March 2012. The first time I ever entered another woman’s birth space. I was holding my camera and a healthy, open curiosity. I don’t think I’ll ever forget what it was like to intuitively feel the imminence of birth. I didn’t know much at this time, had very little information or tips for using my observation or senses to clue me in. It was simply palpable. In that teal blue pool in the corner of a normal living room, while banana bread was cooling on the counter and herbs simmering on the stovetop, a life was about to enter the world.
And I got to witness it.
Pretty sure I came home glowing that day.
It’s been nearly 7 years and 126 births since that day. It marked me and little did I know it would set me on a trajectory to a career spent in spaces very much like that one, with women in their most vulnerable and powerful moments. Most I’ve attended with a camera up to my eye while maintaining quiet, whispering prayers under my breath. Some I’ve attended with my hands full with doppler, stethoscope, charting supplies. Some I’ve attended with my hands supporting, my voice clarifying or encouraging. Every one has been a gift and a significant influence on who I am as a mama and a birth worker.
Just for fun, I recently combined some stats and I thought it would be a fun way of reflecting to share them here! Here are the summary findings. (Note: these summary statistics are for only births I’ve attended as photographer, doula or filmmaker and do NOT include the 43 I attended as a student midwife when I did my brief 9-month apprenticeship. It also doesn’t include the 4 times I gave birth myself).
Only 20 of the births were OB-attended (plus a 4 in which an OB joined the team due to hospital transfer).
19 were with CNM attended
42 were CPM attended
I’ve worked alongside 18 different midwives
50 out of hospital births
6 birth house
44 home births (1 of those in an RV)
33 hospital births
29 planned hospital birth
4 hospital transfers (home birth was Plan A)
LAND OR WATER
64 on land
18 in water
1 was half on land and half in water (cos there were two babies)
I’ve been just the photographer 64 times
I’ve been the photographer AND doula 7 times
I’ve been only videographer 2 times
I’ve done photo and video both 2 times
What have 126 births done to me? How have they changed my perspective?
I’ve become firmly convinced that how women give birth and how they are treated during birth matters significantly and that reform in this area will have a ripple effect of healing for our whole society. I have seen that women are fierce and powerful (but sometimes they don’t know that about themselves until they have given birth). I no longer think of birth as a medical event but more of a biological function that usually goes smoothly if left alone. I am grateful that medical help is available when it is truly needed. After seeing many children and fathers in birth spaces, I know that birth is for families. I have learned that it is generally best to err on the side of sitting back and holding one’s tongue and letting a woman find her way through while her attendants pray quietly in their spirits and convey trust and confidence in her with few carefully chosen words but mostly in their energy. I’ve learned that being a birth attendant is both romantic work and gritty inconvenient work. I’ve noticed that the opportunity to witness so many midwives and OBs at work is its own stealthy but highly valuable education. I’ve learned that the story has to be about the birthing woman and not about me, always.
That’s just a small sampling of lessons learned.
Thanks for bearing with me as I looked back and celebrated 7 years and 126 births.
If you’d like a 10-page PDF guide to planning a natural birth (which is, now that I think about it, somewhat of a summary representation of how these past 7 years have formed my perspective!), click on the button below and you’ll have an opportunity to download it.
If you’re reading this as one of the women whose birth(s) is/are represented in the numbers above, I am in awe of you, indebted to you, and cheering you on always.
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