In the delivery room: Mom, Dad, nurse, and...photographer?

Parenting trends never cease to surprise and, apparently, neither do photographers in the delivery room. Hospitals are now allowing photographers into birthing centers (at the family's request) to document the intimate process. 

Craig Schreiner/Wisconsin State Journal/AP
Parenting trend of 2012: hiring a photographer to document your childbirth. Professional photographer Beth Skogen documents Holly and Jordan Buell of Oregon, Wis., during Holly's labor Sept. 4, 2012, at Meriter Hospital in Madison, Wis. Their son, Brixton, was born Sept. 5.

Decades ago, the only people likely in the delivery room during childbirth were the mother and medical staff.

These days the number of people invited to witness the blessed event is expanding, with some families hiring a professional photographer to document labor, delivery and everything in between.

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"People don't hesitate to have a photographer for their wedding," said Holly Buell of Oregon, who hired professional photographer Beth Skogen to document the birth of her son. "(Childbirth) is just something I just never want to forget," she told the Wisconsin State Journal before her son was born. "Even if it is painful and the labor is really hard, I think that's a part of my life that I will want to look back on and have some kind of documentation of."

Now, thanks to Ms. Skogen, Ms. Buell and her husband Jordan have a DVD with images documenting Brixton's entry into the world on Sept. 5.

"It went really well, and Jordan and I both couldn't be happier with how the pictures turned out," Buell said of having a birth photographer.

Locally, a handful of photographers and doulas offer birth photography. Area hospital officials say it's not common, but not unheard of, either, to have a professional snapping shots in the delivery room. At Meriter Hospital, birth photographers are allowed in the birthing center, which includes the delivery rooms and operating rooms, if agreed to by the provider and the patient. St. Mary's Hospital also allows professional photographers in the delivery room, but they can't follow the mother into an operating room.

More people are creating an experience around their child's birth, and increasingly, that includes birth photography, said Lea Wolf, a local doula and birth photographer. "The interest definitely has been picking up, even in the last six to nine months."

Ms. Wolf, of Lea Wolf Birth Photography and Doula Services, offers some photography as part of her doula services but also has done about a dozen stand-alone birth photography sessions in the last four and a half years. As professional birth photos become more common, those images help people realize childbirth isn't always how it's portrayed in the media — as frantic and scary, she said.

"I think birth photography has the power to capture the emotion, the relationships and the wonder of it."

Still, birth photography has been a bit of a "slow grow" in Madison.

Angela Voell, owner of Green Paint Photography, started offering the service about a year ago and has only had one inquiry since. But she agrees that as families read testimonials and see professional childbirth images, the concept will catch on.

So often photography is about recording a moment that was created, said Ms. Voell, who primarily does wedding photography.

In contrast, "birth photography is really about observing the natural events and not creating them," she said. "I find nothing but art and beauty in those moments."

Buell admits at first she was apprehensive about a photographer being in the delivery room during such an intimate time. But after seeing some of Skogen's tasteful but dramatic images and reading the testimonials, she felt more comfortable.

Plus, she wanted her husband's undivided attention.

"I want you holding my hand, or taking in the experience of your first child being born," Buell said she told her husband. "I don't want you fussing with a camera."

Skogen, who owns Capturing Day One as part of her photography business, has photographed about a dozen births since 2009.

Most have been at hospitals, but she's also photographed one at Madison Birth Center and an at-home water birth.

"It's very emotional," Skogen said of her job. "I've seen quite a few (births) now, I know what to expect. (But) I feel for them every single time."

Her fee ranges from $800 to $1,000 depending on the albums and images the family orders.

At minimum she guarantees being on call during the estimated due dates, being in the delivery room three to four hours before the birth and staying with the family for about two hours after the baby is born.

So far most of the action has happened in the middle of the night, so "I always have my phone right next to me ... on loud," said Skogen, who has a journalism degree from University of Iowa. "The longest birth I was at was 14 hours."

Childbirth photos can be graphic, but most photos from Skogen could be shown to a woman's father-in-law.

"I work around the situation and I'm very careful to what I'm shooting," she said.

She said many moms especially are interested in the labor photos and tell her "I don't remember any of that." Skogen also asks in advance if families want photos of the "baby coming out" — and even those are tastefully done.

"In being a storyteller, I love capturing the whole event," she said. "If I just got (photos) of the baby afterward, I'd feel like I'm missing too much."

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For the Buells — the photo of Brixton being delivered is one that took their breath away.

Skogen's picture is just of Brixton's head coming out and he's looking right at the camera, eyes wide open, Holly Buell said. "Even if we did get a picture of that somehow ... I don't think it would have been as stunning of a picture."

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