How I Became a Birth Photographer
My Journey from being a Wedding Photographer to a Birth Photographer
First: the back story
I grew up with parents who are professional photographers. This fed my creative soul and groomed me to be the photographer and graphic designer that I am today. I went to an amazing school for graphic design. My parents showed me the ropes of wedding photography and I began photographing weddings professionally to pay back my student loans on the side in 2009 while working other graphic design jobs. I never looked back. All of my wedding clients hold a special place in my heart and I think of them all fondly.
In 2013 I met the love of my life and we got married in 2015, moving to Hawaii that year. My last wedding of the year was about 3 months before Brian proposed. I photographed the wedding and as I drove home, (with the suspicion that the proposal was just around the corner) the realization hit me that THIS wedding was most likely going to be my last Nebraska wedding. Just like that, it was...over. Without ceremony or even acknowledgement and it was just a really sad moment for me.
Fast forward, once married and in Hawaii, I found myself navigating a whole new world of business, along with all of the challenges of starting up again (and the nagging discouraging feeling in knowing with our military life we would have to move again soon). I marketed myself as a wedding photographer but had a really hard time getting my name out there. Hawaii has a really saturated wedding market! And, all of the people we knew on island were already married. I knew I needed to make a change.
Maybe birth Photography?
Then, I found myself surrounded by pregnant women! This was a new thing for me. At that time in my life, I was afraid of all things childbirth. I was terrified of having a baby, afraid of the pain and mostly afraid of being a mother. Being surrounded by all these amazing pregnant women was a blessing for me, they showed me that birth and babies and growing families and motherhood is beautiful. I can honestly say, after having met and spent time with them, and photographing a handful of births, I seriously have baby fever—real bad. Haha. For me, this is a drastic change.
One soon-to-be mother in my bible study asked me if I would photograph her birth. Unfortunately, I was going to be on the mainland when her baby was born and declined, but it peaked my interest and I tucked that into the back of my mind. I had never heard of birth photography, and had no idea what to expect, had never been in a labor + delivery room, or even ever seen any video of actual birth (I'm not talking about the crazy movie versions of birth, but actual real-life birth). It was all new to me.
A few months later, I had two good friends who were giving birth around the same time. That "birth photographer" thought was still in the back of my mind and I just wanted to try. I loved the idea of capturing the new life of a fresh baby entering the world, even if I was a little nervous. I had heard of people fainting in the labor + delivery room, and I didn't know how I would react or what would happen to me. I told myself, photographing these two births will (if anything) (hopefully haha!) bless my friends, and if I don't enjoy the work then, that's fine and I'll just do something else.
Photographing My first 2 births
The first birth I photographed ended up being a cesarean. I didn't know very much about that at the time, but what really stood out to me during this birth was how amazingly kind the mother was toward her nurses and doctor's. She absolutely was glowing, all the while having extremely painful contractions. She would have a contraction, pain written all over her face, and then be laughing just moments later, her gleaming smile filling the room. It was incredible. Her husband showed so much support. He was soft spoken and loving. He would rub her back and say things like, "you can do this, I'm so proud of you, I love you" so quietly it was hard for me to hear. It was so sweet, and a perfect first birth for me to witness.
I will never forget the first time I saw a baby entering the world. It was at my second birth. During a birth, I like to stand behind the mother while her baby is born because it is a great angle for photographing dad's expression and baby's face as soon as he or she is born. I wish someone had photographed my expression because I was just in complete and total awe. My insides were leaping with joy and wonder and amazement and happiness for the growing family, and my camera was shooting rounds—I did not want to miss a second! Birth truly is miraculous.
I came home from that first birth, and before I even started editing, I added a "Birth" tab to my website because I knew in my heart I wanted to continue doing this. I launched myself into learning more about birth. I connected with other birth photographers, and asked lots of questions. I ran a model call to get more experience. I watched documentaries and read books about births.
To sum it all up
There is something special about being present the moment a baby enters the world, and I can't get enough of it. I see the new family addition and I recognize that the family just changed in a drastic way. As a photographer, a historian at heart, I have an innate need to help preserve the memories for people, especially when life is about to change and things will be different from here on out. At a birth, I see so much love and transition happening, and truly feel honored document it. And that, my friends is HOW I became a birth photographer!
Thanks for reading my story. I appreciate each and every one of you! <3 Want to see some amazing birth stories I've documented? Check out the links below:
Amber DeCicco Photography is an Oahu birth photographer.