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Birth Photography Is Under Threat.

Updated: Mar 22, 2019

Birth photography is being threatened and it is no joke. Since the petition came out regarding Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital not allowing birth photography of the actual birth stage, some of the comments being thrown around are very frustrating.


A lot of people still think that it is just some fake internet news. Some are lashing out at photographers saying that we are only interested in this topic because it will affect our business. Others have been extremely lucky to have documented their birth so they think this whole scenario of the hospital not allowing it can't possibly be true.


I can tell you, from firsthand experience, it is happening, it is real and it is not because I am a birth photographer that I am invested in making sure RBWH don't get their way of trying to stop photography of the actual birth stage. Let me just clarify that this not only applies to professional birth photographers... RBWH have also been known for telling husbands, partners, doulas and other birth support people that they too cannot take photos of the actual birth stage.


I will admit, it is because of birth photography that these issues have come to my attention!! 100%!! Without being in the industry and experiencing it first hand, I would probably be none the wiser. I feel like unless you have personally experienced this for yourself, people just can't imagine a hospital being so controlling. And that's why I am fighting this. I am fighting not as a birth photographer, but as a mother, I am infuriated that the hospital are trying to dictate women on how they can document their own body.


Now I'm sure most of you saw little Logan and his family in my recent blog. Where baby Logan was born preterm and was considered a stillborn baby. My previous blog was purely to give respect to Logan and his family and tell my side, as a birth photographer, of how I dealt with deciding to document that when I had never experienced the loss of a baby before. But now I want to speak about the side of the story that I didn't mention. The side where the hospital denied this mother of capturing her entire birth story of her stillborn baby.


So not only did this mum go through the stress of being on bed rest at the hospital for 9 days, she ended up going into early labour and had to deal with knowing that her baby would only be with them for a short time before he passed away in her arms. She had to deal with knowing that they'd have to arrange a funeral only days later and say goodbye to her son as soon as she said hello to him... She also, at the 11th hour, organised me as a birth photographer to come and document the short time they'd have with their baby. She specifically asked the hospital if they were on board with me documenting the birth and they assured her that there was no problems with me documenting before and after the birth but no procedures including the actual birth were to be photographed because of the hospital's "policy"...yet there actually is no policy in place that even states this.


Now the thing is... the midwife said to me "no photos of the actual birth" as we were all in the birthing suite, awaiting little Logan's arrival. The hospital knows that any decent human being isn't going to start an argument with a midwife in a birth suite while a mother is awaiting the arrival of her baby, let alone her stillborn baby. So for me, there was no way I was going to argue this point in front of the mother and make her already devastatingly painful birth space, even more stressful.


At the time when the midwife told us all that there was to be no photos of the actual birth, it was also at a point in time where the mother was so devastated from what she was having to deal with already, that she simply didn't have the energy to fight it. And I think the hospital knows that most of the time, people will just back down and not put up a fight because no one wants to make a birth space a stressful one.


So as it goes, I captured moments before Logan was born and captured just after he was born and the first skin to skin moments etc. Those images have helped Logan's family so much since putting him to rest and I know they are images they will treasure forever. Belinda, the mother, has even told me that her partner, who was originally not quite sure on how he felt about me being there, has since fallen in love with the images and has thanked me for being there and capturing those first moments they had with their sweet angel.


I felt so grateful for being able to capture those moments for them but at the same time, internally, I was so angry that the hospital had denied the family of photos of the actual birth because I know the healing power that photos like that have! The pain I felt for this family was beyond words and the sorrow I felt for them was heightened one day when I received a message from Belinda in response to me expressing my feelings of frustration that the hospital didn't allow me to capture the actual birth. She said "It's the only regret I have is not having photos of him being birthed by me".


And with that small sentence from Belinda... my heart was crushed to pieces for her. It makes me so sad that even though the images they have of their stillborn baby have been so helpful... She has that regret of not having the entire birth story documented.


If a mother that was expecting a stillborn baby was denied this in her birth plan... what hope does anyone else have of capturing the moment their baby enters the world!!??? These images are one of the very few things that they have left of their baby now. Yet the hospital still denied them of their full birth story. They have tainted this women's traumatic birth by denying her of this!


Just take a minute to let this all sink in. Imagine you have been on bed rest for over a week in hospital, praying and wishing that early labour doesn't come. You do in fact go into early labour and your baby is just days shy of the hospital's protocol of trying to save him. Imagine having to experience labour knowing your baby will not make it. Imagine reaching out to a photographer at the very last minute deciding "this is something I want documented and I will regret it if I don't". Imagine the hospital telling you an inaccurate piece of information regarding a "policy" that actually doesn't exist that ends up denying you of precious memories of your stillborn baby. The one thing the mother could control in this horrendous situation, they took away from her. How would you feel? I'm sure you can agree that that would be a stab in the back, to put it lightly.


So please, if all you take away from this is that you now understand and acknowledge that women being denied of their birthing rights IS REAL, then I have done my job. So many women think that just because they were able to take photos at their birth at RBWH, that it mustn't be true. Well, it most definitely is true. And is happening. This situation is a very frustrating one because it is coming down to who you get on the day of your labour. One midwife may be completely okay with it, then change of shift comes along and you get a new midwife clocking on, and she can very well turn around and ask the photographer to turn off their camera or even ask them to leave! To put it into perspective for you on just how inconsistent the hospital is being... The same week that I was denied photographing Logan.... Another birth photographer had absolutely no issues and was allowed to capture her client's entire birth story.


There are ongoing talks and meetings with the hospital regarding this. There are several birth photographers who have been in these meetings and they are working so hard to fight for women's birthing rights. But we need YOU to stand up and voice your concerns. We need YOU to write to the hospital and tell them how birth photography has impacted you. We need YOU to go and sign the online petition to show the hospitals how much this means.


Please share, comment, like and talk about this with your friends!


You can sign the petition at

https://www.change.org/p/queensland-health-allow-birth-photos-at-the-royal-brisbane-womens-hospital


If you would like to write directly to the hospital, please send your experiences to Michelle, one of the photographers who is in attendance at the meetings with the hospital and she will forward your emails to the hospital executives.

You can email her at hello@michellepalasia.com


If you would also like to view the blog I mentioned above paying my respects to Logan and his family. You can find it here https://www.andieandolliephotography.com.au/blog/a-baby-boy-born-too-beautiful-for-this-world

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