This is What a Goddess Looks Like
February 23, 2018 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Birth Becomes Her - Winners of the 2018 photo contest on maternity. [NSFW - naked people, babies being born, breastfeeding] posted by chavenet (26 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite


 
These are pretty amazing.

I have a great post-partum shot that I'm never allowed to share. Our second daughter, Rose, was born in the car on our way to the hospital. Labor for our first daughter, June, had taken nearly 36 grueling hours, and the second time around my wife was determined to stick it out without any meds (because she had done that thing that so many moms do where she got an epidural and then beat herself up for years afterwards for being some kind of weak failure, even though she would never, ever think that about any other mom). She'd gotten some books on meditating through labor, and had read them and practiced them assiduously. On the day that Rose was born, she woke up in the middle of the night feeling that (sort of) unmistakable twinge, but a few minutes of calm breathing and she fell right back asleep. In the morning, she woke me up excitedly to tell me that the baby was probably on her way. I asked her if I should call my mom to take June to school, just to make sure that my wife wasn't alone at the house at any point, and even though we both assumed that was overkill because we still had hours left to go, I did anyway, just to be on the safe side.

In the 40 minutes between when I called my mom and when she arrived, the labor progressed from "cute little cramps" to "crawling around on her hands and knees, shaking and moaning." (Side note: most of this crawling around took place in the back yard, to shield June from the sight and sound of her mother's agony). When my mom finally arrived and took June, we raced to get my wife in to the car, but less than 5 minutes in to our 35 minute drive to the hospital her water broke, and two agonizing contractions later she told me that she didn't think we were going to make it and that we needed to pull over. I called 911, found the nearest parking lot (a Burger King) and, almost exactly 90 seconds later (the county EMS was nice enough to give me the 911 call on CD, so I know exactly how long it took) I caught Rose as she was born in the back seat of our Honda Fit.

After making sure everyone was okay, I took a quick picture for posterity. It shows my wife, pale and shaken but radiant and sweaty and happy but confused and shocked and terrified but relieved and powerful and triumphant, cradling Rose, who had already fallen asleep after crying for just a second or two. They're framed by the chaos of towels and fluids in the back seat of the car, and in the background is the drive-thru line of a North Florida Burger King at 8:45 on a weekday morning. It's sweet and shocking and intimate and raw. It's one of my favorite pictures, but I'm not allowed to share it because it maybe a little too intimate and a little too raw, so instead I wanted to describe it so at least someone else could know why I love it so much.
posted by saladin at 9:23 AM on February 23, 2018 [112 favorites]


There's one down the page where the placenta (I think) looks like a chocolate pie until you embiggen it and one where the baby looks happy swimming up to mom.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:32 AM on February 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


I understand from an aesthetic perspective why so many of these photos depict water and/or home births, but it is not great that those are almost exclusively the births considered most beautiful, most worthy of commemoration. The almost total lack of C-section and other hospital-based births is maybe not intentional, yet in a beauty-obsessed culture, can contribute to an idea that some forms of labor are less-than. An emphasis on the aesthetics of the maternal experience helps elide that pregnancy can be a dangerous condition that often requires medical intervention to preserve life and health.

To the person with the epidural who was induced and wearing a hospital gown and monitors: your labor was just as amazing as any of these. To the person who underwent C-section: your labor was as worthy as any of these.
posted by palindromic at 9:40 AM on February 23, 2018 [36 favorites]


Yes, that is EXACTLY what a goddess looks like.

