It is unpredictable, in intensity of contractions, in length of time, not to mention labor has no start date, and in some cases no warnings at all. But once it starts, the process evolves and you are expected to give it your all in order to bring new life into the world. It is difficult and demanding and emotionally charged, but also often described as empowering or “the best day of (my) life” by so many birthers.
We often forget, in the rush of hormones and emotions the amount of work we truly did. And it gets even harder to remember the other things going on in that space. Especially if you’re in the zone and focused on getting through each contraction, you may not even take a moment to look around the room. You might not have noticed your partner look at you in such admiration, or your doula affectionately anticipating your needs because the work you’re doing together is so deep. The gentle touches, the peace between contractions. Birth is in so many ways, kind of magical. Even when it’s hard. One beautiful gift that is often unintentionally given is the gift of healing by being able to look back at your birth story and remember.
As a birth photographer, I often get asked what are some of my favorite things are to capture during a birth. Humans do tend to love those images right when baby is born and is placed on their parents chest, the pure love, shock, partners reaction etc. But I personally love documenting the labor process because it’s a testimony to human strength, regardless of the path you take. There is beauty in the moments of birth- home, water, birth center, hospital, beyond.
Second to that are all of the specific moments in the birth process. I pride myself on choosing my moments intentionally because I don’t want to disturb the birthing person too frequently. And I think that by doing this I’m also delivering the realest version of your story because it is made up of the important moments instead of continuous documentation. Hand holding, a kiss, foot rubs, a look for encouragement, tears, relief, all of the ways you chose to cope. I can recall births where I spent time photographing kids playing in a separate room, or a few of my favorite images are of a bigger sister picking her nose during mom’s big contractions. I also love capturing an otherwise stoic partner showing their emotions because their lives are changing too.
I think for so long we operated as if birth was just this thing that happened and it wasn’t a big deal because it happens all the time and has been forever. But giving birth will likely be a significant moment in YOUR life, so why not document it? You don’t want to worry about missing it and you want your partner to be present in the moment as well.
You want to hire a birth photographer because you want to capture all of those moments on one of the most transformative days of your life.
All text and images by Kimberly Kimble. Kimberly is the artist behind Rushes & Waves. She is a trained birth & postpartum doula and birth photographer in Portland, OR. She has been internationally published and awarded for her work. She is a proud member of IAPBP.