Was it the lolly, or the bath?  | Birth photographer


At the beginning of the year I received an email from Janneke, who is a midwife. She wrote: “We had contact some time ago in my capacity as a midwife. Right now I am cautiously pregnant with baby number 3. Just 5 weeks or so, and due around October 1st. I’m sending you this email because I really want a birth photographer at this, probably my last, birth. My husband is not as enthusiastic, but this is my gift to myself, for all the work I will have done to give birth 3 times! 🙂 I’ve looked at photographers in my area, since it is birth number 3 ( 1st one – 9 hours long, 2nd one – 3 hours. Both times started with waters breaking, so at least that was nice and clear), but I haven’t found anyone else who compares with what I’ve seen you do.”

It’s so nice when people contact me so early in the pregnancy and let me know how much they want this. We agree that she will contact me again once she’s had the 12 week scan, and everything is a bit more definite.

A few weeks later I receive another email. Everything looks good, and her due date is October 4th. We make an appointment in May, because at that time she will be in Zeeland. They’ll come to the studio with Tuur (big brother) and Kaat (big sister), so I can meet everyone!

We have a lovely chat! Janneke is going to give birth in the hospital, because she haemorrhaged quite badly after Tuur’s birth, and after Kaat’s birth she retained some of the placenta, which they only discovered later. Both births started with her waters breaking, and with both the contractions didn’t really get started, until after she’d been to see a reflexologist. The reflexologist is once again ready to help around the time this baby is due, if this should happen again! 🙂 This time the followed a course of hypno birthing, since Hans wanted a more active role during birth and Janneke has good experiences with hypno birthing. They would also really like some maternity photos, and in the summer they’ll be back in Zeeland, so we make an appointment for then.

It’s a lovely afternoon, and Tuur and Kaat are so lovely!! The baby’s sex is a surprise for everyone, but Janneke and Hans know that Tuur really cannot wait and wants to know what it is! It’s sweet to see. 🙂 I also have no idea what it is, so I’m curious.


A few days before the due date there are some labour signs, but nothing that really keeps going. Janneke thinks the baby will come a bit earlier. We both hope so, because the next week I’m not available every day, and will have to call on my back-up photographer. It’s going to be exciting!

On the 1st of October, I receive a What’sApp message from her. It’s 13:51, and she says she’s been having some intense contractions for about an hour, but is not yet certain that this is really it. I have just finished a newborn shoot, so for me the timing would be perfect right now, hahaha!

Shortly afterwards she phones me. It’s 14:10, but I miss the call, and call back right away. She answers the phone puffing a little, and says, “my waters just broke.” Say no more! I’m on my way! She’s going to give birth in Veldhoven, has had 2 quick births already, and this one probably won’t take long either, so there’s no time to lose! I race inside, ask Denny to warm up some pasta for me, think carefully about whether I’ve got everything I need, and 5 minutes later I get into the car with a bowl of warm pasta to eat in the car! I set up the navigation for a trip straight to the hospital, because I can’t imagine that after the 2 hours it’ll take me to get there, they’ll still be at home. And I’m right. Shortly afterwards she calls me to let me know they’re on their way to the hospital.

At 16:00 I drive into the parking lot at the Maxima Medical Centre, and at 16:05 I’m in the room. Janneke’s colleague, Geertje, is caring for her today, and we introduce ourselves. She says, “I’m glad you’re here. I was worried you wouldn’t make it.” Janneke is on her hands and knees on the ground, leaning over a chair. Hans is sitting quietly next to her. Every now and then he gently talks to her, saying things like ‘try to relax your shoulders, rest when you can.’ I can see that she’s listening to him, and trying to do what he says. I understand that Janneke has been listening to hypno birthing music during the last hour of contractsion and that this has helped her to remain calm and to stay positive. There’s a discussion about going into a bathtub in another room, but before that happens, Janneke wants to know how far she is.

It’s 16:10, and she’s dilated to 6cm. The head is still up high. They decide to go into the tub, and Janneke wants a lolly. 🙂 At this moment I think she just craving for a lolly. Nothing surprises me anymore haha, but Janneke tells me afterwards that she has learned that sucking on a lolly during labour stimulates the endorphin system. More endorphin, more relaxation, better delivery. On the way to the room with the bath, she has a contraction, so she ends up in front of the tub, on her hands and knees, in her bathrobe. The contractions are intense, but she’s coping with them so well.