(no that isn't sarcasm)
posted by evilDoug at 9:44 AM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


There's actually more than I was expecting depicting hospital births and c-sections. (I had a super non-photogenic emergency c-section myself.) I'm just kind of knocked out by the winner and the transparent bathtub that has no, like effluvia of any kind floating around in it???
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:53 AM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Seems like a Belgian thing, both the Belgium based photographers have transparent tubs
posted by infini at 10:13 AM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't think the over-representation of water and home births is solely aesthetic. Many hospitals have policies of no photographs in operating rooms or in delivery rooms while medical staff are working. They also often limit the number of people who can be in the room at all. It's the home and birthing centre births that have the freedom and space to have someone hanging around to serve as official photographer.
posted by haruspicina at 10:42 AM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Honest question: do people take cell phone photos at hospital births? I haven't seen any, and I understand they might likely be kept private. But with the explosion of photos of EVERYTHING in the last 15 years... do people do this? Edit: I'm older, never gonna have kids, and neither is my wife, so I'm way out of the loop on this.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:44 AM on February 23, 2018


Honest question: do people take cell phone photos at hospital births

Sure. I see them all the time on FB. Not, like, the super graphic ones, but the immediately post-birth ones.

Our doula gave her phone to the nurses to take pictures of our son immediately after he was born--he had low Apgars at first so he wasn't immediately given to us until they did a little work on him all the way on the other side of the room beyond the Forbidden Drape Across Which Non-Medical Staff Shall Not Pass, but she was able to get his first pictures using a phone.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:48 AM on February 23, 2018


This is a great post. IMO, young people everywhere need to see this stuff. It's reality, unfiltered reality. This is where we come from. I'm 47, and I didn't see any birth videos or photo until I was in my late teens. I think kids need to see this, we all need to see this (but of course respect people's privacy rights, too).
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:49 AM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


saladin, that's an awesome story and I'm glad things turned out OK, but... weren't you just a wee bit tempted to name your child Whopper?
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:54 AM on February 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Similar to saladin, a former coworker of mine had a son and the labor for him took a very long time.
When his wife went into labor the second time, it progressed very quickly. He took his first son to a neighbor and rang the doorbell, gave him a push in and said, "here" before running back to his house. He called the obstetrician and had a conversation along these lines:
FCW: she's in pretty heavy labor right now
OB: how far apart are the contractions?
FCW: I think they're about...hold on
...
...
FCW: It's a boy
Total time from start to finish: < 1 hour
posted by plinth at 11:04 AM on February 23, 2018 [8 favorites]


Honest question: do people take cell phone photos at hospital births?
I took cell phone videos of both of my wife's C-sections. Honestly there wasn't that much to see, though I've heard that for others its much worse. The 'getting the baby out' part is like 5 minutes, the other 40 is checking everything and sewing it up.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:40 AM on February 23, 2018


Honest question: do people take cell phone photos at hospital births? I haven't seen any, and I understand they might likely be kept private.

I was in the room for my wife's c-section 15 months ago, and a nurse encouraged me to take cell phone pictures once the babies were out (head side of curtain only). Here are a couple after weighing/swaddling
posted by bradf at 11:50 AM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is where we come from. I'm 47, and I didn't see any birth videos or photo until I was in my late teens.
We were forced to in high school. 41. Childfree af.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 12:19 PM on February 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


I called 911, found the nearest parking lot (a Burger King) ...I caught Rose as she was born in the back seat of our Honda Fit.

Aw, you had it your way.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:34 PM on February 23, 2018 [12 favorites]


I know the woman who co-founded Birth Becomes Her! She is such a great photographer. She's a friend of a friend from grad school, and I met her long before she started doing photography. She is super talented, and has an amazing amount of hustle.

My second birth was 2 hours, start to finish. He wasn't born in the car because I was holding him in with every ounce of my strength. My husband took a picture of me lying on the bathmat trying not to barf, then another 90 minutes later in the hospital with our newborn. It was the craziest experience I've ever had!
posted by apricot at 2:07 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is where we come from. I'm 47, and I didn't see any birth videos or photo until I was in my late teens.
We were forced to in high school. 41. Childfree af.


I had seen the bad tv movie of The Handmaidens Tale, and was primed for the horror of it. There was a human is obvious extreme pain and then a bunch of.. happy smiling adults laughing around them? That made it even more terrifying.

