Very little could have pulled me out of maternity leave just 2 months after Fiona was born, but photographing the birth of a dear repeat client from last year was certainly one of them. I photographed Julie’s first birth 14 months ago. In the 22 hours I was there for that hard-fought victory, Julie became more than a client – she became a friend. So it was a no-brainer that I would be there to capture the birth of her second daughter.
Often, when I am witnessing a woman during labor, I think about Everest. I’ve often wondered why anyone would choose to climb Mt. Everest – risking life and limb just to get to the top of a mountain. There have to be moments on the ascent where any climber wants to turn back, moments when that climber thinks, “This was stupid. I never should have done this. What was I thinking? I will never do this again.” But when they get to the top – IF they get to the top – it all falls away. Because of the glory.
As any woman will tell you, giving birth isn’t so different than climbing Everest. It goes beyond hard work. It’s about coming to the end of yourself, and meeting yourself at your most vulnerable and your absolute weakest place. Some women question why they would want photos of that – “Why look at photos of myself in pain?” The reason I love photographing a woman in that place is because it is in her vulnerability and in her weakness that her strength reveals itself. It is in those moments when a woman most wants to give up that I see glory. I see her do the thing she feels she cannot do. I see her travel through the reality of “the only way out is through.” I see her keep going when she can’t keep going, and I see that moment – the moment when she has reached the top of her Everest – when she pulls her baby up to her chest. And it all falls away…because of the glory.