I’ve always wondered about people who choose to video their child’s birth. What do they do with it afterwards? Watch it over a bowl of buttery popcorn? Invite the rellies round for a viewing? I don’t think I could handle reliving the experience so vividly… “Oh yeah, here comes the head. That bit really bloody hurt.”
I did, however, agree to let a photographer into the birthing room and I am now so pleased she was there. As you can see from this slideshow by Essence Images, birth can be a very beautiful thing, guts and all…
I was about 90 per cent excited and 10 per cent apprehensive about having a photographer present at Edith’s birth. While I knew it was an amazing thing to have captured and preserved, I really didn’t know if I would be able to look at the pictures afterwards. My first labour was easy, I guess, and very calm, but still I woke in the night a few times recalling the shocking violence of it all and wondering “did that really happen to me?” The best thing about labour and birth, in my experience, is that you’re inside it, rather than standing on the outside looking in. I didn’t have to see any of the gore or the witness any of the pain on my face; I could simply close my eyes and concentrate. I suppose this is why I worried that I would find the images too confronting.
I wasn’t at all concerned about the element of having another person in the room. We already had the midwife and a student midwife, plus my husband Jon. Quite the contrast to my first birth when it was Jon and me alone in the birth suite for most of the time. I knew from last time that a herd of elephants could have marched through and I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Also, from seeing Jess’s previous work, I could tell that she is an unobtrusive photographer. Her photos have a journalistic quality about them as she documents her subjects, rather than contrives shots.
We’d met and chatted about what was going to happen. Jess has had two children and put me at ease about her being witness to my labour. We talked about the sounds, the fluids, the emotions and the general rollercoaster ride of birth and it was easy to view her as a kind of birth partner – but with a lens.
I’d warned Jess that it would be a short labour, based on the fact that my first was only five hours. I started labouring at 1pm and Edith was born at 4.21pm, so it’s lucky Jess arrived when she did. At that stage, I was huddled in the corner of the single room – there was no room in birth suite at Redcliffe hospital that day! Jess arrived and got straight into it, if I hadn’t opened my eyes, I wouldn’t have known she was there. Throughout the fast and furious labour that followed, I was aware of her presence and the occasional click of the camera, but it all seemed very far away.
I was right about Jess being a kind of birth partner – she joined the chorus of support when I wanted it all to stop, and stayed with me when Jon had to tend to our daughter, who was being treated for distress. But the thing I am most grateful for is that she never stopped shooting.
As you can see from the results, Jess has captured the entire journey; her pictures tell a story and it’s about the beautiful miracle of Edith’s birth.
Suffice to say, I didn’t find the pictures confronting, but will cherish them forever. And I was able to share them with my mum who is thousands of miles away and felt she was missing out after being here when my son was born.
I absolutely adore the images Jess captured and encourage anyone who’s considering labour photography to go for it. To see more of Jess’s work, visit www.essenceimages.com.au.