Being Photographed: First-Hand Thoughts on the Birth Photography Experience

Clark Delivery // (C)Dawn M Gibson Photography

A year ago today, I was in a hospital delivery room with Wendy and Brandon as they anxiously awaited the arrival of their 3rd child. I've known Wendy since Junior year of college and she was one of the first of my friends to get married and also one of the first to become a mother. It's been an incredible journey seeing how our lives have changed from being young 20-somethings just finding our way in life, to 30-something year old adults with husbands, houses, children (or in my case, a dog), and lives so much more grown up due to the experiences had over the past decade.

The birth of their son, Nathan (one year ago today!), was the first birth I ever photographed, and the experience sparked a passion in me that I don't think I could ever put into words. It's such a personal experience, and whether or not couples want their story shared publicly, I have a deep desire to share their birth stories with them through photographs, especially since when you're in the middle of bringing a life into the world, it's really hard to process it all.

I recently asked my past birth couples for feedback on their personal birth photography experience, and I thought today would be a good day to share Wendy's first-hand feedback as a mom in the delivery room being photographed:

Did you have any hesitations having your labor & delivery photographed?

I had extreme reservations. Not only had I never let anyone other than my husband be in the room - no aunts/sisters, mothers/grandmothers - but you had never seen a birth or done this sort of thing before. I nervous to have you see me in such a vulnerable state with all my lady parts out to see but also was scared I would somehow scare you into never wanting to give birth or have children. Over and over again, I pondered asking you to do this for me but I wanted to make sure you would not feel uncomfortable as we were about to get real up close and personal, but also I wanted to make sure you would go in knowing that it's all worth it. Having a child is a love like no other and all the pregnancy woes and labor pains are truly a labor of love and the minute you set eyes on that child and hear them cry, all the pain/all the uncomfortable exposure no longer matters. You could care less you sees your lady parts or how that person judges you. It's a love so great that time stands still and you and that baby are the only ones present. So in the end, the hesitations went right out the window and I am so incredibly thankful you agreed and experienced this life changing moment with me.

Why was having your baby's birth photographed important to you?

This is going to be a hard one to explain. And only other bereaved parents will understand. My reasons for having Nathan's birth photographed go way beyond capturing a beautiful life moment. To be completely blunt and honest, I feared I would lose him too. Once a parent looses a child they will ALWAYS in their subconscious fear feeling that pain again. I said it during my pregnancy all the time...I lost the innocent of pregnancy. I knew the reality that this baby might die also. And while I didn't want to believe it and tried to push the terrible thought out of my head, a part of me had to prepare my heart to feel that pain, because I knew the reality that sometimes babies die. So, I knew this birth would be emotional because it would be joy mixed with pain and fear mixed with acceptance and I knew it would feel all too familiar and reminiscent for the child I no longer could hold. I worried Nathan would look like Liam. I worried he would always feel in the shadow of his brother. I feared seeing him would make me remember and feared seeing him would make me forget. I wanted to have these emotions and moments captured and I wanted it to be something sacred and cherished. And I wanted it to know that I would have these photos to remember a really joyful and incredibly hard time in my life. 

How would you describe the experience of having me in the room with you throughout the waiting and delivery process?

You were a fantastic distraction. A wonderful support and friend. We laughed. We joked. I wouldn't have anyone else there. You were perfect and I cherish our friendship even more after this experience. 

How would you describe your initial thoughts/reactions after receiving your photos?

I cried. With gratitude. With love. With joy and pain. I was blown away by how talented you are - Oh how I envy your talent and your creative eye. I was overjoyed and excited yet somber and reserved. This was something very sacred to me yet I was excited to share.

What does having the photos of your labor & delivery mean to you?

It's hard to put into words what these photos mean to me. They mean the world. I hold such gratitude and love in my heart that these moments were captured. My only wish is that I had them for my other two as well. I am especially emotional over them right now as it's been one year and my little baby it now turning to toddler-hood and becoming more independent. They bring joy and sorrow to my heart but in a way that is my new normal. With every joy there is also sadness. I will never feel whole again. A part of me will always be missing and I will always feel a void. But I have learned how to let color back into my life. How to let joy and sorrow live together in a place of give and take and togetherness. Something I wish no one else would ever have to learn.