It was 8:00 a.m. when I received the text. It was time to head to Woman’s Hospital. Just twelve hours before I was waiting. Waiting to hear any updates on baby’s possible arrival. Waiting to grab my camera gear. Waiting to make that 14-minute drive. That day I would be assisting another photographer in photographing a birth. I was excited to say the least.
With births, the call can happen at any time. Morning. Noon. Or, night.
It is one of the reasons why births are so unpredictable and intriguing to photograph. Every birth story is different. Every family is different. Every experience is different. Photographing a birth challenges you to tell the story of this baby. Of this arrival. Of this family. On this day. It is a rush.
I volunteered to assist another photographer. This was the first time I had ever assisted another photographer in the delivery room. I admired her work and loved her giving personality. When she asked me to assist, I immediately said yes, and it was one of the best learning experiences I had last year.
I was five months pregnant at the time and nervous because I was unsure how the day would unfold. My morning sickness had just subsided. I was eating all throughout the day, and afternoon naps were my new favorite thing. None of these would be available that day. I said a prayer of thankfulness for this opportunity and headed to Woman’s Hospital.
Birth photographs are the most emotional photographs I take.
They are beautiful. I often get asked why families want pictures of a birth, but when you see the images after the experience you understand. They are raw. They are truthful. They are one of a kind. Families are preoccupied throughout a birth day. My most common feedback is that I captured moments they completely forgot happened. That is why I am there. To document a birth story.
I walked into the hospital and met my fellow photographer right outside the elevator. She briefed me on the family’s history. This was their third child. Two boys prior. They were to be surprised for the gender for this birth. The mother had an epidural, and we were waiting for things to progress.
I am there to document, not to interfere with the birth experience.
We walked into the dimly lit delivery room. I set my camera bag down, grabbed a sip of water, and put on my gear. I stayed quiet. I am there to photograph the events of the day. I capture the details, like pictures of the hospital and the delivery room and the important items that were brought. I capture the labor. The moments were a mother tightly grabs the hand of her spouse as another contraction takes place. I stay silent and observe and capture the events as they unfold.
With births, it only takes a minute for everything to change.
I was surprised when the words were spoken from the doctor. I think everyone in the room was surprised by those words. We are prepping for a c-section. The nurses immediately came in the room. Tears fell from the mother’s eyes as she realized her birth plans for that day were changing. In a matter of seconds, this birth went from us waiting for this baby’s arrival in this delivery room to grabbing my gear to head to the operating room. Completely unexpected.
It all happens so fast.
One minute you are slipping on the suit to walk into the operating room, and the next you are photographing a brand new baby girl arriving into the world. You are looking at the baby and snapping a photograph. You are turning to the mother and snapping a photograph. You are looking at the father, the nurses, back to the baby, back to the mother. Looking for any moment that you need to capture on your camera. You hear her cry for the first time and turn to see the reactions on her parents’ faces. There is usually tears. You watch as the nurses gently clean her, measure her, and swaddle her. You smile and stay silent and photograph.
The rest of the day is filled with excitement. You watch as each family member meets their newest member for the first time. There are smiles and tears. There is a recap of the delivery and how she arrived into the world. All of these details that made her day special. And, you photograph because you know one day she will look through those timeless prints while sitting next to her mother and want to hear the story of her arrival.
Because I was there, she has those memories.
Ashley is a lifestyle and portrait photographer specializing in maternity, newborn, and family photographs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. If you would love to see more of this birth session, you can check out the blog post here.