Cesarean Birth - Advocate for a Birth Photographer
Photographer: Brittney Hogue
You know this story. You've heard it dozens of times from dozens of women. I was rushed to the OR for an emergency C-section. My baby's heart rate bottomed out. My blood pressure was too high. The cord was wrapped too tightly. My baby was breech and my provider was not comfortable delivering. I wasn't confident I could do a VBAC. My scaring is too intense. I'm scared. I'm terrified. I don't want to give birth again.
And then the news comes again. Another cesarean delivery. A repeat C-section. It's ok, it's controlled this time. Nothing to be worried about. Women have cesarean deliveries all the time. It won't be like last time. There's nothing to be worried about this time.
We as friends, as family, as clinicians... we seem to have this attitude of reassurance that manages to minimize a mother's real fears. We stop validating her when we constantly try to make it better. We stop listening and start trying to control her birth narrative for her with our words instead of support her with our actions.
It's going to be fine.
But what if it isn't?
In some areas of the United States, birth doulas and photographers are welcomed in the OR. Whether emergency or routine, their presence is valued. In these facilities, providers and staff recognize how vital it is to a mother's healing process and even just basic understanding of the events that unfold to have a doula or photographer. They understand what pictures can mean, what they can DO for a mother. And especially for the mother who is facing a repeat cesarean, who knows exactly how her birth will unfold but still has a sense of daunting anxiety surrounding it... how can birth photography impact her?
1. Birth photography creates normalcy. It's such a simple idea. A birth photographer in the OR feels normal. It feels like your birth becomes a celebration. It helps change the narrative in the smallest of ways... it gives a mother hope that she will have a beautiful experience.
2. Birth photography can heal. Especially when there is an emergent need for cesarean birth, photography gives a family back the moments they thought they lost: remembering the moment you held your baby for the first time, hearing a first cry, capturing a weight, seeing your partner fall in love at the moment he/she has the chance to meet your child... These are moments mothers are losing to anesthesia, to pain medications, to just fear and anxiety, to sheer exhaustion. Having the photographs of these moments give mothers an opportunity to celebrate again.
3. Birth photography completes the narrative. When we as photographers spend hours alongside a laboring mother, invest in their birth and their story just as much as every other person in that room, it's crushing to us when we cannot continue to follow you to the OR. Yes, we often feel like we did not finish our job we set out to do. And when a mother receives back her images... there seems to be a missing piece in her story. The moment of delivery. But why does that MATTER? As mothers we are seen in our greatest weakness in labor, often lost in pain, unsure if we can keep going, defeated. But in that weakness our greatest strengths are revealed: perseverance, tenacity, the incredible ability to withstand all. That's the end of the narrative. A mother deserves to have that memory of strength, of tenacity, of perseverance. You deserve to have the moments of your most magnanimous accomplishments recorded. And when you reflect on your birth, it's no longer a reflection of what didn't happen, but what did. It's closure.
Normalcy, healing, closure. Whether it's your first c-section after an arrest of labor or a repeat cesarean delivery after four miscarriages and a double wide incision from your twin birth two years ago... these three things matter. They can aide in the fight against birth trauma, postpartum depression. They give us hope and they give us happiness. So I urge you... if you are in an area that welcomes birth photographers and doulas into the OR with open arms: hire one. Without question. If you are in an area that says absolutely not, be the first person who does. Contact the women's health director. Express to your obstetrician how important normalcy, healing and closure are to you and your family.
Lastly, a word on these images. This is Laura. Laura was the mother with four miscarriages. She had a deviated septum in her uterus that required four surgeries to correct. She delivered twin girls, only to hold one in her arms for only three hours before her baby passed. Her pregnancy was a miracle. A sticky baby among years of scars. A blood disorder. A preterm delivery. A repeat c-section. When Laura contacted me and said she secured clearance at our local level one trauma center for a birth photographer in the OR I could hardly believe it. It does not happen here. At all. Ever. I was honored she chose me. With overwhelming support from her OBGYN, Laura's birth partner and myself were welcomed to witness the birth of her baby girl. Tiny, perfect. Laura said, " I’m beyond grateful for this video and these pictures. I was in such a deep emotional place of nervousness going into this delivery and you truly changed everything with your amazing calmness and comforting aura. Forever thankful."