Why Birth Work?
Sep 01, 2019
Hello hello and welcome to this space. I’m Hayley and I'm thrilled you're here. I am an Edmonton Doula and Birth Photographer, and mama to three sweet girls. This site is born of my photography business, which was born in part by my foray into the world of doula work, birth and babies. This is a bit about my journey - what got me here. This is my 'why'.
"So... why birth work?" This question was asked of me recently, but it was directed to my husband. "Why has Hayley gotten into birth work? Do you guys need the money?" (Big laugh-out-loud if you know anything about birth workers... spoiler alert: we sure aren't here for the money!) "Did she need a hobby?" A bit closer to the mark, but this garners a laugh too... (I'm a homeschooling mom of three small kids and my husband and I operate another business full time: we don’t do hobbies.) By the sounds of it, my husband did OK with his answer. He mumbled his way through with an awkward version of "childbirth education... women's rights, informed choice... embowered birth experiences...." before he changed the subject back to the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilsons' noteworthy $140 mil contract extension. So yeah, not bad. Still, I thought it would be worthwhile to expand on that.
Each one of us broaches the subject of childbirth with a storied past; a perspective knit together uniquely by threads made up of our worldview, our upbringing, our cultural heritage, our family, and our history of adversity and trauma. Most women, come the childbearing years, have the opportunity to face our preconceptions head on. For better or for worse, we begin making decisions about our own reproduction, family planning, and healthcare based on that lifetime of childbirth/parenting baggage.
My perspective was not so different from many who were born into similar western circumstances: I dreaded childbirth with the abject fear and loathing that I felt it warranted. I was horrified by the ignominy of stirrups and hospital gowns. Mortified by the prospect of episiotomies and forceps. Conditioned to dread labour pains as torturous, crippling, insurmountable. I knew childbirth to be the punchline of incontinence jokes and plastic surgeons. I had learned that obstetrics was a barbaric (but necessary), male driven industry established to rescue womankind from the cruel injustices of pregnancy.
I had been convinced that women’s bodies were completely inadequate for the task; in 25 years I had never seen or heard childbirth depicted in a favourable light.
It took YEARS of deconditioning (and the empowering births of my own three children) to undo the fear, and change my mind. Women. Don’t. Need. Rescuing. They need education, unconditional support, and the empowerment to take charge of their bodies and their births.
I got involved in birth work because I think women deserve better birth experiences with better outcomes. I think education, information, and preparation have the power to displace fear. Because I think birth is a team sport; that when a woman is surrounded in pregnancy and birth by people who believe in her ability, she is buoyed up above insecurity and fear. I believe that in anticipating and taking ownership of her birth through building a birth team - hiring a doula or a photographer, taking a childbirth education class, she is investing in herself, her birth experience, and her family.
I believe childbirth is the most beautiful, magical, raw, physiological event there is. Uncultivated. Absolute. The eternal colliding with the temporal. The ushering forth of a soul. The emergence of a Mother; the installation of a Father; the establishment of a family.
Childbirth brings a woman through the most vulnerable and powerful moments of her life. Through the wild of womanhood into motherhood.
She, above all, should be honoured, validated, cherished, praised, supported, loved.
I am passionate about empowering women through documentary birth photography. I see plainly how this medium is shifting our culture's collective view of what birth truly is; not what Hollywood would have us believe, not what our worst fears anticipate, not some insurmountable task to which womankind is doomed. Rather, we as a society are learning to see childbirth as something transformative. Something exquisite. Something worthy.
Birth is the fusion of the ordinary and the extraordinary. At once commonplace and completely miraculous. Women have been giving birth successfully for millennia, and yet it remains one of modern life's greatest mysteries. Something unseen; a pathology to be cured. This medium is changing that by reminding women of their ability and capacity to birth their children. To birth without fear.
Hospital, home, birth centre, the forest - wherever. Medicated or unmedicated, vaginal or caesarean. I believe that childbirth is momentous and sacred, and it's implications far reaching. The integrity of her support team, the nature of her preparation, her understanding of her body all contribute to her confidence in the birth space and her competency as a mother. But I believe that images of birth - all types of birth - remind us that the task to which we have been called, as child-bearers, is doable.
Of course it cannot all be planned nor every outcome foreseen. If birth is anything, it is unpredictable. And that requires something else from the mother; the ability to flex, to bend and heave with the flow of an unpredictable labour. To lean into that uncertainty, trust in her own ability, but also surrender to the discomfort of the unknown.
However it unfolds, birth matters. Your birth experience matters. We will never forget the way we were made to feel while giving birth. As the birthing woman, it matters that you are informed. It matters that you participate. It matters that you are heard. It matters that you are seen.
Childbirth is the power of God on display through womankind. It is the surrender of self for the sake of another. The sacrifice of ones comfort, of ones flesh for the survival of someone else. What virtue is found in that inimitable surrender; what beauty in that sacrifice! Birth Photography is a mirror wielded to show a woman the power in her surrender; to remind her of the sacrifice, to commemorate the new life she brought forth. It memorializes the very moment she became: Mother.
If you’re looking to enhance your birth experience, would like help planning your birth, or looking to hire a doula or birth photographer in Edmonton and area, please reach out! I would love to connect.
P.S. these images below are from my third birth. They tell a bit of my own story... and while they aren't perfect, they mean the absolute world to me.