This week I got an email from a mama who had interviewed me a while back about being her birth photographer here in West Michigan. She wrote:
I haven’t booked anyone, I don’t know its just hard because all the things we’re doing are costing sooooo much more than I thought and this seems like the lowest priority item, and also the feeling of adding more people that will be there during birth to take slightly embarrassing pictures seems off a little for some reason. but I have no idea how ill feel then or after about it if I will wish I did, it’s so hard!
I have received many emails and had many conversations with almost the exact same list of “objections” or uncertainties about taking the plunge and investing in photography of their birth story.
So I wrote her back and addressed each one. Once I was finished, I thought, “this would be a good blog post!” So here we are…
Yeah, there’s no way around the fact that birth and a new baby have lots of associated expenses and photography is definitely one of the less essential items compared to a midwife or a crib and a car seat. Its value is less practical/tangible and more emotional/sentimental. It’s hard to assign a dollar value to something more abstract like that, but it can help to write out all the reasons you think you might want it and what it would offer to you and then ask “Is this worth paying for? Are there other things I can cut so that I can have this?”
I cherish my birth photos from each of my births more than even my wedding photos because of how raw and authentically beautiful they are. They get more precious with time. My kids like to look at their birth photo albums each year on their birthdays while I tell them the story of their birth. The photos help me to see myself in a new way, to see how powerful and loving and fierce I am for my babies and what I’m capable of as a woman. They also show me my relationship with my husband in a new way! They help me piece together and integrate my experience, remember the timeline of things, and relive and process what it was like to have been on that journey. And of course, they remind me of what my newborn looked like long after he/she has gotten so much bigger (which happens so much faster than I can even wrap my head around). I get an oxytocin hit every time I look at them.
More people in the room
Sometimes this is a really practical consideration if you live in a tiny house or something, but birth photographers are masters at tucking into tiny spaces and becoming flies on the wall. In the role of photographer, I intentionally don’t take up a lot of space energetically or physically and it’s a very hands-off position to take. Your birth is not about me and I don’t need to be heard or seen in order to do this job well. I’ve had clients comment that they could forget I was there or didn’t even notice me in the room during such and such moment.
If you’ve hired a midwife who doesn’t bring a huge team with her (no one or only a single apprentice or assistant) or are free-birthing, unless you also have a mother and siblings and friends there, you’re looking at 3 people besides you and your husband. Does that feel crowded? I can also assure you that all of your birth team will move in and out of your birth space as is appropriate because we all understand that laboring mamas sometimes need to be alone and not feel watched! So we won’t all be sitting around watching your labor like it’s a show on television.
It’s also worth noting that although I try to be quiet and fade into the background, I also try to bring something of value to the space energetically/spiritually simply by being a fellow woman who has birthed babies at home and holding confidence in you that you can do likewise. I pray silently for mothers and babies in labor, and am always willing to meet your glance with eye contact and a smile that communicates “You’re doing beautifully, you’re amazing, and you’ve got this.” This part probably sounds woo-woo, but the spiritual/energetic space-holding from someone who knows birth and knows how to sit with it fearlessly whilst interceding for you is more impactful than you might expect.
(But of course, your midwife will hopefully offer that element as well, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be from the birth photog (me)).
Embarrassing or Unflattering Photos
It’s true that you probably won’t be the tidiest version of yourself in any sense. You may look disheveled by the time all is said and done. The beauty and grace that a woman displays during birth are not about her hair and makeup and wardrobe and her selfie-quality smiles. It’s far more primal than that. But it’s stunning. I don’t even know how to describe it. But it’s not anything to be embarrassed about. In fact, I think it can help shape a new perspective on your own beauty and strength that lasts long past the day you give birth. It can be very healing. I get the privilege of showing women that! Which is pretty awesome.
Not sure how you’ll feel in the moment
It’s true that you can’t totally anticipate what you will want and need once you’re in labor, especially if you’ve never done this before. It’s important for you to know that you’re allowed to change your mind, too. Even if you book me, if while you’re in labor you realize you do NOT want me to come, you don’t have to let me in. You can decide to have me come immediately after instead. Or a week later. You are never obligated to do anything that doesn’t feel right to you. In fact, even if you call me in and then realize you’d rather I not be there, you can ask me to leave or go to the other room for a while. You are the boss and I won’t take it personally.
But would you regret NOT having done it? I run a 5k-member FB group for home birth mamas and I often hear women express sadness that they didn’t get to have a photographer, that their photographer missed it for some reason, or that they hadn’t taken the plunge and invested in it. I’m not here to say you will surely regret it because I am not you and don’t know how things would land for you uniquely, but I haven’t ever heard anyone express regret that they DID hire a birth photographer.
But it probably seems like a conflict of interest for ME to try to address your concerns. I wonder if it would help to post about those things in a favorite home birth group on FB, asking for other women’s experiences of having a birth photographer for their first birth and if they have any regrets, etc.? That way you don’t have to only take my word for it.
At the end of the day, only you know what’s best for you. Whatever you decide, may your birthing day be richly blessed and anointed with the presence of The One who loves you most.
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Such an excellent response Brooke, I agree that the memories captured and the empowerment taken from birth images are truly unique and important! So good!