Will birth photos affect the way I feel about my birth?

Quite a few months ago, I met with a potential client to get to know each other and to chat about her interest in birth photography.  We met in a quiet corner at a local Ottawa coffee shop in the afternoon.  She walked in with that beautiful glow that pregnant women have and she asked me a really important question.

General Hospital Birth woman labours in tub relaxing between contractions.

"I'm worried though, won't the photos affect the way I feel about my birth story?"  

BAM.

Yes!  Excellent question. 

Cesarian Birth Husband supports Mom with his hand on her arm.

I wish more people talked about this.  Because...

Yes.  

I asked her to tell me more.

"What if I think one thing about my birth and then weeks later I see the photos and they show me something different than I thought happened?"  "What if the photos change the order of things in my mind?"

Newborn Exam with Ottawa Midwife after Home birth

I sat there and listened and I was so grateful to be sitting across from a woman who was taking all of these really important questions into consideration.  

This is what I mull over as I drive to every single birth.  This is what I think about every time I step into a new birth space and pull out my camera to capture the first image.  It's humbling.  It quiets me and moves me further behind my lens. Before I take that first photo, I exhale and I remember that these images may very well affect how a woman feels about her birth experience.  

"What if things go badly and then I see the photos?"  "What if things go perfectly in my mind and then the birth photos show me something else?"

This is it.  The thing about birth photography.  I consider the work to be documentary photography - capturing images as they happen.  There is no need to "catch" or "create" a moment - because birth stories are replete with beautiful photographs.  Every glance, every intertwined finger, every "I'm done, I can't do this" statement just before baby arrives, every first latch, every teardrop, the caregivers hand of support on your back, the doula holding a cold cloth on your forehead...these are nothing but moments to document.  But...I'm the one behind the camera.  I'm the one who chooses when to push the shutter release.  That's intense.  That's what keeps me humble and quiet...because - what if the birth photos affect how a woman feels about her birth?  (See?  It's a bit of a circle, yes?)

Ottawa doula and midwife support woman in labour at Montfort Hospital

So my answer when she asked me these really important questions?

I think you are right.  I think they will affect how you feel about your birth.  You may see strength in yourself you didn't know existed.  You may see determination and perseverance in your face that moves you.  You may see fear.  You may see tears you didn't know you shed.  You may see glances from your wife or husband or birth partner of intense reverence and love while you breathed (or groaned) through contractions.  You may have felt alone and the photos will show you that you were surrounded by a circle of loving midwives or doctors, your doula, your mom and your best friend. 

And yes, sometimes things don't go the way we hope and there might be photos of that and that might be really hard to see. And also? Maybe the camera caught your baby's first breath before you saw and had him in your arms.  Maybe the camera caught your hands reaching out to catch your baby because instinct kicked in before someone invited you to reach down to pick her up.  Maybe you will see concentration and focus as you dig deep to find more.  Maybe you will see surrender, fierceness, roaring, silence, peace, calm...

VBAC birth at Montfort Birthing Centre.  Doctor catches baby.

It is up to you whether or not birth photography is right for you and your family. Because the photographs may very well influence your experience - most likely in a positive way - it is something to really consider when choosing to hire a birth photographer.  I have had many past clients describe their images as inspiring and healing for those whose births didn't go the way they had hoped.

I promise that I will honour your birth space and document your story as it unfolds.

I will honour the agreements we make before your birth around what you want captured and what is most important to you.  I will be sure to capture some of the little details and some the things going on behind the scenes.

Should you choose to have Breathe In Photography at your birth, It's up to you when you choose to look through your images.  I will offer you sneak peeks within 24 hours and then most likely 4-6 more sneak peeks within the first two weeks.  All your images will be available to you within 6-8 weeks of your birth. But - 

I will ALWAYS ask you if you are ready to see your images...

...no matter how your birth story unfolded - because only YOU know what your experience was and only you know when you are ready to see the photos.

So yes, that's a really good question and I'm so glad she asked it.  

Infant after home birth with Ottawa midwives.