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09 May

A photographer’s birth story – MUST READ!

I thought it would be great to start your week with a fantastic birth story. People are often emailing me their birth stories, but when I read this one, I knew I had to share it with you. This is something that could only happen to a wedding and portrait photographer and proves that small business owners often sacrifice a lot to get the job done:

From: Sarah Elizabeth
Subject: Postive birth story and bagpacking

Hi, Julia,

I love reading your blog. I have had 2 children and, despite being massively broody (made even worse by the surge in preggos I seem to be surrounded with at the moment), we are done!  A beautiful 4-year-old girl and 16-month son keep us very busy.  I am a wedding and portrait photographer that has run a studio since 2003.

I saw on your blog that you only want to hear positive birth stories, so I thought I would share mine.

First pregnancies always go late, right? Well, that is what I thought, anyway. It was my experience of everyone around me.  So you can imagine my shock at 37 weeks when I woke up feeling a bit dodgy. Thinking it was something I ate, I went back to bed. I had a busy day ahead, but it started to dawn on me that I was feeling “a bit dodgy” quite regularly, and perhaps my body was having a clear out (sorry TMI!).

So I panicked and phoned the hospital. I can’t be in labour, right? It was too early and I had a wedding to shoot that day! The midwife reassured me that it sounded like things might be starting, but that first labours took a long time and that I should just keep an eye on things. Phew! Big sigh of relief this baby wasn’t imminent, but, nevertheless, I should maybe get my finger out.  No hospital bag was packed; in fact, I hadn’t bought anything for the bag. So armed with my list from the bounty mag, I waddled round to our local Boots and stocked up (after stopping at the luggage shop to buy a bag – I thought a suitcase was overkill!).

The contractions were extremely mild, about every 30 minutes and barely registering on the pain scale, but I had a show so thought it was time to call my backup plan for the wedding.  Very helpfully, he had thought that he wasn’t required, so had made other plans. A bit more phoning around got a backup plan in place.  I phoned the midwife again and explained the situation and, again, she reassured me that first labours take a long time and I might be fine for the wedding. So hospital bag packed, I moved over to my camera bag and off I went (having told my husband nothing about it except that he should go and buy some snacks – just in case).

I chose not to tell my assistant as didn’t want to panic her. I was fine, after all; these things take a long time.  So off to the wedding we went and everything was okay. The contractions were getting a bit stronger, but nothing I couldn’t deal with.  During the ceremony, I started to think that perhaps I was a bit mad. Was I doing my baby harm? But no time for second thoughts as the ceremony was over and it was all systems go.

Driving to the reception, Jenny asked, “Are you okay?”  “Yeah, I am fine,” I replied, breathing heavily. “Are you in labour?” she asked. “Yes, I am.” “OMG, what is the plan?” “Well, I think we will do the groups first, then portraits. If you could concentrate on the candids…” I replied.  “What about the baby?” “It will have to wait.”

So we carried on shooting the wedding, I was able to get a few groups done between contractions, but they were getting much stronger and much closer together.  At 3.30pm I was starting to think that I wouldn’t manage much longer, but I only had to make it until a cake cutting at 4pm. Then I could leave and Jenny could handle the rest on her own.  So that is what I did. Running ahead of the couple at any point I could to contract in privacy, I somehow managed to get through it and we were at the cake.  Shot done. The Bride was touching my belly saying, “You must be exhausted! Go and have a seat.” So I did and my waters broke!  Not a massive gush, but there was a pop, so I sneaked away to the nearest toilet.

From that point on, my contractions were really strong, very frequent and I was scared.  After every contraction, I thought, “Right! This time – need to get out of here.”  My Dad had come to pick me up, but they were coming so thick and fast and I didn’t want to bump into the couple or any guests.  Eventually, I managed to make it out, back to the car where my Dad was standing with a few black bags, “You don’t want to get your seats wet.” Very thoughtful, Dad. But, it’s true – we did have a new car.

