Recently, I ran “cord theme series” only for you IG fans (you can follow me there) where I showed my best or most interesting cord images and explain a bit about the uniqueness of that cord or the challenges of getting the shot.
The umbilical cord is incredible. It supplies the fetus with oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood from the placenta. Conversely, the fetal heart pumps deoxygenated, nutrient-depleted blood through the umbilical arteries back to the placenta. (Disclaimer: I’m a professional birth photographer but not a medical professional, sources include Wikipedia and Emedicine.com.)
In this image we see a umbilical cord with a rare “true knot”. I have actually only seen two of these in my career. True knots arise from fetal movements and are more likely to develop during early pregnancy, when relatively more amniotic fluid is present and greater fetal movement occurs.
Here is the second one not yet cut.
Here is a cord already cut away from the baby and still connected to its placenta. Many women are curious to see what theirs looked like and I can’t always get this shot for moms because many times the cord/placenta combo is cleared away and covered up really quickly. It is usually examined for abnormalities in another room or area. Private independent midwives in our area (Cape Town) tend to show a mom (who wants to see) her placenta, explaining it to her which makes for great photo opportunities for me and education for her.
It surprises me how grossed out by the placenta/cord combo people can be. If understood, we would marvel. A whole brand new organ built for your baby! A life support system! Imagine if we grew third arms to have a baby? (Sidenote, wouldn’t that have been helpful?!?).
If you look at this cord you will see its not blue/purple-ish and looks “drained”. Thats because time was given for the blood to go back into the baby thanks to #delayedcordclamping or #delayedcordcutting. This is a birth option all mothers have either for vaginal or csection births and is worthy of some research to see if it would be beneficial for your baby.
Its one of the last visible clues of the life of the preborn. Think about it, none of us have cords attached to our bodies now. And likely unless you were there for delivery, you never see tiny humans with a cord still attached to them. And yet, we all used to depend on them. Its a unifying fact of humanity!
All this talk of cords brings me to the topic of cutting the cord. For some reason or another, its a rite of passage that most people want a photo of even if they didn’t hire a professional birth photographer. From my perspective it is actually an incredibly challenging shot to get sometimes for several reasons: 1) Mom nudity. If your client prefers no nudity in her images and the cord is cut with baby on her while she’s naked this is hard to achieve. 2) Baby nudity. Its always a win if your cord cutting shot doesn’t include baby genitals as this makes it shareable for the family. Even the most show-anything birth photographer refrains from showing baby genitals online (or should). 3) Location. You almost always have to get this shot around 2-3 people minimum standing around baby. It could be more. For natural births its mom, dad, medical pro.
For csections, usually dad, doctor and midwife or nurse. I am often holding my camera in the air or shoved in a corner or trying to focus through an opening like in this photo. I am not allowed to ask anyone to move or pose. Here shooting over the shoulder of the midwife because we were against a wall. While this shot is quite blocked off it does achieve no focus on baby’s parts and her shoulder frames it just right to make it have an artistic element. 4) Speed. Sometimes the toughness of cutting the cord surprises a dad and it takes a few seconds which is awesome for me because then I can get a variety of frames. But sometimes with a thin cord or at just the right angle, its a quick snip and the other 3 mentioned factors mean this moment is adrenaline pumping to try to get. 5) Happening Without You. Lastly, this shot can be tough because you didn’t know it happened. Some fathers don’t want to cut it. Some doctors don’t offer. Either way, it happened out of your line of sight. Sometimes just being experienced enough helps to know what’s going on. Other times, the moment is missed because it happened behind a curtain.
I hope all of these factors help give a greater appreciation for your favorite cord cutting photos.
Some cords are short, some longer. Each cord like each baby is unique to them. In the images below you see the obgyn trying to give mom a first look at her baby and the assisting surgeon supporting the cord since its still attached to her placenta (inside mom). In images where you see a baby held high and forward across the curtain, the cord is either longer or has already been cut. This cord is on the shorter side.
Speaking of cutting the cord, there are technically two cuts during a csection. The first is the actual cut seperating baby from mom. This is obviously done over her open abdomen. I normally do not capture that one. The second one is more of a “ceremonial” cut that most doctors offer to dad so that he doesn’t miss that rite of passage like he would have done at a vaginal birth. This is usually done at the warming table with the pediatrician away from the sterile feild of mom’s abdomen.
The bottom image is pretty unusual, dad was invited to scrub in and come cut the actual cord in the surgical area. I love seeing all the ways different care providers create more family involved and respectful births.
A follower asked “So then what is actually being cut when dad does a “ceremonial” (for lack of better words) cutting of the cord after a csection delivery? Great question! Here’s a photo to help explain. What you are seeing is a baby with an umbilical cord already cut away from her mother. So the actually “cutting of the cord” has just happened because you can’t walk that far away with her baby still attached. Mom is still in surgery several meters away from her. Now at the warming table, they give dad an opportunity to still partake in the rite of passage of cutting the cord, its in essence a ceremonial cut. You could also sort of look at it as the “trimming” part. The cord is still long and has been clamped near the baby. He cuts off the excess close to the clamp. This step can be done by a medical professional but its a way of including dad in the process.
Your baby’s cord is its lifeline! Incredibly made and critical in function. Its important to research your options in how it is handled. This short but simple video helped me as a mother to understand delayed cord cutting.
This mom checks for herself. Yep, this cord is still attached, still pulsing, sending rich oxygenated blood back to her brand new baby minutes after birth. And if you’re wondering if this can be done with twins, here is a look at a twin c-section birth with double delayed cord clamping.
And this among many other tiny details are just more reasons to hire a professional birth photographer. This really is the beauty of Life Brand New!
Check out that amazing cord still attached to this newborn baby! Its one of the last visible clues of the life of the preborn. Think about it, none of us have cords attached to our bodies now. And likely unless you were there for delivery, you never see tiny humans with a cord still attached to them. And yet, we all used to depend on them. Its a unifying fact of humanity!
In awe of your work AGAIN!!!
I am also a birth photographer and a former RN for 15 yrs with 10 of those years spent working as a nurse in postpartum and nursery. Since changing carers to a birth photographer, I also have a fascination for umbilical cords! The last birth I photographed, I have a photo of the baby being held upside down by the doctor with the cord still attached of course and the baby is squeezing his cord so tightly, that in the photo i can see the part if his cord is dark blue or purple from him squeezing so tightly!