Before becoming pregnant, I’d never seen birth. In actual fact I’d never ever talked about birth, I suppose it has been a bit of a ‘Taboo’ topic. Images of birth are often censored, many parents don’t discuss birth with their children and the representation of it in the media is awful.
I knew I had to do something about this…I was about to experience one of life’s most intense moments and yet I had never been exposed to it in any capacity.
I took to Instagram and searched “labour” in the hashtag section. All of a sudden millions of images of women in labour, all around the globe, appeared. I was amazed at the rawness and emotion filled images I was seeing, thousands of women in the throws of such a powerful experience. But not only that, I was amazed at the amount of different births I was seeing. Water births, home births, c-section births…the list could go on.
From here I began to uncover the pages of lots of astounding Birth Photographers. I filled my feed with all these images. I was exposing myself to the raw realities of a diversity of births every single day. It was this gradual but consistent exposure to birth that I believe helped me exponentially during labour and postpartum.
I was able to have trust in my body, to know that all births are wildly different but equally beautiful. In addition, I was able to process my birth with much more clarity afterwards.
We need to work towards a society where these images are not censored, and are more widely seen. Where birth is an open discussion. Not only for women to feel more power in their experience and confidence in their bodies, but for the rest of society to be able to support women.
I know that birth will be an open and encouraged discussion within my family, and if I go on to have another child I would want Arlo to be included in the experience of birth. Exposure is key to understanding.
Among some of the photographers I found was Lacey. Lacey Barratt is a pioneer in the birth industry, paving the way for a more inclusive, dynamic, and unapologetically raw content through visual arts. As a doula, she pushes the boundaries of what women think they are capable of; helping them to break free of any societal norms or standards by understanding they are their own individual with individual needs. Lacey makes sure that her imagery is nothing less than artful and educational, striving to help women gain knowledge through her images.
Here are Lacey’s thoughts on why birth photography is important.
When I had my first baby seven years ago my mum asked if my husband was going to take any pictures. Actually, I was mortified by the thought of looking back at them. I also thought she was being selfish because she was in the states and that was her way of being invasive without being *invasive*. Man, the regret I felt 12 months later….We all know good ole Facebook. Reminding you of the things you did on this day twelve months ago. Timehop. Yep….facebook’s Timehop had me crippled on his one-year-old birthday. I was already emotional and then add on top of it that I had three photos from the day of his birth and I was devastated. It shook me to my core so much so that I started offering birth photography as a service to my clients.
I never wanted anyone else to feel the regret that I felt that day. Or any family to experience that type of void. I now see all the ways that birth photography benefits families. I see that my mum was not actually being selfish. Or invasive. Or passive aggressive. It was for both of us.
I wondered if I had that birth face that you see in all these stunning birth images. I wondered what my husband looked like when he had skin to skin. I wondered if he touched me during labour more than I remembered. All of these questions will be there forever. I’ll never actually know the answer to any of them.
I can say that my subsequent babies had birth photographers.
I have this theory that documenting your birth extends the high of a good birth and helps heal a bad birth
No, my images won’t magically take away the pain of a traumatic birth. But with 100 time-stamped images it can help you process what happened in a chronological order better than your memories can.
When you are in labour we naturally (if left unhindered) go into what is called labour land. This is a place where all of your hormones are making a concoction potion, so to speak. Oxytocin, testosterone, adrenaline, progesterone….and heaps more to get you out of your logical brain. So you don’t have to think…you just do what feels good in that moment. This enables you to go deep inside of yourself and focus on your body and your baby. Making you less aware of the things that are going on around you. This is why we forget. We are biologically programmed to not remember. Not to protect us from the physical pain as mainstream society would say. But to help you birth your baby. This is the fight side of the fight or flight phenomenon.
After our baby is born, if things don’t go exactly to plan we have the ability to process exactly what has happened to us. Births, where we felt empowered, enables us to relive that feeling of being empowered. Hormonally, we are getting boosts of oxytocin over and over and over every time we look at our images….meaning our high lasts longer.
Why do you want to relive this experience ESPECIALLY if it was traumatic? This seems like it would be a trick question. But it isn’t. It is because after we experience our power being taken away, the only power that we have left is the power over our emotions. When our bodily autonomy isn’t respected our emotional autonomy is OURS. Forever and ever amen. Once you have your images, with the time they were taken and an unbiased documentation of your birth story, it is then that you are able to look at them and decide how you want to feel and own that in whatever capacity you want to. It’s a way to take your power back, if not with your body, with your emotions. That in itself is incredibly empowering.
Without realising it, our birth experiences shape us. Scientifically, with the bonding of our babies, how we respond to touch, how we process feelings and it spills into our everyday lives…even if we don’t realise it.
This is why I regret not documenting my first birth. I’ll never have that physical evidence of my power, of my vulnerabilities or my trauma to process.