Emma Nolan is a midwife, photographer and mama from Brisbane who, in her own words “loves advocating for women and supporting them to make informed choices about their care so that they are empowered and confident mothers.” Emma’s stunning photography recently hit the headlines when her image of baby Harper, attached to his placenta with the word ‘love’ written with the umbilical cord went viral on social media. Because of that powerful image, Emma was contacted by Carry the Future, a not-for-profit organisation providing Syrian refugees with baby carriers – and asked to travel with them to Greece to document their work in April. I was thrilled to have the chance to chat with the beautiful Emma about birth, photography, her role with Carry the Future and how she’s raising the funds to get to Greece!
Firstly, how and why did you get into birth photography?
I always loved photography and while on maternity leave I decided to do an online photography course as I was passionate about being a birth photographer after having my own birth photographed and cherishing these images and the emotion they captured. It is amazing how looking at your own birth photos can bring the raw emotion and elation of that time right back to your heart.
Are there any particularly memorable births you’ve witnessed that you can share?
There are so many memorable births I have witnessed as both a midwife and a photographer. As a midwife I will never forget the mother who arrived ready to push her baby out. I was blessed to be chosen to care for her and see her gracefully bring her baby into the world still within it’s membranes which is known as being born en caul. I remember seeing this beautiful baby looking up at me through the bag of membranes as she was being born, and then she lifted her hand up to break her own membranes once she was birthed. As the mother was in the all fours position on the bed I then placed the baby between her legs on the bed for her to pick her up when she was ready. The mother gazed down at this beautiful child and tears filled her eyes as she said, “oh my goodness, it’s a girl and she looks like me!”. This was her third baby, but her first girl, and everyone in the room was teary eyed at the beautiful moment we had just witnessed.
As a photographer I will always remember the mother who was birthing her fourth baby at home. I had gifted the session to her due to some recent financial difficulties however we had not had a chance to meet in person yet prior to her labour. After arriving at her home I was surprised to see how calm she was during contractions, still able to chat, smile and laugh with her support persons. Soon after I arrived she decided it was time to get into the birthing pool, and though I didn’t believe it was possible, she became even calmer and quiet going into her own space. Following a few contractions in the water leaning over the edge, she calmly turned around and said “I’m pushing now” and ever so gracefully she pushed out her baby, smiling even during this time as she watched the babies head emerge in a mirror held by the midwife. She lifted her baby up out of the water on to her chest and embraced her telling her how much she loved her. I had never in all my time as a midwife seen anyone be so calm throughout their entire labour and birth. Each of her three older children woke up to come and see the baby, however the funniest moment was when her second eldest boy exclaimed when he found out it was a girl “oh but I wanted a boy!”.
Tell us about THAT image of the baby with his placenta, that went viral on social media.
I am still so surprised that the image of baby Harper attached to his placenta went viral across the world. I never expected in my wildest dreams when I took the photo that it would get such an incredible response from people and connect so many people back to their roots. It was wonderful to see the comments on the picture of people telling the stories of what they did with their children’s placenta’s and also tagging their mothers to find out what happened with their own placentas. I had planned to take the image for awhile however I was waiting for a baby that had a cord long enough to spell love. It was wonderful that I was able to do this image with Harper as his beautiful Maori heritage is what really connected people to the image with the tradition of returning the placenta back to the land. I think the response to this image shows that as a whole we are all just craving some kind of connection in such a disconnected world.
After that image went viral you were contacted by ‘Carry the Future’- a not-for-profit organization. Can you tell us about them?
Following the worldwide media attention that Harper’s image received I was contacted by an amazing organisation called Carry the Future, who travel to Greece and fit refugees arriving from Syria with baby carriers to help them on their journey. They have asked me if I would travel with them to Greece and document their work to help bring more awareness to their cause. Carry the Future is a really new grassroots organisation all volunteer run. They boast over 5000 volunteers worldwide and close to 100 staff members. To date they have fitted over 3500 baby carriers to refugees arriving in Greece. Donations can be made to Carry the Future as sponsorship of relief packs, monetary donations or baby carriers. You can also fill your donated baby carrier with a note to the family who will receive it, a small gift of a toy for the child and a protein bar to provide extra support and love to the refugees.
You’re currently raising funds to travel with them to Greece (and to donate towards the charity), what will that trip entail?
As Carry the Future is a not-for-profit organisation I will be paying for my own travel expenses and donating my time photographing their work as well as assisting with distributing the carriers to the refugees. Thankfully, as an avid baby wearer myself I know how to teach others how to safely wear a baby or toddler in a baby carrier to ensure it is safe and comfortable for both the child and the wearer.
Tell us how you’re raising funds and how can people get involved?
To help raise the funds for this trip I am doing Group baby wearing photos in cities around Australia – with interest expressed from Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Toowoomba and Mackay. As I am travelling to Greece in April I will not have enough time to get to all the cities prior to my trip, however I will continue to do the photos across Australia once I return with the funds being donated directly to the Carry the Future organisation. If people would like to get involved in one of the baby wearing shoots or to see what I’ve been up to in Greece, or around Australia – they can go to my Facebook page www.facebook.com/emmajeanphotographictales. I would love to have your support about bringing awareness to this amazing organisation and the wonderful work they are doing to provide a small comfort and relief to the refugees seeking asylum.
Emma, thank you so much for taking the time out to chat with us. We wish you all the best on your amazing trip to Greece and can’t wait to see the images and hear all about it.
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