The journey through motherhood is long and riddled with bumps and sharp turns that we don’t see coming. It starts with a test. Two pink lines — or for the more modern mommas out there, that glaring word that reads Pregnant across the test stick. Most of us still have the picture we snapped of it, and a lot of us still have that dirty old test under the bathroom sink, too. Hey, that’s motherhood, and that’s where it all begins.
As things progress, we’ll pose for a few shots of our bellies that we may or may not still like thirty years from now, and we might even go for a full boudoir shoot if we’re brave enough. But this is all leading up to the penultimate moment of a pregnancy: birth. The pictures we take of our birth experience are what will still touch our hearts decades from today.
There might not be a better job out there than being a birth photographer. Those who have the opportunity to capture the trademark moments of a mother’s birth experience are truly blessed. That first time Dad sees his baby girl or the moment the newborn is crowning and mom’s face becomes calm and serious after a flood of adrenaline fuels her body to finally birth her baby — freezing those moments in a frame is truly a remarkable thing.
Let me just say, I was flooded with submissions for this article, and I totally understand why. Who doesn’t want to share keepsakes of their beautiful birth with the world? It was hard to narrow it down and I teared up looking at some of these photos. Birth is so beautiful! Just look!
15 Birth Is Not An Emergency
Angie C. shared: “We pull into the ER and there was a wheelchair waiting. I got in and whomever was pushing it didn't move! I jumped out and exclaimed I had to pee. Michelle (her photographer) followed me to the restroom. I get into a stall (with the door open), reach down and there is a head, about an inch out.”
“Michelle runs out to get a doctor. Jesse (her partner) and Amber (her doula) rush in followed closely by a gaggle of nurses and a doctor. The doctor looks at me and says "Hi ma'am. I am Dr. McMahon. I need you to come sit in this wheelchair." I said "No! This baby is coming now!" With one big contraction, Miss Caroline comes out, caught by the ungloved hands of myself and Dr McMahon as Jesse held my other. “
What a rockstar moment where births are concerned. Angie and Jesse will never forget the moment their little one was brought into the world. This is proof of how truly powerful birth can be, and that the pain may not be as intense as expected when a mom reaches full dilation. This picture is truly worth a thousand words.
14 Water Birth Wonders
Seriously, if you aren’t watery-eyed over this, you have no soul. This momma’s face says it all. Here, Danea is completely in awe of what has just transpired, and now she gets to hold her beautiful baby after all that hard work. There are probably a lot of mommies out there with photos of themselves post-birth donning very similar expressions.
It’s amazing what our bodies can do when we trust them and let nature run its course!
Danea shared: “Well, this was my second child, but first natural birth which ended up being so much faster than I would have thought. When I lifted him out of the water, the doula called the time of 3:44 AM and that's when I realized I'd labored and birthed a baby in 2 hours and 15 minutes with no medication or real assistance (the midwife arrived as baby was crowning). I was absolutely shocked and amazed!"
13 That First Kiss
Who doesn’t love a fresh squish? Look at that face! There is something so lively and warm about that perfect pink complexion babies have when they are born. Their skin has been thoroughly hydrated for months, and their eyes are still closed tightly against the bright lights of the Earth. This picture embodies everything a mother feels at the moment she first holds her child.
I know you veteran mommas out there are nodding in agreement right now.
Jessie shared: “After waiting nine long months, we welcomed our sweet baby boy into the world! Daddy made his greatest catch of all time, Micah John, weighing in at 7lbs 4oz and 20 inches long. As he was placed on my chest, I was overcome with pride that we had created someone so perfect! I couldn't help but cry tears of joy, while kissing and smelling his sweet, sweet head.”
12 Sweet Siblings
Amanda’s birth progressed more quickly than she had expected. Planning a home birth, the birthing pool she had bought was still being filled up as she sank into her bath tub hoping to relax in the meantime. Little did she know, she wouldn’t make it to the birthing pool.
Her body was pushing all on its own. It was time for her little man to be born and as she spread her legs, her birth photographer was by her side when they discovered the baby was already crowning. In just a couple contractions, her son was Earth side.
While his cord was wrapped around his neck in two loops with a true knot in it, none of it seemed to impact his ability to breathe. The baby came out crying — a sound most new mothers hope to hear and rejoice in.
Amanda’s birth was particularly special because the baby’s father wasn’t there — by choice. She wanted to capture this birth and remember how strong she was tackling it all on her own. This images serves as a memory that her daughter was present for the birth as Amanda hoped to normalize the process for her and the next generation of mothers.
11 Dad’s Precious Reaction
Thanks to Sharona Steed of Debut Photography for sharing some of her favorites from her clients over the years. This couple could bring us all to tears by the look on this father’s face. We can see he’s at a loss for words, and he probably didn’t know the moment he met his baby was going to feel quite this intense.
Most dads would probably agree that nothing can prepare you for that flood of emotion. This dad certainly didn’t hold back when his 4 -pound 15-ounce baby girl was brought into the world.
His reaction to seeing his child for the first time is heart-wrenching — in a good way, of course. I think most mothers wonder if their partner will tear up at the sight of their baby being born into the world, and most do. This is validation of just how beautiful that raw kind of emotion can be. It doesn’t all have to be about the momma!
10 Daddy, Take Two
Chanda’s labor with her and husband George’s third baby had a few surprises in store. Not only were mom and dad planning to be surprised again about the baby’s gender, this momma was only in labor for a mere 45 minutes. Yes, that really can happen! The midwife never even made it in time!
With one intense contraction after the next, Chanda’s baby moved down the birth canal and was born into the world with just one push from her momma. The pain was strong and persistent. She was experiencing back labor so intense that it brought tears to her eyes, and her baby would do the same when born. After that mighty push from her mother, a new baby girl named Lorelai entered the world into her parent’s arms.
Many women think labor has to be a long and drawn out process. The average labor and birth lasts 14 hours for a first-time mother. But for a third-time mommy, things can go either way. It may be shorter or longer. Still, even a first-timer can have a brief delivery. So, be prepared. You never know what’s headed your way. It could be 72 hours; it could be three.
9 Hello, Momma!
When Laura went into labor, she had no way of knowing how long it would last. Not that the length would’ve deterred her in her pursuit of becoming a mother or having the birth she planned. But her birth lasted forty long hours. By the end of it, when she would need to muster up more strength than ever to push, she was exhausted. Understandably!
She credits the resolve she found in the end to her husband’s encouraging words that lifted her up and gave her the strength to continue. As baby Kate was crowning, Laura’s doctor asked if she wanted to catch the baby herself. What a beautiful feature to add to the birthing experience!
Laura reached down and pulled out her daughter. As she entered the world crying, Laura and her husband were overcome with emotion and remember instantly falling in love with their new baby girl.
8 At First Sight
This picture represents the ideal of how most births operate in the United States. The image of a woman laid back in a hospital bed with her legs in stirrups isn’t an uncommon one when it comes to labor and delivery wards. While there are certainly beneficial positions that mothers can labor in — such as on their hands and knees or even standing or on their sides — some moms still find that delivery is easiest for them on their backs.
Guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that! Women should be encouraged to do what feels right to their body in the moment. There is no way to predict which position will suit you best when the baby is moving down the birth canal, and you might end up contorting yourself into some positions that you didn’t even know were possible.
It’s all a part of the process of moving that baby down and out — a feat this momma accomplished with a 9lb 6 oz. baby in just three hours from start to finish. The reward? A moment like this for you and those you hold dearest to embrace as new life is welcomed into the world and the nine-month long period of hopefulness and anticipation called pregnancy comes to an end.
7 Crowning Glory
For those who are brave enough to test the waters of birth photography, your photog will probably ask if you want pictures of your lady bits. Some mommas will opt out of these intimate portraits, but doing so means they risk losing special pictures, like the baby crowning. Heather and her wife Lyzette are shown here falling in love with baby girl Addison — their rainbow baby after two sons and a previous loss.
This moment was the best of both worlds. Obscure enough for us to share it with you here, this visual of a water birth and a baby exiting its mother's body is both moving and stunning. Mothers who have been there can feel the relief this mommy must have been feeling in that moment. The ring of fire is behind her. The baby is finally here. One more push!
Pictures like this have a way of resonating strongly with women who have given birth before while inspiring those who are waiting to with images of moments that strike a maternal chord within us and make use think wow, what does that feel like?
6 Those Baby Blues
Is there anything more lovely than the moment you first get to hold your baby in your arms? After all, it is in this moment that everything changes. Not only are you a mother now — sometimes not for the first time — but you are no longer pregnant. The hormonal changes that ensue are turbulent and powerful.
