human birth and censorship

Warning: there is a baby drinking milk (for the first time!) at the end of this post. Sometimes this makes people mad.

As soon as Luke was born, after an incredible, harrowing, most-empowering-and-also-terrifying-experience-of-my-life labor, we learned that he had aspirated meconium. A common condition, but also a life threatening one, he was almost immediately whisked off to the NICU. We had time to snap one photo of him crying in my arms as doctors anxiously stood around waiting to wheel him off to put him on oxygen and x-ray his lungs.

20 months later, I am beyond thankful for my labor experience, for the care of the NICU staff and my midwife, and the marvels of modern medicine. I know that I was lucky in more ways that one. I do, however, wish we’d had a few more photos to help document what absolutely is and will continue to be the most transformative moment in my life: the moment I became a mom. We live in an age of images and oddly, the one moment that was most meaningful to me is by and large undocumented.

This weekend, though, I’ve been privileged to view the births and first moments of life of hundreds of other women and their babies (via the internet, of course). These photos are part of a response to Facebook’s recent removal of a birth photo posted by a member of the private Facebook group NYC Birth, of which I am also a member. It is a group where women ask questions, provide support, and most joyously celebrate the miracle of human birth and women’s bodies by sharing photos and stories. It is a self-selecting group; a safe space for those who want to share about something so life-altering, so powerful, possibly empowering or conversely devastating, and deeply personal.

NYC Birth has made headlines because Facebook continues to remove and block users who post birth photos that show female nipples or vaginas (which if you have even an elementary understanding of reproduction, is basically every birth photo). If you want to read more about it you can read the article in New York Magazine here and the article on Kidspot here. I hope that by the time Luke (and any future children we might be fortunate enough to have) are having their own babies, society will have found some other fear to focus on other than the naked female body. (I can offer a few options, if need be, such as: the enormous spider that fell in my hair yesterday, oral surgery and oh, I don’t know, the rising sea levels…)

And now, here’s the sweetest photo of our cone-headed Lukey learning to nurse in the NICU.