The Benefits of Professional Birth Photography

Couples typically hire a professional photographer to preserve life’s special moments, such your wedding today. So, why not hire a professional birth photographer to capture your little one’s arrival? What exactly do birth photographers do, and how can they help make your labor and delivery experience more enjoyable? Plus, how do you go about finding a photographer that’s right for you?

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Preggie Pals
“Benefits of Professional Birth Photography”
Episode 24, Oct 8th, 2012

Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.

[00:00:00]

Catie  Stephens: You spend nine months preparing for the little miracle inside your body to finally arrive. It is an instance you wanna cherish for generations to come. Professional birth photography helps you to remember those precious first fleeting moments of life when your world changes forever. I’m Catie Stephens and I specialize in birth photography here in San Diego and this is Preggie pals, Episode 24.

[Theme Music/Intro]

Sunny Gault: Welcome to Preggie Pals, broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. I’m your host Sunny Gault, Have you downloaded our Preggie Pals apps yet? Its available for androids and iPhones, ipads and so much more and pretty much anything begins with the lower case “I”. The apps automatically download the latest episodes and you can even start your favorite episodes for easy access. And another great way to get involved with our show is to subscribe to our Preggie Pals newsletter which is actually launching in October. The newsletter will provide great behind the scenes access to our shows, exclusive interviews and much more.  So, for our panelist, usually we just have pregnant women here in the studio but we have a couple women who aren’t pregnant and have little babies at home or here actually in the studio and a couple women who are pregnant.

Stephanie Saalfeld: Hi, I’m Stephanie Saalfeld. I’m 29 and I’m a gemologist, due January 9th with my first baby, a girl and I’m having a hospital birth.

Misty Davies: My name is Misty Davies. I’m 33 also a gemologist, due October 10th with a little girl and I’m hoping for an unmedicated hospital birth.

Jen Vilimonovic: Hi, I’m Jennifer Vilimonovic. I’m 25, I work as a program aid at an elementary school and my daughter was born in February 2011 and I had a hospital birth.

Annie Laird: Hi, my name is Annie. I am 34 years old. I’m a naval officer. I have  two children, both girls, one my daughter Clara was born in 2005 and my daughter Lucy was born just 2 months ago. I was planning for a homebirth and transferred to the hospital in transition and had her born naval.

Sunny Gault: Wow, okay obviously, Jeni and Annie are here because they chose Professional birth photography. So, throughout the interview we’re going to get some information on them on what their experience was like. So, we will be right back.

[Theme Music]

[Featured Segment: Baby Nursery On A Budget] 

Sunny Gault: Before we begin today show, here are some tips on how to keep our baby nursery on a budget from Cynthia Kaiden.

Cynthia Kaiden: Hello Preggie Pals, I’m Cynthia Kaiden founder of “Trick my crib” nursery and kid’s room designs where I help your nursery  dreams come true. I’m excited to talk to you today about money saving tips for the baby’s room, specifically about saving on the crib. One of the first steps in designing your baby’s room is to know your overall budget and develop a good idea on how much you have to spend on a crib. Second, explore whether you might have the opportunity to receive a hand-me-down or borrow a crib from someone who isn’t using theirs. Moms loves to help other moms to be and it’s a side benefit they get that unused crib out of their home. If you are going to purchase a new crib, shop around. Go to the big babies store to look, feel and experience the cribs hands on. But then, go home and shop online. You will be amazed that you can find online virtually the same crib you fell in love with in the babies store for hundreds less. Convertible cribs are huge money savers. If you don’t buy convertible, you should plan on buying a toddler bed in about two years and a big bed in another two years. I think that’s a huge waste of resources and it really is not necessary. The convertible cribs convert first to a toddler bed and then to a full size bed often with a head board and foot board that already fits and matches the room, they are great. Be aware that you can also buy a crib mattress that converts from infant to toddler just by flipping it over. What a great money saver. I can help you find a perfect crib as part of my flat fee design service. Please like TRICK MY CRIB on Facebook and visit my page often for decorating ideas. Thanks for listening to today’s money saving tips and be sure to listen for Preggie Pals for more and great pregnancy tips in the future.

