Keep quiet please | Having a birth photographer

Geboortefotograaf bij bevalling

When Renée called me I was already past the halfway point of my own pregnancy. She had seen a pamphlet at the midwife’s office, and phoned me to ask whether I still had a free spot for her. The main question was: when’s your due date, and where do you live? She lives in Middelburg, would like to give birth at home, and is due on May 12th. I feel torn. Middelburg, and at home are no problem, because I can basically cycle there, but by May 12th, I’m hoping to already be on maternity leave, and if she goes 2 weeks overdue… You never know how you’ll feel at the time of course. I immediately voice my doubts, but also my enthusiasm. In the end we decide to meet and get to know each other, and then talk about it.

A couple of weeks later she comes around with Michel. We have a great chat in which we decide to go for it, but I will arrange a backup photographer in case my own pregnancy is harder on me than I am currently experiencing. Great!

The day I go to visit my sister-in-law in Zwolle to admire my new niece, I receive a phone call from Renée. She is 37 weeks and one day. I get a fright, because I had absolutely not taken into account that the baby may come that early (first babies are more often late than early.) A lot of women call me in the last weeks, and then immediately start by saying, “It’s not started yet, I’m just calling to…” but Renée doesn’t say this, so I’m really nervous about whether we may have to head straight back to Middelburg. Luckily it turns out that this isn’t necessary… whew! But: the baby is going to come early. Renée has developed Type II diabetes, and they now want to induce her, on the 28th of April when she is 38 weeks pregnant. So it won’t be a home birth, but she’s ok with that. She’s just taking things as they come. At any rate, I will definitely be there, because I am feeling great!

The day of the induction, Michel creates a group conversation in What’sApp, but there is so much chatting there that I am having trouble finding the messages, which are relevant and important for me. So I get private messages when there’s something important I need to know. 🙂 Induction can sometimes take 2 or 3 days, or even longer, so we’ll see what happens. In Goes they start with a pill to ripe the cervix, and then they take things from there. Michel sends me a photo of the printout from the monitor at 13:30, and there is good activity visible, and also with regularity. They’re not yet contractions because Michel says that Renée can’t feel them yet, but something is definitely happening. Hmm… maybe the baby will come today or tonight. I get everything ready, just in case!

At 14:00 they do a check, and Renée is already dilated to 2cm! I’m a bit surprised that things are going so quickly, but it just shows again that everyone is different. It’s wonderful that the induction is working already! The rest of the day plods along. She’s given another pill, and the dilation doesn’t progress any further. At 22:00 they decide to take her to the ward to sleep. I guess there will be no more action until the morning, but I send a message saying that if they have any doubts to call me, and Michel promises he will.

I don’t have to wait long for that phone call, because at 23:30 Renée’s waters break. Michel phones me immediately, and sounds very nervous. 🙂 It’s very cute (if you can say that about a man 😉 ). Water breaking doesn’t necessarily mean contractions will start immediately, so we agree that he will call me again when she’s around 5cm dilated.

At 2:00 my phone rings again. He still sounds nervous, but it is scary of course! He says the contractions are intense, but that they don’t know how far dilated she in because she hasn’t been checked yet. I am not sure what to do, because I think she’ll be busy for some time yet, but you never really know. I get the nurse on the phone, and she also thinks it’ll be a while yet. I decide to wait until the midwife has checked, and tell Michel I’ll head over when she’s at 5cm.

At 2:45 she’s checked again, and Renée is dilated to 3cm! I miss this bit, because Michel doesn’t call me about it. At 4:45 he calls again: 5cm. Great! It’s going so well! I jump out of bed and get ready to drive to Goes, where I arrive at 5:45.

Renée is in bed, and looks very calm. Michel is next to her, sitting on a chair, and Renée’s mother is there too. Mothers are usually worried and nervous, but not Renée’s mother. She’s just excited and enthusiastic, and so happy to be there instead of waiting at home. So beautiful to see! I come inside just at a turning point, because although Renée looks calm and is doing well, she says she’s finding the contractions hard going now, and would like to discuss pain relief. She chooses an injection in her leg (nalbufine), and soon feels a difference, and is happy with her choice.

