BEAUTIFUL BUBS: Karnelle Leone is preparing to welcome her first child. A member of the Butchulla, Garawa, Wanyi, Bidgara and Ganglu tribes, she visited one of Fraser Island's most sacred birthing spots for her ancestors, Wangoolba Creek, ahead of the birth of her son.
BEAUTIFUL BUBS: Karnelle Leone is preparing to welcome her first child. A member of the Butchulla, Garawa, Wanyi, Bidgara and Ganglu tribes, she visited one of Fraser Island's most sacred birthing spots for her ancestors, Wangoolba Creek, ahead of the birth of her son. Contributed

BUMP BEAUTY: Why pregnancy photography has become so popular

RESTING her pregnant belly in the shallow, cool waters of Wangoolba Creek on Fraser Island, Karnelle Leone felt an immediate connection to all the mothers who had come before her.

A sacred birthing place for the Butchulla people, it is a landscape that almost transcends time.

A place where one can imagine the soothing waters easing the pain of a woman's labour while providing a calm environment for her baby to arrive.

"I feel as though the ancestors and the island itself were really with me," Ms Leone said.

A proud descendant of the Butchulla, Gawara, Wanyi, Bidgara and Gangalu tribes, when she became pregnant with her first child, she longed to return to country and embrace what generations before her had experienced.

In a time before medical care, Ms Leone knows not every story would have had a happy ending, even in a place as beautiful as Wangoolba Creek.

Being there also gave her the chance to think about the women who had lost babies, maybe even their own lives, while going through childbirth.

The creek that had held the blood of the women before her, which had witnessed so many life-affirming scenes over thousands of years, became a place where Ms Leone could absorb the strength of her ancestors ahead of the birth of her own child.

"I felt a special connection with them, I could feel them around me," she said.

She was feeling sore before entering the creek, but was amazed by the way the water eased the pain in her back.

Ms Leone is passionate about her culture and sharing the photo was a way of not only sharing its beauty, but also the beauty of pregnancy, the changes it makes to the body, the way it connects women regardless of place and time.

Her grandmother, Joyce Bonner, was by her side perform a healing water ceremony and, with other women around her celebrating her journey, the day became a chance to bond ahead of the arrival of the baby.

Looking back on the images, the moments captured in time, moves her every time.

"It means the world to me every time I look at the photos," Ms Leone said.

"I think of all the generations back and the women who came before me."

Maternity photo shoots have become increasingly popular during the past few years and it's not hard to see why.

The reasons can be many and varied.

For Ms Leone, it's a celebration of her culture and pregnancy.

Others love to embrace the female form and the changes in their bodies.

For many mothers it marks a moment in time when mum and baby are still one, before the world intrudes upon that intimate connection.

Hervey Bay photographer Karlie Holloway said she felt honoured every time a woman asked her to do a maternity photo shoot.

"I think that the pregnancy sessions are beautiful and it's an amazing time for a woman," she said.

"It's really a celebration of all the changes that are going on in her body."

Ms Holloway said the photographs created a lasting memory of that moment in a couple's lives.

In the future, it would also become a special memento for the child, she said.

Ms Holloway loves the creativity that comes out of pregnancy and newborn sessions.

Whether it's capturing photos in a special location, or capturing an image the mum has suggested, making their visions come to life was something close to her heart.

"I get a lot of job satisfaction from the pregnancy and newborn sessions."

Ms Holloway said the photos gave women the chance to love their bodies and its new shape, especially if they were suffering from poor body image.

"There are so many changes, they may get stretch marks and this and that," she said.

"None of that really matters because the baby and becoming a mother is the most important thing.

"It's easy for a woman to think she's not beautiful at that time but to me that woman is the most beautiful at that time and I love to bring that out and show it.

"To show her real beauty at that time."

Katelyn Peters during her maternity photoshoot.
Katelyn Peters during her maternity photoshoot. In Motion Photography by Karlie

"I was in two minds about getting photos done," she said.

"I didn't share too much of my pregnancy journey with people."

But she knew once the baby was born, the opportunity to mark a special time in her life would be gone.

Now, along with her husband Cameron, Ms Peters is glad she had the photos taken.

 

"We'll be able to look back on that for a long time," she said.

During her pregnancy, each month Ms Peters had taken a progress photo of her growing bump.

But while the photos capture her progress, it didn't capture the beauty of the journey.

"They were just selfies in a bathroom mirror," she said.

The chance to have professional photos taken was something she didn't regret, not only because of the enhanced quality but because of how the photo shoot made her feel and the chance to get dressed up and look her best.

"It was nice to feel good, because I did suffer morning sickness throughout the whole thing," she said.

Now that her daughter Claire has arrived, she can't wait to share the photos with her one day.

"It will be great to show her this is how close we were.

"Having that connection with her as well is an important thing to show her.

"It's all about the connection."

Katelyn Peters during her maternity photoshoot.
Katelyn Peters during her maternity photoshoot. In Motion Photography by Karlie


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