The Gift of Birth Photography

Syracuse Birth Photography: one year later

Heather McKay is a documentary style birth photographer near syracuse

Last Spring, I traveled to Syracuse to photograph the birth of baby Caprice for her first time parents. Elaine and Matt planned for a natural birth, however Capri decided to arrive via c-section instead. It was such an emotional day, that I haven’t been able to blog it until now.

Capri is a very healthy one year old today and is going to be a big sister by the end of the year!

Heather McKay is a documentary style birth photographer near syracuse

This day was such an honor to be part of. For several reasons. One, it was a chance to be completely and totally a photo-journalist. Zero formal portraits means for exclusively documentary images. A challenge for me was also being very quiet and invisible (with only 4 people in the room!). Anyone who knows me is well aware of the amount of talking I provide, so staying silent and not a part of the unfolding events was as good of practice as being totally journalistic.

Since the birth was taking place in Syracuse, I had Matt call me as soon as they were headed to the hospital. Hoping that I would arrive in time! As you can probably imagine, most of the day was actually spent waiting. I brought my laptop and got some editing done in the lounge for a good chunk. Being sure to stay as out of the way as possible. When the time came for Elaine and Matt to decide to change to a c-section instead of a natural birth, emotions were intense.

Heather McKay is a documentary style birth photographer near syracuse

At that point, I realized that I would not be able to photograph the birth after all.

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Matt came to get me from the waiting room just as soon as the doctors would let him. It was AMAZING to photograph this minutes old family… still in the same location where the c-section took place. These images are the first moments that Elaine and Matt held their first child. I used to think that weddings were the most important job I could ever have. No longer. Photographing this for them, good and bad, was something I’m still having a hard time processing. I’ve photographed brand new babies before, but never as part of the entire process.

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At some point, the Doctor was nervous about Elaine’s blood loss and she looked very pale. There was this distinct moment and look in Matt’s eyes where he was holding Caprice, yet needing to comfort and be with Elaine. This was the first defining moment of his new Fatherhood. I offered to hold the baby to relieve the situation in his mind. As I’m standing there, holding this precious new person, I was acutely aware that a Grandmother should be there. Not me. The Photographer was sidelined and the human took over.

Syracuse NY Birth Photography

As soon as Elaine was stable, Matt took their baby back and I went to grab Elaine’s Mom. If I were Elaine, I would have wanted my Mom at that moment.

These few minutes were very stressful and emotional and a reminder that giving birth is still a dangerous task. When I went back into the waiting room to get Elaine’s Mom, it was very hard to keep silent on the unfolding drama back in the room as Matt’s Mom was feeling left out of the joy. I didn’t want to alarm the rest of the room with Elaine’s condition by telling her. Once things settled down, I filled her in. Elaine stabilized and quickly everyone else was allowed to visit in small numbers.

After 12+ hours, it was time for me to drive back to Rochester. Exhausted. Blessed. Pondering the delicate and joyful nature of life.

Western NY Wedding Photographers

So far, I photographed Elaine and Matt’s engagement photos, wedding in 2008, this pregnancy, the birth and other first year baby sessions for Caprice (3 months, 7 months and 12 months).


Stay tuned. And Happy Mother’s Day to all of you wonderful women! Please share your birth story…