Brought to Earth by Birth
Photos by Harriette Hartigan

Reviews


Jeanne Ohm, DC, ICPA Executive Coordinator www.icpa4kids.org and Pathways Executive Editor www.pathwaystofamilywellness.org

Brought to Earth by Birth is a beautiful way for anyone to merge with the essence and power of birth. Using outstanding photos and poetic narratives, this book can be an introduction to birth or serve as a tool for contemplative meditation for parents and children! Its message is pure, simple and yet profound in leading us within.”


Penny Simkin, Author, Doula, Childbirth Educator, Birth Counselor

“Harriette Hartigan is one of the world’s premiere birth photographers. Her photographs speak volumes about the essence of life’s greatest experiences—giving birth and being born. I think if everyone would read this book, we’d have less violence and more love in our world!”

Read complete review


Kitty Ernst, CNM, MPH, DSc (hon), Mary Breckinridge Chair of Midwifery, Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing

“Harriette Hartigan has done it again. In Brought to Earth by Birth she visually and poetically captures the extraordinary experience of women creating the beginning of new life on earth.”

Read complete review


Jan Robinson, National Coordinator for the Australian Society of Independent Midwives

“The usefulness of this book extends beyond the midwife’s lending library; it will be used by childbirth educators, high school libraries, midwifery students, children preparing to attend the birth of their sibling and of course to every woman embarking on her first pregnancy.”

Read complete review


Catherine Fraser RN, BScN; dip Art Therapy, cert IBP, reviewing for JOPPPAH (Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health)

“The book resonates with APPPAH'S (Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health) belief about the profound importance of connection and relationship.”

Read complete review


Cathy Daub, President of Birth Works International

“There is one word that comes to my mind upon paging through Brought to Earth by Birth, and that is JOY.”

Read complete review


Shona Kitchener, Doula, Natal Hypnotherapist & NCT Postnatal Student

“Within its pages the perfect picture that encapsulated all I had been discussing that morning … This image was all I had been looking for and it spoke far deeper messages about the positive nature of birth than I could ever explain using clumsy words … it will serve a lovely purpose for those parents, particularly fathers, to pick up and finally see some all too rare simple, positive images of real birth.”

Read complete review


Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE, certified childbirth educator, the CAPPA book reviewer, and the Citizens for Midwifery blogger

Brought to Earth by Birth is a lyrical ode to the power of birth and babies.”

Read complete review


Reviewed by Serena Spencer-Jones, for National Childbirth Trust’s New Digest Journal

“Whether this book is used as an antenatal teaching tool providing stimulus for discussion or merely for quiet contemplative use by parents-to-be or new parents, it definitely has a place on the bookshelf of the NCT antenatal teacher.”

Read complete review


Sunday Tortelli, certified childbirth educator, DONA certified doula and DONA Director of Publications

“With simplicity and grace, this book far exceeds the boundaries of its pages by encouraging us to embrace birth as a natural and life-affirming process.”

Read complete review


Kya Rose, Owner of EmpoweredChildbirth.com

“This book deserves a place of honor on any pregnancy-related bookshelf as a visual poem on the beauty and triumph of birth.”

Read complete review


Mindy Levy, CNM, MA
Agoola Birth Center, Israel

“Harriette Hartigan succeeds in capturing alluring images of mothers, fathers and babies that draw the reader into the wise, magical world of birth and the newly born.”

Read complete review


E.M. Broner, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Jewish American author

“perfect” … “lyrical” … “magnificent” … “A lifetime of experience and wisdom.”

Read complete review


Robin Elise Weiss, LCCE, pregnancy.about.com

“From the get go, Harriette Hartigan’s amazing eye for details in photography jump out at you, the passion in a subtle image. The black and white pictures throughout this book are inviting and filled with life… The quotes that match the photos are simple and truthful. They tell the story of life before birth, being born and laboring to get there, first moments and of greetings. Who can resist such artwork?”

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Julia Seng, PhD, CNM, University of Michigan School of Nursing, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Department of Women’s Studies

Brought to Earth by Birth is a valuable gift to give a pregnant woman or father-to-be, a birth professional in training, even a boy or girl wanting to know where he or she came from. The photographs span Hartigan’s career, depict diverse families and settings, and convey a deep ease and passion for witnessing—and bearing witness to—women giving birth.”

Read complete review


Shari Maser, Midwest Book Review

Brought to Earth by Birth is a powerful photographic poem, exquisite in its simplicity. With a focus on faces, Harriette Hartigan illuminates the essence of the universal experience of being born.”

