Henna Belly

Did you know….

Henna has been used to adorn young women’s bodies as part of social and holiday celebrations since the late Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean. The earliest text mentioning henna in the context of marriage and fertility celebrations comes from the Ugaritic legend of Baal and Anath, which has references to women marking themselves with henna in preparation to meet their husbands, and Anath adorning herself with henna to celebrate a victory over the enemies of Baal. (Thanks Wikipedia)

Now you do!

I was invited to watch my friend and fellow doula, Lisa Beard, add this beautiful henna design the gorgeous baby belly of our friend and doula Felicia Russell. Imagine creating an intricate painting on a round canvas that also moves and kicks! This is just the first stage of the process and I can’t wait to see how it looks as the henna falls off.

The Blessingway

Have you ever attended or hosted a blessingway? This past Friday I was invited to one to celebrate a mom that is about to give birth for the second time. Unlike baby showers where the focus is on presents and games, a blessingway is about honoring the woman. A blessingway can be based in religious teachings and scripture or it can be completely secular. Either way, it is a group of women coming together to honor, respect and care for the mother.

The food was incredible and gluten-free! Dr. Lorraine Caron, ND made the gorgeous cake and our hostess made the yummiest sugar body scrubs as favors. After eating we each made inspirational signs for the momma to reflect on as she gets closer to labor. Mine said “Let Go.” We also made flags with fabric and special crayons that represented home. I pulled my inspiration from the song Home Is Wherever I’m With You, by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.Instead of baby gifts we were asked to bring natural personal care items for mom and baby. We each brought two beads, one that we presented to the mom and the other we gave to her first-born. The beads were strung into a bracelet that she can use leading up to or during labor to remember that she has a loving and supporting community around her.

Beautiful baby belly!If you would like to learn more about blessingways I suggest you check out:

I preferred the blessingway to the traditional baby shower. I would love to hear if you have been to/hosted/been on the receiving end of a blessingway and what was your favorite part?

Childbirth Education Class

Last weekend I was invited to photograph one of Amanda DeAngelis‘ childbirth education classes. I took one childbirth education class at the hospital but it really didn’t tell me much about the process of birth or give me and my husband tools; it was more of “this is what you can expect at your hospital birth” class. What we should have found is Amanda’s class which focuses on:

  • Cultural Attitudes About Birth
  • Your Nutrition
  • The Importance of Exercise
  • Your Choice of Caregiver
  • Your Birth Place
  • The Sexual Nature of Labor
  • Surrendering to Labor
  • The Truth About “Pain” in Labor
  • Labor Coping Techniques
  • Addressing Fears
  • Postpartum Healing and Rest
  • Breastfeeding
  • Early Parenting and How to Support One Another

The environment was warm and inviting rather than sterile and clinical and it is exciting to meet the couples that are are about to start down the path as parents.

Look at all these beautiful bellies!

Thank you to Amanda for inviting me and the couples for letting me take your picture. The next series of classes starts May 19th. Amanda can be reached at 970-231-3060 or
ninebirths@gmail.com.

Adoption Initiative Training

I was lucky enough to spend the day with Amanda DeAngelis at the Infant Adoption Training Initiative held at Poudre Valley Hospital today. For those of you that aren’t familiar with what that is, here is a quick summary of the training’s goals:

  • To increase the number of health care professionals who are comfortable presenting adoption options and who feel confident in their knowledge and the legal process.
  • To increase the health professionals ability to make appropriate referrals.
  • To expand training curricula to include relevant legal information, address cultural sensitivity, and educate on the practices of adoption.

Amanda and I have been working with local adoption agencies to offer childbirth education, doula services and birth photography to women that are considering an adoption plan.

This training educated us on how to speak about adoption, how to address the option available, current laws, and what resources are available. While we won’t be adoption counselors, it was so valuable to understand the work they do and how it would come in to play with the work we do as doulas.

Adoption counseling and doula services do share a lot of the same principals- to educate, inform client about options and allow clients to come to their own decision, free of your influence or opinions.

You can learn more about the training here.

Looking forward to continuing down this path.

The Value of a Professional

Whenever we make a purchase, we consider the “value” we receive. It’s no different when hiring a professional photographer or doula. Unfortunately, not many people readily understand the value of hiring a professional of either variety. Below I provide some insight into the distinct value a professional doula and professional birth photographer bring to the birth experience.

