A Birth Story | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

Birth is such a personal and revelatory experience, whether you're experiencing it yourself or are present for it. I understood this on some level, but didn't fully realize it until I gave birth to my first baby.  After that, I was in awe of the birth community - the amazing people who so lovingly support women and their partners in bringing forth new life.  When I discovered that birth photography was “a thing,” it immediately resonated with both the mother and documentary photographer in me.  

 Woman in labor at Inova Loudoun in Northern Virginia by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

While birth isn't part of the everyday for the average woman, it is very much a natural, beautiful part of life that is being experienced somewhere at every moment of every day.  It is, at once, both routine and normal, and at the same time earth-shattering and full of the unexpected.

In many ways, birth photography is the epitome of the documentary approach - being on call, being ready for the unexpected, and being comfortable simply watching it all unfold through the lens. It's a beautiful process and represents a profoundly transformative time in life, whether it's your first born or your fifth. Once you hop on the ride, there's no getting off and life will never be the same afterward.  In this sense, what better experience in life is there to document? :-)

 Woman in labor holding hands with husband in Leesburg, Virginia hospital by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

As a mother and photographer, I feel particularly compelled to tell the stories of motherhood and family. I hoped to one day be able to preserve this piece of a woman's story -  of a family's story. Many women and their partners are left with gaps of memory or knowledge after a birth. So much happens in such a short period of time and its amazing how quickly you forget details (especially during the wonderful, but potentially sleep-deprived, first months). Doulas and caregivers are wonderful resources in piecing together a birth story, but having pictures or video can pull all the fragments together in such a meaningful way. Documenting a birth is a wonderful way to preserve such a eventful piece of a family's story. And what a beautiful gift to a new life as well, who will have their arrival and first moments on this earth, surrounded with love, documented.

 Woman laboring in tub with husband in Northern Virginia Hospital by Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Given all the variables of timing, work, and family, I didn't know if I'd ever make it happen. But the stars aligned in March of this year, thanks to the wonderful ladies at Arrow Birth, who are working hard on a revolutionary approach to education and support surrounding childbirth.  I was able to support them in documenting not one, but two births (in the span of a week, no less!). My mama and photographer hearts were on cloud nine. :-)

I also got to dive into film work. My primary focus for both of these births was not my usual still images, but video. I'll share the resulting films soon, but for now, these are some of my favorite images from my first birth with this wonderful family welcoming their rainbow baby girl at the Birthing Inn at Inova Loudoun Hospital in Northern Virginia.

 Mother holding newborn baby by Northern Virginia Family Photographer Nicole Sanchez

Want to learn how to document your family's everyday?  Check out 4 Steps to Stop Time and Savor the Moment with Your Family.  It's a simple and fun guide to documenting your family's life with beautiful photographs.