Read complete review


Bernadette Clark, RNC, CD (DONA), Editor of Mother to Mother, President of Gentle Spirit Doulas, Inc., Homebirth mom to twelve blessings

“Awesome read! In Brought to Earth by Birth, Harriette Hartigan artfully weaves exquisite photography with softly written prose capturing the essence of the birthing family.”

Read complete review


Scott Sperlich, father

“I absolutely LOVE your book! It is to me remarkably beautiful, poetic and profound. In addition, I find it to be incredibly informative and transformational in looking at the experience of birth.”


Complete Reviews


Shona Kitchener, Doula, Natal Hypnotherapist & NCT Postnatal Student

On receiving Brought to Earth by Birth I was initially a little surprised, and even a bit disappointed. I had not expected a photography book and had been looking forward to being “forced” to sit and have a good read all in the name of writing a book review! However, my initial dismissive attitude prevented me from appreciating the delicate and quietly powerful impact of Harriette’s work.

I struggled to think who the black and white, 94-page collection of photos, poetry and quotations would appeal to and more importantly how it could be used by birth professionals. But, just as the book had come to be a stable fixture on the coffee table awaiting its time for review, I began to warm to it and appreciate its purpose more.

For example, on one occasion I returned home from a session with a particularly anxious mother-to-be and I found within its pages the perfect picture that encapsulated all I had been discussing that morning. It was an image portraying the powerful instinct and drive of the birthing woman. The image showed how mothers can embrace and even welcome the “life-giving pain,” as we try to describe it, of the welcome relief between a fading contraction and the strange anticipation and power felt as we await the next. This image was all I had been looking for and it spoke far deeper messages about the positive nature of birth than I could ever explain using clumsy words.

Some of the portrait-style images of pregnant mothers with their partners early on in the book are less powerful and have a less practical purpose, but the chapters on birth more than compensate. I feel that new parents-to-be might still find those early pages useful to gain more insight into the all-too-often hidden pregnant form, though. Again, the closing pages, with images of peaceful and sometimes even slightly bewildered newborns, will probably mean less to professionals than to the future parents flicking through. For the professionals, there is still a nice scattering of pictures of satisfied babies breastfeeding, amongst some of the simpler, quieter images of newborns. It is almost a shame to have the occasionally distracting words on the pages which detract a little from the otherwise universally appealing nature of the book.

I can recommend that this book be purchased by those in contact with new parents-to-be. It is a good title to leave amongst other more factual and wordier reads. Left on a table in the waiting room at clinic or by the coffee during a break from the antenatal class, it will serve a lovely purpose for those parents, particularly fathers, to pick up and finally see some all too rare simple, positive images of real birth. The pictures bypass many of the usual, potential barriers and can be understood and considered by all who encounter them.

Reviewed by Shona Kitchener, Doula, Natal Hypnotherapist & NCT Postnatal Student

Originally printed in MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, June 2010, volume 20, number 2, page 265


Jan Robinson, National Coordinator for the Australian Society of Independent Midwives

February 2009

This soft-covered book contains a beautiful collection of black and white images grouped together in sections; Creation, Through the Lens, Pregnancy, Labor, Birth and We the Newborns. Each group of photographs [is] associated with some short text, poem or quotation making for easy reading and relaxation. Each section brings a smile that is ever-growing until the reader reaches the end of the book.

While “browsing” through this book one is aware of occasional discrete background spirals. They reminded me so much of the circular fibres of the myometrium thickening and unfolding as the pregnancy advances…then after the birth section I saw them as huge hugs of love unfolding enveloping the couple and their newborn baby.

This refreshing combination of unfolding spirals and images ensures the reader focuses until the end and then wants to straight away return to the beginning to revisit all those favourite places between the spirals. Amongst my “most visited” pages were those at the end of the pregnancy section…the Mona Lisa Moments, Living the Mystery and Opening to the Power, reminding me that pregnancy around the world has more commonalities than differences.

The usefulness of this book extends beyond the midwife’s lending library; it will be used by childbirth educators, high school libraries, midwifery students, children preparing to attend the birth of their sibling and of course to every woman embarking on her first pregnancy. As some of the photos feature men, it would also make a thoughtful gift to couples expecting their first baby.


