Is the Perfect Birth a Myth?

no-to-perfect-birth

As mother of three, birth photographer and mentor I have seen pretty much all kinds of births – hospital and home births, water births and induced births, natural births and c-sections – and whilst I understand why a natural birth with minimal interventions are viewed by most as the ‘trophy birth’ (I wished it for myself), I do often wonder if the perfect birth might be a myth. Beautiful? Absolutely!  Empowering? Definitely!  But perfect? Mmmmmm.

I’m sorry if I’m bursting your bubble, but trust me, you might thank me later. Before you burn me at the stake however, let me clarify by saying that whilst I do not believe in promoting a perfect birth (who gets to define what perfect means?), I absolutely believe in the importance of a positive, optimized and compassionate birth experience.

You see, whilst a gift and privilege, becoming a parent in itself is challenging and I see how promoting the idea of a ‘perfect birth’ (however you want to define that) just puts unnecessary stress on already overwhelmed parents and more often than not ends in disappointment. Becoming a parent is more important than how you become one – that is a fact. That being said, this truth is often unfortunately abused by medical experts to coerce women into choices driven by fear and ignoring the importance of the birth journey would be irresponsible in itself. I’ve experienced this first hand when I suffered severe post-natal depression after a traumatic birth experience. Your birth experience may not be perfect, but it matters. Very much so.  It may not be as important as becoming a parent, but it is nevertheless important. It feeds into your emotional wellbeing in birth and (as we all know) your physical wellbeing is heavily intertwined with that of your emotional.

The truth is that, contrary to biased information often given to mothers, Mother Nature is, for the most part, on the side of the labouring mother – that is until she is not. And here lies the heart of the problem for me – a mother’s birth experience should not become less important because she ‘deviates’ from what is viewed as ‘perfect’ or ‘normal’. Stigmas, pressure and choice-bashing do little in terms of promoting the importance of the birth experience and the making of empowered choices and instead creates an illusion that leads to disappointment, shamefulness, uncertainty and resentment. Instead of telling mothers what perfection or disappointment in birth looks like society should inform, empower, support and promote birth ownership and the notion of choices with compassion. Because becoming a parent requires courage in different forms and shapes.

I’ve come to know birth as this perfect miracle that happens in an imperfect world with imperfect systems. You can and must put serious thought and planning into your birth experience, but your ultimate goal should be to find and own the beauty of your birth, no matter the small imperfections. To feel proud of yourself for ‘surviving’ another soul splintering off yours, no matter how that happened. Yes natural births are beautiful, but I have experienced and captured beautiful c-sections as well. Like parenthood, the only kind of perfect birth for you must be your own – and for that to be true you need to own your birth, make empowered choices, be respected for those choices and ultimately find the beauty in your unique experience no matter the small imperfections. Finding the beauty does, however, not mean not grieving the disappointments.   Disappointments in birth are, like in life, unavoidable and feelings of sadness about this should always be validated.  This is where a compassionate birth team should also play a big role in helping a mother come to terms through compassionate de-briefing, counselling and other initiatives.  Finding the beauty does however mean not getting lost in disappointment.

I want to end by offering you a compromise – it’s the least I can do after bashing your dreams of a perfect birth *wink*: Instead of aiming for the perfect birth, why not work towards an optimized, empowered, compassionate and positive birth experience ? One that you will love regardless.

I define a positive birth experience as follows:

  1. One where nature is respected for her power to both heal & hurt in birth and her energy channeled for the greater good in birth by you and your birth team (much like using wind to generate power) – even when it comes to births where interventions are needed
  2. One where you get to make empowered choices that are respected by your birth team 
  3. One where you are treated with compassion – where you feel heard and loved when you are at your most vulnerable, before during and after birth
  4. One where you minimise disappointments and are allowed to grieve the ones that do happen without losing the ability to find the beauty amongst the small imperfections
  5. One where you and your birth team celebrate you becoming a parent through the perfect miracle that is birth

To love something does not always mean that it is perfect.  We can often love ‘in spite’ of. So I would like to encourage you today to love your birth, no matter what. To feel like the brave, powerful mama bear that you are and to wear your birth stripes (or scars) with pride!

If you found this helpful, why don’t you help me to empower others by sharing this post?  You can also leave a comment below and tell me how you would define ‘a perfect birth’.

PS: As mother of three and birth professional I want to help you work towards a positive, optimised birth for you and your baby. So join me for my free ante-natal video series, At the Heart of Birth by registering at www.aldasmith.com/freecourse.

