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The Many Faces of Labor: 25 Powerful Photos of Women Giving Birth

By ceridwen |

Laughter, tears, struggle, sleep… Labor is all that!

Labor is more of a journey than an event. In fact, it can be downright trippy.

It can be hard. It can be exciting. It can include boredom, laughter, frustration, relief, and/or sleep. It might be relentless or energizing. Often both, at different times. The very hardest part of labor pushes a woman to a place she didn’t know possible–all of this comes right before the actual birth which can bring joy, relief, tears, shock, revelation.

Women go through so many (often contradictory) emotions and sensations in hospitals with IVs, at home in the tub, with epidurals or during a water birth, in the O.R. or at a birthing center. No matter how a baby is born a mother is challenged and when she rises to that challenge, she shows us both incredible strength and vulnerability.

I am in awe of all the women pictured here. And I’m pretty impressed with the photographers, too! Most of them are professional photographers and doulas, some are labor partners. Scanning through hundreds of images of women’s faces in labor was, not surprisingly, incredibly moving. Here are 25 of my absolute favorites. nggallery id=’113926′

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About ceridwen

ceridwen

ceridwen

Ceridwen Morris is a writer, mother, and certified childbirth educator. She is the author of several books and screenplays, including (Three Rivers; 2007). She serves on the board of The Childbirth Education Association of Metropolitan New York and teaches at Tribeca Parenting in New York City. Read bio and latest posts → Read Ceridwen's latest posts →

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43 thoughts on “The Many Faces of Labor: 25 Powerful Photos of Women Giving Birth

  1. Nadia says:

    This is absolutely beautiful. It moved me to tears! I can’t wait to go into labor, which should be any day now!
    http://www.fitandpreggers.com

  2. melanie (beautiful beginnings) says:

    thanks for featuring us! love the article!

  3. Paula says:

    oh this is absolutely beautiful! I’m in tears right now.. it’s such an emotional experience, of faith, sacrifice and undying love… it’s beyond words.

    my little baby turned two a few weeks ago, and I still remember every second of that day I was in labor for 21 hours, and he was born to this world shining new everlasting light on all of us, his father and I crying from pure happiness and uncontainable love…

    http://www.treschicmama.com

  4. Nicole says:

    Those were beautiful. I couldn’t help but start to tear up. Then agai, that could be the 34 week pregnant hormones….

  5. Annie says:

    That was so beautiful. My regret is i allowed no one to photograph me while in labor with my two boys. Maybe third time is the charm.

  6. Joy says:

    These are so beautiful…they make me SO incredibly jealous. I wanted to have a water birth at a birthing center but I ended up with pretty severe PIH. I was a wreck while in labor, I was so out of it because of the mag sulfate drip I was on. Then after 26 hours of labor and 3 of pushing, my baby was immediately whisked off to the NICU…so no “gorgeous wrinkly brand new baby on mom’s chest” picture for me (which was what I was wanting so badly, right behind wanting a healthy baby) :( Hopefully, next time around will be better.

  7. Sweetpea says:

    Geez the pictures of me after I had my kids, I’m a wreck. Hair everywhere, tear streaked face, oxygen mask on, weird, sallow bruises under my eyes from fatigue, chapped, bloody lips.I must not have been doing it right.

  8. Mandy says:

    I agree with Sweetpea I had the oxygen mask , red swollen eyes, sweat soaked hair ! But with my second one I didn’t even break a sweat …It happened so fast I didnt even have time to seed my bf back to the car for the camera HE left !!! I would not have minded him taking pics of my FACE at all then . There is something magaical about seeing pics like these though..

  9. Francine says:

    This one really is really great, the father in there too…you go dad…that’s a real man! he wants to be included from start to finish. beautiful.

  10. Hamilton Birth Photographer says:

    A gorgeous assemblage of stunning photos. Thank you for profiling Birth Photography! https://www.facebook.com/GiulianaCasimirriBirthPhotography

  11. Angela says:

    So beautiful!! Brings back wonderful….and not so wonderful memories! Can’t wait to do it all over again. :o )

  12. Nicole says:

    THANK YOU very much for including a photo of a c-section procedure. My labor was long and complicated and unfortunately had to have a c-section. I mourn the fact that I couldn’t experience a natural birth, but really appreciate you including this, thank you.

  13. Michelelebelle says:

    Wow, those pics are BEAUTIFUL! I have four children and wish I had pics like these. Ours were blurry, due to the excitement in the room~

  14. Alison says:

    Gorgeous pictures! I would love to have someone take mine when I go into labor in just about 7 weeks. I ended up having an emergency c-section with my first son so definetly no pictures there.

