It recently occurred to me that if I continue blogging my photo sessions for 2016 at the pace I am going, I will be completely caught up on my 2016 blogs by oooh… late 2017. Hmmm…then I presumably would begin blogging my 2017 season in late 2017, but then I would always be one year behind. So in an effort to have my blogs NOT become the song that never ends, Im going to start blogging my 2017 shooting year simultaneously….I know…I’m blowing your minds. Well hang on to your hats people, and allow me to wish you Happy New Year because I’m about to post my show off my first photos from this year!
My 2017 started off pretty darn amazing…I was able to photograph my first birth. It all started when I ran into Michelle, a long time client of Mercy Street Studio at our Christmas mini sessions. Michelle had already booked me for a Fresh 48 session for the birth of her baby in January so I was so glad to be able to introduce myself and say hello. Michelle mentioned that her birth was a scheduled c-section, and I immediately felt my pulse quicken. Now I’m not someone who typically relishes the idea of witnessing a medical procedure, but I had been waiting for what felt like forever to photograph a birth! Since I have two little ones at home, and a husband with an unpredictable schedule, being a birth photographer, which comes with its own unpredictable hours, just isn’t in the cards (yet :).
However, a scheduled c-section which was something I could definitely plan for! I half jokingly (not at ALL jokingly, really) said to Michelle ‘If you’d like to have the birth photographed too, let Erin know and we can definitely make that happen’, and then I laughed for emphasis that I was just half joking (but I was not really at all joking) 🙂
The thing with Birth photography is that not everyone really ‘gets’ it. If we’re being honest, before I became a photographer, I didn’t get it either. I thought to myself why would you want photos of THAT? But fast forward having a few children myself, and really studying WHAT birth photography is, I now see simple and true beauty of it.
Fast forward to Michelle realizing I was 100% serious, and after a few emails working out the details, it was done. I was going to be photographing my first birth. I couldn’t sleep the night before and probably checked my camera bag 3 times before I left the house to be sure my camera hadn’t sprouted legs and walked out of it! I arrived at the hospital at 6 am on that dark January morning, and I made my way up to the maternity floor and into Michelle’s room.
Since Michelle would be having a c-section there were lots of last minute forms to sign and blood to be drawn. Doctors, and nurses streamed in and out while Michelle and her husband Marcus joked and laughed, calmly and happily. There was an air of quiet anticipation and joy in the room. Now, I myself have been a c-section mom, and it was amazing to watch a family on the other side of it take it all in stride, just excited to get to meet their new baby.
Even when it took many (many!) attempts to draw those final vials of blood, and I could see the discomfort on Michelle’s face, she still made jokes about being a tough stick and how the nurses joked not to jinx them. Finally it was time to head to the OR. Marcus and Michelle shared some last minute laughter and I suited up too. I sent a text to Erin that I was headed to the OR and I couldn’t believe this was happening; she replied ‘you’re crying already, aren’t you?’ I wasn’t YET, but clearly she knows me well. Marcus and Michelle walked to the OR just across the hall. If you have never had a caesarean section, you may not know that at first just the Mom goes in, and anyone going in to support her, remains in the hallway. Marcus and I chatted quietly…we wondered aloud if they were having a boy or a girl since it was going to be a surprise; we talked about their oldest daughter who clearly was the apple of her Daddy’s eye. And then I asked him how he had felt about having a birth photographer. A virtual stranger in such a special and sacred moment of their lives. He immediately replied that he was thrilled.
He shared that the first time Michelle had a c-section it was en emergency one after almost three days of labor, (yes you read that correctly!) and by that point Michelle was physically exhausted and hardly remembered the actual birth. He told me how in the days that followed they hardly had any photos of them as a family because one of them was holding the camera, and that they were so busy just figuring out this crazy thing called parenthood they sort of forgot to take a lot of photos in those early days. He relayed that when Michelle told him I had asked to photograph the birth he was excited for it…excited for Michelle that she would get to witness those first few moments that especially as a c-section mom, are just a blur. I knew then—that Marcus ‘got it’. He ‘got’ birth photography, and the importance of it.
After what probably felt like an eternity to Marcus, we were called back into the OR. Marcus took a seat beside Michelle, and I moved off to the side. If you’ve never had or witnessed a c-section, it can be a little overwhelming. Bright lights, a lot of medical staff, and its always so cold in the room! 🙂 The doctors began explaining to Michelle what they were about to do and she laid there calmly and quietly taking it all in. It was so amazingly beautiful to watch her and Marcus together, quietly talking. I wish I had better words to describe what taking in those moments were like; the moments right before a new life enters the room. It isn’t often I am speechless, but the next few moments left me just that way. The nurses and doctors were all so gracious to allow me into their space to photograph this new baby being born. Each one of them made me feel so welcome and encouraged me to do what I needed to capture what was happening. As the delivering doctor was about to pull the baby out the anesthesiologist stepped to the side and said ‘come around here, this is the best place to see the baby take their first breath.’ I quickly scooted to where he was standing and within seconds, the newest member of the Fijalowski-Santy family was born to cheers from the OR staff.
Marcus stood up to inspect the baby ‘parts’, and proudly announced ‘Its a BOY!’. And at that more cheers filled the room. Michelle was crying, their newborn son was crying, and naturally, I was crying. 🙂
As the nursing staff cleaned up the baby, and the obstetricians finished with Michelle, Marcus went to the side and spent some time with his son.
Shortly after he was all wrapped up he was carried over to his Mom so she could really study that new little face and fall in love with those chubby cheeks.
When it was time to head back to the recovery room I followed along to photograph the moments that usually a c-section mom misses out on. I watched the pediatrician come give her two thumbs (WAY) up to the baby after she checked him out, and the nurse did the ‘official’ weight and height check. After he was all wrapped and cozied again he spent a few minutes snuggling with Dad before Mom was brought back to the room. I excused myself shortly after that since I would be returning later that day to photograph their daughter coming to meet her baby brother for the first time! I wanted to give them time as a family to spend a few quiet minutes together, and I also needed to go sit in my car and cry again. 🙂Being able to witness the miracle of life is something I will never forget, and I consider myself lucky to have been able to play a small role in preserving these memories for this family. Now I tap my foot and wait (im)patiently for the next time…