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The Unpredictable Nature of the Birth Photographer

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.


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.


  • The Technical Bits in the Birth Photographer’s Pocket » Erika Ray Photography - […] Post Two about Birth Photography […]December 22, 2014 – 9:36 amReplyCancel

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