A natural birth after a c-section | Photos of the birth


In May 2012 I photographed the birth of Liam. The birth did not go the way Annemiek and Richard imagined it would. It didn’t go as hoped, and one intervention followed another. In the end a c-section was done, and the recovery was very difficult for Annemiek. It was definitely not a pleasant experience, partly due to how they were treated by the staff at the hospital. So this time, pregnant with their second child, things had to be different! They chose a different hospital, and decided that this time they would give birth at the Maxima Medical Centre in Veldhoven. Luckily I was asked to be the photographer once again! 🙂

It was lovely to see Annemiek and Richard again, and to see what a wonderful little boy Liam had grown into! We had a great chat, and Annemiek said that she really wanted a natural birth this time. When they left, with the co-sleeper in which Liv had slept, to use for their own daughter, I was excited about photographing this birth.

A different hospital, a girl instead of a boy, and a different preparation: it just had to go well this time!

Her due date was 15 February 2016, and in the weeks before we stayed in touch. Annemiek had a lot of Braxton-Hicks contractions, and a few times it seemed like labour had really started, but then it all stopped again. The nights leading up to her due date (and after it) were really tough, because she didn’t get much sleep due to the contractions that kept her up, but would then peter out every time.

On the 19th of February Richard called me at 7am. He says it really looks like she’s in labour, and they’re going to the hospital. I see that I had a message from Annemiek earlier, but hadn’t heard my phone. The next update I get is at 8:45. They’re at the hospital, and Annemiek is dilated to 1cm. That’s a bit of a disappointment. A short while later I receive another message: the baby is not doing well, and they’re considering a c-section. What???? You have got to be kidding me!!

I wait impatiently, and as soon as I can, I call Annemiek to find out how things are going. When I speak to her I discover that it has turned out to be a false alarm, luckily. The baby’s heart rate seemed to dip on the monitor, but now it was fine again, and they were no longer considering a c-section. But the doubt keep bothering them a little. Hopefully this was just a bit of a false start, and from here on in things will all go perfectly.

At 11:15 I get the next update: 3cm dilated, and Annemiek is getting an epidural. Just before they place the epidural, they break her waters. I get my stuff together and start driving. I get to the hospital at 14:00, and Annemiek is in bed, with her whole hand wrapped in bandages. I ask what happened, and she tells me they had to put the IV in her hand because it was so difficult to find a good vein. To make sure the IV doesn’t move, they put an enormous bandage around it. It looks impressive, but it’s fortunately not a big deal.

Shortly after I arrive they check how far Annemiek is. It’s 14:30 and she is dilated to 5cm. Yay! That’s going well! They discuss briefly and decide to put Annemiek on medication to strengthen the contractions. I notice that the hospital staff are really listening to Annemiek’s wishes, and explaining everything they do, how and why they are doing it. They’re also just really kind to Annemiek, which is a big change from how things went in the last hospital.

When Irma, a friend of Annemiek’s who will be at the birth, arrives at 15:00, they come in and look at the frequency of the contractions, and decide not to increase the level of medication at this point. They want to take things slowly, since everything went too fast during Liam’s birth. It’s really nice that Irma is there, and there is a lot of chatting and snacking happening, because Annemiek and Richard have brought lots of yummy snacks with them.

At 16:15 they come and check again, and Annemiek is at 5 or 6cm. They decide to put the medication a bit higher, and it’s at this point that the atmosphere changes. Annemiek starts to really feel the contractions, and they hurt. She’s given an extra ‘bolus’ to help reduce the pain, but it doens’t work very well. So at 17:10 the medication is turned off, to see if her own body takes over. We all try to support her, by encouraging her, holding her hand, and keeping her head cool with a damp cloth. Richard tries to keep the atmosphere light: ‘Just think about this honey – it’s almost the weekend!’ I try to offer support too, and when I’m not taking photos I help Annemiek where I can, by puffing with her through contractions, and just being there. She doesn’t want to squeeze my hand too tightly, but I tell her she can squeeze as hard as she needs to.

At 18:00 they do another check, and Annemiek tells me that she’s sorry it’s all taking so long. Of course that’s no problem, and I tell her, “We have the whole evening.” She responds with a very sad, “I don’t want it to take that long!” and after the check it turns out that it won’t take that long – she’s at 10cm!!