Julia Seng, PhD, CNM, University of Michigan School of Nursing, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Department of Women’s Studies

March 16, 2009

As a nurse and midwife, I was trained in four ways of “knowing” on which to base my expertise: ethics, esthetics, empirics, and experience. Of these, esthetics is the least emphasized. Photographer and midwife Harriette Hartigan’s new book, Brought to Earth by Birth, fills this gap in esthetic knowing about childbirth.

Hartigan’s still, black and white photography is an important contrast to the other esthetic messages that bombard us in popular culture. The book conveys the women’s narratives, told by the looks on their faces and the tone of their gestures. These timeless narratives pass their power to the reader silently—in contrast to the frenzied plot of the dominant culture’s birth narrative. In those filmed stories the always—rescuing healthcare providers is at the center; the woman’s body and baby are the raw material of a manufactured birth. These tales are standardized, using the colors of hospital gowns and scrubs to convey that the setting produces the drama, recruiting beeping machinery and inserting incessant commercials to remind us that we are viewing commerce—something we should buy. “Not so,” states this book.

The very quietness of Hartigan’s images, the occasional offerings of poetry and well-known phrases, send the message that birth is personal and human. That, at its best, it unfolds with twists and meanings specific to each woman, that she is the heroine, that the health care provider is a supporting player. The balance, lightness, and frankness of the photographs themselves reassure: There can be high drama indeed, without solitary fear, without frenzy. This is an important esthetic to experience and hold onto.

The book distills emotions from captured moments in pregnancy, labor, and the first hours of bonding, including a range of realistic feelings, including weariness, challenge, intensity, enormous effort, and relief. It also bears witness to the relationships that surround the birthing woman and the people who accompany her on this passage: her partner, her other children, friends, attendants. Sometimes the relationship is peripheral, seen in the touch of a gloved hand. Sometimes it is center stage, seen in the powerful locking together of intimate gazes or supportive embraces. The best supporting player in the drama—the infant—is never long out of sight.

This gentle book whispers encouragement to women to ignore all the noisy pop culture messages about birth and to balance their ways of learning about their choices. With simple black and white esthetic evidence, it speaks encouragement to birth attendants to remember that sometimes there is no reason why birth cannot be a human event rather than a technological one.

Brought to Earth by Birth is a valuable gift to give a pregnant woman or father-to-be, a birth professional in training, even a boy or girl wanting to know where he or she came from. The photographs span Hartigan’s career, depict diverse families and settings, and convey a deep ease and passion for witnessing—and bearing witness to—women giving birth. She makes us welcome to look too, and to feel. And to know what is possible.


Penny Simkin, Author, Doula, Childbirth Educator, Birth Counselor

I love this book and you will, too. How can we not love a book that focuses so purely on the timeless universal experience of birth? Each and every one of us has been born. And Harriette Hartigan’s keen eye and simple yet profound words bring us new insight to ponder the poignancy and wonder that characterize pregnancy, birth and new life.

Drawing on her experience as a midwife, writer and photographer for more than 35 years, Harriette shares her passion and wisdom in her beautiful and captivating new book, Brought to Earth by Birth.

As readers, we move among many levels. Having been born ourselves, we may ponder our own early lives within our mothers’ wombs and our journeys to the world outside. Those who have been, are, or will sometime become pregnant and/or parent a child, will find themselves guided by Harriette’s insightful words and sensitive photos to step back from the mundane day-to-day aspects of pregnancy and appreciate the larger meaning of our own lived experience. For those have given birth, witnessed birth, or will someday do so, Harriette’s camera lens works like a laser beam, piercing through all the complex man-made extraneous additions that cloud the personal meaning of birth, to reveal the universal—the intensity, the challenges, the self-doubt, and ultimately, the acceptance and determination to do what it takes to birth a baby. And lastly, she captures, poignantly and lovingly with photos and words, the first meeting with one’s baby. The babies will melt your heart!

Spare with words, yet lush with truth, Harriette’s message is laden with meaning and simplicity. To give you a taste, here are a few examples:

Page 17: “Pregnant woman, at once universal and individual, lives the compelling force of creation within her whole being.”

Page 37: “Doubt that she can do this mighty work and determination that ‘Yes, I will,’ are both true.”

Page 58: “Releasing her embrace of nine months, woman opens in utmost response to insistence of life leaving, to enter this world.”

Page 72: “Birth is as safe as life gets.”

Harriette Hartigan is one of the world’s premiere birth photographers. Her photographs speak volumes about the essence of life’s greatest experiences—giving birth and being born.

I think if everyone would read this book, we’d have less violence and more love in our world!


