(I don’t have to tell you that there’s a warning for boob and blood so don’t be an idiot, open it up, and then whine about how offended you are. In one image you can see a baby’s head emerging, but it’s tasteful: there are no full spread pictures because that’s not how I roll. Birth is the single most amazing thing I have ever been present for, let alone to be asked to photograph, so please respect the spirit in which these photos were taken and don’t be that guy. Because that guy? Nobody likes him).

Kathryn’s labour/birth photos and some baby photos, with my view of her birth story, posted with permission.

The contractions started the night before just after we did the belly cast, but weren’t at all regular. 45 minutes, 5 minutes, 3 minutes, an hour, 30 minutes…

Belly cast, drying during a contraction to capture that “square uterus” charm:

Prelabour continued like that until the following afternoon when we went to a block party that was apparently held by the lawn mafia. Once we got past the Chief Officer in charge of Shades of Green we gathered in the back with the giant bouncy castle. Once there, Kathryn had her first contractions that actually hurt…

… however, they were still pretty irregular. After a few minutes of watching this, and spending some time taking pictures of the kids, we started walking the block in front of the house.

Coy and Max

Originally we were going to go as far as Walgreens, a few miles away, but it quickly became apparent that the walk was working better than we planned and there was no way she was going to make it that far. Immediately after we started pacing, her contractions became two minutes apart and painful. The peak of the contractions were still only about ten seconds long, so in no way did we believe this to be very close to the end.
After about an hour her contractions changed abruptly to very intense, so I suggested we go back to the house. Jeremy started blowing up the pool and called the midwife while Kathryn and I picked up the bedroom.
It took the midwife only about five minutes to arrive, and she checked Kathryn and announced the baby was very low, but didn’t give a dilation report. Being flat on her back during a contraction was the first time I actually saw her struggle with the pain. The midwife said there was no way she’d make it to the pool, and suggested we set up the bed for birth.

A moment later Kathryn said she had to pee, something she’d been trying to do for a while, and wandered into the attached bathroom. The midwife looked around and said quietly, “I think I’m going, too”. I stayed behind in the bedroom and checked my lighting set-up again. About thirty seconds later I heard a scream, looked up and realized that the baby’s head was out. It had been less than two hours since her first real contraction.

I ran into the bathroom and started clicking, then realized that my lighting setup didn’t reach the bathroom, so I whipped off the pocket wizard, jacked up the ISO and kept going. To be frank I’m surprised I got anything usable at 3200 and 1/50 in the seven seconds it took for her to give birth (according to the camera’s timestamp) but, I’m actually really pleased with the results.

Baby crowning and midwife supporting. While Kathryn has resigned herself to having a baby on the toilet, she adamantly refuses to have a baby in the toilet.

Arrival:

After a few moments spent in shock, the midwife transferred baby Auri to Jeremy’s hands and helped Kathryn get to bed.

Max comes in for a peek at his new baby sister.

Stats are recorded.

So much hair.

One of my favourites

Coy and Dakota

The midwife sets her up to weigh… We all make our guesses at somewhere between 7.5 and 8.2…

But we were all wrong: she’s a fatty. πŸ™‚

Dakota watches quietly as the APGARS and reflexive tests are started.

Knees.

Baby love.

We let new baby and mom sleep for a few hours following such a rocketing birth. She was absolutely exhausted. Short, intense labours take way more out of you than a longer, more drawn out one. I’ve had a 44 hour labour, a 2.5 hour labour and a 3 hour labour and while having a precipitous labour is better in some ways… I think I’d honestly prefer one that’s about 5-6 hours long so I at least have some prep time before baby comes rocketing into the world at the speed of sound.

Just before I packed up to leave home, I attempted a short photo session with the new baby. She was not having any of it, but I got a few images before she fussed too long.
Every time I hold a new baby I feel like it’s been forever since I had one. 3.5 years seems like an eternity; I barely even remember Xan as an infant, and can barely recognize him from his newborn-era photos. Newborns are so soft and silky. I ache to have one again.

