How Looking At Birth Can Actually Help You!

Not everyone loves a Podcast and maybe you prefer to read. So, below I’ve transcribed Episode 1 of The Adventures of a Birth Photographer Podcast.

I didn’t want you to miss out on the information I shared.

You can read the podcast episode below:

Hello, and welcome to the very first episode of The Adventures of a Birth Photographer podcast.

I’m ridiculously excited to be chatting with you today, and I wanted to say a big thank you for tuning in. In this episode, I’m going to be touching on the ways that you can start preparing for birth simply by looking at photographs of birth, and I’ll be giving you a little bit of encouragement to get your birth partner to look at birth images too. Now, I wanted to start with this topic in particular because I feel very strongly about it and I think that it’s really an important one.

I hope it’s an episode that you might come back to time and time again or an episode that you might recommend to someone who may benefit from hearing it.

Before I really begin, I wanted to take you back 16 years ago to when I had my firstborn, Oskar. I had him at the hospital, and over the years it’s occurred to me that at the time, nobody mentioned home birth to me at all. So it was never anything that I’d even considered. I was actually just asked what hospital would I be having my baby at? That was the extent of the plans that I’d made, and there was nothing beyond that other than packing my birth bag, which just consisted of a series of nappies and wipes and some vests.

So 16 years ago, we didn’t have access to the images of birth like we do today. Mobile phones were just something you used to actually call somebody with and texting took like a million years. I don’t know if I’m showing my age now. But we didn’t have a point of reference to birth at all, other than the odd magazine, which didn’t really show raw images of birth. They were very sugarcoated and very clean looking, from memory, they were just the moments after. There weren’t even any labor images. I wasn’t even sure what somebody laboring looked like. It certainly wasn’t depicted in any magazines that I bought at the time.

There was also some random TV shows which, to be honest, didn’t inspire me at all.

I had my mother’s birth story of me to go by, but it’s fair to say that, really, resources were extremely limited. I didn’t know anybody else at the time either that was having a baby. So I kind of relied on these magazines and TV shows. In my mind’s eye, when I thought about birth, I had a very mental image, which I think a lot of us have, and it’s the woman on her back, hooked up to a whole lot of machines, screaming, swearing, and in absolute agony.

Just by describing that, I think it’s an image that you know too. It’s an image that is shown all the time, particularly in the film and the TV industry and even in schools. My teenage son came home from school fairly traumatized, I would say, by what he’d seen, and which begs the question, why are they showing videos like this of birth in schools? It really needs to stop. We need to put an end to this, particularly now that we have access to so many positive images of birth. We should be showing women and children what birth can look like.

So thankfully, things have moved on and we have the internet and we have amazing platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Even if we just Google  “birth photography” or “birth photographer”, a whole host of websites will pop-up. And if you go to the image section on Google, a whole host of images should appear as well. It’s for this reason that I think birth photography is an incredibly valuable tool that we should all be accessing. What you can gather from looking is incredibly useful when you’re coming to put together your birth plan. You can access all this information for free, which is the best bit about it, really. I’m going to give you a couple of Instagram accounts at the end of the episode that I recommend you checking out.

So how can looking at birth images actually help you?

Let’s start with labor and birthing positions. Now, by viewing lots and lots of images of women laboring and birthing, you will notice that they are getting into a variety of positions, and some of these positions might be great for you to consider. The main positions that we’ve seen are women on their backs laboring and birthing, and I photograph births like this. I want to stress that I’m not opposed to women laboring or birthing on their backs if that is what is working for them. What I am opposed to is them being told it’s the only position they can get into. Okay. So birthing on your back, laboring on your back might be right for you. If that’s what your body’s telling you, you should absolutely do it.

By looking at all these images, we’re going to find that there’s a variety of positions you can get into. One of the things that you will notice is the majority of these women will be having the freedom of movement. Having the freedom to get into a position that is working for you is everything because it is you working with your body to get your baby out. So some of the positions that you might want to consider, or think about, or try, would be standing, squatting, on your side, on all fours, leaning on a bed or a chair, holding onto your partner.

I photograph women where they’re hanging off door frames, or they’re dancing, It’s just beautiful. You can also consider whether you want to labor in a birth pool. Maybe you want water, or a shower, possibly a bath. Maybe you’d like to go outside and get some fresh air? The images available will show you the endless possibilities.

