Each year, photographer Bonnie Hussey hosts giveaways for a free birth photography session for two or three women. When she came across Maria Crider’s story, she knew she wanted to offer her this experience.
Crider has been battling breast cancer since her diagnosis in October 2016. “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster,” she told HuffPost. “I’ve been through a unilateral mastectomy, a planned cesarean, a salpingectomy, 16 chemotherapies, 25 out of 28 radiations. I still have ways to go before I can put this part of my life behind me.”
Crider was 11 weeks pregnant at the time of her diagnosis and was able to receive treatment during her second and third trimesters. Although pregnancy can affect the timing and specific choice of treatments, it is considered safe for expectant mothers to get treated for cancer.
On April 13, she gave birth to a baby boy named Logan at Florida Hospital for Women in Orlando. Hussey was on hand to photograph Logan’s birth.
“A mutual friend of ours that I met when we were living in Washington state actually tagged her in my giveaway,” the photographer told HuffPost. “Since I had just moved back to the Central Florida area, I wanted to give back to the community I grew up in.”
Logan’s birth was a unique and emotional experience for Crider and Hussey. Although all three of her children were born via C-section, Hussey said this time her doctor set up a camera and monitor so that she could watch it live.
“It was very cool, but the biggest thing for me was seeing him born and be totally perfect,” Crider explained. “I did four cycles of Adriamycin and Cytoxan while pregnant. His delivery was confirmation that everything the doctors had told me was true and that he was perfectly healthy.”
Hussey said she was struck by the kindness of Crider’s doctor, nurses and the other members of her care team.
“After the initial newborn exam, she was able to hold her baby while her doctor completed the cesarean,” she recalled. “Even though she and the nurses knew that breastfeeding was a slim possibility given the circumstances ― only one breast and having gone through chemotherapy during her pregnancy for Triple Negative Breast Cancer ― her postpartum nurses encouraged her to try.”
There was also a milk bank in the hospital for women who needed donor breast milk, the photographer added.
When Crider saw the photos from Logan’s birth, she cried. “Bonnie captured all the emotions from the nervousness and excitement in the pre-op to the relief and joy and pain the operating room,” she told HuffPost. “I love the photos! It’s my ‘Hell yeah! We made it!’ moment caught in photos.”
Hussey said the mom’s positive reaction meant the world her. With Crider’s encouragement, she shared the photos on social media.
“When I took Maria on as a client, my initial instinct was to protect her and not share any of her images or film. I do not document birth stories for anyone other than my clients, and I don’t generally care if the work I make goes viral,” she explained.
“But she said to me, ‘Sharing brings awareness, and you can share anything you want,’” Hussey continued. “After she said that to me I knew I needed to share her story and I could only hope that it would reach at least one other woman going through the same experience.”
Crider told HuffPost she’s found encouragement in other women’s stories and joined a private Facebook support group for pregnant women with cancer ― “Kick Ass Cancer Mamas.” Said the mom, “It’s wonderful to see their testimony ― it’s where I turned to when looking for more women in my position.”
Hussey said she loved working with Crider and hopes to document more of her medical journey. Said the photographer, “She has an amazing spirit. It’s truly an honor to be a part of her birth experience.”
Crider hopes other women who are pregnant and have cancer see her birth photos. “I hope it gives them the courage to talk to their doctors seek a course of action that’s right for both mom and baby,” she said. “I want it to give them reassurance that you can go through certain treatment while pregnant. Logan is proof, and he’s just one of hundreds of babies born after chemo.”
Keep scrolling to see more photos from Logan’s birth.