Transcript episode #59: Hiring a Birth Photographer with Tavia Redburn
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I have been wanting to do this episode for awhile. It is with a birth photographer.
Welcome to the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins, a board certified Ob Gyn physician, certified integrative health coach and creator of The Birth Preparation Course, an online childbirth education class that will leave you feeling knowledgeable, prepared, confident, and empowered going into your birth. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only and it's not a substitute for medical advice. You see the full disclaimer at www.ncrcoaching.com/disclaimer.
Hello. Hello. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 59. Thank you for spending a bit of your time with me today. All right, so on today's episode of the podcast, we have a birth photographer. I got interested in this because now that birth photography is becoming more popular and I'm seeing just lots of those really stunning images while scrolling through Instagram, I thought it would be really fun to learn more about it. So on today's episode, I have Tavia Redburn. Tavia is a birth photographer who serves Oklahoma City. Tavia has photographed over 100 births and her images have been featured on country living, BuzzFeed, and the Huffington Post. In addition to being a birth photographer, she's also trained thousands of other birth photographers all over the world through her company, The Beauty in Birth, and her success has allowed her to retire her husband from his nine to five at age 31. And now in addition to being a birth photographer, her mission is also to help other moms succeed in their business.
Now, Tavia lives in Mustang, Oklahoma with her husband and their three children. We have a great conversation today and we talk about what to ask when hiring a birth photographer, what to expect when working with a birth photographer, tips to help you if you can't afford a birth photographer. And then we talk about some interesting things and some not so great, ideal things that she's seen as kind of a fly on the wall at births. And then finally how her own births have influenced her work, including how she advocated for herself down to firing the midwife who was caring for her while she was in labor at seven centimeters. So you definitely, definitely want to listen to this episode. It's a great one. I know I say that about every episode, but maybe because I think every episode is great.
All right. Now before we get into the episode, let me do a quick listener shout out. This is to JaySkates67 and she says, "great refresher for a second time mom". And the review says, "I absolutely love this podcast, the information Dr. Rankins provides is so helpful and so interesting. I took a childbirth class during my first pregnancy, which I found helpful, but this podcast really provides a depth of information about pregnancy and birth that you just cannot get in a short class. It's also great to be a part of the community on Facebook and be able to connect with other pregnant women. Thanks Dr. Rankins. I enjoy your podcast very much". Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. JaySkates67 I really, really appreciate your kind words about the podcast. That is exactly what I'm here for, to provide that depth of information about pregnancy and birth, for you and all of my listeners and I also appreciate you mentioning the Facebook group.
I love the Facebook group. It grows more and more every day. It's a free group. It's called All About Pregnancy & Birth and really one of the best parts, if not the best part of the group, is the other women in the group. So yes, I'm in the group, the community manager for the group Keisha, she's outstanding. She is a doula. However, it's really that ability to connect with other like-minded pregnant women that just makes it so great and the group is so supportive. So definitely join the group. If you haven't, it's called All About Pregnancy and Birth on Facebook and I will of course link to that in the show notes.
All right. Without further ado, let's get into the episode with Tavia Redburn.
Nicole: Hello Tavia. Thank you so much for agreeing to come on the podcast. I am so excited to have you here. I have been dying to have a birth photographer on the show.
Tavia: I am so excited. Thank you for having me.
Nicole: Yeah. So why don't you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your work and your family.
Tavia: Sure. So my name is Tavia. I'm a birth and newborn photographer in Oklahoma City. I am married to my high school sweetheart. We've been married for 13 years. We have three kids who are 11, 8 and 6, two boys and a girl. And I have been a photographer since 2009 and photographed my first birth in 2012 and yeah, that's pretty much me.
Nicole: Okay. All right. Okay, so you became a photographer in 2009, you said, but then started doing births in 2012?
Nicole: Okay. So I guess how did you decide to become a photographer and then how did you decide to focus specifically on birth and newborn photography?
Tavia: Yeah. So in 2009, my son was about eight months old and I wanted to take better photos of him. You know, I just thought like, I want something higher quality than the little point and shoots. There were no phone cameras back then or they were really terrible if there were, if they existed. And so I bought my first little Canon Rebel DSLR and took a photography class here locally to learn how to use it and how to shoot in manual, all that stuff. And while I was learning, I had friends and family approach me to take photos for them. I've always been entrepreneurially minded and so I thought, okay, this is great. Like this can be a way that I can make extra money. So I started my photography business in 2009 not long after getting my first camera and quickly realized that I needed to understand business and marketing if I was going to stay in business.
Tavia: I started to make a little bit of money, but I realized that I needed a specialty. I was photographing seniors and families and babies and all kinds of different things and realized that I needed a specialty if I was going to stand out basically. Because that was at a time where everybody was getting a camera and a lot of moms, there was like a term going around about momtogs, mom photographers just like saturating the market because DSLRs became much more common. So it was in 2011 that I was pregnant with my second son and I hired a birth photographer, which was very unknown back then. I feel like now more people know about it, but back then it was very uncommon to have a birth photographer. So I hired a birth photographer for his birth. I was going for a VBAC. I was in labor for 36 hours and so I was going to do just on a Monday morning and it was Tuesday afternoon that it looked like things were getting close. So we called her to come and she said, Oh, I thought you were being induced yesterday. I'm not going to be able to make it. I don't have time.
