Warning: Some of the images in this post are graphic. But SO incredible.
The only photo I have of my daughter’s birth is a shitty, blurry one. It’s of my husband and I holding her about half an hour after she was born; you can barely see her little face – and while my husband was beaming, I looked like I’d just emerged from some deep, dark hole. I didn’t look happy or relieved, I just looked – vacant.
Not having a birth photographer for either of my children’s births is probably one of the biggest regrets of my life. Maybe it was because ten years ago they weren’t so prevalent or maybe it was just because it wasn’t in my mind, but GOD I wish I had done it. I wish someone had captured the most empowering moment of my life so far; the moment I placed my hands under my daughter’s armpits and pulled the rest of her body out of mine. All those expressions of pain, relief, joy and overwhelm are ones that I’ll never get to see. I know how they felt, but I wish I had something more tangible to look back on and re-live for myself and more importantly, for her.
Sarah Widnyana is an award-winning photographer and the owner of Life and Lens, and capturing those incredible moments in the most beautiful way is her job – and as you’ll see from the images below, something she has a mind-blowing talent for. We were lucky enough to have Sarah share some of her work with us and give us a little background into how she found her passion. Here’s a bit of Sarah in her own words…
My journey to birth photography blossomed from the pain and suffering of losing our second child at 20 weeks gestation. I delivered our little boy in the hospital and upon leaving I was given a little book containing his birth/death details, hand and foot prints and 3 photos of him. Despite having been a photographer for ten years already, it had never occurred to me that this moment in my life might be something I wanted to document. At the time, I didn’t think it would be something I wanted to remember, and now I spend my days thinking of ways to honour his memory.
Now, these photos are one of my most coveted possessions. This soul-crushing experience lit a fire within me; I was determined to use it for good and I began speaking openly and honestly about our loss and how I coped with my grief and eventually falling pregnant again. I planned a home birth for our next pregnancy which was a healing and replenishing experience for me and my family. From this, I was impassioned to provide this healing for others, not just for others who had experienced loss but for women birthing in all scenarios.
Birth is a rite of passage and with birth trauma now being in the spotlight of society, women are wanting to document their births to provide themselves with memories to look back on and to heal from. Positive births have the power to heal so much trauma in women’s lives and I think that women are now starting to recognise that birth is something that we should be proud of, so to document and remember this moment is second nature almost.
Here is a selection of some of Sarah’s work. Just another warning, some of these images are quite graphic but SO incredible!
This is a birth so close to my heart… this is my sister. She is birthing her second daughter after a traumatic emergency c-section and appendectomy at 37 weeks with her first daughter. Not just any VBAC though, she had planned a HBAC (home birth after caesarean) and succeeded. She laboured for over 48 hours and never faltered. *The second and third images were both awarded silver awards at the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers NSW State Awards this year (2018).
This image also won silver at the AIPP NSW State Awards in 2018. This image makes me both proud and sad to look at. This Mumma had planned a natural vaginal birth but due to a cascade of medical interventions at birth, as can so often happen, she ended up birthing via an unplanned c-section after labouring for many hours post her induction. After her c-section she wasn’t offered skin to skin, despite the surgery going well and there being no complications or health issues with Mum or bub.
This then led to a troublesome breastfeeding journey for her. Support for breastfeeding and bonding time post-partum whilst in hospital is much better than it used to be, but we still have a ways to go.
These photos give me chills all over again. I feel like I am there, riding that surge with this Mumma in this first image. This beautiful first time mum absolutely rocked her birth. She contacted me early in her pregnancy and booked me straight away. She said that she considered the birth of her child to be just as important as documenting her wedding so she was determined to have me there. Dream client right there.
This Mumma laboured and birthed her little boy in record time. First time mum’s can often have long and arduous labours but this Mumma sped through. She ended up birthing her baby en-caul, which means the baby was born still in the amniotic sac. I believe his water’s broke when his shoulders broke through.
This beautiful Mumma had a beautiful healing home birth for her rainbow baby, Sam. We had connected a year or so prior to her booking me as we had both lost babies and had shared our experiences with each other. She birthed her rainbow baby swiftly and almost silently into her birth pool in the comfort of her lounge room. Watching her birth film, with her two daughters coming down the stairs to meet their new brother makes me cry every time.
This second time Mum had a planned hospital birth for the birth of her second child. I feel like I hit the birth lottery with this one as it was a gender surprise birth! Not many people leave the gender of their babies a secret anymore, in the age of information it is hard to resist that temptation I suppose. This Mumma had a fast birth with her first so we were prepared and expecting another quick one, but just when you think you have birth figured out it will throw you a curve ball. We were in for a little longer ride this time; labour was almost double what she had experienced with her first, but she stayed strong and pushed through to birth her baby boy earth side.
Speaking of delicious babies, Megan Gale spoke to Monty all about her labour and birth with her son River in the podcast below. Have a listen and then come hang with us by subscribing to our podcast here.