A powerful series of birth photos is highlighting the beauty of sibling love.
Paulina Splechta has been documenting childbirth as an on-call photographer for four and a half years. Last month, she had the opportunity to capture a very special moment for the Cook family in Boca Raton, Florida.
When Catherine Cook prepared to deliver her third child, she invited her 10-year-old daughter, Kayla, to be present at the birth and catch the baby. The big sister happily agreed, leading to an emotional experience that Splechta photographed.
“In the first moments when Kayla caught her baby sister ― while the midwife, Laurie Gibbon, was making sure the baby was handed safely from big sister Kayla’s hands to mom’s hands ― everyone’s hearts were very full,” Splechta told HuffPost. “It was the sweetest moment that took my breath away, seeing such pure love between sisters meeting for the first time.”
The photographer shared a selection of snaps from baby Everly’s birth in a Facebook post that has received nearly 20,000 likes and reached over 2 million users.
“I think this birth resonated with so many people because it is rare to see a child at a birth, especially actively participating in catching the baby,” Splechta said, adding that Kayla’s unguarded emotional response was incredibly moving. “[Her reaction] was so profound ― a wide scale of emotions, and I believe it was very touching for people to see such authenticity and vulnerability.”
The photographer emphasized that no one ever pressured Kayla into participating in the experience and that she was “very excited” about catching her baby sister. The mother had chosen to have an unmedicated birth, and when hard labor started, the 10-year-old stepped out of the room for one minute.
“Being a very empathetic young girl, Kayla became concerned with how her mom was doing,” Splechta explained.
As she approached the moment of birth, Kayla got a minor case of cold feet and questioned if she would be able to catch the baby, so her dad offered to do it with her, the photographer noted. The 10-year-old got a boost of confidence from this plan.
“Just as baby Everly’s head started crowning, and it was time to catch her baby sister, Kayla looked several times back and forth between her baby sister’s head and her mom’s powerful face ― at times with an inquisitive expression almost as if to ensure her mom was OK and other times in total amazement, as if she was thinking what a strong woman her mom was,” Splechta recalled. “Ultimately, her various expressions turned into huge smiles and finally after her sister was on mom’s chest, she let out a cry of joyful relief.”
For Splechta, this birth experience was incredibly powerful because she had wanted her daughter to be present at the birth of her last child but couldn’t see this plan through due to an unexpected cesarean section.
“Ever since that experience, it was my hope to one day capture a birth story for a family who wanted their older child present at the birth of a new baby coming into their lives,” she said. “I wanted to contribute to showing that birth is not something to be feared and hidden behind closed doors, but that birth is a beautiful celebration of meeting a new life and that it can be a family-centered experience.”
The photographer added, “Although I didn’t get to see my firstborn meeting her baby sister at my second birth, I put all of my passion into my work because I want to give other moms the gift of having these unrepeatable memories to cherish forever.”