Tavia: So, thankfully I had a doula. I had a successful VBAC. I had a doula there who took some photos, but of course it wasn't the same as having a birth photographer. So it was after that experience that I decided that is what I wanted. That's what I thought I wanted to specialize in. I had never photographed a birth, but I knew that birth was something I was super interested in. And I wanted to be somebody that moms could rely on, that people could trust to do what they say they're going to do.
Nicole: Absolutely. Okay. Well first off, let's give a shout out to your successful VBAC. Yay. Yay. But that is like awful. That she just like, ditched you at the very end. My gosh, I don't understand how people could do that.
Tavia: I don't understand how people could do that either. But looking back, honestly, I'm really thankful for that experience because it led me to where I am today. I don't know if I would have considered birth as a specialty if that hadn't happened. So I think it happened for a reason. For sure. It was definitely very frustrating and disappointing in the moment.
Nicole: Yeah, isn't it amazing how the universe, God, whatever you want to call it, like orders, things to end up being in your benefit, you just can't always see it in the moment.
Tavia: Yeah, absolutely. 100% for sure.
Nicole: For sure. All right. So let's talk about a little bit about if a woman wants to choose a birth photographer because as like, like you said, it's becoming more common, the specialty or field of birth photography in particular. So what are some questions, like at least three questions women should ask when they are thinking about hiring a birth photographer?
Tavia: Yeah, great question. So, I think first off is what is their experience level? Like how many births have they photographed? Have they photographed your specific type of birth? So if you're having a home birth or hospital birth or birth center or VBAC, have they photographed a birth like that? As well as understanding if they understand how to photograph in low light. Because a lot of times it can be dark. It's just totally different than any other genre of photography, because you're on call and because you never know if it's going to be daytime or nighttime. So, the first thing I would ask is just what their experience level is. I would also ask them what happens if they miss the birth? So if you have a really fast labor and they don't make it in time, what does that look like according to their policies?
Tavia: Most birth photographers will have some kind of policy in place for that. And then do they have backup photographers and backup equipment. This one is super, super important because just like a wedding, you don't get a chance to photograph a birth again, there's no second chance. And so making sure that that photographer has not only backup photographers for them if they become ill or if they have a family emergency and they can't be at your birth. They have backups in place as well as equipment backups for everything. So I carry backup cameras, backup lenses, backup memory cards, all that stuff. Just in case something fails. Like I said, you don't get a second chance. You need to have a backup.
Nicole: Excellent. Excellent. All excellent advice. So when a woman is working with a birth photographer, kind of, what should she expect? I presume you don't just like show up in the delivery room like Hey, I'm here. How does this process work?
Tavia: Yeah, absolutely. So, I always recommend moms contact birth photographers ASAP because some of them, some of us fill up really quickly. I have a lot of repeat clients that pee on a stick and call me. Sometimes I find out before their partner even finds out. And, so definitely like right now if you're pregnant, figuring out who you might be interested in hiring and starting to research that and then absolutely meet them in person before your birth. That's a requirement for me because I want to make sure that my clients feel comfortable with me and me with them and get to know their family and that kind of a thing. So I'm absolutely meeting at least once, depending on when clients book. Sometimes we even meet twice, make sure that they're comfortable with me.
Nicole: That makes a lot of sense.
Tavia: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And then I also, you know, I approach birth photography like a fly on the wall. I always tell them I'm not going to be in there trying to like pose you or have you do it, it's not a regular session, it's very documentary. So I am going to be a fly on the wall, like hanging back, letting everybody do their thing and just taking photos of things as they happen. And so I think most photographers follow that policy but that's something worth mentioning to the photographer as well as like, you know, how do you behave at the birth and that kind of thing. Cause a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of a stranger being in the room. So I'm communicating that ahead of time as well as meeting ahead of time. They're not a stranger anymore.
Nicole: Exactly. Okay. So you are there to capture the moments. Again, not like...and I feel like it would be weird to ask people like can you move this way? Can you move that way? Like you're, you're there to more capture the natural moments of birth.
Tavia: Absolutely. And you know, I'm really sensitive to whatever type of birth mom is planning. So we talk about that in the birth consultation. Like are you planning a natural birth? Are you planning, you know, a VBAC? Are you wanting to labor at home as long as possible? Like all kinds of different things because I want to know, you know, if something goes differently than she's planned, I want to be sensitive to that. So we talk a lot about their birth plan and what they're planning on in the consultation.
Nicole: Gotcha, gotcha. And then do you talk about like, certain shots or moments or things that you know, they definitely want or don't want to get?
