A long build-up, a quick conclusion… | Birth photography Amsterdam

Geboortefotografie Amsterdam Anne-Mare

To tell this story, we need to go back a couple of years, to February 2012 to be precise. That was the first year that I was at the “9-maandenbeurs” (a large pregnancy and baby expo here in the Netherlands) and the moment that I met Marianne for the first time. I had been handing out flyers all day and was having a break so that I could get something to eat when Jeannette (who was on the stand with me) phoned me: “There’s a very enthusiastic lady here who wants to speak to you.” When I got back to the stand Marianne was standing there with a birth photography flyer in her hand and she said, “I want this!” She was pregnant with her first baby at the time, due in August of that year. We had a lovely chat. She was so enthusiastic – wonderful! A few weeks later she travelled to Middelburg from Oudekerk aan de Amstel, with her boyfriend Tim, who is also a photographer. We had a great conversation and I was looking forward to photographing the birth!

However, things went differently than we had planned. I was in the car on the way back from Sweden in July of 2012, with Denny and the children, when my phone rang. It was Marianne. Her water had broken! She was 35 weeks pregnant at the time, so it was too soon… To cut a long story short; after such a long drive from Sweden it just was not possible for me to travel to Amsterdam that night. It wouldn’t be responsible at that time. In retrospect I probably wouldn’t even have made it to the birth, because Marianne suddenly went from 5cm to 10cm and before they knew it, Valentijn had arrived! I, unfortunately, wasn’t there…

But… I got a second chance! In November last year Marianne phoned me: she was pregnant again! She absolutely definitely wanted me to be at the birth this time (within the limits of what is physically possible, of course). We made arrangements to chat via Skype since we’d already met in Middelburg before. At the beginning of this year we met on Skype. Marianne was already on (early) maternity leave, since it was very important for her to rest. She had been told that if a first baby comes early, the second one often does too. Everyone was hoping Marianne would make it to 37 weeks. She was hoping so too, because she really wanted to give birth at home. 🙂 Home births are only allowed after the 37th week of pregnancy. This time she was having a baby girl! I doubted whether I could get to Amsterdam in time, because Valentijn was –in the end- born so quickly, but Marianne had made her choice: “I want you there, or nobody and if you don’t make it to the birth I want you to come afterwards anyway to take photos.” That was clear, but I really didn’t want to miss it this time, so we made very clear how Marianne would stay in touch and let me know what was happening during the entire pregnancy!

This pregnancy wasn’t exactly an easy one, because Marianne contracted double pneumonia and couldn’t take any medication because of the baby. All the coughing also caused bruised ribs, so as she put it: “Being pregnant is not my hobby, I’m made for other things.” That was an understatement: Marianne always tried to stay positive. Eventually the doctors decided to give her an antibiotic, but this was counterproductive because it turned out to be a virus and not a bacteria. Poor Marianne, the last time I spoke to her on Skype she was coughing a lot, but she told me, “It’s getting better!” – always positive! The 37 week mark was now slowly approaching, along with the possibility of a home birth too. Because Marianne had been (and still was) feeling so poorly she now had a slightly different perspective: “I’ll consider all the options. I know how intense the last part of labour was with Valentijn and I really don’t know if I could cope with that now, or if I have the strength for it. At first I absolutely did not want an epidural, but now I see it as an option. If I reach 37 weeks, then a home birth is also an option.”

From the 36th week, things start happening and on the 8th of April – 37 weeks yes!! – Marianne sends me a message: “Some light contractions, but doesn’t seem to be getting any more intense… We’ll wait and see and are off to bed now xx” I get everything ready, just in case, but in the early hours of Wednesday morning I’m woken up by a call from my brother, letting me know that labour has started in their home! I send Marianne a message immediately: “Good morning, can you keep Belle (baby’s nickname) inside for a bit longer? My niece is on her way!” She sends me a message in return, saying that she’ll do her best and that everything was peaceful during the night. Good, because I really don’t want to miss Marianne’s birth! After that she sends me another message saying that she wouldn’t let me drive there if I’ve not slept and that safety is the number one priority. Such a sweetheart! Luckily I’ve had about 7 hours of sleep, so if it’s necessary I can go straight on to another birth. 🙂

On the 9th of April, in the afternoon, Marianne has an appointment with the midwife. After she’s been, she sends me a message: “Everything is good. Queen Belle is sitting tight in my pelvis and now we’re just waiting until she comes. Regular mild contractions, but it could be a false alarm. Exciting!” I just hope the contractions don’t continue, because my niece still hasn’t arrived!