Michel is getting very tired. They’ve been awake all night and we have a room without a window, so it never really feels like the day has arrived. He closes his eyes for a little while, but not for long. It’s hard to sleep when your wife is having a baby. 😉 Both Michel and grandma go out to smoke a cigarette a couple of times, because the tension is getting a bit much for them, haha. Michel also gets their camera ready. He moves it a few times, but eventually he puts it behind the bed so everything can be filmed.

At 7:00 Renée gets checked again. She is 6cm dilated, and their advice is to give the contractions a bit of a boost, because they’ve become less intense, and less effective. An IV is started to give her Pitocin, on the lowest setting. At 8:30 it gets increased one notch, and Renée tries to pee so that her bladder is empty. She also tries to eat a sandwich. I’m surprised as she’s sitting there easily eating a sandwich, when she suddenly says, “I need to push.” And it’s not just one pushing contraction, because the need to push just keeps increasing after that.

We push on the call bell, and a short while later the midwife comes in. She checks Renée’s dilation, and says that there’s still a little ‘lip’. Renée is advised to get onto her hands and knees, and to try and puff away the contractions. This is the most difficult thing to do, and I try to encourage her, until she says, “Keep quiet please!.” She’s coping well within herself, and everything happening around her is too much right now. Michel has to stop what he’s doing, and Renée’s mother is also told, “Mom! No talking!” Renée withdraws completely into herself, and she’s doing great. The three of us wait (along with the midwife and nurse) to see what happens. At 9:15 she is given the go-ahead to start pushing, and it doesn’t take long – especially for a first-time mom – before we see hair. A mirror is fetched so that Renée can see what’s happening. So much primal power comes out of Renée, she’s doing an amazing job! Michel is terrified. He’s pushing with her, with wonderful facial expressions. Every now and then he looks to see what’s happening down below, but when a beautiful baby girl with lots of hair is born at 9:40, he’s ducks away behind Renée. Renée catches the baby herself – a beautiful moment!

The only thing Michel can say is “Damn.” Renée’s mother followed the action from the foot of the bed, and is watching with tears in her eyes, and then the tears start for Michel. He doesn’t say more than a few swear words in the first minutes. Haha! He just CAN’T believe it. They’re parents! And she’s given the name Ariëla. ♥

When the cord has stopped pulsing, Michel cuts it, and a short while later the placenta is born. Michel can’t wait any longer, and goes outside for a cigarette, and to make a phone call. He’s soon back and gets a big hug from his mother-in-law. He’s back just in time to film the baby’s first feed at the breast. At that moment Renée makes contact with her sister Anne on the phone. Anne is on a boat at the moment, and won’t be back any time soon. It’s very special that they can speak to each other now.

When the ‘beschuit met muisjes’ is brought in, the other grandparents (Michel’s parents) also come in. Wow! They’re so proud! And justifiably! While they admire Ariëla (and they’re so impressed by all that hair), the nurse comes in to weigh her. She weighs 3235g, but because of the diabetes she has to have her glucose levels checked. Then she’s measured, and her papa wants to show how she was positioned in her mama’s belly. I demonstrate how to do it, and I’m wondering if he’s brave enough to do it. It’s a strange way to hold a baby, and if you’re not used to it… but Michel does it! So sweet to see how she now lies in her daddy’s hands in the same way she lay in her mother’s belly. <3

The pediatrician comes later to check her over. She’s dressed, and Renée can have a shower. I take photos of Ariëla and wait until they’re back in the room on the maternity ward, and take a photo of the three of them together. It still seems so unreal to them. 🙂

Dear Renée and Michel, she really is with you to stay, and I wish you much happiness together as a family of three. 🙂

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