  15. Amy says:

    im only 8 weeks right now….these pictures give me so much to look forward to. its just so amazing.

  16. Shannon Mackenzie says:

    I love these pics! If I decide to go through this again (IF!), I would love to have some photos of the labor. My family took a few after the birth, and my favorite one is of me breastfeeding my daughter for the first time. I had my hand cupped around her head and her entire head fit in my hand with room to spare! She was so small and perfect and beautiful. I can’t believe it’s been almost 4 years since that day! These pictures bring it all back to me. Beautiful :)

  17. Emma (Peggy) Hatch says:

    So beautiful! My 4 children are all grown now and have families of their own, but their births are still very vivid in my mind. I cried through the whole slide show…..tears of remembrance that is so full of emotion!!

  18. Anna LL says:

    These are all very moving and heart touching. Paricularly emotional for me as I never had the blessing of pregnancy.. now in my 50′s and post-total hysterectomy there is no chance. I and my husband tried for many years, with several Drs., procedures and $$$ but to no avail. and while we do have a wonderful son, through adoption, I do feel sad at having missed the pregnancy experiance that is such a natural part of a woman’s life. God Bless all you moms and your families and don’t ever take one moment for granted!!

  19. Sandy says:

    I’m sorry. But I dont find any of these pictures ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Powerful or ‘Heartwarming’
    Sure, having a baby isn ‘natrual’ but so is taking a crap, and I don’t see any ‘Powerful’ ‘Inspiring’ pictures about that.

    Face it people, your all making a big deal over something that happens thousands of times a day.

    And yes, this is coming from a woman!

    1. New Mommy says:

      Sandy, I’m with you on this one. I had my son by C-section and never in a milion years would I like to experience a natural childbirth and I don’t see anything beautiful about it or taking photos of the whole thing.

  20. Megan says:

    Sandy, here’s a simple 2 letter word that i sure hope you live by already, in response to your above comment: “Birth control”! If you don’t like what you’re seeing, move on and keep your negative comments to yourself and educate yourself on the situation, so you DO understand. I don’t care if you’re a man, woman or monkey- having a child is a GIFT- which makes it a very inspirational, empowering and a beautiful moment for all women out there- especially when they can capture this with a picture. Yeah, it happens a thousand times a day- but think about all of the women that can’t experience this- and all of the woman that go through hell, to experience it. It’s not always butterflies and rainbows- thus the point of this pictures. Comparing “Crap” to giving birth is just ignorant (along with your comment). Next time you want to take a “crap” in the water, smile when you’re trying to be strong through the pain- or screaming/crying when you’re trying to get it out….take a picture of that and ask yourself how you would even compare crap vs bringing a human being (that you created) into the world! Ignorance is bliss! GORGEOUS pictures!!

  21. Kim says:

    What beautiful photos…I too have tears in my eyes. I have three children and giving birth was the most amazing experience of my life and I would do it all over again. There was never a pain that was more worth it or more beautiful than the pain of labor and childbirth. It saddens me that this chapter of my life is over but I feel so blessed to have gone through it and to have three amazing and wonderful children. I will never forget how beautiful it was to give birth to each of them. Thank you for posting these heartwarming photos.

  22. Suzy says:

    Right on Megan!
    Sandy you are just a rude woman! Or are you just a bitter woman cause you cannot conceive and bring a child into the world? Even when I was told I could not carry a child, I was not mean like you. Yes thousands of women go into labor everyday, some don’t make it through it. Sometimes the baby doesn’t make it through it! Worst day of my life was picking out a coffin for my newborn son. If you didn’t like the pictures, why did you continue to look and then make such a insensitive comment? Go get your tubes tied.

  23. Lil says:

    Those pictures and the wonderful comments and stories just make me break down crying, i lost 2 un-born babies. I got pregnant too young not by choice, my boyfriend would get too excited for sex (he hated condoms but how doesnt right?) and we both liked rough sex but there were times he got too rough and forceful (thinking i liked it) and he’d forget i the condom and other times we were just plain stupid, i know i know ‘dont have sex unless your ready for a kid’ i was well are of this, my elder sister had a wonderful baby girl now 8 (1st communion next saturday!!!!) i was prepared to handle a child, i told this to my boyfriend, he had agreed with me….but his parents did not, we also feared that since i could not gain any weight(being only 98 pounds 2 months pregnant that the baby or i would die in childbirth or possibly before,risk of miscarriage also very high) his parents yelled at him and beat him to make me get an abortion!! they told him he’d be a terrible father that he couldnt do anything in life rig

