PARENTING
09/01/2016 10:52 am ET Updated Sep 06, 2016

43 Photos That Show The Incredible Strength It Takes To Give Birth

Birth is beautiful, no matter how a child enters the world.

No matter the specific circumstances, childbirth is hard. It’s hard for the mother who is being hit with contraction after contraction, fighting to catch her breath; it’s hard for the mom who is barely hanging on as she waits for her epidural; it’s hard for the mother quietly composing herself under the bright lights of the OR, waiting for her C-section to start; and it’s hard for the mama working to keep calm as she brings her preterm baby into the world sooner than she’d planned. 

And yet the strength that women find and tap into during childbirth ― a time when they’re at their most vulnerable, and when so much is at stake ― is incredible, full stop.

Here, 43 talented birth photographers share moments they’ve captured that show the truly awesome strength of women in childbirth. 

  • 1
    Sometimes strength comes in pairs. These friends -- twice mistaken for sisters by the hospital staff -- were silently intertw
    Sometimes strength comes in pairs. These friends -- twice mistaken for sisters by the hospital staff -- were silently intertwined throughout this mom's labor as she brought her rainbow baby into the world.
  • 2
    I felt such a connection with this mother when I took this photograph. I thought that woman all over the world would look at
    I felt such a connection with this mother when I took this photograph. I thought that woman all over the world would look at it and say, "Yes. I was there once. Stay strong!"
  • 3
    This mom labored for many days, off and on, but never lost her endurance, positivity and humor. I know she will use the stren
    This mom labored for many days, off and on, but never lost her endurance, positivity and humor. I know she will use the strength she pulled from labor in the years to come as she navigates motherhood and all of its obstacles.
  • 4
    This mama worked hard to birth her baby into the water, with the father and her midwife there to support her.
    This mama worked hard to birth her baby into the water, with the father and her midwife there to support her.
  • 5
    This mama worked through a "precipitous" (meaning, an extremely fast, extremely intense) labor to bring her third child into
    This mama worked through a "precipitous" (meaning, an extremely fast, extremely intense) labor to bring her third child into the world. Two minutes after this photo was taken, her baby was born into her father's hands.
  • 6
    This mom gets a quiet, supportive touch from her son as she works through a contraction.
    This mom gets a quiet, supportive touch from her son as she works through a contraction.
  • 7
    After a devastating stillbirth, Kara underwent surgeries and treatments to enable her to carry a child full term. 
    After a devastating stillbirth, Kara underwent surgeries and treatments to enable her to carry a child full term. 
  • 8
    This mom was getting out of the tub, then had a contraction that immediately brought her to the floor. Her husband was right
    This mom was getting out of the tub, then had a contraction that immediately brought her to the floor. Her husband was right there through it all giving her support.
  • 9
    This mom was induced, early, and although the intensity of her contractions rolled over her incessantly in waves, she roared
    This mom was induced, early, and although the intensity of her contractions rolled over her incessantly in waves, she roared her baby out into the world at 36 weeks. I will remember her vulnerability and strength forever. 
  • 10
    This mother's firstborn held her tight as she breathed through a contraction. You can feel her strength enveloping them both
    This mother's firstborn held her tight as she breathed through a contraction. You can feel her strength enveloping them both in this moment.
  • 11
    During each contraction, this mother listened to what her body told her to do -- moving, breathing and even laughing her baby
    During each contraction, this mother listened to what her body told her to do -- moving, breathing and even laughing her baby out. 
  • 12
    This mother had a very fast labor and birth with her second baby, so we all expected this third baby to just kind of "fall ou
    This mother had a very fast labor and birth with her second baby, so we all expected this third baby to just kind of "fall out." Instead, she endured weeks and weeks of intense prodromal labor that kept starting and stopping much to her frustration. She then labored through the night and into the following afternoon before her baby girl finally arrived -- and was born en caul! It was a gorgeous day with a lot of happy tears.
  • 13
    This strong mama stays focused with calming music in her ears. I love her tattoo. She also had one on her foot saying, "Just
    This strong mama stays focused with calming music in her ears. I love her tattoo. She also had one on her foot saying, "Just breathe." This was her fifth pregnancy and the first baby she and her partner got to take home. A true rainbow baby!
  • 14
    I wholeheartedly believe that women do not know their true level of strength until they've given birth, <i>however</i> they d
