Lightening speed | Birth Photography Terneuzen
The first time I had Mariëlle and Gunnar in front of my lens, they were expecting their first baby. We did a maternity shoot, and once Mara had arrived, a newborn shoot. Mariëlle had thought about birth photography, but found it a little scary, and didn’t know what to expect. In the end she was induced at 37 weeks, due to pregnancy cholestasis, and the birth went very well! So well that she regrets not having any photos of it to reflect back on. Parts of the birth passed her by in a haze, and and in retrospect she finds that to be a great pity. So when she was pregnant with her second child, she wanted a birth reportage. The chance of pregnancy cholestasis happening again was large, but it wasn’t guaranteed. She suspected she wouldn’t reach her due date this time.
They prepared themselves well for the birth. This time she wanted to breastfeed, and to give birth in a peaceful environment. She wrote a detailed birth plan, and made sure she was prepared for anything that could happen. She likes having things in control. 🙂
There were a few occasions that it looked like the cholestasis might be starting (due to the itchiness she experienced), but the tests were negative every time. At 37 weeks it looked like it was really going to be a natural birth this time! Then the waiting started… I regularly received an (impatient) update, but no baby. They were restless, and a few times Mariëlle thought labour had started. But every time the contractions would stop once more.
In the wee hours of the night on 30/31 March, I receive a message from Mariëlle. She very cautiously thinks that labour has begun. I happen to be awake nursing my daughter, so I send a reply saying that I’m ready. The next morning I wake up at 8am, and I’m surprised: I haven’t had any more messages from her! I send her a message, and she tells me the contractions faded away again. It’s driving her mad! We exchange a few more messages, and she decides to go to the hospital in Terneuzen. At 11:00 I get an update: Mariëlle is dilated to 2 or 3cm, but her cervix has not started thinning. She has had her membranes stripped, and now we wait and see whether that helps to kick-start labour. The midwife thinks that the contractions last night may have been early labour, but we’ll see what happens next.
At the end of the day I receive another message. Mariëlle and Gunnar stayed in Terneuzen for the afternoon. They walked back and forth, but not much happened. In the car on the way home the contractions started again (typical). She writes: “They are quite strong contractions. I have to puff through them. I don’t like it, but there’s no regularity to them.” Coincidentally a friend of mine who is a midwife is visiting us, and she says this could be a reaction to the membrane stripping. She suggests getting in the bath, so that’s my reply. If the contractions continue in the bath, and become more regular, then labour has really begun. It’s 16:10, and Mariëlle follows our advice.
The next message I receive is from Gunnar. It’s 17:30. He sends me a screenshot of the contraction-timing app, which shows me that there haven’t been a lot of contractions, but they have become more frequent in the last half hour. He asks whether I have any advice. I find it difficult to give them advice like this, having not seen Mariëlle, and not being her midwife, so my advice is to phone the midwife and consult her. They do that, and a short while later they call me and tell me they’re heading for the hospital. Initially I tell Gunnar to call me when they get to the hospital, but while I’m talking to him Mariëlle has a contraction, and he puts the phone to one side to help her through it. I hear him say, “You. Are. Stronger. Than. This. Contraction.” He keeps repeating this, like a mantra. So sweet of him. And while I’m listening I change my mind – this doesn’t sound like ‘wait and see’. I’m also going to head for the hospital now! However, Gunnar tells me that they can’t leave right away and that they will be at the hospital in an hour. It’s not very handy if I’m at the hospital before them, so I ask them to send me a message when they leave the house and I’ll leave at the same time. From that moment I’m ready to go, but the next message is from Mariëlle and arrives at 18:10. “In car in tunnel. Contractions coming fast, very strong.” Oh no, they’re almost there already! I jump into the car.
I hit the accelerator hard (staying within the speed limit as much as I can), and race to Terneuzen. When I drive into the tunnel Gunnar phones me: “You have to hurry” and in the background I hear Mariëlle say “tell her I’m at 10cm.” I thought she might be! I accelerate a bit, race to the hospital, haphazardly park in the first space I see, and race into the hospital with my camera around my neck.
