Something has weighed heavy on my soul for sometime now.
I think I've waited so long to say something in fear of sounding righteous in my perspective.
Righteous in my anger, maybe? In my frustration??
Knowing that my perspective in life will never be the only one, I've kept quiet and I am ashamed of myself.
I've never been fearful of uncomfortable truths or exposing potential ugliness.
I've spoken privately with few women in my industry whom I know without a shadow of a doubt share the same heart for this specific calling, like I do.
Birth Photography has become "trendy".
In all of its vulnerablity, the world has finally opened its eyes to the beauty of motherhood.
To a part of womanhood that was deemed "inappropriate" since the dawn of time.
At first, I was ELATED. Proud. Submitting my work EVERYWHERE.
Crying over the hard work that each of us did in our own communities. Crying over the women who took steps that others either couldn't or didn't think was possible to try and be a champion of us all. Mind you, I am still thankful for them and always will be.
However, I have noticed something creeping in.
Competition in a way that overshadows community. I'm not talking business.
I'm talking predatory manipulation of women in their most vulnerable moments.
Our work is being fiercely being capitalized on.
Just like everything else that finally gains "appropriate, click bait money making, attention".
Part of me is conflicted so I can only speak for myself.
I was a part of the fight to "normalize" birth.
In my home town of Tulsa, Oklahoma, what I was doing was not "acceptable" for years.
The bible belt rarely eases its buckle so I moved to Dallas to further my work of supporting women. I dropped out of college at 19 to immerse myself into my photography.
I remember every single word and every single face that was against what I was doing. I was defensive but I also understood that where I was from, I was ahead of the "times".
Resentment was hard to let go.
There are several women who pioneered our work and we, as the "little guys", truly helped amp the awareness forward on our smaller platforms.
A lot of us, myself included, experienced our first births around 2010-2012.
We stood against the grain, fiercely fighting off every nay sayer and every critique regarding the sacredness of birth.
Especially the women who nurture this Earth, that we don't deserve, with their bodies.
We have been protective of them for basically a decade. We were chastised. Honestly gave zero fucks about what anyone had to say unless it was supportive or a constructive and inclusive conversation. We had to. And some women did it even longer than that.
All of the sudden our timelines are full of the 'perfect birth'.
And it seems like if you don't have the perfect intervention free, moonlit berry picking forrest birth surrounded by helpful birds and butterflies, then YOU AND YOUR BIRTH ARE NOT WORTHY.
When did we lose the tact to share stories without blatantly attacking one another?
When did we stop exposing ALL BIRTHS?
The violent births.
The traumatic births.
The traditional births.
The non traditional births.
The medicated births.
The non medicated births.
The high risk births.
The women older than 30s births.
The births of sorrow and loss.
The NICU births.
The same sex births.
The IVF births.
The high interventions to truly save mother AND baby births.
The births of Black women in their injustices, dismissiveness and victories.
The births of Hispanic/Native American women.
The massively under represented Orient births.
The single mother births.
The endless births...
Are we STILL not intelligent enough to be sensitive and inclusive for the benefit of being supported and heard, regardless of circumstances??
Do we STILL not understand the HIGHLY detrimental consequences of passive aggressively shaming women into thinking that their births are anything but unique?
Do we REALLY not accept the concrete responsibility that comes with what we do?
I'm not exactly sure if it is the direct, personalized algorithm, that I did not ask for from big tech giants or if it is a reality that others are seeing as well.
With that being said, I will give a gracious benefit of the doubt and truly be happy to be mistaken in my perspective.
However, I really don't think I'm wrong here. Half of the births that I did when I first started, I didn't even think of posting nor did clients want them posted, in fear of some sort of close minded retaliation.
Birth photography is sacred.
AND IT IS NOT ABOUT THE PHOTOS.
Did you hear me??
I T I S N O T A B O U T T H E P H O T O S
For those who are looking for a career in birth photography, I beg you to read this post in its entirety. I assure you it will be the best free source of information you will ever come across.
To partake in this highly emotional, highly satisfying part of photography, please know that it is at the highly sacrificial cost of your personal life.
