One of the most common reactions when I tell people that I’m a birth photographer goes something like this:
“WHY would you want to take pictures of THAT?”
Implied, of course, is that THAT is gross/private/not pretty/not worthy of being remembered. Too often we think that the only pictures worth taking are the carefully crafted ones, the ones taken after everyone has cleaned up and put on their best clothes and biggest smiles. You know I love me some fine art photographs, golden hour portraits, and carefully curated wardrobes.
But you know what I also love? What is real. And what is real is always worth remembering. Sometimes, what is real isn’t pretty. Sometimes it’s sad, or disturbing, or hard. But the photojournalist in me knows that through having photos of those real moments is essential to remembering, understanding, processing our real life…not just the “highlight reel.”
When Ivy was a week old, we took her to the ER because she was increasingly lethargic and hard to wake to feed. She had a severe tongue tie at birth, which we had released at six days, but by then she was so dehydrated that it was still hard to wake her enough to eat. That’s all it ended up being – dehydration – but to be on the safe side, the doctors checked for all of the Much More Terrible Things that it could have been (namely meningitis or a brain bleed.)
I took photos on my iPhone while we were in the ER, and after we were admitted, on my “big girl camera.” Was it because the scenery was pretty or because we were having fun and creating happy memories? Of course not. It was because I wanted to be able to go back to something tangible later so I could wrap my head around what happened to my tiny baby. I’m sure some of the nurses looked at me like I was crazy but I was all THIS IS WHAT I DO. I take photographs of the real – whether the real is pretty or not, whether it’s happy or not. There aren’t many people who would take photos of their newborn baby on an ER table, or being prepped for a spinal tap, or getting a head CT. But those photographs became tangible proof of what we lived through, what we survived, who we we were, and who we became. iPhone snapshots or not, they are just as important to me as my birth photos or my beautiful newborn photos, because they are just as much a part of Ivy’s story.