Incredible Captures of Doulas At Work | World Doula Week 2017

In over 7 years as a birth photographer, I have been privileged to capture over 75 births and many of the families I've worked with have also hired a doula to help them manage labor, delivery & postpartum.  If you had asked me 10 years ago what a doula is, I would have had virtually no idea. But through this work, I have come to know some of the strongest, most compassionate, knowledgeable women in the Hampton Roads area.  Here is my take on what a doula does:



Doulas watch.  

doula support

They watch a laboring woman carefully. They have seen labor.  They have seen the dance, the sway, the instinctive movements of a laboring mom. They have heard the sighs, the groans, the grunts.  They have seen the power and the grit.  They know what to watch for and what it means, oftentimes before the laboring woman, her partner or even her care provider!  They focus all of their energy on watching a laboring mom and giving care in ways each individual woman needs.

Doulas guide. 

They guide women through the labyrinth of labor. Birth is unpredictable and ever-changing. One of the things I love the most about capturing birth stories is that each journey is unique and powerful. And doulas help parents navigate the uncertain waters. They provide a shoulder to lean on, a helpful presence, answers to questions, and a calming nature essential to protect the birth space.

Doulas walk alongside their clients.

Doulas walk along side their clients in times of struggle...they walk in times of triumph...they walk in times of heartache...they walk in times of joy. They are called to walk no matter the journey.  

Doulas do not replace partners. They support partners.

I have seen the most loving and incredible couples work through labor as a team, totally in sync. Doulas do not disrupt that relationship. Instead, they work alongside it, helping partners to anticipate a laboring mother's needs, suggesting alternative coping techniques when needed and strengthening the support system that is already present. Alternatively, when a spouse is deployed, a doula can be a vital part of a birth plan and help to stand in when needed for family and spouses who are not able to be at the birth.

Doulas comfort in times of struggle

Doulas are a great source of comfort in those moments when a laboring mom doubts herself or doubts the process.  They draw on their wealth of knowledge about birth and their experience guiding women through. They use soothing words, a healing touch, an encouraging look. When plans go awry or the unexpected happens, a doula is there to comfort.

Doulas hold legs, hips, and more

When needed, doulas physically assist laboring moms in a variety of ways.  They spend hours hunched over applying counter pressure, they walk up and down the same hall week after week, they hold a hand, apply a cool cloth, or fetch ice chips for the thousandth time.  They hold a leg and encourage as a mom pushes for much longer than anyone thought was possible.  Doulas stay awake all night but never look tired, never letting on that they are exhausted.  They seem superhuman at times and always put their clients needs above their own.

Doulas assist with that precious, (sometimes awkward) first breastfeeding 

A first time mom often needs just a little help with that first latch. And doulas are perfect for assisting! Nurses often help, too, but a doula can help not only at the hospital but also in the first few days or weeks at home! 

Doulas celebrate with you

They stood beside you and walked with you on that great adventure called labor....and when you finally get to meet the new baby you worked so hard for, there is no one who celebrates with you as much as your doula!  I've seen the tears in their eyes and the giant grins on their faces time after time after time.  They feel the joy as if it were their own because each client is forever a part of their history. 

Happy World Doula Week to all of you!!  
If you are interested in seeing more images, please visit my Birth Photography page!  

Breastfeeding Awareness | Hampton Roads Breastfeeding Photography

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I would love to share pictures of me breastfeeding my children with you today.... but I can't.

I can't because I never had pictures taken of me nursing my babies.  I never took selfies or had anyone snap a picture of me breastfeeding and I surely didn't have a professional take beautiful pictures.  I was too embarrassed.

That's right.  I was EMBARRASSED to breastfeed my children if there was anyone around. I was so self-conscious that I hid pretty much every time I fed my first baby outside of my private living room.  When people came to visit, I excused myself to go upstairs and "feed the baby".  If I happened to be out at a restaurant or store, I would go to the car if she needed to eat (sitting uncomfortably in the backseat squished between the car seat and the door) or I went to the dressing room or a corner of a waiting area.  I used a nursing cover until both babies were old enough to hate it (which was by about 4 months, by the way) and struggled during a feeding to keep everything covered. I was so worried that someone would see me breastfeeding and be offended.  

