This is Jessica’s story, but also in some strange way, it became mine as well because I can honestly say it changed my views. As I type this, I’m assuming Jessica is cuddling her sweet baby boy – who she brought home a little over a week ago.
Jessica decided to have an elective C-Section. Why? What? WHY!? Those were the thoughts I had when I heard about it. You see, I have become a sort of birth junkie (it’s true what they say, Oxytocin is kin to crack – you get hooked with just one hit). I had an amazing, natural birth with my second son (although trust me, it wasn’t one of those beautiful, peaceful, calm, quiet ones that I’ve seen – you know who you are out there & I applaud you!) almost a year ago, and after experiencing that you want everyone to see how wonderful, beautiful, and simply empowering it can be. But Jessica experienced that resonating birth high when she watched our friend Megan catch her own baby in a pool set up in her living room. So when Jessica said she was getting a C-Section, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of it. BUT she is my friend and it was her choice.
Why would anyone want to do this some of you might be thinking? I’ll tell you why: Birth Trauma. Some people don’t think it’s real – some people don’t think it can happen and that people who SAY they have it are exaggerating. It is very real and alive in our world, which makes me sad. One of the most amazing things we are supposed to experience as women is taken from us by a lack of education, a lack of support, and lack of belief in today’s society that women’s bodies CAN do this. I wasn’t there when Jessica had her first baby, but what I do know is that it was an induction and it was everything she DIDN’T want but was TOLD she needed. She didn’t have trust with her doctors; decisions were made FOR her instead of WITH her. You can see that it affected her in such a negative way and she wanted to avoid it happening again so much that she decided to have an elective surgery. To me, that alone shows me that there should be no question that birth trauma is a very real and scary thing, affecting the women around us.
When Jessica asked me to photograph their birth, my whole level of anxiety went up. I of course said yes, and wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
I couldn’t sleep the night before. The next morning I couldn’t eat because I was so nervous. Not only was I photographing this, I was worried about my friend. I met Jessica and her husband at the hospital at 7 am. She was radiant- she had slept well the night before, she felt 100% confident in her decision and was ready to meet her baby boy. Jessica wrote a VERY specific birth plan. I sat with them while the anesthesiologist and OB came in and talked to her about everything – and to my surprise, guess what they did?! THEY READ HER BIRTH PLAN!! Not only did they read it, but they respected it. They explained everything that she would be getting. How the procedure would go. They talked the WHOLE thing over with her. I was in utter shock. Memories of when I had my first son came back to me. With him, I gave my OB a birth plan and he looked it over and said “okay, we’ll see how it goes” and stuck it in the back of my folder. A birth that tumbled into a ton of interventions I didn’t want followed for me. Oddly enough, just seeing how they were respecting her wishes started to calm ME down.
I walked in nervously into the OR. I had never been in an OR room. I was still nervous. It almost felt like for me, when you first board an airplane and you’re supposed to look for your emergency exits. Her OB is amazing. He had been my OB a year before and many of my friends as well had gone to him – he is truly the best of the best. She was in good hands. Seeing him calmed me down as well. That’s when I realized everyone was calm, except for me. I needed to snap out of it.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I was told to sit on a chair against a wall a bit away from them. So I sat…and then, the OB said “you better get over here if you want to see this baby”. I got up and as I did, they lowered the curtain – Jessica propped herself up and then, the most amazing thing happened: James Brody entered the world.
The OB immediately put baby James into her hands and she put him to her chest. They didn’t cut the cord right away. They might have a surgical sheet between them, but they were still connected. They never once asked to take him. They let them have their moment. They were able to look at each other and get to know each other face to face now. She was able to start breast feeding as soon as she wanted to. Her husband was able to meet his son in his wife’s arms. There was no “hey this is your baby now we’re going to go wrap them up in a million blankets and put them near your head for a quick picture and then you can hold them later.”After a while the midwife asked if she could get the baby’s vitals and Jessica obliged – still beaming. Nothing was done that Jessica wasn’t aware of, or that wasn’t what she wanted. I can honestly say, with tears coming to my eyes as I’m reminiscing: it was a beautiful birth.
I never thought a cesarean section could be so lovely. My wish is that if a c-section is necessary that it would be just like hers. It’s not something that I would personally want….but, I haven’t been through what she’s been through. What I learned through all of this is we can’t judge. We can only support. I support women making a decision on their own. For being educated, supported, and believed in. That they get the kind of birth THEY want. I cannot support someone making the decision for you – someone telling you this has to happen and you just simply saying “okay”. Jessica’s first time around didn’t go at all how she planned. This time it did. She made a decision knowing all the facts. She was not TOLD she was going to have to do something she didn’t want to do. She had support, she had a birth team who advised her of the risks, but who also understood her history and tried to make it right the second time around. What I want is for every woman’s first birth to be their best birth. For caring medical teams who understand what birth means for a woman. How empowering it is meant to be no matter where: your bed at home, a birth pool in your dining room, a hospital room, or an operating table.