Kitty Ernst CNM, MPH, DSc (hon), Mary Breckinridge Chair of Midwifery, Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing

Harriette Hartigan has done it again. In Brought to Earth by Birth, she visually and poetically captures the extraordinary experience of women creating the beginning of new life on earth—the physical and emotional effort, the strength and power, the beauty and the resulting joy of giving birth. In a culture increasingly bent on distancing women from experiencing birth—a negative experience from which to escape—it is a timely reminder that we may not fully understand the importance of the human birth experience in preparing us for our most important and role in life—to be a mother. Words are not adequate to describe Harriette’s artistry.


Shari Maser for Midwest Book Review

A powerful photographic poem
December 26, 2008

“You know being born is important to you. You know nothing else was ever so important to you.”—Carl Sandburg, quoted in Brought to Earth by Birth.

Brought to Earth by Birth is a powerful photographic poem, exquisite in its simplicity. With a focus on faces, Harriette Hartigan illuminates the essence of the universal experience of being born.

In this ode to the ethereal beauty and primal power of new life, lyrical language frames a series of expressive black-and-white portraits of mothers, babes, and families.

Harriette Hartigan has been a childbirth photographer for over 30 years and is also a midwife, so she knows exactly what inspirational messages expectant and new parents need to see and hear. In Brought to Earth by Birth, she delivers these messages beautifully, and although the subject matter is intimate, all of the photographs are coffeetable-appropriate.

My children and I were instantly drawn to the portraits of newborn babies and the people who brought them into the world; mothers, fathers, grandparents, and children everywhere will also be captivated by them.

Maternity and neonatal care providers will surely fall in love with Brought to Earth by Birth, as it reflects the greatest joys of their work. Obstetricians, midwives, labor and delivery nurses, doulas, childbirth educators, and pediatricians will find themselves unwilling to part with their own copies of this compelling book; they will need to order another copy to share with their clients.

For Harriette’s art photographs and educational DVDs about childbirth and breastfeeding, visit www.harriettehartigan.com.


Bernadette Clark, RNC, CD (DONA), Editor of Mother to Mother, President of Gentle Spirit Doulas, Inc., homebirth mom to twelve blessings

Awesome read! In Brought to Earth by Birth, Harriette Hartigan artfully weaves exquisite photography with softly written prose capturing the essence of the birthing family. Her use of black and white photography keeps her message timeless. Brought to Earth is packed with emotions from the pregnant state to the birthing experience and beyond. Hartigan clearly communicates that birth is beautiful, powerful, and an event to be embraced by parents everywhere. Highly recommended to every expectant mother, whether first time or veteran.


Cathy Daub, Birth Works International

There is one word that comes to my mind upon paging through Brought to Earth by Birth, and that is JOY. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and they celebrate the miracle of life as a woven tapestry from pregnancy through birth and parenting in this beautiful collection of black and white photos. The message is that, “Birth is joyful.” The limited use of words greatly enhances the “story” of each picture and the few words that are used, such as “Birth is as safe as life gets,” have great impact.

Pictures describe emotions based on thoughts conveyed through facial expressions and bodily positions. In Hartigan’s book, they show not only the joy and bliss of birth, but also the work required to birth a baby. These women are not afraid of labor and are consciously working with their bodily sensations, allowing the power that knows how to give birth to work through them.

An aspect that attracts me deeply to Hartigan’s book is the feeling of love and intimacy evident in the expressions and touching portrayed by these women, their families and their children. They feel safe, and when women giving birth feel safe, birth becomes a peak experience in their lives. In the current climate of fear and intervention in birth, this book brings a ray of sunshine. Brought to Earth by Birth is a perfect gift to empower any woman giving birth.


Kya Rose, Owner of EmpoweredChildbirth.com

This graceful black and white volume is, in essence, a 90-page visual meditation on the childbearing year. It strikes a pleasant contrast to the loads of books on birth that engage the rational logical mind with details, recipes, research and arguments. Instead, this book offers the opportunity to get in touch with the experience of pregnancy, labor and birth through beautiful photos and poetic verse.

Author Harriette Hartigan states that she was a photographer who began capturing the images of pregnancy and birth on film in 1975. Some of the photos do look a little dated, but that only serves to enhance the timeless nature of the work. From the opening invitation to sit quietly while exploring the pages, to the photos of pregnant women, couples and families of all shapes and shades, through the many faces of labor to the beauty of newborn faces, this book serves to connect the reader with a midwife’s view of the cycle of birth.

