Frequently Asked Questions about Birth Photography and Videography in St. Louis, MO
When do we call you?
When it comes to birth photography, communication is key. I tell all my clients to let me know as soon as they think labor might be starting. This helps me to arrange and re-arrange things on my end so that I’m ready to come be with you as soon as it’s time. After that first “this might be it” phone call, I love to be updated with each change in status. We can decide together exactly when I should leave to come be with you based on how your individual labor is progressing, but typically I come once active labor has been established. Sometimes this is through cervical checks (typically I’d come around 6 cm, but this depends on many other factors including your personal birth history). If you aren’t getting cervical checks, I base the decision to come on a combination of things, including your vocalizations, your care providers’ assessments, and your own intuition. The key is to keep communication open at every step so that we can make a decision together.
What if I don’t want you to share my birth photos on social media?
Then I won’t! Your birth story is just that - YOUR birth story. Some mamas really want to share their photos and films with the world to show just how beautiful birth really is. But some families are very private people and just want to savor their story in the privacy of their own home. It’s completely up to you. While I love sharing the beauty of birth, and appreciate every photo that my clients have allowed me to show, I will always respect your privacy 100%. Though you may have seen many photos on my website or my social media accounts, there are plenty of births I’ve photographed that you will never know I was there because families have requested complete privacy. During my consultation process, my clients fill out a model release which specifies the types of photos they are comfortable sharing (or that they aren’t comfortable sharing any at all) as well as the places they are OK with me using their images (some may be fine with me using their photos on my website or in printed samples that I show potential clients, but not want any photos on Facebook or Instagram). Even if you give me full permission for sharing everything everywhere before your birth, I will never share a photo before you’ve seen it yourself, and I always double check that you are comfortable with me sharing before I do.
When do you go “on call” and what does that mean?
Typically, I go on call when you reach 38 weeks gestation and I remain on call until your baby is born - whether that’s 39 weeks or 42.5. If your birth history indicates a pattern of early labors, we may decide together that an earlier on call time period is called for. When I go on call for you, that means that I am ready to go, with my cameras charged and bags packed, any time of the day or night. My phone is charged and the ringer is on 24/7. I don’t go more than an hour away from home. If I go to a baseball game with my family or a concert with a friend, we take two cars so that I can leave during the first inning or the 3rd song if I get the call. It means I don’t have more than a glass of wine with dinner. It means I have someone ready to step in and watch my kids at a moments notice. It means that if I’m snuggling into bed and you are heading to the hospital, I’m getting back out of bed and putting my shoes on. It means we’ll be in contact after each of your last few prenatal appointments and we’ll check in with each other periodically so that when the time comes for me to capture you welcoming your baby into your arms, I’m there. *It should be noted that if you happen to go into labor before my on call period has started, I’ll be moving heaven and earth to get there for you then, too!
Can I have my birth photographed in a hospital? What if I choose a birth center as my place of birth?
We are so lucky in St. Louis that we have so many wonderful options for locations and providers to give birth. Whether you choose to have your baby in a hospital, birthing center, or at home, I’m thrilled and honored to meet you there and document your story. It’s always a great idea to check with your provider and place of birth prior to labor to make sure they allow photography, but my experience is that most are more than happy to accommodate your wishes to have a birth photographer present. Here are just some of the locations and care providers within my range of service (if you don’t see your own choice below, don’t worry. Just ask here):
Mercy Hospital St. Louis - Creve Coeur, MO
Missouri Baptist Medical Center - Town and Country, MO
Barnes-Jewish Hospital - St. Louis, MO
St. Luke’s Hospital - St. Louis, MO
SSM Health St. Clare Hospital - Unincorporated South St. Louis County, MO (Queeny Township)
SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital - Richmond Heights, MO
Mercy Birthing Center Midwifery Care at Mercy Hospital St. Louis - www.mercy.net/practice/mercy-birthing-center-midwifery-care-st-louis - St. Louis, MO
First Breath Birth & Wellness - www.firstbreathbirthandwellness.com - O'fallon, MO
At your very own home, under the care of one of these incredible midwives:
Allison Dougherty, CPM - firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Guttmann, CPM - www.facebook.com/Circleoflifemidwifestl
Jennifer Konkol, CPM - www.peacefulbeginningsmidwife.com
Jen Jester, CPM - www.birthwisely.net
Andi Webb, student midwife - www.barefootdoulastl.com
The First Breath Birth & Wellness Center midwives - www.firstbreathbirthandwellness.com
What if I don’t want crowning shots?
