Do Birth Photographers Hire Birth Photographers? Jess and Kate's Birth Stories
THE BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER THAT DIDN'T HIRE A BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER, AND THE BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER WHO DID
I joke with Kate that I've seen EVERYTHING of her and she has seen nothing of me! Kate, for those who do not know, was a birth photography client of mine before we became friends and future business partners. I loved shooting her birth so much and is still one of my personal favorites I often come back too.
We wanted to share with you our very condensed birth stories and particularly how each of us felt about photos in our births and how it all played out. These are obviously our personal stories and feelings, and it may not represent how all women feel about photos during birth. Hopefully though, you may ponder on a few things we say.
First Born Son:
I never thought too much about having kids until I told my husband we should start trying and we got shockingly pregnant the first month we tried. I was quite taken back by that! I was a little terrified about all the things that occur growing a baby in pregnancy. The birthing process really terrified me for a while. Through that process though I grew confident and rocked my first birth like a BOSS! I was a young 23 year old, who had just graduated college and whose husband decided to continue onto graduate school. I don't think I even knew what a birth photographer was. I remember hearing about Doulas towards the end of my pregnancy because I knew a few friends in my midwife practice who was using them, but they were all older career established women and I assumed a Doula was an extremely expensive personal coach that would no way be within our budget.
I had a very beautiful positive birthing experience with my son. I didn't think about photos at all during labor and barely at all after. We brought our trusty point-and-shoot camera and took just a few photos you can see below. I have so so little photos of my son in the hospital at all. This birth would have been so wonderful to capture my husband helping me through everything. Those memories are with me and I'll never forget him or my Mother but I wish with all my heart I had even a few of those moments frozen in time with photos. I really kick my butt not taking more photos after the birth. I remember parts so vividly but there are details and parts of my birth that have faded significantly over time.
Second Born Girl
I wanted with all my heart to have my second birth captured. I wasn't going to make that mistake again. I was so disappointed in our picture taking in our first birth I was determined to make it good this time around. Again, we were living on a very very tight budget. My husband was just finishing up with his PhD and was basically ready to defend right after our baby girl was born. I had become friends with an amazing birth photographer. She literally lived 10 minutes from me. She was THE ONE who first mentored me and got me started down the path of making the plunge to do birth photography. She gave us such a generous offer to do our birth. I wished with all my heart that I would have taken her offer! We had hired a doula a few months back and at the end we just could even come close to compensating her fairly. I was still determined that I could take some photos and/or set up my husband or Mother to capture moment here and there. I mean I just knew I would have several hours of going through labor to get a handful of shots in labor. I was just going to let my Mom start capturing away with a flash at the time of birth hoping that we'd get at least one cool shot.
I woke up in the middle of the night 39 weeks pregnant in full blown labor. My Mother was arriving in a few days. I didn't think I was in labor but had gotten sick. I thought I'd be able to stop the contractions by laying back down. By the time I realized I was in labor I was ready to push my baby out. It was me and my husband. No one was thinking about cameras at that moment! We were just trying to hold on wondering if our midwife would make it before baby came. She barely made it. I got up on my hands and knees when she came to my bed and my baby shot out, just like that. I always think, the one person who WOULD HAVE made it to that birth would have been my birth photographer friend who lived 10 minutes away. This birth was a little hard for me not to have photos again. After my girl was born I got up out of bed and I started taking photos. I feel that if I had been able to have my friend document this birth I would have been able to process things a lot better. It was very wild and fast so I was not able to think and process things clearly. I would have looked really awesome birthing my girl too! I know that these kinds of photos are not important to every birthing family but they really were for me and I still feel sad that I missed the opportunity both times.
