Doula Advice - The Right Questions

So, you just had a baby...

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“CONGRATULATIONS! How was your birth? What happened?”

These are all too often the first questions we are asked after giving birth. Questions about details and logistics. Sometimes probing to see if the experience we prepared for actually happened, usually fueled by curiosity and our tendency to compare “battle stories”.

While the events of our deliveries matter, perhaps the more appropriate question, the more helpful one, would be, “how did your birth make you feel?”.

Sometimes everything goes right on paper. Every box is checked, everything goes according to “plan”, but still, something didn’t sit quite right and colored your experience in a way that you didn’t expect.

Or maybe several things led you away from what you thought your plan was going to be. Interventions were necessary, maybe even more than a few, yet you felt even more empowered than you thought you would.

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Yes, the details of what happen matter, but what matters more is why they happened and how.


“How do you feel about your labor and delivery?”

“Was it some medical event that happened to you?”

“Was it a situation you felt you had control over?”

“Were you an active participant in making decisions about your care?”

“Did you have a voice?”

“Were you educated about interventions before they happened? And asked for your consent?”

“Were your questions/concerns/fears addressed with understanding and respect?”

“Were you given time to discuss your options and to think about what was best for your specific situation?”

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Recently, we had a client who delivered her baby via an unmedicated, vacuum-assisted, vaginal delivery. It was incredible watching her labor, she fell asleep after nearly every contraction, and even a few times between pushes. Her baby was stuck under her pubic bone and after pushing really well for an extended period of time, her OB suggested attempting a vacuum-assisted delivery. There was no rush, mama and baby were happy and vitals were great. So she took some time to discuss, first with her husband, then with us and then as a group including her doctor and nurses. They were educated on what to expect, informed of potential risks, and they were given time to ask questions in order to make the decision that was right for them. Together, they chose to try the vacuum and their daughter was born just a handful of pushes later.  

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During one of our postpartum visits, she brought up the fact that a lot of her friends and family were “sorry” to hear she had to have a vacuum assisted delivery. They each assumed it was a disappointing outcome because it wasn’t part of her original plan.

They had all asked, “How was your birth? What happened?”, but failed to follow up to see how she felt about it. It hadn’t even occurred to her that her birth could be considered a bad experience until she had these conversations.

So many mamas have had deliveries that ended with c-sections or other interventions and are told over and over again, “at least you and your baby are safe.” I am one of them and it still drives me crazy! Just as I know hearing, “I’m so sorry” was both confusing and frustrating to Jessie. Yes, mama and baby are safe, that is the ultimate goal, but the road you take to that goal, the choices that are made, whether ones you played a role in or ones that were made for you, can be just as important.

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We talk so much about how birth transforms us, in ways we expected but even more so in ways that we never could have imagined. New moms need to feel supported and to have their feelings and experiences validated. What we don’t need is lip service or placations about the events that shaped our experience.

The best thing we can do for our new mamas is to listen to their stories, validate the experience without projecting our own opinions, and never leave their house after a visit without offering to help with the laundry, pour another cup of delicious coffee, or change a diaper.

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Doula + Birth Photography |Regan| Atlanta, GA

Being asked to be a birth doula and birth photographer is an honor that we do not take lightly. Birth is un predictable and often difficult, and sometimes that difficulty starts even before labor begins. This family had to change their very well laid plans from a Birth Center birth to an induction—that took a very long time (as inductions often do!). Through it all they kept their sense of humor, and learned to be flexible in the hardest moments. It was quite beautiful to witness!

She stood in the wind, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails
— Elizabeth Edwards

Atlanta Doula and Birth Photographers

The Birth Story Collective is a group of three Women, each committed to supporting and documenting life stories. We offer birth doula services, birth photography, and Fresh48 sessions to Atlanta and Decatur families.

Iris | Fresh48 Photography + Videography | Atlanta

Sweet baby Iris arrived on a chilly morning in October to her eager parents and big sister. She was 7 pounds 15 ounces, and super cute! Big sister Scarlett arrived with her grandparents and was a little shy at first, and then wanted to hold her baby sister. Her sibling present was new polaroid film, which I think she probably used all of during our session :-)

Enjoy the Thomson family’s Hours Old (Fresh48) video; a peek into their first days as a family of four:


The first days after a baby is born are like no other time in a family. There is a shift as everyone transitions into the new roles they now have. Iris’s parents shifted into the parents of two daughters, and their older daughter shifted from an only child to a big sister. Before long this will be their new normal, but there is beauty in the newness of it all. It’s this beauty that an Hours Old, which many call a Fresh48 photography session capture.

An Hours Old (Fresh48) session is a photo or video session in the first hours of your child’s life. It is usually a session before you leave the hospital to go home, but sometimes it is actually a Coming Home session (if you are leaving the Atlanta Birth Canter soon after birth for example). We offer Hours Old (Fresh48) sessions at all of the Atlanta Hospitals, and we offer Coming Home sessions inside or near the perimeter.

Hours Old (Fresh48) sessions can be photo or video sessions. Photo Hours Old (Fresh48) sessions include a slideshow that is perfect for sharing with friends and family, and photo sessions are perfect for albums. We deliver an online album proof that we can tweak until it is perfect for you.

