(Birth Story featured on Birth Becomes You)
“I never imagined that I would be smiling SO much on the day of my c-section.” These are the words I saw pouring from this mama’s smile over and over on the day her baby boy was born. Her joy was palatable. Her care was outstanding. This is one of the most enchanting births I have ever had the privilege of capturing. When I think of empowered birth, this is the first story that comes to mind. This first photo, really represents the whole day.
Mother Bea, had her heart set on a Lotus birth. She had planned on a VBAC lotus birth, but baby was breech and wouldn’t turn. She made a plan with her doctor, and decided on a cesarean birth. She missed out on the lotus experience she loves with her last birth, and having a c-section this time around wasn’t enough of a reason for her to give up on that dream.
I knew from the moment I walked in to this room, that this was going to be different then any cesarean birth I have ever captured, regardless of the fact that I would not be capturing the moment of birth due to OR policy.
The room was full of laughter and joy.
The midwife who was performing the cesarean birth came in before the surgery, and truly took time to connect with this mama. She spoke to her heart, heard her story, and did everything in her power to give this mother peace before her birth. I have never seen a doctor or midwife take so much time or put so much effort towards making the mother feel cherished, and ensuring her opinion and choices were valued.
The night before, this midwife sat the entire pediatric staff down for a chat, and explained to them exactly what this mama wanted, and brainstormed with them until they felt confident they could give it to her. They were not comfortable with it, it had never been done before, but they were willing to try. As long as baby came out crying well they said. How amazing is that? Isn't that how change happens? When someone in power is willing to try something new.
I captured beautiful moments of Bea preparing to meet her child, being cared for by her sister and doula, and just basking in the joy of the potential in this day. Her doula was her main support person, which is unheard of in this area. She stood by her side in the OR and was treated with great respect. If anyone was nervous, you could not tell it. There was a sense of supernatural peace upon the room.
Afterwords, they got mama out of recovery and into her own room quicker then I have seen before at this hospital, and allowed me to come back immediately upon arrival in that room, less then an hour after birth. Typically I have to wait several hours. When I walked into the room, I felt like I was walking into a fairy tale. There was love, beauty, and pure awe filling up the space. The laughter and light banter was gone, replaced with a deeply emotional blanket that draped the room. The oxytocin vibes were strong, and it was as if baby had literally just been born.
Bea was so in love with this little boy, she was touching him softly, checking over every part of baby, his cord, and his placenta. She was amazed at this beautiful little soul and amazed at her entire experience.
Nakembe was just over 4lbs. He came out crying, and they didn’t let his weight or anything else be a reason for not giving this mama the birth she wanted. It was amazing. It was powerful. I have seen so many excuses for not doing delayed cord clamping, or skin to skin, etc. I can't say I didn't expect the same here, trading convenience for support of the mothers wishes is common place in maternal care. But not today, today everyone went above and beyond and raised the standard of care.
Her doula(Brittany Curry, an amazing women who's birth I also got to photograph!) taught her how to hand express, in a way with no squeezing or forcing the milk out but holding it in a gentle way that allowed it to flow naturally. Baby was struggling to latch, so they hand expressed into a spoon, and wet his lips with the liquid gold colostrum. After tasting this, and a few minutes of quiet coo’s and encouragements, baby was rooting, and his latch improved tremendously. A magical moment and an excellent nursing session followed.
I never once saw anyone belittle this mother, or give her a hard time for her beliefs and passions. I saw only support, exceptional care, and empowerment. I believe that what really made the difference here, was patient advocacy. This mother fought so hard for this birth. I asked her to share a few words on the experience.
“We advocated at every single doctors appointment. I reminded each doctor at each appointment that I didn’t want to stray from the Lotus Birth in the event that I had to have a cesarean. I stressed how I wanted a lotus birth with my toddler, but didn’t receive one and that not meeting my request, as well as other things, was the reason I choose a different practice this time around. My Doula advocated by sharing the importance and history of Lotus birth. My operating Midwife sat and had a discussion with the prenatal team/department as they were initially against Lotus Birth via cesarean. We informed them of the spiritual and harmonious impact between baby and placenta, and continued to educate and inform them up until the day of the birth. In the end, they were willing to give it a go. I am very honored and grateful that I was their facilities first Lotus Birth via Cesarean, and I hope that we have paved the way for mothers in the future who may also be high risk and desire the same.”
Not only was it the hospitals first lotus birth via cesarean, but also only the second lotus birth there, the first had been the night before. I truly believe that this birth story embodies what birth empowerment is. This birth was amazing, and it really stands out in my mind as an example of how any birth, in any circumstance, can be empowering and good and beautiful- if only the team is willing to make it so. What could have been a sad day, full of disappointment and shame as many cesareans unfortunately are, instead because of her exceptional team and patient centered care, and self advocacy, became a day radiant with joy. A birth story I will never forget.