Birth Photography

The Birth of Emily Scarlett - Fairbanks Birth Photographer

I am really honored to have been a part of this birth story. And what an incredible birth story it is – it’s a story so great that it actually starts waaaaay before the pregnancy did!

So, let’s start at the beginning.

This is an adorable family. (For real. Jim was actually named the Hottest Dad in America! And clearly, Angela is no slouch herself, either.) When Angela was telling me this story, she said that the most meaningful aspect of the experience of being named the Hottest Dad in America wasn’t the title – it was that Jim got to appear on national tv and talk about how passionate he was about parenting, and to share that message.

After getting the opportunity to see Jim with his kids at our Fresh48 session, I have to say that this comes as no surprise. Both Jim and Angela possess that rare quality of being able to see the world through their children’s eyes, and I saw them approach their eldest three children’s first introduction to their new sibling with patience, empathy, and a giddy excitement that could only be called childlike – in the best way possible.

But back to the birth!

So, Jim and Angela had their three beautiful children, decided they were done, and – well – Jim underwent a certain surgical procedure that is often described as permanent birth control. : ) And some years later, Angela began to wonder if she was having a change of heart. Angela is a photographer based in North Pole (of the eponymous Angela Tritle Photography) and sees a lot of high school seniors, and their parents, in her studio for portraits. She told me that she often ended up chatting with the parents during the sessions – and she was surprised how often she heard them say that they wished they’d had more children.

Angela really wanted to make sure that they too weren’t going to experience this regret, and so she and Jim really took it upon themselves to revisit the issue and really, really think about the baby question. As you may have already guessed given the nature of this post, it soon became clear that yes, they did want to pursue having more children.

It was a long journey, but from that point, they maintained faith that the pieces would fall into place and that they would find a path to their dream. And fall into place they did, including a trip out of state for a surgical reversal. And that was how I ended up in a coffee shop with Angela when she was about eight months pregnant, glowing, and very, very excited.

Angela had a natural, drug-free birth planned and had arranged to labor in the hospital’s tub if circumstances permitted. Her previous three labors had been relatively quick, so when I got the text that she was in labor, I was ready to fly into action. And I stayed ready…for hours! To everyone’s surprise, this little girl was taking her time. I finally joined them at the hospital in the evening and had a lovely time hanging out with Angela, Jim, and Angela’s sister, who was there to take video. Though she still was only dilated to about 3 cm, the contractions were starting to get uncomfortable, and the CNM gave the go-ahead to get into the tub.

It was there that labor soon began in earnest, and the amazing relationship between Jim and Angela really began to shine. Jim stayed by Angela’s side every second and was absolutely her rock – calm, steady, supporting, and strong. It was amazingly poignant to watch. After an early labor that poked along for an entire day, Angela’s labor was suddenly moving fast, and it became incredibly intense – so much so that during transition, Angela was left literally gasping for breath. At one point, she dilated almost three centimeters in the 40 minutes between checks – crazy fast. Later, she said it felt like she was being split in two. All we could figure is that baby finally decided to shift her position, and once she did, she was on her way down!

It was around this time that Angela asked for an epidural. It was so amazingly intense. However, it was clear – to everyone in the room except for the woman in labor – that there was no way an anesthesiologist would be able to get there before the baby did! Luckily, however, her CNM appeared and was able to tell her just how close everything was – and suddenly, carts were being wheeled in willy-nilly and Angela was about to meet her baby.

Emily Scarlett was born en caul (being born “in the caul” refers to an amniotic sac that remains intact through birth) – in a scant few pushes she was in her mother’s arms. The room was full of joy, and the rosy squalls of a beautiful baby with a fuzzy head of hair.

Nothing. Beats. That. Moment.

The Birth of Claire Michelle - Fairbanks Birth Photographer

This was such a triumphant birth, and I am so honored to have been a part of it. Heather and Tony had been awaiting the birth of their first child – a “surprise” baby (they had waited to learn the sex of the baby until the birth) – and were soooo ready to meet {her, as it turns out!}. They had a lovely natural childbirth planned: in addition to their desire for a drug-free labor, Heather specified immediate skin-to-skin contact in her birth plan, and – most exciting of all – their care provider was on board with Tony catching the baby, if circumstances allowed.

