One baby, one ambulance, 6 firemen and eventually a placenta… | Birth photography in Zoetermeer

I meet Kim and Jamie at the 9 month exhibition in Amsterdam. They’re so enthusiastic about the concept of birth photography that we have an introductory discussion there and then.  A few weeks later they decide definitely to go for it. I was pleased about this myself because they wanted to give birth at home. I’m always extra enthusiastic about this, because it happens less and less often and it’s so nice to be able to photograph people at home.

They didn’t know if it was going to be a boy or a girl, but Kim had a strong feeling that it would be a boy. They were both a bit worried whether I would make it on time to Zoetermeer, but given that the average first baby takes 12 hours, there should be time enough.  Still, this was on my mind as the due date got closer. One thing I do know  is that women often have premonitions that prove correct and that it’s better to listen to your intuition than to theory. Personally, I had the feeling that baby would arrive before the due date. And I was right….

Kim’s due date was the 1st of May, but on Sunday evening  the 21st of April at 2207 I get a text from Jamie to say that Kim’s waters had broken, but that there were no contractions yet. I’m out for dinner in Terneuzen and I’ve just had my desert. Theoretically, it can still take hours before the contractions start, but nonetheless it seems to be best to go home, get everything ready to go and get to bed as quickly as possible and then grab a couple of hours sleep. No sooner said than done.

At midnight I’m in bed and I haven’t heard anymore. I hope that the contractions hold off a bit and that we can all get a good night’s sleep :-). That turns out to be a vain hope because an hour and a half after  I’m in bed, Jamie rings. It’s 1.34am.  He sounds a bit confused because he really wants to explain clearly how long the contractions are taking and how long there is in between them but to start with he gets the times mixed upI can just picture him getting really into it with his contraction app to try to keep on top of things. Very sweet. It comes down to the fact that at 2245 the contractions started slowly and that Jamie started timing them at 2330, when they really got going. In fact, they were coming soon after each other even then, and this is still the case. They are lasting one minute and Jamie says that the midwife is on her way. I don’t know exactly why, but I hear myself saying to Jamie that I’m coming now.  Once I’ve hung up, I ask myself if this is sensible. The midwife hasn’t confirmed if there is any dilation and she’s only had two hours of contractions. I could quite easily sit there all night, day and even another night on top of that. Because I question my instinctive decision, I pop my knitting in my bag too. At least I’ll have something to do if it takes a long time J

I’ve just got onto the motorway when Jamie rings again. It’s now 2.04am and I’ll have to drive for an hour and a half before I reach Zoetermeer. He says:  “Kim is 9 centimetres dilated”. From his voice I can hear that he doesn’t quite believe it and I don’t either! 9cm?!?! In 2 and a half hours, with a first baby?! Noooooooo not again?! This happens so rarely, but percentage wise I’ve experienced it just a little too often. I wish Jamie luck and hope that I’ll make it. I drive at the speed limit, my little Ka can’t go much faster anyway. I hope that the last centimetre might take a bit longer, maybe half an hour and that she has to push for at least an hour, then I might make it. There’s no-one else on the road which helps. When I’ve got exactly an hour left, I text Jamie to ask if she’s already pushing…I’m hoping not! He says that she’s already pushing and that the front door is open. I’m afraid I’m not going to make it.

While I’m driving I get my camera ready so I can photograph as soon as I get there. I park my car as awkwardly as possible, jump out and walk into the house (it’s pretty odd just to walk into someone’s house without ringing the bell or something similar). It is strikingly quiet upstairs. It that a good sign or not? It’s 3.22am.

I walk up the stairs, into the bedroom and see a super happy little family on the bed. The baby is here already. It turns out to be a girl, she’s called Jools and she was born at 3.08am. I am only just too late. The midwife tells me there was no way I could have caught up. She had arrived herself without her case because she thought she’d go back again, but that turned out differently with the 9cms dilation J The whole birth has taken three and half hours from beginning to end. No-one can really believe it.

Fine, I’ve missed the beginning, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t take some great photos. The placenta is also not delivered yet, so I get on with things. It’s no hardship because she’s a beautiful little girl :-). Kim looks great too and Jamie is really proud and also a bit flustered.  He’s ringing all the family. Apart from his mother, who lives in England everyone lives in the area so they’ll be here soon. Jamie tells us about the birth, how it all went so fast and that he just kept timing with his contraction app, that he’d filmed everything (luckily) and that he’d taken hold of Jools himself and didn’t know that it was so slippery! 🙂

In the meantime, the placenta doesn’t show any signs of wanting to come out and because little Jools is routing all over the place, the midwife tries to put her to the breast, hoping to stimulate the placenta in that way too.  Meanwhile the family starts to trickle in slowly; Jamie’s father and his wife and Kim’s parents! It’s lovely to see the proud grandparents. Once they’ve had a good marvel at Jools, they have to leave the room for a bit because the midwife wants to have another look at the placenta. Jools is nearly an hour old and the placenta really has to be delivered by now, otherwise they’ll have to go to the hospital after all. That would be a shame! Kim’s brother has just arrived but unfortunately he’ll have to wait to admire little Jools, because the placenta comes first.

