Blood Sweat and Tears
On the 5th of May I receive a text: “the Braxton-Hicks contractions are back, if things really get going we’ll ring you”. And later that day: “It’s happening I think, When the contractions are coming every 4 minutes then I’ll ring the midwife.” You’ll understand; from then on I was nervous. Was everything ready? Batteries charged? Via Twitter, a colleague, Simone, gives me a tip: “what about something to eat and drink?” How silly, I really hadn’t thought of that. Ok, sandwich: check! Just before midnight I decide to go to bed, Who knows how long this could take and I’d better grab whatever sleep I can. I’ve literally just nodded off when at half past midnight when another text message wakes me up: “we’re going to the hospital now. No great rush. Only 2 or 3cms.” Now, you need to know, I love my sleep! And once I’m asleep then I sleep (it’s a wonder that I even heard the text message). Initially I think: lovely, and roll over, but just as I’m doing this, my midwifery experience comes to the surface. 2 to 3 cms with a second child hmmm, this could go very quickly. So I jump out of bed! Sandwiches, bottle of water, camera, lenses: the whole kit and caboodle. Still feeling a bit sleepy I drive to the hospital in Goes, where I arrive at 1.30am.
I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks and I’ve had the idea to photograph births for about 2 years. Now it’s really going to happen then; I’m going to photograph a birth from beginning to end. Last week my friend Evelien and I had a practice run in her bedroom, where, in a rather dim light, she brought a Teddy bear countless times into the world. The results were dismal and my mood had briefly taken a dip as a result. So, I feel rather nervous when I arrive and see that is pretty dark. It’s a big space and Tamara, Paul and the midwife are all there. Tamara is getting through the contractions well and now and again manages to joke in between (my theory from college comes in handy; if you can still make jokes then you’re not as far as 5cms yet). To begin with, I feel very present with my camera. All noises stand out, but the sound of the aperture seems to echo through the whole maternity ward (Tamara says later that she only noticed I had been taken photos when she went to the bathroom).
As the contractions get stronger I start to think that no-one in the room is really paying attention to me and I feel more and more comfortable. The midwife is really lovely and wants to help think of the best ways to get great photos. That’s great. This is how I get to know that when it comes to it, all the lights in the room will go on. Phew, that’s one less think to worry about at least.
During my work experience I have seen births before and I can certainly say that I’ve seen almost all the births in Dutch or English on youtube. But being here, with two people I’ve met in advance, to go through the birth with them, from beginning to end is really amazing. I’m full of adrenaline and all I can think is; this is so fantastic . Every minute I gain more and more respect for Tamara. And for Paul too. As a man, you must feel so helpless while your wife is in so much pain. But he follows her instructions well: push, harder, softer, lower, higher. Whatever he can do, he does. Again I think: respect.
After she’s had a bath, the centimetres of dilations increase quickly and before I know it, it’s time: she can push. I try to get as good a position as possible. This isn’t easy with the bed pretty much up against the wall, the midwife at the foot of the bed, a post natal nurse at the right, and Paul to the left. But then I find a spot where hopefully, I can take the photo of the ultimate moment. Tamara is still doing really well and I have to stop myself from puffing with her! We have agreed that I’ll keep myself in the background, but now and then I find that difficult. J
During the pushing I get hungry and I manage to cram in three sandwiches before the baby arrives (thanks for the tip Simone). At 3.50 a beautiful baby girl is born. She really is gorgeous, and she has loads of hair! It’s weird : I feel proud. Her name is Raisa. Tamara has done so well, I want to tell her an hundred times over.
So many lovely moments follow; the proud father, the exhausted, proud, happy mother, the cutting of the cord, the midwife who folds Raisa double to show how she was lying in the womb, the weighing, the other checks, putting on the first clothes. It’s all so amazing. I have tried to let the emotions show in the photos and I think that it’s worked well. This was the first birth that I have been able to photograph and I hope that it won’t be the last. If I can do this for the rest of my life, then I’ll be a very happy person.
The compilation below is a little overview of this astonishing night. I hope you enjoy it.
De compilatie hieronder is een klein overzicht van deze bijzondere nacht. Geniet ervan!