[00:04:36] [Theme Music]

Sunny Gault: Most of us don’t think twice about hiring a photographer to preserve life’s special moments such as your wedding. But, what about your baby’s birth? Catie Stephens is here in the studio with us. She is a professional birth photographer here in San Diego and if you wanna check out her website, you can find her at HYPERLINK "http://www.sandiegobirthphotographer.com" http://www.sandiegobirthphotographer.com. Catie, welcome to Preggie Pals.

Catie Stephens: Thanks for having me Sunny,

Sunny Gault : Well, you have been on the show kind of already because you have been in our studio taking our behind the scenes photos which we are going to include on our Facebook page if you guys wanna check it out. So, I feel like you’re already a part of the Preggie Pals family. We have seen you several times.

Catie Stephens: Very welcomed here. Been here already!

Sunny Gault : [Laughs] Alright, let’s talk about professional birth photography. What is it?

Catie Stephens: So, professional birth photography is a photographic documentary of active labor through about two hours after birth. It’s a way to capture the journey to parenthood, those amazing moments when mom and dad first see the little miracle life have created, get to stare in their babies eyes and check out their little fingers and toes.

Sunny Gault : Yeah, And a lot of people may be are listening to this and going, “well, you know, I have a little snapshot camera” or “you know, why can’t my husband, my spouse, you know, whoever, you know, take pictures for me.” What do you say when people say that to you?

Catie Stephens: Well! Of course, they can but I just think that its dad’s experience too and they deserve to be present and experiencing the event and to be in the pictures. Pictures of the couples becoming parent together and dads or partners with their sweet new babies are some of the most touching images I produce.

Sunny Gault: Well, I would love to talk to, you know, the ladies here in studio who have done birth photography, you know, had Catie take pictures. What was your experience like? First of all, why did you decide to do this? We’ll start with Jen.

Jen Vilimonovic: I actually had Catie recommended by a friend on Facebook. I never heard of birth photography and I thought I’ll give us a chance. I’ll meet with her and see what she says and talk about what she does and she came over and I fell immediately comfortable with her like, I’ve known her for many years. So, she told me what she does and I said okay, I don’t remember her taking million pictures. My mom asked me like, “did that bother, you hearing “click, click, click” all the time” and I had no idea. I mean, I was just focusing on giving birth and I think that day I was still in the hospital and Catie had already uploaded the pictures and seeing the pictures and I was amazed .

Catie Stephens: Remember this?

Jen Vilimonovic: [Laugh] I mean, I am so glad that our lives crossed and I was able to have her document my birth because the pictures like, thinking about them and I look at them makes me cry because I relive the moments and there is no way if my husband took the pictures that it’d be anywhere close.

Sunny Gault: Right and your little one is how old?

Jen Vilimonovic: 18 months.

Sunny Gault: 18 months, so you were able to bestow those pictures now and relive that day.

Jen Vilimonovic: Yes, Yes

Catie Stephens: I think also having a professional birth photographer present, they can be the fly on the wall. So, I’m taking pictures of for example, Jennifer and her husband Danny, they were walking down the hallway in the hospital and they came across this little what look like a plug that had different sized circles that showed the dilation. And originally I thought it was a picture frame but it actually showed the dilation and they were pointing at four which was the level she was at, at that point. But there are little moments like that, that a dad may not realize or think to photograph.

Jen Vilimonovic: Yeah!

Catie Stephens: And, just the connection between, in her case the husband and her, she needed some additional oxygen for the baby and she was just lying there and her husband was just there one hundred percent for her and he was stroking her forehead and  those are moments that you can’t – you can’t take yourself.

Misty Davies: I think that this what I would want myself like, my husband to be there kind of holding my hand and then my doula kind of also there to hold my hand and then kind of guide me through everything and then if you have the photographer separate, you know, like I mean, I didn’t really notice that much when you were taking photos just around the studio. Can you get behind the scenes and you are kind of observing everything and you can get all those good shots.

Catie Stephens: Yeah it’s totally, strictly documentary style. There is no posing in birth photography.

