59 Most Loved Cesarean Birth Photos : Cesarean Awareness Month

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59 Most Loved Cesarean Birth Photos : Cesarean Awareness Month

Over the years, I've had the joy of accompanying many families on their journeys to parenthood. Looking back, I remember each and every one and all of its unique, special moments. No two births are the same, and babies all arrive differently. Some babies are born sunny-side-up, some babies are born early, some babies are born butt-first, feet-first, some with vernix, some with caputs, many with cords around their necks, some with a nuchal hand, some are born in pools, some on the floor, some in cars, and some in ORs.

If you know me, you know there's a special place in my heart reserved just for babies arriving via cesarean birth.

You might assume that by the time one is admitted to the OR, every cesarean birth is the same... a cookie cutter operation. After all, the surgical team has their regimen perfected like a finely-tuned machine, right? As a birth photographer, I can tell you that each cesarean birth is just as unique as each vaginal birth... it's just a matter of noticing the details, the small important moments, and honoring them.

And so now, I'm thrilled to share with you, in honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, some of my favorite cesarean images I've captured during my career.

(C) 2014 Michelle Garey Photography

Hold on.

Before we get too far in, I first want to raise a question: What does Cesarean Awareness mean to you? You're probably seeing a dramatic uptick in cesarean-related posts this month (if not, you will), so I'm wondering, what do those images mean to you, as you scroll through? Do you feel more educated by these posts? Do you feel Inspired? Honored? Validated? Frustrated? Defensive? Joyful? 

Cesarean Awareness Month is an advocacy initiative by The International Cesarean Awareness Network, Inc.  

(ICAN) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).
— ican-online.org

And that's the whole mission behind awareness month.

This month, let's honor cesarean mothers and support them. Let's share research. Let's ask our local hospitals whether they ban VBAC births, and advocate for change if they do. Let's steer clear from shaming cesarean mothers. Let's never imply that they "had it easy". (Honestly, how devoid of empathy must one be to emit these words?) Let's spread love to those around us without judgement. To become an ICAN member or volunteer, visit ICAN.

Alright, back to the photos, all taken during cesarean birth days! (Some viewers may find some of these images to be graphic.)

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The Birth of Ellis :: Breech Cesarean Birth Story

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The Birth of Ellis :: Breech Cesarean Birth Story

. .:: It was during our maternity session that mom informed me Ellis was in the breech position. If you've ever hoped for a natural birth and experienced malposition in late pregnancy, then you're familiar with the interesting menu of options you go through to encourage  baby to maneuver into a more ideal position. They had tried them all. The day soon dawned when Ellis was scheduled to come earthside via cesarean. An ultrasound was done to confirm position just before mom was ushered into the OR. Indeed, he was a stubborn one. Still breech.

Checking into the hospital for a scheduled cesarean is an occasion where nerves demand to be addressed. You breath deeply and try to remain calm, but knowing you'll be holding your child within the hour, knowing you'll be undergoing serious surgery... it's all a little much. This couple was wise to invest in doula care by the lovely Karina Constantino with Dynamic Doulas. She brought along her loving presence, her sense of humor, some mad massage skills, and confident support, completely transforming the atmosphere. It was truly a birth day occasion.

Adding to the nerves, this was one of those instances when we all had to advocate for me to photograph in the OR. The nurse anesthetist, bless her heart, seemed appalled by our request. "What will you even take pictures of in there?" My list began, "Well, I love capturing the first time they lay eyes on their child, the first time she holds him, the first time he opens his eyes, the newborn exam, the first time dad holds him..." 

She allowed me to join them in the OR, and we are all forever grateful to her. Here's what I managed to capture that day (some of my favorite cesarean images of all time). ::. .

**Note: All images are reviewed and approved by my clients prior to being made public**

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The Birth of Emma :: Denver VBAC Story

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The Birth of Emma :: Denver VBAC Story

. .:: It doesn't seem that long ago that I received a text message, out of the blue, during a meeting with another prospective client. It was a lengthy text from an unknown number, requesting information regarding my services, and also sharing a little of her genuine heart with me, a complete stranger, who would soon certainly become a friend. It read:

This baby means so much to me. She’s my rainbow baby. Heaven gained my first baby girl when I was 36 weeks. Someone crashed into me, leaving me in a coma. My sweet baby girl passed away a few days later due to the impact of the car accident. It’s been a challenging journey, and God has finally blessed me with another baby girl on the way....