Video Hours Old (Fresh48) sessions include at least 5 edited photos, as well as the finished film set to licensed music. It’s a home movie that you and your family will cherish forever! When we sent this Hours Old

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The Birth Story Collective offers birth and fresh48 photography and videography to families in Atlanta and Decatur. Reach out to see if we are available around your due date!

Sophia | Birth Photography + Videography | The Birth Story Collective | Atlanta, GA

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We do our best to tell the story of our client’s births in a way that is both beautiful and honest. We know what an incredible privilege and responsibility it is to be invited into their lives to document one of the most anticipated moments of their lives. So, when we start thinking about sharing their very personal images with the world, great care is taken with the words we chose to accompany them.

There are times when our own words just can’t do justice to what the family was going through and feeling and so we turn to them. The following is from Michelle, one of the strongest mamas we have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

“I've been thinking a lot recently about how to make this post, or rather to make it at all. After getting Sophia's birth story video yesterday, I decided to move forward. All of us encounter ups and downs in life. We celebrate the exciting and happy things that come our way and mourn our tragedies and losses. Sometimes we share those with others, sometimes we keep them privately to ourselves.

As many of you know, Zach and I, we had a pretty heavy loss last year. Half way through our pregnancy, we lost a baby girl. We had already shared this pregnancy publicly, which resulted in a publicly shared loss. To be honest, it was a blessing. Communicating individually to people who I didn't know well and asked me how the baby was, became much more difficult. To add in those that asked when I was due when I looked very pregnant but carried no child, was hard as well.

We thank God every day that we are fortunate and blessed with now not one baby boy (well big boy if you ask him) but a baby girl as well. Admittedly, what I didn't expect was the profound mix of emotions upon Sophia's birth. I was so excited and in love and yet equally struck again with grief over the loss of a baby girl that was due the same time as this one a year before. By no planning on our part, their due dates were days apart (although Sophia decided to come a month early).

Early in the pregnancy, I talked to Zach about documenting Sophia's birth as I wanted to remember her coming into the world forever. We wanted to share this with you to come full circle in our journey. We are so grateful to our friends, family, doctors, and nurses who have supported us along the way.” - Michelle

Here is the birth story of the beautiful Sophia James.

Birth Photography + Videography | Vance | Atlanta

This birth story unfolded a little differently than this family expected for their their child. Labor unfolded so rapidly they were unable to get to the hospital in time and dad caught their third child, a son, as mom delivered at home, on the kitchen floor! The beautiful teamwork of this pair, plus the incredible footage caught by their nest camera and the audio retrieved from the 911 call, make this birth story truly unique. Shout out to calm, collected neighbor Todd who came to watch the kids so they could leave for the hospital--and ended up assisting a childs birth! Also to the amazing first responders that were so kind and caring, and who stayed with the family until they were all tucked in up in their postpartum room at the hospital.

Special thanks to this family for allowing their story to be shared!

Enjoy!

Why Hire A Birth Photographer | The Birth Story Collective | Atlanta

While still relatively new, birth photography has grown in popularity over the last few years and because of that there are several articles explaining why you should hire a birth photographer. They highlight the love that is experienced between mother and their partner, the support that is crucial to bringing life into this world, capturing the moment that you see your baby for the first time and so many other beautiful reasons. All of which are absolutely valid and are, in fact, part of the reason that we love what we do. But in order to truly understand why we do what we do and why it can be so important to document the whole process for some mothers, you have to understand, appreciate and respect birth itself.

One of my favorite books, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (if you haven’t read it you MUST!) has a line that reads, “Why did I not know that (child) birth is the pinnacle where women discover the courage to become mothers?...Until you are the woman on the bricks, you have no idea how death stands in the corner, ready to play his part. Until you are the woman on the bricks, you do not know the power that rises from other women.”

To some, that might sound a little scary and dark but for those who truly work to understand birth and are ready to support women through the most vulnerable, transformative experience of their lives, we know it is just another layer to the process of bring a child into this world.

There is a moment in every labor, regardless of how your baby is born, when no one breathes and time stands still. When a woman has to come out of her own body, she leaves herself and this world to meet her baby and bring them back with her. 

This is what that moment looked like for me during the birth of our second son, Lowry. I was lucky enough to have our very own Claire there with me to document my VBAC and while these photos are so incredibly personal for me and my family, I felt an urge to share them with this post. To share that we know what that moment looks and feels like and how important it is to share what birth can and should be. 

In that moment, if you feel loved, safe, supported, heard, and empowered you carry those feelings with you into your first few days, weeks, months of motherhood. If you are able to trust in your providers, your support system and your body during labor and delivery then you can carry that same trust into your instincts as a mother and begin your journey with confidence in your abilities and the wisdom to know when to ask for help. 

So, why hire a birth photographer? 

To document the story of your family, the day when you had to fight through two worlds to give your child their first breath, to help process the intense emotions that inevitably come with becoming a mother (even if it's for the second, third or fourth time), to improve the birth culture in our country and help other women see what birth can be, to show the next generation what they are capable of and what true love looks like from the very beginning. 

As a collective, if we can help women understand how their birth has impacted them, allow them to see how incredible their bodies are, improve their journey into motherhood, and help them believe in themselves and what they are capable of, then we have done exactly what we set out to do. 

Welcome to The Collective everyone. We are here and ready to get to work. 


~ B