The moment that set me on the path of making memories for women and families during their journey into parenthood was after the birth of my second child. I knew, right after his birth, that this was what I was going to make my life’s mission, my heart and soul work.
But it goes back even earlier, to when my first baby was born – well, actually, when I was pregnant.
I thought professional photography was too expensive. I thought it was an unnecessary luxury and PEOPLE BE CRAZY to spend hundreds, or thousands, of dollars on it. The ironic part of that, is that I made the decision not to invest in professional photography, when it was the first and only time in our relationship that we were DINKS – dual income, no kids. I’m horrified when I think of what we DID spend money on, that now just seems so unimportant (so unimportant that I actually don’t really even know where all that money went). I invest way more money into professional photos now (yes, I still hire photographers myself, so I can be in the pictures too!), and we now have three children to support, and I don’t have my teaching salary anymore. It’s funny how priorities change.
I wish I could go back. I wish I could tell Jen from 12 years ago just how stupid she was to think she could take “good enough” photos on her little digital camera or crappy phone (they were still pretty crappy then), or the DSLR I got soon after our first was born but I had not a clue how to use.
But I can’t go back, and to this day it is my biggest regret. If I could sell my own home to go back in time and have maternity, birth, newborn and family photos from those early days and years, I 100% without a doubt would. For me, it’s too late – what’s done is done, and I didn’t make it a priority then, but maybe, just maybe, it’s not too late for you.
Maybe you can have beautiful, flattering, professional images of your own baby’s early days, unlike the handful I’ve got, including these…
Baby #1 – My “clueless” pregnancy and birth, that was basically your mainstream, run-of-the mill hospital birth. I got lucky, and even though my birth ended up being a lot like in the movies, with the “Push! Push! Push,” legs in stirrups and blood everywhere, but in hindsight I feel lucky I wasn’t pressured into an assisted delivery or caesarean after pushing for three hours! I’m also very lucky that she loved the boob from the beginning and I breastfed her for over a year, when I was still very naive and believed people who told me she was too old (which now just makes me cringe and roll my eyes). It was the most excrutiatingly painful and difficult thing I’ve ever done, physically and mentally, but I DID IT! And I wish I had something that captured the triumph of that moment that I thought would never come, the joy that came after I did something I had started to believe I couldn’t do. Oh, and did I mention that somewhere in the vault, my mother-in-law took video of her birth day that I haven’t seen, and 12 years later still desperately wish I could have, but I’m giving up hope of ever getting? So, all I have is a few clips of home video and less than a handful of photos…none of which are of her and I on the day she was born, except one where it’s all blood and boobs. Even the photos I have the following day do not reflect how I felt as a new mother, they’re just…blergh. It’s heartbreaking.
Baby #2 – My “turned the world upside down baby.” My birth centre transfer. The birth I thought I was prepared for, I planned and hoped for, and had it all pulled out from under me, not realising that I still had any choices. The birth that traumatised me, when they separated me from my brand new baby for hours. The birth that made me realise how birth could and should be, but for so many women just isn’t. The birth where I had spent the evening taking maternity photos on the beach with my husband, then the memory card mucking up but saying we would get one the next day, only to then go into labour and have to make the difficult decision to format the card in order to get birth photos, because we had no way of saving them to a computer first, already being two hours from home to be near the hospital (I later managed to recover a few, but they were all ones that I had binned because they weren’t keepers). Then, the further punch to the gut of getting less than a handful of photos, again, when I already had lost so many of my dreams for this birth, and missed out on the first hours of his life in person, as well as in pictures. This is when I knew there had to be a different way. It’s when I knew women needed more and better information, and unconditional support in their choices. It’s when I knew that women who wanted their journeys captured needed someone who was there for just that, not to rely on partners, birth support people and/or midwives that had their own role to play. To this day, I am sad about how his birth happened, and sad about my lack of memories, but the silver lining, and one I am so thankful for, is that it led me here, to this. To being that person I wish I had, for others.
Baby #3 – My empowering and healing birth, but yet again the heartbreak of not having it captured. This time, I was determined. I booked the birth photographer before I booked the midwife! But having a homebirth, which in Australia is not a cheap affair, I could not have it all. I didn’t have maternity photos (again), so I don’t have a single photo of any of my pregnancies that I would be proud to hang on the wall. My birth went really fast, and the photographer arrived 20 minutes afterwards. I adore what I have, I’m so, so thankful and I wouldn’t give it up for the world, but I wish I could have photos to remember my (brief) labour, to show that strength, the strength I didn’t know I even had! Even our home video was ruined when the midwife rushed in at the last minute and put her stuff down in front of the camera. I sometimes feel like I’m forever doomed to be the birth photographer without birth photos of her own, but I think it makes me realise even more intensely just how important what I do is, because I don’t have it myself and would give anything to be able to. What I can say is that just having moments captured from those early hours is such a precious, precious thing to have – my most prized possession, even.
I don’t want people to feel like me. I don’t want people to have regrets and disappointments. I don’t want people to wish they could turn back time and make different choices, choices that weren’t about money. I don’t want people to feel like professional photography is a luxury that they can’t have, only to later wish they’d somehow made it work. I don’t want you to be another mum who takes all the photos and isn’t in them, especially when you, YOU, are growing them, birthing them and nurturing them.
I want you to be able to look back and marvel on how your body grew life.
I want you to be able to look back at the moments, the details and the parts of your baby’s birth day story that you otherwise may not remember, or were even aware of at the time.
I want you to remember the sound of your baby’s cry, what you first said when they were born, how tiny they were and every one of their tiny, perfect features.
I want you to remember how your older child/ren reacted when they met your new baby for the first time.
I want you to have what I wish I had. I want to give to you what I didn’t give to myself.
I promise you, in the months and years to come, the money will mean nothing and the memories will mean everything. It might seem hard, even almost impossible, in the here and now, but if you can make it happen, you will never, ever regret investing in these memories.