By: Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP & Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP
The birth of your baby will undoubtedly be a momentous occasion—one worthy of capturing for posterity (if you are so inclined). However, it's one thing to envision the perfect photo (or video) of your baby's grand entrance in the delivery room and another to actually get it. Also worthy of consideration is figuring out exactly how much of "the moment" you want to capture, how you're going to go about doing it, and how much of it you intend to share with others.
Plan ahead. If and when you fall into delivery preparedness mode and pack your suitcase in anticipation of your trip to labor and delivery, don't forget to charge whichever photographic device you hope to use (and bring along any chargers, batteries, memory cards, or other accessories they may require, if you opt for anything more than the camera on your phone). Even beyond showing up with your phone or other camera equipment of choice, we suggest you take a few minutes between breathing exercises and obstetrician appointments to discuss a simple photographic game plan.
First and foremost, be sure to find out if your hospital has photographic restrictions. If there are any, you'll want to factor them in as you think about your photographic goals. If you've got your heart set on capturing a particular shot, the odds of getting it will be better if you make your wishes known ahead of time to whomever you plan on having in the delivery room with you. Don't forget to figure out a place to keep your camera of choice that's out of the way but easily accessible. While all this advance planning may seem a little extreme to some of you (especially those of you less "into" photography than we are), trust us when we say the resulting photos will speak for themselves.
Delegate. Maybe you don't consider yourself much of a photographer, or have no desire to rise to the occasion and focus your efforts on capturing the moment. Or, you may just anticipate having too many other things on your mind when you deliver. If this describes you, then, we (and the realities of childbirth) suggest you delegate. If you plan on having family or friends in the delivery room, pick one you consider to be the best photographer and who's least likely to be overcome with emotion when it's time to push the button, click the shutter, or start the video rolling. Then clarify which shots you hope to have captured when all is said and done. Also make sure your designated photographer is comfortable using whichever camera equipment you plan to have on hand, as well as prepared to charge it, swap out memory cards, or replace batteries.
In short, the delivery room isn't a great place to sit down for the first time and attempt to figure out someone else's phone or the latest in digital photography and technology.
Use discretion. You don't have to have gone through labor and delivery or witnessed a baby being born before to realize there's not a whole lot of privacy involved in the process. That does not, however, mean you can't control the degree of exposure evident in the commemorative photographs. I'm sure you all know what we're talking about because you inevitably have to give at least some thought to how to take pictures of a baby being born without getting what seems crude to say, but has nonetheless been best described as, the infamous "crotch shot."
Fathers-to-be (or other family members or friends) who might otherwise find themselves caught up in the moment often do well in their role as photographer. Just make sure you've not only delegated the job ahead of time, but made it very clear what you do and do not want to see revealed in the family photo album or posted online for all of eternity. The fact that digital photographs can quickly and easily be edited or cropped helps, but you'll still want to make sure ahead of time that nothing gets shared socially without your approval first.
Consider composition. Now you may be thinking to yourself, "Who has the time to consider composition? I'm just focused on maintaining some degree of composure." But that's why it's worth mentioning the concept to you now and not in the delivery room. After all, many new parents have regretted not discussing photographic discretion in advance of the big event, much less having the designated photographer give some quick thought to such photographic challenges as the fact that open curtains on a bright sunny day can ruin even the best new baby pictures. How much forethought you choose to devote to this subject will depend purely on how important the photographic end result is to you.
The perfect pose: cutting the cord
Long before I (Laura) went into labor, someone suggested I try to take a photo of my baby on the delivery room scale so I could use it for the birth announcement. Having made that a personal goal, I instructed my husband to keep track of our camera and to give it to me as soon as I delivered. Little did I expect to find myself with camera in hand well before my son made his way to the scale—in time to snap photos of my squawking baby in the obstetrician's arms as his father did the honors on the cord. Thrilled with what I considered to be the ultimate once-in-a-lifetime photo, I decided to try again with my next child. Two years later, I ended up with an even better photo of my husband cutting the cord—this time complete with a clock in the immediate background bearing witness to the momentous event.
Digital distribution. There's no question that as a society, we're now fully embedded in the digital age. When it comes to sharing the joyous news (and photos and videos and texts and tweets) of your baby's birth, this means the opportunity to do so almost instantaneously. That said, we recommend you figure out your game plan ahead of time.
Some parents prefer the good old-fashioned method of compiling an email list ahead of time and sending out an email announcing the arrival. Others find it easier and faster to post photos and updates on Facebook, upload photos to photo-sharing websites, or make use of Twitter, Instagram, or any of the rapidly multiplying, ready-made venues for sharing news with accompanying photographic documentation. For those who are digitally adept and so inclined, you can even create your baby's first digital footprint in the form of a dedicated web page or blog—ideally spending some time setting it up before you get preoccupied with new parenthood.
Video. It used to be that a new video recorder topped just about every expectant parent's wish list. Nowadays, with almost every smartphone equipped with impressive video capabilities, the most important decision is whether you want to record the events of the delivery room or ban all live coverage of the event. This is purely a matter of personal preference. Just remember that the considerations we discussed for photographs in the delivery room apply to video as well—only more so.
Unless you plan on doing a whole lot of editing, whoever is in charge of filming should be well versed in discretionary limits, not to mention the use of common sense when deciding when to put the camera down and get out of the way. If nothing else, we will close by once again suggesting you put a ban on instant uploading because it is our firm belief that those being filmed as the events of delivery unfold should have the ultimate say (as well as absolute veto power) when it comes to sharing the associated sights and sounds.
About Dr. Jana
Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician and mother of 3 with a faculty appointment at the Penn State University Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center. She is the author of more than 30 parenting and children's books and serves as an early childhood expert/contributor for organizations including the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Primrose Schools, and
US News & World Report. She lives in Omaha, NE.
About Dr. Shu
Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP serves as the medical editor of HealthyChildren.org and provides oversight and direction for the site in conjunction with the staff editor. Dr. Shu is a practicing pediatrician at Children's Medical Group in Atlanta, Georgia, and she is also a mom. She earned her medical degree at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond and specialized in pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. Her experience includes working in private practice, as well as working in an academic medical center. She served as director of the normal newborn nursery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. Dr. Shu is also co-author of
Food Fights and
Heading Home with Your Newborn published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).