My new favourite:

If you came here from an off-site link, you can go back one entry (hit “previous” at the top of this entry, or simply [ click here ]) to see this mama’s maternity pictures, or surf to another photo entry similar to this from many moons ago to view yet another incredible [ home water birth ] I photographed. πŸ™‚

Comments

comments

110 Comments

  • cheraugusta says:

    I’m not sure who to be more jealous of…you for getting to meet Kathryn or Kathryn for having you as a birth photographer! As a fellow photographer, though surely not nearly in the same realm, I am simply in awe of the work you produce. Breathtaking, inspiring, magnificent art!! You have made the miracle of childbirth tangible in these pictures and make me a little melancholy for the raw power of natural childbirth that I missed in my c-section deliveries.

    • admin says:

      Kathryn and I are old friends, from long before we were e-famous. πŸ˜‰ Though it’s ridiculous to have to say that…. πŸ˜€

      And, thank you!

      • cheraugusta says:

        You are very welcome! πŸ™‚ I’ve “known” Kathryn online since right around the time that my youngest was born and in the NICU 3.5 years ago. Evan was lucky enough to get to wear some of Max and Coy’s old preemie clothes. She is one amazing person!

  • Anonymous says:

    Breathtaking. Your pictures were perfect and made me ache for another tiny little newborn.
    -Lainey

  • Anonymous says:

    All of the photos: just gorgeous

    The last one: pure artistry.

    Right there with Geddes’ Miracle which moves me to tears.

  • nursedekk says:

    This is my first look at a birth session and the pictures are so beautiful. I loved every single one. I’ve never been “not the mama” in the room during a birth and I can see that it’s a powerful experience for those who wait, watch and support as well as for the mommy and babe. The pictures are just so evocative.

  • Anonymous says:

    Absolutely gorgeous!!!!!!!! Congrats!

  • nerdular says:

    incredible shots! the baby looks so happy and loved. my favorite is:

    http://www.heatherphoto.ca/images/l1057_labour/l1057-44T.jpg

    just perfect! πŸ™‚

    im expecting my first (a lil girl) in august and i couldn’t help but cry as i read this entry and she kicked around in my belly. πŸ™‚ the waterbirth shots are beautiful as well!

  • amolibertas says:

    That last photo was very beautiful

  • genbean says:

    oh the squish! *melt* awesome mama too!
    Also waiting to see if the anom poster gets snarky enough to unmask themselves πŸ™‚

  • sunkist33 says:

    Amazing! Beautiful baby, beautiful mama, beautiful photos!!

  • Anonymous says:

    I’m in love

    That’s my current favorite birth story. And the pictures β€” oh! So grateful to all of you for sharing. Thank you! Can I just say, too: The knees shot = priceless.

  • mami_chilena says:

    Breath-taking, Heather! I cannot wait for you to photograph my next pregnancy. (And I’ll let you borrow my infant :P)

  • lastwyf says:

    LOVELY photos! Just a minor correction though…Apgar scores are given at 1 and 5 minutes of age, long before the newborn assessment that you photographed.

  • Anonymous says:

    I just stumbled upon your journal by accident, and I just wanted you to know that this is the most moving set of photos I’ve seen in ages. The last one is truly special. Thank you for sharing them. Good luck with your art! You should consider making a book, if you haven’t already. πŸ™‚

    • admin says:

      Thank you!!
      A book with just images, or for the mamas? If the latter, with these sessions I often do a big custom album that includes their journey into birthing this baby (pregnancy, birth + newborn photos layed out within the album pages like a storybook). It’s a lot of fun.

      • nursedekk says:

        I think a book with visual birth stories would be amazing…and very helpful to those who have never given birth before to see it in a different light than the horror story visuals that accompany prenatal classes. I think I watched only one of the videos as they went out of their way to emphasize the pain and fear of those in labour and I was apprehensive enough!

  • fallingwthu says:

    I love that she’s smiling while giving birth. my new fav image is the very last one, you could sell these as ads. Some of them are so high end. Heather, you have improved so much in the last few years.

  • crunchymama says:

    what a lovely mostly hands off birth

    So beautiful!

    That last photo should be a card. A congratulatory card you give to a new mom when you give her a new baby gift.

    Thanks so much to you and especially to Kathryn for sharing her intimate family moments.