After my niece is born – and Marianne is so enthusiastic and happy for me: did I mention she’s a sweetheart?! – I’m ready to go to Amsterdam if necessary. But everything is calm again. She’s had a shower and the contractions have stopped again. There’s some mild action, but nothing that merits my going there. Luckily, because by now it’s clear that I need to go to the Hague for another birth! Everyone wants to have their babies at once, it seems!

In the morning of April 10th, after I’ve spent the entire night in a hospital in the Hague, I send a message to Marianne asking how it’s going. If necessary, I can drive straight to her place. 😉 I hear that everything seems quiet. She says we should hope it’s a false alarm again, so that we can both get some sleep! I’ve already decided that if she does go into full labour today, I’ll ask Denny to drive me to Amsterdam. I want to be there, but I can’t drive if I haven’t slept, so that would be an option. As always…. we’ll see.

The day moves on slowly.. I have a newborn photo session that day and at 6pm, feeling almost drunk from the lack of sleep, I get into bed. I wake up at 21:30 to a message from Marianne; she can hardly believe it herself, but it was another false alarm! Everything is completely calm again and she’s surprised about it. Queen Belle already has a will of her own! 🙂 I’m happy and quickly doze off again.

The next morning, Friday 11 April, I wake up to another message from Marianne. It’s 9:20, I’ve slept 16 hours and I’m ready for a new day! That’s a good thing, because Marianne’s contractions have started up again and now they’re timing them too. They’ve already called the midwife. I jump out of bed and start getting ready, because if I miss this birth now, I’ll be really upset! At 10am I let Marianne know I’m ready to leave, that I don’t want to take any risks and that I’m heading in her direction. I’m just at the gas station when she calls me. She’s spoken to the midwife and the midwife thinks they’ve still got plenty of time and that the contractions need to increase in strength and intensity. Because Marianne still has her doubts (it would, after all, be a waste if I went all that way for nothing) we decide to wait for another hour and see whether the contractions are increasing. But once I’m home, I’m uncomfortable and suddenly I have an idea. I ask Denny whether he’s in the mood to spend the day in Amsterdam and he is. 🙂 We decide to head that way and have lunch somewhere near Tim and Marianne’s house. Then it can’t go wrong, right? If labour does continue, then I’m nearby and if not, we’ve had a nice day out. We take everything we need for a night away from home, just in case. 🙂

At 2pm we arrive in Oudekerk aan de Amstel for lunch. I realize that, even thought I’m only 8 minutes from Marianne, I’m still not comfortable. I just know for sure that when it happens, it’ll happen quickly, but… what can happen in just 8 minutes? At 14:32 Marianne sends me a message saying that she can’t sleep. Contractions keep coming, but they’re not regular.

After lunch I realize that I can’t do it any more –  I’d rather be sitting with Marianne. I tell her she mustn’t worry about my being there. If it isn’t real labour, then I’ll just join Denny in Amsterdam, but for now I drop him off and head to Marianne. When I get there at 15:30, Marianne is standing in the kitchen making soup (“So you lot don’t starve”)! Tim gets sent to do some shopping and I sit at the table and chat to Marianne. Hmmm…. sitting at the table chatting… and I’m here for a birth?!

When Marianne was having contractions during her first labour with Valentijn, the midwife told her “You’re talking too much. The baby can’t be on his way. Tim may as well go home.” but Marianne insisted that he should stay, because she just knew the baby was coming. She was right. It’s this memory that brings me here: I know that Marianne knows her body and if she says this is it, then I believe her. Although it is difficult to believe when I’m sitting chatting to her like this! We’ll see what the afternoon will bring…

Valentijn comes home briefly with Beppe (his grandmother). He’s grown into a lovely little boy! At about 16:30 I notice that the contractions are increasing in intensity and they’re coming more quickly. Marianne says they’re getting a bit more ‘grim’. The midwife is called and joins us at 17:00. It’s looking more and more like a tea party around the kitchen table! 🙂 At 17:50 Marianne is checked and she’s 3cm dilated. To help the process along a little, the midwife strips her membranes. Her advice is for Marianne to have a bath and concentrate on the contractions instead of chatting to us. 😉 Because the contractions keep coming in spite of the tea party, the midwife thinks labour really has started, since ‘Braxton-Hicks contractions would stop’. Marianne gets into the bath and the contractions start to get stronger. In the meantime, Ellen arrives. She is a friend of Marianne’s and they want to photograph births together in the future. Ellen can practise now. This should be interesting, because there are now 3 photographers at this birth!

