April is National C-Section Month, in the event that you've missed the memo. Posts seem to be everywhere about it right now, and I absolutely adore all of the positive chatter surrounding it. I just couldn't resist putting together a blog post of my own on the subject - in large part because I've been lucky enough to be along for the journey of c-sections with my clients quite a few times now, and they have created some serious magic with me. I'm really, really proud of all of my birth moms (and dads!), and I feel so lucky to be trusted with the bad-ass moments in which parents are born - however their babies come into the world.
As a family photojournalist, my job is often not about the physical act of taking photographs - it's more about observation, and instinct. It's vital to read the scene, be observant of the emotion present, and remain respectful of the sacredness of the moments in which lifetime memories are made. It's really important to me to not be intrusive to the story which I'm photographing, and allow things to unfold as they will. I am a trusted, silent observer wielding a memory-capturing machine in those precious moments.
C-sections are fascinating experiences, in that some things are very predictable - the orderly professionalism of the medical staff, the rigorous attention to detail that ensures a successful medical procedure and healthy mom and baby. Lists are checked, sponges are counted, sutures are placed in a pattern that happens the same way, day in and day out for countless surgeries. Warm, and kind, and reassuring; medical staff nonetheless rely on predictability to ensure a happy outcome.
And yet, in the midst of the routine, there are always unexpected moments which make each experience unique - the pages of each family's story unfurl just a little differently. These small bits of chaos in the midst of a calm storm keep me on my toes, and make my photographer heart happy.
Will parents cry? If they do, will they be happy tears, or overwhelmed tears? Will Mom wave jauntily as she is wheeled into a procedure which to her is a complete unknown? Will Dad pace anxiously as he awaits entrance into the operating room, or will he remain stoic until the moment his child is placed in his arms (at which point he will crumble)? I never know, really - all I know is that there is magic building in the moments between donning my ever-attractive scrubs, mask and hat and when the first outraged infant cry fills the air.
Every once in a while--usually in some ridiculous "Mom Group"--I stumble upon someone's snide opinion that c-sections are not "real" childbirth.
"That baby wasn't delivered," they exclaim, self-righteous fists shaking in the air, "it was surgically extracted!" As if it doesn't count, somehow - as if their own experience of pushing out their offspring the good old fashioned way of the pioneer woman is in some way worth more.
And at first the words make me angry, then they make me roll my eyes, and then they just make me sad. Because Pioneer Woman doesn't understand what motherhood truly is, really. Motherhood is realizing that having a baby the way that you thought you would isn't more important than your child's health. She hasn't put her life and her child's life in the hands of a room full of mostly-strangers because she knows that they're going to help her have a healthy baby that a woman in her position maybe wouldn't have been able to have just a few short decades ago.
Women like that have never lain prone and full of emotion, waiting with bated breath to lay eyes on their child, all the while knowing that control is mostly out of their hands. There's a different kind of bravery in that.
A baby is born when a child leaves its mother's body, but a mother is born between one anxious breath and the next one filled with relief at seeing her child. That moment when the whole world--including the operating room and the medical staff and the bright shiny lights--all disappears and her heart doubles in size - that moment of motherhood-birth is universal, whether it happens in a birthing room or operating room.
All birth is magical - every frazzled, exhausted, worried, elated second of it, regardless of what path it takes.
But damn, if c-section moms aren't all things brave and bad-ass.