Together! | Birth photography Breda

In January my phone rings. “Hi, this is Lieke”.  Before she can say “do you still know who I am?” I’m already thinking: “great to hear from you” and “how long has it been?” and, “maybe she’s calling because she’s pregnant…?” That turns out to indeed be the case and she’s calling fairly last minute because she’s due at the end of February! Lovely news, which I’d completely missed! Lieke and I grew up in the same street and she was good friends with my little sister. She came round to play at ours quite often J.  Besides this, her mum was friends with my mum, so we also went to their house quite a bit. Lieke tells me that she and her boyfriend Richard have been thinking about it for a long time and have just got back from Spain, where her parents live for part of the year and it was there that they decided to bite the bullet. They would like to have birth photography and come along for an introductory chat. I’m really enthusiastic, it’s a bit different when someone you actually know is giving birth. J

A date for the chat is not so easy to pick out because I’m just about to go on holiday for three weeks and Lieke’s boyfriend Richard is also off skiing. In the end, the only day that works is the day after he gets back. Therefore, we don’t make it too early. The day they are coming it snows, and more than a bit, but it doesn’t put them off and although it takes a bit longer, they get to me safely. We get to have a good chat, and Richard seems to be really nice. 😉

It’s immediately clear that they started this together and that they are going to bring their son into the world together. The word “together’ comes back regularly. They have followed a course called ‘Giving Birth Together’ and are well prepared. (Personally, I’m a big fan of this course because it covers everything and fathers also get very good practical tips for supporting their partner.  A real advantage!)  As they say themselves: “we decided to get pregnant together, we are pregnant together and we’re going to give birth together. We’re a team”.  Lieke looks great pregnant and has been enjoying her pregnancy. She would like, if possible, to give birth in the hospital in Breda and preferably without pain relief or too many interventions. There is of course a chance that she’ll give birth while I’m on holiday, but we’ll assume that that won’t happen because most first babies go over due.

I go off on holiday and indeed, when I get back on the 16th of February, there’s still no baby. Nor does it arrive on the due date, February 27th. Lieke’s bump keeps growing. She’s quite tall herself, and you could call her father a giant 😉 so there are some slight worries developing about the size of this baby as it goes further overdue.  The hospital is keeping an eye on things and everything is going well and looks fine. Lieke can still feel the little one moving so she wants to wait until he’s ready to come out of his own accord. In the next few days we have occasional contact, but the news is always the same: “everything is fine, but nothing is happening.” If you’ve ever been overdue yourself then you’ll know how many well intentioned people want to support you, but you’ll also know that you get a bit sick of being asked “has it arrived yet?” It’s a long wait. Certainly if, however sweetly, everyone is reminding you about it constantly…Naturally, I’m curious myself, but I try to reign myself in as much as possible. Lieke goes a week overdue and there’s still no baby. A date is chosen for her to be induced but it’s set as far away as possible because she really wants him to come out by himself. She knows the stories about induction and realises that it will considerably harder (though not impossible) to do it without pain relief. In the meantime, she tries to relax, but there are plenty of difficult moments along the way.  Aside from this, she tries everything she can think of to get things going. From old wives tales to things that are proven, from foot massages to a cosy evening with Richard, from exercise to driving over speed bumps a couple of times…nothing helps. The 12thof March, the date of the induction, gets closer. The midwife tries twice to do a sweep but she can’t quite reach.

The night of the 11th of March I say a quick prayer before I go to sleep, because I wish her the birth that she really wants, but this doesn’t help eitherL. So, on the morning of the 12th of March Richard and Lieke, with the bump that has become enormous, make their way to the hospital. Lieke has now convinced herself that this is what has to happen and plans to just take it as it comes. In the hospital there’s a bit of good news. The cervix is already softened (so we don’t have to start with gel or a balloon) and her waters can be broken. Straight after this they want to put her on the drip but Lieke is clutching at straws and asks if they’ll wait to see if the contractions start by themselves. I think it’s great that at the last moment she still wants to let nature do its job. At least she can say that it wasn’t for want of trying on her part. But, after an hour there are no contractions so she’s put on the drip.  

In the meantime, they keep me informed, but I stay at home. At about 3pm Richard rings. The contractions are very strong and Lieke is 2cms dilated. She’s finding it tough, but things are going well.  We agree he’ll contact me again when they’ve done another check. At 5.15pm he rings to say that Lieke is 4cms dilated but that it’s too much now, so they are going for an epidural after all. They’ve discussed together and Lieke has even tried getting in the shower for a while to see if that brings any relief.  While this has been going on, the dose of the drip has been reduced three times because the contractions are coming so quickly one after the other. It says something about Lieke’s willpower that she’s trying to keep going. This is another disadvantage of being induced. The contractions are so much more difficult to regulate than natural contractions and often there are no pauses in between which makes an epidural the only way.  In any case, I decide to get driving and I arrive at the hospital at 6.30pm.

