For the past three years, Jackie Dives has been a doula, a person who provides physical as well as emotional support during childbirth. She started photographing home births almost by accident, she simply had her camera with her at the very first birth she attended. As she says, "Combining doula work with my passion for photography has been an amazing adventure."
She continues, "Photographing a home birth is my favorite type of birth to photograph because it is usually very peaceful and comfortable. At a home birth, the couple has chosen exactly who they want to have present, so they are able to be themselves, which I believe is a very important part of birthing, especially for the mother. I feel so honored to be invited to capture this time with a family. Literally seeing a being come into the world is quite special, and to be asked to document that moment in time, is the pinnacle of documentary photography for me. Usually, when I am photographing a birth I am also very involved in the experience. It's definitely up close and personal, which I love."
Recently, Jackie shot a series of photographs that can only be described as both beautiful and intense. In one of the first photos, you see the soon-to-be mother, named Julia, playing the piano while her sister massages her back, overcome with emotion. As Dives writes on her blog, "When I arrived at this home birth Mama was playing the piano. The mood was peaceful, with candles lit and soft music on in the background. Mama was surrounded by love. Her partner, her doula, and two of her sisters were there, caring for her."
"Her strength brought tears to her sister's eyes."
The series continues with Julia getting into a birth pool as her partner, Cris, helps her to breath deeply. Two more sisters arrive just as the baby is about to be born, and then, grandmother and grandfather join the party as they all experience the first moments with baby Katherine.
When asked what she hopes others take away from this series, Jackie told us this, "The main reason I think it's important to share these images with the public is that the average woman of childbearing age isn't aware that a birth like this is even possible. Sadly, most women fear birthing. I want them to know that there are other possibilities out there. I want people to know that it's safe to birth at home. I want them to see a birth pool, to see midwives. I want them to start asking questions and become educated on birthing."