I first met Sarah when I photographed her breastfeeding her daughter for a special exhibit on the challenges and successes of feeding our children. This was a photoshoot that as a photographer, a mother, and a breastfeeding parent, broke me. I'm pretty sure we all cried on this day. In-between photos Sarah shared her journey with me, feelings and experiences she hadn't really said out loud before. I was blown away by her honesty and her determination to breastfeed her daughter through their intense struggles. From that moment on we were forever connected.
I am so honoured to know this family and to have them share so openly with me. Sarah is part of a movement of women who want to share their story because they/we/I can't allow another woman to experience motherhood and feel so taken by surprise and alone while she struggles.
A few years later when Sarah contacted me to document the birth of Charlie, I was so excited! The birth of Sarah's second baby is super special to me because we were both due around the same time. As our due dates approached we joked about the possibility of us giving birth at the same time! There was also the very real possibility of missing her birth because I was in labour or from recovering from birth with our surrogate baby. As the days ticked away we kept each other in the loop with some very #realtalk about our thoughts and feelings on the end of pregnancy and labour. I really needed someone to commiserate with and check-in with near the end as things started to feel very long and especially thoughout my own very long labour. Luckily the stars aligned and Sarah gave birth to Charlie while I was still pregnant.
I arrived at their house early in the morning. Sarah was doing super well, her daughter was still sleeping and the team was just getting settled in.
Over the next hour or so contractions picked up and things became much more laboured (pardoned the pun!). Sarah's previous birth had been very different. In a sense, she was experiencing this type of labour and birth for the first time, so, in my opinion, I think Sarah became very overwhelmed with the intensity - which is totally understandable considering she hadn't really experienced contractions like this before! You just never know how you might respond and what it might feel like in your body and trying to control those feelings is incredibly challenging.
As Sarah struggled I started to jump in as doula, even thought I wasn't on the team officially as hers.
I literally held my camera in one hand and tended to Sarah with the other. I love my new camera! It was hard work to get up on the bed, 9 months pregnant, and support a birthing woman while photographing, but that's my job and I fucking love it and I'm so happy I get to do it again and again!
Together with her husband and her midwives everyone worked as a team help Sarah to get her through those insane peeks and valleys of contractions. At one point, Sarah was begging us to go the hospital. BEGGING! It was breaking my heart. I was telling her "No! We're not going! You've got this!" and I felt like a monster for saying no. I'll never forget her face as she looked at her husband and myself to make it stop and get her out of there! I actually captured this exact face in her photographs. It will haunt me and give me chills forever. It's hard to see but it is so full of vulnerability which is why I decided to include it. Birth is a vulnerable time! It culminates the helplessness I think we all feel in the birthing room when someone is experiencing such intense emotions and physical discomfort. We felt powerless to help her and I think she felt like her body and the process of labour had taken over and perhaps she felt like she had lost herself.
It's not what she wanted. To feel that out of control. We knew that this home birth was so important to her so we pushed her to achieve her goal even though I think we all wanted to give in. Everything was unfolding as it should, baby was doing well, but, of course, it was really hard work!
What I really love is that In the photographs you can see these intense moments of contractions and then rest in between. Literally seconds later. It's amazing. I know this was hard for Sarah, but I hope that when she sees her photos she can see how strong she was and how she had was able to have moments of respite in between when things weren't so wild.
Eventually, the midwives did call the ambulance to transfer Sarah to the hospital because that was the safest way to get her there. There was absolutely nothing wrong, but, as far along as she was in labour, this was the best option for mode of transportation. Sarah was ready to change birth places.
Then, as everyone was packing up, Sarah asked myself and her husband if this meant she was going in the ambulance. Yep! At this point Sarah had already pulled her pants back on and was ready to go, but, an emotional shift took place once she understood her reality and all of a sudden she was overcome and her body was pushing her baby out! It was amazing! The team got back in place super quickly and a few pushes later Charlie was born!
Sarah had the home birth she had been dreaming of. She did it! We were all super happy and very proud. The ambulance arrived a few minutes later and were sent home after some paperwork and we got to enjoy the first moments of this new family.
The Now Project created by Erin Lester.
Is a project and intention to photograph every day moments. It's a reason for us to forget the technical and the perfect and just document our lives. We're so busy taking care of everyone else, that we often forget ourselves! So this is our goal this year to get in front of the camera and photograph our family, good, bad, and mundane!
Elsa helped with the eggs quite a few times, a glimpse into her future self. She really loves to help. She's growing like a weed lately and I feel like once she's 3, I'll no longer have babies anymore. So seeing her this small and showing this big milestones, like mixing eggs in a bowl is important because I never want to forget it! Helping is a big task!
Near the end of this month they both attended the party of a classmate and Rowan had his face painted like a racoon. I never expected to be so.... enthralled by face paint? but his racoon face made him look like such a different kid! It was so cool! I'm gushing but it was really neat to see him transform. Our photoshoot with him was ridiculous! This kid loves to work it for the camera hence the ton of photos of him posing for me. Ah-mazing!
Other than that, it's just breakfast at the little table like usual.
We've started to participate in a weekly project #thenowproject. The aim is pick up our cameras more and document "the now". To capture the normal everyday moments that seem simple and mundane. Here's what we've captured so far.