Also your professional one.
The on-call lifestyle can be brutal and seemingly unfair.
We, as birth workers, have an obligation to these women.
We have a duty that goes FAR beyond the money that they give us for our talent.
If you do not have the emotional maturity, emotional intelligence or empathy to extend to others beyond your own self, then you have no business in this field.
I say this with conviction and personal experience.
If we do not believe this then we are no better than the care providers we complain about online for not treating us with the utmost respect and compassion.
We may not hold a speculum, but we hold their entire birth experience with our lens.
Photos are amazing.
They tell stories otherwise forgotten in the whirlwind of birth.
For those caught up on the word "trauma", it is part of the deal.
Trauma is NOT a bad word.
It is a realistic one that is selfishly taken away from women unaware of everything birth embodies. It is dangerous to overlook this. To expect that every birth has an algorithm is nonsense and harmful to the emotional wellbeing of our clients.
Trauma means deeply distressing or injury.
"Injury" can be referred to bodily (external or internal) and or subjectively emotional/psychological.
The majority of women will experience some sort of trauma either during pregnancy, birth or during postpartum.
Our job should be more than taking pretty pictures and slapping them on the internet to further our agenda other than truly supporting women in all of their journeys.
Not just the "pretty parts" to make money off of them.
I know, I know. Honestly, any of you can do whatever you want to make money.
However, hear me out.
If you are not able to extend yourself for days or intense hours for women during this time, then you, my dear, are at the risk of possibly adding irreparable damage, whether emotionally or psychologically to these women.
I say that as direct as I can with respect to the truth.
No slights nor pokes.
They do not deserve that.
Nor do their children.
At the end of the day, if your inability to truly be on call for women who expect a service of you...it will not matter the reason.
Your lack of presence will be the main thing they remember about their birth.
Not the birth of their child.
The fact that they expected something and either through a lack of communication, or a lack of client relationship, it won't matter. The fact that you oversold yourself and couldn't deliver, will be on you.
I would rather deal with a woman scorned than a woman who was disrespected in her birth and angry with me in her justified postpartum disappointment.
The truth is, if you do this for a living, you probably will miss a birth.
Birth is unpredictable no matter which way you slice it.
Baby is in charge.
Not the money.
Missing births due to them being precipitous is different than missing them due to not understanding the intricate facets of birth AND YOUR CLIENT.
The great thing about this is if you decide to try it, you will realize quickly if the on call life is for you.
If accepting the responsibility to be emotionally receptive and responsive to your clients is for you.
Please do not be discouraged if it isn't.
It is better to know quickly than to try for years on end and not giving these women and their babies what they deserve beyond the final product.
With birth photography becoming even more trendy let's not forget why we started this.
To expose the underbelly of what we, as women, go through to carry life.
To give life.
To lose life.
To carry life for others.
To even never being able to give life despite desperately wanting to.
The founding women who found the connections to uplift the birth world we all helped build, deserves to be carried with the same ferocity in protection of the REAL WOMEN we represent and document.
Do not manipulate them to further your success.
I have COUNTLESS clients whom, I KNOW would never want their images shared through a forged relationship with them.
So I never asked them and their pictures will never see the light of day.
And guess what.
It doesn't matter because the photos are not mine to share.
Their birth is not mine to capitalize on.
What matters is they felt heard.
They felt seen.
They felt empowered.
But more importantly...they felt respected, because they ARE respected.
Let us not allow the trendiness of our passion for birth photography be overridden with money, manipulation and self interest.
There is enough of that in the patriarchy already woven into birth as it is.
We are the last line of defense, as birth workers of all kinds, to protect women in their most vulnerable state in life.
-I'm really glad I didn't speak on this when I felt it 2 years ago...lol. PHEW!-
Let the dialogue begin.
Thank you to the women who have selflessly shared their birth experiences with the world.
Thank you to the women who helped our platforms be seen.
Thank you to the new birth photographers trying to figure this all out.
Thank you to to the fans and supports who support all of what we do for all women.