Being a mom is so damn hard. I know I don't need to tell most of you that -- you either are one and you know that fact deep in your bones, or you have an adoring mother, whom you've seen first hand deal with the demanding role of motherhood. Lately, my struggle is making sure I'm raising my girls to be as strong as possible. It seems that the world they will "adult" in, could be quite different for women, and that calms this mama's worries. I hope to be a small part in that movement, and to be able to tell my girls that I helped in some way.
You may not look at birth photography in this way, but I believe the rising interest in this art will definitely change some things. First and foremost, it shows birth in a different light and shows so many people how strong and incredible women are when giving birth. And this goes for any type of birth -- medicated birth, cesarean birth, home birth, unmedicated birth, hospital birth, lotus birth, etc. I believe it will also normalize birth, and not make it so "gross" or taboo to talk about. It's therapeutic for women to talk about their births, and if it feels good to talk about it -- they should.
This is all relevant to me, because I was incredibly fortunate to document such a powerful birth a few weeks ago. Heather contacted me back in the fall. We did a gorgeous maternity session with her family in November, and made plans for me to document the birth of her third baby girl. She was due on January 1st, and I had all kinds of hopes to photograph the first baby of the New Year! We were going to be famous. Baby had other plans, as they usually do.
Heather called me at 2:45 a.m. on January 3rd to tell me her water broke and she was headed to the hospital. Although I don't usually head to the hospital right away, I was so excited and there was no way I was going back to sleep. So I left my house at 4:30 and headed for Howard County General.
When I arrived, Heather was walking the hallways with her mom, and her husband and her 15 year old daughter were fast asleep.
Her husband, Ellis, was wearing a mask, and at first I just assumed he was trying to block out the light and catch up on sleep before things got real. Heather was put back on the monitor for a bit to listen to baby, and after the nurse left, she told me that just a few hours prior to her water breaking, her husband was diagnosed with the flu. The first and only time in their 10 year relationship. Talk about bad timing.
It wasn't long before Heather's doctor made her way in and they informed her that he had the flu. There were lengthy explanations and deliberations and eventually it was decided that he would have to leave. For the safety of Heather, their baby girl and all the other newborns on the floor.
I love this image above so much, as you can almost feel her disbelief and pain, just moments after this news came. I should note, that the moment it was decided, Heather was remarkably strong. Stronger than I imagine myself being in that situation. She continued to bounce on her ball and do her hip sways, silently, while digesting the fact that her husband, and biggest supporter would not be there.
Heather worked a long few hours preparing for the birth of her baby girl. In all the births I've experienced, I've never seen a better support person than Heather's mom. It was truly amazing to witness and to document. She didn't leave her side for a second. There wasn't a moment that she wasn't massaging, rubbing, moving the hair out of her face, giving cold cloths, or sharing words of encouragement. It was so beautiful to watch a mother, help her daughter, go through the birth of her daughter.
It was around noon, and baby girl was getting close. Heather was reaching transition and at one point, expressed to her mom that she didn't think she could do it without her husband. But she did, and it was time to meet their daughter. They FaceTimed Ellis and Heather began pushing.
She was so strong, and her mother was SO supportive and her beautiful baby girl, Colette, was born at 2:06 p.m. She had done it.
I was so excited to deliver these images to Heather and Ellis. That's usually the case when I finish up my galleries, but this time it meant more. I'm hoping that Ellis can look at these and feel like he was there after all.
Perhaps one of my favorite images I've ever captured was Heather cutting the umbilical cord. It was such a powerful moment to witness. And one I'm sure she'll cherish forever.
As always, I'm extremely grateful for having been invited into a mama's birthing space. I am also especially grateful to Heather for allowing me to share her empowering birth story.
While my 3.5 and 1.5 year olds may not understand just yet, I look forward to the day I can show my girls these and other images I've captured. Surely, this will help them understand the strength of a woman, and the strength that is inside of them.