  • The knees and that last photo are just beyond amazing… LOVE them!

  • Anonymous says:

    Amazing!!

    WOW!!! These are amazing and that first shot of baby is great, as is the last shot. What a beautiful chunky bundle of love!!

  • auri is beautiful, and of course mama is too! I think Auri looks a lot like Lily. I’m Logan, btw, I know Kathryn from Amity’s, followed her link on facebook to your journal.

  • Anonymous says:

    These are all lovely, and the birth story is wonderful . I am so glad you guys were able to share this. Auri is beyond beautiful . I love the image of her lying on Katheryns tummy, in the last picture… it is amazing how she fit inside of there !
    Thank you for sharing this. I am in awe !
    Avonlea/ Superior Jane/Rebekah Marie.

  • sugabeats says:

    So cool and magical! I too love the last one, but really, they are all wonderful. I wished you lived by me to photo my next birth!

  • Anonymous says:

    Random Drop in…..

    Wow, I clicked on a link from a friend and found your pics. Absolutely beautiful. Is there a possibility of purchasing prints of the last one?

  • Anonymous says:

    Stunning photographs. It’s like Life As It Should Be against the backdrop of our distorted existence.

  • Oh, I love them! The little grasped hands under the chin, the fat knees, and that last one is stunning.
    Looking at your photography makes me wish we could afford professional photographers to get pics of our kids. You do a wonderful job.

  • lululily says:

    Such a wonderful fat little baby and such amazing photos. I wish I’d done this for my births. It all makes me think… “just *one* more”.

  • noelove says:

    last one rocks but maaaaaaan chubby baby knees!!!!! *dies*

  • just_shoe_me says:

    those photos are just breathtaking!!!

  • gngr says:

    Well done, Babs and mommy! Ahhh, she has the fat too!

  • jadedjava says:

    lurker

    I’m a lurker and I just had to post a comment. This photos are absolutely amazing. You have such a gift. I’m just blown away by them. Usually when I look at birth photos they don’t really move me, however, these leave me speechless. I LOVE the one of the baby coming out. I know it’s kind of silly how it’s over the toilet, but it’s so amazing. How are you not famous? Okay I’ll stop my gushing now. ;o)

  • heavynleigh says:

    beautiful! All of it, just beautiful!

  • tastyanagram says:

    Such powerful pictures. I feel privileged that you post them and we get to see them! I love the rolls way too much. Again, congratulations to everyone!

  • OMG!!! These are fabulous! You’re making my womb ache! Nooooooooo!!!!

    Absolutely precious. I love the baby yawning picture. Made my breath catch!

  • gardenmama says:

    OMG, the last one is hands-down my favorite baby picture EVER. You said for her maternity shots that her skin was unreal, and you are right.

    Toilet: best position for pushing ever. My doula told me that in Europe they have birthing chairs shaped like a toilet that are commonly used to deliver babies. Why we can’t adopt that here I don’t know? Once I started pushing on the toilet things happened amazingly fast, although I did scream for my husband to help me to the bed when I reached down and felt hair. Lol.

    • admin says:

      To be fair, the last photo has some mild skin softening on it, to make it appear more ethereal for the kind of photo I wanted to get. But also in fairness of her amazing skin, the only thing I really had to retouch out was the band line from her pants. I didn’t touch her stretch marks, you just can’t see them when that much light shines down!

      I know what you’re talking about with that chair. We called it a birthing stool, and I briefly used it in my labour with Tempest. It sure as hell made things go faster but DAMN I hated it: it made the contractions so intense so fast that I couldn’t take them!

