There has been some media attention lately on the subject of the birth video. More and more women are choosing to professionally photograph or record their birth experience. I was really saddened by some of the comments on some of the mainstream media outlets about birth videos. Over and over people were saying that they, “Didn’t want to see that! GROSS!” or “That’s disgusting!”. Others seemed to think that a woman who records her birth is somehow self-obsessed.
For real women who choose to preserve their birth memories with video or photography, NOTHING is farther from the truth. It may be the year 2012 but far too many of us are still disgusted, appalled, and ashamed of the beauty our bodies accomplish. I think the knee-jerk (or just JERK) gross-out reaction to photographs or video of birth is really tragic. It shows how much modern women (most of the comments I saw like that were from women who had children) still fear and dislike something amazing and powerful that we can do. Look at that picture above. Is there a single “disgusting” thing about it?! Birth is beautiful, and so are the women who do it.
I have personally seen some breathtaking birth videos that made me weep they were so beautiful. Many of my favorites were made by a friend of mine, Ceci Jane Massa who is both a birth photographer and videographer in the Dallas/FortWorth area.
I first met Ceci when I was asked to work on the board of directors for Birth Boot Camp. Ceci had recorded all the video for that HUGE endeavor. Her work is AMAZING (with a capital “A”.) Then I saw her birth videos. Well, her corporate work is rockin’, but her birth videos….they made me cry like a baby!
They are truly touching, and by no means “gross”. They do so much more than show the actual birth. A birth video that is well done will tell a story, communicate a feeling, and preserve a family memory forever. Ceci was the person I thought of when read these ridiculous articles making fun of birth videos because her work would just prove them all wrong!
Anyway, I decided ask Ceci about her work and how and why she does it. Below is an interview I did with her. I hope you enjoy it! She is truly amazing! You can view her website at www.cecijane.net and see her Facebook page HERE.
(And don’t forget to click on the birth video link at the bottom. It is truly amazing! I got to meet the mom! WHAT A STORY!)
-What first got you interested in recording birth as a professional?
Really, I kinda stumbled up on it. I had been photographing births for about 6 months and was loving it. I had planned to upgrade my camera because I wanted to “play” with video in my regular family sessions, however shortly after I got my new camera, I was invited by a friend to come shoot a birth. I decided to “play” with the video settings and put together a short film. I showed it to a few close friends and they seemed to love it. Coincidentally the Birth Network I am a part of in my community was having a meeting with the topic of “Capturing your Birth” and I was asked to share that video… There was not a dry eye in the room and the inquiries started pouring in.
I think my passion for capturing the beauty of welcoming a child into the world is what first interested me in Birth, the video was simply the medium that I saw the most need and desire for.
-What do you think motivates most people who hire you? Why do they want to record their birth?
I think just like with any other major event in life, a lot of people want to remember the day their little one joined their family. I have had couples hire me because all their family was out of state and would not be around for the birth day, so they wanted a way to share the excitement and intensity of the day with their family without worrying about filming it themselves, editing and making it “presentable.” The majority of my clients have planned for an unmedicated birth, they have worked hard to be educated, prepared and just excited about the day and want to be able to be fully engaged and know that it’s all being preserved.
And then there are those who had never considered it, then somehow stumbled upon one of my films and after watching one knew they would want that for themselves.
- I have read some recent news articles about birth videos or photographs being “gross” or “disgusting”- what are your thoughts on that? Are all the videos you make graphic? Do you cater to the desires of that family?
Ha, ha! Well, when you go on YouTube and search for a birth video, uh, yeah! a huge majority of what you find is very graphic and not something I would want to watch of myself much less share it with others.
My approach in filming a birth is not about showing the world how a baby is born, you can Google it if you really want to see that, my goal with every family is to tell their story. Where they gave birth, who was there, what the atmosphere was like, the parents reaction, etc. There is so much emotion surrounding the hours before and the hours after a baby is born. For me, creating a birth film is about collecting all those little moments that made that day so memorable, and piecing them together to into a beautiful story.
- Why not just have a friend snap a few pictures or take some video?
Well, in some situations that’s all you have and certainly that is better than not having anyone at all, especially if it’s something you really want. But I would say, if you can have a professional do it for you, it’s definitely worth the investment. Just from personal experience, when my children were born our little camcorder was packed in our bag… I don’t know who we expected to use it, my husband was super involved in supporting me and we hadn’t really put thought into it… maybe we figured a fairy would grab it and start shooting at just the right time! Of course, both times we remembered when it was time to push, go figure! So with my son we told my sweet mother in law to grab the camera, and then proceed between pushes to instruct her on how to use it!!! Yeah, it was a disaster, we were totally not focused, poor mother in law was frazzled trying to figure out how to use it, and ultimately we had no good footage, we would have been better off just forgetting about it and focusing on the task at hand. Child number two, same situation, camera was in bag, labor was so fast we asked one of the midwives to grab the camera, and well, lets just say that midwives focus during a birth is in one area, and one area only, so that is definitely footage I would never share with anyone else!!!
In all seriousness though, we obviously gave no thought to it, but even if you do have a friend or family member who knows how to use the camera, when hiring someone who specializes in birth they understand birth. They know how to anticipate things, they understand birth terminology which might help them in anticipating if they might need to switch positions. They know when a good time to have a camera pointed at mom is, and when it’s good to just give her some space. Then there is all the technical things, like when birth takes place at a poorly lit room, which at least in births outside a hospital, that is quite often the case, and they also have the software to put together a beautiful film and make color adjustments, etc. Ultimately, if you just want to have the event on video, anyone could do it, but if you want your story beautifully put together in most cases you may be better off hiring a professional.
- What do you recommend the consumer looks for in a birth videographer or photographer? Are technical skills the only thing that matters so should they also be looking for somebody with a certain personality or outlook on birth?
Of course you want someone who knows what they are doing and does it well. But I do believe that personality and outlook on birth plays a role in the experience. You want to be comfortable and safe with the people you invite into your space. You may spend hours with them, the last thing you need is someone who makes you uncomfortable. While the birthing mom may or may not interact with their photographer or videographer much, they will with the rest of your birth team and/or your spouse. As much as possible, I like to meet with my clients ahead of time, because I want Dad to feel comfortable around me since he will most likely be the one to call me in the middle of the night, or simply the one with whom most of my interaction will be with.
- What do people DO with these birth videos?
Watch them over and over again!!! Seriously though, I have moms whose babies are nearing their first birthday and they tell me they still watch their video several times per month. Yes, some of them share it with their friends and family online, but mostly I find that the families that are wanting to invest in a good film are doing so because they want to preserve the memory. How cool would it be to have a video that showed you the joy on your parents face the day you were born?!?
-Do you have a favorite video that you would like to share with us?
Oh I have several, everyone’s story is so unique, it’s hard to have a “favorite.”
But this one for sure is a sweet one, this is a home birth, this lady is amazing and was surrounded by her beautiful family and and close friends, the atmosphere was just so peaceful and the little siblings are just adorable!
About Sarah Clark
Sarah Clark is a mother of four naturally birthed babies, a wife, a birth instructor, and a board member for Birth Boot Camp, a natural birth company specializing in online and in person birth education.