December 2nd, 2011:
Some of you may recall that a few months ago, Felicia and I had our 2nd anniversary photo session with Ian Grant, a friend and fellow photographer. Well, Ian and his wife Tanya were expecting a little one, and last month when Tanya was 8 months pregnant and unable to fill her normal role as Ian’s 2nd photographer at a wedding, he asked me to come along and shoot with him. Throughout the day we talked all sorts of geeky-photo-nerd talk, but also ended up discussing his impending fatherhood and his daughter’s birth. The subject of Birth Photography came up and we both touched on how awesome it could be for a new family and the newborn to have pictures of the day they entered the world. Neither of us committed to anything at that moment (We both are fairly smart married men – we have been successfully conditioned, sometimes through trial & error, to know that such a personal event would have to be discussed with our significant others prior to making any commitments).
About a week later, having consulted with our respective wives, we decided to give it a go. The next day we all headed out for Mexican food in Santa Monica and were briefed on details of “The Great Baby Escape”. We were now in on the plan!
Now, babies are horribly unpredictable creatures, which meant that, the moment Felicia and I agreed to this endeavor, we had to constantly be ready for The Call. We had just shot our last wedding of the year a few days before and now had a couple of weeks without anything major scheduled (other than massive amounts of editing, meetings and such). I kept the cameras charged, and every time we left the house – even for something as mundane as trip to the grocery store – we had the camera bag ready in our car, and every time we went to sleep we knew the call could come in at any time.
Saturday, November 19: It was Ian’s 30th birthday and we were somewhere on the 710 when my phone rang. He said, trying to sound as casual as possible, “Hey.. I’m not sure, but the wheels of labor may have been set in motion.” He agreed to give us an update after consulting with their doctor, so Felicia hurried along to Seal Beach and dropped off some desserts for what would have been an early Thanksgiving with my 93-year-old Grandfather. Sure enough, the phone rang again. This time, Ian couldn’t mask the anxiety/excitement in his voice. It was REALLY happening! We told him we’d see him at Ceders Sinai Medical Center, said goodbye to a very confused Grandpa, turned the car around and headed to Beverly Hills.
When we finally met up with Ian in the waiting room it was just after 6pm. His goal was for Lily to make her appearance before midnight so they could share a birthday. But the Doctor came in and said it wasn’t to be, as it would probably be a little later than midnight before Lily would make her grand entrance. Slightly crestfallen, we let Tanya sleep while the 3 of us headed to the cafeteria, then waited some more before we three took a walk around the neighborhood at midnight to stretch our legs. It was during this walk that I noticed a bar across the street and suggested going for beers while we wait, but my great idea was immediately vetoed in the form of The Killer Glare from my wife. Spoilsport.
Evening passed into night, and night passed into late night, then late late night… and finally, as Felicia and I almost killed our iPhones playing ‘Words with Friends’, Ian came bouncing into the waiting area and asked “Are you ready for a baby?!?”
We jumped up and joined Tanya in the delivery room, our fingers on the shutter, ready for Lily’s first ever close-up.
Being born: It is a process that every single one of us, regardless of race, language, creed, or social standing, experience ourselves. It is such a momentous occasion for the Individual: arriving as the newest member of planet Earth, our whole lives ahead of us, full of promise, full of adventure. But shockingly we don’t remember anything about being born. I figured then, having a pictorial documentary might be of value to this child who one day would be a woman, and possibly experience the process of birth on the other side: as a Mother.
Rob and I are at weddings almost every week, sharing in one of the most significant days of someone’s life. A day often filled with emotion, history, and glimpses of the future. But even the most emotional of weddings would not compare to the raw, visceral, unscripted reactions of the birthing experience. Literal tears of joy that express a profound gamut of emotions, all at once complex yet simple. The simple joy of new parents, where all those months of anticipation culminate in that single moment when A Child Is Born.
Thank you, Ian & Tanya, for giving us the honor to be part of this beautiful, intimate experience. Congratulations on the arrival of Lily Madeline Grant.
Ian has a unique sense of humor and Lily’s first book is “Gizmo and the Gremlins”. Fatherhood for the win.