100% natural | Birth photography

Geboortefotografie Ellemieke

Nearly 2 years, when I hadn’t been working as a birth photographer for very long, Anne-Geer phoned me and asked whether I would be willing to photograph the birth of their first child. She was due shortly after the holidays, and lived in Haarlem. Haarlem… that’s far from me, more than a 2 hours drive, which I usually do not do. However, I had no births in my diary after the holidays, and so I thought: why not? As it turned out, I made it just in time, and Thijmen’s birth is one that has stuck in my mind. I think that’s due to the love I felt in the room, and the things which were said. I called his birth the romantic birth. Unfortunately the first few weeks were less romantic than the birth itself. Thijmen found the induced birth hard, and had a difficult start. I only heard this when they came back to Middelburg a little while ago, pregnant with their second baby! Thijmen is now a happy, mischievous, blond toddler. When Anne-Geer contacted me again, I really had my doubts. Haarlem really is too far, and the chance that I will be there too late is very big. I advised them to choose someone else, but they absolutely did not want to do that. They were so happy with the photos, and also with the support they received, that they only wanted me to be there. I was of course very moved, and could only say, “yes”.

At Thijmen’s birth very little went according to plan, in as much as you can have a plan where birth is concerned. Anne-Geer really wanted a natural birth, but in the end it became a medical birth, and it wasn’t the birth she had hoped for. Because Thijmen had also struggled with the birth process, Anne-Geer was very nervous about whether contractions would start spontaneously or not. During our conversation I recommended the Epi-no, and Anne-Geer decided to try it. I also advised her to arrange a foot reflexology massage when her waters broke, to help get the contractions going naturally. All small things, but they did help create more confidence.

The due date – 6 June 2014 – came and went. Anne-Geer emailed that Mark was getting impatient, and couldn’t wait until their little girl arrived. Anne-Geer was relaxed, and feeling good (in contrast to how she felt for the first 7 months of the pregnancy). They knew that it was a girl, but had told everyone around them that they didn’t know what it was. This way nobody would try to convince them to tell what the baby was. Nobody knew they were having a girl.

On the 16th of June – 10 days overdue – I receive a phone call from Mark. It’s 5am. I still have to wake up a bit, but I understand that contractions have started. My first instinct is: I’m on my way! But it sounds like I can take it easy, when I listen to Mark. He’s understood from Anne-Geer that it may just be prodromal labour. This makes me wonder what to do. Maybe she’s right? To test it, I ask him to get Anne-Geer to take a shower. If the contractions don’t stop under the shower, then it’s probably the ‘real deal’. Half an hour later he phones me back: labour has really begun! It is of course rush hour on a Monday morning, and I wonder how long it’s going to take me to get there, including the time I need to get dressed and ready. I ask Mark to keep me up to date, and make sure I get ready to leave as soon as possible.

The first part of the drive, on the A58, goes well. There’s seldom serious traffic there. But when I get close to Rotterdam I get stuck, and I still need to get past The Hague too. This is when Mark calls me. It’s 7:30am. They’re in the car on the way to the hospital. After doing a vaginal check, the midwife has told them to go directly to the hospital. She didn’t tell them how far dilated Anne-Geer was, but this usually means that she’s will be quite far. I can hear Anne-Geer in the background, and now I know for sure: this baby could be here any minute. I tell Mark honestly that the GPS says I have an hour’s drive left, but that is only if there is no traffic anywhere. I tell him that I don’t think the baby will wait another hour. I’ll do my best, but I’m currently driving 40km/h on the highway, and there’s not anything I can do to change that.

At 7:42am I receive a message saying that they are in the hospital in Room 9. I send a message back saying that my estimated time of arrival is now 8:40, according to the GPS. I ask whether Anne-Geer is pushing yet. Mark says she’s not, but she is feeling the urge to push. If I had any hope left that I would make it, it’s gone now. Such a pity that I won’t be there when their little girl arrives.

I’m right. At 8:20 Mark sends a message: “No need to rush. She’s here.”

I finally step into the room at 8:50. I see 2 ecstatically happy parents, and a tiny baby at her mother’s breast. The placenta has not been born yet. Her name is Ellemieke, and she is so sweet. <3

Slowly I hear more of the story Anne-Geer had had contractions for some time during the night, but thought it was prodromal labour. Mark got out of bed at 4am, but she sent him back to bed because she didn’t think labour had really started. Mark had his doubts, but accepted it, and when he went back to bed Anne-Geer finally thought: maybe this really is it! If I had know this when Mark called, that shower would not have been necessary. 😉 Because Thijmen was induced, Anne-Geer did not know what natural contractions would feel like. They are both still in awe that baby didn’t suffer any trauma. It all went 100% naturally! Tears of joy keep flowing. “You did it! 100% naturally! I’m so proud of you!” A short while later the placenta arrives, and when the midwife checks the damage’ she finds absolutely no damage at all! Anne-Geer is convinced that the Epi-no is the reason for that. 🙂

Being there is just as special as when Thijmen was born. I may have missed the critical moment, but that doesn’t spoil the fun! The fact that these two people have had a baby, exactly the way they wanted, and that everything went so well, is far more important. They’re so happy! And it’s so special to be able to capture that happiness with my camera.

There is no rushing at all. Ellemieke spends more than an hour at her mother’s breast, and Anne-Geer does not look like she just had a baby. 🙂 Ellemieke drinks from both breasts, and it’s difficult to get her to release, haha! In the meantime, everyone is phoned, and tears keep flowing. There is much happiness, and everyone is so excited that it’s a girl! Then Ellemieke is checked and weighed. Mark is allowed to put her on the scale. She weighs 3425g. After being weighed she can spend some time skin-to-skin with her daddy – a beautiful moment. Anne-Geer goes for a shower, and when she comes out in her flowery tunic you cannot believe that she gave birth just 2 hours ago! She looks amazing!

She feels so good that she dresses Ellemieke together with Mark. That’s something I haven’t seen before, and it’s very special. When Ellemieke is ready it’s time for her to meet her big brother! He has arrived, with his grandfather and -mother, and Mark goes to fetch him. Mark and Anne-Geer tell him that he has a little sister, and that the baby isn’t in mommy’s belly any more. Then they pull the cradle closer, so that he can see Ellemieke. The expression on his face is priceless! Nervous, and happy, and after he’s looked at her carefully, he strokes her as she lies in her cradle. So cute!!

After that the grandparents come in, and cannot believe that Anne-Geer is sitting on the couch with her little girl in her arms! I take some lovely photos of the moments with them, and of the family now that it is completed by Ellemieke.

Dear Anne-Geer and Mark: I am so happy for both of you that the birth of Ellemieke went exactly the way you wanted it, and I wish the four of you much happiness together!

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