Every birth is different. Some take countless hours, while others happen in mere minutes. Some are smooth and easy, while others are weighed down by complications. But while each and every birth is unique, every parent can relate to the multitude of emotions that come crashing over you when you meet your little one for the first time. To celebrate the miracle of birth, WomansDay.com asked 12 birth photographers to share what makes their most treasured photos a story worth telling.
“Photography is the only language that can be understood anywhere in the world.”
1- “She has hair!”
“This mama was 27 weeks pregnant with her second girl when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Inflammatory Breast Cancer, which for those of you who don’t know, is a very rare and aggressive type of cancer. Her doctors decided to proceed with low-dose chemotherapy treatments so as not to harm the baby. Every mom is excited to hear their baby has a little peach fuzz on top, right? But for this mama, it confirmed that the radiation she received for her cancer treatments (and lost her hair to) did not reach baby Annaline. Those are happy tears!”
2- “Dad was finally able to see and touch his newborn son.”
“I have seen and photographed many inspiring moments. At every birth I am moved to tears. But through all the photographs and the precious moments I have encountered, there is always this one I come back to. It was one of the first births I had ever photographed, and it was long and emotional. I had been with the family for over 24 hours and had seen many examples of love, strength, hope and devotion.
“But when that sweet baby finally made his appearance into this world, overwhelming emotion filled the room…it was hard for me to do my ‘job.’ The moment the baby was set down on the warming table, dad was finally able to see and touch his newborn son. I pulled myself together, lifted my camera to my eye and photographed each second of his reaction, which was totally overwhelming and all-consuming love.”
3- “Birth is intensely emotional and intensely physical.”
“I attended this home birth in the early summer of 2015. Erin, the mother, labored throughout the night and morning, with her loving partner Jess, by her side. Birth is one of the most intense and beautiful experiences I’ve witnessed. There aren’t enough words to convey the strength, the joy and the surrender that birth requires. In over fifty births, this particular image moves me each time I return to it. It speaks so well to what birth requires and the reward it offers. I love the physicality of this image—the perfectly coiled cord resting on the mother’s postpartum belly. And I also love the look of pure relief on the mother’s face. A relief that is mirrored in her newly born child. Birth is intensely emotional and intensely physical. It surprises me each time, showing me glimpses of beauty and strength that have long been hidden from the public eye.”
4- “Life is a miracle.”
“This shot made me ‘famous,’ at least for a little while. My client’s labor was so fast and furious that she was unable to make it into the actual hospital before she paused to deliver her baby girl just outside the hospital doors. Everything aligned just right, and her midwife arrived at the exact moment she was needed and dashed over to assist in the delivery. The absolute spectacle and amazingness of the scene was captured in Joe’s face, as he witnessed the birth of his second daughter right there in the front of the hospital. In all the images of that incredible birth, this moment is what made people feel moved by the story. The birth was safe and all went smoothly. Life is a miracle and it shows perfectly on Joe’s face.”
5- “This is empowerment at its finest.”
“As she was preparing for her birth, my client, Cornelia, shared with me a personal photo from her first birth and the look of trauma on her face. I joined her in supportive hope that this birth would be redemptive. Some C-sections are necessary and lifesaving, however, some are unnecessary with no choices given, often leaving wounds and deep unanswered questions. For Cornelia, she was determined that this time would be different.
“When she pulled her son from the water up to her chest in this picture, it gave me chills. It was powerful, redemptive, stunning, and most of all, beautiful. It’s the antithesis of her first birth and the photo from that birth. It’s such a layered image with so many emotions in her one expression. When I first showed this image to someone they expressed concern that this isn’t an image to show the world since its not “pretty.” I felt the exact opposite. There are too many images of women “looking pretty” and yet totally disempowered or manufactured. This is empowerment at its finest. Beauty is when we are brave, when we have fought for what is good, when we love without limits, when we get over ourselves looking perfect and see ourselves as strong.”
