Photographing a Live Birth - July 2018
Just about 2 years ago, a family friend mentioned she was pregnant and looking for a birth photographer. At the time I was super interested in trying all sorts of photography to build up a resume. So I looked up some other birth photography ideas on Pinterest, thought "oh, this would be really cool" and told them "hey, I'd be willing to do it!".
So let me introduce to you Nick + Kenzie! They met at grad school, got married, and settled down in the North Shore area of Wisconsin as power-couple chiropractors.
And what an amazing couple! I got to know them pretty well over 2 maternity photoshoots, and the meetings to talk about the birthing process/what I should expect. We stayed in contact with all the pregnancy updates leading up to the due date. My excitement slowly built up over the nine months of course for them and the arrival of their baby, but also for this experience. My biggest fear was that Kenzie was going to text me in the middle of photographing a wedding that she was in labor and I would miss the whole thing!
Thankfully, God decided to begin Kenzie's labor around 10pm on July 22nd while I was in the middle of my editing a photoshoot at home. I quickly grabbed all my gear, a couple of granola bars, a power drink, and drove downtown!
I arrived at the hospital around midnight to find Kenzie, Nick, and their doula Brittany. Everyone was jittery, talking and pacing around. Kenzie's contractions were short and spread out.
As the long night began I felt extremely awkward for two reasons.
1) I'm not family or a best friend to Nick and Kenzie, yet I was there witnessing and participating in this entire experience.
2) Not only was I simply there but I was also awkwardly clicking my camera away. I was praying so hard that God would lead me to click at the right time and that they would not regret my presence being there.
I know that the job of the photographer is TO CAPTURE EVERYTHING. Even still, no one likes to be photographed when they're stressed, experiencing excruciating pain, being examined by doctors, screaming, and scared.
I remember a few hours later hearing a voice inside reminding me that Kenzie and Nick, (well especially Kenzie), are so engulfed in their own stress and tension with this whole process that they don't even hear me or care anymore. It became easier after that. All I did was click my camera, stay out of doctors' ways, and pray for Kenzie and the baby. I knew that these images would mean the world to Kenzie and Nick after all this was over with.
Photographer's Nerdy Side Note: I started off the night by taking photos with my diffused flash, but ultimately decided after the first hour that the awkward flash was not worth it. I settled for an incredibly high ISO and grainy images. Which, in my artistic opinion, when I made the images black and white, ended up looking really beautiful.
I'm not kidding when I say it was a long night. I got there around 11pm and Kenzie gave birth at 9:42am. In the beginning of the night Kenzie would have painful contractions but then right after, she would look up at Nick and smile. She is such a tough woman and wouldn't let the pain phase her, she knew the good thing to come at the end of it all. But as the night progressed it got worse and the smiling stopped. I'm not going to lie and and paint a pretty picture about the rest of the night, because the brutal truth is that it was really hard to watch Kenzie scream in pain. There were moments when I couldn't believe that I was really there witnessing this entire experience. I wanted to cry for her.
Nick stayed right by her side. He held her, squeezed her hand, pushed her back during a contraction, and say encourage her the entire time.
In moments where I felt like I wanted to cry and wanted to leave the room I looked to the doctors and other nurses in the room. They handled everything so calmly like this whole ordeal was no big deal. (Well, of course it was no big deal to them they do this EVERY DAY). Seeing them handle this so calmly and confidently made it a little easier for me to see it all.
It still felt like the middle of the night by the time 9am rolled around because it was misty and raining outside. My adrenaline and black coffee kept me going. But the doctors were confident that the baby would be born any contraction now. Nick had seen the head of the baby, held Kenzie, gave Kenzie an extra boost of encouragement, and Kenzie gave one last push...