And to kill the suspense now: they did it! They had what I consider to be am eminently beautiful birth, though it didn’t go exactly as planned (as they rarely do), in that Heather had to be placed on some induction drugs when her waters partially ruptured, but labor hadn’t picked up on its own. As mamas who have experienced pitocin for themselves know well, it’s a drug that causes contractions that are notoriously intense. Throughout her long labor (and back labor at that), Heather understandably considered an epidural several times. Each time, her support team – including her care provider – served as the perfect sounding board, asking her if she was sure it was what she really wanted, and providing the encouragement that she could make it. It was wonderful to see a support team so empathetically and respectfully honor the spirit of the wishes Heather had stated in the birth plan.

And make it she did, triumphantly. And if that wasn’t enough to make this an amazing birth, Tony caught the baby (with their care provider’s hands always right there to show him what to do)! It was an incredibly emotional thing to witness, and I can’t find the words to express how much I love the series of photographs as the baby was making her way earthside. Another favorite of image of mine from this birth, captured soon after, is perhaps the best “It’s a girl!” picture ever – Heather and Tony are both just so happy, their smiles spill out of the picture, and I can still hear their exclamations and laughter.

They named her Claire Michelle, and she was just the tiniest, sweetest little baby you have ever seen. But I’ll leave you to be the judge!

The Birth of Rowan - Fairbanks Birth Photographer

This little guy’s family was soooo ready to meet him – especially by the end of a labor that spanned almost two full days and nights! But both Rowan and his mom, Colleen, hung in there until the very end.

In an effort to write less and let the pictures tell the story, I’m not going to go on and on. But I do have to say that one of my favorite things about this birth was the intensively supportive environment both Joe and Colleen’s aunt created in that little hospital room. It was chance that Colleen’s aunt was visiting from Fort Yukon when Colleen went into labor – and amazing kismet. Colleen later joked that she has kind of served as the family’s doula, as she had attended her own daughters’ births and also Colleen’s sister’s birth, and now she was here for Colleen as well. And even though she isn’t (technically speaking) an actual doula, this is one of the births that springs to my mind when I think about doula-assisted births and the incredible connection women can forge during labor. Colleen and her aunt went into the zone together: they maintained a deep connection through Colleen’s intense back labor as her aunt coached, encouraged, and supported her, always with Joe by her side.

And when Rowan finally arrived, there was so much love in the room, it spilled out into the hallway. (Literally! Unbeknownst to her, Colleen’s mom, dad, and sister had shown up at the hospital – in the middle of the night! – to check on her and were actually standing in the hallway in time to hear Rowan’s first cries. Some of my favorite images from this birth are those of the overwhelmed grandparents and auntie gazing at Rowan through the nursery window as he was examined.)

The Birth of Oliver Kai - Fairbanks Birth Photographer

I’ve been sitting on this beautiful birth story for far too long – it’s time to share!

I was thrilled when Alison and Manny first asked me about shooting the birth of their second child. And just I suspected it would be, it was a great birth to be a part of. Earlier in her pregnancy, Alison invited me to her blessingway (if you’re unfamiliar with blessingways – sometimes called Mother Blessings – this is a good link here) because she considered me an important part of her birth team. It was a lovely thought at the time, and it came to the forefront of my mind again when I arrived at the hospital to meet them on the very, very early morning of the birth. I was greeted by a spartan, and yet entire, community of birthing support, from her magnificent doula Tristan of Loving Lotus Doula Services, to her friend and babysitter, tasked with keeping an eye on the two-year-olds, to, of course, Manny, dad-to-be, who was eminently tuned in to Alison’s progress. In a way, it felt like we were simply picking up the blessingway where it left off – and very much like we were witnessing it come to its natural and intended conclusion! The mood was overwhelmingly calm and sure; Alison was amazing, and seemed completely in control the entire time.

Alison suspected her labor might be a quick one, and she was right: not long after 8 am, Ian got to witness the birth of his surprise little brother, who was quickly passed up into his mother’s elated embrace. It’s hard to say which part of any birth was ‘my favorite’ – for obvious reasons – but I will say that I just loved capturing this new family of four’s first few hours together.

Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this birth. Welcome earthside, Oliver Kai!

The Birth of Jacob - Fairbanks Birth Photographer

Well, it’s a day to celebrate – the sun is (finally) out, the snow is (finally) beginning to melt, mud is (finally) beginning to make an appearance… and I finally have a second to sit down and share this beautiful birth story!

This was such a peaceful, powerful birth. (And as a side note, whenever I refer to a birth as “peaceful,” I am by no means trying to deny the extraordinary intensity or power of birth, or to minimize the gamut of physical and emotional trials experienced by the mother…rather, I speak to the overall atmosphere of quiet, confidence, and, for lack of a better word, tranquility that is somehow achieved even in the presence of such raw travail.) Both maternal grandparents were present, and the arrival of Jacob was very much a joyous family event.

Instead of yammering on and on like usual, I’m going to let the pictures tell most of the story for once! But there one is other thing I have to note, of course: one of the things that made this birth extra special was that it was the second-ever birth to take place at the Alaska Family Health & Birth Center’s brand-new facility. (I, for one, can’t wait to go back!)

Welcome earthside, Jacob John-Michael!

The Birth of Ezra - Fairbanks Birth Photographer

Earlier this spring (and I’m using the word “spring” liberally here…), I had the pleasure of photographing the birth of Keturah and Mark’s third child at Bassett Army Community Hospital, located on Fort Wainwright.
Keturah spent months carefully planning her first all-natural childbirth with the help of Bassett’s amazing midwives. And I have to say – when the moment of truth arrived, it certainly seemed that all her preparations had paid off. The morning of birth started off mellow enough – enough that though Keturah had woken up with contractions, Mark still went to work because they weren’t sure if it was “the real thing” or not (only to be called home an hour later, of course). At that point, things began to pick up pretty quickly, and we made arrangements to meet at Bassett. When I got there, it was clear that things were progressing in earnest, but Keturah and Mark met every stage of labor with calm, premeditated grace. The labor ended up moving fast (much faster than the under-manned staff on the maternity ward initially anticipated – there were some expressions of surprise), but even through the intense moments, Keturah remained centered with Mark’s steady support. Their connection was palpable, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to capture some of their shared moments on film.

Ezra Nehemiah was born not too long after the sun finally came up, directly into the arms of his mother. It seemed like the sun was just pouring through the windows…the morning certainly didn’t need the weather to make it any more beautiful, but I will at the same time admit that it did seem appropriate.  

Welcome earthside, Ezra Nehemiah, and thank you, Mark and Keturah, for having me there at your birth.

The Birth of Atticus - Fairbanks Birth Photographer

Right from the start, Atticus seemed determined to let everyone know that while he may be small, he has OPINIONS. For example, he decided at the last moment that he didn’t feel like being born at the birth center, as his parents had carefully planned. He didn’t want any midwives at home, either, and he didn’t really care for the idea of having a photographer present. And so, ten minutes before midnight, on his due date, Atticus was born, at home, into the sure, calm hands of his father.

Tricia had been in early labor for a good part of the day, but she wasn’t really convinced it was leading to anything; around 9 pm she texted me to say that she thought things might be slowing down a bit, and she was hoping to sleep through the night and try to get things going the next day.

Atticus had other plans.

When things picked up, they picked up FAST. Just before ten-thirty pm, Tricia texted me and told me to put on a pot of coffee after all, because her water had just broken! She would let me know when they were headed to the birth center, and I would meet them there. I proceeded to “watch” tv with my husband while I had a cup of coffee and fiddled with my phone until just before midnight – at which point I got a text from Tricia’s mom saying they had decided there wasn’t time to head to the birth center, and they were having the baby at home. I flew down the stairs, got directions from Tricia’s mom, and was out the door. Tricia’s mom wasn’t actually with them – but she’d been talking to Adam, Tricia’s husband. (And little did we know, but Atticus had actually made his appearance mere moments before I even got Tricia’s mom’s first text.) I met her at the bank of mailboxes along the side of road and followed her the rest of the way to their home. We were both slightly giddy and mildly frantic – we burst into the house just as Adam was coming down the stairs to get something, and we asked him, “Did we get here in time?!?”

