BIRTH COMPANIONS 101

You might know this, by now, but I was born in a nunnery.  My father was not allowed in the room and my poor mom had to labour for hours without a birth companion.  A positive birth experience for my mother?  I think not.

What is a birth companion or birth partner?  In short it is someone that gives you physical, emotional and practical support when delivering your baby (via c-section or labour).  The right support during birth (over and above good clinical care) goes a long way toward a happier, positive birth experience.  In fact, many healthcare providers support the presence of birth companions as hospital midwives working on a busy labour ward are not always in the position to give continuous, un-interrupted one-on-one support.

There are different kinds of birth companions and each bring their own unique benefits to the birth environment.  Who you have in your birth space should be your choice, but should also be made with care as you need to feel safe, secure, unobserved and respected at all times:

Make sure your birth companion/s understand and respect your birth preferences

Make sure your birth companion/s are qualified for his or her role

Make sure your birth companion/s bring positive energy to your birth space

Understand what your hospital or healthcare provider’s merit requirements are for the birth companion of your choice

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Love You Endlessly | Huxley’s Birth | Vincent Pallotti, Cape Town

This is the story of how Huxley, with eyes as fierce blue as his mommy’s, came into Daniela’s life. I knew Daniela was going to be an exceptional mother when I met her again at her maternity shoot. Dressed in the most ‘vogue’ maternity dress I have ever seen, we spent an entire afternoon capturing the most beautiful maternity memories for her.

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Memoirs of a Middle Child: A Celebration of Childhood, Motherhood and Everything in the Middle

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I was overcome before I had even open the gift my mother handed me that Friday morning in June. It was a book. I could see the cover through the white plastic bag (my mother does not share my fondness of making the wrapping a gift on its own). It was Dr Seuss’s “Oh the places you will go”.

“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!”

With one simple gift and not a single word spoken she had hit the ball out of the park. As I stood there with my its-feeling-sorry-for-myself-day hair – tea cup in my hand – I felt it. A connection with my mother so perfect and so unexpected that I froze – scared that any sudden movements or words would startle it away.

You see I am a middle child of the 70’s. Allowing myself to feel understood is like cheating – on myself. And yet on that particular morning my mom got it righter than right and cheating felt good!

“You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Whereveryou go, you will top all the rest…. Except when you don’t. Because, sometime, you won’t.”

I had hit the ‘except when you don’t’ with my youngest of three not even a year old and the pressures of being a working mother getting the better of me.

“On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far And face up to your problems whatever they are.”

I didn’t open or read book until a couple of days after. Knowing what the book was about was enough. Shortly after I started writing Memoirs of a Middle Child. It is a celebration of childhood, motherhood and everything in the middle.

“And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ per cent guaranteed).”

 

Memoirs of a Middle Child is the personal accounts of Alda Smith, middle child, mother of three and birth photographer.  To subscribe to Memoirs of a Middle Child you need to subscribe to the Love Alda Newsletter.

OBG Rooms | Love Alda Digital Birth Story Frames

Love Alda Digital Birth Story Frames have finally started to make their way into selected OBG’s rooms across the Western Cape.  Now parents-to-be can enjoy videographic birth story productions by Love Alda with sound, whilst waiting for their next appointment.  All stories included are shared with the parents’ permission and I think those parents for allowing me to share some of their joyous moments.

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Also included are some interesting facts on birth photography in general.  So be sure to let me know if you spot one of these and enjoy following it whilst waiting for your next appointment. I might just give you your own complimentary slide production when you do so upon booking your own birth package!

Our Beautiful Life | Lucie’s Birth | Mediclinic Louis Leipoldt, Cape Town

I met Christelle, Tron and their two lively boys at Elandsbaai for their maternity shoot. We (my three kids, hubby and I) were at a family wedding at Muisbosskerm the day before and made a small detour to the sleepy seaside village on our way back where we met the Van Wyks.

Although the the weather was not playing along, I had so much fun with this vibrant and energetic family of four (soon to be five) on the quiet beach. No one took themselves too seriously and the boys were so excited about their new baby sister’s eminent arrival.  They were delighted that they could share her name (a secret at that stage) with me by writing it with chalk on the road! And so capturing their journey to meeting Lucie, the first princess to the family, began!

Please note:  All content shared with family’s permission, but copyright protected.  So feel free to share the love but note that you are not allowed to reproduce or publish without the photographer and parents’ permission.