  • bluealoe says:

    Love the new tag. πŸ™‚

    The first picture of Jeremy, with Max in the background, is amazing. It’s like Max is thinking, “Oh look, a new baby. Huh.” The same with the picture of Dakota looking at Auri. It shows how natural a homebirth is…welcoming a new baby, all part of a days’ work. πŸ™‚

    The FEET! The itty bitty wrinkly squishy feet!!!! *is dead from cute*

    I really want to see a porttrait of the whole family now. πŸ™‚

    • admin says:

      I love it when siblings are involved. πŸ™‚
      The boys were actually napping up until Kathryn made that one scream, then Max woke up and came in to investigate. He looked a little nervous at first then we invited him into the bathroom and said, “It’s okay, your mommy is having the baby. It’s normal to scream a little, but she’s just fine” and he relaxed and then poked his head in to look. He points and goes, “It’s a baby!” and then hung around at a very close range to the baby for the rest of the time after. He was FASCINATED.
      Dakota came in after another few minutes, but we had to be careful because every time she saw the placenta she’d start retching! I shouldn’t laugh but… it was funny. We had to keep it really covered up every time she was nearby.

      Coy, on the other hand, slept through the whole thing.

  • the_lissa says:

    Those are amazing. I love the last one too.

  • viellen says:

    So so so so beautiful!! I wish I could have a birth like this!

  • Wow. That is incredible.
    I love the last photo and the one of baby A’s feet where you can see the umbilical cord lying across her mama’s belly. Just fantastic.

    • admin says:

      I *looooove* the images of moving baby and mama back to the bed, or nursing and quietly making phone calls and talking, all the while with the cord still attached. For me it’s one of those quintessential images of what homebirth is all about.

  • This whole post gave me chills. The story. The last photo. Awesome. Congratulations, again, to Kathryn!

  • djm1975 says:

    simple amazing
    πŸ™‚

    i keep on having friends who’d say they would let me film their births
    then…they end up getting c-sections
    πŸ™
    damn american doctors

  • kinsey_six says:

    what beautiful pictures! the last one is amazing.

  • jadethe2nd says:

    Amazing post, amazing pictures. I actually have tears in my eyes. Wonderful πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous says:

    OMG dude seriously I would pay good money for a print of the last picture. Seriously, it’s so beautiful.

  • I really enjoyed these, they’re amazing, so powerful πŸ™‚

  • I LOVE that last one. Composition is just incredible, you really should enter that one for an award. Also, I want her skin >.> Who needs photoshop when you’re already that stunning?

    I also had the folks sitting around me guessing as to weight. We had the same sorts of guesses – 7.5, 8, *maybe* 8.5…NO. I popped out a 9.5 pounder in about 4 hours, and me all of 5’2″. And the only reason it took anywhere near that long is that my water bag was made of STEEL. When it finally did pop and her head dropped the rest of the way, my sister barely had enough time to turn her camera *on* after my midwife shouted “head!!”. The photo she got wasn’t even like the one you have there of the head hanging over the toilet – it’s of my midwife scooping my daughter out of the tub. So yeah, mine was like 3 seconds. Rocket babies for the WIN.

    I always love the new daddy pictures, I lovelovelove how long they left the cord on this child, and love that the siblings were present. If only more women realized just how possible and wonderful an experience birthing like this can be, we’d all be happier folk.

  • holy bejesus she’s gorgeous!

    she looks like a fashion model in the shot where she’s on the toilet holding the baby. I mean seriously how is it possible to look that gorgeous right after having a baby!?

  • carbonish says:

    I kind of love surprise-birth stories. And totally not in the “I didn’t know I was pregnant” way. Just in the “holy shit, that was fast and AWESSSSSOOME!” way. I had one of those (I delivered on the sidewalk just outside my birth center) and cannot get over the amazing, despite it being two years later. I feel like I bring it up a lot.

    THAT said, these photos are phenomenal! My favorite is the knees. Oh, the folds of a chubby baby. Sigh.

  • mamiesgoo says:

    holy crap!

    <3

    and in the one of her looking up at you in bed, I think she looks like your sister a bit? The doe eyes? (kathryn)

  • Anonymous says:

    Goddess-grace

    I’ve been thinking “Goddess” ever since I saw your favourite photo(my fave too) from the last session, and this new favourite… I think I want it framed and hung on my bedroom wall, so it’s the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. Too bad my bedroom would be an insult to the picture, heh.

    Big, big congratulations to Kathryn, a HUGE welcome to Baby Auri, and congratulations to you for this collection of beauty.

    – Suki, ex-lurker. That picture made me delurk. (I sent you a big, long email about listening and psychoanalysis back last February, but that’s about all.)

