To The Photographer Who Thinks Cesarean Birth Isn't "Real" Childbirth

image credit Ker-Fox Photography

image credit Ker-Fox Photography

Recently there was some viral drama regarding an unverified text exchange between a birth photographer and her potential client. When the mother asked her to photograph her cesarean birth she responded, “A surgery isn’t birth my dear,” explains the photographer. “You aren’t giving birth. You are having surgery to remove your baby from your abdomen. That is not birth no matter how you swing it and I for one don’t want to be there to take pictures of it.”

As the host of a birth stories podcast that doesn't discriminate based on the type of birth that women have, I was appalled by this exchange. Even if this didn't actually take place, the fact that someone would put this into writing for the sake of "going viral" is some pretty dark shit.

I have so much respect for the work of birth photographers.

The outrage from the women in this profession who put their heart and soul into their work, not to mention being on call for pregnant women 24/7 and spending hours away from their own families during marathon labors is completely understandable. And the fact is, with about one third of all births in the U.S. being cesarean births, these births are a significant part of their work.

In honor of the warrior mamas that give birth via cesarean section, here are some thoughts and images from the photographers that capture these moments.

"I've been through two traumatic Cesareans, one that went completely the opposite of all my hopes and dreams of healing the first. Having been through so much, I feel so blessed each time I get to be witness to such an amazing miracle. When my client's birth plans go out the window and they feel like everything is falling apart, I can still easily see the beauty in the strength that they think they've lost, even though they're actually getting stronger by the minute.

I get to document each unique breathe... from the mother's gasping through tough times, to the sigh of relief, and the first cry of the baby. In the end, the beauty in what I do is that the mother gets to see how strong she really was, and that what she thought was her weakest moment, was actually her strongest." - Ashley Short Photography

"Birth photographers love belly births. We believe cesarean mamas are strong, beautiful, and brave. We watch as our clients are wheeled back into the OR. We see their chests rise and fall as their surgeons make their first cuts. Sometimes we see exhaustion, sometimes we see fear, sometimes we see relief, but we ALWAYS see strength.

Then we capture the moments that those belly babies make their way out into our world. We find the same lust for life in those first, powerful cries. We get to see the hidden world of the womb...the colors, the vibrancy, the pulsing's overwhelming. And then the reunion of parents and baby is just as sweet, just as powerful, just as poignant as a vaginal birth." - Monet Nicole Births

"The first c-section I ever photographed was one of those life changing moments for me. I knew caesarean moms were rockstars. But, I didn’t quite imagine the level of sacrifice they endure to birth their babies. I watched as this client of mine unquestionably gave her body to an ob/gyn and the entire medical staff. She trusted that they would bring her baby earth side with skill and respect. She laid on the table as they tied her down and provided pain relief. She let go of any sense of control. She gave it all.

And when her baby was out and she heard her cry. She cried a sigh of relief, then she let the drug take over as they closed her up. I was there watching, capturing as her partner took over and loved on his baby. You can see his worry as he glances back at her on the table. It’s not an easy thing to watch the love of your life cut open on the table for your child. I cannot imagine the recovery time. I cannot imagine the pain. Cesarean mamas are my heroes."Natalia Walth Film + Photos

"ALL births are amazing and worthy of documenting. Whether they are cesarean, planned or emergent, whether they are vaginal, breech or otherwise, whether they involve additional intervention like forceps or suction, or whether they occur in water, in a car, or in a field, whether baby is born healthy or not, alive or asleep. All birth is incredible, All birth is a journey worth documenting and worth being in utter awe of." - Elliana Gilbert - Photographer + Doula

"As a birth photographer who genuinely cares about all women and their decisions during the journey of birth, I understand the moment a baby is born is sacred. Whether a baby is born at home, in a hospital room, or from a belly in an OR, birth is beautiful in any form." - Elise Hurst Photography

"After over 36 hours of hard labor and a complete change in birth plan, this moment speaks for itself. Meeting your baby for the first time is so special, no matter where it happens!" - Kimberlin Gray Photography

"In January I was able to photograph my first csection with the use of a clear drape. Mom was able to lean her head up and watch her son being born. I was able to capture this moment just after. It takes a lot for me to say I have a new favorite but there is so much beauty in this 1/200th of a second.

I intentionally didn't crop out the bottom, as it tells a more complete story of sweet boy's birth. Mom's hands are gently cradling her baby, baby's hands are reaching for the comfort of the one who gave him life, dad's reassuring hand can be seen coming into frame, and the doctors hands below caring for mom. Each of these hands is doing their loving best to care for everyone. This is humanity. This is love. This is birth." - Ker-Fox Photography

"This mama labored for so very long, in hopes for a VBAC. From her previous birth she was convinced her body would have trouble progressing past 5cm. She rocked it, all the way to 10, then had a uterine rupture and birthed her baby via cesarean. Her birth was beautiful. Life saving. Life giving. Beautiful." - Raven Ivory Photography

"I love photographing cesarean births (both planned and unplanned) because I feel like so often these mamas need us the most. They have parts of the birth they are unable to see, or it happens so quickly that it all seems a blur. Often, there is fear and anxiety emitting from everyone in the room and the chance to reflect at a later time gives these moms and families the chance to really soak in the beauty of the moment and the strength and courage of the mama." - Fincer Photography

"I love to photograph cesarean births because I I feel it is extremely important for ALL pregnant persons to feel supported in their birth.  Everyone deserves to have their birth documented in a manner they choose, no matter the circumstances surrounding their birth.  It is a goal of mine as a Birth Photographer to help change the stigma regarding cesarean section births.  It is my joy and absolute honor to be a birth photographer in this ever-changing world that has begun to accept birth and all it's variations of normal." - Katie Gaeta Photography

From a client of Bree Linne Photography: "This is why I wanted a birth photographer. I never got to see my husband hold her for the first time. I didn't see him touch her little foot. I didn't realize my reaction to getting to hold her for the first time was so overjoyed (although I remember feeling that way). Seeing the facial expressions on my parents and in-laws is priceless. {Her big brother} has a curious grin that I didn't even notice because I was too wrapped up in the moment of just giving life to this beautiful girl who will forever be my daughter. I will have these pictures forever to reflect on, and I they will give me all the feels each time I view them. These are absolutely priceless."

"In 2011, when I was pregnant with my first daughter.  We planned a natural birth center birth, but due to circumstances, we had to be transferred, induced, and eventually that lead to a cesarean birth. It was overwhelming to me, but my daughters birth changed my life. I knew that I was meant to photograph births and to give these moments to mothers. The first time that I photographed a cesarean birth was 2 years after I started birth photography. I was pregnant with my second child in 2015, and my clients were having twins.

They really wanted a natural birth, but after an induction and no dilation for 2 days, they had to have a cesarean birth too. I was overcome with emotion as I stood there with dad, waiting to get into the OR. Once inside, I felt immediately connected to my own cesarean birth in a way that I never had before. As the doctor got ready to help the babies out, he said that I could come to the 'other side' of the blue curtain so that I could get the best photos.

Here I was, faced with what felt like my own birth moment. I wanted to yell to this mama, 'this is beautiful, this is incredible, this IS birth!' I stood there, photographing TWO miracles. Two lives, brought into the world, through a belly birth. Cesarean birth is beautiful, powerful, strong, and brave." - Jennifer Mason Photography

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