Now, I always encourage birth partners to look at these images with you as well. When you’re in the throes of labor an image might come to your mind that you’ve previously seen, that you want to try. Also, your partner can encourage you to get into a certain position based on what they’ve seen as well. Looking at birth images, you’ll also be able to see the pain relief methods that are being used by these women too, both natural and medical.

So, you might want to grab a pen and some paper if you can:

Some things that you might want to incorporate in your birth plan, based on a lot of images that I’ve taken and that I’ve seen. Maybe you’ve seen a woman reaching down to feel the baby’s head as it’s crowning. This might be something that you want to put in your birth plan, something you want to do. Maybe you’ve seen a woman using a mirror to look at the baby’s head emerging. I photograph many, many births like this. So adding a mirror to your birth plan or purchasing a mirror is something you could do.

Delaying cutting the cord until it’s turned white and stopped pulsing. This is something to add to your birth plan. I highly recommend that you check out Wait for White. It’s a campaign that is really, really important. I’m going to put that link in the show notes so you can have a little look yourself. So just by looking at images like this, you can start to make a list of all the things that resonate with you and all the things you would like to include in your birth plan. If your partner is doing your birth plan with you, you’re both on the same page, which is great.

Other things you might see when looking through birth images are babies covered in vernix, which I love. And you might decide, “Yes, I want to keep the vernix on my baby. So, therefore, I don’t want my baby cleaned. Maybe you want your partner to catch your baby. I was recently at a birth where Dad caught the baby, and it was lush. Maybe that’s something to think about, consider.

If you’re planning a belly birth:

I like to call cesarean births belly births, you can absolutely make plans based on images that you’ve seen. You might want to consider having the drapes down so you can see what’s going on. I’ve also seen images where the drapes are transparent. Is that an option for you? Do your hospitals have transparent drapes? Maybe you still want to have immediate skin to skin in the theater. Maybe you want to keep your baby connected to the placenta? There are so many things to think about, and it’s when we look at images of birth and see what other women are doing, you can decide whether that’s something you want for yourself, for your birth.

I also briefly want to cover that first couple of hours after birth, the immediate postpartum. I think they call it the golden hour, which is lovely. How do you want that to look? Do you want some quiet time? How are you going to deliver your placenta? Think of the options available to you. What do you want to do with your placenta afterward? Do you want to have a good look at it? Do you want to take it home? Think about your first feed. What is that going to look like? Whether that’s breast or bottle.

Now, I know that I’ve gone on about the advantages of looking at images, but I absolutely want to say that looking at birth videos is an incredible resource too, and you absolutely should look at birth videos because there are some incredible ones out there. I refer a lot to birth images because I’m a birth photographer so the still image is important to me. I also believe that our brain processes an image better than it does video. Video happens very, very quickly, it’s in real-time, so the eye will tend to miss things.

With a still image, you’ve got time to look at the whole thing and to really take it in.

We can begin to see what’s going on in the background of an image or what personal belongings somebody might have with them. What’s going on in that environment? Do they have affirmations? Do they have candles? What’s around them. What drinks are they drinking? What fruit might they be eating? Anything like that, you can pick out all the little bits that you love and add them to your birth plan. I just think with an image, we absorb so much more information because we look at it longer.

So just looking at birth images and as many birth images, as you can, you and your partner can sit and put a birth plan together based on what you’re seeing, and what feels right, and what you’d like to include, and what you don’t want to include. That’s important too. There are so many things to consider, and I hope this has been a good starting point for you. Now, the best place I recommend for birth imagery is Instagram, and I just want to recommend just three to start you off. If you go to my Instagram account as well, you’ll see that I follow a whole host of other birth photographers. Just go and have a look at their work because it’s phenomenal.

The 3 Instagram accounts I’m recommending are:

Birth Becomes You, Gather Birth, and EvaRoseBirth

So, that brings me to the end of this episode, I hope you’ve found it useful. If you have, write to me and let me know. I’m big on human connections, and I would love to hear from you. Thank you so, so much for tuning in. Having you here listening to me means a great deal. This podcast is something I’ve been wanting to put into the world for a long, long time, and I can’t believe I’ve just recorded episode one. Thank you for being on this journey with me.

Until next time, take care.

Notes: Link to Wait For White

Here’s a Freebie which EXACTLY encompasses everything I’ve just talked about: