March 27, 2014
Four and a half years ago, I got a phone call early one Saturday morning from my longtime friend Stephanie. She was in labor – in New York City – and I was home in Virginia, preparing to teach a long day of violin lessons followed by our end-of-year violin recital. I would never wish a long labor on anyone, but I will be totally honest and say that I really hoped that baby wouldn’t be born until I could get there. You see, we had hoped for months that I would be able to be there as a friend and support for this, her first birth. We knew that the timing would be tricky since she was due right around the time of my violin recital, but we hoped.
And so it was that I boarded a train to NYC after the recital was over, arriving at Penn Station at midnight and taking the subway to Stephanie’s Manhattan apartment where she was still laboring away. A few hours after that, we took a taxi to the hospital, and Sunday morning sweet Adeleigh made her entrance into the world.
Did I mention that I brought my new, “fancy” camera – a Canon xsi? I had seen some birth photography work online and was hoping to be able to “do some birth photography” too. (Ha, ha, ha.) I discovered that my “fancy” camera couldn’t handle the low light so well, and I was pretty busy holding Adeleigh for her first hour of life so I didn’t get to take too many photos, and what I do have is mostly grainy and blurry. Turns out that having a nice camera isn’t the only qualification for being a birth photographer….
….but I was hooked, despite being awake for over 36 hours and being part of a birth story that didn’t go according to plan. I think I knew then, deep inside, that this would be something I would learn to do for real. In a very real way, I owe where I am today as a birth and baby photographer to Stephanie and her willingness to invite me into her birth space with my camera and my fumbling words. I stayed with Stephanie for the next week and almost never set down my camera. Those were my first “real life” photography moments, the moments I fell in love with capturing on camera. Not posed, not airbrushed, not perfect – and yet perfectly beautiful.
You can imagine my joy when Stephanie decided to travel to her home state of Virginia for the birth of her third baby. I was not able to be present for her second birth – Jolie was born just a few weeks before Tristan so I was a little busy.
So it was that the day after they drove down to Virginia, and just a couple hours after I was just starting to feel better from a “fun” 8 hours of food poisoning, I got the call that Stephanie was in labor. She was convinced it would be many more hours, but my gut told me to go. (And one thing I have learned as a birth photographer is to trust my gut.) When I got there, she was clearly in transition. I wasn’t at my best (and had to take every chance I could to sit down and settle my still-queasy stomach), but I was so happy to be present for this little guy’s entrance into the world. This birth was very healing for me to witness, and I was so happy to be able to gift Stephanie with *quality* images this time.
I’m a little teary posting this, and thinking back through the 15 years of our friendship. We met when we were just children, and now we are having children of our own. *excuse me while I go find a tissue*
Enjoy the birth story of Matthew Rhodes. My camera skills have gotten a LOT better in the last 4.5 years.
music credit: “Somebody’s Gonna Love You” :: Matt Wertz :: licensed through The Music Bed