Danielle is a fellow photographer and animal lover, mama of a sweet little boy and wife to Matt.  I was thrilled when they asked me to be their doula and honored to capture their birth in photos.  It’s always the ultimate compliment to be hired by another photographer!!

Little Larkin was breech, so Danielle and Matt  chose to schedule a cesarean birth.  We talked about all of the ways to make a cesarean peaceful, family centered, and empowering.  Danielle was lucky enough to have a lifelong friend perform her surgery, and the anesthesia team agreed to allow me in for support and photography.

The opportunity to capture a scheduled cesarean from start to finish is rare, and in my opinion, so important.  I lead a cesarean and VBAC support group through Beautiful Birth Choices, LLC, and we often talk about the importance of feeling empowered regardless of how your baby comes into the world.  Danielle and Matt’s experience was beautiful, empowering, and left me feeling so proud.  I am beyond grateful that they gave me permission to share these images with all of you.

We arrived at Strong Memorial Hospital early on Sunday morning.  Danielle had been warned that it may be a few hours of waiting for her provider and an operating room to be free, so we settled into the small pre-op room together with her husband, Matt.  

A nurse soon arrived to check on baby Larkin and get Danielle’s vitals for the pre-op check.  Everything about this process was calm and informative.  Each member of the surgical team stopped in at least once to say hello, introduce themselves, and ask Danielle and Matt if they had any questions or concerns. This was a planned surgery, but everyone on the team celebrated it for what it truly was - a birthday!

It is normal for a cesarean that the birthing person is taken to the OR alone at first for prep.  Sometimes we advocate for the partner to stay with them, but since Danielle knew her surgeon so well she was comfortable going in alone.  In this time the spinal is administered, vitals are checked, and everyone gets into position for the surgery.  Once everything is set, the partner is then brought in for support.  Whether a doula is allowed in or not truly depends on who is there that day and what the anesthesia team says.  We were thrilled that I was able to be there, and given free reign with my camera.  

After they took Danielle back, I asked Matt if he was nervous.  He told me no, he was READY.  As you can see.

Danielle opted for some of the family centered coping strategies we discussed prenatally.  After all, having abdominal surgery while awake isn’t the most comfortable feeling in the world.  Matt kept her phone with her playlist right by her ear, and they had brought some cinnamon gum to smell if she got nauseous.  Bringing something that smells good but can be put away, like gum, is a great plan because if the birthing person gets sick of the smell, it can disappear quickly.  Matt held and kissed her head as the doctors began, helping to keep her calm and present in the moment.  Danielle handled the entire process with grace and excitement.

Matt followed Larkin to the warmer for a quick check up before bringing her to Danielle’s side. Once they met there, she was taken back for her measurements and footprints, and then returned to her mama for skin to skin. Skin to skin in the OR, while still being operated on, can be understandably awkward. But Danielle and Larkin fit together just perfectly there in the little space above the curtain. Matt poured love and joy and gratitude over both of them.

During surgery, Danielle had been laying on a deflated “raft”.  Once they were done, the surgical team inflated it with air and lifted her using the handles on the sides to her bed for transport.  We said goodbye to the team and headed to their postpartum room for rest and recovery.

It is so important for the world to see a cesarean like this.  All too often we hear of scary, unexpected, traumatic birth experiences.  To watch a birthing person own her power and choose her birth with strength and confidence is absolutely amazing.