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I used to think it was rude of me to try and relate to a birth.  I wasn’t running around the room talking about my own labor while the mom was in labor.  I’m not that narcissistic.  But whenever I sat down to write the blog post, my own experiences as a Mom would pop up.  It felt like I was “taking over” the moment.  But I think it’s impossible to separate myself from the experience and I think that drives my style.  What would I want to see on the day of my births?  What would I want to remember?   

When Holly’s boys woke up and came to the birth room with their blankets, I knew I was in trouble.  Both of my boys were Blanket kids.  Becks still covets Owl Blankie.  Once I saw those blankets clutched between chubby fingers…  I knew this birth was going to get me.

Labor had stalled earlier in the evening.  Holly’s champion spirit allow her to rest when she could and walk the stairs between and during contractions.  Around 7 a.m., the boys’ bedheads wandered into the birth room and her labor ramped up.  We all think the baby was waiting on the boys to wake up.  The boys were so helpful during Holly’s last minutes of labor.   Giving her encouraging words “You don’t have to hold your breath, Momma.”  Placing beloved items near her as she was pushing.  Making the entire room of experienced birth workers smile.  A few minutes later, Daddy caught his third son.  His sons greeted their baby brother with the biggest smiles. His Momma took a deep breath and was finally surrounded by her three boys.

And for the first time at any birth, I cried.

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  • Tiffany Morrissey - Absolutely precious….same midwives as me. My four year old and I had a little trip down memory lane. Very very sweet. He loves the paint on the baby’s foot! I assume for Christmas cards! What a splendid idea! Blessings! Beautiful family!December 18, 2014 – 9:01 amReplyCancel

  • Chris Mohler Schroeder - Absolutely beautiful!!!December 18, 2014 – 5:06 pmReplyCancel

  • Valerie Allison Hoepf - Thank you for sharing this how wonderful of a bonding moment for all!December 18, 2014 – 5:20 pmReplyCancel

How to deal with unpredictability is always the number one question I’m asked.  I’ll be honest, it will be the reason I hang up my camera.  But not yet.  I’ve got a few ways to deal with it.

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I’m impatient.  I like a consistent schedule.  I enjoy a good planning session.

So why the hell am I a birth photographer?!

I ask this question every single time I’m on call.  Every time the Momma is going long.  Every time I get an update text.  Every single time.

I have a few things in my favor.

I have a full-time job, so I can’t book many births.  I’ve never had to leave or miss work because of a birth.  Things tend to happen at night.  I’ve shot an entire birth and changed into Office clothes in a Starbucks’ bathroom.  I’ve been up for 24 hours and still completed my work.  Adrenaline keeps you upright until evening hits.  My daytime births have  always happened on the weekend.  By some mythical/magical Birth Gods’ mojo, things have usually worked out (minus one, but that was in the beginning and I’d probably do things differently).   Going at B.P full-time would be incredibly difficult for me and my family because of the unpredictable nature.  I can handle it in tiny doses.  I try very hard to not book more than one a month (I don’t even want to tell you my current schedule because I’m a big fat liar.  I also have a hard time saying, “No”, but I usually stick to one a month).

When I’ve got a due date things stop.  I’ve skipped events because a Mom was a week late and I didn’t feel like ripping the family out of a movie if I got the text.  I’ve missed Girls’ Weekends because I screwed up a due date.  I missed dinners because I got a Heads Up text.  I’ve moved holidays to our house because it fell near a due date.  “You’re really going to miss this because of a birth?” has been asked a few times.  And I never hesitate, “Yes.  It’s part of the deal when you’re a birth photographer.”  My life stops because a new one is about to start.

My boys are older, but I’m not sure it makes it easier because they still aren’t old enough to be at home alone. The mornings near my last birth, I’d give them the birth plan (I’m not home when they get home, but someone will be shortly).  I’ve felt Working Mom guilt maybe four times in my life, but every time I said the birth plan, it broke my heart.  I hate the thought of them wondering all day long, “Is Ma going to be home?”  Maybe I’m a silly little Ma and they never thought about it, but it crushed me.

Last birth, I got a Heads Up text.  I’m so fortunate that I was able to text 4 different women for help.  Leaning on people, asking for help, and having someone else accept your Unpredictability sucks.  They all generously offered and I’m so grateful for their help. It doesn’t end my worry, but it does make it easier.

I also work closely with the Midwives.  They’ve been doing it for so long, I suck up every piece of advice they want to throw at me.  I rely on them to tell me when to GO and I believe this really helps.  This helps ease the Unpredictabilty just a bit because I go when it’s pretty much necessary.  Sure there are false alarms and long labors, but that’s also part of the deal.

But even with all this “inconvenient” stuff, I keep doing it.  I can’t imagine having a Last birth.  I keep saying, “Yes” to pregnant families.  I say “Yes” because I believe so deeply in having those photos.  I say “Yes” because I know it passes.  I was talking with a Midwife about being On-Call.  And she said, “Like all parts of birth, the pain of being on-call goes away the second the baby arrives.”  She’s one of the wisest.

