It was 2:45 am or so, I was laying in bed - awake - which often happens right before I get a call from a birth client. Sure enough, a few moments later my phone rang. It was time. Mom's contractions were "gettin' real" and they were heading to the Civic Hospital in Ottawa.
I rose out of bed, put on my birth clothes, brushed my teeth, grabbed my "work food", filled my water bottle, threw my camera on my back and headed out to my car. On the way out the door, if you were standing beside me, you would hear me talking to myself, going over the list of things to be sure I've remembered.
- phone and charger
- food and water
- money and credit card
- extra clothes and shoes (all in the pre-packed suitcase in the car, but I still ask myself)
- cameras, extra batteries, extra memory cards, chargers, cords, wipe thing for the lenses, flash, extra flash batteries, charger for flash batteries...
- warm top, socks and good shoes on my feet (going to a birth in flip flops is not ideal - I'm in closed toed shoes 99% of the time)
- list of back up photographer phone numbers under "BIRTH BACK UP" in my contacts
And then I start singing (yes, there's a song...the same one...every time, every birth), unlock the car, load up, start, lights, gears into reverse, release parking break....and go. I sing all the way there, I imagine where mom is at in the moments as I drive toward her and always hope I'll get there before baby is born.
I arrived at the Civic, calmed by my own singing but always prepared, alert and ready to go in case baby has decided to arrive quickly.
I exhale as I exit the elevator to hear Mom moaning gently through a contraction in the waiting room. The vibe is calm. The halls are empty. Sigh. I can settle in. There's time.
Camera ready, I take a few "test shots" to be sure everything is in working order on both camera bodies and then I move into my work. My job is to capture images that tell the story of the day your baby is born...I find myself flowing into the work. It's like settling in, falling in a good way and just doing it.
I'm on call for another birth, but no worries - that "never" happens...right?
Twenty minutes in, my chest vibrates. My phone is in my bra so I can feel it if it DOES go off. It's 3:30...the phone is going off.
The phone is vibrating. There's a moment where I hope it's just a fluke...
"Hello, Kim speaking."
"Kim, it's Bob (Dad - fake name 'cause, you know...). Sarah (fake name) is in labour, it's go time. We're at home."
And that folks, is why I have a team of back up photographers. A list of amazing Ottawa Gatineau photographers whose work I trust, whose personalities mesh with mine, who have similar values around the birth space as I do, who I have pre-arranged with for this very moment.
I called my first back up photographer at 3:30am and she was up and out the door in less than 15 minutes and headed to the birth that sadly, I was not going to be able to get to.
When you hire a professional birth photographer, you are hiring someone who will have a back up plan.
OF COURSE I want to be the one that shows up - and yes, I was really sad to miss the birth, but I was reassured and I completely trusted my back up to cover the birth beautifully. And she did.