On Monday morning (veeeeery early), I got to witness my third birth (of someone other than my own child).
And, as a labor and delivery nurse once remarked to me while I was cooing over one of these new arrivals, "You know, I've been doing this for years...and it never gets old. Birth is always such a miracle."
It's funny how life pushes you in certain directions. For all of my life, I swore I would never, ever touch anything close to a medical profession---I always said I was too sensitive to the pain of others and that the thought of dealing with ALL parts of the human body grossed me out.
Preparing myself for an unmedicated childbirth before the delivery of my daughter, though, I embraced the fact that my body was literally built exactly for this purpose, and I went into the experience with little fear or trepidation. Although my own birth experience didn't quite go as I'd planned, I still marveled in the wonder of birth and the strength I gained from having my sister there to help me with it, and I was only too happy to offer myself as a birth coach to my friend when she had her first baby 3 months after I did.
Well, that same friend just had her second, and I had the great privilege to be there for her once again, this time as both a birth coach and a birth photographer.
I think sometimes that we put ourselves into self-limiting boxes by saying that we'll "never" try something or that a certain thing is "just not for us."
If you would have told me ten years ago that birth photography would be one of my all-time favorite kinds of photo shoots, I wouldn't have believed you for a second.
But that's exactly what has happened.
I once attended a lecture/demo given by an established newborn photographer who said something to the effect of this:
"Photographers---never forget the sacred trust that your clients have invested in you to capture some of their most precious moments in life. If you look back and think on all the days in your life that have meant the most of you, many married people will list first their wedding day, and then, if they are parents, they will list the days their kids were born. Never forget that you have been invited to participate in some of the most important hours of their life, and so do not take your responsibility lightly."
I have never forgotten that.
Her words have made it so that before each such momentous photo event, I always say several prayers, asking that my talent be magnified, that my eye for detail be keen, and that my thoughts and feelings will be sensitive in discerning what is most needed and what will be most appreciated.
With the births I've been fortunate enough to witness, I've acted in a dual role, both as a birth coach and as a photographer, and both roles have been fertile ground for personal growth and development.
It has been my experience in life that over the years, I am able to handle more and more and more. As a young missionary serving in El Salvador, my first companion and I had to help those we were serving with some very heavy burdens--a dear family was in danger of losing the girl they'd adopted years before, an older woman we'd visited countless times had just passed away, and we had just learned of the abuse faced by several of the young women in our branch while they were at school.
I remember feeling overwhelmed by all that we had just heard and felt powerless as to how to continue. I looked to my senior companion and basically said something to the effect of, "Well, you're the one in charge here. What are we going to do now?"
She replied back in utter honesty, "Hermana, I have no idea. I've never dealt with anything like this before, the same as you."
But as we slowly started working through everything going on, one prayer, one person, one hour at a time, we were both made strong enough to not only "deal with it," but to be the messengers of help we were supposed to be. And as I went on and became the senior companion and later a trainer on my mission, I was given more and more responsibility and, at times, heavier burdens still to carry upon my shoulders.
But because all my prior experiences had given me strength, I had become the woman I needed to be in those all-important situations as they came up.
But then I am blessed to have experiences that push me a little more than I'm used to, that make me get out of my self-limiting boxes just a little more, and I can see that perhaps some of my greatest service might come in places that were completely unthought of even just a few years ago.
I feel so honored to have friends who trust me enough to let me share this most sacred of experiences with them.
It really is something that will never get old, and it's something that helps make me a greater version of myself every time I'm blessed enough to participate in it.
You might also be interested in the post I did full of tips for birth coaches and dads-to-be here.