I was having Happy Hour with one of my best friends. We were half way through our friend-data download when I heard this obnoxious, loud and annoying cell phone ring. I looked around me to see whose phone was disrupting my girl time and saw that nobody was checking their phones. I then noticed that my phone, which was face down on the bar, was vibrating and glowing. What the heck? Since when did my cell phone ring tone change?
Which was kind of when the penny dropped.
That ring was supposed to be annoying. I was supposed to not ignore it. I had purposefully set this maddening tone for a particular client whose birth I was scheduled to photograph. Which meant, OMG, a baby was on it’s way!!!!
Do you remember the Brandt family from a couple of months ago? (See their session here.) Well, sadly, Chief Warrant Officer Brandt’s overseas deployment did not coordinate well with the birth of his second child and so I agreed to be dad’s eyes for the birth. Mom, Amber, called to let me know that her check-up with the doctor that day showed the baby coming at any time. She was experiencing contractions but was so far not ready to go to the hospital. I let her know to get back in touch with me when she was going into Labor and Delivery and then continued sipping my glass of wine because, you know, these things can take a while.
Thankfully I didn’t order a second glass. Not twenty minutes later, Amber called back to let me know that her water had broken and that she was heading into the hospital. Knowing how fast her first daughter had arrived into the world once things got going, my friend and I quickly paid our tab and ran me home for my camera equipment.
When I arrived to Labor and Delivery at San Juan Hospital, Amber was practicing deep-breathing in the hallway while she waited for a room to become available for her. Shortly after I arrived one of the nurses urged her to come into a nearby room so they could check baby’s status. Meanwhile, I got acquainted with Amber’s mom and dad, and gave her eldest daughter, Sara, a big hug of support. She told me she was excited for the birth of her sister but sad because her dad wasn’t there and afraid because her mom was obviously in so much pain. At ten years old, I can only imagine how hard it must be to see your otherwise strong and in-control mom completely focused on breathing through the pain of contractions.
Mere moments after Amber disappeared, a rush of nurses descended upon the room, indicating things were moving quickly. Meanwhile we all patiently waited outside the room, anticipating a status update or news from a nurse. Part of me was afraid that Amber was in too much pain to remember to ask for us to come in and the other part was too afraid to poke my head in to ask if I could come into the room. These moments are so personal and, as someone who is not a family member, you have to be so careful to tread the line of documenting the birth and overstepping your bounds. I didn’t want to miss capturing the birth for dad but, at the same time, had no idea if my presence was appropriate behind the door.
Fortunately, one of the nurses emerged at Amber’s request and pulled me in. Things were indeed moving fast. Baby was on it’s way! So fast, in fact, that the only person Amber had the presence of mind to request in the room was me (in lieu of her husband) and so Amber’s mom and dad remained outside with Sara. As it turns out, I was the only person in the room with Amber for the birth of baby Mia who arrived merely moments later, after 2-3 big pushes.
Right away she cried, big, healthy cries that announced her presence, cries that echoed those that her mother had made to bring her into the world. I cried my tears behind the lens, so privileged to have been there but, at the same time, wishing more than anything that my presence was unnecessary and that Mia’s dad had been there in my place.
After baby Mia had been weighed and returned to mom, Amber asked for Sara and I got to document the moment when she met her baby sister for the first time. The look on her face when she saw her mom and her new sister brought back the tears even when I was going through these photos. I know this family had been waiting a long time for a second child to join their family; the moment was heavy with joyful disbelief and the absence of Chief Brandt. Later, Amber and her good friend managed to get him on the phone and, across the miles, Amber described her birth and their new daughter to him as he softly cried on the other end of the line. (Unfortunately, as I write this, I have learned that, since mom and baby are doing well, Chief Brandt will not be granted leave to come home to meet his new daughter as he was originally promised.)
I cannot describe to you the beauty of these moments, the honor of photographing something so special, so intimate… it’s why I became a photographer. It’s what I live for: to give families the opportunity to see the beauty of the important moments and relationships in their life in photographs, moments that can otherwise be so fleeting and so fuzzy in the rear-view mirror.
Baby Mia is beautiful and perfect and she may have arrived into the world without her father’s physical presence but the love she is surrounded by is amazing. She is one lucky little girl, as are they to have her.
(Related information: Check the website of My Babies Planet to learn about great photographic skills to capture the greatest moments of your baby)
It is important to know that this blog post and all the photographs in it were pre-approved by mom before publication. If you are thinking of photographing your birth but are concerned about your privacy, please know that my commitment is to following your wishes regarding the sensitivity of the information and images I am privilege to. I will never share anything you or your family are uncomfortable with (and am happy to share NOTHING if that is your wish), so please do not allow this to be your guiding factor when deciding if documenting your birth is right for you. Thank you to the Brandt family for allowing me to share these moments with you so that it might help others experience the beauty of birth photography.
Michelle McDaid is a writer and an authentic documentary family photographer in Sacramento, focused on telling the authentic, emotional and joyful stories of families and children. If you would love to tell the stories of the special little moments in your life in words and artistic images, please email Michelle to learn more about sessions and availability: firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.