We spend nine long months impatiently awaiting the arrival of a baby – and then suddenly he or she is here, and the first day is over in a flash. Yet while we tend to plan births to the finest detail, we don’t always put a lot of thought into how best to record the day. And if there’s a day in our lives we want to remember with pinpoint precision, this is it.
Sydney birth photographer Anna Todd has been capturing labours and babies’ first moments for three years. “During the birth, (mums) get into a zone and don’t realise what their partner’s doing and the midwife or doula’s doing, and it can be quite healing for that story to be pulled together (by photos),” she says. “You draw up a birth plan because you want this or hope for that, but not everyone thinks about photos.”
She says it’s ideal for couples to have someone else in the room to take photos straight after the delivery – be it a relative, friend, midwife or professional photographer. “Whether it’s a birth photographer, or they have chosen their mother or sister or best friend, have a list of the things you want and give them the list and the camera,” she says.
Here are Anna’s top tips for photos to take in your baby’s first hours. These wonderful images were taken for Sydney couple Leanne and Chris Johnson, who welcomed baby son Jude on January 4 this year.
1. Parents’ first emotions
“This is when they are handed the baby and they are just looking at him or her. It’s more mum and dad looking at the baby, not necessarily a photo of the baby,” Anna says.
2. Mum’s joy
“One of my favourites is the elation and relief of mum. It’s because a few moments ago she was mid-contraction – it’s that pure relief and raw emotion. Sometimes they are so overwhelmed and cry; some are just peaceful and quiet; others are just plain exhausted,” Anna says.
3. Time and date
This may sound obvious but you have to be quick off the mark, because that time of birth quickly slips by amid the chaos. “The clock – that’s always hard to remember when you’re crying,” says Anna.
4. Parents’ triumph
“The glance between mum and dad, of them looking at each other and going, ‘We did it, that’s amazing’,” says Anna.
5. Parents gazing at their new creation
“The photo of mum, dad and baby together. There’s this lovely quiet time when everything’s calm and they sit there together, almost interlocked, and say, ‘We made this perfect little person, he’s got your eyes, he’s got my nose’. They are in their own little bubble.”
6. First skin-to-skin with mum
Anna says she loves taking photos of mum’s first hold and breastfeed.
7. Baby’s first eye contact
“Although their eyesight is yet to focus clearly, that look when baby looks towards mum’s face and voice … they have this look of, ‘Oh, I know you. you’re that voice I’ve been listening to from the inside’. It’s quite magical.”
8. Dad’s first cuddle
“These are some of the most beautiful photos I’ve taken,” says Anna. “The cord is cut and the mother, after nine months of bonding with the baby, finally gets to hand him or her over to dad. Sometimes mum find it physically hard to let go. But dad holding the baby, that’s pretty special, especially if they are a first-time dad.”
9. Baby’s details
“Baby’s hands, feet, lips, hair, ears, all that creamy vernix, those baby details. Measurements, getting weighed,” says Anna. “Babies change by the minute in those first few hours. How they look from their first few minutes earthside to their second hour is quite remarkable.”
10. Announcing the new arrival
“One of my favourites is dad calling the grandparents – it’s nearly always dad,” says Anna. “Usually mum’s sitting there breastfeeding and they get on the mobile and and you hear the reaction on the phone. Announcing that to family members is pretty special. They always get this amazing reaction on the other end.”
11. Meeting siblings
“If there are siblings involved, many of my clients want this photo,” she says. Expect the unexpected though: “Quite often parents are surprised with the reaction – you don’t know what it’s going to be. I captured a home birth a couple of years ago and the two older siblings were there. The kids were 11 and eight and their reaction was incredible during the birth. Afterwards, some of the best photos I have are of them meeting the baby.”
12. Meeting extended family
13. First family portrait with new addition
(images via Anna Todd Photography)