  24. Lil says:

    -(cont) that he couldnt do anything right that he was stupid, lazy, immature, didnt have a job, was loud and with his ADHD they even had said that he’d FORGET about his child and just leave and stupid means things like this, …..he started believing all these things, he turned into such a different person….even his best friend who says he ‘loves kids’ should not do and he should …..kill her (we felt so strongly it was a girl, we talked to her….we named her….. evelyn elizabeth rose) …we shouldnt have named her……i’d be having her around the time of may 10th the conception day was by his birthday date(his bday sept. 14th, conception sept 10th) we i mentioned her and told him we could do it….he’d sometimes hit me he got so corrupted and brain washed from them!! he wasnt himself, it was all too much for him, he’d leave and go stay at his bestfriends(the same one listed above- he lived down the street from him and i think he got my boyfriend to smoke pot and things saying ‘it help’ and ‘take his wo

  25. Lil says:

    (cont # 3) – saying it’d take ‘his worries away’ or even make them “vanish”, hes done pot before but i think he was just despate……he even did something he told me to tell no one…..he did morphine he was taken to collinwood by his parents and some guy found out he was out there and took him away to do drugs he was vomiting violently and he called me during his ‘high’ …i was so scared he remembered nothing i left like it was a completely different person, then he hung up and the guy that gave him the stuff too his cell and since i was texting and calling like crazy!!! being so frantic, then he finally texted me back! saying ‘whats up?’ REALLY? wheres my boyfriend?? followed by many uestions the only answer he ever did answer for all the many uestions i asked was : the bathroom throwing up, i text his younger brrother asking what happend: ‘he said i dont know, didnt even notice he was gone, parets are gone i guess and he just walked in the room, i got off the computer and we r watching a movie now y?’ i

  26. Lil says:

    -(cont#4) i kept it to myself, days passed words were not spoken, his mother sent up an appointment at an abortion clinic for a day when he could not go…she dragged me out of school to take me, they paid the $200 for the 1st appointment, i had blood work done and found out if i did have her id need a special shot so our blood wouldnt clought(sp) inside her, they wouldnt let me see her, they took a pictue and put it in an evelope, i wanted to leave i wanted to run away but it was out in cleveland, i lived in mentor, im confused enough with dirrections!! i shoulda taken a cab(no money) shoulda just ran away!(too where) who cares!! somewhere anywhere! i should have forced her to take me back!!! (shoulda coulda woulda) it was my body right? i ‘made the choice’ forced or not, no one cares about that, as his bf said we were just ‘heart-less baby killers! murders” he didnt care, didnt understand anything, he didnt see his bruising….the cuts..nothing he was oblivious and HE was heartless! i never wanted to ever

  27. Lil says:

    (cont#5) i never wanted to get an abortion!! i hate them! i hate: death, blood, needles, clinics, hopitals, shots the whole shhebang, but regadless it happend, call me what you like, this turned out to be more about abortions and drugs then birthing a beautiful child, im sorry i needed all this off my chest; my birth control failed(it happend once again) it became a miscarriage, he was there for me this time and he wanted to be, we were not going to tell anyone tell about 5 or so months, but not even a week went by and we lost her, he was there with me when the news was revealeld, he told mee he loves ‘us’ when we found it she miscarriade i felt so stupid!!! i wasnt talking to anything!!! probably just a gas bubble!!! xc the nurse was heartless like them all, she stepped out for a moment, we had feld our tears in until now then we bursted into crying: ‘ll never forget his i bad….im disappoin ust grabbed onto him i turned purple i couldnt stop, i was about to pass out, i was getting dizzy, she returned very

  28. Lil says:

    (cont6last?) she returned very confused, we left he helped me stumble to the car, we let it(most of it out) there then we just wanted to leave we went to a park but there were stupid teens there smoking so we stayed in the car and stared at the trees uietly(it was pretty cold out too) we said we would eventually have a kid and have no one tell us otherwise, before all this my thoughts were”if my child-unborn or born ever had to die then so would i if i could not take their plaace” i wanted to kill myseld instead of an abortion, i wasnted to die after she die, and again even more so after the 2nd, evn now, please those who read this dont think im just a stupid emo child…this might not have been the place that i dont know but i do kno i needed this off my chest badly thank you all for letting me speak whether you like what happend or not(i didnt), thank you those that read this and or comment, thank this website for letting me do this, i feel i may never experience this wonderful gift, this blessing, i hope g

  29. Lil says:

    Last-i hope god or some power will one day help me to have and raise a child with my husband…please please i am not a bad person…please …Thank you all that read this, thank goodness for this website letting things be shaared, sorry for all spelling errors, i was crying and wwiping my eyes the whole time, some weight seems to be lifted now but the burden will always stay heavy, i have no more to say…

  30. Amaka says:

    Right on Suzzy and Megan. worst day of my life was when i could’nt hold my new born daughter cus she didn’t make it through. it’s a wonder bringing forth a beautiful lil’ one and can be so heart wrenching when you loose one so i see no reason tactless comments from whomever hates the whole idea. Sandy, that was mean,rude,and tactless of you. very much so.

