Birth photography is a relatively new genre here in Saskatoon. When people ask what I do and I reply "I'm a birth photographer," the first question I often get asked (well, the second question, right after, "you shoot birds?!") is why anyone would want a picture of "that."
I get it. Birth is not glamorous in the traditional sense. It's raw, it's primal, and, yes, it can be messy. By and large, our society is conditioned to think that birth is this ugly, dirty, horrendous experience to fear or to overcome. But when we approach birth with this mindset, not only do we foster feelings within ourselves of fear and anxiety (which, incidentally, slows labour and increases the likeliness of interventions), it prevents us from experiencing our births in ways that we otherwise could. Somehow birth has become an obstacle, the last hurdle between us and our beautiful, perfect babies, rather than a celebration of the power and beauty of the process of bringing new life into this world.
And so, rather than trying to simply survive our births, we should be embracing them. The process of bringing our babies into this world, of transitioning them from inside our bodies, the only place they've ever been, into our arms, the place we wish they would always stay, is a journey worth being present for. It's the beginning of our babies' stories, and the beginning of our stories as parents.
These stories deserve to be captured, to be told and retold so we can see that, yes, though it is not easy nor neat nor tidy, birth is normal and birth is beautiful.
I know that in hiring me to capture your birth you are inviting me to witness you at your most vulnerable, so here I am at mine. My husband took this portrait of me less than an hour before our youngest was born, at the tail end of a contraction, in the throes of transition.
At the time I felt overwhelmed by pain and the enormity of the task of bringing our last child into this world, but looking at this image now I see power and strength and I am in awe of what our bodies are capable.
In addition to birthing four babies of my own, I have over 5 years of experience documenting the birth stories of other families. My obsession with preserving these moments before, during, and after birth began in 2013 when those moments suddenly became all we had to remember of our firstborn son. Since then I have captured the birth stories of dozens of new little lives and I am honoured each and every time a family invites me into this most sacred of spaces.
This job is an honour and a privilege.
—Barbara Katz Rothman