The house was quiet when I got there at 11pm. Lina, one of the midwives, was out in the living room with Shivani's older daughter Janvi and her husband who greeted us as we entered. Lina was busy crocheting a pink hat as Janvi was convinced it was going to be a 'baby sister' (although, they encourage no wearing of hats for newborn babies as there are many benefits to not having any barriers to the mother-baby connection).
I got my camera ready, checked my settings and nimbly walked myself to the dimly lit birth room where Shivani was in an inflatable pool filled with water, calming music and chants played on the speakers. Nhing (another midwife) was kneeling beside the pool, checking baby’s heartbeat and encouraging Shivani through her surges.
This was my first birth ever but I’ve been reading so much and have watched so many birth videos, that it honestly felt like I’d experienced a hundred births already. I was a little nervous about getting good photographs but the experience itself seemed familiar.
Over the next two hours, I made myself as inconspicuous as I knew how, and photographed as quietly as possible. My introverted self was truly in her element.
Around 12:45, the midwives did a check to make sure all was okay and announced that the baby was crowning and it might do it well if mama changed position as baby’s heartbeat was dropping a little bit.
Soon after she did, Shivani breathed down and baby’s head made an appearance. Baby wanted to see everyone first thing so decided that it would come out heading facing up – occiput posterior, in medical terms. This position happens in about 10% of labours and as the baby’s spine is facing the mama’s spine, it can make labour quite painful for mama and Shivani did beautifully in this situation.
A few surges later, out came baby, Shivani reached down to pick the baby out of the water with Nhing’s help and Janvi, who was there all along announced, “Baby brother!”, just as he took his first breath.
Everyone was excited, Shivani’s mother banged a plate in the kitchen to announce the good news and baby, who seemed exhausted from the journey but oh-so-happy to be cuddling on mama’s chest, was perfectly calm and contended.
Born at 1am on the dot on 10 June 2015, Arin was my first little client as a Birth Photographer and I am so honoured that I was there to experience his first moments outside the womb. His birth has strengthened my conviction to tell these stories and to use my gift as a photographer to tell the world this:
Birth is beautiful. Birth is a miracle.
And we must do everything in our power to give women everywhere the right to not only have safe births, but gentle births. Empowering births.