Good pregnancy, good preparation, good birth| Birth photographer in the Netherlands

Manon and Richard knew that they wanted a photo shoot of their baby’s birth even before Manon fell pregnant, ever since she had read an article about my birth photographs in Flair magazine. Therefore, she emailed me as soon as she knew she was pregnant. We decided to wait for the ‘12 week hurdle’ before arranging to meet. Therefore, it was October last year when we got together. It was also nice that Manon and Richard live in Zeeland, for once a bit nearer by.

We got on well in our first chat and it was lovely to meet them. Manon had read up well and had a clear idea of how she wanted to give birth: as naturally as possible. She wanted to give birth in the birth clinic attached to the hospital in Goes, thus without an epidural. They didn’t know the sex of the baby, so that would be a surprise too. Lovely! Richard has his own farm in Zeeland and straight away he came across as the ‘no nonsense’ type. He had brought lambs into the world regularly and had no problem with the idea of the birth. In fact, he was looking forward to it. Me too, because aside from the fact I would be working locally for a change, I’d been asked to make newborn photos after the birth. Great stuff!

The months go by and in January we get in touch again. In fact, I had another Epi-no birth trainer to give away and Manon had won it! What was nice, was that Manon was planning to get hold of one herself, she wrote to me: “actually, Richard and I can only see advantages in using the device”. The midwives were curious to see how it would work too. They had heard good stories but never worked with one of the machines. You can begin using the Epi-no from 37 weeks and Manon emails once she’s started to use it: “the first time you use it, you do have to get used to it, but we’re confident that the machine will work”. I like to look for daily progress too, so that makes the Epi-no good to work with. Besides, I think it helps self-confidence and belief that you can get through the birth. I hope that our little-one stays put for a bit so that we can make good use of the advantages.

Manon’s due date is the 16th of March and personally, I always assume that first babies will be a little bit late, because this is the case 9 out of 10 times. In the week of the 4th of March I was already waiting for a baby to be born in Breda. His mother was due on the 27th of February so she was nearly a week overdue. In the middle of the night between the 5th and 6th of March my phone rings. I wake from a deep sleep. I hear a man’s voice say “this is Richard”. And then he says “I think it’s started”. I learn that the contractions have started but aren’t coming regularly yet. We agree that he’ll ring back once the midwife has been and confirmed that things really have kicked off. I’m making a full assumption that this is the birth that I’ve been waiting for and I’m already thinking about what I’ve got on that day and how I might combine it with a trip to Breda. At 6am my partner’s alarm goes off but I still haven’t heard anything, so I just roll over again. At 7am my phone rings again, its Richard again. The midwife has been and dilation is at 2cms. So it has really begun. I ask Richard how his partner Lieke is doing. Richard replies: “how who’s doing?” “Lieke?” “Who?” This is not making sense. Then Richard says: “you mean Manon”. Huh?! I have to adjust my thinking! This isn’t Lieke’s Richard, this is Manon’s Richard. There are two Richards! I hadn’t really grasped this and was just about to set off for Breda. Whoops, Lucky we realised in time. Manon is therefore 10 days early. I explain the confusion to Richard, prepare myself for a birth in Goes and we agree that he’ll ring again once the midwife has been again (at 11.30) and they can go to the hospital. I’m wide awake now and get straight up. J

Richard rings me just after 12. He sounds a bit rushed. They are at the hospital because Manon couldn’t stand it at home anymore and he’s just getting the things from the car. This can mean two things: either she’s at one of the transitional stages, either about 6cms dilated or about 9cms! I’m not going to wait to see which and I get into the car. I ask Richard if he’ll text once she’s been seen again, then I’ll know if I have to rush into the hospital or if I can take a few photos on the way to the delivery room. He texts at 12.15 that Manon is 6cms dilated. This is always a crucial moment, lots of women ask for an epidural at this point, so the question is whether Manon is still managing.

At 12.30 I enter the delivery room. They have the biggest suit in the hospital in Goes, a huge room with an en-suite bathroom. Manon is in the bath and Richard is sitting with a plate of sausage and cabbage on his lap. Between the contractions Manon chats away and Richard tries to eat, but during them she needs all her concentration and Richard’s too, so the sausages get set down on the floor. These are strong back contractions and at home it just wasn’t working anymore. She didn’t know what to do with herself. She had tried various different positions at home, but in the end nothing worked anymore. It looks like she’d been on her knees for a while as they are bright red. The bath is bringing some relief and it doesn’t look like she’s planning to get out of there anytime soon. J

Manon is doing really well and although she says her back is cracking into pieces she doesn’t contemplate getting an epidural. She does everything she can to manage the contractions. Not just her actually, because Richard is a fantastic coach. He makes sure that she keeps breathing properly and sorts out cold flannels. The water must stay warm to help the contractions but Manon is hot and wants cooling things. So Richard is busying himself with cold flannels. These are for her forehead and hands. At some point there are six flannels in circulation and the post-natal nurse (who’s arrived in the meantime) and I are helping to keep her cool. Because, as Manon herself says: “I can’t cope with a warm flannel”. J

Richard explains between contractions that he’s already got a long day and night behind him. He was up at six in the morning, first to go to work and then later in the afternoon to sow wheat with his father. When he got home in the evening Manon had the feeling that things were starting. Things rumbled on. At about midnight, the contractions started and in the course of the night got more regular. The contractions were very strong from the start, Manon couldn’t distract herself anymore and was having to pant through them.

