Parents

43 Photos That Show The Incredible Strength It Takes To Give Birth

Birth is beautiful, no matter how a child enters the world.
09/01/2016 10:52am ET | Updated September 6, 2016

No matter the specific circumstances, childbirth is hard. It’s hard for the mother who is being hit with contraction after contraction, fighting to catch her breath; it’s hard for the mom who is barely hanging on as she waits for her epidural; it’s hard for the mother quietly composing herself under the bright lights of the OR, waiting for her C-section to start; and it’s hard for the mama working to keep calm as she brings her preterm baby into the world sooner than she’d planned.

And yet the strength that women find and tap into during childbirth ― a time when they’re at their most vulnerable, and when so much is at stake ― is incredible, full stop.

Here, 43 talented birth photographers share moments they’ve captured that show the truly awesome strength of women in childbirth.

1
Sometimes strength comes in pairs. These friends -- twice mistaken for sisters by the hospital staff -- were silently intertwined throughout this mom's labor as she brought her rainbow baby into the world.
2
I felt such a connection with this mother when I took this photograph. I thought that woman all over the world would look at it and say, "Yes. I was there once. Stay strong!"
3
This mom labored for many days, off and on, but never lost her endurance, positivity and humor. I know she will use the strength she pulled from labor in the years to come as she navigates motherhood and all of its obstacles.
4
This mama worked hard to birth her baby into the water, with the father and her midwife there to support her.
5
This mama worked through a "precipitous" (meaning, an extremely fast, extremely intense) labor to bring her third child into the world. Two minutes after this photo was taken, her baby was born into her father's hands.
6
This mom gets a quiet, supportive touch from her son as she works through a contraction.
7
After a devastating stillbirth, Kara underwent surgeries and treatments to enable her to carry a child full term.
8
This mom was getting out of the tub, then had a contraction that immediately brought her to the floor. Her husband was right there through it all giving her support.
9
This mom was induced, early, and although the intensity of her contractions rolled over her incessantly in waves, she roared her baby out into the world at 36 weeks. I will remember her vulnerability and strength forever.
10
This mother's firstborn held her tight as she breathed through a contraction. You can feel her strength enveloping them both in this moment.
11
During each contraction, this mother listened to what her body told her to do -- moving, breathing and even laughing her baby out.
12
This mother had a very fast labor and birth with her second baby, so we all expected this third baby to just kind of "fall out." Instead, she endured weeks and weeks of intense prodromal labor that kept starting and stopping much to her frustration. She then labored through the night and into the following afternoon before her baby girl finally arrived -- and was born en caul! It was a gorgeous day with a lot of happy tears.
13
This strong mama stays focused with calming music in her ears. I love her tattoo. She also had one on her foot saying, "Just breathe." This was her fifth pregnancy and the first baby she and her partner got to take home. A true rainbow baby!
14
I wholeheartedly believe that women do not know their true level of strength until they've given birth, they do it.
15
This mother showed so much strength as she endured over 11 hours of labor, which included hours of pushing. Her wonderful doula gave her a scarf wrapped around the birthing bar to help with the pushing when she started getting too tired.
16
Supported by her doula, this mom rocked slowly back and forth through a contraction.
17
This mom took advantage of the rest breaks she got in between contractions.
18
This mamma labored so calmly and beautifully, laughing and talking during most of her labor. When it was time to push, she was focused and determined and worked through transition with so much strength and beauty.
19
This was "that moment" -- the moment that almost every woman experiences in labor when she has that overwhelming feeling of "I can't do this." As she was overcome by emotion, her husband comforted her and moments later she delivered this sweet baby. Even more amazing? This is a surrogate birth and the second baby she carried for an amazing mom and dad! They are beyond thankful for her strength.
21
This birth was trying for this mama. She had a planned home water birth and as things progressed, she needed to let go of that plan and head to the hospital. The midwife suggested playing tug-of-war. It helped the mama bear down more and it worked almost immediately. After a few tugs, this strong woman -- who had such a long labor -- finally pushed her baby out.