To cut a long story short, we got to the hospital at 5.30pm, sat in a waiting room for 30 minutes, then it was the midwife who I has been speaking to in the morning that saw us. She wanted to know all about the wedding, “Was the bride lovely? What was her dress like?” “I AM HAVING A BABY!” I screamed at her. Not my usual style, but she didn’t seem to be getting the urgency of my situation. I was at this stage doing the OMG-I-can’t-do-this-thing. My husband thought I was the biggest drama queen ever and you could see the midwife thinking that she had a right pain in the ass here.  I kept saying I feel like I need to push, and they were both like “yeah right”. So she examined me and the next thing I heard was “Oh my goodness I can see the head – stop pushing, stop pushing!” Then it was panic, alarm bells ringing, the room filled with midwives and, next thing I knew, the trolley is getting wheeled down the corridor.  My husband started picking up my freshly packed bags, but was screamed at: “Leave the bags, there’s no time!”

We got to the labour suite as the midwife is pulling on her gloves, saying, “So what position would you like to deliver in?” Eh, I don’t know, I have just arrived?

So on my knees it was, the gas and air wasn’t working, so as one midwife tried to connect it up, I started pushing and at 6:57pm, little Grace popped out.  Weighing 6lb 1.5oz, she was perfect.  She was so calm, didn’t cry and I just held her on my chest in complete shock at what had just happened. People kept coming in to see me. They wanted to meet the Wedding Baby and hear her the story for themselves. I felt like a bit of a celebrity.

I had planned a water birth, but funnily enough, there wasn’t enough time. I had planned to take it in my stride and was open to any drug that was going, but I didn’t need it.  I was amazed that my body knew exactly what to do and, when I stopped fighting it, listened to what it was telling me and concentrated on relaxing and controlling my breathing, it was fine.  It was obviously the most intense pain I have ever experienced. At times, I thought I was going to die, but it was a good pain, with every contraction I was closer to getting my baby.  All in all I found labour the most amazing and empowering thing, I still look back now and think, “Wow, I did that.” It is something really special that only I could do for my daughter.

And the wedding…well, I had a baby before the speeches were even over. I actually had a friend who was at the wedding, so we texted her a photo and they had a wee announcement and a toast for us, which was lovely.  The bride’s mum was telling everyone that we were going to name the baby after the bride (we didn’t, but it would have been a lovely idea).  They were the best set of images I shot all year because I was so focused on what I was doing. The couple were thrilled.

I wouldn’t really recommend shooting a wedding in labour, but there was no doubt that being upright and mobile made things progress quickly. I was about 12 hours from first niggle to holding my baby.

I wish you all the very best for when Abdul makes her appearance. Every person is different. Your labour might be great, it might not, but I think if you can have the right mental attitude, it is a massive help. But have an open mind and take things as they happen.  When my son was born, I thought I would get my water birth and all was on track, got transferred to the labour ward and they started filling the pool. Things had been much slower in progressing this time. At 6.30pm I was only 5 cm after having been in mild labour since 6am.  But as soon as I got changed into my nightshirt, ready for a long night ahead, my water’s broke and I felt the need to push.  Daniel arrived at 7.37pm weighing 7lb 10oz.  He came out screaming and looking for food. Not much has changed in the last 16 months, but I wouldn’t change him for the world.

So my advice is buy the stuff to go into the bag, something for the baby and your wash things are important. Nothing else is essential should it be a rush, but you will have time to do it.  Fingers crossed you have a really positive experience; I look forward to reading about it on the blog.

Best wishes,


Ps I loved your pregnancy shots by Trevor and Faye. I used to work with them and I am kicking myself for not getting them to do some shots of me and my lovely bump which I miss so much!



  1. 09 May


    This is hilarious! And AMAZING. Thanks for sharing :)
    I too had my first baby at 37 weeks (while fully expecting to go to 42). Something with photographer’s babies perhaps?

