The Pandemic Surrogacy Birth Photos that I DIDN’T get to shoot

April 23, 2020

Lately I’ve been learning a lot of embracing the imperfect in photography – sometimes the emotion demands something beyond technical perfection.

This is a story about the Birth that I didn’t get to photograph because of a Pandemic, and about the time Beauty came despite nothing going as planned.

“The images were technically ALL wrong, but the content was emotionally SO beautiful.”


When this couple reached out to me about shooting the birth of their child via a gestational surrogate, I was so excited. From our talks, I knew that this intended mother really understood the value of having photos of the birth.

They planned a beautiful birth. The ideal hospital was chosen. An induction date was set. Relationships were built and nurtured. The surrogate mother, the intended (biological) parents, the Doula, and me – the birth photographer – all to be present. The surrogate’s biological children (who cared very much for “baby bean”) getting to meet the baby. Community.

And then. Then the world turned upside down. EVERYTHING changed.
No Doula. No Birth Photographer. A different Hospital. New Doctors. Different date. No visitors. Only one person allowed with the surrogate during the birth (the intended mother). The father only allowed in after baby has arrived.

I can’t imagine how devastating that is for the families involved. Yet they stayed positive and had amazing attitudes! I myself was grieved and left feeling helpless but determined to help.

So we made a plan. I could still be a part of this! I couldn’t shoot the photos, but I COULD edit them, and teach the intended mom how to shoot them. We spent an hour setting up her camera together via Facetime. I showed her some essential things and we discussed having her teach the nurse in turn.

That didn’t go as planned either.
The birth was quick. There was no time to instruct the nurse. No time to get photos of baby being born. A nurse did grab the camera and capture some moments, thankfully, – but she didn’t know the focus was on manual.
And somehow, accidentally, the file format for the photos got changed.

Missed focus. Over-exposed. Wrong format. More things to overcome.
This time, it was all on me, and I felt an weight of the importance of getting it right.

The images were technically all wrong, but the content was emotionally SO SO SOOOO BEAUTIFUL. In fact – I would say they were perfect.

The Corona virus has interrupted the birth plans of so many women globally. I didn’t get to attend this birth, and grieve for others I am not able to photograph. But I’m also learning about the nature of beauty – about seeing good even amongst the chaos.

Now, more than ever before, I feel the absolute importance of these images of baby’s first moments. I am so motivated that every woman should be able to have her child’s birth captured by a professional photographer. I only wish I were classified as an essential service.

Maternity Photos by Elisabeth of Lacewood Studios (myself)
Labour Images by Shelly Maynard and Birth/Newborn Photos by Nurse Ashley Friers. Used with Permission.


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