Whilst she’s lying in the bath she talks less and less and the contractions get worse. She slides all over the bath and Richard does his best to support her head during a contraction. In any case it’s a good muscle workout, for Manon too because she pulls herself up completely on the supports whenever she has a contraction.

At 1345 the midwife comes to check again and Manon is 9cms dilated. That’s good going. Manon does start to worry a bit about how she’s going to get out of the bath, but we manage it. By 1420 we’ve done it. We tackle it in steps. First she gets out of the bath, and then she lies on the bathroom floor to get through a contraction. In the meantime she’s dried off and we get a shirt for her. After that they help Manon to her feet and she almost sprints for the bed where she goes straight back on to her hands and knees. Beforehand she had said to Richard; “I’m not going on all fours, I’m not an animal”. But it just goes to show that nature has other plans for us. 😉

In between the contractions, Richard shows me his hands. They are completely wrinkled from the water, a pretty funny sight!

At 1430 Manon is allowed to push. At first, she is on her hands and knees, but once the midwife begins to think that that isn’t going so well, the birthing stool makes an appearance. Manon tries pushing for about quarter of an hour on the stool but then the midwife realises that her bladder is very full (this makes it much more difficult for the baby to be born). Therefore, Manon has to get back onto the bed to empty her bladder. At this point she’s really had enough. She says it too: “I’ve had enough, I just want it out NOW”. But, it doesn’t work like that. Once she’s emptied her bladder, Manon can push again a few times, but at 1500 the midwife wants her to stop pushing.  A small rim has come back and she’s no longer fully dilated. The baby is doing fine, so there’s plenty of time. Yet, Manon thinks differently about it. She’s beginning to doubt herself and asks herself a few times if she is doing it right. That’s not the issue, says the Midwife, don’t worry about that. And to be fair she is still doing great. First babies don’t just pop out after four pushes. Of course, that can happen, but it’s not usually the way.

Between contractions, the midwife’s phone rings really often. It’s rush hour. Women in labour always speak the truth, so at some point Manon says honestly: “that phone is quite irritating”. That goes for the midwife too, she has to answer it. The midwife stays very calm and keeps things peaceful in the room, which is good. Manon really needs this. To pant through contractions when you have been pushing is really hard. Richard drives her on by constantly massaging her back. He’s been doing that all night, so he knows just about what to do. J

At 1545 Manon is allowed to push again. She really, consciously, does her best to get the feeling she did with the Epi-no. And then, very slowly a little bit becomes more and more visible. For Manon it seems to have taken an eternity and the words “do a caesarean then” have been uttered. She’s not the first to say this in such a moment. But this really is the last bit, the darkest hour just before the dawn!

We can see more of the little head and Richard is keeping a tight watch! His expression is priceless. I don’t know how many lambs he’s seen born, but this is clearly a different ball game. J At 1639 their baby is born, it’s a boy. And he immediately pees everywhere J The last bit was tough because he wanted to wave at Daddy. His hand was right next to his head. Despite this, it wasn’t necessary to make a cut and Manon has not torn! (The midwife says later that she probably did get some benefit from the Epi-no. Manon herself thinks this is certainly true!)

Richard is in awe, looking at their son with tears in his eyes and Manon can only cry with relief. The moment in which you think as a mother: I Have Done It! Too right! She did brilliantly. Their beautiful son is given the name Teun. He was almost called Siep, but two days ago they’d changed the name. Teun, it suits him.

As soon as they’ve caught their breath after the first moments of joy, Richard is able to cut the umbilical cord. Shortly after this, the placenta is delivered, and then they can enjoy being a threesome. Manon is really pleased she doesn’t need stitches but she says “I do have a bit of a sore gash” 😀 I ask her if I can quote this in the blog and she says “yes sure, what else can I say ‘my vagina is a little sensitive?’ Hahaha, she’s right, I’m sure many women feel the same after giving birth J

They phone home immediately and through the telephone I can hear that everyone is overjoyed. For both sets of grandparents it’s the first grandchild. They’ll all come to the hospital in a bit. In the meantime, Manon and Richard admire little Teun. He’s still covered in a special waxy coating that protects babies, so you can see that he was a bit early. Richard asks me if he looks like a beautiful baby to me, or does he just look that way to him because he’s his dad. But certainly not, he really is a gorgeous baby! Manon has a go at breastfeeding and Teun gets the hang of it straight away. We have to take him off after ten minutes or he would have kept drinking!

At the last scan they’d estimated the baby’s weight at about 2800 grams. Manon actually had a really small bump. Therefore, they’d bought a really tiny little hat just in case. But it seems that that is going to be far too small, and indeed it is. We’re all surprised when he’s weighed and he’s a normal 3700 grams! Where in heaven’s name had Manon been keeping that! It’s also difficult to imagine that he ever fitted in there because the bump has disappeared immediately. When the midwife comes later to do some checks and looks at his feet she thinks that he’s been in a frog position in the womb because his feet are still completely turned it. She places him back on Manon’s tummy to show her. Bizarre that just two hours ago he looked just like that but inside her womb!

After the checks I have time to make a few photos and then the visitors start to arrive. Before I know it the whole room is full and everyone is so proud! It’s touching to see and naturally everyone wants to take photos. J I leave a very happy proud family behind and I know that in a few days I can admire him again in the newborn-photoshoot. I can’t wait.

Enjoy the moment Manon and Richard!!!