When I had my first baby, ten years ago, it seemed there was very little I could do to
celebrate her birth besides loving her. I was slowing weaning off the visual effects
industry; after spending the previous 10 years among artists who were ( and still are)
mostly nerds and most of all men.
The fact that I also grew up in Italy didnʼt really facilitate my chances of creating a tribe
of women around me in preparation for my birth. I just didnʼt know many other moms and
Facebook groups and get together were only just starting.
Those first days post-partum felt lonely, segregated, confusing yet I thought them
normal because I didnʼt know any better. I spent my first months as a new mom in a
state of emotional survival, longing for a village and yet not able to even look for one.
When my first son was born three years later, I discovered the world of midwifery
practice. I fell in love with each and one of the midwives who supported me during my
HBAC ( home birth after cesarean) and slowly realized that there was a whole world of
like-minded mothers who wanted the power, recognition and support of their natural and
informed birth choices.
I felt deep into that world and trained to become a doula and decided to use my visual
art background to document birth stories; to tell the joy of other families welcoming their
My biggest life lesson came when my third baby was born. Thinking another home birth
would be just a walk in the park, I was crushed when I ended up in the OR and under
the hands of the most despicable OB in Los Angeles.
My physical recovery from my cesarean birth was smooth and uneventful, my emotional
one not so much.
All of a sudden I realized I did not belong anywhere anymore. Not a VBAC mama, not a
hospital mama, not a home birth mama. Who was I? There were no celebrations, no
social acknowledgments of the reality that often times ( a lot actually) birth does not go
It took me months of internal work to feel hopeful again and to be able to look at my son
without feeling I had somehow screwed him for life with the ‘wrong startʼ. But as he
grew more beautiful every day, he proved to be the healthiest, happiest and funniest
among my three children. So who was I to believe? The stats and detrimental articles
about cesarean birth or the reality of seeing my own baby growing spectacularly well?
During those months, I still attended births once I had the tools to shield myself from
potential triggers and leave my own experience outside other mothers birth space.
And all of a sudden, through the birth photography community I found solace.
Every day my social media feed would be filled by amazing photographs of birth. Home
birth, hospital birth, birth centre birth, cesarean birth.
All equality shared, celebrated, revered.
I realized photographers could see the true beauty of birth despite its shape and form.
All it matters is the light, the space, the emotions and feelings of the moment. Birth
photography is not even about the vagina shot!!
Itʼs about telling a story, capturing it as best as possible, taking in consideration the
physics but also the soul opening experience that is happening right in front of the
camera and trying to match it with visual storytelling.
Birth photography is about creating a chance for a family to remember forever that
moment, to pass it on and preserve it endlessly, when in fact, the moment of birth is so
fleeting and hard to remember just for the simple mechanism of hormone changes.
It is also an opportunity to heal; whether mom had different expectations for her journey
or the birth shaped differently, sometimes tragically.
Photographing that moment makes it available, confirms its existence and therefore
makes it real and tangible. It offers the freedom to extend ourselves through a lifetime
and beyond, it creates and narrates the culture of birth, with its imperfections, learning
curve but also its magnificence in the simple recognition of the miracle of life.
I feel compelled to add to this piece now that my fourth baby is here and my birthing
journey has come to an end.
Despite having hired the best support and preparing myself mentally, emotionally and
physically throughout my pregnancy, my son was born via a cesarean birth a week ago.
There are many similarities to my first and third birth experience that come and go in my
mind often as trigger points; the fact that baby was malpositioned, bigger than average,
not budging even when interventions were carried on.
I know I will need to process further, but for now, I want to acknowledge the support and
love that has been surrounding my family since my baby was born. I chose a different
team this time, who honoured my desire to be seen no matter what outcome my birth
would have; I also had a colleague birth photographer documenting my birth; the
images she captured are absolutely beautiful, real and honest.
They are proof of my hard work; they provide serenity to my troubled mind
whenever I start questioning my choices and timing; they offer justice to the lack of
celebration I have grieved for my previous birth experiences.
They are the starting point of my journey to healing and recovery.
Written by Diana Hinek from Artshaped Photography