I had the distinct privilege and honor to photograph my first birth on July 29th. Birth photography has always been something that has called to me. I can see 800 different versions of birth photography and still see different things while also seeing the commonalities of giving birth that should bring all moms together. The images are so powerful and awe inspiring that I knew, as a photographer of all things Motherhood and a mother myself, I needed to have this experience. Kelsey and baby Aiden made that happen for me and for that I am forever grateful.
Kelsey is a doula who decided she wanted her second birth to be a home birth. She assembled a great birth team that included her amazing husband, her 3 year old daughter, her mother and her mother in law, as well as two midwives (and me!). When I first walked into the house, things were quiet and calm. As I was rushing down rte 55 to get to Romeoville after receiving the "I'm at 8cm" text, I tried to picture what I would be walking into. For some reason I thought that she'd already be yelling and screaming and cursing. Quite the contrary, I walked in and she greeted me at the door with her trusty water and smiled through some deep breaths as she allowed the contraction to roll through her. It was at that point that I could not wait to get my camera out and start documenting her journey.
Through this experience there were things that became truths for me about women and birth:
1) Women are amazeballs! Wow. Our bodies, our pain tolerance, our ability to multi task, our ability to nurture and love and experience things to the fullest is amazing to me. Watching her body hold onto the contraction and then let it go, feeling herself pass through the different phases of labor was very inspiring. Listening to her breath through a really hard contraction and then as soon as it ended, rattle off something on her to do list, shows just how crazy, funny, and fascinating our systems are as women. And finally, as she pushed that baby boy out of her, and the pain melted away and she wanted to do nothing but hold him, it not only reminded me of my own birth but brought me closer to women everywhere.
2) I haven't seen many births but I've talked to lots of moms. I think that the feeling of "I can't do this!" during the transition phase of birth is totally universal. There was something comforting about hearing Kelsey say "I'm not doing a good job." Her birth team assured her that she was in fact doing an amazing job and to keep going. That exact thing happened to me. I swore I wasn't pushing right. I swore that I was doing damage to my baby. I swore that people were lying to me when they said I was doing what I was supposed to and that my boy would be out soon. I experienced it twice! There's something about going through that moment at your most vulnerable and tired, having your team there to support you, and then seeing that they were right because now you are holding your baby! It really makes the moment set in that we can do anything we set our minds to!
3) Birth is messy! If you can get past the squeamish stuff and the discomfort that comes from seeing someone in pain and knowing you can't do anything to help, it's a once in a lifetime thing to witness first hand. Even though I had given birth twice, experiencing it literally from the other side was an entirely different perspective. I found myself holding my breath as she pushed her baby's head and shoulders out. I didn't breath again until that baby was pulled out entirely and placed on her chest. Then I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Tears of joy, relief, and excitement! It is everything that people tell you it is, that moment that life begins. Words can't really accurately describe.
So I invite you to watch Kelsey's journey unfold. I love how the images show her different phases of pain and exhaustion and then elation. I loved doing this and hope I have the pleasure of experiencing it again!