Tavia: Yeah, absolutely. I always ask them if they have any must haves or don't wants when it comes to birth photography, understanding that it's birth and anything can happen and we'll do the best we can to get what they want. But I like to know if they have any expectations going in as far as like what types of photos they want or any types of photos they don't want. I think a lot of people think that birth photography is just like crowning shots. And I always explain it like it's just like your wedding day. Like, you have the bride getting ready, you have the actual ceremony, and then you have the reception and it's the same type of thing with birth photography. You have labor, you have delivery, and then you have after delivery when everybody's meeting the baby, that kind of a thing. So it's really about telling the story of the day, not just the baby being born.
Nicole: Oh, nice. I love that. I love that. So you mentioned misconceptions. I'm curious, are there any other like, misconceptions that people have about birth photography?
Tavia: A lot of people are surprised that we're on call. Because they're coming at it more from the photography side and less from the birth side. I have a lot of partners who will come in and say, Oh, so like you'll come in the middle of the night and it's like, yup, that's when birth happens, anytime. So we'll be there day or night. I think moms understand a lot of things and then they bring in their partners who are usually like, okay, wait, what? She wants to spend how much money on what now? They take a little bit more convincing and understanding like exactly what all is involved.
Nicole: Gotcha, gotcha. And I guess I should throw out there, how much do birth photographers cost? Is there a range or what can women expect to pay?
Tavia: Yeah, absolutely. It varies. Just like anything, you know, I mean if you think about like hiring a wedding photographer, there's such a wide range. You could get somebody who's just starting out that charges a couple of hundred bucks or you could get somebody who's super experienced that charges $5,000. Like it's just a really massive range depending on where you live and the experience of the birth photographer and everything that's included in their packages. And that kind of a thing. From my experience, I would say maybe plan on about $1,500 including your digital files, but it can definitely go up from there. I live in a low cost of living area, so it can definitely go up depending on where you live.
Nicole: Gotcha, gotcha. Okay. So I'm curious kind of what happens in those scenarios when things aren't going exactly like the woman planned or she, you know, wants unmedicated and then it turns into an epidural and you're just kinda sitting for hours, there's not necessarily much action or what happens if she has to go for a C-section? How does all that work?
Tavia: Yeah, so kind of two different situations. If she's planning on a natural birth and ends up having an epidural, you know, we just go with the flow. I always tell moms in the consultation we're going to be there no matter what. So if you're having a home birth and you transfer, we're going to the hospital. You know, if you are planning on a vaginal birth and end up in a C section, we're going to do our best to get into the OR. But at least hospitals around here, there are certain hospitals who will not let an additional person in the OR period. And there are some, and it just depends on the provider as well as the anesthesiologist that's on call. So we just kind of have to do our best to schmooze the stuff and convince them that we are, you know, that we can go in. But as far as the mom is concerned, I just let them know this is a possibility. However, there's a lot to photograph even if we're not allowed in the OR. There's a lot to take photos of before and after, especially after because a lot of moms, I mean, I've had a C-section, so I remember not remembering much after my son was born. And so at that point, having a photographer almost even becomes more valuable because there's so much that happens that you don't even remember that the photographer can capture.
Nicole: Right, right. That's an excellent point. Excellent. Excellent point. Okay. You go with the flow. And it sounds like you have these conversations ahead of time with moms to be prepared for all of these possible things.
Tavia: Absolutely. 100%. And that's something that we really stress to our students. So that's something I didn't mention is I also educate other birth photographers who are new to the industry or in marketing and that kind of a thing. And yeah, and so what I stress to photographers is that disappointment is usually unmet expectations.
Nicole: And it's yes, it's the same thing as birth.
Tavia: Yes, yes, exactly. Yeah. So it applies to a lot of things, right? So disappointment is usually unmet expectations. So if we want to avoid disappointment with our clients, and there's so many what ifs with birth, we really have to talk about all of the what ifs beforehand so that if something happens where she's planning a VBAC and ends up with a repeat cesarean or you miss the birth or things like that, you've already talked about that. So she knows, okay, well this happened. And Tavia said this would happen if I ended up with a C section. So that way they understand what your policies are before that situation, even prisons itself.
Nicole: Gotcha, gotcha. And I guess the other question I have is what, what sort of mix of births have you photographed? Like hospital versus home versus natural or unmedicated versus epidural? Do you have like a little bit of mix of everything?
Tavia: Yeah, we really do. I think that you asked about misconceptions and that kind of reminded me. I think a lot of people think that birth photography is only for moms having a specific type of birth, which is usually a natural birth or a home birth. And that's just not true. We have a really wide range of you know, planned C-sections to home births to VBACs to hospital with epidural. I would say it's pretty evenly split between hospital and home.
Nicole: Okay. Okay. Interesting. Interesting, interesting. So not every woman can afford a birth photographer. So do you have like maybe two or three tips that you can give women if they want to like at least get a few nice, very memorable photos of their birth?
