Photo Series Reenacts Natural Home Births, Empowers Women to Do the Same [NSFW]

Photo Series Reenacts Natural Home Births, Empowers Women to Do the Same [NSFW]

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A British photographer has unveiled her new series, "Birth Undisturbed." Initially aspiring to recreate her own home birthing experiences, Natalie Lennard’s images depict stories of women both real and imagined, as she aims to “bring the rawness of primal birth into the art world.”

Based in Worthing, Sussex, UK, Lennard was inspired to undertake the series after two natural homebirths of her own, during which she says she felt free to follow her own "primal instincts." An independent midwife was present to oversee the labor.

One of the aims of the series is to show women that there are many alternatives to giving birth in a hospital. For one of the setups, she recreated her home birth with a naked model, using a prosthetic baby and fake blood. Vaseline was used as a lubricant with which to cover the silicone baby and placenta. The raw images detail the intimate experience of giving birth, complete with an umbilical cord still attached.

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Why I am fascinated by birth? (Part 3) Because I was amazed by all the ways we go against nature. We’re privileged in the West to have modern medicine. For a transverse baby, retained placenta, haemorrhage or other calamity that once would've taken the life of child and mother, we turn to help when birth - not inherently a medical event - becomes one. It doesn’t explain the myriad of protocols that became entrenched in convention for normality. . “But we don’t know when birth will go wrong, best in hospital just in case”. Except the vast and orderly sterility, perfect for accident or emergency, looks like a hammer to every nail that walks in. On alien turf, with others’ sounds, rules, microbes; we know it'd never be a place for sex, a bowel movement, or our labouring cat. But we’re different. Sophisticated. . Some prefer not to feel a thing, paying the price in autonomy to move, to feel. Invasive lights, hands and questions inhibit oxytocin, the 'love hormone' comes canned; hard, relentless. Laid in a way wild horses wouldn't get you if you were defecating. Legs splayed, or held, watched by one pair of eyes or ten; pelvis closed by 30%, purple-pushing against gravity, clock and pubic bone till baby in distress; 'failure to progress', hundredth written obituary to the fetal ejection reflex that day. Forceps or theatre, nature's fault. We cut the pumping cord as we can’t wait a few minutes to give baby a third of its blood. Wash away the microbiome, dress body and head, fill eyes with gunk, as if trying by every way to block the science of skin and scent that contract the blood in; placenta and colostrum out. It's often better than this. Or it can be worse. Many staff work compassionately on their conveyor belt and sometimes yes, the hospital rescues us; sometimes, from its own faults. #Childbirth steeped in a bleak history, its roots go deeper than misogyny. We are misanthropic. Was such aggression needed to be the dominant species? Medicalisation became so common it's now women's rightful place to choose the epidural, the Cesarean. But medicine doesn't eliminate biology. We're still mammals, and we can serve all mothers better. #AmazonianBirthUndisturbed

A post shared by Natalie Lennard (@natalielennard) on Jan 16, 2019 at 9:00am PST

Aiming to explore Western attitudes towards childbirth, the series depicts stories of women both real and imagined, with one set of images in the series depicting the Queen giving birth in 1964.

Lennard said:

Both [my homebirths] were wonderful in that I was free to follow through the sensations of birth in an instinctive manner, on my own turf, for a very straightforward experience… But being in your own surroundings on your own terms has a very deep impact on shaping your entire experience. It can reduce the need for intervention or complications from arising at all, and it can influence how much you even define birth as 'painful,' – which I do not.

You can see more of the series at her website and follow her on Instagram.

Images courtesy and used with permission of Natalie Lennard.

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37 Comments

William Howell's picture

Giving birth at home? Now these photographs are well done and tell a story, but they tell a story of the nineteenth century. I’m not being snarky, but I’m asking is this what “free” health care entails? One of my kids couldn’t have natural child birth, I don’t think home is the place have babies. Nah, no thanks, my kids will go the hospital to have kids.
This is insane. And I’m not talking the good kind of insane, you know, like Insane Clown Posse!

Michael Kormos's picture

All four of mine were born at home, with me, a midwife, and a doula present. Home births are more common throughout the world than hospital birth, except USA, where C-sections and induced labor are growing exponentially (as our infant deaths, ironically). British and Dutch governments in fact recommend home births attended by a midwife as opposed to hospital births for all low-risk pregnancies.

Statistically speaking, the rate of infant deaths in planned homebirths is 0.35 per 1,000, compared to 0.64 per 1,000 in hospitals:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2742137/

Giving birth is not a medical procedure, and there is really nothing for the doctors to do during the birthing process for most low-risk pregnancies. They are solely there in case things go wrong. Hospitals in the US have been criticized for expediting labor by pushing Pitocin and C-sections even in cases where not needed, in order to get the patients out the door.

I'm not trying to hijack the comments or turn this into a debate. I can tell you're on the opposite side of the spectrum and I respect that.

William Howell's picture

No, no, good comment and that’s the kind we should put forth.

Matthias Kirk's picture

I view these mortality rates critically. In absolutes they mean that one child died in the home birth environment and three in the larger sample size of hospital birth. If only one child more would have died at home the numbers would be reversed. Arguments from percentages require a huge sample size when we talk about rare events to reach meaningful conclusions. But yes, the study shows that home births don't kill infants at an alarming rate.

https://www.midwiferyjournal.com/article/S0266-6138(18)30097-4/pdf (sorry the link hyperlink didn't work - you have to copy and paste)

This is a meta-analysis of 28 studies. It's conclusion was: "Meta-analysis indicated that women planning hospital births had statistically significantly lower odds of normal vaginal birth than in other planned settings. Women experienced severe perineal trauma or haemorrhage at a lower rate in planned home births than in obstetric units. There were no statistically significant differences in infant mortality by planned place of birth"

I understand the desire to want the best and safest thing for a child but the fact is that homebirths for women with normal pregnancies, in countries with good healthcare provisions is no more dangerous, if not safer, than a hospital birth.

