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Category Archives: Personal

I’m in the New York Times!

Honey, the Baby Is Coming; Quick, Call the Photographer is an article published today and written by Elissa Gootman.

Here is the text version:

Lynsey Stone does not set foot in the shower without placing her cellphone on a nearby ledge, lest she miss an urgent text from a woman in labor. She schedules vacations 10 months in advance to ensure they do not conflict with due dates, and on family outings she and her husband leave their Granbury, Texas, home in separate cars, in case she needs to race to the hospital.

Ms. Stone, 33, is not a doctor, nurse, doula or midwife: she is a birth photographer, part of a small but growing profession devoted to chronicling a rite of passage that is no less significant than a wedding — though a bit trickier to capture on film.  “In the beginning, I almost thought that people were joking with me, like, ‘Really? You want me to come to your birth?’ ” said Ms. Stone, whose business took off after a pregnant acquaintance, impressed by pictures Ms. Stone had taken of her own family, asked if she would photograph her delivery.

Birth was once considered a behind-closed-doors affair — a messy, painful and fearsome event where neither mothers nor babies looked their best. Then, expectant fathers entered the picture, snapping photos or taking videos with shaky hands. Now, there is both a surge of interest in the experience of childbirth — not just as a means to a baby but also as a moment to be relished in its own right — and a greater desire to capture all of life’s moments (and often share them on Facebook).

Birth photographers have set up shop in recent years across the country, from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City to Cincinnati. The International Association of Professional Birth Photographers — a group started by a Texas photographer who was bombarded with inquires from women in other states seeking a birth photographer near them — now has roughly 400 members.  The photographers and their clients have grown accustomed to puzzled looks and probing questions (Pictures of what, exactly?). But their rationale is simple: If you are going to document a child’s every bite of mushed banana as if it were a historical event, does it not make sense that his or her entrance into the world be photographed by a professional?

“I want to see that moment when I’m in labor,” said Rhisie Hentges of Long Beach, Calif., who paid $1,895 to have Briana Kalajian, a co-owner of Shoots and Giggles Photography, document the birth of her first child. “That moment when both my husband and I look to see what the sex is? That’s something that I want to see happen.” (As it happened, she had a Caesarean section last week, and the photographer was not allowed in the operating room, although she got many artful shots of the before and after.)

Some photographers offer birth packages among a panoply of options, including pregnancy and family photography; others, like Ms. Stone, focus on births. She got started six years ago after she photographed her first birth and the mother shared the photos with friends in a local mothers’ group.

Ms. Stone now averages five births a month, charging first-time clients $700. She tries to arrive when a woman is six centimeters dilated, to capture the later stages of labor. This has resulted in numerous speeding tickets.

Other hazards of the job: women who are crestfallen when their births do not go according to plan and C-sections are ordered — not the image they wanted to capture. The “divas,” as one birth photographer put it, who request that their faces be depicted from certain flattering angles. Babies that arrive too quickly.  “One was born in the parking lot,” lamented Keren Fenton, a birth photographer in Orting, Wash., near Seattle and Tacoma.

In Cincinnati, one woman called Melanie Pace and Kelly Smith of Beautiful Beginnings Birth Photography the day she got her pregnancy test results, Ms. Pace recalled. Several have called when they are five or six weeks pregnant.  “I’m like, ‘Seriously?’ ” Ms. Pace said. “Can you go to the doctor first and confirm this pregnancy?”

Still, some hospitals ban photography while women are giving birth. In many, the doctors and nurses on duty unofficially set their own rules, with some even allowing birth photographers to be present during C-sections. Videotaping tends to set off more alarms than still photography, one reason most professionals stick to still pictures. In home births, photographers say, the mother calls the shots.  “The hospital rules are pretty straightforward — there’s no video and camera photography up close and personal in either an operating room or a delivery room,” said Dr. Jacques Moritz, director of gynecology at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan. “Official policy and what’s enforced are two different things.”  Dr. Moritz said that if someone trumpets the arrival of her professional birth photographer, “it’s going to be, ‘Really? Get out of here.’ ” He said he had seen more women come in “with their quote-unquote friend that happens to have two Nikons with high-quality lenses on them.”

Dr. Randi Hutter Epstein, the author of “Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank,” said many cultural cues could make some women feel the need to make their births “photo-shoot-able.”  “There is a lot of pressure to not just cherish the birth experience but to promote it as this beautiful thing,” she said. “Then you’re going to get into your skinny jeans the next day and have a beautiful photograph of you looking absolutely beautiful and well rested with your perfect-looking baby, like all the celebrities.”  Still, Dr. Epstein said, “Now that I have an 18-year-old, it would be wonderful to look at these beautiful photos of him being born.”  Her son, she added, would probably disagree. “He doesn’t even want his picture taken now,” she said. “He’s not going to want one on the way out of my vagina.”

There is one question the photographers are asked most often: Um, precisely where do you stand when the baby comes out? The answer: Generally near the mother’s head, unless she requests a crowning shot.  “People will ask if I’m going to take the National Geographic birth photo,” Ms. Kalajian, of Shoots and Giggles Photography, said, referring to the most graphic of childbirth shots. “They ask it in 10 different ways.”

Another frequently asked question: Why can’t the father, or partner, simply take the pictures?  One potential answer lies in a picture that Ms. Fenton, the photographer in Orting, Wash., took last year of a father whose baby was born by C-section. He did not react so well. But because Ms. Fenton was on the scene, that moment, too, will be remembered.  “He passed out on the floor,” she said. “I have him in a chair, holding a juice cup and looking really sweaty.”