We quickly found time to meet, and connected instantly. It has been beautiful watching this little family grow, and seeing this woman take to motherhood so naturally. She truly is a momma bear in every way, protective, passionate, and not taking for granted a single second with this child.

This is the birth of Emma. Her mom labored tirelessly and without food, (due to the small risk of uterine rupture following a cesarean birth with a low transverse incision). During the toughest of contractions, she'd breath deeply in and then out, and she'd quietly shake her head as if to say "I can't". A bystander would suggest an epidural, and she'd say with spunk and clarity, "Nuh uh! I did not come this far to get an epidural. I CAN DO THIS!" And like a rock, her partner was right there with her, offering quiet but solid support through it all. ::. .

**Note: All images are reviewed and approved by my clients prior to being made public**

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The Home Birth of Camden :: Denver Birth Photography

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The Home Birth of Camden :: Denver Birth Photography

. .:: I'm so thrilled to get to share this fun birth story attended by Denver midwife Kathryn Raynes, CPM, RM, and Gina Penka Corriveau, CPM, IBCLC. This couple welcomed their first baby, a little boy. There were more than a few birth geeks in this room, so I will warn you that two crowning images are included in this post, which is two more than I usually include in blog posts. I just adore them so much! 

I love the hose dangling from the upstairs bedroom window in this first image. It's like a sign for all passers-by, saying "New Life Is Coming To This House Today!!!" ::. .

**Note: All images are reviewed and approved by my clients prior to being made public**

The Home Birth of Camden :: Denver Birth Photography

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Expecting Ellis :: An In-Home Maternity Session

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Expecting Ellis :: An In-Home Maternity Session

. .:: There's nothing quite like cozying up for an in-home maternity session (though we did have an opportunity to hop outside, too, and catch a very fleeting sunset!) This stubborn little one was upside-down, or wrong-side-up, I should say... breech, and not willing to turn. Stay tuned for his birth story! ::. .

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The Birth of Huck :: Denver Birth Stories

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The Birth of Huck :: Denver Birth Stories

. .:: When I walk into a mother's birthing space, it's as though the room swallows me up, and I'm completely immersed in every emotion present. This room had such a warm, calm, and loving vibe, much thanks to two amazing labor supports, dad and doula Lizzie. There's little room for fear or disbelief, when the people you trust most are telling you that you're safe, your baby is safe, you're so utterly capable of the job at hand, in fact you solely are intended for this big event. This is the story of the birth of Huck, and it's one of those I know I'll look back on often and with fondness.

For those who gobble birth stories right up like I do, don't miss Doula Lizzie's account of Huck's birth day, following the images!

**Note: All images are posted here with explicit permission from my clients.**

My clients are excited to share with you Huck's birth story, written by doula Lizzie Treat!:

The month of September of 2016 was a warm one in Denver, Colorado. As much as your mama loved being pregnant with you the sensations of being a full term pregnant woman in the heat started to help her feel increasingly ready for your birthdate. Papa had a few work trips scheduled abroad and your timing to arrive was just perfect. One of the birth affirmations mama practiced to help set herself up for the birth she wanted was “My baby will be born at the perfect time for a safe and healthy birth.”

Late the night before you were born, Mama Kyla was really starting to set up a pattern of surges around 9:00 pm.

When mama called her birth doula, Lizzie Treat, around this time it was clear that you would be coming soon - Lizzie knew just from the sound of mama’s voice. Lizzie said to stay in touch and to let her know if she should come to the house or when to meet you at the hospital. Mama tried to rest and listen to her hypnobirthing recordings that helped her hold a peaceful and relaxed state of being. This was a little more difficult to manage because of some heavy pressure mama felt on her lower back.

Around midnight, papa Q texted Lizzie to see if she was still up, when she saw those words she knew it was time to put on her shoes and be ready.