My hesitation didn't come from my family (my mother breastfed all four of her babies in the 70's and 80's) or my husband (who was very supportive).  My hesitation came from other people.  The people who wrinkled their noses the few times I tried it or the friends who commented about women 'whipping out their breasts' and how 'gross' it was to see it in public.

"Just stay home." "Go somewhere private." "Cover up!" "What's the big deal with scheduling around your baby's feedings?" "Why can't you just put a blanket over his head?" "Nobody wants to see that!"

Those are only a few of the things I heard (and continue to hear) about breastfeeding.  For me, it was very isolating to continually have to hide and/or cover during every feeding.  It also made it much harder to continue nursing past the newborn stage.  My days consisted of trying to learn how to be a mom, care for my child, feed my child (It wasn't easy for me either - we had a LOT of issues in the beginning and it took a lot of energy to succeed!), and then to have to worry about scheduling trips out around her feeding schedule and where I would go if I needed to feed her while we were out?  It put a lot of undue stress on me as a new mom.  It just seemed so much easier to pack bottles of formula than deal with all that stress. I nearly gave up.  And I'm sure that part of the reason I didn't breastfeed either of them longer was because of the hassle and stress I felt.

But here's the thing:  Breastfeeding is a normal, natural part of motherhood.  And women should not feel as though they need to hide every time they feed their baby.  PERIOD.

I am promoting breastfeeding during World Breastfeeding Month because I hope that by doing so, more people will be come comfortable with SEEING the nursing relationship between a mother and her child.  Hopefully, my photos can open some people's minds to the idea that breastfeeding is not something that should constantly be covered up.  It is NORMAL.  It is not lewd.  In actuality, you see a heck of a lot more breast at the beach (or at a frat party!) than you do when a woman breastfeeds their child.  Might you see a little areola?  Perhaps.  Do you not want to watch?  Then don't.  Are you an adult and can handle it?  Most likely.  Which leads me to another point.  People say, "I don't want my children to see that.  What will I say?"  You say exactly what the truth is.  "Mommy, what is that lady doing?"  "She's feeding her baby, honey." and leave it at that.  If your child is super curious and it makes you feel uncomfortable, you can say, "Don't stare.  It's rude to stare at people."  I say that to my children all the time when we encounter people in public who look different, have a disability or have green spiked hair or are dressed differently.  It's no different.  People make choices and we should respect them.

So I will be posting some gorgeous mamas breastfeeding their babies (and yes, their toddlers).  Because part of normalizing breastfeeding is normalizing all of it.  Some women breastfeed for a little while, some breastfeed long into toddlerhood.  Some use supplemental systems to help them - either formula or donated breastmilk.  There is no right and wrong.  Motherhood is all about making choices that are best for each of our children and our families.  What works for one mom might not work for another.  What works for one child might not work for another.  By highlighting breastfeeding during World Breastfeeding Week, I am not saying that breastfeeding is the only way to feed a child or that formula fed moms and babies don't have a bonded relationship.  But breastfeeding - and in particular breastfeeding in public - is something that needs to become less taboo.  My goal is to show the beautiful, nurturing relationship between a nursing mother and her child because I never felt comfortable sharing that myself. And I want to help other mothers realize that they should always feel that they can do what's best for their child - no matter what!

The birth of William and Marshall {Sneak Peek} | Virginia Birth Photographer

There are so many amazing images from William & Marshall's journey into the world - so I couldn't choose just one to share here.  Their mommy worked so incredibly hard to bring them earthside without all the medical interventions we see so often in childbirth.  With the support of their daddy, grandma, and auntie, she labored and labored.  For nearly three full days, they worked together as a team, not keeping their eyes off the prize.  The boys were strong, their heart tones never dipping - as if they were just too comfortable in their mom's womb.  But as her body showed signs that the process was getting to be too much, they decided to take a trip into the operating room in order to ensure that all three of them would be safe and healthy.  And as they were all united at last, they drank in the moment.  Congratulations to the entire family - these boys are so loved!!