An increasing number of expectant mums are hiring professionals to photograph the magical moments of childbirth.
Photographer Claire Wilson said she introduced birth photography to the Irish market, having noticed how popular the service had become in the US, Australia, and the UK. However, stricter regulations in Irish hospitals, which limit the number of people in a delivery room, mean she can only record home births.
To ensure she makes it to the birth on time, the 42-year-old mother of two, who is based in Greystones, Co Wicklow, limits her customer base to within an hour’s drive of her home, and is on round-the-clock call two weeks before and two weeks after the due date. Yet Claire says that, despite the restrictions and the unpredictability, her service is becoming increasingly popular here.
In recent months, she has photographed four home births and has four more bookings for the next six months.
However, she said the public’s initial reaction to the concept of hiring a professional birth photographer is often negative.
“Mothers can have a mixed reaction to birth photography and think it’s a bit of a crazy idea, and not very tasteful to have someone taking their photograph when they’re giving birth,” she said.
“But they change their minds, when they see the photographs, because it’s not about capturing the graphic details around a birth, but the emotions, and it’s done with sensitivity and care.
“I look for the way a father-to-be looks at his partner, the way the couple hug each other through the mother’s contractions, the smiles in between, and, of course, the amazing first moments with the baby and the sheer elation on the mother’s face when she welcomes her child into the family.
“Like weddings, which I also photograph, the day you give birth is one of the most emotional days of your life, but you’ll only remember little flashes of it and it can become a hazy dream if you don’t have good images to look back on.”
She says her presence at the birth is not as obtrusive as people may fear. “I do everything I can to blend into the background and I’m there as an observer and nothing more,” she said.
“I’ve had two children of my own and I understand what it’s like to be in labour and can identify with the whole experience.
“As a photographer, it’s one of the most emotional experiences you can capture. I sometimes feel like I’ve been part of it and find it very hard not to shed a tear.”
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