It’s been a little while since I last blogged a wedding, but I couldn’t resist putting together a collection of some of my favourites from Amanda and Matt’s gorgeous barn wedding. It was held at my new favourite venue – Hendall Manor Barns near Uckfield in Sussex. I absolutely loved every minute of it!
Everyone was a bit worried about what the weather would be like that day – it started off pretty grey and rainy but sure as anything, the sun came out and shined down on them all afternoon. Their guests were the most fun bunch of people I have come across. So much laughter… children running around on complete sugar highs… and what can I say about the dancing? Epic air guitar and every age group really letting their hair down on the dance floor. :)
I didn’t know this until the day of the wedding, but there was a point a few weeks before the big day that they may have had to postpone the celebrations. Amanda’s mum had a pretty awful accident and they weren’t sure if she was going to be well enough to attend. But she didn’t want to miss it for the world and was determined to recover enough. She did it! And the relief and appreciation for her being there was felt all day long.
Amanda and Matt, I wish you all the love, happiness and health for your future together. Thank you so much for having me there on the day to share in your day of love and laughter. x
Two years ago, I wrote a list of personal and professional goals that I wanted to achieve over the next few years. On this list, amongst a few other things was that I really wanted to photograph a birth. Last week, I finally did it. I had the honour of documenting the most incredible event I have ever been privileged to witness.
Birth photography isn’t very mainstream, but it is something that is becoming more popular. When my friend Liz became pregnant with her third child, she mentioned that she may consider the idea of having a photographer there for the birth. Liz is an awesome wedding photographer and therefore is in the business of capturing beautiful, emotional and life changing events. It makes sense that these values which are so important in her work should also be crucial in documenting her own life and momentous occasions. I jumped at the chance of being the photographer who would be there for her.
I don’t have children myself, and I have never been present at a birth before (other than my own obviously – strangely I don’t remember anything about that) so I didn’t know what to expect. I told myself that I should expect anything… That I should try to remain in the background, that I should be helpful and that I should be as quiet as possible. I also prepared myself that I might be faced with disappointment if Liz changed her mind about having me there or if the situation might mean that I wouldn’t be able to make it.
But last Thursday in the early hours, the call came. Liz had been induced and was in labour. Would I be able to come to Haywards Heath Hospital? I leapt out of bed – my camera gear was already packed. I drove quickly over to the hospital, nervously, trying to not let my emotions or my excitement get the better of me. I ran from the car to the labour ward. When I arrived, Liz was mid contraction and her husband Rich was by her side holding her hand and rubbing her back.
Liz and Rich had hoped for a home birth but because the doctor had decided to induce her, this meant that she would need to be in hospital. Shortly after I arrived, the midwife moved Liz over to a room with a birthing pool – This was something Liz had hoped she would be able to do at home so the next best thing was to have a water birth in the safety of the labour ward. Once in the pool, Liz seemed more comfortable… The warm water helped support her and eased the pain in her back. Liz went through several hours of increasingly painful contractions, with Rich as her rock by her side. They were both exhausted. They had been awake all night bar an hour or so. Rich was on the high energy drinks, Liz was on the gas and air. There was a point when the midwife seemed hopeful that things were progressing well and that she may give birth very soon.
On inspection, it seemed that things hadn’t progressed as well as everyone had hoped. Liz had endured hours and hours of excruciating pain and she started to think that the baby would never come out. It got to the point when the pain became too much and the decision was made to have an epidural. Liz was so so brave throughout. Rich managed to not faint! I watched silently from the corner of the room. The doctor made a Tommy Cooper joke. It was all quite surreal.
The next few hours that followed were spent monitoring Liz and how the baby was coping. At around 1pm the baby was less happy than previously and finally, the doctors made the call that an emergency caesarian was necessary. Liz and Rich had discussed this previously and had decided that if a c section was needed, Rich would not be able to watch without fainting and would therefore not be able to go into theatre with Liz. This meant that my role was suddenly not just photographer and friend, now I would become hand holder and moral support during the procedure. The midwife gave me some scrubs to put on.
