I have taken quite awhile to write this post. Partly because I do not have the words to share about the experience yet, but I will stumble my way through now.
Beanie (Briana) is my assistant--she shoots with me and she is starting to take on a larger role for the business in 2017. But more than that, she is my friend and she and her husband, Andy, were some of the first students I ever taught when I started teaching 13 years ago, they were some of my first clients when I started this business, and they were some of our first friends when we relocated to Grand Rapids a few years ago. They are invaluable.
Beanie asked me to photograph the birth of her second child--that was several years ago--and I was PUMPED (and nervous!). She was planning a home birth, and I was "on call" for the weeks leading up to her due date and after (he was a late guy), but our timing didn't end up aligning since she was going into labor when I was throwing my last Pop Up Wedding of the season. Darn!
I was heartbroken to have missed this amazing moment, but I was OVERJOYED when she told me a couple years later that she was expecting and wanted another chance to photograph the birth of her first daughter. Nothing was going to stop me this time! I put my building secretary on notice, I made sure my phone was on at night, and I waited...we all waited, and then, at 3:30pm on a Tuesday afternoon, as I was sitting in my classroom, analyzing line after line of Hamilton with a student, a phone call came and Beanie let me know that she was going to be induced that evening--could I come out to Holland?
Since her blood pressure was a bit high, the doctor recommended she deliver at the hospital and while I know Beanie was a bit apprehensive about this, she had a great attitude about this change in the birth plan, and still wanted me to be part of the delivery. When Beanie went to the hospital, she was induced and then we waited. I walked the halls with them, I watched as her body went from inactive labor to active labor, I saw her contractions grow more and more intense. It was seriously unlike anything I have ever seen before (keep in mind, I have no children of my own and have never seen someone give birth, saver for a few YouTube videos I watched in preparation).
After about 5 hours of laboring, little Minna made it clear she was ready. And I was there for it.
Birth photography might sound like a strange thing and I have definitely had some folks ask me incredulously, "Wait. What? You were there for the BIRTH?" and I understand that. But it was also the most amazing and powerful thing I have had a chance to photograph probably ever in my career. It was just myself, Beanie and her husband Andy there for it, and I got to be a witness to Minna's first breaths and first tears and first eye opens. It was life changing. No, it didn't make me want to have my own child, but it sure reminded me that women are so unbelievably strong and fierce and powerful to birth these humans from their body and it made me appreciate and honor women's bodies even more than I already do.
Thank you to Beanie and Andy for allowing me to be part of this amazing evening. I will never forget it.