Sunny Gault: Just imagine, hey wait you are having to get the contraction for the second. [Cross Talks]

Catie Stephens: Hey wait, I didn’t get the baby’s head emerging, lets me just do get to do that again.

Sunny Gault: On your game Catie you know, because once the moment is gone, it’s gone.

Catie Stephens: That’s the thing people ask me all the time “don’t you stress about birth photography’. It only happens one time and I go, “no, I am completely calm when I am at a birth”. To me wedding photography is the most stressful thing I could ever do because again if you miss that moment, you can’t recreate it.

Sunny Gault: But it’s the same thing with birth photography.

Catie Stephens: Yes, but It’s, there is something very calming about birth photography to me because I’m just, I’m just observing, I’m just documenting life as it happens. And that to me is so incredibly precious and to be part of that and to be invited by parents to be part of that is such an amazing honor. It’s such an incredible honor.

[00:09:52]

Sunny Gault:  How did you get involved with birth photography?

Catie Stephens: I was pregnant myself with my first daughter, six weeks pregnant, so this was  16 years ago before digital cameras, way before and I had grown up doing photography. My dad was a very keen amateur photographer and he passed on his love of photography to me and so I always had a camera and my friend knew that I took really great pictures and a friend of hers was pregnant with her first baby and was delivering at Mary Birch and they said “Hey would you be interested in doing this birth”? And I go, “Yeah, Absolutely and I know what goes on!” And it was just the most incredible thing I had ever witnessed. And I, in the back of my head I told to myself “wow if I could do something this would be it” and then after my second son, I started getting more serious about having my own business but I hadn’t really been thinking about birth photography that much. And then, about 18 months ago when I met Jen I decided this, if I’m not going to do this now, I will never do it and I spoke to my husband he goes okay because as a birth photographer you are on call 24/7.

Sunny Gault: Exactly, it’s like a Doula.

Catie Stephens: Yes it’s a Doula, you are on call 24/7. And your family has to be completely supportive of this. Your children may have to go home with somebody after school. They have to be okay with that. Your husband may have to come home from work to pick up the kids. He has to be okay with that and to be able to from the work stand point and he said, “okay, let’s do this” and so with their support, I switched to full time birth photography.

Sunny Gault: Wow, was that a tough decision or it just….?

Catie Stephens: It was a natural progression

Sunny Gault: So, how would someone go about booking a birth photographer? What point in their pregnancy would you do that?

Catie Stephens: As soon as possible. There’s a big community on Facebook, birth photography community and some of them actually get booked as soon as the + sign is on the pregnancy test.

Sunny Gault: [Laugh]

Catie Stephens: Seriously, one lady’s has even been booked before she is even pregnant. I want you to be my birth photographer when I get pregnant. So they were already given in the retainer and then they are trying to get pregnant and they already know they have one in retainer. Basically as soon as you are comfortable with hiring somebody I recommend meeting the photographer so that you can see if there is any connection between the two of you because just like there are family photographers for everybody, there is also a birth photographer for everybody.

Sunny Gault: As far as every birth photographer may be different but as far as you travel is concerned, you mentioned some people know that I want that person do you typically travel to, you know, different women in the southern California area or how does that work?

Catie Stephens: I think for me I do really wanna focus on San Diego. I think the farthest I would travel would be an hour and a half or would be 2 hours max. That’s probably max, the two hours. Yeah!

Sunny Gault: Okay!

Catie Stephens: Especially if it’s a first I would go up to 2 hours, if it’s a 2, 3, 4th, probably not.

Sunny Gault: That’s true because they are in labor and you may not get there. That may be an issue.

Catie Stephens: I think it also depends on where they are?

Annie Laird: I live down in South Bay and it was my second child and so when Catie and I talked about when do I call her,  I think it was my husband that actually called her and I remember thinking oh this isn’t….. I’m handling these surges. He said fine, they are coming in 45 minutes and said oh I’m fine, don’t call them and he went back and he called Catie and said Catie you better get  here otherwise she’s gonna have the baby .

