Why You Should Hire A Birth PHotographer By Katie Dohman
WHY I’D HIRE A BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER NOW (AND YOU SHOULD LEARN FROM THIS DUMMY)
So, when I had my first baby (AKA when I thought I knew it all), my long-suffering, ever-patient, good-hearted doula suggested a birth photographer.
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” is maybe the most family-friendly way to relate my response, as I was not interested in anyone seeing my vagina in my most vulnerable state ever, let alone paparazzi!
Patiently she nodded and said, “Well, I’m pretty decent with a camera, I can take a few shots. If you don’t like them, you can always delete them.”
That day, she was busy being a doula. My husband was busy being my support person. Between my doulas and my husband, we did get a few shots. A lot of them were blurry, thanks to the combination of low light and high action. (And, it’s important to note … even if your doula is also a photographer, or your husband or wife or birth partner is a photographer…then they can’t be IN the photos.)
There is one photo in particular that gets me every time I see it. It is the first moment, the very second, that the midwife is handing me my firstborn child. It is the moment I survived the hardest physical challenge of my life—and got first prize. I’m cradling Ruby, she is looking into my face, and I am looking up with utter delight and surprise, vibrating at a level of emotion I had never felt before. It is the moment my husband and I became honest-to-god parents and we had a family. (PS: I deleted exactly ZERO images, keeping even the most explicit ones.)
DON’T BE ME: A CAUTIONARY TALE
Now I get it. THAT’S why you get a birth photographer: Between the sleep deprivation in those early days and the birth amnesia … stuff gets blurry. You’ll want something to remind you of your own personal summit-the-mountain moments.
There is a reason why mothers love to tell their birth stories (other than to sick other people out, or haze new moms). It is one of the craziest experiences of your life. It is also one of the most poignant, and retelling that story helps you hang on to those incredible moments before they scurry to the farther reaches of your mind.
And we commemorate just about everything in our lives but somehow birth – the literal giving of LIFE remains… off limits? I’ve never climbed a mountain and I have no intention of ever running a marathon. But I joke my births were my personal triathlon. Having a photographer at the finish line is just prudent, even brilliant. Not taboo.
TEACH YOUR BABY ABOUT THE TRUE MEANING OF ‘BIRTH DAY’
My husband printed out some of the photos of my daughter’s birthday out and put them in an album for Mother’s Day one year. Ruby, now 4, loves to pull the album out and ask about the day she was born, what we were thinking about, what happened. She loves seeing her tiny baby self, cradled in our arms. It was her special day and she can feel that through those photos, imperfect as they are. I love being able to share OUR special day together, in many respects the day our lives burst into full color, together.
REMIND YOURSELF OF YOUR OWN STRENGTH AND LOVE
And then I also realized: When you are in the throes of labor, you want to be surrounded by loving people who recognize what a gigantic moment in your life this is. You want them to hold that ground sacred—as much as I REALLY tried not to use the word sacred in this post. When you are in your tunnel-vision birth-warrior place, you might not remember their encouraging or loving faces, their advice. But photos can call up those moments and let you honor them and feel supported. I find it difficult to congratulate myself on much, but I feel my soul-tank getting filled every time I see their loving faces in photos.
COMBAT THE POPULAR NARRATIVE
Not everyone has five-star spa-experience births, and I’m not about to say we all do. But there are a lot of negative media- and mother-perpetuated myths about birth. It’s hard, it can be painful, it can be traumatic. But it can also be beautiful, incredible, empowering. I want some of the fear around birth to be squashed. I want more of those stories to be heard and seen. A photographer can help tell that story.
YOU WON’T CARE WHO SEES WHAT
Honest and true. You’ve got one job, and that’s to get the baby OUT. A good birth photographer will be in the moment with you but not in your face. I didn’t even hear the clicking of the shutter.
Now I wish I’d had a birth photographer at every birth. And it’s why I had Meredith at my third birth. Because even if I were to have more kids, birth days never get less exciting, surprising, or incredible. Seeing your 9-month work-in-progress for the first time never becomes less stunning. January 20 will always be our special day with our sweet Eero Everhart, the day he came into this world, blinking and mewling, and he will be able to see just how much love and anticipation his daddy and I had for meeting him face-to-face for the first time.
It ends up that only blurry thing is my own vision from the happy tears as I look through the images at this amazing thing we did together.