  • lomoca says:

    Awesome. Love the Rapala scale too.. think we have one in the fishing box πŸ˜‰
    The knee shot… who’d have thought knees were cute!

  • ayanamisama says:

    Holy crap, that picture with the baby’s head out is INCREDIBLE. And so is the last one. Fantastic!

  • comitto says:

    that last photo is amazing!

  • letitshine says:

    you are amazing! as is this mama
    …I have said it before and I will say it again, another little one in your future for sure! I swear I sense it…have for a while now. Another little girl, perhaps? πŸ˜‰

    And, like all the others have raved, that last photo is simply iconic.

    I can only hope you can document my babies coming into the world someday! I would be so honored.

  • dragonfly120 says:

    Amazing! I love birth photos, especially yours.

  • danica says:

    My husband and I just oohed and awed all over this, he asked why she didn’t look like she was in pain, I said it’s because she wasn’t force fed pitocin at a rapid rate, and wasn’t fearing her birth.

  • Anonymous says:

    I don’t have to tell you that there’s a warning for boob and blood so don’t be an idiot, open it up, and then whine about how offended you are.

    Fine, I will be that guy — yes, since you know what in the post and we don’t, you DO have to tell us. How are we supposed to know otherwise? Birth pictures can trigger people, and there’s absolutely no reason for you to have such a stick up your ass about warning for them.

    That aside, this is a lovely post with lovely pictures. I certainly appreciate the content warning, though.

    • ashosaurus says:

      In Heather’s defense, if you have her journal in your bookmarks or on your friends page, you should know automatically that her journal could be triggering. If you want to be her LJ friend, you can do so without actually “watching” her posts and seeing them on your friends page. She posts these kinds of pictures and stories often, and while it is a courtesy to warn people, I think the content of her journal speaks for itself.

    • admin says:

      I don’t have a stick up my ass about saying, “thar be birth photos within”. I have a stick up my ass about people reading that warning, going on to view them, and then commenting here to complain about what they say knowing full well what was inside. That has happened before in the way of flaggings and complaints for “adult material” (however, it wasn’t on a birth entry… but rather some pregnancy photos that also had a clear nudity warning).
      I have never posted birth images without saying beforehand that they were birth images, so I’m not sure what the point of the anger in your comment is?…

      The first line that you’re quoting means, “[this is a birth picture entry, so] I don’t suppose I have to tell you there’s a warning for boob and blood”. Which is true: if it’s birth pictures, I don’t have to tell you that there’s pictures of birth in it: you should be able to know for yourself what “birth pictures” means… otherwise you have no business being on the internet without a chaperone. πŸ˜›

      I also want to point out that you’re choosing to read the blog of someone who routinely, openly, and even graphically writes about sex acts, violence against women and children, as well as posts photos containing nudity on a near monthly basis. This is a personal blog: not an e-zine, I have absolutely no accountability to warn anyone of anything. That said, I choose to do so as a kindness (this is also why I usually put large photo posts under a cut… even though I have no requirement to). This kind of complaining seems wasted on personal journals, and is more appropriate for large blogzines or news sites. I get that you’re not truly bitching, just bitching on behalf… but still, that was a weird ass comment, dude.

      • jeca777 says:

        you should be able to know for yourself what “birth pictures” means… otherwise you have no business being on the internet without a chaperone. πŸ˜›

        high five!

          • ashosaurus says:

            My MIL is really naive about some things. She hasn’t been on a computer in about five years because she got a virus and it popped up an ad with *gasp* a PENIS on it. I guess she called AOL and blamed them for her lack of internet savvy! I told her it’s probably a good idea she doesn’t get on the internet then, because peens and boobs are pretty much everywhere.

            Not to mention, she has no clue about judging a link, email, etc. for quality. She’d probably get taken by a Somalian scammer on Craigslist. She’s already been scammed on Ebay!

            Some people just shouldn’t use the intertubes.

      • dvdsky81 says:

        And to add.. Its funny how the snarky folks are always anonymous. If you’re going to try to “call someone on their shit”, at least have to balls to “show your face” so to speak. If you cant..then your opinoin doesn’t mean shit-you’re a troll, imo. Sign in, own your opinions, then you’ll be taken seriously. Until then, you’re just any other “internet badass” coward that goes into other’s journals as “anonymous” and judges them.

