by Ashley Weeks Cart
A month ago today I helped welcome sweet baby Katy into the world. Her arrival was unexpected, two weeks ahead of schedule due to her Mama’s rising blood pressure. We were only days into the new year, during our first blizzard and deep freeze of the season. Her name is so wonderfully appropriate (see photo above – and if you don’t know that children’s story, I highly recommend it!)
This birth was my fourth in one year. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have been present for the welcoming of four new lives into the world. To see all the amazing and powerful ways that birth is so deeply personal and individual for each mother and child, and yet, simultaneously, how truly universal and transcendent the experience is.
I was explaining to someone last week that one of the primary reasons that I so enjoy birth photography (beyond the gift it gives the family of that experience) is the opportunity to capture people at their most authentic, their most bare, their most vulnerable. A woman in labor does not notice or care about the presence of my camera. She is unaffected by the lens, and I am privy to some of the most incredible and profound human moments. The deepest pain juxtaposed against the deepest joy. The love between partners as they navigate that pain and anticipation and then experience that joy for the first time together in meeting their baby. Words could never do it justice. Pictures come close. But nothing compares to the act of bearing witness to that kind of energy. I am humbled and grateful for it every time. And I especially love experiencing all the laughter (punctuated by the pain and work) that is central to birth. There are always so many beautiful images of mothers smiling even while in the throes of one of the hardest things they’ll ever do.
Looking back at these images, I am most moved by the love between Laura and her husband – the way he held her in that pain and the two of them worked together to bring their daughter into the world. I knew Laura was one of the most physically and mentally strong human beings I know thanks to training and running a half marathon with her last spring. But watching her in labor was positively inspiring. She never once uttered words of doubt. She never once cried for help. She trusted herself and her body and baby, and I could not have been more proud or inspired by that kind of mental will. I wish that for all mothers, and I can only hope that some of these images capture the heart of that strength.