And then we heard Atticus’ sweet voice from upstairs.

It turns out he’d been born about forty minutes before we got there – which was also twenty minutes before their midwife, Dana, arrived, though she had been consulting with them on the phone as she drove once it became apparent this baby thing was HAPPENING. And so his was a complete surprise, unassisted (daddy-caught, that is) home birth. I’m told his big brother slept peacefully through the birth and groggily emerged when baby noises penetrated his dreams. He got some quick cuddles in and then went to spend the rest of the night with his grandma and grandpa before I got there.

Tricia and Adam were basking the glow of their new baby, trace amounts amazed and almost bewildered by the tiny person with opinions so big. To his great credit, Adam was decidedly unfazed by the whole experience; Tricia said that since he was never scared or shocked or panicked about what was happening, she too was able to stay calm and grounded. To be present in that room after such a momentous event was a beautiful thing, and these photographs take me right back that moment.

Congratulations, Tricia, Adam, and Aiden, and welcome, Atticus! The world is so glad you are here.

To more of Atticus at a ripe old 18 hours old, please see Atticus’ Fresh 48 Session.

The Birth of Jozannah Maria - Fairbanks Birth Photographer

I feel very fortunate to have met Tamara and Devon as they made their last preparations before becoming parents for the first time. They contacted me about birth photography because they are extremely new to the Fairbanks area; they only moved to Eielson about six weeks before I met them. Devon is originally from the South, but his wife has him beat: she’s from Australia! Since they are both so far away from home and from all their family, they wanted someone there to capture the moment for them so they would be able to share it with everyone, ’round the other side of the world. Tamara actually also made one of my very favorite points about birth photography: since I would be there, Devon was free to focus on and participate fully in the birth of his child, without having to worry about taking pictures (or forgetting to take pictures!).

I was immediately extremely excited to shoot the birth. Well – I’m super excited to shoot every birth. But this one held some firsts for me: it was to be the first birth I’ve ever attended at the military hospital. Also, Tamara and Devon both simply glowed about their baby – Tamara told me, “We’re just so honored to be parents.” (A few eyes may have teared up at this point.)

We did not know it at the time, but this ultimately would also be the first c-section I have photographed. Tamara meticulously researched natural childbirth during her pregnancy, and she had a beautiful waterbirth planned, and I truly feel honored to have been there to see how her care providers attended to and fulfilled her wishes in every way they possibly could. Everyone in that room gave it all they possibly could – no one more than Tamara. Every time I look through these pictures, I am again amazed (and, admittedly, a little choked up) at her strength and dedication, her refusal to give up, and her joy that she was at the precipice of meeting her baby.

Ultimately, however, baby made it clear that this bath thing was not happening, and after hours of pushing and a second trial of pitocin, the decision was finally made that a c-section was necessary. Later, both parents recounted to me the audible “POP!” they heard when the baby – whose sex was a surprise (it’s a girl!)- was finally dislodged from mom’s pelvis, where she was firmly stuck, her little head cocked ever-so-slightly (and ever-so-sassily) to the side. Devon was able to wheel tiny baby Jozannah right back to their room while Tamara was still in the OR, joining us shortly thereafter.

When Tamara held her baby for the first time, she said, “Oh, baby, you are the love of my life.”

The love in the room was palpable. I’ll let you see for yourself.

Welcome earthside, Jozannah Maria!

The Birth of Eden Glory - Fairbanks Birth Photographer

Rachel and I met two days before her due date.

We got to know each other a little as we watched our boys – hers are 4 and 2, mine is 3 – frolic on the playground. Rachel grew up here in Fairbanks, but has since been all over the world, and her family currently resides in Bend, OR. But, she said, her husband has always wanted to spend a summer in Alaska, and so when an opportunity presented itself this year, they packed up their clan and headed north. In a car. With two children (who where then) both under four. When she was about three months pregnant.

It became clear at this moment that Rachel is kind of my hero.