Mama’s water started leaking just as papa was gathering things to leave to drive over to the hospital. Luckily it was just a steady trickle of water - never a gush which was a good sign you were coming!

Shortly before 1:00 am we all drove from our homes in Parkhill to University Hospital where the team of midwives were in their magical middle of the night, someone special is being born vibe. Your incredible birth photographer, Michelle was there too. Holding space along with Lizzie for mama’s labor.

Mama had made this meaningful & symbolic banner written with lovely affirmations all over it and was hung right away in your birth space for a positive reminder of the vibes mama was working with to help her waves push you down. Her back was experiencing a lot of pressure and there was a little tint to the amniotic fluid that occasionally trickled from mama. The scent of lavender filled the room oil diffuser filled the air to promote a chill environment.

Papa needed to run down to the car so Lizzie took his place swaying and holding mama’s lower back, squeezing her hips open for your decent.

The lovely nurse, Kathleen, was louder at first but became more aware of the importance of the low hushed tone and light we were keeping in the room for a relaxing and peaceful environment. She brought mom water and helped her when she would feel sick - which happened several times to help push you down into her pelvis. During these moments, mom was drawn deep inside and was feeling the pressure from your surges & from the nausea that kept pushing you down.

Nurse ran a bath, which was a little too warm at first. We worked on some of mama’s affirmations in the tub, listening to her favorite recording, taking sips of water, and moving through the waves for a while until it was just too hot in the water & uncomfortable in the tub.

Out of the bath around 3:00 am, mama was starting to experience surges coming much closer together. Mama’s midwife checked her and found she was around 5 cm. But with a very soft lip of cervix left. This news was not what the room had expected as mama’s surges seemed to be one on top of the other and she hadn’t slept for a while. This was one of those moments she knew she might face - she was tired & just wanted rest. It felt like time to decide about getting some extra help with relief since mama needed a rest if she was going to go 5 more cm & the pressure on her back was intense. Knowing she eventually needed an energy reserve for active labor and pushing she decided to take the help from her nurses and consider her options. We bargained with mama to see how she felt after a few more surges so she tried a few more positions and sat on the birth ball for a while, on the bed, and eventually decided to try an epidural for rest.

The sweet nurse with the kind eyes needed to continually reposition the fetal monitor straps to get a good read on your heart tones. It was important that they keep good track of the sounds you made to be sure you were safe - especially since there was a tint of potential meconium in your amniotic fluid.

Around 5:00 am, mama finally had some rest - with an epidural and some medicine to sleep a little, everyone in the room tried to rest. But then you wanted to know where everyone went and you wiggled away from the heart monitors and that sweet nurse needed to bother mama’s sleep more and move the monitors into position. Lizzie felt protective of mom’s rest so she went out into the hall to explain this to the new team that was switching shifts that morning. The new midwife, Molly was brilliant and gave mom that rest.

While mama had a short nap, Lizzie and Michelle had a mini rest on the sofa in the room and dad was on the floor. He’s pretty tough!

And daylight crept into the room you started to move further down into mama’s pelvis. The next time Midwife Molly checked your mama’s cervix she was closer to fully dilated. She had however started a slight fever. The nurses started mama on an IV antibiotic and some fluid to help her hydrate some more. Soon, as her epidural began to ware off, it was time to start pushing. Papa and mama had a moment of realization that they would soon meet you, face to face. It was emotional and beautiful to witness their anticipation. Lizzie looked deep into mom’s eyes just like she had earlier that night when mom was in the midst of transition and told her she was ready. She could do this. She is a strong and beautifully powerful woman.

Midwife Molly was a wonderful active labor coach. She stayed and helped mom with every push. Helping redirect mama’s energy and belief. Papa on one side, held mama’s leg and Lizzie on the other side mirroring papa. The two helping her breathe, remember she was made for this moment & that she could do it. Papa’s breath and power pouring into every moment of your beautiful mother. His raw care and concern for both you and your mama so vividly clear in his eyes and words.