I don't think forcing kids to watch birth videos will have the affect you are imagining. Especially if you show them the ones where things go medically wrong, which happens frequently. It's dangerous, bloody, painful stuff. Which isn't to say I don't think we should, no one should become an adult thinking pregnancy and birth are remotely comfortable or easy.
posted by Dynex at 3:32 PM on February 23, 2018


because she had done that thing that so many moms do where she got an epidural and then beat herself up for years afterwards for being some kind of weak failure

What on earth drives this.
posted by Dynex at 3:36 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


I love the last picture (Stir Fry). Both Mama and baby are getting nourishment!
posted by cynical pinnacle at 7:09 PM on February 23, 2018


"do people take cell phone photos at hospital births?"

Here is a picture of what it looks like if your husband accidentally takes a picture of the whole OR instead of just the baby in the middle of your emergency C-section (no guts on display). They had to rush her to the NICU team (who were there in the surgical suite) to make sure she was okay, so this picture is after NICU gave the thumbs up, before they cleaned her up for real and trimmed all the cord and did all the other stuff, when they showed her to me before taking her over to the bassinet on the side of the OR for the regular C-section clean-up. My husband was trying to get a picture of me seeing the baby for the first time but inadvertently included the four medical professionals rummaging around in my abdomen.

That's by far my most "medical" (and dramatic!) picture from all of my three C-sections, but I have a whole bunch of each of the three in the OR, usually more tightly focused on me, the baby, or the three of us. This one's so notable because it's accidentally so wide-angle!

There's also an anesthesiologist behind my head, two or three nurses out of frame to the left, and a six-person pediatric team to the extreme left in a niche with all the baby stuff. There are a whole lot of people in the room when you have an emergency C-section (my non-emergency ones were, like, six to eight people total? Four on the surgery (one doctor, three nurses), two on the baby (both nurses), an anesthesiologist.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:36 PM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


I gave birth 8 weeks ago. This was in a hospital, complete with ill-fitting gown and bad lighting. Guyagonalize snapped a couple lousy cellphone pictures of me during the ~27 hours of labor and a few of the baby right after the birth, but he didn't get any shots during the delivery itself because he was busy actively helping the nurses steady me as I pushed.* After what felt like a lifetime of tense nothing, my daughter arrived in a heady, Hollywood-appropriate rush that saw my OB barely making it into the room while the nurses were yelling at me to NOT push.

Personally, I think it would be enormously helpful if we could let go of the image of the laboring woman as some kind of beautiful goddess in agony and accept that there is a huge range of experience out there.

I was unexpectedly induced with an epidural, and spent over a day lying quietly in bed, closely monitored and carefully rotated like a rotisserie chicken. This was in sharp contrast to the resonant woman laboring in the room next door who I never saw, but could hear bellowing for a couple of intense hours. We were both there for the same thing, but going in, even after reading all the books and taking the classes, I still had this picture in my head that my birth experience would be closer to the other woman's screaming torture session instead of the quietly intense marathon I got. And it wasn't as if I had been transformed into some kind of zen earth goddess either; I was just a pregnant lady with a very competent anesthesiologist, and that was pretty damn good, in retrospect.



*And also because I'd have killed him if he'd decided to start pointing a camera between my legs.
posted by Diagonalize at 8:07 PM on February 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


As a doula, I often (with prior permission given during prenatal sessions) pick up my clients' phones and take pictures. Or I hand the phone to whatever friend or relative is hanging, looking for something to do. My clients prefer to have the pictures on their own phones (as one might expect), but they generally forget once stuff really gets going. I take as many pictures as I can, figuring people can delete the ones they don't want. They can't get back the pictures that were never taken.
posted by linettasky at 8:30 PM on February 23, 2018


My favourite is "first bump for mom". It captures the struggle, the homecoming. Kid looks like he just came through battle.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:37 PM on February 23, 2018


The clear tub ones give me the creeps - because they look exactly like preserved fetuses in 19th/20th century medical collections. I can't look at them without thinking "dead baby". It's not to do with them being under water, as I don't get the same with any of the other water birth photos; it's the perspective of underwater and through glass (plastic).
posted by Vortisaur at 8:28 AM on February 24, 2018


The images of childbirth are very impressive, but I wonder if technology will one day advance to the point where we can photograph conception.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:49 PM on February 25, 2018


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