An epic photo journey through an unplanned cesarean birth

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All photos by CALIMA Portraits.

My first introduction to Catherine of CALIMA Portraits came last year via that super cute Hobbit chair and vintage family session we ran. Since then I’ve been more or less in love with both Catherine and her work. I was totally stoked to get to meet her at our Offbeat Empire reception last October (she’s dancing behind Jenny Jimenez in a shot on this post)! ANYWAY, long story short: Catherine’s incredible and her work is just… extraordinary.

She recently shot her first ever birth story and as such was there to welcome one very awesome little dude named Finn into the world. Both she and Christine, Finn’s mother, have written about the experience… so I’m just going to sit back and let their combined words and Catherine’s magnificent photos do the talking.

Says Catherine, the photographer:

Christine & Shawn had their birth plan all worked out — their original plans were to have a home birth, and they were also planning to have Jenny Jimenez photograph their birth story. The three of them (Christine, Shawn & JennyJ) know each other from working together, and the three of us (Christine, JennyJ & I) know each other from a photography workshop that we all attended together last summer. If Jenny couldn’t be there, I would be her backup if it worked out with my schedule. After some complications with Christine’s health, it turned out that the two had to schedule a cesarean section and coincidentally it turned out that Jenny was to be out of town for when it was scheduled. Which worked out great for me, as this was to be my first birth story ever…

Says Christine, Finn’s mother:

The night before Finn’s birthday, I wrote a letter to him expressing my feelings on his impending arrival. For the rest of that night, I was restless. I couldn’t settle down. I couldn’t sleep. I was intensely uncomfortable. Over the last week of pregnancy, the amniotic fluid levels had increased dramatically and I was incredibly swollen. Essentially, I was stretched to my limit. Despite my fears of a c-section and my lingering wish for a natural birth, I was actually glad that Finn’s birth was a scheduled event because I did not know if I could manage to continue to wait for him to be born considering how uncomfortable I was. I was ready for relief!

From Catherine:

I have witnessed a total of five births (including the one of my daughter Madeline, if you can consider that “witnessing”), but I’ve never been there for a c-section. It was incredible. First of all, from my perspective, the staff at that hospital made it the easiest transition possible; especially considering that this wasn’t part of their “plan.” And to me, that sort of service, attention & care goes a long way with anyone, and even more so in a situation like this.

Secondly, I was not prepared for how intense it was going to be… as opposed to a vaginal birth where you are pushing towards life, a cesarean birth is a more kind of life or death situation. And not necessarily in a life or death extreme, but the fact that we are in an O.R. just brings that urgency & seriousness to it that is otherwise lost (in my opinion) during a vaginal birth. Almost as if, nothing is taken for granted — everyone in that room is there to make sure that we are indeed pushing for life, regardless of the circumstances that led them to this room.

Thirdly, I did not miss the fact that no matter how sterile & kind of otherworldly the environment, there was still just as much love & emotion in that room as there would be in any other birthing situation… which was so amazing.

From Christine:

I went into the OR by myself, while Shawn and Catherine were taken to another area to put on scrubs and masks. Once in the OR, things really started to get intense. I was taken to the bed and prepped for the spinal block. Shawn came in just as they were getting ready to give me the first shot to numb the area before doing the actual spinal. He looked me dead straight in the eyes and asked how I was doing. I told him I was nervous because they were about to stick a needle in my spine. He held my gaze and told me that everything would be okay. I am pretty sure he said something to make me laugh. The doctors and nurses kept asking me to round my back, which is really difficult to do when you are carrying a gigantic baby belly. But, after just a couple of minutes, I felt my legs go tingly and then start to feel heavy. They laid me down on the bed and I think that’s when it really hit me how real this all was.

It’s incredibly strange to feel your body go numb from your toes up to your chest. First it’s a tingling sensation, then it feels heavy and then, you simply can’t move your legs. I started to feel so anxious at that point. I got lightheaded and nauseous. I had the best anesthesiologist, however. He was right there the entire time asking me how I was doing and helping me to work through the bizarre sensations that I was going through.

Finishes Catherine:

At the end of the day, I was more sore and more emotionally drained than I have ever been with any other shoot. In a good way. I didn’t get to see the images until I received my film back about a week later, and I didn’t share the images on my blog for about five more days… and I’m seriously still high from this experience. It has moved me like no other… and I am just feeling overwhelmed with it all. Which is so absurd… I guess after seventeen years of working as a wedding & portrait photographer has left me in some sort of comfort bubble.

Well my bubble hs been burst wide open, and this birth story has left me yearning for more… for the rush that comes with experiencing the cycle of life in it’s purest form; even if not done the way it was originally planned.

Says Christine:

… and that’s the moment that the world changed forever. There are no words to describe meeting your baby for the first time. To put a beautiful face to all of those kicks and hiccups, to feel that amazingly soft skin and to smell that sweet newborn scent – it was heaven. Knowing that he was okay and having him there with us was bliss. What we had dreamed of and worked so hard for was finally real. We are a family of three.

You can read more about Christine’s experience during her cesarean section and see even MORE insanely gorgeous photos at CALIMA Portraits.

Comments on An epic photo journey through an unplanned cesarean birth

  1. Thanks for featuring this story… it really is such a huge honor to be a part of something so EPIC, even if it’s something that happens every minute of the day. The cycle of life… so incredible to be a part of. And p.s. I LOVE the way you laid it out with both of our words! Genius! xoxo.

  2. I thought that OR looked familiar!

    Sorry, I spent a month at that hospital two years ago and thought it looked familiar from the photos. A quick trip to the mother’s blog confirmed it for me.

    Thanks for posting photos from a cesarean delivery. I do them every day as an anesthesiologist and always try to grab parents’ cameras to capture some of those first moments as a new family. Often parents don’t even notice. I hope it makes them smile when they see the photos later on, like these here made me smile.

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