 

Baby Bump Milestone Fun & Freebies

I loved reading weekly updates on my baby’s development when I was pregnant.  The most amazing fact to me was that my baby had a heartbeat when only the size of a pomegranate seed. Wow! Baby having a ‘tail’ also freaked me out slightly and I sort of looked forward to week 8 for this reason!  Week 12 was the ultimate milestone for me with all three of my pregnancies as this was usually when my severe nausea would ease off (I weighed less in my first 3 months of pregnancy than I did before I fell pregnant due to excruciating nausea).

Below a beautiful Baby Bump Milestone Chart which you can cut out and paste in your diary; print out and put on your fridge or paste in your baby book (if you have time to keep one!)

babybump_milestone_chart

 

 

I’d love to hear which pregnancy milestone you are at and what your experiencing at the moment.  So if you have a minute, leave a message in the comment box!  O yes, and if you haven’t collected your free Baby Bump Milestone stickers yet make sure you do here.

Free-Love-Alda-Baby-Bump-Milestone-Stickers

Free Love Alda Monthly Onesie Stickers

Onesie-sticker-offer-love-alda

Capturing the birth of a baby for parents is more than a profession for me.  As a mother of three it truly means something to me.  Making life-long friends is often a perk to what I do & seeing babies’ whose birth I captured reach their milestones (and sometimes even photographing those milestones) gives me so much joy.  The photo of Su-Alet was taken shorthly before her first birthday just as she started to walk.

The Love Alda Monthly Onesie sticker template gift is may way of encouraging you to celebrate your baby’s milestones. These memories are what we parents are about.  Drink them in.  Capture them.  Celebrate them.

To collect your stickers (and or loads of other maternal comforts) register at www.lovealda.com/onesie-stickers   When you confirm your subscription the template will be emailed to you.

PS:  If you like this freebie why not share it with friends?  Or share some mile stone story in the comments below with our parent community.

PPS: Please help me to serve you better by completing this quick questionnaire  It should not take more than 5 mins and if you leave your email address at the end I will send you a Babygroup Discount Voucher x 

NEWORN PHOTO SHOOT SESSION 101

Newborn-shoot-by-lovealda.com-3

Newborns change so much and so fast in the first couple of weeks after birth.  As parents we want to capture our babies’ delicate features as they unfold like flower petals in front of our eyes so that we can treasure this incredible time forever.

By the same token, the first couple of weeks of life with a newborn can be a mixed bag of recovery, discovery, adaptation and wonder and braving a newborn shoot in this sensitive time can be daunting (even with my background I found my son’s nerve-wrecking and tiring with aching breasts and a sore c-section wound!)

As birth photographer & storyteller I am a firm believer that capturing memories of this special time should not distract from the memories itself.  I also understand that all mothers do not feel ‘photo-friendly’ in those first days which is why many opt for newborn photo’s only and even that can be challenge.  I myself was one of those moms who opted for newborn images only and I regret not having had some of those precious, natural moments between my newborn and myself captured.

Here are some tips to make sure you end up with positive and timeless ties to this special time:

[Read more…]

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

Birth-companion-by-Love-Alda-1

[Read more…]

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.

Cape-Town-Birth-Photographer-Birth-Love-Alda-Daniela-3 Cape-Town-Birth-Photographer-Birth-Love-Alda-Daniela-4 Cape-Town-Birth-Photographer-Birth-Love-Alda-Daniela-5 Cape-Town-Birth-Photographer-Birth-Love-Alda-Daniela-6 [Read more…]

The Contribution of Birth Partners to you Birth Space & Experience

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 would think not, but I’m not sure – it depends on whether my father would have made a good supporting birth companion if he was allowed in!

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 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

Birth-companion-by-Love-Alda-1

[Read more…]

Enjoy a Maternal Cup of Comfort with Love Alda

Maternal-Cup-of-Comfort-TimelineAs a mother of three myself and a birth photographer and mentor, I would like nothing more than to provide you with support and empathy during your maternal journey.  It is with this in mind that I provide birth mentoring over and above birth photography.  It is also the main motivation behind the Maternal Cup of Comfort Closed Facebook Group which you get access to when you become a Love Alda client.  The group is a closed group of parents who, like you and I, know how gloriously wonderful and yet overwhelming pregnancy, birth & parenting are.  Here we share experience, knowledge and stories.

I would like to gain an even better understanding of your needs.  Please help me develop your ideal maternal cup of comfort by completing the survey below. You do not have to be a current Love Alda client to participate.  Participation in anonymous.  Please note that I am working on the assumption that the safety of your baby is the most important aspect in all of this and the questions posed are over and above this fact. To receive more updates from Love Alda as well as your own Birth Preference e-Book Gift subscribe at www.lovealda.com/celebratebirth Thank you!

