Birth Photography in Springfield-Branson, MO

Rebecca Block is a professional birth photographer in Springfield and Branson, Missouri. She photographs home births, birth centers, hospital births, and cesarean births. Her portrait work includes maternity, newborn, baby, “Fresh 48” newborns, and family photography. Rebecca is also a trained & experienced doula and lactation consultant serving the Springfield-Branson area and available for travel to other locations.

Proceeds from Portraits go to Vocational Scholarships in Haiti

(I apologize for the lack of photos in this post; my website is having issues uploading them at the moment. But you can check out photos from my last trip to Haiti in Haiti – Part One and Haiti – Part Two. I never quite got around to blogging the other parts I had in mind, so this is what it is for now!)

A few months ago, I made a quiet little change to my portrait business…you may have noticed it if you poked around last fall. All proceeds from portrait sessions will now benefit vocational scholarships for young people through Hope for a Village in southern rural Haiti. (When a scholarship is completed it may be sent towards paying for Haitian doctors and nurses at our community pop-up clinics.) This area was hit by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, but is an area that I have been to a few years ago and will travel to again in the future.

In Cotes-de-fer, Haiti, young adults make plans for their city. They do things like create their own trash removal system to keep the streets of their town clean. That was the story that partly inspired this change in my business. It was the answer to my asking God, “How can I use my skills to help in a tangible way?” For several months I pondered the idea of doing a family portrait event where the proceeds went to HFAV, but He had something BIGGER in store.

The first scholarship will be to send a local woman to a skilled birth worker training program that’s already in place, Midwives for Haiti. I’ve been told by my friend Missy, the Hope for a Village founder who is originally from Cotes-de-fer, that many of the school teachers in the area are actually trained as nurses! Medical school is paid by the government as long as students agree to live in Haiti (and not leave for other Caribbean islands or the US, taking their medical skills with them). However, there aren’t enough jobs to go around to all the students when they graduate medical school. On my last trip, I met a tiny lay midwife, her sun baked by the sun and her bones tired from traveling many miles to get to all the births in the area. At that time, she said she was the only midwife still working births. It’s possible there was a “lost in translation” moment, but our translator said she was doing 8 births a week. A WEEK!!!

The need for more midwifery skills in the area is great. The options for families were either use the one local midwife, go to the small clinic in town, or go 2 hours to the closest [just okay-quality] hospital. It is 4.5+ hours to the best hospital in the country if you have a major issue. (And even then, it doesn’t mean you’ll get care….AND you’ll have to purchase all your medications and supplies at the random street vendor/pharmacy next door before they’ll treat you…) Recently there was a hospital built by a ministry, which opened at the beginning of December. The cost to deliver a baby is highest at hospitals, followed by a clinic, followed by a community midwife. If you have absolutely no money, you’re looking at giving birth with maybe your mother (if she’s still alive) or your sister. And that poses some major risks if something goes downhill (not to mention some risky old wives’ tales surrounding birth and breastfeeding practices). A trained birth attendant can save lives in this country!!

That’s one less baby without a mama…one less heartache for a family….

I knew with the circles I run in that I would be able to connect her and other interested women with educational opportunities. I just didn’t know what that would look like until now. (On that note, if you are a midwife who would like to come with us on a trip to that area to teach continuing education classes for nurses, PLEASE message me!)

To be honest, I am booked quickly as a doula/birth photographer and my calendar stays as full as I want it at this point. Not to overuse the phrase, but I’m really, truly blessed to be going to births and helping families or documenting their incredible birth stories! I felt like this was the direction God wanted me to take the portrait side of my business for the time being. So what does this look like in a practical sense? After cost of the product and a percentage of basic business expenses, the rest will be sent to Hope for a Village, earmarked for a particular scholarship or medical missions trip (to pay our Haitian doctor & nurse friends for helping at the free clinics we do for the most needy in the area). My model of creating art for your walls stays the same. Just because this is essentially a fundraiser for a non-profit doesn’t mean I’m going to cheapskate what I believe is an important thing – a physical, tangible, high-quality, printed piece of artwork that you will enjoy seeing in your home. It also means that I’m sticking with what I love to shoot: anything babies, maternity, & family. Just because the proceeds are for charity doesn’t mean I’m going to shoot an event or your dogs. Sorry, but it’s true…I used to do little stuff like that & enjoyed it at the time, but I don’t anymore. I really want to focus on creating this type of art involving families. It also means it will remain an investment to hire me. I am making you custom artwork. Yes, my prices may be higher than everyone and their sister’s husband’s cousin’s friend, but they are worth it. The quality products I’ve located through some special companies are amazing and the ART that is on them is created for your family to enjoy for generations.

If you’d like to book your own session, please visit the packages page for more information.