    And when I got to the hospital I didn’t think I’d have a baby and would be turned away. But I had him within 3 hours of arriving. Maybe I should email you my story ;)

  2. 09 May

    Julia from ICAWatermelon

    Antonina, please feel free to write your story in the comments. In fact, any photographers with great, positive birth stories, please write them here. Let’s get the love flowing! Jx

  3. 09 May

    Donna Marshall

    Sarah, I knew you were dedicated but didn’t realise HOW dedicated until I read this! Nothing stops you girl! Donna x

  4. 09 May

    Adele Haywood

    wow…this made for a great read! I probably will be that woman shooting a wedding at 37 weeks! *laughs* My OH and I arent in the position to start trying for a baby and all he gets from me is “it wont be next year, im far too busy” but ive bought the studio so I can happily shoot bumps, babies and portraits whilst i waddle! :)
    I look forward to hearing many more stories! x

  5. 09 May

    Alie Calvert

    Sarah you are the best and even though I’ve heard it before love hearing your story. Still think wow! Grace is a very special girl… Alie x

  6. 09 May

    Kevin Mullins

    Not strictly speaking *my” story – but my wifes’, so I was there (and here are the pics too: http://www.kevinmullinsphotography.co.uk/personal-photography-2/son-2.html)

    My wife was three days over for our second child. The baby was due on the 29th April. Not only was it Royal Wedding day – but I was also photographing a wedding myself.

    Luckily our little boy (Albert Ellis) came a few days late. Gemmas waters broke at 11:30pm and according to the MW notes, she had three hours of full labour with a very quick delivery. Mum and little Albie are doing great. Its great to have a little brother for my daughter too.

    Have enjoyed this blog Julia and will continue to check for updates….:-)

  7. 10 May

    Annamarie Stepney

    Amazing – I’m reading this with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face! What an amazing woman and a wonderful positive (at times hilarious) story to share :) x

  8. 10 May

    Sarah Ferrara

    This made me laugh out loud… so funny, and what DEDICATION!

  9. 10 May

    Nicky Chadwick

    What a great story, I had my daughter nearly fifteen years ago now, and I had a great labour. The pregnancy had been awful from start to finish, but the Melanie came a week early – 6lb14ozs with tons of red hair – in 4.5 hours from start of contractions to popping out! I had a birthing plan but no time to put it into practice, but it didn’t matter because it was all so quick and you get the most amazing gift at the end of the labour. As I said, Mel is now nearly 15yrs old and is still the most incredible gift I ever had :-)


  10. 12 May

    R Spiegel

    I also had my baby at 37 1/2 weeks, and expected to go late. Although I was definitely ready. Here is to photographers delivering a tad early! I did stop shooting weddings at 6 months along though. Our son is now 5 months old, and even though I took several months off from shooting, I photograph him almost every day. I just discovered your blog, and am enjoying the read. Enjoy being a mum, it’s the best!

  11. 12 May

    R Spiegel

    I should also add a bit about my birth story, from a photo standpoint. I had my friend, an amazing photojournalist, photograph the moments after our son was born (none of the pushing or graphic stuff though). We had worked this all out beforehand. I didn’t want to be yelling at my husband to take photos, I wanted him to enjoy the moment, but it was equally important to me to capture the emotions I knew we would all be feeling.

    I started calling her in the early morning, when I went into labor. I called and texted several times during the day, getting more nervous each time that she wouldn’t make it. Little did I know that she was on her way back from out of town on the train, and her daughter had stashed her phone in her car. She scheduled this trip so she would be in town around my due date, but I delivered 3 weeks early.

    When she saw her phone, and my missed calls, she panicked, and called right away. Luckily my labor was long, 22 hours, and she made it to the hospital in plenty of time. I found out after the fact that when my friend got home to grab her gear, the heat in her house was broken, in the middle of winter, and she had to find a place for her husband and young daughter to spend the night, and deal with burst pipes. She told me none of this when I saw her.

    I delivered at 1:40am and she stayed with us until 4am, shooting the grandparents meeting Jack for the first time. Those photos of my husband and I seeing our son seconds after his birth mean the absolute world to me. I made a slideshow, and watch it all the time, and every time I cry. I am so grateful for all she did, and for the beautiful photos she took.

  12. 03 Sep

    Melissa Love

    Love this. I had a super quick labour with my first one and everyone was all “oh, you’ve got ages yet”. You know your body so good luck!

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