I will never forget the look on Liz’s face as she lay there on the operating table with the curtain blocking her view. She looked at me and didn’t look away. She didn’t look scared, she looked calm and quietly determined not to let herself get scared. I was terrified. I hope that didn’t show. I felt so protective of Liz and so worried. I was told where I could stand so that I could hold Liz’s hand and also get a view of what was happening. I looked over the barrier several times before returning my gaze to Liz’s face and I reassured her that it all looked ok (What was ok? Was ok, lots and lots of blood? I didn’t think so but I didn’t let Liz know what I could see)
And then came that that sound. Before we could see him, we could hear him. The moment when everyone in the room smiles and relief washes over the surgeon, midwives, doctors, nurses… He cried. And in an instant they pulled him out into the world. I thought my heart would burst.
Time stood still for around ten seconds while they held him up and cut the cord – then it all went into hyperspeed again. Suddenly the team divided – half to look after the baby, the rest to care for a very poorly Mum. Liz lost a lot of blood but still she managed to hold her son for a few minutes before he was taken to meet his Dad… waiting anxiously outside the door. All of these moments were just so precious to see. The look in their eyes. Seeing him open his eyes for the first time and gaze into his Mum’s eyes. Seeing his tears vanish as he was held so close and comforted. Seeing his first skin to skin time with his Dad. The look of pride on his Dad’s face.
That day I will never ever forget. I have so much respect for Liz – for her incredible bravery and strength throughout. And to Rich for being such a calm and loving support. And the incredible staff at the Princess Royal Hospital – all of whom seem like superheros in my eyes now. I am not good with words… reading this account doesn’t even begin to describe the intensity of all the emotions felt that day.
My aim was to carefully and sensitively take photos throughout the whole process of labour through to that moment when a new, precious life enters the world. What I didn’t realise would happen, was that I would see parts of the birth experience that neither Liz or Rich would witness. For that reason, I feel more honored than words can describe. And I’m so glad that my camera could be their eyes… So that these photos can tell the story from where I was standing. This is the birth story of Tobias Joseph Harry Hankins. This is what I saw…
Thank you so so much Liz and Rich. For letting me witness this miracle and for letting me share the photos here. I wish you and your family all the health and happiness in the world. xxx
I’m just back from spending 5 days at Photography Farm near Dorking in Surrey. It’s been an amazingly inspiring experience of learning and being creative with lots of other photographers. I’m hoping to do another blog post showing all the wonderful things I got up to and all the lovely people I’ve been hanging out with. I took so many photos, it’s going to take me a little while to go through them all! For now, I can’t wait to show one or two photos of the beautiful Zoe who let me take some shots of her in the pool. Following a workshop with the incredible Brooke Davis, I felt very inspired to have some play time with my camera and asked Zoe if she would mind posing for me. I want to say a big thank you to her for being so brave and patient with me. And finally, a massive thanks to Lisa Devlin for having me there. What an amazing time. :)
I thought I would write a little post to summarise my best bits of 2013. Before I start I must give you a gush warning!
Well what can I say, 2013 you have been the best year of my life to date. :) Professionally I feel like my business has been growing from strength to strength. I photographed 26 wonderful weddings and met lots of lovely new people. I was awarded third place in a national photography competition – The Professional Photographer of the Year Awards – 50mm Category. And next year is looking even more exciting with the bookings I have in place. :)
Personally, my biggest highlight was our magical wedding in Provence surrounded by our loved ones. These kind of days only happen once and these beautiful memories will stay with me for the rest of my life. (Sorry for the soppiness but I did warn you) Oh, and our honeymoon… two weeks in paradise with My Love. Can I do this year again please?
Another personal achievement was undertaking and succeeding in doing a 365 project. My aim was to take a portrait every day for a year. It was hard work at times, some days I really didn’t want to leave the house but I’m so glad I made the effort. They’re not masterpieces but the point is that I have pushed myself and it has changed the way that I look at the world. I am having an exhibition to show the photos in Gallery 40 in Brighton. It will be open from Friday 7th – Saturday 15th March 2014. Please come along if you’re in the area. :) I would like to thank all my lovely family, friends, clients and the wonderful strangers I met along the way. I made a little video slideshow of my efforts and I feel proud looking back on it. Have a look if you have the time… It goes on for a bit. ;)