Lieke and Richard are in the room called “waves”. When I arrive I notice the calm straight away. That was probably different before the epidural. Once I’ve introduced myself on the ward I stay in the room and we chat a bit. There is calming music playing which they have brought with them. Lieke has had an epidural before, during a knee operation, which was too high a dose such that she was short of breath and couldn’t move at anything.  She has let them know this in advance and asked them to bear it in mind.  This time the dose is much lower, so much so that the pain is not completely gone. She still has to do her breathing exercises during the contractions. But, like she says: “that doesn’t matter, a birth is supposed to hurt a bit.” Despite the fact she can still feel the contractions, it’s a world of difference: “Like this I can have ten kids, but the way it was this morning, no bloody way”.  Richard agrees with this and says that they pulled all the tricks out of the bag, but that because the frequency of the contractions was just too much, he’s happy that they’ve gone for this option in the end. We talk a bit about the pregnancy, the “Giving Birth Together” course and the fact that Lieke was also born in this hospital (quite unusual) and we talk about the little boy who, just like his father, is fashionably late and of course what he will be like (I understand that he might have dark blue eyes, blond curls, ADHD and a chocolate addiction).

While we’re talking Lieke begins to feel more pressure. At 7.15pm she says so for the first time.  The contractions are coming two at a time and we’re told that these are called camel contractions. If you look on the monitor then it’s obvious why: it looks just like camel humps J. As the pressure increases Lieke has to indicate this. It’s noticeable that Lieke is finding it tense now because soon the real work is going to start, and it is not a small baby, that much we know, but just how big is he going to be? Is he going to fit? The camel contractions become waves of contractions. Appropriate for the name of the room J.

At 8.30 the dilation is checked again and it’s nearly 10cms. The epidural is removed to allow some feeling to return and to wait for the urge to push. Lieke is finding it stressful now, but Richard encourages her by saying “you can do this”.  Between the contractions he puts his cool hands on her head and neck “the advantage of poor circulation”.

At ten past nine Lieke is allowed to push. The midwife wants to explain what she has to do, but she says “I’ve practiced” and before I know it, she’s rattled off a whole list of things to be aware off when pushing (like jaws apart, eyes open, arms like wings) and gets straight into the right position. Even the midwife is surprised, she doesn’t need to say anything else (long live the “Giving Birth Together” course). In fact, from the moment she’s allowed to start pushing, Lieke does brilliantly! Richard coaches her fantastically and they really get stuck into it together. He keeps saying “stare it out” which is good advice because with your eyes open there’s less chance you’ll just be pushing with you face. At 10pm the head is visible and at the moment that the head is out, and doesn’t move back, Lieke doesn’t have a contraction. It’s a very painful moment, but also a good one because in this way you can let everything stretch naturally and there’s less chance of a tear. It is asking a lot of someone to remain calm, not to want to push or close your legs. Richard doesn’t even have time to look because he’s completely focussed on Lieke, it’s lovely to see, they really are a team. He says all sorts of things to her, I can’t hear what, but Lieke listens and is also focussed completely on him. They are calm itself.  One push later Daan is born!!!

What a lovely chap. Lieke looks like she can’t believe that he’s here! Richard wipes away a tear and looks full of pride at Lieke! The first thing Lieke notices are his big hands! She keeps saying: “look at his big hands!”  When he gets weighed later and turns out to be 4460 grams then I understand that Lieke can’t believe she’s done it! It’s pretty impressive that (considering it’s your first child) you can bring such a big baby into the world in the space of an hour J

The first hour is for enjoying the moment. Lieke tries to put Daan to the breast straight away and she knows what she’s doing here too. They’ll have to practice a bit, but Daan does drink something. Meanwhile, someone comes along for a blood sample from Daan. Because he’s so big he’ll be checked in the next 24 hours to make sure he doesn’t have any problems with his sugar levels.  He has his first injection, but gets through it no problem! The three of them are enjoying themselves and after another go at breast feeding, Daan has some skin to skin time with Daddy. Daddy Richard has trouble holding him in one place because Daan is really looking for a breast and wriggles all over the place. He’s such a strong chap already!

After eating crisp bakes with sugared aniseed (a Dutch tradition), Daddy gets Daan dressed and Lieke goes for a shower. The grandparents have already arrived and I go and say hello in the waiting room. There are already tears to wipe away but they have to wait just a liiiittle bit longer before they can go in.

I take some photos of Daan and naturally some with the happy Mummy and Daddy too, and then grandparents can come in. A lovely moment, I have to blink back a tear myself.  The champagne is opened to toast the new life.

Cheers Lieke and Richard: to your beautiful son, every happiness together!!

*Lieke and Richard preferred not to be recognizable in the photos and therefore the pictures I show here are adapted *