Cultural birth photography at Woman’s Hospital was a new experience for me at this birth session. But, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my work as a birth photographer, it’s that motherhood is a universal language. It ties us all together with common experiences–despite differences in the tongues that we speak.
I met Hajir through my association with Hands Producing Hope, a nonprofit empowering refugee women and their families. I know she was elated at the prospect of having images of her second little girl’s birth! From the moment I met her, though, I knew that I would be the privileged one.
Hajir was the very definition of cheerful. She’s one of those people whom it’s a literal joy to be around! She and her family came to the US from Iraq two years ago, working hard to get here. They worked even harder once they arrived, settling into their new life. This would be her first baby here in the US, and she knew there would be so many differences between this birth and her last. She worried.
Just as any mother does.
When the day came for her baby to arrive, we arrived together at the hospital. It was humbling and amazing, how well she and her husband navigated the whole process. Checking in to the hospital, they answered the important medical questions, and navigated all of the decisions to be made to determine the path her baby’s entrance into the world would take. I won’t say that I was surprised at all. But it was humbling to recognize how much more difficult even the simplest of processes are when English is not your first language.
So much is taken for granted when brochures and signs and forms are designed for us – and it was inspiring, watching Hajir navigate it all with grace in the middle of the chaos of childbirth. She carefully and considerately made the decisions that were right for her and her baby.
Just as any mother does.
In the time we spent waiting for Hajir’s baby girl to take the path that babies have been making for eons, I was privileged to spend time getting to know her family. Her husband related their story of coming here to America, and the challenges that came along with it. I learned that they spoke several languages between them, well enough to navigate living entire lives in various countries. At that point, I was painfully aware that the only language other than my own that I’m fluent in is the drive-through menu at Taco Bell.
I learned that Hajir and her family were full to the brim with hard-working, humble, and thankful people who have that magical ability to make everyone around them feel like family. We all waited in excitement and anticipation.
With, of course, a little bit of impatience thrown in.
In the in-between moments, the grandmothers and the aunties and the cousins chatted and they planned. They guessed at weight and features, soothed and fussed and comforted.
As any mother does.
When Jana finally made her entrance into the world, pink and vocal and healthy, she stole the hearts of everyone. Just as any baby does.
Her father fell head over heels in love with her at first sight. “I always wanted a girl,” he told me. “I never wanted a boy – girls are special.” Carefully, like a man who has done this before, he brushed his eldest daughter’s long hair. He fastened it with a bow, so that she would look her best for her introduction to her new sibling. Together, they explored soft, silky baby hair. They touched wrinkly little toes, and introduced themselves in reverent tones filled with love and appreciation for the sacredness of this moment.
There was no containing the smiles on the faces of any family member in the room. Hajir held her newest girl and gathered her eldest to her side, and the feeling of joy in new life which filled the room was truly universal.
I began the day thinking of all of the things that may make this birth different. I wanted to navigate new territory with understanding and respect.
In the end, though, the truly important things were never any different at all.
Want to find out more about booking your own birth story? Click here to find out more about what I do in my work as a birth photographer. I have experience in cultural birth photography at Woman’s hospital, as well as so much more!