When I tell people I do birth photography, many screw their faces up with bewilderment and ask why on earth women would want their labour captured. In short, to say the images are immensely powerful is an understatement - they offer parents a tangible record of their child's birth, their first breaths, the very first moments of meeting their newborn! I document the specific details of the day, all the little subtleties that make up their birth story that can typically go unnoticed during the intense and emotional labour process and which can quickly be forgotten. The different stages of the birth are captured, the very first minutes of the baby’s life are documented - without parents having to think about taking photos themselves, allowing them to be fully present in the moment.
At the start of the year, I began offering my services as a birth photographer in Surrey and I’m so excited to share with you the images from one of my first birth photography sessions:
Back in March, I captured the birth of Siobhan’s third baby boy, Ailbe Fox, at West Middlesex University Hospital, Queen Mary’s Maternity Unit, in the Natural Birth Centre. Siobhan is a Mum to three boys, a hypnobirthing teacher and founder of The Positive Birth Company. She also writes the blog The Double Mama. She currently offers hypnobirthing classes in London and Devon. Yes, she is superwoman!
So, what's this all about? Why are people choosing to have a professional photographer, a stranger(!), at such a private event?
I asked Siobhan...
Q: Why did you choose to have a birth photographer?
"I had the most beautiful magical home birth with my second baby. It was Christmas time and he was born in front of the Christmas tree. It was a picture-perfect scene. My only regret is that I have only one photo from the day. The photo was taken by partner moments after I gave birth and although I treasure it, it's quite out of focus and not exactly well-framed. I knew then that if I were to have another baby I would definitely get a birth photographer to attend. People don't think twice about booking a photographer for a wedding because it's a special day that they want to remember forever. In my opinion the same goes for birth. It's the most important day of your life and you're usually so preoccupied with being in labour and actually birthing the small human that your memories are pretty hazy. I wanted to have my birth documented so that I could always look back on my photos and remember what an incredible time it was."
Q: How do the resulting images make you feel?
"I am so so proud of the photos I have of my third baby's birth. They show what a calm, serene and beautiful birth it was. I love to share them because I want other women to know that this is what birth looks like! Not the drama, and often horror, you see on the telly. Birth can be beautiful and I'm so happy that I have photos to prove this."
Q: Would you recommend having a birth photographer?
"Absolutely 100 million per cent! Hand on heart I can say you won't have any regrets. Does anyone ever regret having photos?! Susie was amazing and so discreet that I wasn't even aware she was in the room. If inhibitions are stopping you, know that by the time you are giving birth and are in the zone, you will feel a lot less inhibited. Plus you can always wear a bikini top in a birth pool like I did!"
A selection of images from Siobhan’s Birth Story:
* PLEASE NOTE - this gallery exemplifies Siobhan’s story - she opted for a dark room lit only by LED candle light - every birth story is different and the resulting images are impacted hugely by the amount of light in the room. The darker the room, the grainier the images will be. I only shoot with available light during these sessions to ensure there is no distracting flash lighting. Birth photography is documentary photography - everything is captured exactly as it is, nothing is moved or altered and post-processing of the images is kept to a minimum to ensure the images truly reflect the story.