Hollie Lau, a mom of three and a doula, wanted her 9-year-old son Charlie to be in the delivery room when she welcomed her newborn daughter, Robin, in 2019. In an effort to normalize the birth experience and "give boys opportunities to be nurturing," Hollie appointed Charlie as a doula. She also recruited Ohio-based birth photographer Hannah Spencer to capture how she labored with Charlie by her side — and the results are absolutely incredible.
"Regardless of gender identity, it's important for children to witness childbirth to normalize the process of birth, which is still considered so taboo and a 'behind closed doors' activity to many," Hannah told POPSUGAR. "Too often, we place the sentimental, emotional, loving, caring characteristics of little humans inside a specific gender bucket. Witnessing birth can give a viewpoint into the power of laboring people and the beauty, strength, and courage those that give birth possess, and children are no exception to that."
The option to be present at Robin's birth was always on the table for Hollie's two older kids, and Charlie jumped at the chance to participate. "The moment that we announced our pregnancy to our sons, Charlie asked if he could come," she explained. "As a family, we believe in creating opportunities for our sons to practice being nurturing, which our society doesn't easily or openly provide to boys. Family-centreed birth is beautiful and can be an incredibly powerful moment together. We wanted to share that powerful bonding moment with them. It was also a great opportunity for my sons to witness how strong I am, as a person and as a woman."
"Having Charlie present through the hardest part of my labour gave me strength when I doubted myself."
Although there's understandably no way for a 9-year-old to have professional training or hands-on experience when it comes to assisting during a childbirth, the amount of mental support her oldest son offered got Hollie through the toughest moments of labour.
"Having Charlie present through the hardest part of my labour gave me strength when I doubted myself," said Hollie. "His calming touch between contractions was so sweet and grounded me and allowed me to regain my focus. Both our sons spent a lot of time preparing to play a support role. Charlie took to the role very naturally. My sons asked to take a mini childbirth education class, which I taught, to prepare them mentally for witnessing birth. Having the people I care about the most cheering me on during the hardest thing I've ever done was exactly what I needed to get through it. His presence helped remind me that I had done this before and that I could do it again."
For Hannah, Hollie's birth was one of her favourites to shoot. Inspired by Hollie's dedication to inclusion and flipping the script when it comes to gender roles, it's an experience she'll never forget. "As a birth worker, I often get to witness other birth workers give birth, doulas included," said Hannah. "Her story was so incredible, and the support of her family, especially her children, was such a gift to be able to photograph, but above that, to witness as a woman, mother, and friend."
Read ahead to get a look at the incredible pictures Hannah captured of Hollie giving birth to her daughter with Charlie right by her side.