For one woman, there is nothing more sacred than capturing the moment a mother gives birth.
Jackie Dives, who for the past three years has has been practicing as a doula — a non-medical member of the birth team who provides physical as well as emotional support during labor — specializes in photography for families who are interested in documenting their birth experience.
‘Too often, birth is portrayed as a scary and dreaded event in a woman’s life,’ the 29-year-old Vancouver resident told MailOnline. ‘As a doula and birth photographer, I witness wonderful births, and think they should be shared in order to demystify the experience.’
Recently, Ms Dives shot a series of photographs that have garnered acclaim for their beautiful and ‘intense’ documentation of a home birth.
In one of the first images, the soon-to-be mother and wedding photographer, Julia Marincat, plays the piano while her sister massages her back. The series continues with Julia getting into a birth pool as her husband, Cris, helps her to breath deeply.
Two more sisters and the grandmother and grandfather then join the room to experience the first moments with baby Katherine together.
‘When I arrived at this home birth Mama was playing the piano. The mood was peaceful, with candles lit and soft music on in the background. Mama was surrounded by love. Her partner, her doula, and two of her sisters were there, caring for her,’ writes Ms Dives on her blog.
‘Photographing a home birth is usually very peaceful and comfortable. At a home birth, the couple has chosen exactly who they want to have present, so they are able to be themselves, which I believe is a very important part of birthing, especially for the mother,’ she adds.
‘Seeing a being come into the world is quite special, and to be asked to document that moment in time, is the pinnacle of documentary photography for me. Usually, when I am photographing a birth I am also very involved in the experience. It’s definitely up close and personal, which I love.’
In 2010 Ms Dives was drawn into the realm of childbirth when she was introduced to a doula and was inspired to become one herself.
She attended the DONA-approved doula training at Canada’s Douglas College, before signing up to be a member of the Doula Services Association, where she was quickly put to work as a volunteer doula for single mothers and couples who were new to the country with a lack of family support.
As a doula, Ms Dives assists a woman and her partner before, during, and after childbirth by providing information, physical assistance, and emotional support. She also offers education, massage, visualization and relaxation techniques.
‘Three years ago, when I started this work, I wasn’t necessarily afraid of birthing, but I was definitely very unaware of the vast options that women have with regards to how, where, and with whom they choose to birth,’ said Ms Dives.
‘The average woman is unaware of these choices, because they simply aren’t shared in the mainstream. I hope my images will open doors for women who otherwise might not have known what their options are.’
Ms Dives, who is also the primary volunteer photographer for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a nonprofit organization that provides remembrance photography for parents who have lost an infant, has been photographing home births since the very first birth she attended as a doula when the mother asked her to take some snaps to keep as mementos.
‘A day or so after I first posted the images on my blog I received an email that said “I’m not pregnant at the moment nor planning to become pregnant any time soon, but I know now that when the time comes to go into labor one day, there is nothing to be afraid of. Thanks a million!” That pretty much sums up why I think it’s important to share images that reflect birth positively,’ she said.
Ms Dives says she is hopeful that her images with resonate with other women, showing them first hand that a home birth is ‘not a wild and erratic choice’.
‘Perhaps this will encourage those who are curious about it, to do the research. They might find that the their skepticism will be quelled by statistics that prove home birth is just as safe as hospital birth for low risk women,’ she said.
In Mrs Marincat’s instance, the possibility of having a home birth was brought forward by her sister.
And after meeting with a doula and doing a lot of research, the idea became a preferred reality.
‘At first, several people warned them against home births, listing many dangers. But they loved the idea of a birth without an epidural or medical interventions,’ explained Ms Dives.
‘They felt comfortable knowing that they had two knowledgeable and experienced midwifes and a doula to support them.’
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