Babies are my favorite photo subjects- well, up until they can move fast. I think I’d have more success photographing bird poop than a mobile toddler.
Once again, for the 2nd year in a row, I was faced with an impossible challenge. I am a judge for the BirthPhotographers.com Image Of The Year Competition, and I had to submit my ballet yesterday.
Last year’s 1st and 2nd place-
And what an honor to even be on this judging panel! Mayim Bialik, Birth Without Fear’s January Harshe, and I Heart Faces co-founder Angie Arthur are just a few others casting votes this year.
The public voting phase is over. I completely missed letting you all know about that. So sorry!
BUT, you can still head that way and scroll through the amazing images and make your predictions as to who will win. Obviously, keep in mind that some of these images may not be safe for work.
It was SOOOO hard choosing who to vote for!
Winners will be announced March 1st.
This year, I have an even softer spot in my heart for birth photography after having Lowell’s entrance into this world captured by A Sacred Project. Monica, my birth photographer, is entered in the contest, but not with any of my pictures. I like to think I’m remaining objective.
I’d been pregnant for about… 7ish years. In my head. Technically, I was 40 weeks, 5 days, but in my head? A full seven years.
My body was revolting against me. I had a testicle/cyst growing larger each day (oh, you really should read all about that), and at my 40 week + 4 day appointment, my midwife had to utter the word “induction” to prepare me for the possibility that it might be the only way to stop me from being pregnant for ETERNITY.
(Please do stop yourself if you’re about to comment about how nobody is pregnant forever, babies pick their birth dates, blah blah. Rational arguments were lost on me at that time. That’s what I’m saying.)
The next morning, July 30th at 7:30am, I woke up to a small gush of something down there. My first thought as I shook off the fog in my brain was, “Oh, hell yes. Please let this be it.” Followed very quickly by the following train of thought:
“Oh. Shit. Get off the bed, get off the bed, VERY CAREFULLY GET OFF THE BED. Back your ass out of this thing. Scoot backwards. Don’t roll over. Oh, holy crap. Please don’t be my water breaking, please don’t be my water breaking.”
See, we recently purchased the bed of my dreams. A very expensive bed of my dreams. One made of foam that I imagine is pretty absorbent. One that we did not have any sort of plastic barrier on because my water NEVER breaks on it’s own.
And that’s a good thing, my midwife told me the day before, because I had SO MUCH amniotic fluid this time and the baby was floating so high up in it that IF my water did break, we might have a serious situation on our hands. A situation that would definitely require an immediate drive to the hospital, and possibly an ambulance ride if I felt “anything slipping out down there, like an umbilical cord… or an arm.”
After getting to the bathroom without dropping a water balloon out of my vagina on the way there (or an arm), I determined it was probably my mucus plug I felt, not my water. PHEW. And EW. There was spotting, and then a contraction.
The contraction was nothing to get excited about. I’d been having them for about 6 weeks. But the other signs were making me a little giddy. Scott was working from home that day, so I told him he might need to let his boss know he needed the day off (and the next month- three cheers for a month of vacation days saved up!). After about an hour, I called my midwife’s office. Contractions were pretty irregular and not painful at all. Sometimes I’d go 15 minutes without one. I didn’t expect things to happen anytime soon, but the office wanted me to head to the hospital anyway.
We live 45 minutes from it, and I knew that I was capable of going from 0-60 very fast, based on my 1.5-2 hour labor with Leyna. So we calmly packed up the car and left about an hour and a half after that. Then we stopped to get something to eat. It was all very casual. I’m sure the good people at Panera had no idea I would walk out with a bagel and cream cheese, then push a baby out by the end of the day.
Last bump selfie, just before heading to the hospital. Who’s happy to get this baby out? THIS GIRL.
The contractions were such a joke that by the time we got to the hospital, I was expecting them to just send me home. Nope. I was at a 4/5. (I was barely a 2 the day before.) Problem was the baby was still very high, not at all engaged. I was admitted anyway because everyone was confident I was in active labor, but I was preparing for a long day and night. Scott and I took off for a walk, which seemed to make the contractions stop. When we got back, I was monitored for a bit, then I opted to take a little nap. I was suddenly very tired.
The whole time I rested, I didn’t feel a single contraction. Not for the entire 40 minutes. But my anxiety started to ramp up as I started to feel really hot, and like I couldn’t breathe. I was dizzy. It made me freak out. OMG, did I have a blood clot? WAS I GOING TO DIE? Maybe my testicle-cyst was trying to kill me!
Seriously, the anxiety was a bitch. I begged Scott to get the nurse. I explained to her that I was afraid something was very wrong with me. She asked if I’d felt any contractions. In my head, I was all:
“Contractions? Let’s forget about the labor thing for a minute and focus on how I’m ABOUT TO DIE because CLEARLY something is not right.”
