This blog post features semi graphic images of human births.

Why Birth Photography?

This is ALWAYS the very first question I receive when I tell anyone what I do. Especially when I start raving about how much I love it. And honestly? I'm not sure there's a simple answer that doesn't get all spiritual and kind of hippie sounding. (Nothing wrong with either of those things!) It's just, magical.

I have always been a lover of babies, since I was one myself. When I began doing Maternity and Newborn portraits I fell in love. Parenthood is beautiful and documenting those fleeting stages brings me great joy. When it comes to Maternity portraits, not only do I get to help the expectant parents celebrate the new life about to enter their world, I also get to let the person carrying baby see themselves in a way they likely haven't, and document their last moments as a couple or as a family of 1, 2, 3, 4... And of course for my newborn clients I am creating artwork that features their newest blessing as the star!

A pregnant woman holds her toddler son on her lap while sitting in a rocking chair wearing a dress and floral headband

Image by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2018

a newborn baby wrapped in blue lays in the middle of a heart made of hotwheels as his brother plays in the bottom right

Image by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2018

Birth Photography however, is so very very different. I'm not an active participant in the labor and delivery process. I am not the laboring person nor am I their spouse or support person, I am not their medical provider nor am I their doula. I AM a part of their birth team, but I am a silent one. I get to touch back on my journalistic roots and be the fly on the wall. I am a birth observer and nothing more in that moment, and that just inspires so much awe in me.

Speaking of awe, how incredible is it that people trust me to enter their sacred birth space? They trust me to document anything and everything that happens. They trust me to tell their birth story in the most beautiful way I can. Additionally they trust me to respect the process itself and not to disrupt the very serious medical event that I am witnessing.

When I enter someone's hospital room, or their home, or the birthing center of their choosing I may or may not even say hello. I immediately jump into story teller mode and my camera hits my face pretty quickly. The responsibility can feel heavy, but it is also just so incredible. I mean, imagine photographing people's very first breath for a living.

a close up image of a mother's face with one tear rolling down while her just born baby rests on her chest

One of my favorite birth images I've ever taken. Image by: The Best Nest Portraits

a midwife leans over a birthing pool where a woman is laboring and her husband holds her shoulders

It is my job to leave the birthing space undisturbed Image by: The Best Nest Portraits

A freshly born baby lays on its mothers breasts, covered in a blanket, with mom's hands resting on its back

I remain with the family to capture Golden Hour Image by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2023

Multiple people crowd around mom and the newly born baby she holds on her chest

The emotional rollercoaster of labor and delivery Image by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2023

How Did You Get Into Birth Photography?

While for most of my photography career I have also worked as a childcare provider, there was a period of time where I was doing something completely different. I was managing a local comic book store. That's like the absolute coolest thing ever right? It really was, I was having SO much fun. But what does that have to do with Birth Photography?

While I was managing my shop I was also still building my "expanding families" portrait business. As a matter of fact, thanks to my very supportive boss at the time, I was actually growing my business quite a bit! During that time, my sister's best friend announced that she was expecting, and reached out to me about a Maternity & Newborn Portrait package. She then asked if I would consider photographing her birth, as this was she and her husband's first baby and they wanted to document baby's arrival. Honestly, at that point Birth Photography wasn't even on my radar but I was instantly interested.

Now, had I still been working in childcare there is no way that I could have committed to this. Birth workers all work on call, and this isn't feasible when you're locked into caring for someone else's children. You see birth is unpredictable and definitely doesn't happen on anyone's schedule, and as a childcare provider if you call in that means that your bosses ALSO have to call in to their jobs or they're left to find coverage and that just can't happen last minute. So, because I was working retail and my boss was so supportive, I was able to commit to being on call knowing that I would have coverage at my "day job". 

I went on call, and when the time came my boss so graciously let me leave so I could be there. I will never forget walking down that hospital hallway to find her husband nervously waiting for her epidural to be placed. The tension was palpable and I knew I needed this shot. I quietly whipped out my camera and got some of my favorite support partner images I've ever captured.

Baby Cheyenne came in the morning after a long night of laboring, and I witnessed almost the whole thing. It took everything in me not to cry through the whole event, as I wanted to make sure my images were sharp! But boy oh boy did the emotions run thick! I stuck around for a small amount of the post birth "golden hour" and then I headed home, more than excited to upload the images and see what I'd captured. While reviewing those images I was finally able to let the tears flow and after that I was definitely hooked. Nothing would ever feel the same as that rush!

A man stands alone in a hospital hallway, reading the newspaper and waiting to be allowed entry to his wife's room

An anxious husband and dad to be, waiting. Image by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2014

A woman laboring on her back as the doctor pulls the baby from the birth canal while her husband supports her shoulders

I had no idea how much these images would change my life. Image by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2014

What Next?

After photographing that first labor and delivery, I knew that I wanted to start leading my business in the direction of birth work. Suddenly I felt like I had a calling higher than anything I'd ever felt called to do before. After that I began quietly offering birth photography to my newborn clients when they contacted me for booking. Most folks weren't interested, and I think that's because most folks don't fully understand what a birth story, professionally documented, really looks like. So often I get an almost repulsed reaction paired with comments like "I don't want pictures of my vagina like that!" "Wait you do WHAT?! Ew, gross" "No way, I looked AWFUL during my last labor and delivery!" (That last comment inspired a whole other blog that will be coming soon.)

