There’s no picture of the moment Stephanie Kinser first laid eyes on the baby girl who made her a mother.
“Neither my husband or hospital staff got a picture of me seeing my daughter for the first time,” said Kinser, of McHenry. She gave birth via C-section.
It was much different with her son, born at home with a birth photographer present.
“She got a picture of me looking at him for the first time. She got a picture of the moment I said to my midwife, ‘Oh my God, I did it! He came out the way he was supposed to!’ ” Kinser said. “These moments wouldn’t have been captured without a birth photographer.”
Long gone are the days of dads banished to waiting rooms, but partners with an iPhone don’t necessarily take the best pictures. A birth photographer unobtrusively shoots as the new family member enters the world, leaving parents free to live in the moment. And perhaps share the moment with others if they so choose.
“It’s just such a big event, and I wanted it documented,” Kinser said. “I wanted to be able to have the pictures. I don’t necessarily share them, but just have them for myself because … it’s an experience that can’t be duplicated.”
The birth of Kinser’s third child, Sullivan, her second son, was photographed by Victoria Beauchamp of Volo-based Hera’s Gift Photography.
“I think that a lot of people have misconceptions about birth photography,” Beauchamp said. “That we’re mostly taking pictures of the baby emerging.”
But it’s not about that, as much as capturing the emotions of the event, she said.
“What I love most is witnessing the profound event of a new person entering a family and see the variety of emotions that a family goes through,” Beauchamp said. “In labor, the mom is working really hard, then the baby comes out, and it immediately switches to joy and bonding with the new baby.”
Beauchamp, a stay-at-home-mom at the time, started as a hobbyist photographer in 2008. She began with portraiture and in 2010, a friend asked Beauchamp to photograph her birth.
“At first, I was hesitant because it was such a big event and I was so new, I wasn’t sure I wanted to take on that responsibility,” Beauchamp said. “I ended up loving it. I loved the experience.”
She eventually decided to focus on the “birth year,” meaning maternity, birth and babies.
“With portraiture, there isn’t a lot of variety. You’re just in the studio or you’re out in a field,” Beauchamp said. “At a birth, you really don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a challenge for me, and I enjoy that.”
Beauchamp is basically on call 24 hours a day as her subjects’ due dates near and will travel up to about an hour to photograph a birth, with the north side of Chicago and west suburban Hinsdale areas being more popular. While most of her clients have been home births, she’s heard the opposite from photographer friends.
But depending on where moms deliver their babies, birth photography may not be an option locally.
At Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, photography is not permitted until after the birth, regardless of whether it is vaginal or C-section, public affairs and marketing manager Kathleen Troher said.
In contrast, at Centegra Health System, the decision about whether to allow birth photography is left up to the physician, spokeswoman Michelle Green said.
But it’s not something that is requested often, she said.
“We have not seen a lot of people requesting birth photography yet,” Green said. “We definitely want to be able to document their special moment because we all know it’s a really memorable time.”
Although professional birth photography is gaining more attention through word of mouth and on social media as the often dramatic photographs often go viral, some parents may not know their options as policies vary by health care provider, prefer their privacy or are wary of inviting another person into their birthing room.
But Kinser said a good photographer blends into the background, and having those memories to cherish are priceless.
“I do recommend it,” Kinser said. “If we were having more children, I would do it again.”