"There is one thing a photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment." - Robert Frank
Documenting the birth of a baby is, by far, the most intensely emotional experience I could ever have as a photographer. And, in some ways, it has ruined me for all other photography work, as nothing could possibly compare to the raw beauty of seeing a mama meet her baby for the very first time. I shot through tears for much of it and it changed me for the better.
Shawn and Miranda asked me to be there to document the day their son was born and the incredible privilege of that is not lost on me. I arrived at the hospital with the sunrise at 5 AM and was amazed to find Miranda labouring in laughter. Literally. She smiled and laughed her way through much of the early part of the day, much to the amazement of the nursing staff. I documented Shawn being there for her in the really tough moments. The exhaustion. The tears. The defeat. The hope. It is a magical thing to witness the bond of a husband and wife team as they each do their part to bring their son into the world. Her body labours in pain and exhaustion while he works to help, to pray, to bring water, to hold, to encourage.
Approximately 14 hours after I first arrived, in the early evening, a beautiful baby boy was born. Perfectly healthy and perfectly chubby. I stayed for the first moments; the cutting of the cord, the first breastfeeding, the weighing, the phone calls, the big sisters eagerly arriving to meet their baby brother. Magical, I tell you. Completely magical.
Birth photography is often not understood. Some people see it as 'gross' or 'umm, i would NEVER do that' or 'who wants pictures of THAT?!' or 'there's not much beauty in the way I labour'...etc etc etc. But you know what? To me, it is none of those things. It is a miracle unfolding right before my very eyes. It is God's work. It is watching a mama struggle and labour and allow her body to go through incredible pain for her baby. It is a husband trying to help his wife and doing whatever he can to maybe make things even slightly easier on her. It is the doctor and nurses encouraging and skillfully coaching to bring that baby safely earthside. And it is that baby. That new life breathing air for the very first time. Meeting his mama. Knowing who she is. It is instinct. It is beauty, no matter how you labour. It is nothing but beautiful. It is gritty and raw. Yes. But my goodness, I felt like I was standing on holy ground in that labour room. And I was grateful, so grateful to witness it.