For readers with sensitivities to medicalized images and settings, there are a few pages that might need to be skipped. Nearly all the photos of emergence depict stressed newborn bodies, gloved hands and positions that might trigger uncomfortable memories. Thankfully, that section is short and the glorious images of joyful pregnant mamas and tandem nursing twins more than make up for it.

I can easily see this as a book parents may want to use to introduce the concept of labor to young children who will be attending a sibling’s birth. There are no graphic shots of gratuitous nudity or bodily fluids, but the faces of the laboring mamas are real and intense, making them good subjects for discussion.

All in all, I feel this book deserves a place of honor on any pregnancy-related bookshelf as a visual poem on the beauty and triumph of birth.


Mindy Levy, CNM, MA
Agoola Birth Center, Israel

Brought to Earth by Birth is a multidimensional visual experience that combines of the poetry of images and the visual manifestations of thoughts. Harriette Hartigan succeeds in capturing alluring images of mothers, fathers and babies that draw the reader into the wise, magical world of birth and the newly born. The heroes of this creation are the newborns; the wisdom of humanity is reflected in their faces. The power of love is the theme. The message—birth is a moment of truth.


E.M. Broner, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Jewish American author

Brought to Earth by Birth is so beautiful, so wonderful, from front cover to back cover. And the commentary throughout is perfect.

The paean to the body is beautiful: “essence of creation/where the human spirit is courageous and bold/and the body is a miracle of wisdom.” Wow! And it’s being “our deepest metaphor.” So wise. In another poem, “Energy becomes human in the/alchemy of the womb.”

The poetic photographs of pregnant women, each different, from proud to lyrical. The Mona Lisa smile is grand—“living the mystery/open to the power.”

The laboring women—their eyes focused afar. Or closed, as in the beautiful photograph of the women next to “The Pull of gravity. I felt earthbound.” And the agony, “I can’t do this anymore.” “The force you can’t stop.”

Those being born, half in and half out of the world. All its orifices open, the sweet mouth, the ear, the eyes.

I love, “Looking for the face I had before the world was born,” and the baby under it.

And, “Who entered without coming through the door/whose feet have not touched the ground.” (Colette)

It is magnificent. A lifetime of experience and wisdom. There’s nothing more wonderful than this.


Sunday Tortelli, certified childbirth educator, DONA certified doula and DONA Director of Publications

The beauty of pregnancy and the magnificence of birth are captured with reverence in this book. Poignant black and white images convey a complete range of emotions and evoke a passionate response. Powerful poems and mother’s statements capture the raw essence of this glorious state of being.

With simplicity and grace, this book far exceeds the boundaries of its pages by encouraging us to embrace birth as a natural and life-affirming process. It has the power to speak to the souls of new parents and seasoned birth professionals alike.


Reviewed by Serena Spencer-Jones, for National Childbirth Trust’s New Digest Journal

With so few predominantly pictorial books available for parents on birth, I was struck by how delightful yet educational it was to enjoy the images in this book. Do heed the invitation at the beginning to read it somewhere quiet and without disturbance, and take note—this book is potent. The simplicity of these black and white images and the thoughtful use of gentle words take the reader to the essence of what birth is.

As human beings, we are equipped to read, assess and respond to facial expressions and body language. We do this at a subconscious level instantaneously, before we even realize what is happening at a conscious level. The discovery in 2006 that the model in Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was pregnant or a very new mother explains why her enigmatic smile has proved so beguiling over the centuries.

Author Harriette Hartigan, a photographer and midwife, is a mother of three sons, and she has skillfully melded her work into an art form in this book. Each image powerfully registers in the subconscious, evoking feelings of a maternal or paternal kind. Whether this book is used as an antenatal teaching tool providing stimulus for discussion or merely for quiet contemplative use by parents-to-be or new parents, it definitely has a place on the bookshelf of the NCT antenatal teacher.

The strength of these images can push past boundaries of culture or class; as such they have a value in the antenatal care of Britain’s immigrant population and of vulnerable young parents. The book seems to reassure that pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood can be very rewarding experiences. Photographs seem incapable of lying or of being patronising—their sheer honesty speaks volumes.


Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE, certified childbirth educator, the CAPPA book reviewer, and the Citizens for Midwifery blogger

Written by well-known birth photographer Harriette Hartigan, Brought to Earth by Birth is a lyrical ode to the power of birth and babies. The book feels like an extended “poem” expressed in both word and image. The emphasis of the book is the black and white photos of pregnant women, families, and newborns that grace the pages. There are several photos of women in labor and a couple of breastfeeding images. Surrounding the photos are carefully chosen quotes and gentle words.

