Why would I want to record that?!
"I would give anything to have videos of my first two births," says Terri Moore of Georgia, "While you can stick the video in a drawer and never view it again if you wish, you can never go back to recapture one of the most important moments of your life."
Another reason why mothers choose not to videotape or take pictures during the birth is fear of feeling "watched." Stephanie Soderblom, doula and owner of BirthDiaries.com, reassures mothers saying, "I tell people that if they are wishy washy about it at all to do it... I tell them that rarely do people even know that photos are being taken. Often the video camera is turned on and placed on a tripod or on a table and left --and I don't use a flash, so it's not intrusive."
"[For my first child's birth], I thought video was too invasive and too crude -- that it would ruin a special, intimate moment," says Amanda Surbey of Buenos Aires, who recorded the birth of her second child. "For the second birth, I was worried we would not get the cameras to work. And once I had a tape in my hand, I was worried that it didn't have the birth on it. I was so pleased to have captured the moment."
Before you take out the camera, make sure you ask your doctor and hospital about their policies. While you may not have any problems, it would be disappointing to show up at the hospital with a video camera and find out only still photographs are permitted. "I found out that many docs will refuse to attend the birth if the video camera is rolling," says Patricia Blomme of Canada.
While some hospitals do not allow videotaping of the actual birth, many still allow still photos. And some hospitals will make an exception if you ask. "I just had to sign a paper stating that if they asked that the camera be turned off, it would be," says Janel Miner of Illinois, who recorded her second child's birth in a hospital.
After checking up on the legal issues, you'll want to decide who will take the pictures. This task is better delegated to someone other than your husband, as you'll most likely want him by your side. Your doula, or labor coach, may be willing to take pictures for you, or you can ask a trusted family member or friend.
"We hired our doorman's son because he is a film student," Surbey says, "Paid him 100 dollars. Told him to be as unobtrusive as possible. He did a great job -- I never even noticed he was there, but later I told him that now I get to see him naked. He was not amused."
Now that you're ready to start recording, here are some practical tips:
Ideally, bring two cameras, extra memory cards or film and extra batteries or battery packs. )If you're videotaping the birth, bring two blank high-quality tapes and record on extended play.)
Consider taking photos in black and white as well as in color. "The black and white is great as the birth colors are not as apparent," says Moore, "They are softer, too, and you can get some classic shots."
"Rather than taking a photo because you can," Soderblom says, "I try to capture a moment... a close up of the brand new baby holding Daddy's finger... the look on Mom's face as she meets her baby for the first time. When doing video, I will often set the scene. If it's snowing outside, I'll begin with a view through the hospital window at the snowy trees, then zoom out and pan over to see Mom in labor."
"Close-ups while baby is crowning is great, but you have to back down on the zoom when the head looks like it's about to be born, or you might miss the rest of the birth," Soderblom warns. "Since it happens so fast, it's easy to be zoomed in too much for the birth of the body."
"If there were a particular photo in which the doctor or nurse is in that I plan to use, I obtain permission from them," Soderblom advises, "If I'm video taping, I always ask on camera, 'Nurse... do I have your permission to film you?' and get their response on the tape."
Remove the memory chip or videocassette from the video camera as soon as possible and store it somewhere save, especially if you give birth in a hospital. "I find it sad when someone has lost the birth video of their child because the video was still in the camera when the camera got stolen," says Blomme. "I would advise taking out the [memory card or] tape ASAP... You just never know."
What can you do with the tape or pictures afterwards? "We pull out [the tape] every 29th of August," says Lauralynn Pearson of California, "That's my daughter's birthday, and its become a family tradition of sorts. It's been interesting to see my daughter watch her own birth and understand the whole process, and not be afraid."
Or you may never show another soul. Whatever you decide to do, you'll know that you have recorded one of the most exciting moments of your life -- your transition into motherhood.
For more information:
- See a sample contract for hiring a photographer
- 10 tips for taking better pictures
- Delivery room glamour: First photo beauty tips
- Snap-Happy Photographers message board
See a sample contract here.