22
The majority of strength you see during labor and delivery comes from the mom herself, but it can also be augmented by having an amazing support team. I loved witnessing this moment -- after hour 15 of a 36-hour long labor -- which shows the dedication and passion these partners felt for each other.
23
This mother told me: "This was my fourth un-medicated delivery. Each time, I've been pushed to the edge and started to consider an epidural, but it has been too late. Because of this, I never question any other mother's methods for bringing her baby into this world. It is hard work no matter what."
24
This is a second-time mom. With her first, she planned on a home birth but she was transferred to the hospital. Here she is, moments away from meeting her baby boy.
25
When it came time to push, this mother took a no-nonsense approach for the next 45 minutes until she was able to meet her baby girl.
26
This mama spent hours pushing before she ended up needing a C-section. She tried hard, but baby boy ended up being over 10 pounds and had a huge head! Her C-section was very peaceful and beautiful.
27
This mother was in transition, and she was so strong. It is an honor to be invited into the birth space, and I am always humbled by the privilege.
28
The strength women exhibit during labor and birth is inspiring. This mama possessed power that I'll still reflect back on -- often!
29
This mother moved into a squatting position as she began to push. Look at her arms -- she's strong!
30
This was an emergency C-section. I captured this touching moment in the OR after a whirlwind of uncertainty and anxiety. ​​
31
This is one of the most intense moments from this birth. The mother is fighting so hard not to push because it's not quite that time yet. She just needed to squeeze someone with all her might -- while getting counter-pressure from her doula to relieve the pressure.
32
This mother is gripping the bed to help bring her fourth baby (and her first girl) into the world. She pushed for only 10 minutes.
33
After giving everything she had during her 24 hours of unmedicated labor, this strong mom flung her hands out to catch and meet her new baby boy!
34
The determination of this mama as she brought her little man into the world was incredible. She was told she had to make the last push count, and she summoned all of her strength in that exact moment.
35
This amazing mama had a fast and furious transition. Her relief at labor being over -- and finally being able to hold her beautiful new baby -- is so clear.
36
The moment a mother sees and holds the life she grew and brought into this world? Indescribable.
37
Tears of pain and struggle that turned to tears of joy and disbelief when this first time mama finally held her baby in her arms. She had a very intense, fast labor and was wonderfully supported through the whole thing by her mother.
38
This couple's first baby was stillborn at 39 weeks. Here, the mom is breathing a big sigh of relief as they welcome their rainbow baby.
39
This mom told me: "I was so thankful when our baby came out crying. It's a sound I longed to hear from Paisley and Brody -- my two previous stillbirths. I also had four miscarriages. My initial thoughts were, and . But then it hit me: He was here and he was alive. We were bringing a baby home from the hospital! It still seems like such a dream."
40
Strength is seven years of IVF and fertility treatments. Strength is fighting through a collapsed lung, not once but during your pregnancy and right after childbirth. Strength is letting go of your ideal birth plan and embracing your C-section with grace in order to deliver your baby safely. This mother's strength shows in her eyes and her smile when she gazes down at her new son.
41
After waiting seven years to conceive, this mother's strength and perseverance in the in vitro fertilization process was rewarded. On this family's last round of insemination, they got news that they would finally have two beautiful babies!
42
In January, I got the call in the middle of the night that my client, who was due in April, was heading into a C-section to save her life and her baby's. Little Max was born at 28 weeks, and his strong mama spent every day in the NICU with him until he went home, three weeks early. Her strength astounds me. She's incredible!
43
I love the quiet strength of this moment. She's reaping the rewards of a long nine months and many hours of labor. I also love that she's proudly showing her postpartum tummy and all of her beautiful stretch marks -- her battle stripes that tell the story of all the babies she's been blessed to grow.

These captions from the photographers have been edited and condensed.

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