Catie Stephens: That’s the thing about birth photography. Every mom is different and to me birth photography is not just about the actual delivery, it’s about the journey you take to motherhood. Especially with the two ladies in the studio with their first babies, it’s a whole journey and to me documenting their whole journey is just as important as the actual delivery itself and the moments afterwards.

Sunny Gault: Coming up next, we’re gonna find out exactly what you can expect from your birth photographer the moment you think you are in labor. We will be right back.

[00:14:02]

[Theme Music]

Sunny Gault: Welcome back! We are talking about the benefits of professional birth photography and our special guest expert is Catie Stephens. She is a professional birth photographer right here in San Diego. Okay so, we talked about this a little bit in the last segment but as far as when to call your birth photographer when you are in labor, is it the moment you think you are in labor because like you said, you just don’t know how much time you have?

Catie Stephens: Yeah, I told the pregnant mom as that as soon as they even think they are in labor “text me”, give me a call, let me know what’s happening. If your water breaks, let me know. If you lose your plug let me know, I wanna know all the details, [Laughs] because it does gives me the heads up because I do have two kids of my own and my husband has to usually come home from work unless it’s the middle of the night and so it does give me a little bit of time to plan and if there is a Doula, I usually try to communicate with the Doulas as well and see what time she is heading down with Annies birth, I think the Doula and I arrived I think within minutes of each other. So that worked out really well.

Sunny Gault: Okay, and we talked about you being always on call, what happens? Though life happens in your own life, right so what happens if you are sick? Or I mean, have you ever encountered that type of situation that you couldn’t get out of it there was.

Catie Stephens: Nope, I drop everything. I drop everything, my kids know if I call to birth they, you know, my husband is on his way home as soon as he can or I drop them off at a friend’s house and I take off, my bag is constantly packed, my battery is charged . You know, when it gets close to the due dates, my bags are packed and I’m ready to go.

Sunny Gault: Right, which brings up my next question, what if there is an emergency. Your baby is coming, you didn’t intend for it to happen the way it is happening and it could resolve very badly.

Catie Stephens: Okay!

Sunny Gault: What do you do on those types of situations?

Catie Stephens: I’ve never encountered a true emergency where there was a life at stake. I have had friends who have been in situations like that. Basically you stop shooting.  You stop shooting. And if it’s, you know, the staffs or whether it be a midwife at home or at a birth center, they will you know. If you keep shooting and if it’s a true emergency, they will go and ah ha no more. And I think if you have even the slightest common courtesy and common sense you know when to stop.

Sunny Gault: You know to respect the privacy that’s going on.

Catie Stephens: Yes absolutely.

Sunny Gault: You mention the hospitals, not that everyone gives birth in a hospital but what are the rules? I mean, do they usually welcome you or how do you…..?

Catie Stephens: I had never encountered a situation where hospital has said, “no you can’t be here”. I introduce myself when I first get there. I introduce myself to the nursing staff and say, “I’m a professional birth photographer. The couple had hired me to be here and to document their journey” and they are very, very welcoming always. I have never encountered an issue. And I just recently on one of the Facebook groups, one of the ladies came up with very, very nice release form where I have had questions from the nurses, “where are these pictures gonna show up?” And I say, “they are for their personal use only”. So, if the family requests a Facebook sneak peek. the nurses will not be in the pictures.

Sunny Gault: Okay.

Catie Stephens: Those are for their own personal use and memory.

Sunny Gault: Okay.

Catie Stephens: Yeah!

Sunny Gault: And then, when you are on the shoots so to speak, that sounds really weird, you’re on a birth?

Catie Stephens: A birth session!

Sunny Gault: What type of interaction do you typically have with the couple? I mean, you mentioned you can be the fly on the wall. Are you the fly on the wall?

Catie Stephens: I have learnt a lot since my early birth photography days. Jean had a party in her room. There were not enough chairs for everyone. We laughed so much. We had so much fun. It was just amazing so, the answer to that is I take my Q from the couple.

Sunny Gault: Okay, what about C-section births? I know you said you have shot one before. Was that part of your practice now or how does….?

