Natural births

At the birth of my children, I gained tremendous amounts of respect for all mothers. If every man in the world was to watch a natural birth, all mothers would be more appreciated and the world would be a better place.

I’ve been blessed to photograph a couple of natural births, one in a hospital (seen here) and one in a home. I didn’t photograph the birth of my own children, as my wife wanted my full attention and support.

At the home birth I even became a doula, that is, I provided non-medical support during the labour, the birth, and the postpartum period. Doula in Greek means female slave; I can be OK with being called female, but I’m not too excited about the slave part.

If you don’t believe in magic, attend a birth. Or better yet, attend a natural birth. You will experience magic.

When photographing a birth, respect comes first. I also choose to photograph with black-and-white film, as it occurs to me as poetry. If there’s a place where the photographer needs to be invisible, it’s in the birthing room. And at the same time, one has to mentally create a safe space for the child to be born into. When necessary, put the camera down and help.

I have great respect for midwives and doulas as well. That’s why I volunteered to take portraits for the Santa Barbara Birth Center. I also was part of a performance with my friend and doula Virginia Bobro, at the Yoga Soup. She pretended to be pregnant (with a realistic fake belly) and I was the clueless father not knowing what to do during labor. Then, like magic, I switched personalities and became a very supportive father/husband. We were supposed to show the crowd what a difference a father can make in the birthing room, just by being present and creating eye contact with the mother. Virginia did such a great job that I thought she was really going to give birth to “our baby” in front of all those people. I was to be part of an immaculate conception with the wife of my friend! Weird.

After this off-the-wall story, I’ll leave you with some photos of a natural birth with midwife Judy Nichols, back when Cottage Hospital allowed midwives to work alongside their nurses. Now, if you want to have a midwife-supported birth in Santa Barbara, you’ll have to do it at home, or hold the baby in until the Santa Barbara Birth Center opens later this year.

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