Exactly the way it was meant to be | A home water birth
On the 2nd of February 2013 I was at the birth of Gwendolyn and Peter’s first child, Ferron. Ferron was born in the hospital in Terneuzen, without any fuss or any problems. Just a beautiful birth! When Gwendolyn told me this year she was expecting her second child and that she wanted me to be there, I was naturally very happy about that. It is always an honour to be invited to attend a second birth. When I heard Gwendolyn’s birth plan, I was even happier; she was planning to have a home water birth. This is the area in which my personal interest lies, so it’s always extra special to be able to photograph births like this.
Finding a midwife willing to work with her was not very easy, but Gwendolyn knew that this was what she wanted, had done her research and found a midwife practice in Veere where they were willing to work with her and follow her birth plan.
The pregnancy all went smoothly, although it looked for a moment as though she might be thrown a curve ball when glucose tolerance test showed a borderline result, but it all turned out fine. Gwendolyn enjoyed her pregnancy and during the maternity shoot she told me that she hoped that the baby would stay in until 40 weeks, because she really enjoyed being pregnant! Ferron was born at 38weeks, 5 days, but this little man (they were expecting another boy) could definitely stay in the belly for longer, Gwendolyn felt. The estimated due date was the 27th of August.
August is/ should be a busy month for me and with 2 mamas overdue I go to bed on the 11th of August and whisper a little prayer: “Please let there be a baby born tonight!” My wish seems to come true, because at 3am my phone rings. To my surprise I see Gwendolyn’s name on my screen. I didn’t see that coming! I’m betting that she’s not just calling to say hello! 😉 I speak to her on the phone and she tells me that the midwife is there already and she’s dilated to 4 centimeters! She sounds calm and tells me to take it easy. I don’t like taking it easy when heading to the birth of a second child, but because it’s only a 10-minute drive to Souburg, I make myself a small breakfast. At 3:50 I walk into their living room.
Gwendolyn is sitting on a ball and someone is applying pressure to her back. I know that her sister would be there, to be around for Ferron if he should wake up. In the kitchen Peter is very busy filling the birth tub. In the meantime he’s also trying to support Gwendolyn. There’s someone else in the kitchen and I think it’s the midwife, but it turns out to be Gwendolyn’s sister. That means that the midwife is the one busy helping Gwendolyn. How lovely! Gwendolyn’s birth plan states that she wants everyone to come in as quietly and calmly as possible and that she would like to be free to concentrate on her contractions so that she can get into a good rhythm. But that rhythm doesn’t seem to be there yet, because when the contraction ebbs away she cheerfully says hello and adds, “I’m sooner than Natascha after all.” That makes me laugh. Natascha lives one street further and is 3 days past her due date today. She’s one of the moms I was hoping would go into labour soon. By the sounds of it Gwendolyn is still very much with us.
When a contraction comes, things definitely change. The contractions are powerful and Gwendolyn is not quite managing to give in to them completely. Her labour has come a bit unexpectedly and she’s continually comparing it to her first labour. It all started yesterday evening and she hasn’t really slept at all. When she called the midwife, Nicky, at 2:15 Peter said, “This is going to take hours yet, are you sure you should call now?” but Gwendolyn felt that she had to and with 4 cm dilation she was right!
The bath fills up slowly. Too slowly, because Gwendolyn really wants to get in. With every contraction Nicky applies counter pressure to her back and coaches her with words. Between contractions Gwendolyn is still talking, saying things like, “The contractions are so strong. Was it like this last time, too?” and “I don’t like this right now.” I’m wondering if it is different to the first time, or if it’s going much more quickly and she’s already in the more painful stage of dilation. When another contraction ends she suddenly says, “Every time I say something I think ‘This will also be on the blog,’”. “Ok, Gwendolyn, let it go, it’ll all be ok. Everyone you wanted here is here, everything is ready and you’re coping incredibly well with the contractions. No more thinking, just concentrate.” It seems like my words get through and at the next contraction she gives herself over completely.
Before she gets into the tub she goes to the toilet and at 4:08 she steps into the tub. The first contraction in the tub is a hard one. She seems to panic a little, since she can’t find a comfortable position, but Nicky is there to help her. What wonderful support! I stay in the background and take photos. Now that she’s in the tub she seems to turn more inwards, but she does say, “I’m a bit scared about what’s coming, because last time it just got worse.”
Peter has started on his next task in the meantime: setting up the bed in the room. He’s a busy man! In between all his tasks he’s trying to encourage Gwendolyn, or gives her a kiss.
Twelve minutes after she got into the tub Gwendolyn sits up and says, “I don’t want to do this any more” and shortly afterwards she says, “I need to push.” Oh! …. Nicky puts on her extra long ‘water birth’ gloves to do a check and yes: 10 centimeters dilated! Her waters have not yet broken and Nicky asks Gwendolyn if she wants her to break them. In the meantime, Peter is wrestling with 3 pieces of bed which need to be put together. I help him with it and say, “I’ll put the mattress on, you go and sit with your wife, because your baby is on his way.” He looks a bit confused: already? Ehm.. yes, that’s how it looks!
