I have caught tears. I have held hands. I have stroked the hair, of mothers and children. I have embraced new dads. I have prayed with and over families, and unborn babies. I have held my breath during contractions. I have begged God for a miracle. I have prayed earnestly on the way to births praying I can bring a little bit of light and hope with my presence. I have prayed earnestly on the way home, for the mothers transitions into the next chapter. I have slept in corners, on hospital floors and chairs. I have driven hundreds of miles. I have rushed to births, arriving seconds to spare. I have belly laughed with fathers to be, and danced, rocking out or swaying through contractions with mamas. I have created playlists, diffused oils, and fetched water in coffee pots to fill a birth tub. I have taught yoga poses, and rebozo techniques. I have wrapped pregnant bellies, and touched toes that were smaller then a pen tip. I have counted eyelashes, and rocked babies who's mom needed a break. I have taught swaddles, and calmed fears, and spoken life. I have stayed at births for days, and lived on vending machine food meanwhile. I have called doulas, and helped doulas, and acted in a missing doula's place. I have assured worried grandmas. I have woken up at midnight, 2 am, 4 am. I have attended false alarms, and routinely deal with "missing a call" phobia and anxiety. I have held up a mothers leg while she pushed with all her might. I have witnessed the first tears that rolled down a fathers face when his baby finally cried for the first time. I have been splashed with amniotic fluid, fluffed pillows, whispered lullabies to mama's who needed just a second of rest. I have rushed a mama to the hospital seconds before she delivered. I have advocated. I have cried. I have screamed in my car. I have smiled for days straight after an empowering birth. I am a birth worker.
I have captured once in a lifetime moments. I have captured the splash of amniotic fluid as a baby enters the world. I have captured a great-great-great-grandmother holding a just born babe in her time weathered hands. I have captured moments after a cesarean lotus birth. I have captured, frozen in time countless miracles. I have captured support, strength, beauty, and sorrow. I have captured a mother staring down an empty hallway, seconds from being carted to the NICU to see her babe for the first time. I have captured moments in miscarriage, and a babies perfect body that was less then 12 weeks old, born encaul and perfect. I have captured the indescribable joy on a mothers face post birth, countless times, as she realizes she did it. I have captured home birth, hospital birth, epidurals, cesarean birth, unassisted birth. Empowerment, fear, loneliness, faith. Siblings, grandfathers, husbands, birth workers. I am a birth photographer.
My favorite moments are impossible to number. I claim every birth will have an impact on my life for years to come, because each and every single one of them stands out in my memories- and that's saying something because I had a terrible memory until I started birth work.
How does one process so much life, so much adrenaline, so much emotion? I tip my hats to birth workers who do this every day. I am merely several dozen births in, which feels like nothing, but also everything.
My 'off-time' looks like anyone else's. Grocery trips, and tantrum soothing. Bread making, and phone checking. Phone checking again, and the occasional panic wake up in the middle of the night, sure i'v missed a birth, only to find out its only been 20 minutes since iv fallen asleep. I spend hours on my computer, blogging and mentoring, reassuring panicked mothers, laughing with overdue ones, editing, website tweaking, marketing. Most of all learning. I soak up every birth podcast I can, I am currently working through "the informed pregnancy podcast (my favorite) by Dr. Berlin, as I do dishes, and run errands, and make mini road trips. I listen to everyone I meet with an open mind. I routinely change and reframe my mind as new points of view, or new informations are presented to me. I have attended training on childcare, newborn care, newborn resurrection(disclaimer: this is not a service I claim to offer) PMADS(perinatal mood and anxiety disorders), postpartum care, evidence based birth and more. (Disclaimer: I do not provide any medical services, I am not a midwife or medical professional)
I crave more! I snatch up every free training I can, and am saving up ( and fundraising!) for some more intense ones. I catered to 27 families in need this last year with donation based birth services. And now I am building an empire. A brand. A history. I plan to change the world, and know however short I fall of that goal will be more then enough to make me proud one day.
I am creating a business that will thrive and support my family out of any oppression of finance we fall into. All while homeschooling my son, supporting my husband, and staying steady in my faith (with routine fall on my face moments and mistakes of course) I am learning sign language, and Spanish, to better be able to serve and connect with mothers and their families. I am pursuing my doula certification, and will be attending workshops for that soon- along with other training's on every aspect of mother care.
That's where I am. To say I am dedicated to birth, to birth mothers, to this job, is an understatement. I enjoy every second of the work I do. As soon as I stop enjoying something, I know I have to change it and do something else or do it in a way that I will enjoy. I work smart, not hard. Hard too, but mostly smart.
With all of this dedication, comes true heartbreak. Balancing it is the hardest part of my job. I wish, with more bones then I have in my body, that I could... what? I don't know. Make birth magical for everyone. Change disparities. Bring babies back to life. Stop violence in the birth space. Make birth safe for everyone. Remove the overuse of interventions to only be utilized when truly needed. Change stigmas. Make everyone care for the mothers in their life. Make hospitals put their patients first. Bring light and understanding to PMADS. I wish I could change everything, and nothing, heal everyone. Work with every mother who needs a friend, or needs to see her strength mirrored back to her. This is the heart of an empathetic birth worker speaking freely!
I want to say more, do more, change more, help more. I spend so much time envisioning and trying to execute plans to help. But the truth is, no matter how much I give, we live in a broken world. With a broken system. Death is part of life. Pain is part of joy. And more often then not, I can not do anything to change or control any part of birth. Not any part of it. God can, and I routinely ask him to, but I alone can not. There will always be something to fix.
But instead of letting that break me... I let it be. Going through my own miscarriage this last year, has taught me so deeply how little control I have, and how to truly make peace with things and let them be. I still get angry when I see a mother treated unfairly, and I still break down when a situation is too heavy. But I don't let them break me. I let them fuel me.
Because of this broken world, I can offer hope. Healing. A tiny slice of peace. For every tear I capture, there is a laugh. For every broken heart, another is soaring. There is balance. There is peace. There is Jesus and salvation and healing even on this earth. There is value in the breaking points, in the pain, in the lessons. Even in the hardest stories, there is beauty to be found. And THAT is what my work is about.
Capturing the strength in moments they feel week. Honoring the space, creating magic where there is none to be seen. Pulling out the silver linings, and illuminating the love on every mothers heart and face. Telling stories, connecting one mother to another through powerful imagery that has the power to change hearts and open minds. Listening, never judging, being the ear or shoulder they need and may never get in their own lives. Capturing and honoring the bonds of femininity through generations of lineage. Giving the fathers a hand. Offering up a prayer. Using what I have to support and lift up them all.
Not in spite of the brokenness but because of it. Because it makes us human. It connects us all, none of us is without pain. And everyone can find courage and connection and brotherhood or sisterhood within sharing these stories. There are so many stories and lessons and causes I want to share. I will speak from stage one day and soften hearts and inspire minds. But for now my stories are shared here, in this beautiful space I have cultivated.
I am a birth worker. A mother. A friend. A photographer. A storyteller. I have big dreams, and I keep all of this, I keep the prayers, the hands, the tears, the laughs, the newborns cries, the fathers pride, the mothers rest, my own experiences... I weave it all into a beautiful quilt of photos that tells each story as honestly and respectably as I can.
I hold your space. I hold space for you. I hold space for me, and for every women with or without a voice. Not fixing, but holding, honoring, remembering, keeping.
I am a birth keeper. Yours, and mine, and whoever needs me next.
I am a birth keeper.
And this song will forever be my call.
-Leann Allen, your Wildwood Birthkeeper