preserving my modesty."
You may be perfectly comfortable with a friend or family member taking photos from way down there.
A girlfriend videotaped my second baby's crowning and waterbirth delivery as he was born into my husband's arms. However, you may want to consider hiring a professional birth photographer who not only has experience with all things birth — what if your friend gets grossed out at the key moment you wanted photos of? — but also has special camera equipment most of us don't.
Bradley explains, "Birth photographers require specialized equipment that allows them to shoot in very low and often quickly changing lighting conditions." And while a friend's photography "services" may not cost anything, Bradley says, "There are no do-overs in birth photography and you often get what you pay for. If photos of your birth are important to you, a professional is the way to go."
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