15 Emotional Photos That Capture Birth In Military Families

"You realize just how much service members sacrifice."

In a lot of ways, childbirth is universal. And yet military families face certain challenges and circumstances that simply do not exist for most civilian families, such as deployment. That’s true whether it’s the mother or father who serves ― or both.

So we asked the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers for photos that capture childbirth in military families ― an experience that feels at once unique and familiar ― and the stories they shared were extremely moving. Here are 15 of them, with captions from the photographers.

"This is someone's reality. A mother lying in a hospital bed laboring while her phone sits close by, ready to jump the second she hears it going off not because she's fixated on social media, but because she's waiting for her husband to call.

While she labors, he is awake in his bunk wondering what she is going through; wishing he could be there to support her and make sure that she is taken care of; waiting for a signal to be able to call, only to have the call dropped a few minutes into telling her how much he loves her. If you put yourself in their shoes for a moment, you realize just how much service members sacrifice to serve our country."
"This mother is laboring to bring the couple's third child into the world. The father was deployed for the birth of their second child, and was facing another deployment just a few weeks after his wife's estimated due date. He attentively and lovingly slow-danced his wife through transition. And in between contractions she whispered, 'I'm so glad you're here.'"
"This mom is in the Army, and the baby's father was stationed overseas at the time of their daughter's birth.

Here, she is letting him know that she is in labor and keeping him informed of how things are progressing. They're waiting together -- separated by nearly half the world -- for their first child to arrive."
"We often see images of military families laboring alone, so it's always amazing when the military member can be there for the birth of their child (and in reality, a lot of partners are able to attend at least one of their children's births). This dad is in the Marine Corps."
"I'm a photographer in Yuma, Arizona, a town with a large military presence. This beautiful couple had their second baby girl at home, and I was lucky enough to be their birth photographer. He is a pilot in the U.S. Marines and she is a birth activist and photographer."
"This mom told me: 'Rob [my husband] deployed to Bahrain, a small island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia, in May 2012. I wasn't counting on him being there for the birth but fortunately for us, his captain missed the birth of his first son when he was a junior officer and swore that if he became a captain, he would make sure that his crew would be allowed leave, if at all possible. Rob took 10 days of leave with the understanding that if I had not had the baby yet, he still had to return.

On my due date, I was panicking because I hadn't felt even a twinge of a contraction yet, but I went into labor one day before Rob was scheduled to leave. We had planned for a home birth, but transferred to the hospital because my midwife was worried about how much I was bleeding. Our oldest daughter's nanny sped in our car to the Naval Hospital, while my husband sat in the backseat, pressing all 200 pounds of his body weight onto my sacrum to help relieve the pressure. I gave birth 30 minutes later, and Rob departed for Bahrain 12 hours after Lucy's birth. He returned to us 10 months later.'"
"When this couple's first son was born, the father was deployed and on a submarine. He had no access to a phone or to Skype. He got an e-mail telling him that his son had been born, but wasn't able to see a photo of him for more than a week.

When their second son was on the way, the mom decided she wanted more of an experience for the dad. She wanted to document their story, and for him
to really be able to participate in the water birth."
"This father was doing a stint in Japan and arrived at the hospital right off the plane, only hours before the birth of this couple's second baby boy. The mom definitely hoped he'd make it in time, but no one knew for sure.

Her labor, like her first labor, was slow to progress and they both wondered if she somehow made her body delay and stall until the baby's father could be there. It was such an honor to witness all of these miracles taking place at once."
"This dad is a medic in the military, so the couple's midwife let HIM deliver the baby! It was their plan all along. He was very excited about getting to deliver his own son."
"This father was across the country for training, so he was unable to come home. They started to Skype around the time she began pushing, and he was able to watch the whole thing sitting right there on the table next to her. It was very emotional. This was their rainbow baby after years of loss and fertility treatment."
"This is the moment that this daddy got to meet his boy -- from oceans away."
"Leading up to the birth of his baby girl, this dad had been on on clinical rotation at an Army base in San Antonio, Texas. He had so many classes and rotations, he was never able to go to any of the prenatal appointments or ultrasounds.

The day his baby was born was his only day off. The very next day, he was back to work.The mom mentioned all of this to me to show just how much support is needed for military spouses during pregnancy and childbirth."
"Halfway across the world, this dad -- who is in the Marine Corps -- is seeing his baby girl for the very first time."
"Mindy, an Army veteran, soaks in the love of her son moments after a beautifully calm home birth. She served for more than three years, including tours in Turkey, Kuwait and Iraq.

I asked her if there was a connection between motherhood, childbirth and military service and she told me: 'There is an undeniable mental toughness that comes with being in the military. Beginning in basic training, you are pushed beyond what you think you can do, and you quickly realize that you are capable of so much more. Childbirth is identical in that way. Just when you are ready to give up and quit, you push yourself just a little bit further. But this time, you get to welcome a beautiful new life.'"
"This dad was severely injured in an accident in Afghanistan just three months before the birth of his second baby. (He had also been deployed during the birth of his first child.) He wasn't able to support his wife physically, but he found other ways to help.

Here he is, holding the son he almost didn't get to meet."

Captions have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Correction: This story previous stated that the mother in photo #3 is in the Air Force. She is in the Army.

Celebrity Parenting Quotes