Just as she’s finally sitting in the tub, with her lolly, she gets the urge to push! It’s 16:24, not even 15 minutes ago she was dilated to 6cm. Is it really going so fast? She pushes with every contraction. Geertje, the midwife, asks Janneke whether she wants to stay in the tub to have the baby, or get out. She chooses to get out. The lolly lands on a table, and Janneke tries to get out of the tub in between contractions, but it’s not easy! Finally she manages to get onto the bed, and at 16:28 she’s pushed back to the other room by Hans and Geertje, who are wondering: was it the lolly or the bathtub that made everything go so quickly? 🙂

At 16:31 it’s confirmed – she’s fully dilated! That’s so fast! 20 minutes ago she was at 6cm, and now she can push! Geertje tries one more time to find baby’s heartbeat, but she can’t. She asks Janneke to lie on her back, but even then she can’t find that heartbeat. Then she sees the top of the head, and tells Janneke to give a good, strong push. It is a slightly scary moment, and I can see that Hans thinks so too. Come on, push Janneke!

Slowly a head emerges, and there he is, already!! At 16:35 a beautiful baby is born! Janneke is smiling from ear to ear, and Hans is watching unbelievingly, and then Janneke starts to cry. It’s a beautiful moment, for mother and son (it’s a boy!) that are both crying with such similar faces, and even daddy wipes a tear away. ♥

“Staf.” says Janneke. Geertje doesn’t understand immediately. Staf? “That’s his name, Staf.” Ooooh. 🙂

The umbilical cord is very short, and because it’s important that the placenta comes out as quickly as possible (due to the history), Hans is given the honour of quickly cutting the cord. Now we hope that the placenta comes within the next half hour. If not, Janneke will become a hospital patient, and if it doesn’t appear within another half hour after that, then she will have to have it removed surgically. Janneke kept this in mind when writing her birth plan, and has made it clear what her preferences are. Hopefully it won’t be necessary. I’m holding thumbs!

Janneke is lying on the bed, cuddling with Staf, and Hans is taking some photos himself, and then suddenly she seems to realise again that he’s here, and starts to cry again.

By now it’s 16:50 and the placenta is not moving. Janneke knows some acupressure points, which can be used to help encourage the placenta to come. Hans looks it up, and Geertje applies pressure on the indicated points. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help, and nothing is happening. She tries to get Stef onto the breast, to see if that helps. Geertje also tries one more time, but then the cord breaks off, and the placenta is still firmly attached inside. The (male) midwife who works with the hospital is called. Janneke knows him, which is nice. Unfortunately he also doesn’t manage to get the placenta out, so it’s going to have to be a surgical removal. Janneke is sad, but resigned. Before she has to leave, she phones her parents to let them know Staf has been born. Staf is now having a good drink, and it’s nice that this has happened before Janneke leaves.

In the meantime Geertje has unpacked a parcel, which has a label saying ‘do not open until after the birth’. I now understand why, because it contains a lovely baby grow, with Staf’s name on it! At 16:35 Janneke goes to the PR, and Staf goes to daddy from some skin-to-skin time. He looks at his father questioningly, as if he’s thinking, “Where’s mommy gone now?”

A little while later Janneke’s parents phone up. They’re in the hospital, and ask if they can come and visit. They’re very welcome! When the proud grandparents have arrived (and I discover that grandma is also a midwife), Staf is checked over by Geertje. Janneke was happy for all this to happen while she was out of the room. I make sure I take photos of everything for her! Staf looks so much like his brother and sister, especially Kaat! He passes all his checks, and weighs 3640g. His daddy dresses him, and then I take some photos of him!

Once I’ve done this, it’s time for grandpa and grandma to cuddle him! Staf is now hungry again, but since Janneke is not back yet, he’ll have to settle for sucking on Oma’s little finger. This does calm him down. 🙂 Hans phones the children, and Tuur is ecstatic! He asks whether he can leave his ‘dessert’ for later, but Hans says he has time to eat his pudding. 🙂

Just before seven Janneke comes back from the OR. The doctor has been by to tell us that everything went well, but Janneke did lose a lot of blood. She’s doing well, but is very emotional. Grandpa brings Staf to her, and gives her a hug. When Janneke takes Staf it’s clear he wants to drink straight away, and he does so very well!

And then it’s time for the brother and sister – they are so proud! I take a photo of the while family, and head off home.

Dear Janneke, Hans, Tuur and Kaat, what a lovely brother you have! Enjoy!!

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