I have been a birth photographer for four years now. I did my first birth after my first son was born. I had a friend bring a nice camera to my birth, because I really wanted a video and there were no videographers in Oklahoma at the time. So I had her bring a camera, and I showed her one of my favorite videographer’s examples of their birth stories and how to do little clips. I had some editing experience from high school and college and I edited it together to make his birth story film and it was so special to me, and I shared on his first birthday. I had a friend reach out and say, “Hey, I saw that video. That was awesome. Who did that? I want to hire them for my birth.” I said, “Well it’s kind of weird, my friend filmed it. I edited it.”
Anyway, I talked to my friend (about doing birth photography). She wasn’t interested. She said, “Hey Brit, I work full time. I can’t be on call.” And I said, “Well can I borrow your camera and go?” Because I loved it and I had a huge passion for birth. My oldest son’s birth was at a birth center and his water birth was such a healing experience for me after a miscarriage that I had had before that. And I really wanted to be able to document those stories and share them with others and even just be at a birth—I had never attended a birth, other than the one I had participated in. So I went, and had the time of my life just supporting this mom and documenting her story and came home from that birth that day and told my husband, “I think I found what I want to do with my life.” At the time I was working in PR and he said, “Okay, go buy a camera. Figure out what you need to do. I totally support you.” I was so blessed that he was willing to do that. And so from there, I bought a camera, learned as much as I could, and Micah Lynn Birth Stories was born about six months later.
How have your views on birth evolved over time?
My view on birth has evolved a lot throughout the years. I was somebody that saw my first birth through a crowning video on YouTube after my husband, who is now a physician but was then in college working at a small internship at St. Anthony’s, witnessed his first birth at work. He came home and said “Brittany, I saw a birth today, it was the coolest thing!” And I said, “That’s not fair. I have the parts, you shouldn’t get to see that before I do.” So I pulled up a crowning video on YouTube and traumatized myself, and told him, “Okay we’re adopting all of our children and I’m never doing that, or you’re going to have to give me all the drugs and knock me out. I can’t handle this.” So that’s where I started and my whole journey. I had a good friend of mine who had told me she wanted to have planned C-sections with all of her kids and I thought, oh man that sounds that sounds like a lot. That’s surgery. I don’t know. So I just kind of had this evolving experience with that, and she decided when it came down to being pregnant that she wanted to try an unmedicated birth, and I thought, wait a minute, you said you wanted to have planned C-sections. Why would you want to have an unmedicated birth? This seems like a huge departure. And she shared with me some of the information and resources that she had come across that helped her make that decision. And it was really inspiring to me and so I watched her go through her pregnancy, having unmedicated birth with midwives in the hospital, and decided that that’s what I wanted to do when we welcomed our own little one.
So… fast forward to the pregnancy with my oldest son. We were planning a birth with a midwife at a hospital, and ultimately ended up at a birth center thanks to a change of insurance, and I had such an empowering experience. I was so aware of, just the power that God created in my body to be able to birth my baby and it was just really transforming. I had a really long difficult labor with him but it taught me so much about who’s sustaining me and how we were created as women. So I love birth, and as I moved into this role from what I said earlier into being a birth photographer, I really wanted to be able to show other women what birth can look like. I think in media birth is always portrayed as the thing that is scary and women are, you know, scratching off the wallpaper and screaming. It’s not that there can’t be a little screaming every now and then but it doesn’t always have to be a terrifying experience the way that it’s depicted. And so I wanted to be able to show people what birth really looks like. So many people do not witness a birth until they’re actually giving birth themselves. We live in a culture where we’re not able to see that as often, and so I wanted to be able to empower women by showing them what birth could look like.
Why do parents need a birth photographer?
