For the hundreds of families who have turned to photographer Morag Hastings to have their babies’ births documented in photographs, the final product proves a keepsake and honest reminder of the beauty, pain, complex emotions and unbridled joy that accompanies childbirth. What they don’t expect is for that beautiful memory to get branded by Facebook as “inappropriate.”
Hastings, a doula and photographer based in Vancouver, is the owner of Apple Blossom Families. She has worked as a professional birth photographer since 2011 and, as a small business owner, social media sites like Facebook play an important role in helping promote her work, gain a following, book clients and raise awareness for this relatively new category of photography.
And, for the most part, people get it.
“My clients describe seeing their birth photos as getting back their birth,” Hastings says. “Often the day goes by so quickly that they forget the things that happened. Birth is a big life event. It is so special to be able to look back through the photos and see yourself becoming a parent or see how your partner reacted to your new baby. The most special, in my opinion, is seeing how your baby looked when it was just born; they change so quickly.”
One photo Hastings shot, which shows a mom standing up giving birth while touching her own baby’s head, captures the millisecond her gorgeous baby entered the world. But, after posting the image on Facebook, the site sent Hastings a harsh warning about how she had violated the community standards for nudity. As a result, Apple Blossom Families has been banned from Facebook for 30 days.
“The image that I posted was within Facebook’s guidelines,” Hastings says. “The image did not contain ‘fully exposed buttocks,’ ‘genitals’ or a ‘sexual act,’ which are what Facebook’s guidelines say they restrict. I also got a message that my page would be unpublished but at this point it is still up.”
Here’s the photo that got Hastings banned from Facebook:
The mother in this photograph is as disappointed in Facebook as Hastings and asked that we not release her name, but include her thoughts on this photograph and what it means to her.
“I spent my entire pregnancy, and especially the last few weeks, looking at birth photos, watching birth videos and reading birth stories,” she says. “I would cry through them all, overcome by a mix of emotions: fear, what-ifs, anticipation, excitement. When I thought I couldn’t possibly do it, those images and stories helped me believe I could. We shared our photos and story with the belief that if we inspired or empowered even one person that it would be worth it. Unfortunately, when our photo was censored, the message was sent that we had done something wrong. Obviously the photo of our child being born makes some people uncomfortable, and I completely understand that. However, how can we become more comfortable with images of birth if we don’t see them and we’re told they are disgusting and gross and that we should be ashamed of ourselves for sharing them?”
“It hasn’t been easy going through this experience being a new mom with a new baby during a tender time,” she adds. “Perhaps if we were exposed to birth and more accepting of it, that wouldn’t be the case.”
Hastings, who has posted many birth photos on Facebook over the years, is obviously livid about the way the site has handled this incident and the effect it will have on her business.
While she says she thinks social media is mostly accepting of birth, she feels Facebook needs to educate its staff so people will be as free to share natural birth as certain websites are to display pornography.
“To be scared of losing your page if you post an image changes the way we share online,” Hastings says. “It makes us not open to sharing natural birth images which in turn censors what audiences are able to see. People that are pregnant are looking for birth imagery and want to see what a normal birth looks like so they can make decisions for their own birth. If Facebook doesn’t change their policies soon, they are going to have a huge uproar of angry people who know that their policies are not fair. At the moment their nudity policies are a complete double standard which is affecting women and their bodies.”
Hastings says she is doing her best to get through to Facebook with her limited resources. “Facebook has taken away my voice by shutting me out of my business page with 23,000 followers for 30 days,” she says. “I cannot even answer messages in my inbox. The biggest problem is that Facebook doesn’t have a place for me to dispute the ban. I have sent messages, but they do not respond. I am hoping that these posts will get to someone who works at Facebook and cares. This really needs to change soon.”
Before you go, check out our slideshow below: