Today it’s my great pleasure to introduce you to the work – words and images – of one of my dear friends, Erika Ray, whom while we’ve yet to meet in person, I am blessed and better off for the past I’m not sure how many years for having her in my life. Her photo essays have long struck me as incendiary. They usually wake me up, sometimes they shake me up a little, and almost always they are a call to some important internal action, reminding me of who I was, still am, what I am yet to be if I get myself in gear. And btw, lady, get yourself in gear. You’ll see what I mean. I hope you find the solace and the spark in her strong words and beautiful, powerful images.
Women are constantly questioned and judged. It’s a fact. But when we get to Motherhood, it takes on a new level. “Did you see what Suzy fed her kids?! OMG. She’s soooooo “hippie” and those natural organic chicken nuggets totally have GMO’s.” Do you co-sleep? Crying it out is the way to train your kid. Breastfeeding for 1237 months is the only way to go. She’s a Pinterest Mom, but I’m cooler because I’m a Chucky Cheese kind of chick. My son play a video game?! Oh no… Never. He plays only with organic wood blocks and still loves it at 14.
I’m being a little funny, but you get the point. We judge others and thus ourselves because we feel so strongly that THIS is the right way to raise children. And if we do the opposite… We shudder to think about them as functional adults.
For me, that’s what birth photography serves. The perfect mirror for you to see YOUR badassery. Not anyone else. Not the one clouded with judgement. Not the one who feels marred by bad parenting decisions. But you. You in your true power and strength. This is the one pure layer that gave birth to a life. You struggled, were in pain, were vulnerable, needed help, and brought to the brink only to push harder. No matter how you became a mother, that day was one stripped of layers and your soul was uncovered.
You in your purest form: a powerful loving woman.
Those photos serve as a reminder of your greatness. It’s not the perfect neighbor with homemade cookies. Not the church ladies judging the messy top bun you’re rocking. Not the ma whipping up vegan “cheese” sauces her kids love while yours slurp down blue box kind. Your birth photos remind you that you are capable of greatness. Even if your birth plan didn’t go down the way you wanted, you accessed a part of your being that created a new soul.
Birth photos aren’t just your baby’s first photos. They’re a reflection of your massive power as a human. It’s messy and raw in it’s purest form. It’s your perfection. Your uniqueness. Your true beginning. Your birth.
Find a birth photographer. Let them give you concrete proof of your beauty, power, grace, and badassery. Please do it. You will question yourself a billion times that first year. Strangers will give “polite” advice that rails against your own instincts. You will worry and wonder about your own abilities while scrolling through social media Find a birth photographer. When your baby is 15 and you feel like you’re a clueless idiot in the ways of a teenager, find those photos.
Hold them in your hands and tell yourself, “Look at that woman. That’s you. See her?! You can do anything. You are a magical gorgeous ball of power.” Then dust yourself off. Wipe away some sentimental tears. Stand up. Look at your grown baby and find that power again. You got this, Woman.
Erika Ray lives in Columbus, Ohio. Birth always freaked her out. She literally wanted to be knocked out and woken up with a baby next to her. But after years documenting her family’s rawness, she realized there was a story behind everything. So she became a birth photographer and is passionate about giving women the real story.
You can see more of her work and get in touch with her here.