Imperative Nudity: Why Showing Uncensored Birth is Necessary
Occasionally someone will bring to my attention that the images I choose to share show a lot of exposed nipple and/or vulva. “It’s not necessary,” someone might say, “is that for shock value? There are lots of birth photographers that keep it modest.” Yes, I’m well aware of the fact that it’s possible to document (most) births using creative angles that conceal breasts and genitals. There are clients that want that, too. Together, they are a match made in heaven, two peas in a PG-rated pod.
But that simply isn't me.
Do I do it on purpose? Yeah, I confess, I actually do. I personally think it's necessary.
First of all, I hate double standards. I can go to the pool and all around me there will be topless men with their nipples exposed, and not a single person gives a second thought to that. But a woman?! Oh no, no. Put a nipple on a woman and suddenly it’s highly inappropriate. Hell, it isn’t even acceptable to cover that nipple with a suckling baby, lest you be accused of trying to seduce men away from their wives with your hungry child.
Even setting aside my own personal opinion regarding the ridiculous idea that male and female nipples should be categorized differently, there's a great need for education surrounding birth. Much like the need for quality, fact-based sex education, information about birth, what it can look like, and what your options are is in high demand. So many women enter their own birth room having never seen the birth of a baby, the mechanics of which they can't quite comprehend even as they're laboring to bring their own child earthside. It is said that you fear that which you do not understand, so it's no wonder there is so much fear surrounding birth. How can you understand something you've never seen, that's hardly even spoken of? How did the topic of one of the most beautiful, transformative, and everyday human experiences become so taboo?
Additionally, birth is primal. While the experience is different for all birthing people, in many cases there is no room for modesty. It’s part of the process. It’s not uncommon for women to shed their clothing as labor intensifies. It is my goal to depict birth authentically, not to only show happy, clean, stereotypically “picture-perfect” moments lifted from the whole of the experience. In birth, there is pain, there is elation, there is blood, sweat, tears, amniotic fluid and yes — nudity. In my eyes, ALL of this is picture-perfect. Which leads into my third reason,
Mamas, please. I worry that if the clean, pretty, & modest depictions of birth are not balanced with the unapologetically raw, gritty, messy, primal and NAKED side of birth, some of you may become preoccupied with the way you look during labor, birth, or postpartum, concerned that you're not living up to the birth world version of "Instagram Life," and I'm not about to contribute to that. I know just how much of an impact these images can make. Get naked. Be free. Focus only on connecting with your baby. It's all normal, healthy, and beautiful just the way it is.
After sharing a condensed version of this to my Instagram feed, I was flooded with feedback affirming what I already knew to be true. Here are some of the responses I received:
Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment, knowing that I'm making an impact for even just one person is motivation enough to keep pushing forward. Your support means more to me than you'll ever know!
As always, all featured images are shared with express permission from the families.