Interview with Sophie Walker - Australian Birth Stories
Hands down, one of the best things about working as a photographer is getting to meet sooooo many incredibly unique women – women that have some pretty amazing stories to share.
I tend to focus on sharing images – however, I’m an inherently curious person, I love a good story and I love learning. I am fascinated to hear how people came to be where they are now and I love finding out more about what drives people, what challenges them and what propels them forwards.
So, instead of just sharing images today – I wanted to also share Sophie’s story.
Sophie is the founder & host of the podcast, Australian Birth Stories. Sophie and I had connected via the wonderful world of instagram for a little while before we met in person at the epic Mamas of Melb Edit organised by Holly at Motherhood Melbourne. When I met Sophie in person, I was so taken by her warm, humble and down to earth nature, it’s no surprise at all that her podcast has resonated so strongly with so many women – take one look at the feedback Australian Birth Stories receives online, and it’s undeniable that this podcast has been life changing for many women.
So have a read and I would love to hear from you – should I do more blog posts like this !? Feel free to drop me a comment below or get in touch via my contact page
What led you to starting Australian Birth Stories ?
After the birth of my first son Niko, I was in shock at how my birth had gone down. I went into my pregnancy and labour thinking I had all the tools and skills and I would need to have a perfect natural, intervention free birth in the Mercy Family Birth Centre. My Mum had very quick labours with my sister and I and I was sure everything was in my favour to have the same.
After 36 hours of labour, an induction to speed up delivery due to ‘failure to progress past 5 cms’, an epidural, forceps and a postpartum haemorrhage - Niko was delivered blue and unresponsive. After my husband revealed the sex, my Mum ran crying out of the room to tell my stepfather the waiting room, “She’s had a boy but he’s not breathing!”
Although both Niko and I were fine after his birth, I couldn’t quite work out what went wrong. What could I have done differently, did I go into the birth centre too soon? Should I have stayed out of the birth pool until later in labour? Was I weak choosing an epidural? SO many questions. Niko was 4.4kgs with a huge head and he just wouldn’t come out.
After this experience, I went into my second pregnancy and labour determined to have a much better experience. I booked into the Mercy Birth Centre again and had a lovely team of midwives who supported me the whole way through my pregnancy. I had always been interested in birth and had already watched every episode of One Born Every Minute and Call The Midwife. I began obsessing over birth stories. I found several podcasts of birth stories online and I listened to every episode I could find. I found comfort in hearing how other women had coped and the decisions they had made in their births.
After an amazing drug-free fast delivery of my second son Louis, I felt compelled to start a Podcast of Australian Birthing Experiences. The shows I had been listening to had been mostly American and therefore their healthcare systems were quite different to ours in Australia.
I started the show in May 2017 by recording my own second birth experience, followed by my sister and some close girlfriends. I wasn’t sure if anyone would listen to them. I figured worst case scenario my mum is the only listener and at least my friends will have a nice record of their births as a keepsake.
Why do you think Australian Birth Stories has had such an impact and resonated so strongly with so many women ?
It's very important to me to capture the wide variety of experiences from a wide variety of women and I think I have done that quite well to date. I've covered stories of elective caesareans, drug-free water births, same-sex couples, epidurals, car births, private and public hospitals experiences, post and antenatal depression experiences, miscarriage, stillbirths, home births and everything in between.
From the feedback I have received, people love hearing that no one birth is the same. I am deliberately reserved in my interviews to give women the space to retell their experience as it was for them. Its a judgment free storytelling platform that seems to have resonated with a wide audience.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love hearing every story. I usually don't know that much about each birth before I record the interview so my reactions are honest. I like to experience it in the same way that my listeners do.
What is the most challenging part?
Finding the time to record, edit, upload and run and promote the show via social media Channels. I have a Masters degree in Public Health and have had to self-teach all of these skills and I'm certainly no expert.
The podcast doesn't make much money so I'm not in a position to hire anyone to assist with the running of the show. I also receive on average 5-10 requests per day to be interviewed on the show. This is fantastic and means there's definitely no shortage of stories, however, the admin in responding to my inbox is also a challenge.
I have both my boys at home with me most days and am currently pregnant. So, like most hardworking mums who run their own businesses from home, I work when the kids are asleep - at the expense of housework haaa. I never invite people over due to the state of my house its park dates all the way.
If you could go back in time, what would be one piece of advice you would give yourself before you launched your podcast ?
That's a really interesting question. I would have told myself to have a few more shows recorded and ready to run. Once you commit to a weekly podcast consistency is key. I would also try and pump myself up a bit. I thought no one would be tuning in and now the show has been downloaded over 600,000 times and I have over 740 5 star reviews on iTunes.
Favourite podcast episode?
Goodness, I literally love all my episodes in their own way. I can't really single any out. Sorry, you'll have to listen to all 90 episodes and tell me your favs.
What excited you most about being involved in the Mamas of melb edit ?
I'm quite an introvert around people I don't know so I saw this photoshoot as a great opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone. It was a beautiful opportunity to stand alongside some other fantastic business women doing some amazing things.
Where to find Sophie
Photography by me, as part of the Mamas of Melb Edit for Motherhood Melbourne (see more from this shoot over on the Motherhood Melbourne website, including a list of the brilliant suppliers). Styling by Karina at Personalised Style.
Oh, and incase you missed it, the Mamas of Melb shoot also featured in the pages (AND COVER!) of MamaMag which is currently out now !
So make sure you pick yourself up a copy to see more or you can read online