As a St. Louis On Angel’s Wings Volunteer Photographer, sometimes I get called to do a photo session at odd times of the night. It’s the nature of birth and it’s a true honor to be available for sessions like these. This family is very special to the On Angel’s Wings organization as the mother is the Chairperson for Nora’s Care — the support arm for OAW. Connie was just shy of 26 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to the hospital due to her water breaking. They were able to keep her baby in the womb until 26 weeks 6 days gestation when due to some complications, her care team deemed it necessary to deliver her baby.
When I received notification that Connie would be delivering her baby, I was just getting ready to head to bed. My husband and kids were already asleep. But the moment I heard of the need for a photographer to go to Mercy Hospital, my adrenaline was already racing and I knew I was available to make it. I threw on my OAW volunteer shirt and badge, grabbed my jacket and changed into pants (hospitals have a tendency to be cold), picked up my gear and flew out the door.
My mind goes a million miles an hour on the way to a birth session. I think of the cars out on the road at the time and how they have no clue what I’m doing, where I’m headed, or who I am. And it reminds me that I don’t know their stories either. So I’m always considering that someone else may very well be going through something life threatening too. And it gives me pause to appreciate where my life currently is no matter the trials and tribulations I may have going on in my personal life. This held especially true for this session since at the time, I was only 1 week ahead of Connie in my own pregnancy. It felt amazing to be called to this session and I felt so connected to the mom already.
All was calm upon arrival and both the baby’s parents, Connie and John, seemed collected and ready. After her care team explained the process, policies, and procedures, Connie and John were taken into the OR at Mercy Hospital. The team prepped Connie with an epidural and prepared the room. It is an absolutely phenomenal experience to witness the well oiled machine of an OR prepping for a cesarean birth especially when the NICU staff is involved. There were approximately 18 or so medical staff in the room and yet nothing ever once seemed chaotic. The medical staff in that room were some of the most loving I’ve ever witnessed. Her anesthesiologist was calm and loving and was constantly making sure Connie was well taken care of and provided for. She explained every single thing that was happening so Connie and John were in the know as her doctors began working on her. She cooled her down with wet wash cloths. And here’s the part where I tell you I fully regretted my jacket and pants. I was sweating bullets. And on top of my own attire, of course I was also dressed in the provided scrubs, face mask, and hair net. It was HOT. Come to find out, they crank the heat in the OR for pre-term babies to maintain their body temperatures once delivered. Live and learn!
There was discussion between the doctor and the NICU staff about delaying the cord clamping until the cord stopped pulsing and Connie’s doctor paused to explain to the entire room what this meant and what they were about to witness. While delayed cord clamping (waiting to cut the cord either until it stops pulsing or sometimes by a set amount of time instead of immediately clamping the cord upon delivery) is becoming more common, it is not yet the norm.
As it ticked closer to the baby’s birth, the NICU team comforted John like he was a brother of theirs. I tear up just thinking about it because it wasn’t “just another patient” in the room. It was like they were tending to a family member they cared deeply for. And then the most amazing thing happened. Connie delivered her baby by way of cesarean section and the doctor held the baby ever so gently in his gloved hands. And the room waited. Silently. It was the most respectful moment I’ve ever witnessed at a birth. This baby was 26 weeks gestation and yet the most important thing in that room was the baby’s umbilical cord transferring vital blood from the placenta to the baby while the doctor cradled him so sweetly in his hands. It was a moment of love and care and while I snapped away, I couldn’t help but tear up at the beauty of the situation. I was speechless. Here was this beautiful child, a full week younger than mine who was still in utero, and he was breathing his first breaths of life on the outside. Absolutely palpable. Baby Kayson was earth side and perfect.
Once his cord stopped pulsing, they brought him over to the incubator and the staff began taking his vitals and making sure he was well. Kayson weighed in at a whopping 2lbs 2oz. He had about a 10 minute time frame of needing to be intubated and the staff tended to him diligently and calmly while reassuring John that all was well and Kayson was stable. There was a sigh of relief from John and then he and Kayson left for the NICU. Connie was stitched up and brought to recovery where she was met with smiles and congratulations from John’s parents.
Congratulations, Connie and John, on the birth of your perfect baby boy, Kayson. I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to be present for Kayson’s birth and furthermore for allowing me to share your amazing story.
If you or someone you know is looking for a St. Louis Birth Photographer, I would be honored to discuss this with you!