        This post was beautiful….you shouldn’t have to defend any “stick in your ass” to anyone without the balls to show who they are.. Right on.

      • fallingwthu says:

        Most excellent post!!! BTW, the other day I posted an image of my large big belly, not naked just the shirt up showing that I no longer have a belly button. you know what, someone said I need to stop airing my nude belly. lol I’m clothed stupid…I’ve seen less on the beach.

  • ashosaurus says:

    I’m not a mom, but your photos just make me marvel at the power of birth (every time you post them). I would love to have a home birth with a midwife like that.

    That last picture should win some kind of award.

    • ashosaurus says:

      Oh, and when I’m finally having kids (God willing, I have PCOS, who knows what’ll happen), you are SO going to be my guru. I know I’ve told you this a number of times, but you really inspire me!

      My husband makes fun of me, because I’m already geared up for organic cloth diapers and being a stay at home mom for their first few years (which is a total 180 from my attitude just a four-five years ago, when I began reading your blog). I’ll have my Masters in Public Admin soon, so I can always run a nonprofit from home or something if the career bug bites πŸ˜‰

    • misti_k says:

      Yeah, you posted pretty much exactly what I was going to.

      I’m not a mom, and I have no real desire to become one, but the power of birth that you capture so wonderfully moves me every. time.

      That last picture must, must, must be submitted to a photo competition *somewhere*. Because it is basically the best thing ever.

  • duchess_k says:

    Her hair looks perfect right after the birth! She looks like she just got up and got ready for work or something!

    Phenomenal, especially the last one.

  • rhiana_leigh says:

    this was unbelievably moving. after having my twin boys from csection, home births are just incredible to me. they bring me to tears. I’ve actually had a dream of having a home birth and nearly giving birth on the toilet.
    it’s all so awe inspiring and your photos capture it amazingly.

  • I love the picture when she’s first holding the baby on the toilet. The caption for that one can be, “Oh, hello. Why yes, I did just squeeze a human being out of me and look absolutely gorgeous 5 minutes afterward!” I can’t even tell she broke a sweat!

  • Anonymous says:

    Stellar photos! Birth stories like these are a great encouragement to chicks like me who will be giving birth in about 8 weeks.

    Also, DAYUM! That woman looks amazing for having just popped out a baby!

  • facethemoon says:

    Congratulations Kathryn and family! Beautiful pictures, I’m glad you were able to be there for it! I love the last one and the one of her feet. Love the tag too, birth IS fucking awesome! Welcome baby Auri. πŸ™‚

  • danica says:

    oh my god, these are absolutely stunning, congrats and GREAT job mama!

  • I love this whole entry. If it’s possible to seethe with not-jealous not-rage, I would be doing that. Sort of like “I AM SO GLAD THAT HAPPENED TO YOU RAR SMASH!!!” I guess only infertile women get that? Hmm. lol.

    The composition on that last one is CRAZY. Was Katherine all “This is where she was a few hours ago” and you went “OH SHIT HOLD THAT THOUGHT” and took the photo? So cool!

  • that last picture is absolutely stunning.

    The others are great as well. What a cute baby and happy mama!

  • alathia says:

    SEVEN MINUTES?! god damn.

    baby A is gorgeous. love the one with her clasping her hands.

  • _evalution says:

    OH.MY.GOD. that last picture? FANTASTIC! wow, wow, wow. i love birth. oh, this makes me so want to have another baby. what a gift, to have these images, this recorded memory. gosh. *cries*

  • bloodpara says:

    The last one is absolutely gorgeous and needs to be on a canvas.

  • jeca777 says:

    This is a magnificent post. Beautiful mama, beautiful baby, beautiful family, beautiful photos.

    It seemed her body was waiting for you to arrive and then didn’t waste any time!

    Oh, and the knee rolls picture? I died. OMG.

  • Oh my GOD, Heather, these are incredible!!!! So amazing.

  • imbroglio says:

    Wow, amazing pictures. That last one is stellar!

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