As a birth photographer, I’ve been asked to capture over thirty of those moments, and each time, I’m struck by how the air changes in the room. There is this sudden and undeniable shift. Time stops. Fear ends. The moment is here.
I feel it in c-sections. I feel it at homebirths. I feel it with women who use epidurals. I feel it with women who don’t.
And because I believe in God, I’m drawn to language like “sacred” and “holy” but you could easily replace those words with adjectives like “magical” or “transcendent.”
But regardless of what words you use, the moment your baby moves from your womb to the world is a moment that demands our attention.
For nine months, a child has nestled deep into your uterus. She’s received life through a constantly pulsing cord. Pressed up against the most inner parts of you, this child has grown and stretched and filled a space you never realized was empty before. Each movement reminds you of the power and the potential that is within you. Never before have you been so close to another human being. Never again.
And then it comes time to give birth. And then it comes time to let go and recognize that your body can no longer contain her. This is a bittersweet moment. A moment that some women realize is bittersweet before they give birth, and other women realize after. The child you’ve been asked to house and protect is now bigger than her home. It is the first time as mothers that we’re asked to let go. It is also a dramatic separation, perhaps, in part, to prepare us for a lifetime of saying goodbye, of letting go.
As your child works her way through the birth canal, your bones and muscles make way for her. If you deliver through a cesarean section, each layer of you is slowly pulled back to bring her into the light. The work is hard work and it’s not without it’s lasting scars. But in the moment, you can think of nothing but her. You are caught in the hardest place. A place of no return, no looking back. You are letting go of your child, regardless if you want to or not. You are trusting her to a world so much bigger than you, so much scarier than you. Your body is stretching, your heart is stretching, and then…release finally comes.
The speed of this moment is worth noting. For so many hours, the work has seemed slow, painfully slow, and then suddenly your baby is coming up into your arms. It happens so fast. The look on a mother’s face during these split seconds says more than any words I could write. Anticipation, joy, fear, love, grief, hope. There are so many emotions compacted into what are mere seconds. It is why birth photography can be so powerful. There just aren’t enough words.
And then you hold your baby. You hold the child that has spent her life inside of you. You press her up against your beating heart, and she calms instantly because she knows that sound better than the sounds of birds, or the waves of the ocean. For your baby, there is no better sound than the beating of her mother’s heart. In those next moments, you look back and try to understand what has just happened. You try to piece together how something so monumental has just occurred. And you realize you can’t. And so you just let your baby rest on your chest, and you breathe in the smell of her head, and you wait for your heart beat and her heart beat to settle back down.
This is one of many reasons why birth matters. This is one of many reasons that I do what I do. It is for these moments. Moments that stay with a mother for her lifetime.
This weekend we celebrate mothers, and at cord, we recognize that a woman can be a mother regardless of giving birth. Sometimes the moment you birth your baby is metaphorical...but no less transcendent. We look forward to talking to moms who have adopted and fostered children in the months to come. And of course, we also remember and recognize the mothers who have lost babies far too soon. This weekend can sting in deep and hidden ways...so remember to meet every women you see with an abundance of love.