Morag Hastings leads a very unconventional life. She has taken on the great responsibility of becoming a doula. For those who don’t know, a doula is someone who provides support to a woman during childbirth, both physically and emotionally. But she is also a photographer and has managed to weave together both of her passions into a career that, on the outside looking in, seems like an overwhelming duty. She’s there for the entire process, providing support and photographing the most crucial and fleeting moments of new life. But as we’ve learned from Morag, it also happens to be one of the most important, rewarding and beautiful jobs in the world. It’s something not everyone agrees with and very few people can do – let alone do well. 
Apple-Blossom-Families, Morag-Hastings, doula, birth-photographer
When did you realize you wanted to become a doula and birth photographer, and how did you get started?
With three kids, I decided I needed to do a job that came naturally to me. I asked my family for support in becoming a doula. Thankfully they all agreed; they knew it was a perfect job for me. The next winter, I took the doula training. I put my business cards and website together and realized there were a lot of doulas in Vancouver. It would be hard to get the first births lined up.I have always cherished the images from my own three births, even though most are dark and out of focus.  With that thought in mind, I decided maybe I could offer birth photography along with my doula services. Much to my surprise no one was offering it in my city at the time. A few months later, I was off to my first birth. At this point no one knew what a birth photographer was, but when they saw what I was doing they thought it was fantastic.After about 8 months, people started to get to know me a bit and accept this new form of birth support. Quickly my practice started to book up as people were talking about the magic of getting back their birth stories through the images I snapped while I was giving support and love to my clients.Often the time of your birth goes by so quickly that you forget a lot of the little things and even some of the big things. After the days and weeks pass the crisp, professional images they were left with help them decipher their birth story. I can easily say I feel blessed to have found my calling and my life’s work.
Apple-Blossom-Families, Morag-Hastings, doula, birth-photographer
For those who aren’t aware, can you tell us about exactly what services you provide? 
I am on call for weeks at a time. Normal birth can happen anytime within a five week window, so I always have to be ready to go. I usually join my clients when they are in active labour and stay with them for two hours after the birth of their baby. I document all the on goings of the day like the dad wiping the mom’s forehead during labour, or the grandmother crying with excitement. When the actual moment birth happens my clients get to choose whether or not they want these moments documented. If they do then I put them in a private folder for them to enjoy at their own leisure.I continue to photograph all the moments right after the baby is born. Like when the parents first see their new baby or when everyone in the room finds out it’s a girl. I stay for all the well baby checks, the weighing and get a nice family shot before I leave. Within 24 hours I get the family a nice photo of their baby to share with friends and family so they don’t have to share a phone picture that is blurry and out of focus.My clients, of course, are the ones who choose what they share publicly. For some that is none at all and for others it could be a shot of the baby crowning, and anywhere in between.

Apple-Blossom-Families, Morag-Hastings, doula, birth-photographer

What is something you know now that you wish you had known then, as you were just starting out?

That I would get busy and birth photography would be popular. I wish I had enjoyed my off call time a little more. Being on call is a very specific lifestyle.

How do you prepare for the different sessions you have? 

The most important part of this work is to be ready to go at any moment, since this is on-call work! I have my phone charged and on all the time, my gas tank doesn’t go past half full and my camera bag is always packed and ready to go. I try to not stay up late or focus on what ‘could’ happen.  If I stay in the moment then I don’t waste time getting worried about how I will pull it all off.

Apple-Blossom-Families, Morag-Hastings, doula, birth-photographer
What would you say is your unique photography style?

It is so hard to critique your own work so I asked everyone on my facebook page to tell me their thoughts. They said my work is bright, emotional, real, raw, compelling. I would say I have a clean documentary style with lots of heart, emotion and respect.

What’s your background in terms of photography? 

In 2000 I graduated from the Professional Photography 2-year program at Langara College. I worked for a few photographers and then quickly settled into doing web design and enjoying motherhood. It wasn’t until I started shooting births 10 years later that I began to shoot professionally. I had to do a lot of self-learning and internet research to refresh my skills. All the years of critiquing and being critiqued in school really paid off; it was way easier to re-learn the trade I went to school for than to self-teach from scratch.

Apple-Blossom-Families, Morag-Hastings, doula, birth-photographer

What camera do you use the most? 

Nikon D600 with the 24-70mm f/2.8 for tight spaces, low light and quick changes!

What type of difficulties might you face on a normal session?

The lighting is always mixed and always changing. The subjects are fast moving and there are always lots of hands and people in the way. You have to be a documentator and be okay with what ever happens. It can be being sprayed by bodily fluids (yes, I have been puked on!), or getting snubbed by medical staff after not sleeping for 30+ hours. Most birth photographers don’t stay in the game. It is hard being on call all the time, you don’t get paid like many other photography industries and most people are still uncomfortable with the idea of  birth photographers so you have to work to get clients. It may seem glorious when you see the photos but it is a lot of work and requires a lot of skill to do it well.

Apple-Blossom-Families, Morag-Hastings, doula, birth-photographer
Can you share an unforgettable experience from your work? 

This weekend I watched a mom birth her sixth baby at home surrounded by her children who were wiping her face and bringing her food and water. They were all free to come and go as they pleased. To make it even more special she was the only birth photographer in my area when I started but she hasn’t gone back because during my three years of business she has had two babies. It was amazing to do this work for a fellow birth photographer.

Apple-Blossom-Families, Morag-Hastings, doula, birth-photographer

What do you love the most about the work that you do?

When I finish editing the last photos of a birth, upload the files and send them off to my clients, I always take a deep breath. I know my clients are going to open their files with great excitement and anticipation and possibly a few tears. I get to give this new family a huge gift, and they don’t even know how special it will be to them until they open it. The files will walk them through the journey of the day they became parents and a family.

Apple-Blossom-Families, Morag-Hastings, doula, birth-photographer

To learn more, visit AppleBlossomFamilies, shoot an email to Morag Hastings and follow her and her work on Facebook!