The birth of the placenta — which will sometimes occur while mom is holding her little one — triggers a chemical response for the body to switch from producing colostrum to producing milk in the coming days following birth. The moments when mothers first hold their children are intense enough for many moms to not even be aware that they are being stitched up after a perineal tear.
That bond that the initial postpartum moments supply cannot be replicated or replaced. Fortunately, with the right photographer on hand like Jennifer Hart was here, it can be captured so that keepsake moments like this can be cherished for a lifetime.
5 Pain With A Purpose
As I was scrolling through submissions from mommas who were eager to share their most intimate birth moments with the rest of the world, I couldn’t help but stop at this one. It took my breath away and the baby isn’t even in it.
There is something so striking and powerful about a mother who is in labor. Take note of the pain you can see written across this mother’s face. Still, she is powering through it. Her partner is deep in this moment with her.
I especially like the highlight of the peanut ball in this picture, because many women are unaware of what this is. It’s a great tool to use during labor and even beforehand to help the pelvis remain open when your body may naturally feel inclined to tense up and go inward in response to the pain. The expression on this mother’s face reminds us that the pleasure of childbirth is still so immense and so fascinating that it trumps the pain.
This momma had a long pregnancy of over 42 weeks, following by a long labor that didn’t go as planned. After a birth center experience that transferred to the hospital so she could receive Pitocin for failure to progress and an epidural for the pain, she ultimately needed a C-section to help birth her baby.
Capturing moments like this can preserve heartfelt sentiments for mothers who may not have gotten the birth outcome they desired, but still got to experience labor and have keepsakes like this to preserve it.
4 The Perfect Partner
As Jordan breathed through each contraction and anxiously awaited the birth of her little one, she knew she wasn’t alone. It’s a special thing to be able to share in a birthing experience with someone. I have had the pleasure of being on both the birther and the birth coach sides and I must say it’s just as moving when you’re supporting someone else in those important moments of their life.
Keeping with the idea that childbirth is not entirely about the mother, but about the family unit, it is beautiful to see Jordan leaning on her husband Doug when things got tough. We need support during labor. Whether it’s a spouse, a parent, a best friend, or a doula, we need others who are there to remind us of our goals when the going gets tough and encourage us to push through it. This photo captures that idea perfectly.
3 It’s A Boy!
These parents were not expecting what life would hand them during their birth at all! Preparing for a scheduled Cesarean, the mother and father were slightly nervous, but excited to meet their little one nonetheless. The dutiful husband — as we hope all husbands would — stays by his wife’s side throughout the process.
Sara Melone of KissaBelly Birth Arts was on hand to capture the first moments of Charlotte’s life. Charlotte. That’s what they decided they would name her after two ultrasounds confirmed the little one was a girl during their pregnancy. So, just imagine their surprise when a little boy was pulled from mommy’s tummy that day!
Yep, quite the shock! As Mom began to laugh through her tears and Dad kept uttering words of astonishment, it became clear that Charlotte would instead be Theodore Charles, a healthy and beautiful baby boy.
2 The Squatting Bar
While we certainly love all the dads out there for standing by their women in their time of need and helping them birth these babies, we recognize that sometimes — well, sometimes, a woman just needs her own momma!
That is just what this mommy needed during her first birth. She was laboring for a long time and feeling completely depleted. In the moment that she was ready to throw in the towel, her own mother came forward and gave her a much-needed pep talk. Ummmm, could you get a better support person than your mom, ever?
We especially love the squatting bar in this picture. It too is often overlooked by many women. One of the great tricks of this tool is that even moms who get the epidural can use it — with some added support from nurse and loved ones, of course. Pictures like this just make you eager to know what happened next!
1 The Next Generation
If there is a picture of childbirth out there that embodies every sentiment and every emotion in it that the process of bringing another life into the world brings with it, I’m willing to bet it’s one like this. That first picture. The first glance at the baby’s face.
While crowning is glorious all on its own, this kind of image says hey, I’m halfway there. The baby is literally halfway born. The hard part is over and the rest of the body is about to glide out into the midwife's or doctor’s arms. This baby is soon to be on his momma’s chest and searching for a breast.
Two people are about to become parents. Grandparents are about the be made. This is the kind moment that changes the lives of every single person it touches. This is the kind of picture that will change you, if you let it.