6- “It was the first moment of complete calmness.”
“I became friends with Kelli after the birth of my second son. I had a traumatic birth experience and she had experienced a similar birth story a year earlier with her son. We instantly bonded, she was one of the few people who truly understood my feelings and I felt comfortable crying to. When Kelli became pregnant with her second child, she reached out to me about doing birth photography. I was both happy and a little nervous—I wasn’t sure how I would feel witnessing the birth I so badly wanted with my son.
“She called me early in the morning the day she went into labor. She said things were progressing and to head over. I got there in an hour, and walked into a mom pushing her baby out! Her labor sped up so intensely that her midwife hadn’t even shown up yet. It was just me, her doula and her husband. I quickly grabbed my camera and started taking photos, while also helping the doula talk on the phone to the midwife giving instructions. The baby came quickly and was healthy and beautiful!
“This photo was taken about an hour after the birth. It was the first moment of complete calmness. My friend had her beautiful unmedicated home birth, and as I drove home that morning, I cried. I was so happy for her, and so thankful to be witness to this perfect birth.”
7- “It shows the true grit that all mothers possess.”
“The pure raw emotions surrounding every child birth is a sight to behold. Birth photography allows me capture miracles as they happen and to make sure mothers can enjoy this amazing experience for many years to come.
“This particular image I took encapsulates what I look for when doing photography. It shows the true grit that all mothers possess to endure the natural birthing process. This powerful image conveys many emotions in a single frame—illustrating the love a mother has for her child even before she has laid her eyes upon them. I know in my heart, this is why I do this.”
8- “He relished in the moment.”
“After struggling with infertility for seven years, my clients gave birth to a beautiful red-headed baby girl. As she was laid on her dad’s chest for the first time, he relished in the moment. Documenting this birth really reminded me of why birth documentation is so important. You do not get to repeat this life-changing journey. Having a birth photographed is a priceless gift for a family.”
9- “I began to cry because it was so beautiful and so rare.”
“I documented this image of a baby born completely in the caul. It is said that this only occurs in about 1 in every 80,000 births. What’s even more amazing about this image is that the baby was the second of twins born at home. It’s the single most defining moment for me as a birth photographer. Twin A had come so fast that I missed it by mere seconds. I ran into the back bedroom where mom was laboring with just enough time to pop on my flash and adjust my settings to the dark, tiny room, amidst many other birth workers who were buzzing about. I didn’t even have time to see it with my own eyes! Going through the images later that evening was the first time I truly laid eyes on what I had captured, and I began to cry because it was so beautiful and so rare, and I felt so blessed to have witnessed it, even if only through my lens.”
10- “This image to me represents the future.”
“C-section mothers are almost always deprived of so many things, including having a professional birth photographer there to document the moment of the arrival of their baby. Most C-section mothers will have a hazy memory of what those moments on the operating table felt like. This moment is special to me as a birth photographer because this mother got to not only have me in the OR to capture the moment her child was born, but also because she got to see her baby being born through the clear drape—and I was there to capture her reaction and all the special moments that followed, including skin-to-skin right there on the table. This image to me represents the future, and what I hope more doctors and hospitals will do for mothers who are delivering via surgery.”
11- “The space that echoes the power of birth is so holy.”
“Not only was this birth especially gorgeous and perfectly successful, it also yielded the treasure of a strong, healthy little baby. When I glance through this gallery, this image always catches my eye—within it I see the proverbial lull, the inexplicable and resonating peace after a storm. The space that echoes the power of birth is so holy, so irreplaceably and intoxicatingly sacred.”
12- “It’s a girl!”
“As a birth photographer, I live to capture this moment. The moment where mom sees her baby for the first time. The moment she feels empowered because she just gave birth! This particular family was waiting to find out the sex of their third baby. They already had two sons. As soon as baby was born, dad exclaimed, “It’s a girl!” and this photo was snapped as mom looked at her first daughter for the very first time.”