Completely out of breath I go into the room, and the first thing I think is: I’m on time! Whew! A contraction hits. Mariëlle has completely withdrawn into herself and is pushing. It’s quite dark in the room, and she has no shirt on, which she didn’t actually want, and explicitly mentioned at our initial consultation. I can’t just waltz in, turn all the lights on, and arrange a tshirt for her! I carefully put a towel over her, and before I can even think about the next step, the head is born! It’s all going so fast, and everything feels a bit chaotic. Gunnar wants to catch the baby, but the midwife says, “wait just a minute”, and before I know it the baby has arrived! It’s a beautiful baby girl! Her cord is very short, so she can’t be placed very high on Mariëlle’s chest. Mariëlle just stares at her unbelievingly, and Gunnar says, “she’s here! She’s here already!”
I’m still out of breath, and taking photos. “Elin. It’s Elin.” I hear Mariëlle say, as she looks relieved, and disbelieving. A short while later it starts to become more real, and the joy and the tears come. Gunnar also looks a little disbelieving, but full of pride, and surprise. The cord quickly stops pulsing, and because it’s so short it’s easier to cut it. This is Gunnar’s honour.
Wow! That was fast! They can’t believe it themselves. They look at each other lovingly, and also at Elin, and the door opens. Mariëlle’s mother, Carla, comes in, and she can’t believe her eyes. Her expression is amazing. “She’s already here, Mama, she’s already here!” Carla starts to cry, and walks to Mariëlle. It’s a wonderful moment, full of tears. “It was so fast, so fast.” Carla says she was in the corridor and heard a baby cy, but wasn’t allowed to come in. A nurse did come into the room, and asked whether we expected someone for hynobirthing, but nobody knew what it was about, and since Elin had just arrived nobody paid much attention to it. It was so chaotic. Apparently the nurse had been talking about Carla. She was supposed to be at the birth, but because it all went so quickly… But she’s here now, and that’s what counts!
At that moment Gunnar says, “I don’t feel very well. My face is a bit numb.” I now notice that his breathing is irregular, and before he can faint we put him on the couch with a cold damp cloth, and the advice to breathe slowly and breathe out in small puffs. Now he’s puffing! He got so involved in the process that he completely forgot to look after himself. I have some muesli bars with me, and give him one. He hasn’t eaten since the early afternoon, so the bar should help. He can see the humour in it, “Of course this would happen to me. This won’t make it into the birth story, will it?” Of course Gunnar! This just shows how involved you were.
While Gunnar is lying on the couch recovering, and Carla and Mariëlle are enjoying Elin, someone comes into the room and says, “there’s a car right in front of the hopital, with flashing lights and the doors open. Does it belong to one of you?” Hahahaha! I was in such a rush I ran straight past it and didn’t even notice, but it was Gunnar and Mariëlle’s car! Mariëlle tells that at the last roundabout she could feel that the baby was coming. Gunnar wanted to park the car, but she told him there was not time, and that he needed to be fast. And now the car was still there… brilliant! 🙂 Carla heads off to move the car. Mariëlle also tells me that he had another mantra for her in the car: We. Are. Going. To. Meet. Our. Baby. Soon. So sweet!
By now Elin is starting to root and look for a breast. Mariëlle was so scared that the breastfeeding wouldn’t work, but her daughter has a natural talent for it! Elin latches without help, and starts to nurse as if she’s never done anything else. It makes Mariëlle emotional, and Gunnar – who is still lying on the couch – sits up and says, “is she nursing already? That’s great!” He’s slowly feeling better, and comes over to have a good look at his daughter! They are so proud. Carla is back in the room, and the first family members are phones. It’s a wonderful hours, filled with love and tears of joy. The phone call to Gunnar’s sister is particularly special, because Elin’s second name is in her honour! Elin Britta Anna.
Before Elin’s first checks are done she spends some time skin-to-skin with her papa. There she continues the search for a nipple, and finds it too! Hilarious! Latching isn’t possible, but she tries her best! Afterwards she is checked, measured and weighed. She is 54cm tall, and weighs 4410g. She passes her tests with flying colours, and Gunnar dresses her. She is a little ‘too heavy’ according to hospital protocols, so she has to have her glucose levels checked. They do this with a little prick in her foot. She can stay with Gunnar during this, and doesn’t even make a sound, luckily. Her glucose levels are good!
A short while later the first visitors are at the door. Mariëlle’s bother, and then grandpa arrives with the big sister, and then Gunnar’s sister, who Elin is named after. What a warm family, and what a lot of beautiful moments to capture. Mara takes a few good looks at her sister – she finds it all very interesting. I take lovely photos of everything that’s happening, and take a group photo before I leave. I will see Elin for a newborn shoot,and then I will have lots of time to get some lovely photos of her.
Dear Mariëlle and Gunnar, I wish you much joy with your beautiful girls!