A home game | Birth photographer the Netherlands
When I had the idea to start up birth photography three years ago, I made posters and flyers to ask for couples who would want to let the birth of their baby be photographed. Marlous saw this request in Honeypie (the best teahouse in Middelburg), but back then she couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a photographer at a birth. She didn’t like the sound of it. The email she wrote to me was this: “a good two years ago I was on maternity leave and drank a lot of tea and ate a lot of cake at Honeypie. In the ladies, there was request from you for pregnant women who wanted to capture the birth in photographs. At the time I thought that I really wouldn’t want a photographer at my labour! And now, two years later, I’m 13 weeks pregnant with the second one and I’d really like to have you at the birth of our second baby. My first delivery went really well, but we don’t have any nice photos. This is a shame, because the birth of Mees was actually the most beautiful moment of our lives.
So, a few months ago, I met Marlous and Harold. Their little boy Mees, who was 2 at the time wasn’t with them. It was a good chat and they decided to do it. This makes me happy because this will be a home game, both literally and figuratively because, aside from the fact it will be in Middelburg (my home), it will be a home birth. I’m looking forward to it! Because they are (bravely) moving house during the pregnancy, I’ll visit them again nearer the time to see how the light is in the bedroom.
When Marlous was nearly 38 weeks I went round. It was one of the first times I’ve heard a woman who’s 38 weeks say: “she can stay in there for a bit.” There were still a fair few jobs to be done and it would of course be nice if they could be done before the baby arrived. The due date was the 26th of October, another two weeks.
On Thursday 24th of October I get text from Marlous: “Been to the midwife today, she’s ready to go 🙂 fully engaged. I can go again on Tuesday and I then she can give me a sweep. But that’s fine, we’ll see what happens this weekend! I’ll keep you posted.” I wish her I good weekend and go to bed.
The first thing that wakes me up is my phone. It’s Harold, he says: “Hey, Marlous sent you an sms message a few hours ago, but now she 4 to 5 cms dilated.” That’s strange, I had been chatting on an ap with her a few hours ago, but now I notice a message from 22.22pm “hope you have a good weekend too.” 🙂 Well, it looks like my weekend is getting off to a good start. It’s so nice that I don’t have to drive far this time. I make myself some breakfast and I arrive at their house at 4.30am. The midwife is there too and I’m happy to see that it’s Katja with whom I did my first birth two and an half years ago! A nice detail: two and an half years ago she was also the midwife who brought Mees into the world. Some things are meant to be.
I hear chattering upstairs and as I go up I see Mees in his pyjamas and I meet Marlous’s mum. Marlous is lying on the bed. It looks like she’s just had a shower. She’s got a little doll or teddy in her hands to squeeze (I hear later that she’s had this since she was born and that her auntie made it). She’s very calm, just after I arrive she feels a bit nauseous, luckily it’s a false alarm, and we don’t need the bucket that Harold has quickly grabbed. But it is a sign for Katja, the midwife, to take another look at the dilation. Grandma goes downstairs with Mees to read a book. Mees knows that the baby is coming and he also understands that he needs to go downstairs. Super sweet!
It’s turned 5am and Marlous is 7cms dilated. The waters are broken and from that moment the contractions are a good bit stronger. It gets harder for Marlous to breathe through them, but she does it fantastically! From that moment on things go quickly. I go downstairs to say what’s going on but then I don’t leave Marlous. Before I know it, she can push. She can hardly believe it’s going so fast herself she says: “this is so different than with Mees.” In between the contractions she looks at Harold a few times with a mixture of happiness and disbelief. While I’m photographing their faces like this it’s hard to imagine that I can already see a little head below. She listens really well to Katja and then at 5.53am, with her little arm next to her head, a sweet little girl comes into the world. She barely cries and if I hadn’t seen that she’s just come out of Marlous then I’d have thought she’d been there all along. So serene, so quickly, so calm.
This little wonder is named Fien. She’s lying completely stretched out, with her arms in front of her, as if she thinks: at least I’ve got room now. Harold cuts the umbilical cord and shortly after the placenta is delivered without any trouble. When Harold and Marlous have studied Fien closely, Harold goes to get Mees and Grandma. I ask myself if they have even heard anything because Fien has hardly cried and certainly not loudly. Mees comes in looking a bit dazed, but when he hears that he’s got a sister a smile appears on his lips. Like most two and an half year olds, he has about five seconds worth of attention for his little sister and after that his attention is on a raisin roll! When the traditional Dutch crispbreads with sugared aniseed are also brought in, after his raisin roll, he looks like he’s completely forgotten that there is even a baby there. The crispbread and the special ‘little mice’ (the aniseeds) get his attention. While Mees is sprinkling the bed with ‘little mice’ the post-natal home nurse says a few times “it doesn’t matter, I’ll vacuum up” and Fein is already at the breast. She doesn’t need to practice, she knows in one go what to do.
Once she’s finished drinking, Katja comes upstairs to check her over thoroughly. She passes all the tests and weighs exactly the same as Mees! 3580 grams. Harold gets the honour of dressing his daughter. Under the watchful eye of at least five women he dresses his daughter and doesn’t get intimidated.
Marlous and Harold ring a few family members after that and Harold, who’s not quite awake yet, answers the question of what they’ve named her “Mees” :-). Grandma, who’s just held her granddaughter for the first time, goes off to get her husband, Grandpa and while she’s away the other Grandma, Harold’s mother arrives. Mees is already standing at the top of stairs to shout that he’s a big brother and that his little sister has been born. Sweet!
Fien is still really calm and is lying nicely in the arms of her other Grandma. It’s a bit of a lightening visit because she has to catch a train. They swap places nicely because one Grandma hasn’t even left before the other one is back with Grandpa. Now it’s time for Grandpa to get the honour of holding his grandchild. I take photos of everything, more photos of the whole family and then drive the whole five minutes home.
Dear Marlous, Harold and Mees: enjoy your beautiful daughter and little sister. ♥