But she insisted on checking me. Hilarity! I hadn’t had contractions in more than an hour.
I was at a 6, almost 7. Baby was definitely engaged, much lower, I was 60% effaced. So a good portion of this labor progressed with the help of a panic attack instead of contractions. Lucky me?
Mostly confident that I was actually NOT dying (at that point), I decided to get in the labor tub. I was suddenly really worried that things were going to go super fast. I texted my birth photographer- Monica of A Sacred Project– and asked her to head on up to the hospital. Then I just… hung out. Just all chill in the warm water, casually kicking back. I felt contractions every 5ish minutes, but they didn’t hurt. I was laughing and talking through them. I was that woman in labor that people probably hate.
Don’t worry. I paid for it later.
Anyway, Monica got there about an hour after I got in the tub, so this is the point in the story where I’ll start to provide her lovely visuals for you all. And by “lovely” I do mean that some are terrifying. (But NONE are of anything below the bump or NSFW.)
(This post is going to be crazy long, so please click through from my homepage to read the rest and see the slideshow at the end of the post!)
Voting is on for the 2012 International Association of Professional Birth Photographers Image Of The Year. And let me tell you, the competition is fierce. Well, as “fierce” as sweet newborns and loving dads and hard working moms can get.
Just look at this year’s images and tell me you they don’t make you feel a deep, emotional connection (link here!). There are several that made me immediately crumple my face into the ugly cry, and quite a few that had me laughing.
Heads up! Some are a little graphic and not safe for work. Just so you know.
I especially love that they cover all types of births, from home to hospital, from bathtubs to c-sections. The same kind of love comes through each of them.
This year, I have the honor of being one of the judges! I have no idea how I’m going to pick a favorite. It’s quite a daunting task. There will be a Peoples Choice Award for the photo with the most votes so if you feel passionately about one, make sure to cast your vote, too. Voting has been extended and is open until February 8th.
Which one is your favorite?
I stumbled upon a birth photo session from a local photographer (Keri Duckett Photography) posted on Facebook yesterday. The preview pictures looked beautiful, but I wasn’t compelled to click through (really was doing my best to not waste too much time while trying to work on a deadline) until I saw the description below them.
the birth of Josephine. (surrogate)
These are two best friends. One mama was too high risk to carry another baby and she had just about given up the dream of more children. Her best friend made the offer of a lifetime by carrying and birthing her beautiful little girl for her! Grab your kleenex!
Yeah. I had to click through after that.
Birth photography is always inspirational and fills my heart to begin with. There’s something very magical happening under the surface. A family is forming, a bond is sparking. But, these pictures tell a story that is so much more complex.
Can you even imagine the love in the room as baby Josephine’s mom caught her as she was born, after growing in her mother’s best friend’s womb?
And as if this miracle of birth isn’t enough to be just absolutely, well…. miraculous, the mother was able to nurse Josephine. Yes! She was able to take some supplements and pump so that she had a milk supply when Josephine arrived! (I read in the comments that the surrogate will also be pumping to help out.)
Best friend overjoyed at the sight of mama nursing her baby! Mama didn’t think this could happen!
I reached out to Keri to ask if I could share this story here and link back to her album on Facebook. She doesn’t have a blog right now, so that’s the place to go to see the rest of them. I also asked her some questions about her experience with all of this, as it had to be very special to be on the other side of that camera lens.
How long have you been doing birth photography, and what got you into it?
I started birth photography in the spring of 2009. My mother has been a midwife my entire life, so it was natural for me to be involved somehow in the birth community. She owns two birth centers, Gentle Beginnings Birth Center. I worked in the office when they first opened so I was able to photograph some of her clients to start my portfolio.
How did you meet these women, and have you ever photographed a surrogate birth before?
This was my first surrogate birth, though I hope it to not be my last! They are clients of Gentle Beginnings Birth Center and T contacted me to photograph their birth.
What was it like to witness this bond, and what was the atmosphere like after Josephine entered the world?
It was such an honor to be trusted enough to capture one of the most intimate and joyous times in their life. I feel this way about every client I have. The mood after Josephine’s arrival was that of accomplishment and celebration. These couples had worked together for so long for this very moment, and it had finally arrived. It was very touching to see L so happy for her best friend who finally had her baby in her arms. I’m sure the reward for her was beyond words. It was also incredible to see Josephine’s mom and dad get to know her and fall in love with her, something they weren’t sure they would ever get to do again. It was a truly emotional and inspiring experience.
Keri is unsure if and when the mother and surrogate will publish a public birth story, as they are both busy healing and nursing a very special baby girl right now. If they do, though, I’ll be sure to link it up (with their permission) and let you all know.
I really hope we can learn more about their story. It reminds me that the heart of life is good.
Keri is a DFW area birth photographer. You can visit her website here.