Breathtaking images capture the beauty of water births… taken by a mum inspired by death of her own firstborn baby

Natalie Lennard, from Worthing, West Sussex, was 32-weeks pregnant when she was told her son had no chance of survival back in 2012.

The tot was diagnosed with Potter's syndrome, a fatal condition which meant his kidneys had not developed properly.

Natalie, now 32, went ahead with her decision to have a home birth in December of the same year, to give her baby a peaceful end to his life.

Two years later, the photographer welcomed a healthy baby girl in another home birth – and decided to create her unique Aquadural photo series, as part of a wider project called Birth Undisturbed.

The serene images show the mums completely nude, immersed under water and cradling silicone 'babies', who are still attached by the umbilical cord.

"One of the main triggers for beginning this project has been my own experience becoming a mother," Natalie said.

"Both of my births were very much ‘undisturbed’ and I wanted to use that essence to share universally for women in all situations of birth.

"For this underwater part of my series I wanted to create a birth submerged, a serene image where a woman would be birthing in water alone, reaching down to her baby.

"Many women birth in pools for the pain relief, mobility and autonomy it gives them in labour.

“Some people may not know that the baby can be safely born into the water as they already have been living submerged in amniotic fluid, and do not inhale for the first time until they reach the air.

"But what is also little known is that there is a deeper philosophy to waterbirth.

“In the final ocean image, I wanted to hark back to the primitive history of water birth. We have actually given birth for thousands of years in water.

"Only in modern times has it reappeared as a form of fad or trend.

“And, also some women do give birth in the sea – even with dolphins. But the image is intended to be taken symbolically as well as literally.

"The woman is in her own world, floating in her own womb memory – resonant in the experience of every woman giving birth regardless of the setting.

“I wanted to speak for the stories of mothers, specifically women’s primal experience giving birth in a way that is undisturbed, so that we can see more positive and inspiring birth images.”

Natalie has shared some of the images with her 26,700 Instagram followers, but explained the photos don't show real births.

She said: "This would definitely go against the idea of a ‘birth undisturbed’, if I turned up at a birth with my camera system, lighting and assistants, and asked them to hold a pose.

“Birth documentary images are a separate and very beautiful genre which I enjoy looking at on social media – more people need to see them, and this year social media rightly lifted its censorship on childbirth.

“But with this series I want to construct a specific story that is in my mind, create and direct that scene exactly how I envision. This is the genre of fictional narrative photography – think of it in the same way as a movie-still, or a painting.

“Going underwater was one of the most challenging concepts of my birth images. I had never shot underwater before. I had to buy an underwater housing for my DSLR camera, practice focusing through water and triggering the lights that didn’t fire beyond a certain depth.

“We used professional movie-standard prosthetic silicone babies with realistic umbilical cords. The models had a very difficult task to repeatedly get into realistic birthing poses, put the baby and cord in position, and hold an expression on her face – all at once.

“I am used to having a very controlled set-up, but with shooting underwater, I had to go more with the flow. Every shot would be different because of the nature of how water moves the model, her hair, the bubbles, and the play of light on the surface.

“It means you get a big lucky dip of images afterwards, and a big challenge was picking the right one to suit my vision. Nice underwater poses weren’t necessarily the right birth poses.”

Natalie added of her art: “Some people are misled it is real. Others think it’s a painting.

“Some express concern at the sea salt and pollution of giving birth in the sea, or being too far from a medical environment which they deem as the safest way to birth.

“Because I share all my series online, I receive many kinds of reaction.”

Natalie has also created images of the Queen giving birth to Prince Edward, a graphic birthing of the Virgin Mary, and a woman having her child in the back of a car – while her husband peers through the window.

In more parenting news, Pippa Middleton is expected to give birth in the £7.5k-a-night Lindo Wing – just like sister Kate.

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