  31. Debs says:

    Lil you poor soul. What an awful awful thing you have been through. Really makes my own miscarriages seem like small things – which of course, they weren’t to me. So glad you found it helpful to get it off your chest like this. You deserve support to help you get your head round all this. When you are ready you might find support by searching for child loss support. ‘Myforeverchild.com is an online option. Or talk to your family doctor about appropriate counselling. You don’t need to deal with it on your own. How strong you are to keep looking to the future. I hope you will have your own perfect pregnancy, birth and baby in that future. I sit here feeding mine while I type. You will treasure the whole lot all the more for the experiences you have been through. Best wishes to you!

  32. Moyondizvo says:

    Its sad the world still has people like Sandy and we have to live with them. there is no harm in you not commenting if you find that there is nothing awesome and beautiful about these pics. Comparing the pain that a woman goes through to bring a life to this world and you taking a dump is just senseless to say the least. If you really are a woman I surely hope you do not have a child of your own or one to take care of because you don’t deserve it and only God knows what else you are capable of.
    The pictures are awesome like others have shared. A woman still agonizing with the pain of child birth still manages to put on a smile as she is handed her baby. No greater love than that, and as a man, I find that beautiful and well illustrated in these photos.

  33. Kerri says:

    Sweetpea, I feel the same as you. I don’t think any professional photographer could have made me look beautiful after 2 days of labour LOL.

  34. clever says:

    <3 Thats all lol

  35. Jennipher says:

    i enjoyed all of these pictures greatly, brought back some truly awesome memories of when I had my son.. labor for 10 hrs, pushed 27 times, and 50 stitches later; I had a wonderful newborn son. 7lbs 3oz and 21 inches long. He will be 3 in December. Makes me tear up thinking about it.

  36. Vicki says:

    I had all 3 of my children by natural childbirth 1979-1983 and some of the pictures above were powerfu, yet, I have seen many other photos during my lifetime that have really tugged at my heart. Any women giving birth knows what a true miracle it is. Having my children at that time you were not only whisked away from your hospital room and made to go from that the bed you have been laboring in for hours but then made to move onto an OR sterile table in case of an emergency. Todays age of technology has been able to capture every blink of an eye from a tear trickling down a mom’s cheek from pain, joy, elation or sadness. I don’t think Sandy above has ever seen any woman give birth or animal for that matter. In the end it always makes you wonder, what divine power above (I believe in God) can create this little miracle.

  37. Mrs. Cox says:

    Beautiful!! I like photo #6 especially though, gotta love stumbling across a picture of my sister :) So inspiring!

  38. Yahoo User says:

    These are not photos of women giving birth. I’m sick of Yahoo’s misleading headlines. Their new slogan should be, “Never can I get what I click on Yahoo.”

  39. Amanda says:

    why would anyone want someone other that family taking pic in a room were my legs are opened up for the world to see yuk..

  40. I’m just about to have my second baby and I’m praying that I don’t have another cesarian.
    Any more images of the cesarian process would be greatly appreciated!

  41. Neomi Silber says:

    Ohh! Maar dit is een heel mooi bericht!

  42. evonne says:

    I love how all of these photos captured different emotions that you go through in different types of births. I have 3 children and had very different birthing experiences with all three, but what was the same was feeling overwhelmed with joy to hold my babies after going through labor. It was the hardest, most painful, and also most awesome experience to give birth. With my oldest, I had to be induced because she didn’t want to come out even after my water had broken and I was almost a week over my due date. I got an epidural, was in labor for 21 hours, and it took 3 1/2 hours to push her out (she was also 9 lbs). My second child was a week early–she came quickly with 3 hours of labor and about 20 minutes of pushing with no drugs but also at the hospital like my first. With my youngest, I had a strong feeling that he would be born on Feb 28, which was a little more than 3 weeks before my due date. No one believed me, but my water broke on the morning of March 1 while I was at work. My labor started after I drove home and only lasted about 1 1/2 hours. My son was born at home in a birthing pool (in my living room!) and due to being in the water and him being small because of being early, I pushed twice and he was out. All of these experiences were amazing to me in different ways. Birth does happen every day, as someone else rudely mentioned, but there is nothing more special than bringing a baby into this world.

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