My First Birth Session | St. Louis, MO
I am just warning you, this post is gonna get real sentimental real fast.
I had the most incredible opportunity last week. One of my clients was due to give birth and said I could photograph the event.
While some people reading this would be stunned by this, birth photography (known as "birth stories" or "Fresh 48" in the photography world) is becoming a really common practice. And it makes sense when you consider that having children is the single most life-altering thing you could probably do. I think many people see birth as a beautiful experience of welcoming their child into the world. I do, and I also view labor and delivery as one of the most amazing feats of strength and selflessness that women perform in their lifetime. We photograph wedding vows; why not the moment you become a parent?
Birth photography does require a huge amount of trust on both sides of the camera, and the subjects of the photographs are perhaps at their most vulernable. This vulernability, though, is what makes birth photography so incredibly beautiful and powerful.
I love natural light photography, but more than that, I love photojournalism. Studio photography is when you make art. Photojournalism is when life makes art and you capture it (if you're patient enough and lucky enough).
I had to be both patient and lucky to witness Kelsey's birth. I'm a full-time teacher, so I knew it would be tricky if Bridget went into labor while I was teaching. Days of waiting turned into weeks of waiting. Every time my phone rang I jumped. I desperately wanted to photograph Kelsey's birth (capturing a birth has always been a goal of mine as a photographer), but I was also worried that the mother might be stressed out with me there. I wanted to capture the birth as a fly on the wall and not at all impede on the day.
I've done a lot of research on birth photography, and I think the most important thing I learned is that you have to be flexible. You can and should plan ahead, but you never know what could happen. The goal isn't to get great images. The goal is for the child to be born healthy and to preserve the health of the mother. Photography is secondary to the well being of everyone involved. If you're able to get great pictures in the process, you're incredibly lucky.
Bridget and her doctor decided that induction was her best option, so I was lucky enough after a few weeks of speculation to finally know 24 hours in advance of the birth. My incredibly amazing boss let me take my PTO day, allowing me to get the hospital in time to capture the entire event.
The anxiety and uncertainty leading up to the birth was massive. Bridget, Mike, and her mom sustained amazingly high spirits, laughing and joking throughout the day, throughout the pain, throughout the nearly 12 hours of labor.
I tried my hardest to stay out of the way and make it seem like I wasn't there, but that's pretty difficult in a tiny hospital room. I'm not gonna lie, I played a couple of rounds of Scattegories and indulged in some hospital food with this amazing family.
All of the waiting paid off when it was time for Kelsey to be born. Witnessing the first breaths of a child and the miracle of life was a life-altering and religious experience. I don't know what else I can say except to express my deepest gratitude to Bridget and Mike for allowing me to be a part of it. It was absolutely incredible. I have never felt so much joy in one room before.
I know these photos can't even begin to do justice to the magic of January 26, 2016, but I hope they will tell the story of the strength and love of Kelsey's family and the joyous day she was born into this world.