A version of this article appeared in print on June 17, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Honey, the Baby Is Coming; Quick, Call the Photographer.

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the inspiration effect.

Lately I have been having a crisis of sorts. I’m really “over” a lot of what is involved in birth photography.  I couldn’t care less about whether someone chooses to have a homebirth or a hospital birth, whether it is natural or medicated, cesarean or vaginal.  I think we all know in our heart that the kind of mother you are to your children is much more important than the method of delivery.  I am more interested in the emotion of it all, not the birth statistics. I want to give women something they will cherish, I want to enhance their birth experience. That is why I started doing this in the 1st place.  Recently though I feel like a lot has gotten in the way of my love for birth photography. I want to be spending my time doing something that matters on a much larger level.  I truly feel like I was made for *more* than what I am currently doing, but I haven’t been sure how to get to where I want to be and I have been overwhelmed thinking about it.  I kept telling myself  “I just have to be inspired, I NEED to be inspired!”   But nothing happened.  Time creeps by, same shit different day…  I bet you all know how it is. 

Well finally April brought change.  I had a short conversation at a dinner with Christy Martin (an incredibly awesome midwife in my area) about her mission trip to Mali.  Then after already having Africa on my mind, a break in births gave me an opportunity to pick up a book and actually read more than just a few pages at a time.  The book is called “A Thousand Sisters” and it is about a woman who founded a national organization called Run for Congo Women after learning of the devestating effects of the Rwandan genocide on womens lives. She was then able to travel to Congo to meet the women that her run sponsored.  The book led me to an organization called Women for Women International and at that point I pretty much knew what I was going to do.  I signed up as a sponsor. 

I picked Sudan over the other 7 choices listed because the information I found was astounding.  Here are just a couple of facts:  1 in every 6 women die in childbirth and 1 in 6 babies die before their 1st birthday.  Can you imagine?!  The thing about sponsoring 1 woman though is that it makes you feel terrible because this is only 1 woman out of *millions* in need. 

Today I saw an amazing video about a wedding photographer and his efforts in Africa, and again, I knew what I was going to do.   I’m not going to try to “make a difference” in this big bad world all by myself, I’m going to get my clients involved.  Women with families love other women with families.  We all want to feel like we are doing something that matters and that we are a part of something bigger.  Everyone who knows me knows that I love introducing my friends/clients to each other and making connections.  I think this is the perfect way. 

This is what I’m thinking…  Starting right now each of my clients will have the option to donate $30 out of their total birth photography fee to a group sponsorship with Women for Women International OR they can decline doing that and have that money go right into my own bank account.  :-)   The next 11 women whose births are coming up that want to participate will, in essence, be paying for 1 months worth of a WfW participants 1 year sponsorship.  When I have completed these 11 births, and therefore have enough money to pay for the entire year all at once, we will all vote on which country we sponsor a woman out of (majority rules) and then once we are matched with someone we will *all* be able to correspond back and forth with her.  After the 1st set of 11 interested clients, I will start over with another group of 11 and so on and so forth.  I think this will be successful because not only will it bring my clients together for an important cause, but it will be incredibly meaningful to that woman who will truly know that there isn’t just 1 person, but an entire group of people, that genuinely cares about her well-being. 

Now, I could have just kept all of this to myself, but I really wanted to share this with other photographers that I know read my blog and follow my Facebook page.  I have only been doing birth photography for about 5 years and it is only in the past 3-4 that I have really had a good idea of what the heck I’m doing, but I have probably gotten between 200-300 messages from people telling me that my photography inspires them.  It inspires most to start their own birth photography businesses, it inspires others to plan a certain type of birth and it inspires a few to keep trying for that positive pregnancy test after so many negatives. I don’t want to only be found inspirational because of the pictures I take though.  I want something more.  If I can do this with my limited number of birth photography clients, what can you do?   Think about it and get back to me!  *I* want to be inspired!    As wedding photographer, Benjamin Edwards, says “Life is meant to be relational.  Don’t get caught up in thinking that you don’t have what it takes to give back.”

With love,

Lynsey S.

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Paityn is 9!

paitynbigforblog

Thought I would share a couple pictures of my oldest daughter real quick because she turned 9 years old today and it is partly due to her that I am a birth photographer now!   I had a cesarean with my oldest child, my son, which I was and am fine with.  I decided that I wanted to have a VBAC during my pregnancy with Paityn because I wanted that bonding time immediately after her birth.  It was during those 38+ weeks that I developed the obsession with all things birth that led into this whole birth photography gig 5 years later.   :-)

paitynforblog

Lynsey S.

 

birth products


Over the past 10 years I have been asked about everything from herbal baths to birth pools so I thought I would put together a list of some of the products you may have seen and wondered about.  I added a few of my favorite books also, including one for children that I bought for my own family when I was expecting my third child.  Check it out here.


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Eden is 2!

edenistwobig

My little baby, Eden, turned 2 this month!  I had an amazing birth with her, I still love thinking about it to this day!  We unknowingly started the Hummingbird Cake tradition on the day she was born, so every year I will probably post the recipe here and mention how great of an experience that entire day was.  :-)

edens2

Hummingbird Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can (8oz) crushed pineapple, well drained
1 cup chopped pecans
.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 pounds confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350°. Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together into mixing bowl several times. Add eggs and salad oil to the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple and 1 cup pecans.  Spoon the batter into 3 well-greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes,or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
Combine cream cheese and butter; cream until smooth. Add powdered sugar, beating with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.

Frost the tops of all 3 layers, stack and then frost sides. Sprinkle top evenly with the 1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans.

Lynsey S.

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