2016 was a fantastic year for empowering birth choices. One of my favorites; photographers being allowing in the OR. This is still pretty widely unpopular for the majority of cesarean births across the country, however in Colorado it's becoming more popular and I am in love with the trend.
Many of my colleagues have been allowed into more of them this year, it seems, than in past years. At my last cesarean I attended of 2016 I had the pleasure of speaking with the very kind anesthesiologist that played a huge role in allowing me to document the cesarean birth for my client. She said to me that she was happy to allow me in, and that she recognizes the fact that this is their birth story and not hers. Hers is an attitude I am excited to see spreading amongst others in her field.
It truly is an exciting time to be a birth photographer. To be able to document births of all shapes and sizes. But it makes me wonder, what might be a drawback of this new trend? What is it about photographers in the OR that still makes the medical staff leary? And what can we do to avoid tarnishing this blessing of an opportunity for us and our clients, before it really begins?
Get a grasp on the hospital policies..
I would have to say that Colorado is one of the most birth photographer friendly states. There isn't a hospital that I have walked into that hasn't allowed me to photograph almost every aspect of birth for my clients. I haven't been asked to leave a room yet. Though I have been asked not to photograph certain things by certain nurses/doctors. However it seems like for the most part, everyone is pretty on board with the family getting those precious pictures. So why is it that when a mother calls one of the most birth photographer friendly hospitals in the Springs to ask if I can be in the room, the answer is absolutely not? The answer is not as simple as we'd hope. To my knowledge, every hospital in the state's policy says they does not allow photography and recording. Then why when I show up to a hospital birth I am greeted with a warm welcome? I gathered from the nurses that photography in the rooms are ok, but not outside of the rooms/main lobby areas. It seems though, every time I ask about the policies, I get a different answer. However I've concluded all is safe as long as you are not photographing where other sensitive patient information can be recorded. Because the staff is trying to follow HIPPA guidelines for the safety of their patients, birth photography can fall in a grey area, and cesareans are even more challenging to categorize, but for different reasons.
So what can we do, as photographers, to make sure we are following the rules?
Being friendly and professional, and steer clear of photographing in the lobbies, nurses stations, or other patients in the hospital, is a great start if you are new to the birth photography world. As a birth photographer, I am walking a fine line between policy and patient rights and care. The staff can get into trouble if a birth photographer is careless with where she is documenting. This is especially true in the OR, where doctors are still unsure about inviting photographers in. They are concerned for the safety and health of the patient, and making sure they minimize the risk of infection. Having an extra, untrained person, in the OR can be worrisome for this reason. So I make sure to ask questions about where I am allowed to be in the OR, or follow the instructions they do give once I am allowed in. If more and more doctors and medical professionals see that we can handle the task, this will only continue to open the door for our clients and their birth choices. And now that more hospitals are starting to make cesarean births more family centered with skin to skin, here in the Springs, I am also hopeful that photography in the OR will become more of a norm rather than an obstacle.
I want to send a big shout out and much gratitude to the hospitals that have allowed me into ORs last year. University in Denver, and Memorial North and St. Francis in Colorado Springs. You've made such an impact on the handful of families lives here in the Springs, but also on the community as a whole. Because of you, we are one step closer to being able to provide our clients with these wonderful memories they will cherish all their lives. You are making a difference in making these families feel heard, feel loved, and feel important. That truly means more than you know. Thank you.