Molly made jokes here and there while you rested in between surges. Nice long rests between active labor surges felt like a sea of time in the room compared to the waves of transition from the early hours of the morning. Mama was smart and sank into the bed in between each mighty push. Molly suggested that we use a hand mirror so mom could SEE your head starting to crown. This really worked for mama and it worked to get papa’s happy tears going too. Seeing that first glimpse of your hair was proof you were so close to being born. We all knew then that you would be in your mama’s arms in moments. The poignancy of mama being able to actually see you was incredible. Her power and grit showed strong now. In this next few pushes you were so close - mom and dad were beyond tired but buoyed by the intoxicatingly exciting anticipation of your arrival. When you finally crowned, Molly had mama wait as she assisted your shoulders out and then like a piece of cake all 18.75” of you was on mama’s chest and announced that you were a big 7 lb. 1 oz. healthy baby boy.* Mama’s elation was evident even as she shook from all the hormones flushing through her system. Relief and gratitude swept over her face and into her arms as she held you for the first time. Papa cried joyful and proud years. We could all see your father’s face in yours from that first moment. The resemblance was striking - you made this expression that was undeniably a Quinlan smirk. As mama worked with Molly to deliver your placenta papa got to cut your umbilical cord. It was just finished pulsing and mana had you to her breast. You nuzzled and cried and made wonderful first sounds. Papa went with you to the warming bed where the nurses took your weight and height and celebrated all of your fingers and toes. You were given an antibiotic and had some eye drops to keep you healthy after having some of the meconium in your airway as you were born - nothing a little suction and medicine didn’t help and just think of what a good down to earth beginning that is. You’re going to be a fella won’t be afraid to get a little dirty.

Midwife Molly checked mama’s membranes for small tears and helped her with a few small abrasions. She mentioned the amazing condition of a healthy woman like your mother and again joked about how nobody makes a big deal when a male has a penis that changes sizes so nobody should make a big deal about a female’s anatomy changing sizes to accommodate life. We all loved Molly for her levity.

Mama sipped on apple-cranberry juice and had papa help order her some breakfast. While mama ate, dad climbed into bed next to you and mama and held you to his skin - chest to chest, heart to heart, weeping tears of joy once again.

When your doula Lizzie got to hold you for a moment she smile-cried in celebration of the sweetness of your birthday and her with nessing your miracle. Every care provider that came and went from your birth suite loved and gushed over you and your dapper little striped hat and that cherubic face. Every little whimper or cry celebrated and savored as it meant you were finally here with loud and strong lungs announcing your arrival.

In that peaceful and ethereal glow of the early autumn morning sun your parents celebrated your first birthday. Papa Q wrote your name on the white board in your birth suite and everyone loved it! Welcome Huck!
— Lizzie Treat, Doula

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Emma's Herbal Bath :: Denver Baby Photographer

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Emma's Herbal Bath :: Denver Baby Photographer

. .:: Making art with baby Emma, surrounded by flowers, embraced by her mother, and enjoying a healing herbal bath with soothing sitz from Mother's Life Tea. ::. .

Emma's Herbal Bath :: Denver Baby Photographer

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The Birth of Colin :: Denver, Colorado Birth Story

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The Birth of Colin :: Denver, Colorado Birth Story

. .:: When I walked in, the room was beautiful and flooded with light. Mom and dad were cheerful and brimming with anticipation and excitement. Birth can be a very serious affair, and humor is always welcome and refreshing (and helps the laboring process immensely!) I'd just recovered from a long and difficult birth, and Colin's birth was a beautiful and healing experience. These two were so clearly in love, on the verge of welcoming their third child. I observed in awe as they held hands and walked the hallways, stopping to quietly handle each contraction, and then moving on, casual conversation in between. Dad was tasked with timing each contraction. He might have missed a couple here and there, as they became more frequent and more intense. When it came time to push, the big question lingered overhead: boy or girl?! With one of each at home, this little baby was a wild card. And when baby emerged and was so clearly a boy, dad waved his victory fist in the air. Another son! This is Colin's birth story, told through images ::. .

**Note: All images are posted here with explicit permission from my clients.**

The Birth of Colin :: Denver, Colorado Birth Story