I can hardly believe it myself – she did it! Tears come to my eyes, and I see that I’m not the only one, because Irma is also having a hard time keeping the tears out of her eyes. I’m so proud of her! I almost forget that the baby still has to come out, but during the last birth she only got to 7cm, so 10cm is such a big achievement now! Wow!

The baby is still quite high up, so Annemiek starts with ‘practise pushing’. This really just means listening to your body and practising pushing when you feel the urge to do so, instead of immediately pushing with all your might. Thats’s exhausting, and your body can do a lot by itself. Annemiek is doing brilliantly, and Richard doesn’t move from her side.

At 19:17 Annemiek can start ‘real’ pushing. Richard watches in fascination. At 19:30 we see some of baby’s black hair! She’s doing so well! As always is the case when pushing, it’s two steps forward and one step back. We see the baby sliding back a little after every push. The midwife says, “Can you feel the baby sliding back?” Annemiek can definitely feel this, and loudly says, “I don’t want that!” But still, she’s nearly there!

The baby just doesn’t seem to want to round that last corner, and when a ‘little cut’ is mentioned, Annemiek gives it her all, and then, at 19:57 a beautiful baby girl with pitch black hair is born! She is absolutely beautiful!

Richard watches in amazement, and Annemiek is flying from one emotion to the next, from tears to joy. “I did it!” Irma is crying as she watches. Wow, what a beautiful moment – she did it! And the baby is so beautiful! They call her Liënne, after a good friend in Bonaire.

Annemiek’s biggest wish comes true immediately – Liënne can spend an hour, or longer if she wishes, skin-to-skin with Annemiek. The last time she missed the first hour completely, and Richard sat with Liam for a long time until Annemiek came back from surgery. At that time Liam was already asleep, but now she has a wide-awake girl lying on her chest. She can hardly believe it. Richard comes closer, and slowly his smile grows until it goes from ear to ear. Before he cuts the cord he feels it to make sure it’s finished pulsing, and then he had the honour of separating Liënne from her mother.

A little while later he’s proudly phoning the people they love to share the news, including Liam and the grandparents, while Annemiek lies there, enjoying her wide awake daughter on her chest. She looks like her brother! While Richard continues to make phone calls in the corridor, the placenta is born. The last time there was no photo of the placenta, so we make sure to do that this time. Annemiek is very curious as to what Liënne weighs, so she is weighed. She weighs 3320g, and is only 48,5cm long. What a little girl! Then she goes back to mama, after a little cuddle with her papa.

She makes some very good attempts to drink at the breast, but isn’t quite managing yet. That’s not a problem, it’s always good to practise at the start. A short while later Liam arrives. He’s so excited and comes in looking very wide-eyed. He thinks it’s great – he has a sister! This is a good moment for the midwife to do Liënne’s newborn checks, and she does so under the watchful eye of the proud big brother. The rest of the visitors also come in bit by bit, all the proud grandparents!

Annemiek unpacks gifts while Richard changes Liam’s clothes and brushes his hair so that he looks great in the photo for on the birth announcement card. 😉

I take photos of everything, and then create a little background for the photo for the card. The photo is quickly taken with such a proud and cooperative big brother! Champagne is opened to toast the new baby, and everyone is allowed to hold her, including me. I have to be in a photo with Liënne, Annemiek insists. Of course, I do so willingly!

It was so special to be allowed to be there again, and I’m so proud of this family! Dear Annemiek, Richard and Liam, I wish you much joy with your new sister!

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Small edit:

After I sent this blog to Annemiek and Richard to read, they insist that the photo of me holding Liënne has to also appear in the blog. They also send me the sweetest words you can get as a birth photographer, and just as a human being:

 “There is one large detail missing from the photos, and that’s you!! The support you gavce me, helping me puff, getting me through the contractions, and letting me squeeze your hand. We want you to mention what wonderful support you gave us… and your photo with Liënne has to be in there too. Because we think that it is so special that someone we never knew at first has gained such a special place in our hearts. If you had told us that would happen beforehand, we wouldn’t have believed it. But you are such a special woman, and Denny and Liv are so blessed to have you. Thank you that we could get to know you a little. And thank you for being there for us. I’m just sorry that there are no photos of you supporting me because we really cannot say it enough – you were so important to us, and it was so wonderful having you there with us.”