One of my goals for 2019 was to photograph a birth. Other than the births of my two children, I have never been present for such a sacred moment as this. I have always loved story telling with my camera and since birth is something I am passionate about I knew I would enjoy documenting it. After all, giving birth is one of the most momentous, miraculous and amazing things a human woman can do and I wanted to show just how incredible it can be.
I put the word out on social media that I was hoping to photograph a birth for a nominal fee and was surprised at the response of willing moms who came forward. One of the moms who reached out to me was Beth who was expecting her fourth baby girl at the end of August. When I discovered she lived just a few blocks from us here in Cabbage Hill, Lancaster City, I felt it was meant to be.
I don’t have the best words to describe what it was like to photograph the birth of Eliora but it moved me (to tears) watching this beautiful mama work to bring her fourth baby girl into this world. Beth endured a long tiring labor so beautifully without complaint, even laughing and making jokes throughout (and without any painkillers or epidural I might add). I should also mention that Beth had been having pretty intense contractions for a few days before she even went into labor so I can only imagine the exhaustion she must have felt.
I met Beth and her husband Jack for the first time in the delivery room. Jack had the most peaceful, calm presence the entire time. I learned that he could sense the strength of her contractions by how hard she was squeezing his hand. She later told me that this was by far her most difficult and long labor. Her pregnancy was considered high risk because of the baby having a two vessel cord instead of three (meaning less blood flow/food to baby) but Beth showed no sense of worry or fear. Honestly I could not believe how calm and quiet she was the entire time because with both of my labors I was making a LOT of noise by the time I was nearing transition.
For me it was amazing to watch how Beth knew her body so well and how Jack encouraged her and trusted her to do her thing. Watching little Eliora come into this world was by far the peak moment. She was born with a perfect knot in her umbilical cord (see photo below), which I’m told is extremely rare. The crazy thing is, my daughter was also born with a perfect knot in her cord, so once again I felt a sense of divine connection and knew that photographing my first birth story with Eliora was meant to be. What an incredible labor of love to witness and photograph, and one I’m sure never to forget.
Note: I decided to tell the story in black and white for consistency. I don’t think any of these images are too graphic but if you’ve never seen what a placenta looks like, be forewarned you will see one below. Shout out to the amazing nurses at Lancaster General Women and Babies Hospital for providing excellent care and to Dr. Eichenlaub for the delivery (and not minding a photographer in the room).
Melissa Engle Photography offers portrait and lifestyle photography in Lancaster, PA. Please contact me if you would like to make some photo magic together!