A post came across my Facebook recently with a trigger warning. The link was to photos of babies taken within the first twenty seconds of life. What was atypical about these photos compared to other newborn pictures we see every day in our news feeds is that these photos were of babies born by Cesarean.
It is so much more common to see beautiful images of babies born vaginally, drawn to their mother’s chests, with a room full of weeping onlookers. We often see images of babies born in the water, coming for the first time to the surface. Those beautiful pictures tug at our ovaries, bring a tear to our eye, and receive comment after comment about how lovely they are. These photos of Cesarean birth, however, received a great deal of criticism. Commenters stated the photos made them feel uncomfortable, that they appeared violent, that they were offensive. I disagree. This is what birth looks like. Are they violent or offensive simply because the births were surgical?
Photo credit Christian Berthelot.
To me, these images speak to the fact that Cesarean birth is real, raw, amazing birth, just like vaginal birth. Blood and fluid are a part of the visceral experience of birth. All babies come out of their mother’s wombs covered in amniotic fluid, blood, and vernix. The shock that babies emulate when they are born is universal, it is not just an experience of Cesarean. They all get squished and many wear surprised expressions. Their bodies emerge in all kinds of wild positions. The babies in these photos are wonderfully messy, new and amazing and miraculous. It is glorious to see this evidence of the womb covering these Cesarean babies. It is just a reminder that Cesarean birth is indeed birth.
In my three Cesarean births, I never saw these images of my own children. My babies had been moved, cleaned, wrapped up, and presented to me in a way that mimicked the pristine, sterile environment of the operating room. And there was something missing there. The primal feeling of giving birth was lacking in my experiences. And I mourned that loss. I wish I had pictures like these of my babies. It might have saved me some of the strange feelings of having not given birth that I experienced after my own Cesareans.
I recently received this quote from a woman who had a traditional Cesarean birth followed by a Family Centered Cesarean. “I had never seen my other babies freshly born. I did not get to see them until they were bathed, wrapped, all evidence that my womb had supported them for the last 10 months washed away. Covered in blood and amniotic fluid, my baby was a beautiful sight.”
Christian Berthelot, the photographer of these awesome images, explained his project this way, “Far from all the clichés and platitudes, I wanted to show us as we are when we are born. And regardless, whether a cesarean delivery or natural…everyone is born naked, in tears, in blood and other body fluids”. That is beautiful, and so are the babies in the photos.
To see more photos from this project , click here.