They were so excited to have their third child here in Fairbanks at the Alaska Family Health and Birth Center. It turns out that Dana Brown, midwife extraordinaire, is a close family friend, and that she was going to deliver Rachel’s child seemed especially poignant.

Two days after I first met Rachel, I got an email around 4 pm saying she’d had light but steady contractions for several hours, but her dad (a family physician) didn’t think it would go anywhere. Then around midnight, I got a text saying they were heading into the Birth Center, and I replied that I would be right behind them.

My husband happened to be out of town for work (of course), so I had to wait for my saintly babysitter to arrive before flying out the door. To say that I was excited might be underselling it. I was in the car on the way to the Birth Center, wondering what was clogging the spout on my coffee cup lid, when I realized I’d left the spoon I’d used to stir in sugar in the cup. Oops.

When I arrived at the Birth Center, I joined Rachel, her husband Ben, Rachel’s mother, and midwives Dana and Cori in the Pink Room. It was a beautiful labor: intense, but amazingly quiet, centered, and focused. Rachel struck me as almost shockingly in control at times: in the middle of what was obviously an immense series of contractions, she would only breathe, “owie owie owie!”

All in all, it was such a beautiful experience to have witnessed. Rachel and Ben had such an intimate connection throughout the labor, and then they were able to deliver their baby in the water, unassisted (by which I mean that the midwives where nearby, closely monitoring, but were able to let Rachel and Ben catch by themselves).

Welcome earthside, Eden Glory. The world is glad you are here!

Birth Photography: what it is, and why I do it

In some ways, it's difficult to write about birth photography.  People often come into the conversation with skepticism, with assumptions or preconceived ideas as to what birth photography is or what it will look like. It's for exactly that reason that I find "showing" tends to work better than "telling."

That is, in fact, the exact reason why an informal group of professional birth photographers I'm a part of put together this slideshow: to show everyone what birth photography is.

When my son was born, it was like the rest of the world stopped - a sudden, radical, and complete shift in perspective - my entire life was reordered according to a new sense of importance.  Birth is one of the rare events that causes almost everything else to become peripheral and fall away, allowing a crystal clear moment in which to perceive and appreciate the truly important stuff of life.  (And yet, while time seems to stand still, there's still the unshakable sense that moments are speeding by at breakneck speed.)

And they are.  And that's one of the reasons why hiring a professional birth photographer may be the right choice for your family: if I'm there taking photographs, everyone else can forget about the cameras and can instead go about truly engaging in these fleeting, irretrievable moments.  And these moments will all be captured with the artistic, create skill of a professional, resulting in beautiful, heirloom-quality photographs.

(Another slideshow, this one focusing specifically on the role of dads and partners in the birth story, titled "Hold Her Hand, Not the Camera." One of my images is featured.)

While birth photography is the story of your child's arrival, birth photography is not only about showing the story of your child's arrival - the labor, the birth, the squalling baby- it's about those moments as a family meets each other for the first time, as you take each other in and celebrate being together for the first time.  The first joyful embrace; the gaze between parent and newborn; the siblings' first peek - these are fleeting yet unspeakably valuable moments.

And those are the moments I strive to photograph.

Because, of all the moments in life you're going to want to remember, this is one of them.

And this.

And - truly - even this.

These moments cannot be re-lived, and having photographs can make the experience of remembering that much more poignant.  Families often express surprise at what treasured heirlooms their birth photographs have become.  I've even had one mom tell me her birth photographs are more precious to her than her wedding photographs.

To see more of my birth photography work, please click here.*

*All photographs on my website and blog are shared with the express permission of the clients.

For information about birth photography rates, please see investment.   For questions or more information about booking a birth photography session, please contact me.

Recommended Reading:

For more information and other perspectives on birth photography, I recommend these articles:

Birth Photography - and the truth behind what is REALLYis, at Lexia Frank Photography.

The Value in Hiring a Professional, at Carolyn Spranger Photography

Birth Photography at the New York Times

The Benefits of Professional Birth Photography - Preggie Pals Interview with Catie Stephens of Vuefinder Photography

And, just for fun: Barbie's Birth by Beach Birth Photography

Also check out my Birth Photography FAQs!