What if something bad happens?

What if…..? Pregnant moms worry about it. Birth photographer worry about it. Thankfully, it hardly ever happens.

My personal philosophy is this: If mom needs help, then put down the camera and do what needs to be done. If mom has the help she needs, continue shooting discreetly and professionally. After the crisis has past (so at least a few days later) ask mom if she would like the images.

Let me share a few stories:

30 week premature babyI had a client who experienced some serious complications and needed to give birth by cesarean – without her husband present – at 30 weeks. My first priority was helping her remain calm and understand the complex issues that were happening. When possible, I took photos so that her husband would be able to see them and have some idea of what had transpired. For most of the time, the staff had no issues with me shooting, but there were a few times when I was asked not to. I simply stood nearby, camera ready with my finger on the shutter but held at waist level, waiting for the time when I could shoot. The nurse briefly held up the baby for a quick photo before they intubated so that dad could see his son’s face in its entirely. (That’s him over on the right) You can see more images from Brandon’s birth here.

I did another birth where the baby was born with fairly significant and unexpected birth defects. Mom was emotionally distraught, and her husband went with the baby to learn what was going on. In this situation, mom needed emotional support desperately, and the staff was very busy managing the medical needs of the new baby. It was time to put down the camera and instead wrap my arms around the mom and hold her while she cried. This is one where the parents have asked that I not share images of their son’s birth on my web site, and I absolutely respect that.

Your gut feeling is a very good guide here, if you feel you would be of service doing something besides taking photos, then by all means do it. But if you are able to document this story, do that.

I love the way that Erin Monroe, a birth photographer from central Florida, phrased it:

“When you can, you just keep shooting. You’re being paid to capture a story, not write it. Let mom decide if she wants them. One of the hardest things I did was shoot through an ambulance transfer. Mom was grateful that i did.”

by Andrea Lythgoe
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