Tavia: Sure. So the reason moms hire birth photographers is so dad doesn't have to fumble with the camera or so that mom doesn't have to think about photos or all those things. So of course I would implore people to try to find those newer photographers trying to build their portfolio or that kind of a thing because there's of course just really no substitution, but so maybe find someone who's newer and they're going to be less expensive.
Tavia: Yeah. So, a lot of my students work on building their portfolio before they charge full price. And so we teach to significantly discount while you're learning and building your portfolio. So if they can find somebody that is still learning, you can get birth photography significantly cheaper than the prices I was talking about earlier. But if you're like, you know, even after the photographer leaves or something like that, you want to try and still get some nice photos in the hospital, I think lighting is really key. So if there's a window in the delivery room that you can get some good lighting on your subject. So whoever's taking the photos, make sure that your, that light is hitting your subject cause whether you're using an iPhone or a professional camera, lighting is really what makes the difference. I would say practice with your camera, whoever's going to be the one taking the photos to practice with the camera and get familiar with it a little bit before delivery because there's a lot going on.
Tavia: And so trying to like, learn about the camera and get the manual out for the first time in that moment, it's probably not going to work out very well. And make a bucket list, like make a list of 5 or 10 photos that you're just like, I really want to get a photo like this. That way you don't forget because you've got a lot going on when you're up at the hospital or at home, wherever you're giving birth and making a bucket list of, you know, five or 10 that you really want to get, will help you not forget in the moment.
Nicole: Nice. Nice. What do you think about asking a doula to take a few pictures? I mean, what are your thoughts on that?
Tavia: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I'm super thankful that my doula had her camera there for that day that my photographer didn't show up. I think that it can be difficult in the moment of delivery for doulas who are not experienced photographers to get the photos that you have in your mind. So I would just make sure that as a mom you have your set your expectations and your mindset appropriately.
Nicole: Gotcha. And I think, I mean, obviously the doula's there for another job and their first priority is, you know, supporting moms. So if they can get photos, you know, that'd be nice. But it's not their first priority. I think a birth photographer is a great, like if you want to do a splurge gift for yourself maybe or have asked for it on your registry. One of the things that I talk about on baby registries is like, maybe you should ask for less clothes and stuff because they grow out of the clothes, you know, grow every three seconds and the clothes are gone before you know it. But a birth photographer is just, is a nice way to capture memories and you only have one shot it capturing those things.
Tavia: Yeah, absolutely. I love that.
Nicole: Yeah. So you can think about adding it to your registry and www.babylist.com lets you add anything to your registry. So, that's something for you ladies to think about. So I'm curious kind of how have your own, well, you talked a little bit about it already, but is there anything else about how your own birth experiences, how has that contributed to your work as a birth photographer? I know you've had a C-section, a hospital VBAC, and I believe a home birth. Is that right?
Tavia: Yeah. Yeah. So I've had basically any way that you can give birth, I have done it. Which is a unique thing that I have to offer moms, you know, because if I have a client who has an unexpected C-section or is going for a VBAC or is having a home birth, I've experienced those things, so I am able to put myself in their shoes in a really real way because I have experienced that. One thing in particular when it came to my C-section that I didn't expect to be so difficult to handle was, so I didn't have a photographer. This was in 2008 and my husband was in there and had a little small digital camera as soon as my son was born, which it was an unexpected C-section and they took him over to the warmer and my husband went over and took a photo and came back and showed me the back of the camera to see my son's face. And I didn't realize how traumatizing that would be for me to experience seeing him for the first time on the back of a camera instead of in real life. Yeah. And so I make it a point now if that situation presents itself with a client, I ask her first, Hey, I have this photo. Do you want me to show you or do you want to wait because of my own experience with that?
Nicole: I can see how that would feel, like you've been waiting for this moment for so long, especially for your first baby and then for your first glimpse of this human being that you've been growing is through like a picture. I can see how that would feel like, not satisfying or make you feel off or depressed even.
Tavia: Absolutely. Especially when you weren't planning on that C-section and you're already kind of disappointed to be in there. So moms with unexpected C-sections are near and dear to my heart because, just because of my own experience. So I would say having all those three different experiences helps me relate to moms on a different level.
Nicole: Gotcha, gotcha. Yeah, I think, once you become a mom and then you work with other mothers, it just kinda changes how you interact with people. I'm not saying that people who don't have children can't do it. They can, but there's just something about that relatability. I talk about how like I've had a NICU baby and now I have a soft spot for women that have NICU babies. So yes. I love that. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I'm curious, how do you balance the unpredictability of birth and having young children in a family to take care of?
Tavia: Yeah, great question. I started photographing birth when, let's see, my son was like eight weeks old, maybe 12 weeks old when I photographed my first birth. And then my daughter was born in 2013 and so I went through photographing birth while pregnant, with a newborn and now all the way, now they're older and it's a lot easier. But when they were babies and I was breastfeeding and all that, Oh my God, that was a lot. It was a lot. It was a lot. I was determined. I was going to make this thing happen. So I wore my daughter in a wrap to a couple of births with the client's permission because like, she was breastfeeding, she was little. And so I brought her a couple of times, but I think the key to that balance is, like we talked about before, having backup photographers, if something comes up and you can't make it or you're gone or something like that, having reliable childcare that is willing to be on call for you, that you can drop your kids off if you need to.
