15 Intimate Birth Photos That Show How Beautiful C-Sections Can Be

These stunning photos capture the many emotions and faces of Cesarean delivery.

Roughly one in three births in the United States is via C-section, many of which are performed at a moment's notice during true emergencies in order to keep mothers and babies safe. Even when they're less sudden -- when, say, a mother has a medical reason to schedule an operation ahead of time, or when her health care providers determine after hours of laboring that surgery is her best course of action -- C-sections tend to be viewed as a strictly medical affair. A hospital procedure, rather than an intimate, life-changing event.

In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, we asked members of the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers to submit some of their favorite photos capturing the beauty and complexity of C-section birth, in all of its glory. Here, 15 photographers and families share their unique stories.

This was my second scheduled C-section, so my husband and I were familiar with the process. Right before I was wheeled out of the pre-op room and taken into the operating room, we said our goodbyes. You have so many emotions in that moment.

Having a scheduled C-section is a strange experience. The night before, I had eaten dinner, brushed my teeth, and gone to bed as if everything was totally normal -- but I knew only a few hours separated me from meeting my daughter. With a C-section, you're strapped onto the table, you feel a bit of pressure ... and then suddenly you have a baby. It’s incredibly surreal, and it’s easy to feel disconnected to both your body and the weight of the moment. But while a C-section may not have been my first choice, I am incredibly fortunate. -- Meg, mother
In this birth, there was this immense feeling of support in the operating room. Everybody was so focused on the well-being of this mother, and the staff was so incredibly nice. They really wanted the mother to feel the most comfortable she could in the situation. Because of that, it didn't really feel like you were in an OR at all. -- Inge, birth photographer
This was a scheduled C-section, which was the mom's choice because she'd had a very traumatic birth prior. The birth was incredibly healing for her, which I think sometimes people think only vaginal births can be. It was a calming, peaceful environment. The staff were warm and friendly and treated her with dignity and respect -- and they allowed her to have her birth documented, which doesn't often happen in New Zealand. She got the positive birth experience she longed for. -- Keri-Anne, birth photographer
Toward the end of the pregnancy, our doctor started talking more about the possibility that I would need a C-section. When it was decided I would, she asked my husband and I if we wanted a clear drape. After three years of trying to have a baby, we wanted to be able to see her right away. That was really important to us, and the clear drape made it possible. -- Jacqi, mother

I was just thinking about how amazing my wife was, about everything that she was putting her own body through so we could finally have this little miracle from God that we waited so long for. So I put my head next to hers, and my hand on her head, to thank her. -- Nick, father
This is this baby girl's very first breath! -- Lindsey, birth photographer
This was a Cesarean birth of twins, and this is "Baby A," who came out singing to the heavens and reaching for his family. -- Jennifer, birth photographer
This father in the Netherlands just witnessed the birth of his third child, and learned he had a girl after two boys! When someone asked what her name was, he had to think about it. He had the boy name choices in his head, but not the girls. They named her Denthe, but the father had to tell the staff to check with his wife to make sure he got the spelling right. -- Marry, birth photographer
We had a baby boy 13 months before -- almost to the day -- in the same OR, with the same team of doctors. Actually, this is my third boy and my third C-section in three-and-a-half years, so this was a total deja vu moment for me.

I like to keep everything light, so we were all joking and laughing in the OR. The anesthesiologist is also a fellow travel agency owner so we talked shop the whole time. You know, when she wasn't holding the barf bag for me. -- Lia, mother
I was fully expecting to see a baby boy as I peeked over the curtain, and to my absolute (and wonderful) surprise, I laid eyes on the most precious, beautiful girl I could imagine! Her tiny, outstretched arms and hands were so perfect, it made me weak in the knees. -- André, father
I had come to peace with a scheduled, repeat C-section the day before I gave birth. I was 41-weeks pregnant, with no signs of labor, an injured ankle and I had a previous C-section, so we decided to just go for a repeat C-section. I really tried to delight in the fact that I was about to meet my son. I kind of felt like I do when I board a plane. I hate to fly, but I'm really excited to get to the destination. In this case, it was getting through surgery to meet my child.

The delivery lasted, like, three minutes, so I didn't have much time to think. They had the baby out so quick, and then they put him on my chest and we just spent time soaking him in and getting to know him. I love my birth story and everyone who helped it unfold so beautifully. -- Anonymous, mother
I had an emergency C-section, because of heart decelerations caused by severe preeclampsia. I am an OB-GYN, and when I arrived in triage, my blood pressure was elevated and I was contracting every three minutes. I heard one fetal heart rate deceleration and I knew right then that I would not be trying to labor.

I tried not to think the worst, but I know that in rare cases, the worst happens. I just prayed and I was so relieved to hear his first cry. He was loud. I could hear the strength in his voice. -- Curtina, mother
Even though I was an emotional wreck leading up to the surgery, the moment I laid my eyes on Asher, all of my fears and nerves went away. -- Brooke, mother
This was the mother's third attempt at a vaginal childbirth, but with no progression, it was decided that she needed to have another C-section despite all of her strong efforts. She had a really caring and knowledgeable midwife there with her who knew her birth plan and how important this all was to this mom, so she basically just announced that she was putting the baby on her breast immediately, and everyone in the OR just kind of stood back. The baby latched on right away, and the mama's eyes welled with tears. So did ours! -- Ashley, birth photographer
After a really long labor, this family -- of three! -- was happy to just finally all be in each other's arms. -- Jaydene, birth photographer
This mother, Esther, came from Nigeria to have her baby. It was an unexpected C-section, which was initially disheartening for everyone involved. But it was remarkable to watch Esther become a mother, especially given the circumstances. She told us the birth culture where she is from is limited, and not particularly safe, and that's why she wanted to have her baby in the United States where she'd have better access to care. It turned out that exactly the kind of situation she was worried about occurred, and more than one person in the room remarked how fortunate it was that she was here. She and her baby recovered from the procedure really well, and were able to have immediate skin-to-skin contact. -- Sarah, birth photographer

These accounts have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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