There’s a lot of pushing on Kim’s tummy and hard yanks on the umbilical cord (which isn’t much fun), but the placenta doesn’t budge, it stays put L So there’s no alternative: Kim, Jamie and Jools have to go to the hospital after all. Because Kim is doing well, only an ambulance is called without re-enforcements, because Kim’s going to walk downstairs herself. Little Jools is checked, weighed, dressed and has her temperature taken while this is going on. After that she can lie with Daddy. She has to be kept warm because with a temperature of just 35.1 she was really too cold. At that moment two paramedics arrive. Kim lets us know that she’s getting more contractions, so the midwife tries, given that they’re here anyway with the ambulance, to try to get the placenta free. To no avail, nothing but a lot of blood comes out.

Everyone gets themselves ready to go to the hospital. I go downstairs, so that I won’t be in the way and to check that I’ve got all my stuff. I fill the family in straight away, as they were waiting rather nervously downstairs. It was the plan to all drink champagne and eat crisp breads with sugared aniseed (a Dutch tradition) which Kim’s brother has brought with him. But, for the time being, they don’t go ahead.

Waiting downstairs takes a long time, so I begin to wonder what’s going on upstairs. Eventually one of the paramedics comes downstairs and says that Kim has passed out three times and that they are going to put her on a drip. I go with him upstairs. Jamie is sitting with Jools next to Kim on the bed and Kim is certainly pale but happy enough. It turns out that with trying to stand up she fainted three times and that this was made extra tense by the fact that she had chewing gum in her mouth. They got that out straight away and now she’s on a drip to see how it goes. Because it no longer looks like she’ll be able to get down the stairs herself, and because the staircase is very narrow, the fire brigade is called. Kim makes jokes about it herself, that they’ll make it exciting. Well, you could say that! Jamie is advised to put Jools down in her cot, but as a result her just paces back and forth between Jools and Kim. So, I ask if there is anyone downstairs who wants to stay with Jools. Grandma is the first to come upstairs, but eventually just about everyone comes up. They want to know what’s happening.

Next up, six big burley firemen (in uniform) walk in. I wonder what the people in the neighbourhood think of the ambulance and the firemen turning up (luckily most of them are asleep, so maybe no-one has noticed). In the meantime, Kim has been laid in an inflatable canoe style device which they strap her into. First they’ll see if they can get her down the stairs, otherwise she’ll have to go out through the window. She asks Jamie to film it because she’s never been carried downstairs by six men before, hahaha. Jamie is still running around like a headless chicken, getting things together and making sure that they can leave soon. So much happens in such a short time. It’s now 5am, so nearly two hours after Jools was born. Kim’s brother, who has been a fireman stands at the bottom of the stairs to help. Despite the fact that the staircase is narrow and there’s a tricky bend in it, the men manage to get Kim downstairs.  Kim goes with her brother in the ambulance, Jamie with Jools and Kim’s mother in the car and I drive behind the midwife to the hospital.

When we arrive at the hospital the gynaecologist isn’t there yet. Kim, Jamie and Jools are given a room and Jool’s temperature is taken again. Luckily her temperature is now better! The gynaecologist arrives at quarter to six and tries once more to remove the placenta by hand. But alas…the placenta will have to be removed in theatre with a quick anaesthetic. Jamie can stay with her until the anaesthetic room to see her off. We have to go back and wait until she’s ready. We don’t know how long it’s going to take, it depends on the situation. In the end, Kim’s mother and Jamie’s father stay in the hospital. I see them sitting in the corridor as we come up stairs and I ask if they are going to come and sit in the room. I learn that Kim’s mother has not been feeling well herself and that she’s just going to eat something and stay sitting down. I can well understand, so much has happened. First the excitement of being a grandmother, then to see your grand-daughter for the first time, soon after to hear that the placenta isn’t coming, then first the ambulance men and then the firemen, then seeing your daughter getting carried down the stairs, the ambulance, the hospital and now the operating theatre. That’s no mean feat. Fortunately things soon improve.

We chat a bit in the room while we’re waiting for Kim. Jamie shows me the film of Jools being born. Amazing! (and an extra shame that I wasn’t there). He tells me again how astonishingly quickly it went and shows me the times on his contraction app. Kim’s mother tells me that they are all so happy that Kim’s father is still here to be part of all of this given that he’s had a heart attack. She explains with tears in her eyes and I start to cry too. There we are sniffling together haha J.

Fortunately, before we know it, Kim is back. It’s gone quite quickly! Just before 7am, everyone is re-united. Kim still looks pale and is really tired, but also cheerful. The only issue is that she’s shaking terribly. Little Jools is trembling lying with her. As she says herself, “my box didn’t enjoy it much either.” That much I can understand :-). I make some more photos and then it’s time to go. The hospital want us to go too because everyone needs their rest and that is certainly true. Kim’s haemoglobin level is very low and if it doesn’t improve she’ll need a blood transfusion. Despite everything, I leave behind a proud and happy family with a beautiful daughter. And if there’s one thing I’ll say it’s that Kim’s a real tough cookie and Jamie concurs, she’s not ex-military for nothing, the card case 🙂

Kim and Jamie: enjoy!!!!!

A few days later I went back for a newborn session. They do have everything now <3