I walk back to take a few photos and *pop* her waters break, all by themselves! Exactly what she wanted. I rush to the corridor to put the mattress on the bed quickly in case it’s needed and then I go and stand at the ready. I can see the head already and Gwendolyn puts her hand on it. I ask Peter if he can see it, but he says, “No and I don’t need to, or I’ll faint.” He finds it so exciting! He just can’t believe it’s already time. I can’t either, because I’ve only been here half an hour. That’s really fast!
But, believe it or not, that little head comes out. Gwendolyn is now completely calm and knows exactly what to do. Everything just happens. In the next contraction his head is born completely and in the contraction which follows Nicky helps a little with the shoulder and then, there he is!!! Peter can’t believe it. He’s staring open-mouthed at the water. Gwendolyn looks at him calmly and happily and says, “I did it”. The tiny baby swims in the water and looks at mom and dad with big eyes and then I hear Nicky say, “Take him out of the water,” and Gwendolyn slowly lifts him out. It’s such a special moment. ♥
Peter is still in shock and because Nicky really wants the baby to cry a little, his concern doesn’t leave before baby cries. I hear Gwendolyn say, “He is breathing,” but Peter only takes a relieved breath when the baby cries. He’s here! So quickly and just the way she wanted!
The water is still very clean, there was no blood that came out with the baby. To birth the placenta, Gwendolyn needs to get out of the tub. With the baby still attached to the placenta and with help from Peter and Nicky, she steps out of the tub. As if it’s no big deal. Luckily the bed is ready. 🙂
It’s still not very real to Gwendolyn and Peter is already busy getting the water out of the tub. The poor man just keeps on going with his tasks! Shortly afterwards the placenta is born. The expectation was that some blood would then come out, but it doesn’t. Nicky says this is one of the cleanest births she’s ever attended! Peter doesn’t want to cut the cord, so Gwendolyn’s sister is fetched and it’s her honour! The cord is clamped with a tie, instead of a clamp and then it’s Gwendolyn’s sister’s turn to proudly cut the cord.
And then comes the big question: “What’s his name?” but the baby is still nameless, because they haven’t made their decision yet. His second name is known and that is Nelson, named after Nelson Mandela, but his first name still needs some thinking about. For now we call him Baby.
Gwendolyn wants to give the baby the time to find the breast himself and gets into a comfortable position on her side, with the baby close to her. He doesn’t really want to drink in the beginning, but he does look interested and moves his mouth and lies close to his mother. I think it’ll all go fine – patience is a virtue!
After he’s had some time to lie with his mother, Nicky checks him over; he doesn’t have to go anywhere and can stay near his mother while this happens. Peter is the one who weighs him. He weighs 3760g and is completely perfect! After that it’s time for some cuddles with daddy. Gwendolyn freshens herself up and then Peter will go and get Ferron. I’m so curious to see what he thinks! He is awake now and is watching TV upstairs with his aunt. He will find it a bit strange, I think. A house full of people, a tub and bed in the living room and finally a brother too! While Peter is having a cuddle with the baby, Gwendolyn comes and sits with him and at that moment is seems to become a bit real for the first time and then the tears start to flow. ♥
Shortly afterwards Peter goes upstairs to tell Ferron that he has a brother. The television is more interesting initially and when asked if he wants to go downstairs to se his brother he says, “no.” When the television is turned off, he goes downstairs after all. 😉
He takes it into his stride that the whole living room looks different. His full attention goes to the new baby and he is very sweet. He gives the toy that mommy crocheted to the baby and looks at him with big eyes. Then he suddenly sees the rest of the room and realises that it’s still dark outside (and so he’s not supposed to be awake yet, hahaha!).
Then it’s time to phone the grandparents. Ferron has the honour. Because nobody was expecting it yet, the reactions are very good. “Why didn’t I know this?” asks grandma. 🙂 Ferron quickly goes to play but keeps coming back to look at his brother and to give him the toy again. Peter closes his eyes briefly and then goes to clean up the tub. Gwendolyn tries to get baby onto the breast and he starts to drink. A good start!
While it slowly gets lighter outside Peter tidies up, with Ferron’s help. He jokes, “Who has done the most work here?” Fair is fair – setting up the tub, taking down the tub and getting the bed set up all took about twice as long as labour and birth! 🙂 When the tub is nearly cleared away, Gwendolyn’s parents arrive to admire the (still nameless) baby. Then, while everyone watches, Peter dresses the baby.
I take some photos of everyone holding him for the first time and of the whole family. It was such a beautiful, relaxed home birth. Just like something out of a book.
The next day Gwendolyn phones me and tells me that his name is Novan. Novan Nelson. I wish the four of you much happiness! ♥
When Novan was 10 days old, he came to the studio with his big brother and mom and dad. We did a newborn session together. Are they not the cutest together?!