About two and a half months ago, I was asked by a family to photograph the birth of their baby girl at the hospital. Chantel & Steve’s story about Baby Lux is one that has touched my life more than I could have imagined. Since that day, I have been following their family updates and Lux’s progress through their personal blog and I’m happy to report (to those who have inquired about her) that Lux is out of hospital, back at home in Saskatchewan with her parents, and just a week ago, was given permission for her naso-gastric tube to be removed. For most first-time parents, celebrating big milestones of their baby would be his/her first smiles, first sleep through the night; but for this family, it is celebrating their daughter’s ability to have her support tubes removed, one by one, and her progress for bottle feeding, breastfeeding, and weight gain. Her smile is the icing on the cake!
My friend, Catherine McAteer of CatMcAteer Birth Photography, is writing an article on how birth photography can be empowering and healing (it will be published this summer in the Birthing magazine). She and I have discussed, at some lengths, about her belief of how birth photography can help families that have atypical birth experiences. She asked if I would talk to Chantel about sharing a testimonial of her experience with Lux, specifically her choice to have her birth photographed, and how these images have helped her process Lux’s birth and early moments. I am extremely humbled by her response and would like to share it here because, like Catherine, I hope that mothers-to-be can see the value in having their births photographed, both for the ability to relive the experience and celebrate, and to allow these images to strengthen and heal if the outcome is less than ideal.
“With the count down to Lux’s arrival only a few short days away I had made a comment to my sister-in-law about how I was wishing that I could get a picture of my baby as soon as she arrived and before she would be placed on the life support that was expected within the first moments of her life. My sister-in-law suggested that I look into a birth photographer. Up until that point I had been looking for a photographer that would come to the hospital on short notice to take baby and family pictures in the event we were told that our baby would not survive. At first, the idea of a birth photographer seemed somewhat intrusive – the birth of my baby, as overwhelming as I knew it would be, was still supposed to be an intimate time between my husband and I, and I was hesitant at the idea of having some stranger in my personal space taking pictures at a very personal time.
Although I was unsure about having a photographer in the room at the time of my baby’s birth, there were two things that I was sure of: (1) If my baby was to live, it would be months before I would see her face without tubes coming out of it and I wanted a picture to know what she looked like without any support, and (2) if my baby was to die, I wanted to have captured every detail about her so that, when the time was right, I could pull a box of pictures out of the bottom of my closet and remember my baby girl. I needed what I was about to experience (good or bad) to be real. And so, I convinced myself to get over my uneasiness about having a camera in the room and decided to call a birthing photographer. I am so very thankful that I did.
In the weeks since Lux has been born my new little family has been through a whirl-wind of ups and downs, doctors, medical procedures, emotions, and so much more. Looking at the beautiful, smiling, baby girl that I have today makes it hard to believe that only seven short weeks ago I was saying my “I love you”‘s and “good-bye”‘s to my new born daughter. Looking at the picture taken of the day Lux was born has helped to ground me. And when it feels like Lux is having a bad day I can look back on those pictures and remind myself just how much she has already overcome.
When we first met, you had asked me what exactly I wanted you to capture in the photographs that I wanted you to take. At that time all I had asked for was a picture of Lux with no tubes and any special moments that Steve and I may not have known were special at the time. Although the circumstanced did not allow you to capture Lux actually being born, you were able to capture so many wonderful moments afterward.
One picture in particular stands out for me and I catch myself looking at it frequently. The image was photographed through the door of the iscolette and pictures Lux’s tiny hand holding Steve’s finger. I have stared at this photograph long and hard, trying to figure out why it touches me so deeply and wondering what it represents – fear, hope, love, life? I realized that the answer is all of the above. Although this photograph is of Steve’s hand and not my own, this photographed the moment in which Steve and I transformed into parents. Unlike most parents we did not get the opportunity to embrace our new baby in our arms immediately after she was born, a moment I can only imagine is one in which most couples become parents. I look at this special photograph and there are no tubes or wires to be seen, only a perfect little hand holding on to her daddy for strength and life, just as her daddy is holding on to her for the same.
You have asked me if the photographs that you took have helped me heal. The truth is that every time I look at the photographs that you took I can see where we have been, how far we have come, and I remember all of the emotions of that day. I believe that the things that hurt the most are the very things that should be remembered the most. So in answer to your question, yes, the photographs have helped me to heal and I will forever treasure the moments captured in those photographs.”
Chantel, thank you for graciously sharing your thoughts about our experience together. I truly wish that Lux’s story of hope will give families that are going through a similar situation, strength and faith. To say thank you, I have put together your images as this story that is absolutely worth remembering and celebrating!