I quickly realized that I was going to have to find my people. Within a couple weeks one of my college roommates sent me an email and asked if I'd be up for photographing her labor and delivery, as she was expecting her third child and was also getting involved in birth work herself, so she knew she wanted these images. So I went right back on call!

My client resided over three hours away from me, and boy oh boy did that add to the pressure! In the late afternoon one day, I was alerted that she was in labor and I had to drop everything and run! Literally, I ran as fast as I could to my car, probably sped the whole way there, and made it with more time to spare than I'd imagined. I photographed for over 18 hours, with few breaks, and eventually baby arrived safely in a birthing pool surrounded by love. 

I rushed home on absolutely no sleep, took the shortest nap of my life while the images uploaded and then proceeded to edit almost half of them right away. I was full of passion and energy and adored what I had captured for them.

A man holds his laboring wife in his arms as they take a brief rest in her birthing pool.

As I was taking one of the only naps I could manage, I was excitedly awakened by one of the midwives "Quick, you don't want to miss this shot!" Image by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2014

So How Did You Meet Your Doula?

I did say in my blog post The Best Nest Portraits - A History that I would tell you how I met my friend Stephi who would later become my very own doula, and would eventually lead to my first studio here in the TLC Doula Group office.

While I continued managing my comic shop and booking plenty of Maternity and Newborn sessions I kept offering birth photography as often as I felt it would be received well. Additionally, as I myself identify as Bisexual and am always keeping an eye out for representation of folks like myself, I noticed that in the world of photographing expanding families, a very specific image of "family" was being presented. And that image was mainly white, hetero-presenting, nuclear families. Every so often you might have seen images of a single mother, but in that time frame LGBT folks couldn't be found in this niche almost at all. So I set out to find those families and let them know they'd be safe with me.

I don't actually remember how we got connected, but I was contacted by a lesbian couple who were expecting their first and only child. They knew they'd be having a scheduled Caesarean Section and asked if I'd be willing to offer my birth photography services. Now by now I had been doing my due diligence and studying up on labor and delivery, both in and out of a hospital setting. So I knew that I was likely not going to be allowed into the OR. I let them know that I would photograph as much as I possibly could, and I did just that (even sneaking back with Mom while she waited on her wife to be prepped for surgery, don't worry I didn't cross any sterile boundaries). Well that couple had also hired a doula who they knew was supportive of the LGBTQIA community and that was Stephi!

I had some downtime during the actual surgical procedure since I was in fact, not allowed into the OR, and we hit it off fantastically! She is just one of the absolute sweetest people I have ever met in my entire life, and I was SO incredibly impressed by her support of our clients. I couldn't have imagined she'd be supporting me in my own labor one day. After baby arrived and both moms were taken care of, their medical team led them back to their room and I resumed my duties, as did she. We connected online after that and maintained a professional but friendly relationship.

A person wearing surgical scrubs is to the far left waiting to be allowed onto the OR floor as medical staff walk away

I just love to capture images of spouses waiting for their partner. Image by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2015

A group of people watch as a new parent pushes the hospital bassinet into their hospital room as their doula looks on.

Doula Stephi Anderson watches as baby's family pour into the room. Image by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2015

A close up of a woman holding a brand new baby wrapped in a receiving blanket.

A rare moment where the parents requested a photo of baby and I. Image by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2015

I booked a few more births in the next couple years, but found myself booking mostly my usual Maternity and Newborn work, which was ok with me, but I still had the drive and desire to expand in the birth world. Unfortunately things don't last forever and I had left my position as manager of the comic shop. In order to make ends meet, I returned to childcare and would remain in my new position for the next four years. I was determined to keep on keepin' on, however, and I continued to book as many sessions as I could fit into my weekends.

At this point I had begun a new relationship and my spouse was so incredibly supportive of my work that oftentimes he would accompany me to sessions and even do some minor spotting and assisting. As described in my previous blog post, we had a medical emergency that changed our family planning just a bit. This is when Stephi contacted me about a client who was looking for a birth photographer and I got to tell her the absolute best reason for not being able to book it. She talked me into having her as my doula, which didn't take much effort since I love her so dang much, and honestly from there the rest is history!

Keep scrolling for more of my birth photography!

A female doula wearing a striped shirt observes her client as she latches her new baby to nurse for the first time

Present day Stephi proudly looking on as our client latches her baby for the first time. Image by: The Best Nest Portraits - 2023

An OBGYN holds out a moments old baby to the new mother and father
A doula monitors their client's vitals as she lays in her hospital bed laboring
A woman in a birthing pool holds her minutes old newborn to her chest as her midwives and doulas offer support
A nurse does routine testing on a crying, minutes old newborn baby who is laying in a hospital bassinet
A close up image of a mother still in the hospital, latching her newborn onto her breast for a feed
A mother looks on as her baby's nurse does vital checks and reflex testing
A new father admires his minutes old newborn who is holding his finger while the nurse takes footprints
A laboring woman leans over the shoulder of her husband who is kneeling on the ground to support her through contraction