So some of the common questions that I get as a birth photographer, a lot of times, start with “Why would I want a birth photographer?” And my answer to that is because birth is one of the most surreal days of your life and it can be really hard, especially as the mom with all of the hormones and everything going on to remember all of the little details, and sometimes there are details going on in another room that you don’t get to see and so having a birth photographer there, they’re able to capture those memories in a way that you can preserve them and watch them and look back over them for years to come. And I think that’s really valuable and it can even be healing in traumatic birth experiences, so that that is one side of why I think it can be really powerful to have a birth photographer.
I also feel like it makes such a big difference because if you have a partner there that you would think could take pictures, you want them to be fully present. I think we live in a culture of people that live behind their screens and your birth day shouldn’t be spent behind a screen. You shouldn’t have to have your spouse or your partner looking at you from behind a screen. You want them 100% fully present with you and your baby during that experience. So having a birth photographer there who can be a fly on the wall and capture those moments where you’re both in the picture, and are both in the film, is really powerful and then will allow you guys to be fully present and enjoy your birth day.
Another reason that I think it can be really beneficial to have a trained or experienced birth photographer is that a lot of times in birth, lighting conditions are not ideal. A lot of moms like to labor in really dark rooms or you could be in a hospital that has no windows and just really harsh overhead lighting, so having somebody who is experienced and knows what kind of settings to put their camera at to be able to capture those things in a really beautiful way where you’re not going to look overcast or have a lot of grain to your image that isn’t necessary, can really help capture your images.
Another reason that I think it can be really valuable to have a birth photographer at your birth—and this even goes to why I think is really valuable have a doula at your birth—is having somebody with experience and support there. Most birth photographers have shot a lot of births. I am coming up on birth number 70 and I think that when you have somebody that has been there, done that, seen birth in all of its forms, you have somebody in the room that has experience and can reassure you in different situations. I know one of the things that a lot of moms will feel as they near transition or transformation, is they get the shakes. And I remember being pregnant with my oldest and being in labor and getting that and telling my husband, “Oh my goodness I feel like like this is crazy. I don’t even know how to explain this.” And so being able to have somebody that can say, “Oh hey this is normal. This is your hormones, it’s what your body’s supposed to do,” that is really reassuring presence. And so I think having somebody that is trained and experienced in the birth setting is really valuable.
And the last reason I think it’s really valuable to have a birth photographer at your birth is for your baby. Having the memories for yourself is really important. But your baby will not remember their birthday. And so being able to show them the love that surrounded them on the day that they were born is so incredibly powerful. So this is kind of their first family heirloom that you’ll get to share with them as they grow older.
But isn’t it weird to have a photographer in the room during an intimate moment?
So my goal when I’m documenting a birth is to document in a way that is really authentic but also completely preserves the sacredness of the birth space, and a lot of times that means being a fly on the wall. I’ve had even some of my most private clients tell me after the fact that they didn’t even realize I was there until after the baby was born. So most of the time, it’s not weird having someone there because somebody that’s experienced there can can kind of retract and be able to be a part of your supportive team but also really let you be in the experience and not be taking away from it. It’s definitely not something that you should feel like you have the paparazzi at your birth. It’s definitely a more subtle experience.
Birth is super painful. Why would I want to remember that?
So I think that a lot of people view birth because of how the media has portrayed it as something that is scary and so of course they think, “why would I want images of that?” But the reality is, and I tell women this all the time, your birth makes you one of the most captivating people and women that you could ever imagine. I actually wrote a blog post a while ago that said like, “Dear Mom, like this is what I want you to know of what I see when you’re giving birth.” You know when I see a mom that’s like ripping the sheets, I see a mom that is showing incredible strength in the face of something that might have been scary to her. When I see the tear roll down her cheek, I’m seeing what I consider like a water on the ground that will give her baby and environment to grow and develop into a wonderful, loved child. When I see a mom and dad be able to laugh at an awkward moment during a birth, I see a husband and wife and a mom and dad that can use humor to help this little baby as they transition into childhood and teenage years, laugh in those moments. Each of those things… you are so beautiful and so powerful in those moments and so you deserve to have those moments documented so that you can see that in yourself.