Brought to Earth by Birth is separated into six “chapters” and contains several birth photos, but no crowning photos or any other photos that some may consider “graphic.” The book is short—under 100 pages—and some photos were familiar to me (cover images in birth publications). The concluding emphasis is on the newborn, the one who is, after all, “brought to earth by birth.”

The book would make a nice gift for a midwife, doula, or childbirth educator and is a nice “waiting room” book to browse through. It would also make an inspirational mother blessing gift. As the author states, “The experience of birth is vast. It is a diverse tapestry woven by cultural customs, shaped in personal choices, affected by biological factors, marked by political circumstances. Yet the nature of birth itself prevails in elegant design of simple complexity.” Brought to Earth by Birth is a lovely glimpse of some strands of that elegant tapestry.


Catherine Fraser RN, BScN; dip Art Therapy, cert IBP, reviewing for JOPPPAH (Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health)

Harriette Hartigan is a photographer and midwife who has passion for the subject of birth. In Brought to Earth by Birth, she depicts birth experiences visually through black and white photography and with words describing the mystery and unique relationships that emerge in the process. Her photo essay is depicted with compassion and graciousness. She captures the beauty, the intensity and the connections to the birth journey with chapters reflecting on pregnancy, labor, birth, and the newborn. The pregnancy spiral embedded in the pages throughout the book could also double for the opening spiral of birth and lens of the camera. One has the sense that Harriette truly respects, and understands as a mother and midwife the mighty work it takes to birth. She also values the photographic image to record and tell a story triggering memories and emotions of the experience.

The book resonates with APPPAH’S (Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health)’S belief about the profound importance of connection and relationship. As Hartigan demonstrates, birth is the experience of a lifetime where we face the wonders of creation. Her images express relationships and honor the birth process within—describing connection to self, to other, and to the world. The effort, the required concentration, and the exploration of inner and outer realms are depicted during the intimate moments of birth. Hartigan shows us how this important journey of connection begins with conception, and how it continues to have impact during the birth process and throughout life. In this sense, her photography is purposeful—a visual journal for all to see, review and remember to appreciate the journey. As an artist, Hartigan truly respects, and understands, the mighty work it takes to birth. Her pictures embrace the beauty of pregnancy, connections to place, experience, and to the power of the feminine. The images bring back memories for both those who have delivered, or those have who have been delivered.

I appreciated Hartigan’s emphasis on the importance of connection, however the photos at the beginning and the end of the book surprised me. In her opening image, I would like to have seen the mother welcome her baby open eyed and at the end of the book I would have liked to see, not just the eyes, but also the connection of baby to other. Hartigan comfortably portrayed male participation in birth and women being supported by their partners. The men seem involved, working and engaged in honoring the process. Medical imagery is not obtrusive. Vernix covered infants and the alert newborns are shown in their perfection. Artistic, black and white curves of the belly and stylized figures are depicted and perhaps could have been expanded to be included at the beginning of each chapter. The photographs demonstrate that childbirth is empowering. In Hartigan’s images, birth is not just an intellectual experience but also a kinesthetic and emotional one. Her images transmit this directly to the viewer—touching emotions, knowledge and memory.

Hartigan’s narrative is interspersed with quotes from well-known people, clients and herself—capturing the essence of thoughts and allowing the reader the space to explore their own experience.

The strength of the book is the empowering depiction of meeting the task of birth positively. Hartigan helps us remember the gift of life by showing confidence in the process and miracle of our bodies from the beauty of pregnancy, to the trance of labor and welcoming the newborn. The images depict not only the pregnant woman’s journey but also the roles of friends, and supporters to encourage, touch and love so that birthing women can do their work throughout conception, pregnancy, labor and birth.

This is not a how to book on labor and birth. It is a book for medical personnel, nursing, sociology psychology and medical students, midwives, and expectant couples. It will mean different things for different people and allow for personal exploration and reflection of the birth journey, whether our own personal birth story or a recent birth experience. It is a book to be read sequentially.

There is space in the pages that could become a photo journal for pregnant women or couples. It is a gift to expectant couples and those wanting to explore the theme of birth through words and images. Whether in anticipation of giving birth or years later, it is a wonderful book to reflect upon, review and relive experiences.

Through photography and words Hartigan describes and reinforces belief in our capacity to deliver babies—to encounter painful places and trust the body to let go and do what is intended.


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