Catie Stephens: I wish it were. I wish it were because C-sections will often have happen unexpectedly. And there is a certain trauma associated with that for some women and I think it’s just as important or even more important sometimes to have those images because it’s a birth no matter what and I really wish the hospitals would be more open to having professional birth photographers come in and they pictures. They are not very open. The doctor may say yeah, I don’t mind but ultimately it’s up to the anesthesiologist because he is in charge of the OR.

Sunny Gault: Oh really?

Catie Stephens: Yeah!

Sunny Gault: And I wonder if there’s a way people can find out in advance, you know, if they knew they were gonna have a C-section?

Catie Stephens: If they know they are going to have one, possibly but if it is either in an emergency I wouldn’t be able to go in anyway obviously. But if the labor is not progressing then may be a little bit feel distress, they say “No, I need to do the C-section. It’s normal, actual true emergency then they may be able to say yes.

Sunny Gault: Yes

Catie Stephens: And the one C-section that I did do, I was informed that I’m not allowed to photograph any actual medical procedures like, the incision, and the anesthesiologist was very, very generous. He actually, I’m very tall and nearly  6 feet tall, so I can kind of gear up higher than a lot of people. [Laughs]

[00:19:58]

Sunny Gault: Perfect positioning

Catie Stephens: Yes, exactly and he said, you have to make sure you’re not allowed to touch anything as everything is sterile. There’s not a lot of…. actually OR is a very, very small spaces, very small and you don’t have a lot of room.  And he allowed me to stand right behind her head where he usually stands and he just stepped back and they lowered the curtain for me and I was able to stand on my toes and just shoot down of the actually baby being delivered.

Sunny Gault: Wow.

Catie Stephens: So the anesthesiologist was very open to having that experience and I think yeah, I just wish more hospitals were open to that because it’s just as important as other births to have those memories.

Sunny Gault: For Annie and Jeni in the studio, did you guys have any issue with the thought of someone taking pictures of your naked body? I understand it’s a birth, you know, I understand all of that but, was there any discussion with your spouses or anything about that?

Annie Laird: Yes, in my case, you know, I wanted to make sure that I was covered up and Catie, you know, she is a professional so she knew what she was doing and there were times where for example, I was on the bed and the midwife was doing a cervical check. Catie basically arranged the blanket and got below the level of the bed and was shooting up towards the bed so that everything from the waist down was covered.

Sunny Gault: Okay.

Catie Stephens: Usually for cervical checks, I actually don’t take photos of that. That’s a very private moment and really does, I don’t feel  that, that needs to be documented but, anytime where there is a chance that more private area could be exposed before the delivery, I do try to position myself so that those are covered. But I still get the feel of the moment.

Sunny Gault: I was to say that how would you do if you have vaginal birth and the head is coming out? Do you just take it like from the position of the shoulders or something?

Catie Stephens: I usually stand behind the left shoulder of the mom, left or right and then again because I’m tall, it helps because I have a better view. I did have an interesting experience at Balboa this past November. The baby, there was some fetal, slight fetal distress. They wanted to have some extra oxygen on her and they changed position to her right hip and I was standing behind her left shoulder and I thought if she gives birth right now I’m in a wrong spot. I started to very, very slowly move down to the left and they switched her to the left side [Laughs] and I was right there. I was next to her left hip so it was still a slightly more graphic angle but not graphic at all. It was just amazing how the timing just worked out. And I have a progression of photos of her daughter being delivered. I just kept shooting and she just head out, toes were out, legs out, feet out. It was absolutely incredible to witness it from that angle. It was really cool. There are some women who really would like to have a crowning shot because they don’t really see that. They wanna see and some go, absolutely lost. I don’t want to remember this.

Sunny Gault: So you talk about this beforehand, what kind of shots they want.

Catie Stephens: Yes, yes I have a questionnaire for them we go through. I carry it with me on the day of the birth.

Annie Laird: Of course, I’m guaranteeing that during the birth that’s gonna happen. I remember telling you Catie, I want a crowning shot and I want everything and then I pushed once in and Lucy was born [Laughs]. So yes, you know, sometimes birth just happens that way.