Tavia: And you know, setting expectations again with the client and getting a really solid labor history from them if they have one. That's something we always talk about in detail because I want to know if they have a history of fast births or, you know, I've had some moms that have had five, six, seven kids and they're like, okay, so what happens is they just like tell me, okay, so I go in, I get pitocin and they break my water around noon and I have a baby by three, like legit. That's what happens. So just having that conversation with them ahead of time, if they have a labor history to understand if they call me how quickly I need to get there. And that helps me balance and manage my home life too. Because I know if this mom calls me, I need to get there now. And then I actually have another photographer on my team now and we trade off basically on call time. So that makes it a lot more manageable for both of us. If one of us is, you know, at a kid's recital or something, the other one can go to the birth and we don't have to miss quite as many family events.
Nicole: Oh, that's nice. So you guys, like for one week somebody is on call and the next week or two, that kind of thing.
Tavia: Yeah, usually it kinda ends up just, you know, if somebody is in labor, if I'm doing something or I'm unavailable, then she'll go or vice versa. So we just kind of see. It's not like designated time off, but it does make it easier to not miss big things.
Nicole: Right, right, right. That's nice. That's nice. And it's the same thing kind of sounds like what we do in obstetrics to try to make it so that things are a bit more predictable and work life, I say integration, balance always makes me feel like we're like teetering on the edge of something, but just kinda like integrating the things that are important to you.
Tavia: Yeah. I love that. I love that.
Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. So I do want to ask, what's the most memorable moment that you've had from a birth you've photographed or if you have more than one, I'd love to hear it.
Tavia: Oh man. That's like making me choose a favorite child.
Nicole: I know. I was like, maybe she doesn't want to say some or clients will be like wait a minute, my birth was memorable.
Tavia: Like I said, I think that those births that are similar to my own of course hold a special place in my heart. I actually had a surrogate birth one time that was really neat and just different. I think that the ones that are just a little bit unique always kind of stick out cause you don't do them all the time. I had a mom pregnant with twins wanting a vaginal birth and something happened. I think she went into labor earlier. I can't remember. Something happened. And we went to the hospital and she was going to have to have a C-section and they were waiting for a room to open up and she started having contractions in there and like breathing through contractions, really hard contractions.
Tavia: And they checked her and she was a nine sitting there waiting for an OR to open. And so they said, yeah we can, let's go for a vaginal birth. So they took her into the OR, I was allowed to be in there. And she ended up having a vaginal birth with both of her twins. So that was really cool. That was a really fun experience. That she was kind of just a roller coaster of like, this is not going to happen, this is going to happen, this is not going to happen. And then it finally worked out for her. So that was really unique and fun. Yeah, I think VBAC, HVAC are always close to me. Like surprise genders are always really fun. Like, it's a really fun job.
Nicole: Yeah. I love surprise gender. Like that is one of my favorite things because most people, a lot of people don't choose that. So myself included, I was like ultrasounding myself. So a lot of people don't choose it, so it's always like a moment, I'm like, who's going to announce it? And nobody say anything until the dad or whoever's going to say it. Yeah, that's always, that's always a fun thing. I actually got really mad at a nurse one time who announced a gender before the dad did. I was so hot. It was their last baby. And you know, this was the moment. But anyway, I digress. I like surprise genders. Yes.
Tavia: Yes. I'm with you. I can't wait. I couldn't with any of my kids, like I had to find out, but my clients do it. It makes me really excited.
Nicole: Yeah. So have you seen anything, you know, I was thinking about kind of like that fly on the wall concept like you talked about. Have you seen anything that surprised you or even angered you at a birth?
Tavia: Um, absolutely.
Nicole: I was going to say that was the, that was the wait a minute. Like the pause. That was yes, I have seen things. What have you seen?
Tavia: So I think that I have a unique situation in that, you know, doulas typically attend, a typical type of birth. You know what I mean? And I just mean like typically someone who wants to have a natural birth is what I mean by that. And I have such a wide range of people that hire me from, you know, scheduled C-sections to I'm going to go in and get an epidural to anything. And so there have been hospitals locally in particular that I will not shoot at because of how providers treat moms and just the lack of consent that is given to them. They just doing things.
Tavia: And it was something, one time in particular that I had a breakdown. Like I was like, I can't, I didn't even think about not shooting at that birth anymore. And I called my midwife while the mom was back in the OR and it was a situation really similar to my C-section. So I think it also kind of like triggered me a little bit. And I called my midwife and I was just telling her like, just venting about what happened and just processing everything. And she said, you don't have to shoot at that hospital anymore. Like if this keeps happening, if somebody's delivering there, you don't have to go there. And I was like, Oh, you're right. So I haven't been back since.
