Birth photography has grown in popularity in recent years, which in my opinion is a really good thing. I love birth photos and videos. I love that there are so many amazing women out there who are happy to share these special and deeply personal moments with the world. I have seen so many birth videos and so many incredible birth pictures and I am grateful to the people who have shared them. Why? Because we need birth to be normalised again. We need normal birth to be seen. Birth has become such a taboo and medicalised event that most of us don’t know what real, un-dramatised labour and birth look like. Shows like OBEM do nothing to help this, by the way!
But why do we need to know what birth looks like?
Back when we were cave women, and right up until pretty recently actually, we women would have known what it was to be pregnant, to labour, to birth, to feed and raise babies before we did it ourselves. We would have known all about it because we would have been exposed to it all as a normal part of daily life. Knowledge would be passed on through the generations and through seeing, watching, and supporting one another. There were no TV shows to frighten women, no litigation-wary doctors, and nothing stopping them from hearing and listening to their instincts. Birth just happened. And for the most part, when unhindered birth does just happen. This is what we are missing in our modern society and women, babies and their families are suffering for it. We don’t live in caves or tribes any more so we are finding other ways to get what we instinctively crave – exposure to what we need to see to learn how to do it ourselves. Birth photography fulfils this natural need to see something that we can only learn through seeing.
So if it’s so great, why did I choose not to do it?
It’s a very personal decision as to whether you want to have film or photographs of your baby’s birth. It is an amazing, incredible, once in a life time event, and to capture it on film is to immortalise these moments forever. I did video the births of my third and fourth babies and these videos are very, very special to me. I can’t watch them without crying, or without feeling the huge rush of emotions they bring back. I chose to film their births as I wanted that external experience of seeing what the other people in the room saw. I wanted to see what giving birth looked like. I wanted to have it immortalised in that way. But with my fifth baby I wanted something different, something far more primal and instinctive. I very nearly chose to freebirth as I felt so strongly that I needed a great deal of privacy and solitude for the birth. I went on a huge personal journey throughout my pregnancy that led me to that point and it felt right to me that there be no intrusion, even from cameras. It’s worth bearing in mind that the camera can alter what it captures simply by its presence.
My beautiful baby girl was born in my bathroom at almost 42 weeks of pregnancy with her daddy and our midwife present (but only because I let them in at the last minute!). Her birth was amazing, another story in itself! What I take away most from the experience of not filming her birth is that my memories of it are crystal clear. Nothing about my perception of it has been altered by seeing pictures or video. I have the raw footage in my head, as clear and as perfect as if it happened yesterday. I have photos of us afterwards and I love them. Realising that not filming the birth was indeed a positive thing for me despite being such a fan of birth photography has been intriguing – I was worried that I was missing an opportunity that I would never get back, but this is what worked for me this time and I’m glad that I followed my instincts on such a small yet also big thing.
Did you film or photograph your baby’s birth? What was the experience like for you?