Interest in You
A professional photographer and doula will spend time getting to know their clients, their preferences, needs and special requests. The professional photographer brings the knowledge, experience and capability to capture and craft images in their own unique style, with your desires in mind. A professional photographer focuses on their “assignment” so you can focus on making the memories.

A professional doula works extensively to understand your concerns, fears and goals of your birth experience and is knowledgeable in finding you additional resources if necessary. It is wonderful to have your friend or family member there to support and experience this joyful event but without the proper training and education they may not be able to help you navigate your labor choices or be able to educate you on the pros and cons of your options.

Vision
A professional photographer brings an artistic eye to the equation. One focused not only on the subject but also the background, the lighting, the composition, the depth of field and a host of other elements that not every one can “see” when crafting an image. Artistic vision and the ability to “see” the image helps a photographer craft memorable images vs. snapshots.

A professional doula helps mom keep the vision of her birth plan. When the laboring mom and her family might feel bogged down with a slow labor, or when the events of the day take unexpected twists and turns, a professional doula can help parents stay grounded and working towards preserving as much of the plan as possible.

Equipment
Most professional photographers use digital SLR equipment and most importantly, understand how to use their equipment. Today’s professional cameras have multiple and complex functions that allow a photographer to manipulate focal length, shutter speed, aperture, and depth of field to compliment almost any subject. It also allows the capture of crisp and sharp photographs in low light, with little to no image degradation.

An experienced doula also has her own equipment and techniques that help her perform her job most effectively. While tools such as the rebozo, massage oils and birthing balls may seem straightforward, knowing when and how to use them safely and effectively to aid the laboring mother is much more complex. The health and safety of the mom and baby always come first.

Understanding The Setting
A professional photographer understands and knows how to capture natural looking images in any kind of light. Whether in the studio, outdoors or low-light situations, a professional photographer knows how to add the right amount of direct, bounce or supplemental lighting to fill the scene, compliment the subject and maintain a natural looking image. At a birth, the professional photographer knows and can address the unique nature of low lighting that often accompanies birth, but will also not hinder the birthing mother.

A professional doula has knowledge of how the setting of a birth can impact the laboring mom. Whether the mom is birthing at home, a birthing center or the hospital a professional understands the unique impact each of these environments has on the family and can address them accordingly. In any setting, she can suggest ways to modify the environment to help mom feel more comfortable.

Post Processing
A professional photographer will utilize high-end post processing software that allows him or her to effectively correct color, adjust exposure, manipulate hue, saturation, lens distortion and edit images for a professional look.

A professional doula will use her listening skills to help mom remember and review her birth experience, processing the many emotions that women tend to have about their birth experience. Many doulas will share their notes of the birth process with their clients as well.

Distinct Services
As you’ve read, many of the benefits of a professional are similar for both birth doulas and birth photographers. However, there are some services that are unique to each field:

Custom Printing
A professional photographer focuses on capturing high quality images and the objective thereafter is to preserve these images with high-quality printing. Professional photographers will bypass the low-cost volume “snapshot” printing providers and work with a custom lab that will help assure the delivery of only the finest images. Many professional birth photographers can deliver products like albums, birth announcements and slideshows as well.

Education
A professional doula has received extensive certification training and is constantly receiving continuing education via seminars, workshops, books and periodicals. A professional doula can offer unbiased information and insights during pregnancy to help prepare for labor and birth, provide physical and emotional support to manage the challenges of labor and birth, and be available during the tender days and weeks following birth to help moms, dads and families adjust to life with a newborn.

If you are considering hiring a doula that also offers photography or a birth photographer that offers doula services I recommend you ask yourself the following questions, “Can the two careers stand separately? Could I hire this person to only be my doula or only be my photographer?” If the answer is yes, then chances are you have found a professional in both fields.

While it does cost more to hire a professional vs. a friend or relative for either role, a professional brings far greater value and quality in both the fields of photography and doula work.

Adapted from:
William Turnbull Photography

Thank you to  Andrea Donaldson Lythgoe of Maternal Focus for her additions, insight and experience in helping write this essay. Thank you also to the photographers at The International Association of Professional Birth Photographers for your ideas and helping me find my own value.