I often say that what I love most about my job, is that I get to document the joy in my clients’ lives. Whether that’s watching them laugh together at their family session, swaddle their new baby at a newborn session, or start a new life together at a wedding. But a birth is joy in its purest form, and I was honored to be there to capture the moment when baby Levi came into the world.
While the day was long in hours, it felt like it went by the blink of an eye, as I waited with great anticipation along side Brittany and Eric. The hospital itself was buzzing, but the delivery room was peaceful, with dimmed lights and a diffuser filling the room with the calming scents of essential oils. The labor and delivery nurse checked in frequently; always with a warm smile or words of encouragement for Brittany, as she labored through the afternoon, with quiet strength.
And a little before 6:00, just-like-that, we went from waiting in a room that was mostly dark except for the end-of-day sun creeping under the window shade, to the nurse saying “I think it’s-time-to-push.” And before I knew what was happening, the doctor and his team swept into the room, moved things around and wheeled in a baby warmer. Brittany started pushing, and and not five minutes later, baby Levi was gently put into her arms. And whoa — THAT was amazing.
As the years have passed, my girls’ births are mostly a blur, but I will never forget the moments when they were handed over to me. It’s an awesome responsibility to help nurture and guide children to become responsible, kind, and empathetic humans, but love is at the core of parenting. It was truly a privilege to be entrusted by Brittany and Eric, to document the beginning of their story with Levi, and I’m excited to finally share the images from that day:
About Birth Photography
When Brittany reached out to me about photographing her baby’s birth, I said yes, without hesitation. I think that as much as I love to capture natural and slice-of-life moments with my family clients, unless you are doing a purely documentary session, there is lot of pre-planning and orchestration involved — from choosing a location and wardrobe, to finding ways to make a family comfortable and get the kids engaged and having fun. A birth is completely unscripted, and everything right down to the timing is pretty much up to Mother Nature. And to me, that presented both a technical and creative challenge (a good thing!), and the opportunely to document one of the most important events for a family, as it unfolded before me.
Birth photography is not for everyone — and I definitely got some puzzled looks from people when I told them how excited I was to photograph a birth for the first time. Parents need to be laid back and willing to trust a virtual stranger to photograph a really personal event, and have this person be with them from start to finish (and it can be a long time!). The photographer not only needs to possess the technical skills to photograph an unpredictable situation in mostly terrible lighting conditions (without flash), but also empathy, kindness, and self awareness to capture the birth without getting in the way or being intrusive.
For me, the most challenging aspect of agreeing to photograph a birth was the unknown of when it would happen. Once Brittany and I met and decided we were a good fit for each other, I blocked off the two weeks before and the two weeks after her due date on my calendar. I did schedule other sessions during this time, but I let my clients know that there might be a chance I’d have to reschedule in the event that the baby was coming. I was so afraid of missing Brittany’s call that I set her and Eric’s numbers on “Emergency Bypass” so that the phone would ring (loudly!) in the middle of the night if necessary. When I went to spin class I left my phone at the front desk so they could let me know if Brittany called. In the end, the element of surprise was lifted when the doctor decided an induction was called for, and I admit that I breathed a sigh of relief when I was asked to arrive “around noon on Wednesday!” I rescheduled a hair cut and a spin class and was good to go!
A few people have asked me whether I would photograph another birth, since this was my first — and I absolutely would. It was a huge commitment, but there is nothing quite like seeing a baby take his very first breath. It’s unforgettable. One thing that struck me, too, is how excited everyone in the room was — the doctors and nurses who are present at births every single day, and still see the joy and importance in every one.
I can’t thank Brittany and Eric enough for trusting me to be part of this day, and I’m so happy to have given them these images to remember it. It may be a while before photographers are allowed in birthing rooms, but hopefully one day when this virus is gone, I will have the privilege of photographing another one. In the meantime I’m hanging on to the joy and hope from this day as a reminder that life does go on and babies are still being born, and one day we’ll be on the other side of this.
Ps: I also want to thank the amazing Labor and Delivery staff at Winchester Hospital for being so kind and helpful and open to me being in the room documenting this birth. They were all total professionals and so great at their job!
Cristen Farrell is a Boston family photographer, specializing in families, newborns, children, and life events. Her goal is to capture you and your family in a natural and authentic style, and for you to have fun along the way. She is based out of Andover, just North of the city, but travels anywhere in the Boston area. Cristen can be reached by clicking on this contact form. Don’t forget to follow Cristen Farrell Photography on Instagram, too, for lots more Boston family photos.