Recently a friend texted me that I need to learn to roll with it.  I texted back, “I shoot births.  That’s all I do is roll with it.”  There’s no magic cure for the Unpredictable nature of Birth Photography.  There isn’t.  No one likes being on-call.  Not the midwives, the doula, or the pregnant Momma.   You can create a plan, but also know that you may have to ditch it.  You go when someone says, “Go.”  You learn to accept it.  You learn to roll with it.

Birth Photographer tip:

Figure out a plan.  Find your tribe to help.  Warn them constantly (I’ve got a Mom almost due.  Are you sure you can help?!).  Warn your family.  Listen to the experts.  Learn to embrace Unpredictability.  Cause it isn’t going anywhere.

 

Up next:  Some technical goo.

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  • Lisa Epp - The reward must be purely amazing, to watch that new little life come into the world, that all the unpredictability of it, flies out the window.
    Beautiful work. xxDecember 10, 2014 – 2:11 pmReplyCancel

I think it’s incredibly important to share photography knowledge.  You can’t steal my eye or replicate my vision, so keeping things a secret accomplishes nothing (I’ve never understood secrecy within the craft).  When you’re a birth photographer, you get lots of strange looks and tons of good questions.  I hope to answer some of those questions for you.  Let’s start at the start…

 

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Labor Day of 2010, I was in a canoe “raft” with most of our good friends.  Becky asked, “Would you photograph our next birth?”  Because it was Labor Day (there’s a no-kid rule for the weekend) and in a canoe, I was rather drunk and unable to run away.  I won’t speak for Becky’s sobriety because that’s rude.  But listen, it’s a weird sober question because back then there weren’t a ton of documented births outside of the funky 70’s hippy ones.

What did I know about photographing a birth?!  Hell, what did I know about birth?!  I wanted to wake up with a baby in my arms.  I don’t do well with blood and goo.  So the gentle rock of the canoe and the dozens of beers in my tummy helped me answer without a clue or hesitation:

Yes.  I’ll photograph your birth.

She got pregnant soon after and we discussed it again.  She was going to have Baby #2 at home.  “Are you sure?  You can always back out.” was said by both of us a number of times during the pregnancy.  My family constantly reminded me about the time I almost passed out from a small cut.  My husband just thought the whole situation was weird.  But I figured, Why not?  I could always leave if it got too crazy (she kept giving me the out), but I kept saying, yes.  And funny enough, I was never really worried about anything.

But honestly, I must have been crazy.  I had no idea what to expect.  You can’t judge a birth off of your own birth experience.  I was in a considerably amount of pain during my own, so I don’t have the clearest view of the scene.  I had no idea what her birth would look like.  She’d be in pain, probably naked, and I was assuming there would be blood/goo.  How would I react to all of that as she was my good friend?  I had no idea what to shoot.  I figured the baby, but no clue what else to focus on.  What do people do while in labor?  At home!?  Oh and their house is pretty dark.  Swell…

One morning, I got the text and drove over there.  I still had no clue how the hell I was going to photograph this birth.  I figured I’d wing it.  They’re good friends so my best would be good enough for them.

I remember picking up coffee for them and the barista asked how my morning was.  I responded, “I just saw a baby born, so it’s been pretty damn amazing.”  And every single time I see a baby born, I still respond the same way: Pretty damn amazing.

I will always be grateful that they asked me to be there for Silas’ birth.  The question in the canoe changed my life. After that morning, I found what I was supposed to photograph.  I’m not good at doing family portraits.  I can’t imagine shooting weddings.  But births?  Yep, that’s my jam.  If you’re interested in birth photography, try to find a pregnant friend.  There’s a lot of nuances that come with being a birth photographer and I can’t imagine learning about them with strangers.  But if you don’t have your own birth guinea pig, I’ll help you a little with this series.

I do not believe that every photographer should photograph a birth.  It’s not for everyone just like weddings aren’t for everyone.  I can’t imagine dealing with a bride, but dealing with a woman in pain?  Yeah, I got that.  So if you’ve got a birth lined up and afterwards you aren’t changed or moved, it’s ok.  Cross it off your life list.

But maybe, just maybe you can thank your friends for a life changing experience.

Birth Photographer tip:

Find a friend who knows the proper time to ask you to photograph their birth.  They know it’s when you’re tipsy and floating down a river.

 

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Silas’ birth post.

As a photographer, I’ve learned and changed so much since these photos.  Of course there are things I do differently.  I think every artist should be able to admit this if they want to grow.  But his birth will always be my favorite.  His birth gave my photography a purpose and gave me a vision even beyond the birth role.

