Mother of three and a doula, Hollie Lau, wanted her 9-year-old son Charlie to be in the delivery room holding her hand when she welcomed her newborn daughter, Robin, back in 2019.
Hollie desired to normalize the birth experience for her children, as well as “give boys opportunities to be nurturing.” So, Hollie appointed Charlie as a doula. In addition, she brought on Ohio-based birth photographer Hannah Spencer to capture how she labored with her son right by her side.
“Regardless of gender identity, it’s important for children to witness childbirth to normalize the process of birth, which is still considered so taboo and a ‘behind closed doors’ activity to many,” Hannah shared.
“Too often, we place the sentimental, emotional, loving, caring characteristics of little humans inside a specific gender bucket. Witnessing birth can give a viewpoint into the power of laboring people and the beauty, strength, and courage those that give birth possess, and children are no exception to that.”
And when Hollie gave the option to be present at Robin’s birth, Hollie’s two older children, and Charlie, were quick to participate.
“The moment that we announced our pregnancy to our sons, Charlie asked if he could come,” she revealed.
“As a family, we believe in creating opportunities for our sons to practice being nurturing, which our society doesn’t easily or openly provide to boys. Family-centered birth is beautiful and can be an incredibly powerful moment together. We wanted to share that powerful bonding moment with them. It was also a great opportunity for my sons to witness how strong I am, as a person and as a woman.”
And while there is no realistic way for a 9-year-old to have professional training when it comes to assisting during childbirth, the amount of mental support Hollie received from her eldest son helped her get through the hardest moments of labor.
“Having Charlie present through the hardest part of my labor gave me strength when I doubted myself,” said Hollie.
“His calming touch between contractions was so sweet and grounded me and allowed me to regain my focus. Both our sons spent a lot of time preparing to play a support role. Charlie took to the role very naturally. My sons asked to take a mini childbirth education class, which I taught, to prepare them mentally for witnessing birth.”
“Having the people I care about the most cheering me on during the hardest thing I’ve ever done was exactly what I needed to get through it. His presence helped remind me that I had done this before and that I could do it again.”
And for Hannah, Hollie’s birth was one of her favorites to shoot.
“As a birth worker, I often get to witness other birth workers give birth, doulas included,” said Hannah.
“Her story was so incredible, and the support of her family, especially her children, was such a gift to be able to photograph, but above that, to witness as a woman, mother, and friend.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.