Last Tuesday, April 26th at 5:38 pm I got the text that I had been awaiting for weeks:”Contractions 7 minutes apart…” My heart raced and adrenaline coursed through my body, hands shaking with excitement as I prepared to race out the door to Wentworth Douglass hospital to photograph the birth of Jamie’s third child. I’ve been trying to think of another time I felt this surge of energy so suddenly and with the promise of (witnessing) intense love and purest of joys. The closest I can think of is when my husband of ten years (on June 10th of this year) proposed to me, in the dark, with just a headlamp on and M&Ms in his hand that said “Marry Me” and “Say Yes.” Moments after the text came through, Chris walked through the door, home from work after a long day. I kissed him, giddy, and jumped down the stairs with my camera bag slung over my shoulder. That ride to the hospital seemed to take an hour! I got stuck behind the Coast bus and hit every red light possible!
I truly believe that photographing births is my destiny. From a young age I have been fascinated by birth. I’ve studied photography since I was 17 and always been most drawn to imagery of mothers in pregnancy, in labor and delivery, mothers with their newborns, with their children… I bought a copy of The Family of Woman as a young college student and fell in love with the images. As a student at UNH I took a Human Development course with Molly Connolly, one of New Hampshire’s most beloved traditional midwives, and she told stories of births that I could hear over and over (and she is still teaching there!). Soon after that I started photographing families and children in addition to weddings. In 2008 I gave birth to my first daughter; I realized that while I didn’t “love” being pregnant, I did most enjoy labor and delivery. I loved the gritty, raw experience of giving birth – and the joy I felt so suddenly once I held Vivian. Lola arrived quickly and with gusto in 2011, and my Etta (two years old now) changed my life forever in so many ways. I am happy to have my own three very different birth experiences in my memory, and now I’m ready to document the birth stories of others!
So here is Jamie. Sweet, sassy, energetic, beautiful, ever-smiling Jamie. If you don’t know her, you should. (She owns a wonderful business All the Buzz Embroidery, check it out!) I’d had word out to some fabulous doulas in the area that I wanted to photograph births, and next thing I knew Jamie and I were chatting about her birth at the Seacoast Mom & Baby Expo somewhere between her booth and mine! A few weeks ago we met up to chat about her other two birth experiences and talk about when to call, what to expect from me, etc. As the end of April approached I left my ringer on at all times (ladies in the library didn’t like it much!). I was on call! Jamie’s due date came and went. Then the text and a call from her husband Ryan telling me she was checked in a 7 centimeters at 6:05pm. I arrived at 6:15pm in time to witness this brave, strong woman power through contractions without pain medication, push and push and push, smiling and laughing in-between (even stopped to brush her hair!!!), and at 7:23pm lifted her own 8 pound baby Harlan onto her chest.
Enjoy these images!
(And a little shout out to three amazing women: birth doula Amy Peterson (Hound Hill Doula) as well as postpartum doula Darcy Sauers (Dover Doula). Thank you both for sharing your knowledge and for being so supportive! And to Jessica Bacon from Garrison Women’s Health in Dover, the patient and calm midwife who delivered little Harlan).