GO TO SURVEY

 

 

It’s Your Birth. Plan for it – and then be Flexible

I didn’t have a birth plan with the birth of my first child.  I just assumed things would happen more or less like I wanted them to.  There were two problems with this approach: 1) birth is unpredictable 2) I only realized what I could have had and wanted, after the fact.

Blog-photo-1

Birth is one of the most important events in a parent’s life and yet very few of us prepare for the experience itself. Why is it that so many mothers put all their time into obtaining information for once baby is here, but very little into learning about and preparing for the actual birth? I blame ignorance and a blind trust in systems & processes many parents know very little about. The importance of the birth experience itself, is something many first time parents only realise after the fact. That is probably why birth plans are more common when it comes to second or third time parents.

Blog-photo-2

I’m not particularly fond of the term ‘birth plan’ as how you become a parent is not nearly as important as becoming a parent in itself and one needs to flexible, but I am a firm believer in understanding the options and outlining your birth preferences. I have seen one too many times how an unplanned birth procedure or experience can leave emotional scars for years to come if the parents are ill informed. Taking ownership of your birth experience can be hugely rewarding and empowering – whether natural or C-Section. That does not mean that you do not seek professional advice, guidance & skill in making and implementing your choices.  It also does not mean you can plan and control everything about your birth – it would be ignorant to think or suggest that.  It simply means you participate in your own birth and decisions by understanding what the options are and knowing your own preferences. It is deciding what is important to you and your partner and what are the small things you’re not going to sweat. [Read more…]

Nikon SA Backs Birth Photographer Love Alda

 

alda-2

September 2015

Nikon, one of the largest and most respected photography brands in the world, is known for its investment in and support of professional, passionate and dedicated artists and storytellers.  The brand is committed to empower and educate and is well represented by world-class photographers, who inspire a new generation of artists across various genres. In view of the above, Nikon South Africa’s recent decision to support Birth Photographer & Mentor Alda Smith, from Love Alda, is not only a huge honor, but it also bodes well for the unique and developing art that is birth photography.

“Alda’s devotion and passion for birth photography is truly inspiring. We at Nikon in South Africa are proud to be associated with her and contribute to the development of such a unique segment in the photographic industry,” says Chantal Hauptfleisch, Head of Marketing at Nikon in South Africa.

“Alda’s birth photography is up there with the best international work and she portrays it with her signature intimate style. One can clearly see Alda has an affinity with people through her beautiful portraiture and she has a masterful understanding of natural light,” says Dr. Mark van der Wal, an avid Nikon supporter and past time birth photographer. “Her commitment as chair of the South African Birth Photographers Association, to promote and protect this relatively new genre of photography, is inspiring as she is a firm believer in the inherent value of her and her colleagues’ work,” he continues.

alda-5

alda-4

“As a mother of three I have such a passion for capturing these once in a lifetime moments for parents and I think that to be able to show a child the story of how he / she came into this life is an incredible gift to a parent, but also to that child one day,” says Alda Smith. “I truly believe that those first memories & stories of love and connection are the most treasured heirloom we can give our children, but that a birth photographer should understand how to hold the birth space for a mother (and her birth partner). Working in association with Nikon will only strengthen efforts to educate and have a positive impact on the market,” she says. “It’s a wonderful development for birth photography – locally and globally.”

When she is not busy capturing birth journeys for her clients, Alda can be found mentoring not only clients but also birth photographers and professionals.   For more on Alda’s work visit www.lovealda.com  For Nikon-related question go to www.nikon.co.za

 

A personal thank you from Alda:  

We are all carried on the wings of love, support and friendship.  I would therefore like to thank the following ‘wings’ for your continues support and love:

The Artist of Artist

My husband, Johann

My mom, Bea, sister Lize and brother Chris

My friend and birth (ninja) buddy, Marysol Blomerus

Dr. Mark van der Wal (a birth photographer cheer leader if ever there was one!)

All the beautiful mamas who invited me into their sacred birth spaces and continue to do so

Lyndsay and the International Birth Photographers Community

All the amazing birth (and other) professionals, midwives, doctors and nurses out there who saw the beauty and importance of birth stories when I first approached them and continue to support and protect the the professional integration of medicine, birth and the arts  (Lana, Mirinda, Ina, Jeanne, Sandy, Jacky, Harriet, Marie, Elmarie etc. – you all know who you are!)