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Lights, Camera, Contraction

by Brooke Tasovac (follow)
Motherhood (29)      Babies (4)      Birth (2)     

Birth photography may be the latest trend, but it's not for me.

As a mum of 3 and a photography lover, I've been called a "mama-razzi" plenty of times. I love to document almost every moment of our family life, from the big milestones to the smaller moments, and I use a Photo A Day app to make sure I take plenty of photos each week. My kids know it's easiest to stand still and smile when I ask for a photo, as I won't give up until I get one.

However, I refused to let my husband take any photos or videos when I was in labour with any of our kids. I was happy to take lots afterwards, even with messy hair and red cheeks, but I did not want to capture the births. I never wanted to take the chance that they might accidentally be emailed or found by some poor person fixing my computer.

What convinced me most not to take the camera into the delivery room was seeing birth videos in pregnancy class, which I attended when I was pregnant with my first child. The midwife showed us two, including one in which a woman chose to have a water birth with the husband crouching behind his wife in the birthing pool, wearing Speedos. They were not filmed in the gentle, discreet style of One Born Every Minute. The overhead lighting showed every drop of sweat on the woman's face and the close ups of crowning were borderline traumatising. My husband and I forced ourselves to giggle so we wouldn't gag. It wasn't our most mature moment.

I also didn't learn anything from watching these videos that I actually put into practice when giving birth for the first time. In fact, the only really helpful thing I found out at pregnancy class was the best place to park the car at the hospital. Then I switched hospitals and even this piece of information was rendered useless.

Birth photography is becoming popular with women (and photographers) though, especially first time mums. Basically photographers are booked to be on call to capture women in labour and provide memories of the moment when they first meet their babies. Some of the images birth photographers have captured since it's become more mainstream truly are art, such as photos of babies being born in the caul. But I know seeing photos of my own births even years later, would not make me feel nostalgic at all.

If I had allowed my husband to take photographs when I was in labour, he would have captured not very heartwarming moments of me impatiently throwing the gas mask at him while waiting for my epidural at my first birth, or nearly fainting from the pain of getting a spinal during the Caesarean I had with my son (my third child). I wasn't even awake for the birth of our second daughter, which was also a Caesarean. I had to be put under a general anaesthetic so she could be delivered as quickly as possible because I had placenta praevia. I found it interesting (and hilarious) when an American women, Amanda Bacon shared a photo her husband had taken of her wearing maternity underpants, shortly after giving birth, while he nursed their baby, which went viral, probably because so many women related to the real-ness of it.

Although it's not something I wanted, if having a photographer present helps women to have a more positive birth experience then I think they should do it. Fortunately the positive memories of all of my children's births are strongly seared into my mind anyway. I'll always recall the surreal feeling of the midwives placing my newborns on my chest, watching their tiny mouths yawn for the first time and seeing them wrapped up and sleeping on their Dad's shoulder. Everything less positive is harder to recall, and frankly I'm grateful for that.


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