At 18:45 Marianne comes out of the shower, where she had moved to after her bath. We go upstairs, to the bedroom (a dream room for a birth photographer, so spacious and light! Now I just hope this baby will be born in daylight!). At 18:55 the midwife checks again – 4cm dilation. It’s going slowly. In the meantime Valentijn comes home, as it’s 19:00. He’ll sleep here and if necessary a friend will come over to look after him. I ask Marianne if she needs anything and she says: “This may be a bit odd, but a hairbrush, please.” Hahaha, she’s going to brush her hair while she’s in labour! I offer to do it for her, but because she forgot to put conditioner in (I think she may have had something else on her mind), I can’t get through the tangles. In between contractions she sits up and brushes her hair herself. 🙂

I go downstairs to Valentijn. He thinks this is all wonderful, all these women in the house! He should have a bottle and go to bed, but no matter what Tim does, Valentijn does not want that bottle. He gets out all his cars to play with, but that bottle? No, he doesn’t want that. 🙂 At 19:30 Valentijn goes to bed and we all go back upstairs.

By now Marianne is no longer chatting and is working hard. At 19:55 she is checked again and she’s still at 4cm, so the midwife decides to break her water. “Baby has hair.” she announces. 🙂 Now the contractions increase in intensity. Marianne calls out that she can’t keep this up. The midwife and Tim encourage her and then suddenly, just 20 minutes after her water was broken, 20 minutes after she was found to be 4cm dilated, Marianne calls out, “I have to push! I have to push! She’s coming! She’s coming!” The midwife asks Ellen to get a warm, wet washcloth. She wants to feel how far Marianne is, but her fingers touch a little head. She calls “Don’t worry about the washcloth, come back!” I call downstairs, “Ellen, come back NOW, or you’ll miss it!” Ellen runs back upstairs and Marianne starts to push. Before any of us really realise what is happening, the little girl has arrived! Born at 20:25, exactly 25 minutes after the water was broken… wow! Tim caught her and gives her to Marianne. ♥

That went so fast! Marianne was right… and how wonderful that I was here, because I could never have driven here in time! 🙂

I see a very proud papa and a rather dazed mama. She can’t believe it yet. She did it! At home, the way she wanted! In spite of double pneumonia… this demands respect! Her little girl, still covered in vernix, is called Anne-Mare. ♥ Tim can’t resist taking photos and also filming everything. Marianne needs to tell him, “We’ve hired someone to do that. Come here and enjoy this.” 🙂 It’s difficult for a photographer to put the camera down, haha! The proud papa cuts the cord and soon afterwards the placenta arrives. Everything goes well. It’s now Tim’s turn to hold his little girl. He makes sure to stand in such a way that it looks good in the photos and even thinks about the lighting situation. It’s difficult to let it go, isn’t it Tim? 😉

When Anne-Mare is given back to Marianne, she immediately finds the breast and starts to drink enthusiastically. Clever girl! The midwife has let the rest of her team know that a little girl has been born. They are having dinner together and send a photo of themselves raising a toast to the baby. We do the same and I take a photo of the new family and the midwife, with champagne (juice for mama) in their hands. 🙂 Valentijn is still sleeping and Tim and Marianne decide to let him continue sleeping.

At 21:30 the proud Beppe arrives (Marianne’s mother) and Tim’s parents, who are overseas at the time, send a message via Facebook letting them know how proud they are. 🙂 Anne-Mare does very well through all her checks and can then be dressed. One more photo of Tim, Marianne and Anne-Mare and I head home.

I’m so glad I got a second chance and that I could take the photos they wanted so much. Dear Marianne and Tim: my heartiest congratulations. Your daughter is beautiful. Your family is complete – enjoy it. <3

P.S. In the course of the afternoon we all had some soup and it was delicious! Thank you, Marianne!



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