• Emily Lamb

Is Birth Family-Friendly?

It's contest season in the photography world, and currently most of us are spending our spare time voting for photos in the Shoot & Share contest.

I entered this contest for my first time last year. Many of my submission to the "Birth & Newborn" category did well and I was really excited about that. But it was pretty frustrating for birth and newborn photographers to have aa adorable posed newborn photo judged against the raw and emotional birth photos. 

This year, they decided to add a birth category (YAY!). The birth community was very excited, as I'm sure the newborn photographers were as well. 

Now the way this contest works is you're presented with four photos from one category. You click on your favourite, and it loads four more from another category and so on. Super fun! Many families use this contest to spend time with their kids voting. I've been voting with my kids too! I love seeing which photos they love and I often find they choose better than I do!

So why am I posting about this? This year, they've added a "report" feature. This button was intended to help the volunteers that help run this contest in case an image accidentally gets submitted to the wrong category or if there are watermarks on the photos etc.

Unfortunately, the birth community is being attacked with this feature.

This contest is intended to be family friendly. But if you see anything that isn't "family friendly" below, I urge you to ask yourself why.

Birth is the very beginning of family. Birth is how we all came into this world. Whether the birth was vaginal, by cesarean, with the assistance of forceps or vacuum, whether you were born breech or headfirst, posterior or anterior. We were all born.

With birth comes blood. Blood - the very thing flowing through our veins and keeping us alive.

Breastfeeding is being reported as well. Below, you will see what I consider one of the most beautiful images I have ever taken. A newborn, only hours old, and his older brother tandem nursing for the first time. And yes, you see areola *gasp*. 

I thought normalizing breastfeeding had come such a long way but apparently there are still those that see the nourishment of an infant, baby, toddler, or child, and sexualize it instead of applauding it.

The comments in the Shoot & Share group continue to shock and disappoint me.

Where in birth and blood and breastfeeding have we gone to territory that isn't "family friendly”? My daughter is 3. She isn't scared of blood. These images don't shock her. She sees a mother birthing a precious baby. She sees the beauty of life. She sees the placenta, a beautifully designed life sustaining organ. She sees brothers being fed by their mother.

The birth community is feeling attacked, and rightly so. To report these images is saying birth should not be family friendly. Birth should be hidden. Birth should be shameful. Birth should be embarrassing. Birth should be degrading.

And to that I say, birth should be normalized. Birth should be empowering. Birth should be shared. Birth should be dignified. Birth should be beautiful.

So what I now ask of all of you, is to show these images to your children. Tell them their birth story. Show them their story if you have pictures. Normalize birth for them so that their generation won't continue to sexualize it as ours has. Share these photos, because the more that birth is seen, the more normal it will be.