Nicole: So I'm just, I mean, I don't want like press you. One of the things I'm like, that's sort of my passion is this whole informed consent and how we do things in obstetrics where we're not asking, our culture doesn't support asking women to do things like check their cervix or, you know, some doctors may break somebody's water without consent. Episiotomy is not as common, but I have seen that without consent. These are all horrific things that have been sort of accepted as part of our culture that need to stop. So, it's one of the things that I hate to say passionate about, but it's really like something that I want to help change and something that I'm ashamed. Yeah. Something that I'm ashamed to say, not that I was ever, like, I've never cut an episiotomy without consent or broken anybody's water without consent. But I have certainly gone through and in a nice way, just checked a woman's cervix without explicitly saying, you know, is it okay? So I'm just curious what kind of things you saw, if you mind.
Tavia: I mean, in that particular situation, it just seemed, it seemed to be like what happened to me, which was a doctor who was tired of waiting on a mom to labor and took her back without really much consent from her. Like, this is what we have to do. No conversation about like what the pros and cons are or why we're doing this. This is what we have to do. Also, I mean I've seen cervical exams where mom's saying stop and they're not stopping and everything you described, episiotomy without consent, you know, saying I'm doing an episiotomy is not consent. It is not at all. And so those type of things that pop up, frequently in particular hospitals as well as with certain providers. I just, you know, it's unfortunate that moms I don't think understand that they have a lot of choice and that they can speak up and say, what's my other option?
Tavia: Or you know, and that's where I think a doula really comes in. A really well trained, experienced doula can help you navigate those things. Because when you're in the middle of labor and they're telling you your baby's heart rate's dropping or whatever's happening, it's hard to think about much else. And you know, something that happened to me personally in my VBAC was the midwife on call. They had hospital midwives at that time come in and told me that I had to have a C-section or an internal monitor had to be placed and I'm in the middle of a contraction and I'm like, I know those aren't my only two options. Like those are not my only options. Am I okay? Is my baby okay? Yes. And yet, okay, I don't have, those are not my options. I can keep laboring if I'm okay and my baby's okay. So I fired her in the middle of labor and went with the on call OB because he told me I could keep laboring and then I didn't have to have an internal monitor or a C-section. And so...
Nicole: My gosh, yeah. Well, first off, kudos to you for, I think a lot of women do not realize it can be hard in the moment, but you can make changes to advocate for yourself and your birth. And I know this episode is about birth photography, but I feel like since we're here, let's just go with it. You know, you have to advocate for yourself and be ready to advocate for yourself in, I mean, I can't imagine what you felt like in that moment to have to fire your midwife.
Tavia: It was a midwife that I did not have a relationship with. My midwife had a close family member pass away a couple of days before, so she wasn't there. So it was just whatever midwife was on call. So it wasn't someone I had a relationship with. My midwife would have not, she would have given me the options I actually had. And I understand from a provider's perspective, or I can imagine everything they've got coming at them, you know, as far as what they're trying to think through. And so I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but when it comes down to it, those are not my only two options. And I knew they weren't, and I had a doula who was there, not overstepping her bounds, but just reminding me like, Hey, you don't have to keep her. You know, dr so-and-so is here and he can take care of you instead of her.
Tavia: So just having the doula there to remind me of my options, I would have never thought to do that in the middle. I mean, I was like seven, eight centimeters. It's like I'm in active labor and having a conversation between contractions about firing my midwife and you know, I don't need a C section. I'm fighting to not put in the internal monitor, which is something I didn't want. You know, it's just, it shouldn't be a fight. And that's ultimately why I chose home birth with my third because I had two terrible hospital experiences. I never thought I would be somebody who would have a home birth, like it just was not on my radar, but after the unwanted C-section and then VBAC. But I mean it was a fight to get that VBAC. I just didn't want to go back there.
Nicole: Wow. Wow. And do you feel like the OB was more supportive or was he just more like tolerant?
Tavia: I would say tolerant. I wouldn't say full out supportive, but at the time it felt supportive because he was coming in and telling me, you know, I know you don't want to have another C-section and you're fine and your baby's fine so you can just keep laboring without an internal monitor if you'd like. And to me that was just like glory, glory. Okay, great. Like all I want to do is keep laboring and so...
Nicole: Wow, okay. You know, I always want, I mean this is a, again, a conversation for another day. I do wonder when women make the choice to have, what goes into women's thought process to make the choice to have a home birth after a hospital birth. And I have, I will say home birth after cesarean makes me have palpitations a little bit, maybe a lot of bit, but women are free to choose their, you know, what they believe works best for them, you know, knowing all the risks and benefits of everything. So thank you. I appreciate you sharing like your perspective and that maybe if you had a different experience in the hospital that you feel like you wouldn't have had to make that choice. Do you feel like that's fair to say?
