when animals give birth, most of them will find a quiet, dark place to be absolutely alone as they labor and deliver their young.
but human women are different. from ages past, women in labor have always been surrounded. usually by other women, often women who are family, or who are a part of the mother's larger community. this "birth team" comes around her, offering their hands to soothe, support, and serve. the community of women (and some men) give themselves to the practical work of preparing space for the birth and for the baby. they prepare foods and drinks to replenish the laboring mama or to celebrate the birth of the new baby. they offer their strength for the mama to lean on, their strong arms to apply counter-pressure, their hands to massage strained muscles and soothe sweaty foreheads. and, perhaps most of all, they will simply be with the mama, sitting quietly, trusting of the process, offering their silent vote of confidence.
throughout time WHO we have with us when we labor and give birth has changed and expanded, and now includes a wide variety of helpers of the mother's choosing: husbands or partners, male or female OBs, medical students, doulas, midwives, friends, or their own mothers... but you will rarely meet a woman who has labored alone.
recently, i volunteered to photograph the first ever birth that was taking place at Cedar Tree Birth and Wellness, with Simply Born's amazing team of midwives and midwifery students. though i had to leave before the baby was actually born (hardest thing to do EVER), i'm finding that the story of the images i captured that night is about loving support, the surrounding of a laboring mother by wise women and one good man (her husband).
i'm not at liberty to release all the images, and i'll keep her face covered for now, but i want to share a few frames that embody the theme of "surrounded"....
to all you mamas-to-be: may you also be surrounded with such patient, attentive presence... on your labor/birthing day and beyond!