WARNING: This article contains graphic images of childbirth.
Angela Gallo has a revolutionary approach to childbirth.
“It’s so important we change birthing culture to make it more mainstream,” the Melbourne childbirth assistant (doula) and photographer told Mamamia.
“There’s too much that’s taboo, too much secrecy. And that’s why we’re all afraid of it.”
Gallo is determined to break down that wall in the delivery suites (and homes) of Australia in her own way, with refreshingly honest childbirth photography and her doula services: including, but not limited to, her revolutionary idea to make older siblings part of the birthing process.
“There was a photo on my Facebook page of an older brother burning the cord with his mum immediately after the birth. It got a lot of reaction and comment, because you don’t normally see kids involved in births,” Gallo says.
However, the photograph was popular because it simply showed the natural and normally taboo aspects of love and family – and of course, birth.
It’s a photograph that Gallo is proud of, and feels it represents perfectly how she sees herself as a doula and birth photographer.
“I don’t edit out poo or blood. It’s really important to me to tell the truth with my work,” she says – and she wants that truth to be seen by the family a baby is being born into.
“It’s so important that kids see birth for what it is – to negate the fear of the unknown.”
Gallo's unique approach to both was borne of one of the more challenging times in her life. In 2010, Gallo discovered she had a "surprise pregnancy".
"I had Dengue Fever and was using birth control - so I was unprepared to learn I was having a baby!"
But Gallo says she was determined to embrace the experience, no matter how terrified she was. She knew she needed support.
"I jumped online and started Googling 'help with birth' and that's how I learnt what a doula is," she laughs, recalling the moment of doing so approximately six years ago.
"My doula was amazing, I couldn't have done it without her."
Gallo endured a 45 hour labour with her doula beside her every moment. After that, she decided to become one herself - to change the experience of other mums-to-be.
"Ruby is now five, and I was very overwhelmed. When Odin was born three years ago, it was very different, because I knew what to expect. That comfort and support is what I want to offer my clients," Gallo explains.
"I didn't have any pictures of Ruby's birth, but what I learnt is that it can really shape a woman's experience; how she remembers the event."
That was part of the reason why Gallo decided to diversify her services and offer herself as either a doula or photographer, depending on her client's needs.
"Women are at their most honest during childbirth, and that's what I love to capture."
From the hundreds of births she's been a part of, there's one that really stands out in Gallo's mind.
"I had a client who had a c-section as a first birth. It wasn't a positive experience for her at all, she was very traumatised because she had an emergency c-section due to the baby's position, and recovery took a long time," Gallo recalls.
"So I really wanted to show her that childbirth could be something really special. She wanted to try a VBAC [vaginal birth after Caesarian] for her second pregnancy, and I fully supported her in that."
With Gallo's constant support, the client went on to have a successful VBAC - and Gallo was even able to take some amazing photos, too.
"It was so satisfying to be able to show her, here, look at what you did. This is what your body achieved. Look at how beautiful it is."
Gallo laughs, recalling that her client's response was, "I can't believe I fucking did it."
But to Gallo, it was the ultimate result: a healthy and happy mum and baby.
"She realised her body wasn't broken, and she wasn't, either."
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