Tavia: Yeah, I do because I, like I said, I had friends who had home births and you know, all that. But I just always thought, well, I'm not somebody, I'm not one of those people. Like not in a negative way, but just like, that's not who I am. Like I'm just not the kind person who's going to do that. And it wasn't until two experiences that were terrible. I mean, it gave me high blood pressure, like literally with my daughter, my third baby, I went in at like 10 weeks or something and my blood pressure, I was the healthiest I had ever been and my blood pressure was through the roof and I was like, I do not want to be here. Like this is stressing me out. Even just being here, thinking about going through what I went through last time, I've got to start looking at other options.
Tavia: So yeah, absolutely. It was that experience that that sent me. Not that I don't support home birth. Like I'm, I am a home birth advocate, so I'm not trying to say like that's the reason that somebody should choose home birth. I think that if you understand the risks and the pros and cons, which I did, and I had a provider that was trained that I trusted and we're 10 minutes from a hospital and all these things, I felt comfortable with it. So I think that just looking at your options and just deciding on what you feel and your family feels most comfortable with.
Nicole: Right. Absolutely that is key. For sure. For sure. All right, so how about we get back to photography, but that was it though, but that was a great conversation. I appreciate you taking that detour.
Tavia: If we, if I can take one more detour since you liked that detour...
Nicole: Please. Let's do it. Yes, I love it. I love it.
Tavia: Your question was, if anything surprised and angered me at birth. And if I can be really honest, how, how, please hikers and stop treat women of color as well as really young, unmarried women in hospitals.
Nicole: Please speak on this. Please speak on this.
Tavia: It's real. I've definitely seen that bias towards both in real time and it's something that is not acceptable and needs to be talked about and it needs to be addressed among medical professionals and understand like what bias they have, if any, because it's affecting women.
Nicole: Thank you. Yes. You know, I can say it and I, I know it and I see it. And as a black woman I, you know, have experienced it, but there's something to be said when other people who, like you said, you had that fly on the wall, um, you've seen things that you see firsthand how that that happens and we're not, women aren't making this up that they're being treated a certain way. So I really appreciate you bringing it up.
Tavia: Well and just not being listened to in the same way. Their concerns are not being addressed in the same way. And it's shocking. Like it was shocking for me to see it happen in real time where I've been at, you know, we only, we have like three or four major hospitals here that I shoot at often and to see the same situation with a woman of color versus a white woman, I was just shocked. I was like, this is real. Like this is not okay. And for the African American maternal death rate to be what it is is also worth mentioning and just like displays that perfectly.
Nicole: And it is directly related to what you're saying, how people aren't listened to the same way, their concerns are not taken the same way in. That has very serious implications for outcomes. So thank you. Thank you so much for bringing that up.
Tavia: Absolutely. And if nobody has heard of, Kara Johnson, I don't know if you're familiar with her story?
Nicole: I am indeed. That is a horrific story.
Tavia: And I encourage anyone who's interested in making a change on this topic to, to research her and her story and what happened to her to get a better understanding of, of what's going on.
Nicole: Yeah. And I will link to her story in the show notes guys. And the short version is she had a C-section and she basically bled to death after her C-section and it was completely unnecessary and preventable.
Tavia: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.
Nicole: And she's a black woman who is of higher socioeconomic means. So it's not just, you know, it's the combination, you know, just black women alone, even black women who are well-educated, still have trouble. And then women who don't have as much money and then black women who don't have as much money, those groups are even more marginalized. So I will definitely link to that in the show notes. Thank you for bringing that up.
Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. Was there anything else you want to add as we close about brew? Your thoughts about birth in general or some last minute thoughts on birth photography? And then I have one more question for you.
Tavia: Sure. I think that birth photography specifically is something that you, especially first time moms maybe think like, Oh, it's an intimate thing with me and my partner and I don't want to have another person in the room. A lot of clients that hire us are second time moms who wish they had done it the first time, and now look back and think, man, I wish that I'd had a birth photographer. We hear that all the time. And so if you're expecting your first baby, I would highly encourage you, no matter what your budget is, to try to find somebody that you're comfortable with and explore that. If it sounds interesting to you because that's the worst. It really is the worst. Whenever it's like, I wish that I had known that this was an option because you can't go back.
Nicole: Right, right. For sure. And again, I'll add again one more time that this is a great thing to, you know, put on your birth registry. It's something to ask for or like, or like Tavia said, find somebody who's a budding photographer and who is interested in doing it. Yes, they're fancy cameras these days, but you can actually get some decent shots if you know how to use a good iPhone camera or even a Samsung camera. So definitely, definitely think about those things. And then my last question to you is, what is your favorite piece of advice that you like to give to expectant moms?
