One of life’s greatest experiences is becoming a parent. Those fortunate enough to fall pregnant get to experience a journey like no other, which is filled with ups and downs, as they patiently await the arrival of a life that will change their own forever.

After spending nine months preparing for parenthood, mothers then have to give birth. While partners and family members are usually on hand to lend support, it can be a difficult and painful experience that leaves them shaken and emotional once it’s finally over.

Check out the video below for some powerful photographs of this special experience: 

To shed light on this experience, the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers (IAPBP) holds an annual competition for the best childbirth photographs. Featured in the video above are last year’s winners and featured below are this year’s.

What makes each of these images so incredible is that they all tell a story, documenting in a single image a journey nine months in the making. It’s impossible not to get a strong sense of how powerful this experience is, as well as the relief and joy it ultimately results in.

1. A celebratory kiss

Partners are overwhelmed with pride when women give birth, and so they should be.

2. Five brand new toes

It’s amazing what the human body can create.

3. Siblings meet for the first time

The first face this baby saw was a curious one.

4. It’s not just mothers who have something to smile about

Midwives play a crucial role in this journey too.

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