[an open letter]: I likely won't be allowed into the operating room for your birth

Because April is Cesarean Awareness Month, I decided to write a letter to the mamas who will be having a c-section.

Dear Mama,

I know it’s important for you to have your birth story documented in photographs. C-section births are beautiful, and I’ve come to know them as “belly births”. Even c-sections should be photographed. So, I’ll try my best to get into the OR room with you to photograph your birth.

I had a c-section with my daughter, Severn. It was a scheduled appointment so I knew when she was going to be born. But even though I knew when, it was still all a blur.

I didn’t get to see my daughter’s face for several minutes after she was born. She was born at 9:01 am, and I didn’t see her until 3 minutes after because of delayed cord clamping (which is amazing, considering). She was placed on me for skin-to-skin 6 minutes after she was born.

WAITING. THAT. 6. MINUTES. FELT. LIKE. A. LIFETIME.

Looking back, I actually think I was pretty lucky to meet my daughter only 6 minutes after she was born. But I missed a lot being strapped down to the operating table.

The only way I am able to piece together the length of time it took for me to see her and then touch her, was because my husband brought my camera into the operating room with him, and I looked back at the photographs to try and piece Severn’s birth story together.

Tears. Hearing my daughter cry for the first time but wasn’t able to see her.

Tears. Hearing my daughter cry for the first time but wasn’t able to see her.

I know you love birth and you want to remember every detail of your baby’s surgical birth. Her first cry. Her dad holding her for the first time. You deserve those memories!

But I’m sad to tell you that it’s very unlikely I’ll be allowed into the OR to photograph your baby’s birth. Most hospitals have policies in place that do not allow a photographer into the room at all.

Why won’t they allow photographers into the OR? I can’t say for certain, but I would guess it’s because of a liability. Just so you know, I’m a fully insured business and I understand when to take photos and when to stop if there is an emergency.

I’m NOT interested in taking inappropriate photographs that could make anyone look bad.

I’m surprised that we were allowed to take photographs of my baby. The general surgeon and hospital health care team said that we could take photographs as long as they were from our side of the blue curtain.

I want you and your partner to relax and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime happening. Not fumbling with the camera while your photographers has to wait outside.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

See, you’re the client here. You’re paying the hospital for a service (through your tax dollars). You can speak up about how important it is to have a photographer in the OR… things can change.

What if you mentioned it to your doctor/midwife? With if 1000 people mentioned it to their prenatal healthcare team? What if 10,000 people wrote letters to their hospital? Is it a matter of a liability for being signed by the photographer? The photographer agrees to stand in 1 spot throughout the surgery? Someone in the OR can review the images in camera and say which ones are okay, and which ones aren’t? I think we need to open this dialogue with our service providers.

Mama, if this is something that’s important to you… let’s be the change. Your birth is beautiful and deserves to be photographed!

Signed,

- Your Birth Photographer

C-section birth at Huntsville District Memorial Hospital

C-section birth at Huntsville District Memorial Hospital