    I wholeheartedly believe that women do not know their true level of strength until they've given birth, however they do it. 
  • 15
    This mother showed so much strength as she endured over 11 hours of labor, which included hours of pushing. Her wonderful dou
    This mother showed so much strength as she endured over 11 hours of labor, which included hours of pushing. Her wonderful doula gave her a scarf wrapped around the birthing bar to help with the pushing when she started getting too tired.
  • 16
    Supported by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/thebellyandthebabe/" target="_blank">her doula</a>, this&nbsp;mom rocked slowl
    Supported by her doula, this mom rocked slowly back and forth through a contraction.
  • 17
    This mom took advantage of the rest breaks she got in between contractions.
    This mom took advantage of the rest breaks she got in between contractions.
  • 18
    This mamma labored so calmly and beautifully, laughing and talking during most of her labor. When it was time to push, she wa
    This mamma labored so calmly and beautifully, laughing and talking during most of her labor. When it was time to push, she was focused and determined and worked through transition with so much strength and beauty.
  • 19
    This was "that moment" -- the moment that almost every woman experiences in labor when she has that overwhelming feeling of "
    This was "that moment" -- the moment that almost every woman experiences in labor when she has that overwhelming feeling of "I can't do this."  As she was overcome by emotion, her husband comforted her and moments later she delivered this sweet baby. Even more amazing? This is a surrogate birth and the second baby she carried for an amazing mom and dad! They are beyond thankful for her strength. 
  • 21
    This birth was trying for this mama. She had a planned home water birth and as things progressed, she needed to let go of tha
    This birth was trying for this mama. She had a planned home water birth and as things progressed, she needed to let go of that plan and head to the hospital. The midwife suggested playing tug-of-war. It helped the mama bear down more and it worked almost immediately. After a few tugs, this strong woman -- who had such a long labor -- finally pushed her baby out.
  • 22
    The majority of strength you see during labor and delivery comes from the mom herself, but it can also be augmented by having
    The majority of strength you see during labor and delivery comes from the mom herself, but it can also be augmented by having an amazing support team. I loved witnessing this moment -- after hour 15 of a 36-hour long labor -- which shows the dedication and passion these partners felt for each other.
  • 23
    This mother told me: "This was my fourth un-medicated delivery. Each time, I've been pushed to the edge and started to consid
    This mother told me: "This was my fourth un-medicated delivery. Each time, I've been pushed to the edge and started to consider an epidural, but it has been too late. Because of this, I never question any other mother's methods for bringing her baby into this world. It is hard work no matter what."
  • 24
    This is a second-time mom. With her first, she planned on a home birth but she was transferred to the hospital. Here she is,
    This is a second-time mom. With her first, she planned on a home birth but she was transferred to the hospital. Here she is, moments away from meeting her baby boy.
  • 25
    When it came time to push, this mother took a no-nonsense approach for the next 45 minutes until she was able to meet her bab
    When it came time to push, this mother took a no-nonsense approach for the next 45 minutes until she was able to meet her baby girl.
  • 26
    This mama spent hours pushing before she ended up needing a C-section. She tried <i>so</i><strong>&nbsp;</strong>hard, but ba
    This mama spent hours pushing before she ended up needing a C-section. She tried so hard, but baby boy ended up being over 10 pounds and had a huge head! Her C-section was very peaceful and beautiful.
  • 27
    This mother was in transition, and she was so strong. It is an honor to be invited into the birth space, and I am always humb
    This mother was in transition, and she was so strong. It is an honor to be invited into the birth space, and I am always humbled by the privilege.
  • 28
    The strength women exhibit during labor and birth is inspiring. This mama possessed power that I'll still reflect back on --
    The strength women exhibit during labor and birth is inspiring. This mama possessed power that I'll still reflect back on -- often!
  • 29
    This mother moved into a squatting position as she began to push. Look at her arms -- she's strong!
    This mother moved into a squatting position as she began to push. Look at her arms -- she's strong!
  • 30
    This was an emergency C-section. I captured this touching moment in the OR after a whirlwind of uncertainty and anxiety.&nbsp
    This was an emergency C-section. I captured this touching moment in the OR after a whirlwind of uncertainty and anxiety. ​​

These captions from the photographers have been edited and condensed.

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