I think it’s a super common misconception that birth photography is all about the crowning shot. In reality, there are a hundred moments that are as important or more important than the moment baby emerges. Most of my clients DO want that moment captured, but we go over all your preferences for what you want documented before you ever go into labor. Even if you’re not sure about crowning shots, there are a couple ways we can handle it. One - I can take the pictures so you have them if you want them, but you can decide if you want to see them or not. I can even put them in a separate folder for you, so you can look at them later (or never look at those at all). Two - I can take photos of that moment, but from different angles that are somewhat more “modest.” For example, I can take photos that are more from mom’s view instead of straight on. Or three - if you are sure those photos just aren’t for you, then I won’t take them. I can focus on your face, the support you are receiving, or other details during that moment. Just remember, you can always choose not to look, but you can’t go back and have that moment documented if you change your mind later and wish you’d asked for it. Either way, the choice is always yours. And your story is so much more than that one moment.
What if we want an intimate birth without too many people in the room?
Each person has a different vision for their birth space - some want to be surrounded by support while others want the most intimate space with only themselves and their partner. The truth is, though, whether you have a homebirth, a hospital birth, or a birth center birth, there will most likely be midwives, nurses, doctors, and maybe even a doula in the room with you. Your birth team plays an integral role in supporting you and helping to create the atmosphere that you envision. I consider myself to be a part of your birth team and invite you to think of me this way, too. While some photographers attempt to be “a fly on the wall,” I actually find my role to be much more active. I’m there to give you a warm smile or comforting word, but also know when to step back and give you space to just be. I consider it part of my job to be reverent and hold space for you to feel safe and supported as I document your story. I work alongside your care providers - each of us with our unique roles - and always make sure that I don’t interfere with anyone else doing their job. I’ve documented births with 10 or more people in the room, and alternatively also photographed births with only mom, dad, and two midwives. Each has a different atmosphere, and each is beautiful in a different way. Whichever you choose, I promise to blend in and be what you need for your own birth experience.
How long do you stay after the baby is born?
I stay to document your story for two hours after your baby is born. This allows me to photograph that first golden hour of skin-to-skin with mama and baby where you get to just take in your new little love. Depending on your place of birth, the newborn exam will either happen during that first hour or shortly after. It almost always happens within that first two hours after birth (and if it hasn’t happened by the one and a half hour mark, you can always request your care providers . I love capturing all those sweet firsts as you and your partner bond with your baby and you revel in the hard work that you’ve done to get them into your arms. If you are hoping to document siblings or other family members meeting baby, you can either ask them to be on standby and arrive within the first hour and a half, or you can add on a Fresh 48 session to happen either immediately following birth coverage or the following day.
What if you are sick or have an emergency and can’t make it to our birth?
It’s true. We are all human, and sometimes we get sick. Sometimes there’s an unavoidable emergency. That’s why I would never do this job without having at least one reliable backup photographer ready to go in case an unavoidable emergency prevents me from being there for your birth. (Actually, I have several!) I’ve yet to need to actually use a backup - though I did call on one once when two of my mamas were in labor at the same time, but the babies decided to pick different birth times, and I was able to be there for both! If I ever DO need to use a backup photographer, it will always be someone who is experienced in birth photography, specifically - I won’t send an event photographer into your birth space. And because you hired me for my artistic style, my backup will hand over all the images they shoot, and I will edit them using my own process and style, so they are as close to my photos as possible.
What if things don’t go according to my birth plan?
Birth is unpredictable. While I’m a strong advocate for doing research beforehand to understand the choices you may be faced with during your birth, you might find that your birth doesn’t unfold exactly as you expect it to. If this happens, I’ll simply document it as it occurs. During the consultation process before your birth, we’ll discuss if there are any possible moments that you’d rather I not take photos of (certain procedures or situations), but otherwise, I’ll document your story as it unfolds. If you end up having to transfer from home or birth center to a hospital, I’ll follow along and continue to tell your story. If you end up needing to have an unplanned cesarean birth, I’ll suit up and go in with you, so long as hospital policy and the doctors permit me to be there (most hospitals in St. Louis allow photographers to be present during C-sections). Even if you end up with a birth story that wasn’t what you anticipated, it’s still your story. And many mamas actually find that being able to look back on how their birth experience unfolded can be an important part of their healing process.
If you have any questions that weren’t answered here, please feel free to use my contact form to get in touch. I’m always happy to address any of your concerns and explain my process further. Let me know what you’re wondering!