I am a huge homebirth advocate after the planned homebirth of my third baby, but it's not the place of birth that matters, it is what and who that are in that place which has the strongest influence. What is important is privacy. This is the key to birthing normally, as all mammals insist on privacy to give birth.
This teaching and doula journey of mine has led me to meet many, many wonderful women. At 7.51 am on 29 April 2017, one of those women gave birth to her third baby at home in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. I met Renee during her first pregnancy and have been friends ever since. I taught yoga at her beautiful rural home wedding when she was pregnant with her second baby. This woman has a man who is devoted to her, who cried openly as he read his wedding vows - a man in love with life.
I introduced this woman to Birth Photographer, Ilsa from Good Wolf Photography - another woman who I've connected with through this journey - who's creativity caught my eye some time ago. These two incredible women came together and shared an intimate, sacred experience - that which is birth. Raw, emotional, cherished moments were captured that show how powerful and incredible women and BIRTH truly are.
THESE PHOTOS ARE SHARED WITH PERMISSION
Sunshine Coast Birth Photography
Having a birth photographer present could potentially invade a woman's privacy and create that feeling of being watched, but Renee said she didn't even realise most of the time that her birth photographer Ilsa, was in the room. "She was beautiful. The photos are so natural and raw. I felt really comfortable with her."
"She was beautiful. The photos are so natural and raw.
I felt really comfortable with her."
There is so much that I could say about having a homebirth but there are two things that really stand out for me.
Photographing a homebirth means sharing an incredibly personal, intimate and sacred space with a family. Being able to capture such cherished moments whilst ensuring the mother feels unobserved requires a gentle, non-invasive approach. Good Wolf Photographer Ilsa understands how the process of an undisturbed physiological birth works, after she used HypnoBirthing for the birth of her son a year ago.
Having received so many birth stories from Mums over the years, I thought it may be interesting to also hear the perspective of a birth photographer, so I asked Ilsa – especially as it’s the first birth that she's captured – and that as both these women have connected through me, it feels very special to have brought them together.
Joymamma: Hi Ilsa. To begin - what inspired you to launch your photography business Good Wolf Photography?
Ilsa: My son, Wolfgang. I've always worked as an artist, in various art forms, but have always treated photography as a side project. Since becoming a mum I gained all this time (sounds weird I know, as us mothers are not time rich, but when Wolfie was napping, I found myself at a loss), so I created my dream business. He not only has increased my productivity (time management is now a must to survive), but is constantly showing me a greater love and as a result greater sense of self. Motherhood has catapulted me to live truthfully and take risks and this runs across all areas of my life now. He is my muse.
Joymamma: You must be very proud of what you've achieved - a baby and a business! Renee’s birth was the first birth you captured – tell me about the environment she created, what was the atmosphere like when you arrived?
Ilsa: Renee's home birth was both stunning and exhilarating. Being my first birth to attend (aside from my own!) let alone capture, and for it to be a hypnobirthing labour, and at home, I really got the full experience of a primal, natural, beautiful birth. The atmosphere was calm, slow, quiet and warm. I arrived at daybreak around 5am, it was still quite dark and she was in active labour. She was in control and smiling between surges. She had a dear friend tending to her whilst Rich was setting up the pool. Her other two boys were upstairs asleep (little did I know, they were so quiet, and it was so 'every day'). She had soft lamps glowing, meditative music and was using the birth ball as she breathed through her surges. I noticed seamless switches between her support partners and everything flowed so organically. It was beautifully paced, and as it intensified the midwives were there to support her labour in the pool. It wasn't a long labour, and at times gritty - very primal and real - and before we could believe it she was breathing baby down and out. While her boys watched on. Renee very much relied on her breathing, pressure applied to her back, the pool later in labour and she had the blooming flower cervix picture on her wall. I couldn't believe how calm Rich was also! They both created an environment that eliminated all fear and treated birth as something so natural and so doable. There were a lot of smiles, and as well as the well controlled intensity too.
Joymamma: WOW, it sounds amazing. You have given birth yourself, how did it make you feel, watching another woman give birth?
Ilsa: I have given birth once, last year. I completed the Joymamma hypnobirthing course with my husband and very much believed in my body and baby, and the naturalness of birth. I think going through my own birth has certainly given me greater empathy as a photographer, and I know how to manoeuvre around without disrupting a sacred journey. I enjoyed watching Renee birth, I read the stages of labour well and had my own flashbacks along the ride. I wiped away tears as I captured the delivery and walked away from the birth feeling proud of women, feeling empowered and inspired for my next birth, and desperately wanting to cuddle my boy. It's a strange thing but I felt my oxytocin increase whilst documenting the birth. Women are incredible
Joymamma: Yes, women are amazing; strong, powerful and beautiful. You have a very unique style, can you share with us what challenges you faced in such an intimate and sacred space?
Ilsa: My photography aims to capture the truth and the beauty of life's intimate moments. I certainly want the grit and the tears, not just the laughter and joy. So my challenge as a documentary photographer is to capture the story and emotions accurately, which tends to mean I become a part of the flow of each labour - moving with the mother through the birth, physically (framing my shots) and emotionally (translating the feelings into photographic memories). I need to be able to rely on my knowledge of my gear to handle low lighting and tight spaces. At this birth, I utilised the space available and made sure I could capture each moment. I had to read Renee's signs and be aware and prepared for what was just around the corner. I also had to be respectful of the space and keep the volume of shots to a minimum so not to disturb. As there were quite a few bodies in the room, I worked around them and aimed to not be in anyone's way. Early in the labour I was able to connect with Renee and make her feel comfortable with my presence - hopefully it's a warm, compassionate added support.
Joymamma: Your work is very real Ilsa, I look forward to watching your portfolio grow with more birth stories that help normalise birth. Thank you!
Good Wolf Photography is currently offering discounts on maternity, birth and newborn sessions
for Joymamma Yoga & HypnoBirthing students. Please contact us for more info.
A massive Thank You to Renee for sharing these raw and primal images.
Thank You to beloved husband Rich for your love and connection - and also midwife Terri, for caring and supporting this devoted family on their journey.