Do birth photos have to be graphic?
So the thing about birth photography is that it is not about the vag shot. I think so many people hear “birth” and they think you’re only taking pictures from the business end of things and in reality, yes I can take images of that moment if you want to be able to see that. But ultimately birth photography is about so much more than that. It’s about seeing what was else was going on in the room. It’s about seeing the expression on your face when you hold your baby for the first time, or if you have a birth film, it’s about hearing the first words that you say to your baby. And that’s so powerful. So on this idea of graphic images I take it really seriously to respect my client’s sense of modesty and privacy. I’ll never take an image you’re uncomfortable with and I will never share an image you’re uncomfortable with but it’s really important to know that it’s way more than that shot and it really is valuable to have a birth photographer even if you don’t want those types of images.
Tell us About Birth OK Magazine
Birth OK magazine is an online magazine and community, and soon to be a print magazine, that is geared for educating, encouraging and empowering Oklahoma moms in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. I started Birth OK a little over a year ago after God planted this idea in my heart to start this resource for moms in Oklahoma. I actually did my degree in cultural communication studies which basically is a fancy way to describe that I combined mass communications and journalism with graphic design in my degree. So I’ve had these tools in my back pocket for a long time but just wasn’t using them and I really always enjoyed writing, so when God put this idea in my heart I really just felt like I needed to run with it. And so I’ve since been able to grow it and we launched last year on International Day of the Midwife with our Birth OK mom tribe on Facebook which is a really fun resource and community for moms to connect and ask questions.
A lot of the amazing birth professionals that we have in Oklahoma are in that group to be able to answer questions. So that’s been a really powerful part of our community. And then we launched our first issue last fall. And really my vision for Birth OK has been to see this place of having a place for evidence based information to come together with something really beautiful and in a beautiful format. My husband is actually a physician and he brings home all these medical journals that sometimes I read for fun, but in reality they’re kind of dry and boring. So I wanted something that was engaging that allowed moms to have access to good information mixed with some fun features like fashion and nutrition, features about all things geared towards moms in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, and also a place that Oklahoma professionals can come together and collaborate. I see huge value in bringing together the different birth professionals from across the state especially when we’re talking about obstetricians and midwives. I think sometimes there are these polarizing communities and in reality moms and babies are so much safer when we see midwives and OB’s come to work together. So I wanted to create a place that they both had seats at the table because I think that type of collaboration is really powerful.
Tell us About Micah Lynn Birth Stories
So my business is named Micah Lynn Birth Stories after our first baby. I got pregnant right when my first husband first started medical school and we were thrilled. We had been trying for a few months and really were excited to welcome this little one into our family. And around 7 weeks I started to have some complications. I ended up on bed rest for a month and ultimately miscarried at eleven weeks, and it was a really hard experience for us. We were devastated. We loved that baby so much. And through that process and healing I decided that when I went into birth photography after having my son Reece, that I really wanted my business to not only serve moms that were expecting living babies but moms that had lost babies as well. That’s always been a key part of what I do at Micah Lynn Birth Stories.
So I named my business after our first baby. We had chosen the name Micah Lynn, we liked that Micah was gender neutral since we didn’t ever know if that baby was a boy or a girl. We will find out one day in heaven. So as I started my business and chose that name, I knew it was really important to me to really focus on how I can serve moms that were facing loss. A huge part of how I do that is through a program called The Silas Program. The Silas Program is a newborn palliative care program here in Tulsa that offers really incredible resources to families that are facing a tragic diagnosis for their babies. And so I’ve been able to serve there to attend birth with different families and document their baby’s stories no matter how long their life was because I truly believe that every life, no matter the length, matters and can have an incredible impact in this world. And so that’s a huge part of what I do. it’s a part of the reason that I actually have pursued birth and bereavement doula training as well, so that I can have those tools as I serve these families in my own, general clients. And so it’s a big passion of mine to serve families that that are facing loss and honor those lives.