Sunny Gault: Think yourself as lucky.

Catie Stephens: Yeah, but Annie, I did get an amazing shot of Lucy. Annie refused to get on her back in the hospital. She was on her hands and knees and the doctor had already informed me that I was not allowed to shoot the actual delivery itself. And I have to say yes. [Laughs]

Sunny Gault: What can you say under temptations [Laughs]?

Catie Stephens: Under somebody’s arm because I never actually witnessed a delivery on her hands and knees. I’ve never witnessed that. So, I did want to get a shot and again I was next to her right hip. She was on her hands and knees. I was on her right and it shows her head but it shows her buttock.

Sunny Gault: Yeah.

Catie Stephens: It’s not a graphic at all but it was an amazing shot of Lucy being delivered. It was incredible.

Annie Liard: I dream every mom, you know, who can afford it’s, you know, starts saving as soon as they want to start a family.

Catie Stephens: We should probably talk about that. [Laughs]

Sunny Gault: What are your standard rates? I know you are on call. I know there’s a lot of factors that contribute to it.

[00:24:43]

Catie Stephens: Right! Right! So birth photography is more like wedding photography than portraits and the pricing really reflects this. Of course, every photographer prices births in their own way. My session fee for birth starts at 600 dollars and my client select packages and products from there. I also offer a mini maternity and a new type of new born session called “fresh baby” where I come to the place of birth within 48 hours and photograph your new baby in a very relaxed fashion just bonding with you and the family and I just want to also mention that birth photography actually makes a really wonderful gift for baby showers from friends, co-workers and family members who can all pull together to present this meaningful gift.

Sunny Gault: And the memories last a lifetime.

Catie Stephens: They do last a lifetime. Exactly!

Sunny Gault: Well! Thank you, Catie. This has been really interesting to learn more about your profession.

Catie Stephens: Yeah!

Sunny Gault: If you wanna learn more about Catie and her photography, you can visit the episodes page on our website and look for today show. Also, don’t forget to check out our Facebook fan page to get some amazing behind the scenes photos that Catie took of last week’s Preggie Pals taping.

[Theme Music]

[Featured Segment: Ask The Experts]

Sunny Gault: We have a question from one of our listener and it actually comes from one of our Facebook friends.

Christiane: “Hi Preggie Pals, we are now in our 27th week and we are diagnosed with an irritable uterus. Do you guys have any suggestion on how we carry on the next 13 weeks without upsetting the set uterus. We really don’t want the pre-term labor to happen so please do advice. I have downloaded all your podcasts. If you have already discussed this, please tell me which episode to go back to. I appreciate your help and thanks so much in advance.

Sunny Gault: Okay, so to answer your question, NO we have not covered this that we haven’t done a whole episode that just focuses on this. It’s possible our panelists have mentioned it in the past.  So, I forwarded your message over to one of our experts and this is what she wants to say.

Judy Warren: Hi, this is Judy Warren with San Diego County Midwifes. As far as the question goes regarding the irritable uterus, there is a natural way to put it. I would call it an easily excitable uterus and there are number of things you can do. Generally, its recommended that you have pelvic rest, in other words that means no lovemaking because that definitely gets the uterus stirred up a bit. The other more holistic approaches are using calcium magnesium. You can get it in liquid form. It’s easily available and it’s a muscle relaxant. Taking it as it’s noted on the bottle can do no harm in pregnancy and usually our body needs more calcium also. You should stay well hydrated. It is really important and to some moms, they really like being in warm water. So, give those things a try and see what you think and let me know if you need more information. Thank you and have a great day.

Sunny Gault: If you have a question for one of our experts, call the Preggie Pals hotline at 619-866-4775 and we’ll answer your question in future episode. That wraps up our show for today. If you have a question or comment about our show, we would love to hear it. Send us an email through our website or call our Preggie Pals hot line at 619-866-4775. Thanks for listening to Preggie Pals, your pregnancy your way.

[Disclaimer]

This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. For such information in which areas are related to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, medical or advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating any health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please receive assistance from a qualified health care provider.

[00:29:00] End of Audio