Tavia: Oh man, I feel like there's a lot of things now that my youngest is six. I feel like I'm on the other side, but it used to drive me nuts when people would say, Oh, just enjoy every second because I'm not sleeping. So I think it's not exactly photography related, but what I see with our clients is new moms put a lot of pressure on themselves. Myself included too, you know, breastfeeding or to have the certain type of birth you want or you know, they expect to have this instant bond with their baby and they don't. And it's okay. Like all of those things are okay. Like whatever you're feeling is okay and it's okay to say those things out loud. Like I'm disappointed that this happened or that happened or you know, just letting some of those things go. I feel like breastfeeding in particular was one with all my kids that I held onto so tightly and it was such a source of stress for me for so long. I wish that I had just not worried about it so much. So you love your baby, that's all that matters. Everything else, it doesn't matter.
Nicole: I love it. Yes, excellent, excellent advice. Because ladies, there will be moments that are hard. It's not all like roses and sometimes your children get on your nerves. God bless them, you love them. But everything is not always perfect. And that continues up until now. Like sometimes my 12 year old and 10 year old drive me crazy. So you still love them and it doesn't mean you're less of a mother or less of a person because you have those feelings. So I love that advice. Thanks. Yeah. Yeah. Well thank you so much Tavia for coming on. This was a really great conversation about birth photography and birth in general, so I really, really appreciate it.
Tavia: Yeah, it was really fun. Thanks for having me.
All right. Wasn't that a great episode? Really informative and just lots of great information. I know we took a little bit of a twist and turn into talking about more of the advocacy piece and birth experiences, but I thought it was a really great conversation and I hope you learned a lot from it.
Now, you know, after every episode where I have a guest on, I do something called Nicole's notes where I talk about my top three or four takeaways from the episode. So here are Nicole's notes from this episode with Tavia. Number one I kind of thought of birth photography as sort of a luxury thing that you know, not that the average person sorta did, but now I can see how it can be a really important part of your experience. You know, kind of similar to a wedding photographer and I think you should maybe give some thought to hiring a birth photographer or at being intentional about getting some good images to remember your birth. It's a once in a lifetime thing. So you know, definitely think about it. Remember that registry, you know, it could possibly be a registry gift. And www.babylist.com lets you put anything on your registry. So just think about it as a important part of your experience.
Number two, I loved what Tavia said about disappointment and unmet expectations. That is so, so, so, so true. And in order to really, you know, know, and not be disappointed with your own birth and not have your expectations met. An important part of that is preparing, you really need to do your homework. Know your hospital, know your provider, know what to expect in different scenarios. I have a free online class to help you. It's called how to make a birth plan that works and it covers questions you can ask to get familiar with your doctor or midwife hospital so you really understand what's going on and then you can talk through what it is that you want for your birth to make sure that the hospital and the provider can support that for you.
Okay, so a big part of getting ready and not having that disappointment for any unmet expectations is to prepare. Discuss what you want so you go into it with your eyes wide open. Again, check out my free class to help you how to make a birth plan. You can check it out at www.ncrcoaching.com/register.
All right, number three. As always, please be sure that you either are comfortable advocating for yourself or you have someone there who can help you advocate for yourself. Tavia fired her midwife in favor of a physician. That does not happen too commonly, but it's an important point that you really need to have the person there who is going to support you the most in the moment, whether that's a midwife or a physician. So don't be afraid to advocate for yourself when you need to. Now, hopefully it doesn't get to that point where you have to fire anybody in the middle of labor, but you know, do what you gotta do. And I think doing your homework or I know that doing your homework ahead of time and really trying to prepare yourself as much as possible kind of limits the need to have to do those sort of things.
Okay. And then the final thing I'll mention is that I'll re iterate that those differences in the way that different people are treated. Tavia specifically mentioned the instances of black women and white women, young unmarried women not being treated respectfully or not being treated well. Those things are real and they contribute to poor outcomes. And we all have a responsibility to kind of call out that bad behavior when we see it so that people can be made aware that they need to change. So those things happens. Please speak up about it when you see it because that is how change happens.
All right, so that is it for this episode of the podcast. Can I ask you to do me a quick solid? If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe to it in Apple podcast, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you feel so inclined, please leave a review specifically in Apple podcast. It helps the show to grow, and helps other women to find the show, helps other women who need the show to connect with it. So definitely subscribe if you enjoy it and then leave that review. I really, really appreciate it. And then of course, my favorite part of the reviews is giving folks shout outs in future podcast episodes.
And next week on the podcast I'm going to answer some frequently asked questions that I get that don't necessarily warrant a whole episode. So I'm going to put together five or six different questions and answer them in the episode. I also have a couple of special guests who will be making an appearance and I'll give a hint. One of them is 12 the other is 10 and I grew both of them in my body. So how about that? All right, so come on back next week, and until then, I wish you a healthy and happy pregnancy and birth.
Today's episode is brought to you by Women's Wellness Coaching by Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins. Head to www.ncrcoaching.com to check out my free one hour mini course on how to make your birth plan as well as my comprehensive online childbirth education class, The Birth Preparation Course with over eight hours of content and a private course community. The Birth Preparation Course will leave you knowledgeable, prepared, confident, and empowered going into your birth. Head to www.ncrcoaching.com to learn more.