 

A Photographer’s Merry Christmas

Every year just before Christmas, photographers around the world spend hours editing, ordering, and delivering artwork for their clients. Every year, said photographers rush to send out Christmas cards last-minute because they spend so much time working for other families. That was me too. Until this year!

blank wall without photos

Before

It’s far easier to suggest my clients what combination of pictures would look great in various parts of their houses than it is for me to decide what to put in my own house. Granted, it’s partly due to the massive number of personal pictures I have of my family. We spent 6 months in Mississippi last year so my husband could do a training, and I had a lot of really neat photos from that time. I wanted to showcase them not only to fill a certain space, but to share our memories with each other and the friends that enter our home.

wall after photos

After

I ended up with this combination of portraits and plants. Yes, plants! We love nature, and our house is filled with little bits and pieces of the outdoors…a mossy branch from the tall, snowy forests of central Oregon….huge seashells from Sanabel Island, Florida…chunks of buffed, swirly tree roots found in a creek in the Ozarks….coral washed up on a beach in Haiti…grapevine wreaths from our backyard adorned with various decorations depending on the season. So it seemed like a natural progression to add in some interesting plants we discovered in the south….the little details that made our time down there fascinating.

details of photo canvas art

This combination of canvases makes me happy. The corners of the canvases are nice and tight. This was one of the more difficult wall displays I’ve hung (a service that is included for my clients) but I’m really happy with how the edges all lined up after all that careful measuring!

The whole display takes up approximately 32×70 inches on the wall. My living room walls are set up in a funky way and I have a very long wall here. In either corner is a printer cabinet and my desk, so I didn’t actually need the canvases to take up the whole length of the wall because the corners are basically other “areas.” (The wide angle makes the wall look a bit longer than it really is.)

details of photo canvas art

When was the last time you had some custom art made for your home? And if you are a pro photographer….is your own family on your walls?!

Breastfeeding Photography

I entered this image in a breastfeeding photo competition held during World Breastfeeding Week. The contest was sponsored by Birth Becomes Her, a lovely, supportive network and website for birth photographers. (Here also is their Facebook page to follow for more incredible birth and breastfeeding images from around the world!) Thanks to so many supportive friends and family who voted for it, I made it into the Top 15! From here, it will be judged by a panel of judges who will select the top three winners – the first place winner receiving a free ticket to Birth Becomes Her workshop in Denver for birth photographers. It would be an incredible opportunity to attend and help hone my skills for my clients. I really want to be able to provide them with the most insanely gorgeous images possible from their births and portrait sessions. I have areas I’d like to improve in, and this looks like the perfect workshop for that.

Truth be told, I’ll probably register for the workshop anyway, but since I may be traveling to Cotes-de-fer, Haiti, again at the end of the year, I’d like to save some money and just win a ticket. 😉 I haven’t completely decided whether I should go on that Haiti trip or if my place is here at home to work on fundraising for the Haitian medical staff/medical supplies and prepping the team that does go. But I will keep you all updated for sure.

I’m so thankful for every single person’s vote on this image, no matter what the final results are! And I’m thankful to God for showing me this opportunity that came up and giving me the confidence and motivation to actually submit an art piece to a competition.

The judges will be critiquing on three criteria:  Technical, Creative, and Emotional Impact. I selected this image because I thought it fit those criteria the best, out of all the images I have. I am drawn to dynamic images where the subjects are “doing something” – whether that is a curious babe about to yank mom’s hair off, a toddler reaching to caress her mother’s face, or a dad in mid-reach as he is about to hold his brand-spankin-new daughter in his arms. Those types of images give me a wonderful feeling of anticipation as I wonder what is about to happen next!

“Pit Stop”

The point of this competition was to help “normalize breastfeeding,” a term which some of you reading this have probably seen used around more and more. As someone who is pursuing her goal to eventually become an IBCLC (a lactation counselor that can help with complex feeding problems), that is an idea I can definitely get behind. Health is an important topic to me, and so much of good health begins before and at birth. Breastfeeding offers protective benefits to babies’ guts, setting them up for a healthier future and a VASTLY decreased risk of getting seriously ill or dying. This is true of any country, but especially in developing nations like Haiti, Indian, Phillippines, Sudan, etc.

“Fresh baby with little hands already trying to hold his!”

I so very, very much want feeding at the breast to be considered the normal thing for a mother to do in order to feed her baby. I want people to think it’s so normal to breastfeed a baby that the “breast” gets dropped from the “breastfeeding” because it’s not even necessary to clarify what method. I want people to let a mother be when feeding her baby, no matter how she goes about doing that. I want people to stop thinking it’s gross or disgusting. I want people to stop thinking it’s a sexual thing. I want moms to be able to have ACCURATE, UP-TO-DATE, EASY-TO-ACCESS information to help them be successful in any medical issues that may arise during feeding. I want ALL of that to be normal.