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Healthcare & the Arts: Humanising Birth

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Finally the postman had an A4 envelope with DO NOT BEND on the front in his hand. My Medicine & the Arts Certificate from UCT! I recently completed a course on the subject matter and as birth photographer am so excited about the possibilities this new field holds for future healthcare students, but also students of the humanities (including artists, writers etc.)

For me Medicine and the Humanities is about integration. It encourages an integrated observation, interpretation and response to the health and wellbeing of people.

An integrated observation meaning that the body, mind and soul are observed through various disciplines, using various tools (including but not limited to technology and science).

An integrated interpretation meaning that we gain knowledge or insight into a patient or person by interpreting and in some instances ‘humanising’ raw information /data presented by that patient within an integrated context (this is where other factors like socio-economics, culture, religion, age, demographics etc. all play a role).

An integrated response meaning that we express our insight in an integrated manner using once again various disciplines – focusing on perhaps on the most relevant.

Here is my practical example as birth photographer: When a mother requests me to photograph her birth there are various things I have to observe: how she feels about birth & her body, what her health care provider says about her physical abilities to give birth, what her partner feels, cultural beliefs in terms of the process. As birth photographer I should understand how to interpret this information in a manner that will allow me to capture the parents’ unique journey whilst holding the birth space with empathy, understanding and respect for both the healthcare but also human aspects of birth and what it means for those particular parents.

I think Dr. Bernard Lown summarises it well in “The lost art of Healing” when he says: “…caring without science is a well-intentioned kindness, but not medicine. …Science without caring empties medicine of healing…”

Opposition between Science and Humanities in Medicine is dangerous. As a mother I know how traumatic medical intervention during birth can be and the scarring that can occur when there is a complete disregard for the emotional journey birth holds.  At the same time I have often been incredibly grateful for the option in risky and life-threatening situations.  Collaboration is needed without minimising the importance of both knowledges.  It should never become an ‘either or’ situation.

As birth photographer I often find myself within the birth space, observing the delicate balancing act between the safety and physical wellbeing of a mother and her baby on the one side and their spiritual or emotional wellbeing on the other. Unfortunately it often boils down to an either or situation, but imagine if the two could be integrated effectively? Progress has been made in this regard: “gentle C-sections”; alternative pain management; allowing SABPA accredited birth photographers to capture birth memories; encouraging skin to skin; allowing doulas into the labour wards AND theatre and delayed cord-clamping; empowering parents with information and allowing them to make choices and encouraging and respecting (as far as possible) parents’ birth plans are but a couple examples where medicine and the humanities are being integrated effectively, but more can be done to move away from the view that birth is always just a ‘medical condition or procedure’ and embrace the emotional and very natural aspects of the birth journey.

It’s only the beginning! I can’t wait to see what this field will look like in 5 years’ time!

 

Birth Photography | The Best thing you Never Knew You Wanted

“When I booked you Alda, I knew I wanted birth photography, but now that you’ve captured these once in a life-time memories for us I’ve realised just how badly I wanted it!”  I often get this from clients. That or “I never invested in professional birth photography with the birth of my first child and I’m heartbroken.  Please will you capture the birth of my second child?”  I can very much associated with this second group of people – it was only with the birth of my third child that I had a friend photographer capture the story (I wanted this with my second birth as well, but could not find a birth photographer at the time).  I treasure those images more than words can explain and I still mourn the fact that I was not in a position to have this done with my first two children.

Siblings-by-Love-Alda-Cape-Town-Birth-PhotographerUnfortunately many first-time parents only realise the importance of birth photography after the fact – much like you only realise how amazing becoming a parent is when you hear that first gurgly cry – up until that point it’s all a bit surreal.  But think about it – you hire a wedding photographer for your wedding day.  Why on earth would you not want to capture this next amazing, life-changing occasion in your life? Birth photography is such a precious, everlasting gift – to yourself as the parents, but also to your baby one day when he or she is old enough to understand and treasure the story of their own birth.

Yes, there are huge medical and other expenses when you bring a child into this world (I know – I have three!) and birth photography seems (and is) a luxury. However when you put all medical, safety and necessary expenses aside it becomes a question of choices and what you value, as well as your personal priorities.  How fancy should the crib be?  Should I buy the latest and greatest pram?  Perhaps you are in the fortunate position to afford all, but sometimes parents have to make choices and in my humble opinion the long-term value of some of these choices ails in comparison to being able to relive & share the beauty and love of the day your child’s life started.

So to all new parents-to-be out there – you can’t go wrong hiring a professional birth photographer for the birth of your child.  And if you need further persuasion look at these 9 reasons to hire a birth photographer.