I'm going to start this off with a little story about my first birth. Not the first birth I photographed, but MY first birth. 8 years ago, I was thrust into the world of motherhood and my life went from spontaneous late nights listening to music, painting, hosting intimate dinner parties with friends in the wee hours of the morning... to being a young, single mother.
You know, I had never held a baby until I gave birth to one? Oh, how times have changed!
I always said I didn't want kids. I even said (cringing) that I didn't LIKE children.
No, I will not babysit for you.
No, I don’t want to talk about baby.
No, I'm not getting married and I'm certainly not ever having my own baby.
(Young Heather was nothing if not headstrong and sure of herself, I'll give her that)
Well, life has this funny way of humbling us.
So, one day after drinking a (truly) GIANT margarita, my whole world was rocked as I sat in the 1950's pink and aqua tiled bathroom of this badass apartment I shared with 3 roommates, staring down at 2 lines on a plastic test that changed every single thing about my existence from that moment forward.
I suddenly needed to know everything there was to know about babies, breastfeeding, and BIRTH. I watched everything I could find, which, at the time, wasn't much. It certainly wasn't ENOUGH. I started my journey to what would eventually be my career in photography when I was 13. I found a point and shoot film camera in my dad's house and started taking pictures of everything that held still. Then my dad gifted me a Pentax K1000 35 mm film camera and there was never a question about what I should be doing in life, but that's another story.
While I am off taking pictures of everything, for years and years, through all my schooling and training.... I never heard the words "birth photography". In fact, I didn't see professional birth images until..... 2013, I think. Now, I get to take those beautiful photos and it still blows my mind.
So, I go to the hospital I'm set to deliver at (I did zero research before hand, not even a walk through) on a Thursday at 4 pm. I'm being induced, and the process started with a medication called Cytotec being placed in my vagina, in an attempt to ripen and dilate my cervix.
I went on to have a fairly traumatic experience, and I could (and probably will) write for hours about, at another time. But the thing that upsets me most about my time in the hospital birthing my first son, is that there are no photos of us together. Not a single photo of me holding my baby. Family came to visit, they took photos of my sweet little baby and all his thick black hair... but no one took photos of me. I didn't even have a camera phone at this point, so no selfies, no snap shots... just nothing.
I vaguely remember that I wore a pink hospital gown.
I recall wishing I could shower, but didn't get to until I went home the Monday after I had arrived at the hospital. At the time, I was thankful no one was pointing a camera my way. After all, I had been through a pretty harrowing experience... I was sweaty, my hair hadn't been washed in days and it looked it. I was exhausted, there was suddenly milk on everything I owned. I didn't WANT anyone to take my photo.
This was 8 years ago, and it breaks my heart that I don't have photos. It will break my heart until the day I die. Had I known then what I know now, I would have scrimped and saved and searched far and wide to find someone who's style I loved, to take photos of me when I didn't feel like having my photo taken. Because now, all these years later, I don’t care what I looked like. I don't care that my hair was gross, that I felt HUGE, that I was tired... I don't care. But I do care that I can’t ever look back at my face when I first saw my sweet baby boy. I can’t REMEMBER my delivery. I vaguely recall my baby being handed to my mother and not to me, and it felt like days before he was handed to me. My mom cut the cord, and I remember her crying happily... and my sister fainted when she saw the needle used to repair my *ahem* third degree tear.
Other than those details, I recall NOTHING.
As a birth photographer, I get to give those memories to you and your family, to have forever. When you hire a birth photographer, you are investing in documentation of something you can never do over. Even if you have more children, every birth is different. You're getting a second set of eyes, who has done this many times and knows what to look for. You're inviting someone into your birth space who can show you all the moments you missed while you reached deep inside your primal self to bring your baby earthside.
You might think, well I can hand a camera to my partner, they can take photos. Maybe your doula offered to take a few cell phone shots, or your cousin with a point and shoot camera offered to photograph your birth for you for free. I'm not knocking people who are just starting out in photography because we all start somewhere, but there are moments in life that you just cannot ever get back. I for one, wouldn't ask an amateur to photograph my wedding. I would want someone who knew what they were doing and could show me a beautiful portfolio filled with images that made my heart feel heavy in my chest. Now, my wedding day was lovely and I think of it fondly. But the birth of my children... those are the moments in my life that cherish above all else. Photography is truly a service in which the old adage, "you get what you pay for" certainly rings true.
We put money into what we love, in life.
Every person's list of "things worth the price tag" is going to be different.
For me, my daily 5 dollar latte is a fact of life. I budget for that cup of coffee because I LOVE IT, and it brings joy to my life. Now, your list might include wine, or date nights... fancy dinners, designer hand bags or vacations. We plan for expenses related to items and experiences in life, and I firmly believe birth photography should be one of these planned expenditures.
We all find joy in different things.
Mothers, we share a universal common ground in all our differences. We love our babies.
As a mama who aches for the memories of her first birth, and has precious few of my second... it is worth the price tag.
I pour through thousands of images every month of my clients' births and I tear up. The emotions, even from an outsider's perspective, are palpable, and I know that what I feel pales in comparison to what you and your partner are going to feel when I deliver your gallery.
So, I share below one of the photos from my second birth.
I am nearly 300 pounds.
I am swollen with IV fluids.
I am SOAKING WET from my water birth.
I am a MESS, and it is my most cherished photo.