“Thirsty”

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that you can’t change people’s minds by shocking them. In fact, the goal of changing people’s minds often backfires and they have knee-jerk reactions that are the complete opposite of what well-intentioned folks wanted. But…..if you can drop little bits of information here and there….and you can make yourself willing to talk with them like a calm human being who is not easily offended just because you have differing opinions….you can change minds a lot easier this way. So that is why I selected that first image for the competition. Yes, it shows an inch of skin on the chest, which is probably shocking to some of my friends or family. But it’s not a completely naked image of a woman nursing her baby, and neither are any of the other images in this blog post. Those types of images do have artistic merit in themselves, and if a client wanted them, I would take them for her (I do love breastfeeding portraits that also show mom’s stretch marks or c-section scars!) But when it comes to “normalizing breastfeeding,” I want to do it in a way that doesn’t shock people. An inch of skin, in my opinion, gently walks that line and prods people to think without causing a knee-jerk reaction and increasing negative opinions about breastfeeding.

“My second baby. Image Credit: Jenica Christensen”


I see many people on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to breastfeeding (and the art inspired by it). One end says “Breastfeeding is all-natural and not sexual at all! Whip that boob out in front of people so they can realize this too! BE OFFENDED if someone tells you to cover up!” And the other says, “That is a disgusting bodily fluid just like peeing or pooping! [and/or] That is too sexual and needs to be covered up!” From a Christian worldview, I see in the Bible that God created breasts to have a dual purpose. The smokin’ hot Song of Solomon shows they can be of great enjoyment for a woman’s husband….and then there are so many stories also refer to breasts bringing nourishment and comfort to the little babies that came as a result of that enjoyment. 😉

“Resting”

I think it’s extremely fascinating to see how God designed our bodies to do this. Every time new research comes out about breast milk, I am again in awe of the God who created it all, and I wonder what else He did with breast milk that we humans haven’t discovered yet! I breastfeed because it simply seems to be the thing to do with a baby/toddler. To me, breastfeeding is largely a science thing.  It is just normal. I don’t get overly emotional about the “special bond” that some women feel, or the sadness about weaning them. That’s totally fine if you do, though! It’s a very common emotion that mothers experience…it’s just not something I do a whole lot. Perhaps that is why I love to photograph that bond! Through my art, I can express those general concepts of motherly emotions about breastfeeding instead. Weird, huh? But it works. 🙂

“Hair Lovey”

“Self-Portrait with my first nurser”

In Haiti, women don’t use covers because it is too hot for that business. I saw moms whipping baby feeders out the tops of their shirts while standing right next to men, and nobody batted an eye. Why? Because breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a baby and breasts are not sexual in the context of feeding. Like I said earlier, health is an important subject to me, and breastfeeding is a health issue – no matter what country you live in. It is not a sexual issue, despite what folks on that one end of the spectrum say. Those folks also have the ability and responsibility to control their own thoughts. So don’t blame breastfeeding women for trying to cause lust in men – that statement is a bunch of bull poop. (Just like statements that essentially say “It’s her fault she got raped because she wore that dress/she went to that club/she walked on the street at night.” All of those are victim-blaming, and completely takes the responsibility off the man who committed the action.)

“Nursing under the Spanish Moss”

You can make your own opinions on breastfeeding change by taking the time to think about why you are having the reactions you are, and seeing real-life breastfeeding in its many forms. The images here are just some of the ways baby feeding happens in real life. Many of them were just pauses during newborn and baby photo sessions, where baby was fussy and needed something to calm down. Babies’ bodies release endorphins when they are sucking on something, which is how breastfeeding helps soothe a fussy babe so quickly, often even putting him to sleep!

photo of newborn baby breastfeeding

“Those days when your baby’s head is smaller than the breast that feeds her!”

All that said…I also don’t care how you breastfeed your babies. Use a cover if you don’t want to show skin. Or don’t use a cover if it causes you a huge hassle and makes for an impatient screaming baby who is even more difficult to latch on. Pump and feed with a bottle in public if that’s easier because you’re a new mom who needs to use all her hands to manage both baby and breast. Or don’t pump at home and feed a bottle in public because that’s an even bigger hassle to you than just accidentally showing some skin for two seconds while your baby latches on. Whatever. I want women to do whatever works for them the easiest way so they can nourish their babies and help them be the healthiest children they can be…so those kids can go on to LIVE, bring blessings and joy to their parents, and grow up to do great things for the world!

“Feeding pumped milk while out and about”

“He still kicks me there. Image Credit: Jenica Christensen”

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Birthday Boy

This sweet, happy thing has been in our lives for two years now! Here is his reaction to being sung “Happy Birthday” in the middle of his photo shoot. Now he wants to keep watching this video over and over on my computer…. 🙂

 

Tiffany

Omg I love!!!!! Happy birthday, Mr. Seth!!

K e e p   I n   T o u c h