• Brittany Oaks

Why I do what I do



Why pursue birth photography? It seems an odd sort of job, no? I guess first I have to tell you a little more about me. I have always loved birth. As a young teen I was a voracious reader (still am, in between toddler snot and tantrums...) One fateful day I happened upon Karen Cushman's The Midwife's Apprentice. I read it. I read it again. And again. Then hit the library and read everything I could get my hands on pertaining to midwifery and birth. I loved it. There is something so holy and miraculous about being present when the veil between worlds is so very thin - when a new soul is brought out in to the light. It felt like my lucky day when I found Sheila Kitzinger's Rediscovering Birth on sale. I still have my copy, dog eared and highlighted after referencing it in multiple college papers and later during my own pregnancies.


So why didn't I go to medical school or become a midwife to follow my bliss, you may wonder. Well, me too. Ha! Actually, I did sit down with a local midwife as a high school senior and determined I would declare nursing as my major in order to become a CNM. I got as far as that declaration before I was wooed by the history department. I loved the stories. All of the stories. Of everything, but particularly of women. And as it turns out, through years of somewhat regretful reflection, it isn't the healthcare part of birth I love after all - it is the story. Each birth has a unique story. If you sit in a group of women long enough, I guarantee you will hear at least one birth story emerge. No matter how many times they are told, by how many women, and despite the fact that in general, they tend to follow the same patterns and lead to similar outcomes...birth stories are fascinating to us. And for good reason: they are beautiful, dramatic, miraculous, earth shattering, life changing and oh so very real. And they are stories that need to be told. Throughout the generations we tell our stories to initiate other women into birth culture.

We normalize, teach and connect through them. These stories are part of our heritage as women, a chain linking us all back as far as the history books can see, and yet even further.

Since telling these stories is something we do naturally, why bring a camera? Because images and the sharing of them are our new village halls. We may no longer be able to attend our fellow village-mate's births, to gather around with gossip and groaning cakes, but we can see our sister's birth photos from states away and feel a connection to the process. We can see an old college friend's difficult birth and sympathize with it. We can see a stranger's normal, healthy water-birth and know that birth doesn't have to be scary, doesn't have to be pathological. We can know that our bodies are strong and capable, even if our computer screen is as close as some of us come to a birthing room before we head there ourselves. We can know that women are fierce and strong. Because we can look back on our own births and process them after the fact, whether they followed our "birth plan" or took their own path to fruition. Because we mostly cannot attend our village-mate's births in order to see the reflection of our own sacred experiences written upon their faces. Because it is important for us as women to be connected in this culture of birth. Because it is important to beat down those hallowed hospital doors and take back women's birth culture (whether that means you would like to labor alone in the forest with no camera/friends present or in a ballroom with champagne and an orchestra.) Let us continue to record, absorb, and reflect on these stories because they are a part of our heritage as women and humans. Because even though it's not popular in some places {YET}, birth photography needs to be "a thing." Won't you help me make it so?

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Copyright Wandering Oaks Birth Photography 2020.