UK really doesn't recommend for all. Suggests is a reasonable option for known low-risk for people in convenient places where they want to. The Netherlands organise differently, and for it, and are compact - quick transfers eaiser than in some countries, over most of the Netherlands.

Leigh Miller's picture

Good thing I'm not a religious man...so many signs that we are steaming ahead towards the end. Anything goes these days I guess.

Kirk Darling's picture

Those are not enactments of home births, those are the imaginations of the photographer. There was never such blood on my children--they were covered with whitish vernix caseosa--which was extremely noticeable--with very little blood.

Unless these women were hemorrhaging and dying.

Fritz Asuro's picture

Haven't I've seen this article before?

" alternatives to giving birth in a hospital " ? giving birth at the hospital is for the health of the baby and mother , you can have a natural birth at the hospital .complications during childbirth can be deadly if the mother and the baby are far from the hospital .

Anders Madsen's picture

My wife and I have three kids. If my wife had given birth at home, I would have been a widower with a single child. Yet I still fear that many will not get your point.

Kirk Darling's picture

Umm, yeah, have people forgotten how high the rate of women dying in childbirth was? But people have forgotten so many of the basic rules of survival that were learned in the 20th century.

William Howell's picture

I see that a few commenters are bring British statistics into the mix. My question is; Where did the Duchess of Cambridge have her kids? Not at home I would wager!

Kirk Darling's picture

The Duchess of Cambridge might very well have had her kids at home, but we can be sure there was no lack of any personnel or facility a hospital would have had (and a helicopter nearby if that happened to be the case).

Im a part-time-videographer, but my main profession is working as a GP. My wife is a Pediatrican. I can only warn from viewing homebirth as overly romantic or „back to the roots“. Since the 19th century, the mortality of children in the first month after birth is rising again, for the first time in the last 100years. Homebirth is most likely the reason why.

Michael Kormos's picture

Infant mortality is much higher in hospital environments than planned homebirths.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2742137/

Of course this is the case. This is due to a preselection. Any preknown complications would lead to a very high chance of giving birth in the hospital. Only the pretested and screened „safe“ cases would plan birth at home. If you would compare two equally preselected groups you would find something drastically different. Also: the study only compared child mortality. What about the mother? And again: If you preselect and dont randomize the groups the study is rather pointless. But everyone has the right to decide for herself i guess. I can only warn to view it too romantically. If theres any complications in home birth you are in so much unnecessary trouble.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Ummm... why are Mary and Joseph (and Jesus, for that matter) white? Talk about whitewashing...

Kirk Darling's picture

And being in the stable of the inn doesn't mean that Mary would have had the child without other women handling the birth.

amanda daniels's picture

I can respect these images & a woman's right to do as she wishes BUT, 1) why is there so much blood? I was in the delivery room with my sister during both of her children being born and I never saw this amount of blood? 2) I think it is irresponsible in my opinion to not be at a hospital, my sister had complications during both labors and thank god the doctor was there to ensure her children were safe and so was she. What if something goes wrong? I guess I just dont understand it and why you would put yourself and unborn child at risk if you didnt have to.

If something goes wrong they go to hospital - simple as that. Midwives know the early signs of something going wrong and that happens they end up going to hospital. If you live far away from hospital you take that into account when deciding on a home birth. In the US, healthcare providers make money from any medical intervention. In the UK where there is universal free healthcare , it is in the interest of the healthcare provider (NHS) to avoid any unnecessary medical intervention where possible (which is why infant circumcision has all but died out). Most people still go to hospital and if there are any complications during pregnancy they strongly advise against homebirth.

amanda daniels's picture

I can understand this, but my sister didn't start having complication until the babies head was almost out, so what happens in that case? I am sure they do whatever they can to avoid complications but sometimes that isn't possible. again, I certainly respect a woman's decision to choose for herself and what is best for her, I personally just don't understand this concept, I never have and I don't think I ever will to be honest.

So I accept that there are risks associated with home births but there are also risks associated with hospital births e.g. increased risk of contracting a antibiotic resistant infection (which are on the rise) as well as a much higher risk of needing some kind of intervention such as forceps, which are talked about as 'minor interventions' but can cause long-lasting complications.

Effectively there's a reduced risk of requiring intervention or experiencing complications but makes the unlikely event of a major complication more difficult to deal with.

amanda daniels's picture

I respect your opinion, but we are just going to have to disagree on this one, which is cool, since we are all allowed our own opinions.

William Howell's picture

Did the Duchess of Cambridge do home birth?

I don't understand the relevance of that question. I presume you're trying to be clever?

William Howell's picture

Highlighting hypocrisy! That’s the crux.

I still don't see what some aristocrat has to do with the discussion. As far as I'm aware she's not been advocating homebirth. The crux is that the US healthcare establishment has a financial incentive to promote fear (and hysteria judging by a lot of these comments) around giving birth at home.

William Howell's picture

So you think giving birth at home is a good thing? I don’t, I live in America, not some third world backwater country, and I’m sorry to say this, but it looks like that is what Britain is becoming.

Nah, just like the “royalty” of Europe, we Americans go to the hospital to have our little cherished babies!

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