Labour Through the Eyes of a Birth Photographerby Leyla Brooke
The first photo I have of my eldest daughter I was barely conscious. I can’t even remember it been taken, in fact I can’t remember much about the whole labour. I look back at the grainy photos and wish we had had something more taken. In fact with my second daughter she was a few hours old before a photo of her was taken but the whole day went so quick. My son was born at home and the first photo I have of him I took a selfie whilst cradling him in my arms. It’s grainy and out of focus but it was all I could manage. Needless to say whilst I treasure them I wish I had had something better taken.
Photography wasn’t on the top of my mind during labour. The only thing I was focusing on was the baby. With most birth partners the only thing they are thinking of is the baby and the person in labour, and so photos often are put to the back of their mind unsurprisingly. I am however incredibly lucky that I now work in birth photography and I can capture beautiful images for families to remember those first cuddles. Working in birth photography has given me a new perspective of labour and the families and friends who provide support to the ladies in labour.
The first thing that struck me when I began working in birth photography is how much of a support I become to the birth partner. It may sound strange but I think to them having someone they can talk to who has been in labour is reassuring in some way. I meet all my parents to be before hand and we discuss different photos and options, so because of this I am a constant from before labour to during.
Watching labour unfold is incredibly moving and powerful. It certainly doesn’t feel like that when you are going through it yourself, but from the other side it really is. The strength a woman shows in labour is second to none, it is truly amazing and powerful. There are certain stages of labour that all women seem to go through and whilst they might portray them differently each one becomes recognisable, in the majority, and because of this I have learnt where to be at what moment in time.
In the same way every labour is unique whilst portraying similarities every couple or lady who asks for birth photography is unique. There are certain shots that some people really must have, like the first cuddle and there are certain shots that some people really do not want, like the baby crowning. However everyone is different and it is understanding where to be for each labour to try and capture each moment as it unfolds.
Working in birth photography is wonderful but it really has its challenges. Hospital rooms can often go from softly lit to harsh hospital lights in an instant and you have to be able to adapt to the change in light quickly, else you miss your moment. There are no redos. A baby is born once, and the reaction to the baby happens in an instant. Labour doesn’t always go to plan and again it is preparing yourself for every eventuality.
Birth photography is such a privilege and to be there in the instant that new life is born is simply breathtaking.