Up next: Predictability or better yet the lack of predictability of a birth shoot

  • Amy Knisley - I laughed, a few times, thanks. Love to you guys and your canoe trips! on Labor day of course!December 9, 2014 – 12:01 amReplyCancel

  • Becky Millard Reno - Hahahaha – I can’t stop laughing at your classy depiction of me asking you – ” excuse me miss ray, pray tell might you be willing to do us the honor of photographing a birth?” I won’t counter with the reality here but it’s burned in my memory in the most awesomeist of ways. Also – it makes me inexplicably proud to know that his was a favorite. Don’t tell me if/when that changes.December 9, 2014 – 4:07 amReplyCancel

  • Kelly Nelson Warren - That’s was beautiful! I look forward to following along with this series.December 9, 2014 – 12:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Maria Khoroshilova - Very beautiful and touching!December 9, 2014 – 4:19 pmReplyCancel

  • Carolyn Toomey Jackson - What a sacred thing you’re doing. Thank you for sharing this. I was teary while watching the whole thing, but full-on cried when big brother came in the house with dad.December 9, 2014 – 7:28 pmReplyCancel

  • Xanthe - I remember this…. gosh it’s so beautiful. Tears of course!
    I love your work, your story telling and that you’ve now found your thing and you’re owning it! this is brilliant. This is going to be a great series of posts.
    SO desperate to capture a birth myself… one day I hope it happens…

    x.December 12, 2014 – 8:14 amReplyCancel

Like I said on day 1, I’d probably be grateful when Day 30 popped on the calendar.

I am.

It was filled with family and friends.  It was filled with a new baby, some good times, and decent words.

November is over.  The air is chillier and the Christmas tree is up (our earliest yet).

The house smells like evergreen and even some Christmas music (it’s off now because I can’t live with tunes for more than 30 minute intervals).  It’s time.

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Ready for more.

I still get emails about my Click Mom’s breakout session (I love this interview).  A couple months ago, I removed it from their store.  Please don’t ask why or push me for a reason, I don’t have one.  Clickin Moms is a talented and supportive group of women.  And I was proud to part of the group for a couple months.

Every few weeks, I get an email from a lovely person asking if they can buy it.  And I always oblige.

I keep meaning to create a page for Get Real.  I keep meaning to dust it off and make it prettier.  Someday…  But how about until that happens, I have a sale?

Tis the season for sales.

Send me an email by using the Contact tab or leave a message on my Facebook page.

Until Monday, you can have it for the very reasonable price of $30 (Get Real PDF, my favorite Artsy-Fartsy Books, some videos with my actual voice…)

Paypal only.

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My own little Flash Sale.

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  • Claire Tremeer - I recommend it and blame all my kickass-ness on it :)December 2, 2014 – 11:52 amReplyCancel

  • Kelly Polizzi - OH.MY.GOODNESS.!! i JUST saw this and missed out :(December 16, 2014 – 8:48 pmReplyCancel

There are things that I know I’m supposed to like.  I’m supposed to rave about it and love like all my other like-minded friends.  Here are a few examples:

  • The National
  • This American Life
  • “Lost in Translation”
  • The Daily Show
  • Pot Roast

I’ve tried.  I swear I have.  I’ve listened to countless hours.  I’ve listened to the key songs and episodes as recommended.  I’ve tried a dozen different recipes and variations.  I’ve heard passionate claims in their favor, but I just don’t get it.  I’m sorry.  I apologize only because people are so passionate about their love for particular things.  And when I’m ambivalent towards them without a solid reason, I feel like I’m missing something huge.  Like I’m too stupid to understand these things’ essences.  No one likes to feel stupid, so I keep trying to see what others love so much.

I kept seeing “Serial” pop up in my newsfeed from all my like-minded friends.  I guess I’ll bite.  I didn’t have high hopes because I’ve tried to love “This American Life” more than any of the above Nuggets.  The other day I was bored.  All the Stern’s were old.  So I figure I’d let “Serial” play until the bathwater got warm.

The bathwater got cold and I was hooked.

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Serial.

 

**”Mistaken for Strangers” was pretty good, but I’m not in love or even deep like with the The National.  They’re ok…

My life is full.

It’s full of:

  • people who offer hands when you’re in the muck.
  • people who celebrate at finish lines.
  • people who have loved me since my first breath.
  • people who love me like they’ve known me since my first breath.
  • good friends I’ve known for decades and the ones I’ve known for months.
  • inspiring people who push my creativity.
  • moments that make me cry because of kindness.
  • moments that make me proud.
  • moments that make me appreciate when life turns back to gold (it always does).
  • laughter that sends me running to the bathroom.
  • the kind of love people write thousands of words trying to capture, but never really do.
  • gratitude

Thank you for making my life full.

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A full life.

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*a very small sampling of those people and moments.

  • Jill - Love you (even if you ruined my life)!November 27, 2014 – 2:36 pmReplyCancel

    • Erika - Ruining something never felt so good.November 28, 2014 – 6:58 pmReplyCancel