First Born Girl
My husband and I said for the longest time that we weren't going to have any kids (we also said we were never getting married-ha!). I cannot say that I was one of those women who dreamt of being a mother since I was a young girl. I mean...it all just seemed so...hard! I swear one day I just woke up and I NEEDED to have a baby. It was so sudden and so urgent! I just HAD.TO.HAVE.A.BABY. Eight months later I got that 'PREGNANT' reading and even though we had been TTC I was so shocked. This was actually happening! I knew right away that I wanted a natural birth. I even knew right away that I wanted to receive prenatal care and birth my baby at the amazing birth center right here in the burgh, The Midwife Center for Birth and Women's Health. I had a text book pregnancy and amazing care through TMC. We took the classes. We researched. We prepared and we dreamt of our future as parents as we waited for our little girl to arrive. I had heard doulas talked about in our various classes but I never felt the need to even look into what a doula really was. I had a pretty big support team (husband, two sisters and my bestie) ready to rock so I felt super prepared. Soon enough we were at 37 weeks and things were all set! I had been envisioning my birth at the birth center, mentally preparing and I was feeling confident. But, then the call came from our insurance company. They had given us wrong information and the birth at TMC would not be covered and instead I'd have to deliver at Mercy hospital (thankfully still under the care of TMC). To say I was devastated is a gross understatement. Had we known this information sooner in the pregnancy we would have planned to cover the out of pocket expense but this late in the game...there was just no way. I knew nothing about Mercy. I hadn't mentally prepped for a hospital birth. I hadn't even prepared a birth plan. There are so many hormones kicking at 37 weeks pregnant and I cried so long and so hard over this change of plans. I felt like my dream birth was RUINED. It was difficult to navigate this big change on my own, especially as a first time mom. I managed to shift gears (though begrudgingly) and prepped myself for a hospital birth. Then, in the wee hours one November morning baby girl let me know it was time. I remember giving one of my sisters the photography duties that day but really didn't give it too much thought. I wanted pictures of the day but it wasn't a top priority. 14 hours later that brand new screaming baby was placed on my chest. I did have my dream birth and it changed me completely. I was INSTANTLY hooked on birth. It was very shortly after that day that I discovered birth photography. Suddenly I went from a 26 year old who had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up to a Mom with a dream to one day be a birth photographer.
Second Born Girl
Three all consuming years of motherhood flew by in a flash and here we were with baby number two on the way. I immediately started the search for the birth photographer that would document our newest baby's birth story. The first photographer we met with was this crazy cool chick named Jess. She was so chill and relaxed in our meeting and I felt a connection with her immediately. I left that first meeting ultra confident that she was our girl! I didn't even bother meeting with anyone else. Another text book pregnancy flew by (second kid warp speed everything is no joke) and before I knew it I was waking up 3 days past my guess date. If I'm being honest the last month of my pregnancies have not been the most...flattering of times in my life. I'm pretty impatient, whiny and just straight up ready to get this baby outta me the entire last month. So anyway! I was walking around at 5 cm with no action what-so-ever and I decided that I was done. I mean, this baby was clearly confused on how to get out because she was actively trying to climb her way out of my chest. Obviously we had to show her the way! So together with our wonderful midwives at TMC we made a plan for a birth center induction. I used the breast pump and walked for a few rounds to try and get contractions going. When that didn't work we decided to go ahead and rupture membranes. I had my husband call Jess as I just had a feeling that she should start heading our way. About 10-15 minutes after AROM, contractions began. Jess arrived and things progressed really well from there. About 2 hours later I gave birth to our second (surprise!) baby girl. I had my second dream birth this time at my dream location! TMC was everything I had hoped it would be and more! We hung out as a new family of 4 surrounded by family and (new-heyyyy Jess!) friends. A couple hours later everyone headed home and my husband, myself and my two babies drifted off to sleep snuggled up together. It was perfection. We came home later that morning and life as a mom of two began. I was so excited to see our birth gallery and when it hit my inbox my life hit another crazy twist. At that moment my dream of being a birth photographer became 100% without doubt my calling. When I saw those gorgeous photos that Jess had made I felt so strong! So capable! So proud to be a woman! SO.BAD.ASS. I needed to do this for other women. I needed to do this for myself. I needed this divine female power to be a constant in my life. So, I took the next few months to get to know my new baby and my new life (because the 4th trimester is real and postpartum self care is essential!) and when I was ready I started to chase down my calling. Jess was an incredible support right from the beginning-she helped me decide on my first 'real' camera you guys (3 cheers for women supporting women!). The rest is history. Here I am living out my dreams that I didn't even know I had. First and foremost motherhood. And a super close second-birth photography. I love so much that the birth of my babies and the birth of myself are one story.